So, What Is Amherst Writers & Artists?
I had no idea myself before November of 2007. But that fall I visited The Southern Festival of Books and picked up a flyer about a writing group. I called the host for more information and showed up on her doorstep the next month.
I loved to write, but certainly would never have called myself a writer, especially out loud in front of other people. You can't call yourself a writer if you're not a published literary figure? Right? (psst...wrong, not true.)
I wanted to write with others, and fortunately had not been scarred by harsh critique groups. So sitting in the circle with other like-minds wasn't frightening, just a little...nauseating. It all sounded good over the phone, but this place, these people, this method of writing together was all new to me.
Ten years later, I'm an AWA Affiliate, certified to lead workshops in the spirit and method that a glorious woman named Pat Schneider began in 1981.
AWA is an international community of writing workshop leaders committed to the belief that a writer is someone who writes & every writer has a unique voice.
So what makes AWA so special? First, it's the people who gather together with the common desire to write and to encourage others.
The group convenes around essential affirmations and practices that everyone honors:
We all have creative genius.
We all have a unique voice.
We treat work as fiction, allowing the writer to write about difficult topics in a safe space.
We learn craft together without doing damage to a writer's creative spirit.
We respond to just-written work with what is strong or successful.
We affirm writing belongs to all people, regardless of economic class or education level.
We affirm that a writer is someone who writes.
During a workshop, we write to prompts - 5 minutes to 20 minutes; all kind of topics; different forms from stories to poetry; and best of all, we follow whatever the prompt inspires. So if the prompt was to write about the color green, but you got an image of something blue...you go with it and see where it leads!
This messy page is an example of a 4-minute prompt based on a poem called "Where I'm From", and includes some notes I jotted from the group's feedback.
Some golden nuggets came out of that four minutes...
"She is from morning dew..."
"She is from stardust and lunar tides..."
After 10 years of this practice, it's a beautiful thing to be surrounded with pages and words and fertile material for whatever I choose to do with it.
It's even more beautiful to know that I will spend my Saturday with this group creating together, inspiring each other, knowing our voices matter.