The AWA writing workshop provides a safe and supportive space that gently pushes me out of my writing comfort zone into a learning zone.  I enjoy writing in solitude, but the workshop is an opportunity to learn from others, both through constructive peer feedback and from hearing different writing styles.  The workshop has also helped me process and gain deeper understanding of some challenging experiences I have had during the last three years as the father of a medically complex child with disabilities.

Roy Karp, Roslinadale, MA

Before AWA I enrolled in three very different styles of adult education writing courses. Unlike these courses, AWA triggered my development of content and a style of writing that was buried within. The use of prompts and positive commentary engenders my creativity in a safe, constructive environment.

Cheryl Nelson, Newton, MA

The AWA Method has enabled me to put into words some of my most painful, loving, experiences within the safety of a trusting group of caring individuals. I have witnessed some of the most profound healing in myself and others throughout the several workshops I have attended throughout the past ten years. It has inspired me to publish a memoir and short stories.

Suzanne Schmidt, Oshawa, ON

My AWA workshop leader is a master of allowing people a safe environment to find their authentic voice. It is only through expression that this voice can be discovered and because the expression is so honest, so fragile, it needs a safe creative space to be nurtured. When I read a book I unconsciously am seeking the writer. When I write I am seeking to be known. The AWA method has helped me immensely. And my facilitator embodies the method, internalizing its ideals through a practical program that anyone could participate in and benefit from.

Ron Potter, Sunderland, ON

I love the AWA method!!!  It holds a safe space that allows flow for me.The feedback keeps my pen rolling. It’s because of the way the feedback is framed that the deep safety in the group is created and held for the writer. It’s a respectful and encouraging process.

Shar Arnaud, Coboconk, ON

This method provides a safe and nurturing environment, especially for writers beginning to explore their relationship to language and to their particular stories. We write in our group meetings and read first drafts of what we have written to one another. The feedback directs the writer to what works rather than what doesn’t work. This promotes the development of confidence in one’s own voice and story. I have witnessed the blossoming a number of writers in these workshops.

Timothy Brennan, New Paltz, NY

The AWA method cracked open my world and spilled it with all of its light and darkness onto paper. It created a safe and supportive haven for my writing to flourish in poetry, in fiction, in memoir.

Annabelle Murray, Uxbridge, ON

Prior to joining this AWA workshop, I hadn’t written for ten years.   It took those ten years for me to recover from an unsupportive, intimidating writing workshop.  Two of my friends were taking this AWA based course and they assured me that this method created a safe, supportive atmosphere.  I have found this to be absolutely true.  My trust and writing have thrived because of the AWA method.

Susan Maxwell, Needham, MA

Compared to other writing workshops, I do not miss the “teeth on edge” terror of presenting my work to a group of competitive and critical listeners who have no respect for the birthing process of creative writing or see the value of a new-born draft in encouraging further writing.  Even more than writing in these groups, I love the listening and learn so much about the different ways we each approach the same prompt.

Sue Harmon, Lincoln, MA

AWA has given me the courage to go deep to write my truth. It has provided a safe harbour to share these fragile words in community with others. My work has gone from one dimensional prose to a profound intensity that, while at times can be scary and unnerving, captures the essence of my very being.

Deborah Rankine, Oshawa, ON

The AWA Method is a magical process that encourages the writer to speak their voice. I have recommended this process to others and their experiences have echoed mine. It is simply awesome.

Grace King, Lindsay, ON

These workshops, delivered using the AWA method, have transformed my writing practice and profoundly informed my teaching strategies. By directing attention to what is strong in a piece of writing, the AWA method cultivates both skill and confidence. Rather than aggravate students’ anxieties through premature criticism, the AWA method allows them to encourage each others’ strengths. This generous approach builds trust and strengthens bonds in the writing cohort. The AWA method is a good way to write and a great way to get feedback, but its strongest gift may be the way it encourages us as fellow writers to receive each other’s voices with generous attention, deepening our own listening.

Julian Gunn, Instructor, Department of English and Creative Writing at Camosun College, British Columbia, Canada

The AWA method has been extremely useful in my work with First Nation adults and intergenerational survivors who suffer from the legacy of Indian Residential School trauma. It has been an invaluable therapeutic modality to help these survivors heal from the physical, sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse they sustained while in the Residential School system. It has also been beneficial for helping intergenerational survivors deal with the intergenerational impacts of that abuse. As well, I used the method specifically when working with those survivors who chose to make an application for compensation for their time in Residential School. These claims required specific, detailed written accounting of the abuses they suffered. These accounts and stories also served as preparation for those survivors who chose to tell their stories to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.This type of sustained, complex trauma severely impacts all areas of a survivor’s life. Some of the issues I used the AWA method to address included: addiction, depression, self esteem and disempowerment, loss of language and culture, trust issues, lateral violence, parenting issues, employability and poverty, among others. The AWA training refined my knowledge of arts based healing modalities and, in particular, the use of writing and storytelling methodology. It enhanced my confidence and my ability to use therapeutic writing with traumatized populations. The training also honed my ability to use writing and storytelling in a strategic and safe way with trauma survivors. It is imperative when working with survivors of trauma that they are not reinjured or re-traumatized in the retelling of events.

