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Session Leader Bios

Alison Barker took a life-changing journey from Dublin to Connecticut in 2005 to train as an AWA leader. Her passion for writing found a home in the AWA method, which she shares through workshops and projects with adults, teenagers and children. One project took her to Averoy, an island of Norway, to lead workshops for teenagers from Latvia, Spain, Norway and Ireland. She has also led workshops for Hospice Staff and Returned Missionaries as well as general population groups. Alison co-facilitated AWA Leadership Training with Maureen Jones in 2011 and was involved in setting up the Irish Chapter of AWA. She lives in Dublin with her husband and two children.


Patricia Bender, MALS, is a Research Specialist at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, Newark. Patricia has taught writing at Rutgers, and offered writing workshops both nationally and internationally, for 20+ years. A National Writing Project consultant, she founded and directed the Rutgers, Newark Writing Center (1998-2008). Recently, her poetry appeared in Good Foot, LIPS, the Paterson Literary Review and other journals. She has also collaborated on many published academic articles. Her co-written chapter “Observe, Reflect, Act” appears in Using Qualitative Methods in Action Research, published by the ALA. Patricia served on the Board of AWA (2008-2012), and continues her support as Associate Editor of AWA Press. Writing, she believes, is key to personal, professional and political endeavours, and she enjoys working with others to make real our claim of living in a democracy.


Lynn Bowmaster lives in Hadley, Massachusetts where she directs Woven Word Young Writers ( Lynn and her husband also run Winter Moon Roots, an organic vegetable farm, and a free range laying hen operation called Lynn’s Laughing Layers. In college Lynn almost majored in English but instead decided to become a community organizer. Now AWA workshops bring Lynn’s empowerment training and her interest in positive creative expression together in one particularly beautiful place – the writing workshop.


Judith Breier has taught in Western Massachusetts for 15 years. When she was a literacy coach she taught creative writing weekly to third graders and in the last several years she has run an after-school creative writing group for middle school children using the AWA method, and the last three years as an ELA/S.S. As a classroom teacher, Judith has modified the AWA model to work in the classroom to support standards-based writing objectives. In 1910 she became an AWA facilitator.


Karen Buchinsky has been a member of AWA since 1990. She leads writing workshops for women in jail, and teaches others to do the same through Voices from Inside. She’s an AWA Board member, one of the AWA instructors, and the Editor of Emerging Voices for Peregrine. Her writing can be found in Southwoods, A Journal for Country Living, The Georgetown Journal on Fighting Poverty, and The Guardian.


Maggie Butler has enjoyed an extensive career as a retreat and workshop leader, therapist, educator, and coach. An award winning and published writer, Maggie is a certified Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA) workshop instructor and an AWA affiliate in both the US and Ireland.


Marian Calabro says: “If it involves writing and editing, chances are I've done it.” Marian started her career in NYC as a promotion writer. She has written 17 nonfiction books, from the award-winning Perilous Journey of the Donner Party (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin) to the centennial history of The Clorox Company. She teaches business writing and email etiquette to staff at Columbia University. Marian cites her first AWA workshop with Pat Schneider in 2002 as a turning point. She trained as a leader in 2004 and began leading workshops. She also began to send out her poetry and returned to playwriting for the first time since college. In gratitude, she co-edited an anthology of tributes to Pat, entitled Heart So Open, Soul So Wide. A lifelong New Jerseyan, Marian blogs about creative writing and theater at


Genevieve E. Chandler, PhD, RN, a UMASS professor for over 25 years, is an award- winning teacher with undergrads to doctoral students. Certified as an AWA workshop leader in 1996, she is an internationally recognized leader in using writing to empower vulnerable populations with over 150 citations and a recipient of the 2011 Nancy Valentine Leadership award and the 2013 APNA National Research Award.


Tammy L. Coia is a certified AWA workshop leader and founder of TLC Writing Workshops, a company providing programs and products that turn memories and words into meaningful memoirs. She was voted businesswoman of the year in the bay area and her educational center was ranked #1 for seven years in a row. Tammy is author of Fig on a Stick and “The Complete Memoir Workbook.” Tammy has a B.S. in Education and English.


