The AWA Method

“Whether your purpose for writing is artistic expression, communication with friends and family, the healing of the inner life, or achieving public recognition for your art - the foundation is the same: the claiming of yourself as an artist/writer and the strengthening of your writing voice through practice, study, and helpful response from other writers.”

Pat Schneider Writing Alone and With Others

The Amherst Writers & Artists' philosophy is a simple one: every person is a writer, and every writer deserves a safe environment in which to experiment, learn, and develop craft. The AWA method, which is fully described in founder Pat Schneider's book Writing Alone and With Others (Oxford University Press, 2003, and available at, provides just such an environment.

Peter Elbow, author of Writing Without Teachers, brought the writing process movement into classrooms across the U.S. In his the introduction to Writing Alone and With Others, he called Pat Schneider “the best teacher of writing I know.”  The practices outlined in the book have proven effective in graduate school classrooms and in work with the homeless, in children’s schoolrooms, with nursing students, in bereavement groups and in living rooms among friends. 

Unique to the AWA method, at the time of the publication of the book, are these two revolutionary practices:

  • Everything in the writing workshop is treated as fiction, to keep the focus on the writing rather than the personal and to minimize the vulnerability of the writer. 
  • The teacher or leader writes with the participants, and reads aloud along with the other writers.

These practices, along with keeping all writing confidential, responding to just-written work with positive attention on what is strong in the writing, create an environment that is non-hierarchical, honest, and safe.  Accomplished and beginning writers learn from one another in a generous atmosphere that works seriously to develop craft and holds personal respect for the value of every voice.

The AWA method has been used successfully with experienced writers as well as beginners, writers who have confidence as well as those who are uncertain. It has been equally effective in helping those whose voices have traditionally been silenced by poverty, discrimination, illness, age or other obstacles to achieving the powerful combination of language and confidence needed to overcome social barriers. While the AWA method is not therapy, it has great healing potential for writers from all backgrounds. Writers who have used the AWA method have published major works and taken top prizes and awards in the U.S. and Ireland, and over a thousand have completed the AWA training program in workshop leadership.