The initial leadership training is a five-day intensive course focused on instructing individuals in the AWA method. It is not a writing retreat. The writing that occurs is targeted toward aspects of the method, and exercises are used to generate understanding and to experience the depths that each component of the method contains.
Although the practices are easily outlined, they are deceptively simple. Putting these practices into use during a workshop requires common sense, compassion and skill.
The guidelines and practices that shape AWA writing groups are specific, and the leader's in-depth understanding of them is vitally important to the effectiveness of the group. This training prepares people to lead groups for the general population and for traditionally silenced people in places such as public housing, shelters, hospitals or prisons.
Once trained, each Affiliate is independent in establishing, leading and setting costs for her or his own workshops, retreats and events. An AWA Affiliate is not an employee of AWA, but an independent business owner or social agent. AWA maintains the quality of affiliate workshops through the Affiliate Program. In this way, affiliates can express their own creativity and interests while staying true to the principles of the AWA method.
In addition to the specific AWA practices, the following skills are taught:
- Creating and maintaining a safe and hospitable writing environment.
- Choosing effective writing exercises and prompts.
- Being a clear, supportive leader.
- Running workshops as a business.
- Awareness of craft in all writing
- Leading a manuscript review
- Handling emotionally charged writing
- Structuring the group to accommodate diverse people.
- Understanding that writing for healing is not therapy.
- Inviting experimentation and growth in participants' writing.
"The wealth of information that was offered was impressive... It would be hard to improve the quality of communication, the delivery of information, the accounting for complications that naturally arise in any group. It was one of the best run presentations/trainings I have ever attended." --RW