Jen Cross is a writer, performer, and writing workshop facilitator; her organization, Writing Ourselves Whole, focuses primarily on sexuality writing workshops and writing with survivors of sexual trauma. Jen's writing appears in close to thirty anthologies and periodicals, including The Healing Art of Writing, Nobody Passes, Visible: A Femmethology, Best Sex Writing. Learn more and read her blog at


Lane Goddard, an AWA affiliate since 2008 and board member since 2011, leads a twice-monthly workshop and is writing a novel. As co-founder and now owner of LandaBooks, a small training and publishing company, she’s developed and managed the business website for more than 15 years, making every mistake it’s possible to make, and learning a few design principles and tricks along the way.


Carla Hanson has taught in California public high schools for 27 years and has used the AWA method in her classroom for a decade. She leads an ongoing women's writing group. Carla is a Teacher Consultant for the National Writing Project and a Writing Coach for her school district. She writes about educational issues.


Katie Frank is Associate Director of AWA. She is an AWA Affiliate, Hampshire College alumnus, poet, and performer. In 2010, she attended the AWA Workshop Leadership Training in Oregon and has since led workshops in rural libraries. She has previously worked at CALYX, Inc. and the Jones Library. Part of Katie's work at AWA is to make the website a useful, dynamic tool for Affiliates.


Patricia Lee Lewis, since 1994, offers writing workshops at Patchwork Farm Retreat, western MA, and writing & yoga retreats internationally. MFA in Creative Writing, Vermont College of Fine Arts; BA, Smith College, PBK. Founding member, Straw Dog Writers Guild. Award-winning poet. Books: A Kind of Yellow, and High Lonesome.


Margaret O'Brien, M.A. Ed., is a lecturer in the School of Humanities, Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland and is passionate about the benefits of creative writing for everyone. Margaret has been running writing workshops in south-east Ireland since 2008, using the method developed by Pat Schneider founder of Amherst Writers and Artists. Margaret is an affiliate of AWA and a founder member of Amherst Writers Ireland. She has facilitated creative writing workshops with community education groups, young men in recovery from addiction, older adults, regular workshops in Brewery Lane Theatre, Carrick-on-Suir, and also leads monthly poetry nights in Brewery Lane Theatre. Margaret also curates the annual Brewery Lane Writers’ Weekend in south-east Ireland. Her blog is called Writing Changes Lives because she believes it does and it can be found at


Pamela Manché Pearce has published poems, short stories, essays and reviews in many periodicals. Her poem, “Widow, Falling,” appears in the recent anthology, The Widow’s Handbook published by Kent State University Press. During her 15 years as Director of Events and Publicity for PEN American Center she produced over 250 literary programs that featured writers from the United States and around the world. The recipient of two Woolrich Creative Writing Fellowships from Columbia University, Ms. Pearce is the author of a novel, The Red Couch and a memoir, Blue Crete – both in the prepublication stage. She uses AWA techniques in poetry workshops at a senior residence and in a library in Westchester County, New York. She lives in Manhattan.


Evie Preston has been a psychotherapist in private practice for over 28 years. During this time she has pursued my passion for writing and storytelling. She utilizes memoir writing in her therapy groups to enable individuals to heal and find their voice which has often been buried in early childhood trauma. She has been involved in storytelling workshops with Jay O’Callahan and small writing groups as well as an AWA leadership training with Maureen Buchanan Jones. She has been performing as a storyteller for the last several years in the Hudson Valley and am currently part of a memoir group and an AWA writing group.


Suzanne Rancourt, is a tribally affiliated Native American and Military Veteran, writing and creating with a phenomenally diverse clientele in equally diverse environments. Her business, Finding Our Way Home, uses Expressive Arts. Creative Writing Coordinator: Clinton County Correctional Facility, Dannamora, NY. 1989-1990. M.F.A. Creative Writing Vermont College of Norwich Univ., Montpelier, VT. 1999. M.S. Educational Psychology, SUNY, Albany, NY. 1997. B.A. English Literature/Creative Writing. U.M.F., ME 1984. Armed Services Veteran: USMC, USA, NYANG. 10.5 years. Suzanne completed the ArtReach Project America training specializing in Creative Arts and military veterans and family members, and is a CASAC-T (Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor.) She is writing her dissertation in Expressive Arts: Therapy, Consultant, and Education from the European Graduate School, accredited and recognized by the military.


Susan Lynn Reynolds is a writer, teacher and psychotherapist and has been proudly leading workshops in the AWA method since 2002. She is past president of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR) and also past vice-chair of the national organization Canadian Creative Writers and Writing Programs (CCWWP).  She has been leading writing workshops for female inmates at Central East Correctional Centre for nine years.


