awa method

Berkeley graffiti -- red flowers on a yellow background, beneath the words "Be Courageous"How we work together

The Amherst Writers & Artists workshop method creates a space in which all participants can write, if they choose, and where everyone will be encouraged in their writing. This method was developed by Pat Schneider, and is described in her powerful book, Writing Alone and With Others (Oxford Press, 2003).

Multi-session groups run eight weeks, and because the groups are closed (not drop-in), participants come to trust one another and thus often allow their work to grow and deepen in risk and playfulness.

Although these groups aren’t specifically therapy-focused, the process of writing itself can be a therapeutic and transformative process.

While we’re creating narrative and art out of what we think of as the boring (or worse) stuff of our lives, in a community of like-minded others who celebrate our art, our internal selves are rearranged, sometimes without our even realizing it.

Here are the Amherst Writers & Artists method guidelines:

  • Confidentiality: what’s shared in group stays in group;
  • Exercises are suggestions: if we end up writing something that seems to have no apparent connection to the exercise offered, we’ve still “done it right;” what’s most important is that each person do the writing that they feel most strongly drawn to in that moment;
  • All writing is responded to the way we respond to fiction: after we write together, we read aloud what we’ve written, and it is always considered to be fiction — other participants will refer to your “narrator” or “main character,” etc.;
  • Feedback focuses on the strengths in the work: because work developed in group is brand new, we want to discuss what was strong for us, what we liked, what stayed with us; when we go back to edit, we’ll know what’s already working for our readers.


Who can or should participate?

Photo of three pairs of crossed legs, on which notebooks are resting and pens are moving

These groups are for anyone who currently writes or who has ever wanted to write.

Even if you have not written in years, even if you “only” write in a journal, even if you worry about your spelling when you put words to the page.

It doesn’t matter if a teacher once told you that you were a poor writer because your sentences were too long, or that your tenses were incorrect. It doesn’t matter if someone once told you that only “great men” can write.

Those were lies. If you want to write, you can write. The truth is that I am blown away by the art created and shared during every single session of writing, regardless of participants’ writing history. You have great art in you. If the path that that art wishes to take is through writing, I hope to have the good fortune to work with you.

The Amherst Writers & Artists workshop model arises out of the belief and understanding that everyone has the ability to write: if you can speak (in any fashion), you can create writing that is deep, important, and has artistic merit. I do not ask folks interested in participating in my writing groups for a writing sample, or if/where they’ve published, or what their experience with writing is — this is not a competition. Every participant will have a different relationship with writing, and every participant will produce incredible work.