Board of Directors
Chair: Kathleen Olesky
Kathleen Olesky has a MA in Counseling Psychology and an MFA in Creative Writing. She worked as a bilingual psychotherapist in a community mental health center in Boston for many years, serving both English and Spanish speaking adults and children. She left the field to pursue her MFA at Emerson College. Kathleen was certified in the AWA method in 2004 and has been leading workshops ever since through Newton Community Education, the Jewish Community Center and privately. She currently has two AWA workshops and also leads a workshop with seniors at the Lifetime Learning Program in Newton, Mass. Kathleen has also been a writing coach for the Memoir Project, a collaborative project between the City of Boston and Grub Street Writing Center which has published three volumes of personal essays by seniors in various neighborhoods. She has a chapter published in The Buddha's Apprentices, Wisdom Press. She is also a leader for the northeast region of Soka Gakkai USA, a lay Buddhist organization promoting peace through culture and education, and is the East Coast bureau chief for their weekly newspaper, the World Tribune. In addition to becoming a member of the AWA board, Kathleen is on the board of Newton Community Education and is a trustee and judge of an annual creative writing award for the two Newton high schools. Kathleen writes short fiction and poetry.
Vice Chair and Acting Treasurer: Lane Goddard
Lane Goddard is co-founder (and now sole owner) of LandaBooks, which for more than twenty years has provided training in writing and related skills to adult employees of government agencies and private-industry organizations. She has written or co-written, designed, and published workbooks and other training materials, has personally taught many courses, and now supervises trainers. A graduate of Duke University, she also holds an MA in English from the University of Florida, and has earned many postgraduate hours in counseling, and a few in business administration.
A member of Winston-Salem Writers, she has co-coordinated arrangements for Pat Schneider’s North Carolina workshops since 2007, and has served on the WSW board. Lane writes short fiction and is working on a novel; she was competitively selected by Richard Bausch (on the basis of her fiction) for the Heritage Writers Workshop at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Since her first workshop with Pat Schneider in 2006, she has written with Pat as often as possible, both in Amherst and in North Carolina. An AWA affiliate, she leads a twice-monthly workshop in her home. Her principal motivation for working with writers using the AWA method is her abiding belief in the value of writing and the writing life—for writers as well as readers—and the great joy she finds in writing with others in this safe and liberating way.
Secretary: Elise Rymer
In October 1997, Elise Rymer was the New Mexico Community Foundation HIV/AIDS Committee Chairman and heard about Pat Schneider on National Public Radio. Elise attended two AWA trainings in November 1997, and subsequently used the AWA method both in HIV high school classes and as part of the Project Crossroads approach to the arts in schools. Soon after, Project Crossroads used Jay O'Callahan's complementary approach to storytelling, and Project Crossroads has used these approaches ever since in Santa Fe area K-12 classes, Project Crossroads curricula, and teacher training workshops. In April 1998, Elise again attended Pat Schneider's trainings in Amherst. Upon returning to New Mexico, she and several friends formed a writing group with eight members, which continues to meet. This group has offered retreats with Pat Schneider in Santa Fe and Amherst. Elise has attended additional trainings, retreats and a manuscript writing and critique group with Pat Schneider from 1996 to the present.
Kate Hymes, a poet and educator living in the Hudson Valley, New York, leads weekly writing workshops and full-day and three-day writing retreats. She has over twenty years' experience as an educator with experience teaching writing at local two- and four-year colleges, and over ten years leading workshops for people who either wish to or make writing their artistic practice. Kate is certified to lead workshops using the Amherst Writers & Artists method. She has co-led trainings with Pat and other AWA instructors to teach others how to lead workshops. Kate and Pat also lead the workshop If We Are Sisters: Black and White Women Writing Across Race. Kate has experience as a resource trainer assisting with Undoing Racism trainings for the People's Institute for Survival and Beyond. She is a Cave Canem fellow, with a poem published in Gathering Ground: Cave Canem 10-Year Anniversary Anthology, University of Michigan Press, 2006. Cave Canem is the national foundation for the development and support of established and emerging African-American poets. Her most recent publications are two poems in the anthology Riverine: An Anthology of Hudson Valley Writers, 2007. Kate serves as Executive Director of the Hudson Valley/Catskill Partnership: Regional Adult Education Network, providing technical assistance and staff development to adult educators in a ten-county region of New York State. Kate currently serves as a member of the Dutchess County Arts Council and as panelist for Special Project, New York State Council on the Arts. She has a Master of Arts in American Literature from SUNY Stony Brook.
