Amherst Writers & Artists Method

The Amherst Writers & Artists Method is at the heart of Voice & Vessel's writing workshops. The AWA Method took shape in the 1980s, but its roots are in a movement that began in the 1930s. If you're familiar with Brenda Ueland (If You Want to Write), Dorthea Brande (Becoming a Writer), Peter Elbow's idea of freewriting, or the practice of morning pages, you've already crossed paths with this approach to writing.

What unites these teachers and practices is the belief that we are all artists and writers. In the AWA Method, we say that a writer is someone who writes. Nothing more, nothing less.

That means that you'll get to write a lot, from the very first day of a workshop. There is something magical about a new writing group coming together and jumping right in to the writing. It lets us begin as equals. Regardless of the writing experience we each carry, we all start with the same empty page.

To help us face the empty page, the AWA Method includes a series of affirmations and practices. These are the tools we'll use to celebrate each writer's voice and create a space where all voices feel safe to come forward. They come from Writing Alone and With Others by Pat Schneider, founder of Amherst Writers & Artists.


Whether your purpose for writing is artistic expression, communication with friends and family,
the healing of the inner life, or achieving public recognition for your art — the foundation is the same:
the claiming of yourself as an artist/writer and the strengthening of your writing voice
through practice, study, and helpful response from other writers.

Pat Schneider, Founder of the Amherst Writers & Artists Method


Affirmations & Practices

The Five Essential Affirmations

  • Everyone has a strong, unique voice.
  • Everyone is born with creative genius.
  • Writing as an art form belongs to all people, regardless of economic class or educational level.
  • The teaching of craft can be done without damage to a writer's original voice or artistic self-esteem.
  • A writer is someone who writes.

The Five Essential Practices

  • A non-hierarchical spirit (how we treat writing) in the workshop is maintained while at the same time an appropriate discipline (how we interact as a group) keeps writers safe.
  • Confidentiality about what is written in the workshop is maintained, and the privacy of the writer is protected. All writing is treated as fiction. At all times writers are free to refrain from reading their work aloud.
  • Absolutely no criticism, suggestion, or question is directed toward the writer in response to first-draft, just-written work. A thorough critique is offered only when the writer asks for it by distributing a work in manuscript form. Critique is balanced; there is as much affirmation as suggestion for change.
  • The teaching of craft is taken seriously and is conducted through exercises that invite experimentation and growth as well as through response to manuscripts.
  • The leader writes along with the participants and reads that work aloud at least once in each writing session. This practice is essential, for only in this way is there equality of risk taking and mutuality of trust.

Let's write together.

Weekly Workshops
One-on-one Coaching
Writing Circles

Workshops and coaching are offered at my cozy studio in Grand Rapids and online. I'm also available for custom retreats and workshops for groups. I love to hear from folks about where their writing is leading them. Please say hello with any questions!