Elise Rymer, along with four others, led the non-profit educational group, Project Crossroads, based in Santa Fe, NM from 1982 until 2005. She worked with teachers and students to create short units and other curricula to respond to teachers’ request for materials and training which state and local budgets couldn’t or wouldn’t fund. Storytelling and creative writing were central to the units, workshops and sessions. Jay O’ Callahan’s approach to storytelling and Pat Schneider’s unique writing method were crucial to the work in public schools, K-community colleges in northern New Mexico and several Native American schools. Since the first workshop with Jay O’Callahan in 1989 and with Pat Schneider in Amherst in 1996, Elise has been part of other trainings, workshops, and writing groups based on the AWA method.


Pat Schneider is author of ten books, including Writing Alone and With Others, and How the Light Gets In: Writing as a Spiritual Practice, both from Oxford University Press. She is the founder of Amherst Writers & Artists, and was for thirty years its director. She is at heart a poet, and in retirement is returning to her poetry, working on a collection titled Love Song for Sister Age. Her poems have been widely published in journals and read sixteen times by Garrison Keillor on Writers Almanac. Her libretto was performed in Carnegie Hall by Phyllis Byrn Julson and the Atlanta Symphony, directed by Robert Shaw.


Peggy Simmons lives in Oakland, California and writes mostly poetry, mostly while on the public bus on the way to her day job in a public library in one of the worst-reputed parts of town. She has been designing and facilitating creative and communications workshops for children, teens and adults of different backgrounds since 1992, including working in some of the poorest neighborhoods of New York, Paris, and London and in her current county's juvenile detention institutions. She has been writing with th e AWA method since 2004 and facilitating workshops with it since 2007.


Mary Tuchscherer, MA, is the founder and CEO of VoiceFlame, a non-profit organization that illuminates the voices of girls and women through writing and education. Since childhood Mary knew the key to self-empowerment was authentic use of her own voice. Her journey toward self-expression fueled her inspiration for shining light on the creative potential of girls and women in the US and Malawi, Africa. Mary is certified as an AWA workshop facilitator and trainer and is adjunct faculty at John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, CA. In 2009 she was the recipient of the Soroptimist International of Diablo Vista award for “Women Making A Difference,” given for her work with disenfranchised women in Malawi. She is passionate about teaching, mentoring, visioning and sharing the stories of VoiceFlame. In 2012, VoiceFlame published the book Nda Ku Ona – I See You With My Heart, an anthology that brings voices from different cultures and backgrounds together and gives voice to women who have been traditionally silenced.


Joanne Turnbull is a lifelong writer who conducts AWA workshops in the community, at Osher College of Lifelong Learning and the Maine State Prison. Thanks to a 2013 grant from the Jewish Community Alliance, she developed a program to help people write intentional legacies. Joanne has numerous fiction and nonfiction publications and co-authored the book To Do No Harm. In 2012, she founded Your Write Mind with a mission to help all writers find and develop their creative voice.


Catherine M. Wallace PhD, has conducted workshops like this for almost fifteen years. She has done so with her own writers, with graduate students in various disciplines, and with her colleagues in medical humanities at Northwestern University in Chicago--where the AWA style has come to be seen as something akin to black magic.


Joan Marie Wood met Pat Schneider at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley at Pat’s weeklong intensive in 1994, and trained with her in Amherst. Now in her 20th year of leading AWA writing workshops, Joan Marie adores doing this revolutionary work of encouraging others’ writing voices. She facilitates two weekly groups, one for women only, in Oakland, California. Her book of poems, Her Voice Is Blackberries, about a daughter’s response to a mother’s suicide, was published in 2004. Joan Marie has co-facilitated AWA Leadership Training, and has also been active with AWA West. She lives with her husband in Oakland and has two grown sons.


Aaron Zimmerman, MA, is Executive Director of NY Writers Coalition, which he founded in 2002 based on workshops at The Prince George, a housing community for low-income, formerly homeless and special-needs populations. He has been leading creative writing workshops since 1997 through Manhattan Writers, a writing workshop program he founded, and has since worked with hundreds of writers of all genres, ages and backgrounds. Mr. Zimmerman was named a 2005 Petra Fellow by The Petra Foundation for his “distinctive contributions to the rights, dignity and autonomy of others.” His novel, By The Time You Finish This Book You Might Be Dead, was selected by Poets & Writers as a “New and Noteworthy” book. Aaron is a former co-chair of the AWA Board and an AWA Affiliate.