Philosophy and Practices
AWA’s core belief is simple: every person is a writer, and every writer deserves a safe environment in which to experiment, learn, and develop craft. The AWA method, which is fully described in founder Pat Schneider’s book Writing Alone and With Others (Oxford University Press, 2003), provides just such an environment.
- Pat Schneider, AWA founder
The AWA method is based in the following philosophy. These affirmations rest on a definition of personhood based in equality, and a definition of writing as an art form available to all persons.
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 writers original voice or artistic self-esteem.
A writer is someone who writes.
The following practices establish a safe environment where everyone is free to explore within their own writing and listen to each other with respect.
We are all equal as writers and treat all the writing and each other with respect. No writer has more genius than another, including the workshop leader. The workshop leader reads at least once in each workshop session for equal risk taking and trust.
We hold all the writing in strict confidence. We don’t share it outside the workshop with each other or anyone else.
We do not assume that any writing is about the writer. In response to writing, we do not use ‘you,’ ‘the writer,’ or ‘the author.’ Those all mean the same thing: the person sitting in the workshop who has just read. Instead we use ‘the narrator,’ ‘the speaker,’ or ‘the character.’
We respond to just written work by noticing what is strong, what effect it created, what stands out. We don’t offer to ‘fix’ anything or make suggestions for what should happen to the writing.
In our responses we are always talking about craft in writing and take craft seriously without crushing the creative genius.
When Listening in an AWA workshop we enter the universe that the writer has created and leave our assumptions behind. We are asked to leave behind our own expectations and experiences. In an AWA workshop we listen for and notice what works. We listen for and notice the choices a writer has made that help to create success in the writing. We listen without preconceived ideas about what the story should be about, how the poem should sound, or what we might do differently.
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