Jill Goodacre

Creativity is a process and it’s important to have the support of a workshop leader who has created a safe space.  Having had criticism as a child about my writing, I can tell you the effects are damaging and long-lasting – but with kindness and encouragement, one can soar. AWA method helps us plant words as seeds that can grow into poems, novels, short stories, or anything else. I would highly recommend a AWA method to anyone wanting to write. 

Dolly Reisman, Toronto, ON

The AWA Method helped me see the strengths in my writing that initially I couldn’t see. I felt supported and encouraged when I read out loud, even though I might have trembled a bit as I did. Each affirmative comment was like a building block that helped to create a firm foundation and belief in my own ability.

Janis McCallen, Newmarket, ON

I have watched in writing group after writing group how participants are made to feel safe and encouraged to share a piece of themselves. This evoked memories and emotions and relief. In this state, we build trust and honor with each person’s offering. Everyone is better for it and a winner, which I became after being awarded first place in the Annual Pat Schneider Poetry Contest.

Rachelle M. Parker, New Jersey

Spending time in these AWA workshops has been a unique experience.  We are encouraged to dig deeper, to reach deep inside to a place I did not know existed. I recently reread some pieces I had written at an AWA retreat… I was amazed at what I read, re-experiencing the feelings brought to light under that leadership.

Kathy Clulow, Newmarket, ON

Using the AWA method helps us see ourselves as creative artists, tellers of truths and speakers of perceptions. The method creatives a safe, respectful space to enter deeply into unexpressed insights, memories, and emotions.

Cheryl Hassan, Haliburton, ON

This method allows me to feel safe express what has energy; magic on the page is the result. I have come to expect other writing workshop facilitators to hold space in the same way the AWA Method does. But this does not always happen and the value is not the same. The Method has brought out confidence I had hidden. The feedback is powerful, yet gentle but truthful.

Stephanie Curry, Whitby, ON

Thanks to my participation in an AWA workshop, I have embarked on writing a work of historical fiction. Year after year, I am astonished at how much I learn and how supportive and positive the workshop is.

Dee Mallon, Newton, MA

On many a Thursday morning, while driving to my writing workshop, I have nagging doubts that this is the week that I have nothing to say or worse my creative well has run dry. Then we get the prompt whether it be a photo, a sentence, poem or object and my pen flows across the blank page. I am continually amazed at the power of this writing method!  Because of the AWA method, I am more than halfway to completing my novel, most of which was inspired by the prompts in the workshop.

Eileen Millane, West Roxbury, MA

I recently joined an AWA writing group and have been amazed how the method helped me to feel safe from the very first prompt, even as a new member of a group who had been meeting together for many years.  I love how the method allows me to go where I feel called to go, without censoring myself.  I have never, ever, felt judged or criticized – only responded to with sensitivity, depth and compassion.

Patrice Ficken, Chestnut Hill, MA

The AWA method is a considerate and compassionate process that invites participants to reflect, imagine, record and share. The facilitator-guided discussions support writers with specific and detailed feedback from diverse perspectives. I have felt heard and held in my writing in AWA workshops.

Carol Good, Caledon, ON

As soon as I started taking these workshops, I knew I had to change how I taught creative writing. I was demoralized by seeing my students struggle to figure out how to support each other as writers, and the critiquing methods I was using often left both writer and critiquer deflated. The AWA method provided me with an understanding of how to reshape my own instruction to be more supportive while also providing valuable critique to the students. I now ask my students to tell their classmates what is working in their writing and what they can learn from those parts to strengthen the parts that may need more work. There is rigour in their critique that starts with appreciation.

Kari Jones, Author & Instructor, Department of English and Creative Writing at Camosun College, British Columbia, Canada

What, in the most profound sense, are we doing, using the Amherst Writers & Artists method in Mary’s Place and in other, similar programs in jails, prisons, shelters, hospitals, centers for youth at risk and many other venues across America and in Canada, Ireland, India, Malawi and other countries? It is true that we are changing lives. My own life was changed by a seventh grade teacher, by a college-age camp counselor, and by the pastor of a small, dying church. Each one of them dared to walk up the steps of a tenement through the smell of urine and roach poison, find me and believe in me until I could believe in myself. That is the “most profound” work being done in Mary’s Place. Face-to-face, person-to-person, spirit-to-spirit, sharing words, stories — the “teacher/leader” writing with the participants.

Pat Schneider, introduction to ORIGINAL VOICES: Homeless and Formerly Homeless Women’s Writings