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About the AWA Method

Writing Alone and With OthersIn her introduction to Writing Alone and With Others (Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. xxiv-xx), Pat Schneider identifies the following key priorities for the writer/artist:

. . . Whether your purpose is artistic expression, communication with friends and family, the healing of an 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 (as opposed to damaging) communication with others.

Your task, as writer/artist, is to:

  1. Give yourself art/writing time.
  2. Sound more and more like yourself.
  3. Experiment, play, take risks, be brave.
  4. Believe in the freshness, vitality, and importance of your own experience and imagination.
  5. Practice in ways that will teach you to recognize your own voice and to increase its range (as a singer learns to sing higher and lower--as a painter increases the number of colors on a palette).
  6. Believe in yourself as an artist-in-training, and protect yourself from everyone and everything that undermines that belief.
  7. Observe.
  8. Remember.
  9. Imagine.
  10. Find and keep in contact with other writer/artists who can provide you with an intimate community of support, give you honest critical response, strengthen you, and encourage your work.

Pat Schneider identifies five essential affirmations and five essential practices that provide a welcoming and trusting space for writers to nurture their artistry. Workshops and writing groups that use the AWA method take these principles and practices as their core (pp. ix-x):

The Five Essential Affirmations

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

The Five Essential Practices

  1. A nonhierarchical 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.
  2. Confidentiality about what is written in the workshop is maintained, and the privacy of the writer is protected. All writing is treated as fiction unless the writer requests that it be treated as autobiography. At all times writers are free to refrain from reading their work aloud.
  3. 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 and distributes work in manuscript form. Critique is balanced; there is as much affirmation as suggestion for change.
  4. The teaching of craft is taken seriously and is conducted through exercises that invite experimentation and growth as well as through response to manuscripts and in private conferences.
  5. The leader writes along with the participants and reads that work aloud at least once in each writing session. This practice is absolutely necessary, for only in this way is there equality of risk-taking and mutuality of trust.

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