Karen Buchinsky is a poet, visual artist, and calligrapher who has been associated with Amherst Writers & Artists since 1994. She is a member of the Original Chicopee Workshop, known internationally through the Florentine Films documentary about the Amherst Writers & Artists method, Tell Me Something I Can't Forget. She has served on the Advisory Board of AWA Institute, founded by the Chicopee workshop members and three other AWA writers as an outreach program for underserved populations. As an instructor in Amherst Writers & Artists Institute, Karen has helped to prepare hundreds of professional people to use the AWA method in schools, shelters, jails, hospitals, and other places where voices have been silenced. Karen has worked professionally as a painter, sculptor and calligrapher, and has led workshops for young writers and artists, and for women in recovery. She was one of the original workshop leaders for Voices from Inside, a non-profit program that provides AWA method writing workshops for women who are or have been incarcerated. She continues that work to this day. Karen is a valuable member of the team of instructors who lead AWA trainings.
Bisi Ideraabdullah is best known as the founder of IMANI HOUSE, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that provides after-school programs, adult education, and employment assistance in Brooklyn, and a health care clinic and adult literacy in Liberia, West Africa.
An educator, writer, activist, and wife and mother of five, Bisi founded the Women of Color Writers Workshop in 1999 in response to the underrepresentation of women of color in the literary world. A certified AWA workshop facilitator, she apprenticed and mentored under its founder, Pat Schneider, and currently trains new AWA workshop leaders. Born in Brooklyn, she graduated summa cum laude from City College, but also studied creative writing and autobiography at CCNY and theatre at Brooklyn College and the University of Ghana, along with Executive Management at Columbia University's Graduate School of Business. She has written for several small magazines and assisted in the publication of Voices of Brooklyn: Writings from the Women of Color Writers Workshop (Face to Face Press, 2000). Her story "Imani Means Faith" appears in the National Book Foundation’s collection Sounds of This House. She is currently working on her memoir How Many Days Until Tomorrow, a story of her life’s experiences and challenges growing up in Brooklyn public housing; moving to Liberia, West Africa; living through seven years of that country’s brutal civil war; overcoming obstacles; and succeeding, in 1985, to found IMANI HOUSE, an outstanding nonprofit organization known for selflessly serving marginalized communities in both New York and Liberia. At The Women of Color Writers’ Workshop and Community, Bisi leads women in creative writing, and sponsors the WOC Visiting Guest Artist Series and WOC readings, performances and publications.
John Crandall was born July 2, 1953, in the hospital (converted from a pig farm) at the Clovis Air Force Base in Clovis, New Mexico. As an Air Force brat, he lived in New Mexico, South Carolina, Northern and Southern Michigan, Oregon and Japan. The eldest of six, in a military family, John assumed responsibility for his brother and sisters, as well as his mother, when his father was stationed elsewhere.
John has spent time as a surgical nurse, fire systems engineer, mason, electronics technician in the Air Force, refrigeration engineer, teacher, and executive director of a non-profit counseling agency, which he founded. His education includes a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology and doctorate-level Psychology courses. He has taught Expressive Writing classes for the University of California Davis Extension, and also facilitates private clinics and public workshops for Sutterwriters, and for those who have multiple sclerosis in their lives. John is the author of Poet Healed, published by the Literature, Arts, and Medicine Press (LAMP) in 2005. An AWA affiliate, John has taught classes and workshops in art, writing, pottery, black-smithing, foundry techniques, domestic violence, and fire suppression.
Valerie Ann Leff
Valerie has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and was trained in the AWA method in 1995. She has co-led or participated in fiction workshops led by Alice Elliot Dark, Kaylie Jones, Carole Maso, Regina McBride, Reginald McKnight, Pablo Medina, Pamela Painter, and Jessica Treat. In 1998, she received a Fellowship from the Chenango Valley Writers’ Conference. Valerie has led writing workshops in Lenox, MA, Asheville, NC, and Edwards, CO.
Valerie was a Committee Member at the 92nd Street Y Poetry Center from 1994 to 1996, and a Co-Founder and Co-Director of The Great Smokies Writing Program at UNC Asheville from 2000 to 2005. Her novel Better Homes and Husbands (St. Martin’s Press, 2004) was optioned by NBC Studios for development as a television series. Her short stories have appeared in The Sun, Northeast Corridor, The Seattle Review, The Antioch Review, and The South Carolina Review, as well as a number of other journals. Valerie has participated in public readings and panel discussions at The Makor Center of the 92nd Street YM-YWHA (New York, NY), the Society for the Four Arts Library (Palm Beach, FL), the Center for Jewish Studies at UNC Asheville, and the Mad River Poetry Festival at Northwestern Connecticut Community College. She was a North Carolina Writers Network featured novelist.
