Pat Schneider at her How the Light Gets In book launch, taken by Sam Gaudet

AWA mourns and celebrates the life of Pat Schneider.

Our brilliant and beloved founder, Pat Schneider, passed away on August 10, 2020.  Pat’s vision for how our writing and our writer’s voices could be encouraged through strengths-based feedback has positively affected the lives of so many of us. 

Please read on to learn more about Pat’s life, her writing and the way she and the method she created have touched the lives of thousands, and to learn how you can honor her and share your memories with her with this community in love and grief. You can also watch the video of her virtual memorial service at this link.

Pat Schneider
June 1, 1934–August 10, 2020

Pat Schneider, the founder of Amherst Artists & Writers, died August 10, 2020, in Hadley, Massachusetts. 

She was buried August 12 in Amherst’s Wildwood Cemetery “in a very simple, very small graveside family ceremony,” said daughter Laurel Schneider.  “It was beautiful and heartbreaking.”

She was the author of ten books of poetry, plays, and memoir. Born in the Ozark mountains of Missouri on June 1, 1934, Pat became intimate with fossils, creek beds, grasshoppers and box turtles. After a search for work took her single mother to St. Louis, from age ten Pat lived in tenements and in an orphanage until she was given a scholarship to college. Those early experiences deeply influenced her writing and fueled her passion for those who have been denied voice through poverty and other misfortunes.

Pat and her husband Peter Schneider moved to Amherst in 1966 where Peter served as pastor of Wesley United Methodist church until 1980 and where Pat and Peter committed to building a community-based social justice ministry.

In 1981, Pat founded Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA) with the belief that every person is a writer and to support the voices of established and emerging writers, to free silenced and marginalized voices, and to promote respect for writers through the use of Pat’s groundbreaking AWA method.

Today an international network of workshop leaders use the writing method described in Pat’s book, “Writing Alone and With Others” (Oxford University Press). Oxford published “How the Light Gets In: Writing as a Spiritual Practice” in 2013. Negative Capability Press published her last book, the poetry collection “The Weight of Love,” in 2019.

Pat’s libretto, “The Lament of Michal,” was performed in Carnegie Hall. Her poetry has been read nationally on NPR sixteen times. Her plays have been performed in over three hundred productions. Florentine Films made a film about her work with women in low-income housing, “Tell Me Something I Can’t Forget” in 1992.

Pat is survived by Peter Schneider, their four children and two grandchildren. The family is grateful to the Elaine Center in Hadley, Massachusetts, for care in her final year.

Those who wish may honor Pat Schneider by making a donation in her memory to AWA, the organization she founded, nurtured, and sustained with love and boundless energy, either online at or by check to Amherst Writers and Artists, P.O. Box 1076, Amherst MA 01004. Please share your reflections about Pat Schneider on her memorial blog at

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