Pat brings many skills and long-term commitment to AWA as a professional and individual writer. Her experience is woven in the tapestry of personal growth and discovery with others. She has spent twenty-two years at the Amherst College Career Center managing programs and collaborating with a variety of other colleges and colleagues. Pat is a master of the synergy of a group/team magic – especially in AWA. She delights in the theater of making the writing process work and moving it forward, delivering what we set out to do and having the courage to rethink and regroup. She has managed fundraisers for AWA, producing and directing a member’s script and producing and managing the art tableau event "Dinner with Vermeer."
As Employer Engagement Manager at the Amherst College Career Center, Pat manages all on-campus recruiting including information sessions and interviewing days, enhancing the number of industries through the year. She provides annual and monthly reports and stats relating to employers, applications and student participation. Along with the Director, Pat creates and implements employer and student relations policy and procedures. She oversees and coordinates the employer/graduate school and outside program-related events of the office, including employer presentations, and works to establish new connections and encourage a broader range of types of employers. Pat is responsible for the spring Not For Profit Career Fair at Amherst College and supports the Study Abroad Advisor for the Study Abroad Fair in September. She supports the alumni and/or employer connection program. She has reached out to 150+ employers in nonprofit, educational, international, science, technology and math industries.
Jan Haag is an AWA affiliate who leads writing workshops in Sacramento. She is a full-time professor of Journalism and English at Sacramento City College, where she created a class based on the AWA method called “Writing as a Healing Art.”
She came to the AWA method in 2004 through the Sutterwriters program at Sutter hospitals and worked with its founder, Dr. Lawrence Spann, to edit books published by the Literature, Arts and Medicine Program (LAMP) Press. One of those books, Blood on the Page, was an anthology of 111 Sutterwriters’ work published in 2006. Her own book of poetry, Companion Spirit, was published by LAMP in 2006; a revised version was published by Amherst Writers & Artists Press in 2012.
Jan is an instructor for Amherst Writers & Artists, and she leads training sessions annually for people who want to be certified to lead AWA writing groups. She is also the editor of AWA Press, guided by publisher and AWA creator Pat Schneider.
Executive Director: Maureen Buchanan Jones
Maureen Buchanan Jones is the Executive Director of Amherst Writers & Artists, serving also as Program Director of the AWA Training Program. She is an AWA Affiliate, trained and mentored by Pat Schneider, and leads weekly workshops in Amherst, Massachusetts, as well as weekend retreats. She leads a bi-monthly manuscript group, is a freelance editor for fiction, non-fiction and memoir, and has led workshops with women who have experienced domestic violence. Maureen has been an AWA instructor for the AWA workshop leadership trainings for eight years in Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, Oregon, New York, Illinois, North Carolina, Ontario and Ireland. She won the 1986 Fellowship from the American Society for Theatre Research as well as the 1991 University of Massachusetts Spectrum Graduate Poetry Award. She holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Massachusetts and taught literature, creative writing and technical writing for 17 years at the University of Massachusetts, Holyoke Community College, Westfield State College and the Conway School of Landscape Design, where she oversaw Masters theses, developed an inter-subject curriculum, participated in accreditation reviews and sat on the admissions review committee. She is a Phi Beta Kappa. Her poetry has appeared in Woman in Natural Resources, 13th Moon, Peregrine, North Dakota Quarterly Review, Letters from Daughters to Fathers, WriterAdvice, Equinox and Calyx. Her middle grade novel is represented by Michele Rubin of Writers House Literary Agency. She is at work on a sequel. Her prose has appeared in Orion and on WFCR-NPR. Her book of poems, blessed are the menial chores, was published in 2012 by AWA Press.
Associate Director: Kate Frank
Kate is the Associate Director of Amherst Writers & Artists. She is an AWA Affiliate and Hampshire College alumnus. Born and raised in Oregon, she took the Initial Workshop Leadership Training in Corvallis and has since led workshops in rural libraries across her home state. In the past, she has worked for CALYX, Inc. and the Jones Library. She is a poet and performer. In 2010, while running a weekly open mic and poetry reading at Hampshire, Kate coached and competed with the only college team to attend the National Poetry Slam. In 2012 Kate produced, wrote, and performed in The Joy Experiments, a solo show which has since traveled to The Carriage House in Michigan and SoloFest in New Mexico. Her current project is adapting The Joy Experiments from a performance text into a poetry manuscript. Her work has been published in Phantom Kangaroo, The Legendary and The Reader.