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Last week the count went up to three thousand on the evening news.  Three thousand children separated from their parents and removed to detention centers and foster care all over the country.  No records kept of parent/child identities.  Three thousand.  Children.

All at once I am eleven years old.  Writing these words, my stomach turns. Something deep inside wakes up, alert, afraid.  My breath gets short.

I was eleven when I stood with my nine-year-old brother in the admissions office of the orphanage, being admitted.  He would become “Sam” as an adult.  Then, he was “Samuel.”  I was “Patsy.”

We had been living in one room on Pine Street in St. Louis.  Mama had moved us there because it was “a nice neighborhood.”  Brick homes, a tree-lined street.  But our room was in the basement, in the back of the house.  It was separated from the rest of the basement by a loose door.  On the other side there was a furnace and an open coal bin.  In our room there was a coal stove in the center of the space, a hanging light bulb on each side of the stove, one bed for the three of us, a hot plate, a small sink unattached to the wall, and three small windows up near the ceiling, at ground level outside. But the neighborhood was nice.

One day the woman who owned the building and lived upstairs pounded on the door to our room.  “Get out!”  She screamed at our mother.  “Get out! You are filthy! You have brought roaches into our home!  Get out!”

In truth, we probably had.  I have wondered about that woman.  Did she not see the children in the room?  Did she not care that they were there, listening?  Three thousand.  Children. Watching.  Listening.

In the admissions office, I remember standing close to my brother.  My mother was there.  An older woman behind a desk, a younger woman, taking notes.  Next to me, close to me, Samuel.  Many years later, in my fifties, I went back to the orphanage, and got some of the records.  The woman taking notes, wrote: “Patsy did not take her hand off her brother throughout the entire interview.”

The newspaper details an incident in which a twelve-year-old-girl wants to hug her ten-year-old brother, “to reassure him.”  She is told she cannot touch her brother.  In the orphanage, I was not allowed to see or talk to my brother.  He lived in the “boy’s cottage.” He sat at one of the boy’s dining tables at the far end of our common dining hall.  I could see his yellow hair, but I could not go where he was.  I have never written these things before.  I do so now to say, “don’t they see?  Don’t they know the children are even there?”  I am eighty-four years old.  These memories are still raw sores in my psyche.  I have come to understand that my mother had nowhere to go.  She said it was for my own good, so I would learn “good table manners.”  I understand now that what she meant was, I would learn how to cross class.  And I did.  And I suppose it was for my own good.  But they kicked my brother out in a few weeks, and he experienced the worst of things in a foster home.  Three thousand children are being placed in “foster care” and detention centers.  Their hurt is for a lifetime.  People, we have to see.  We have to act.  We have to care.  My way is to write notes of protest or thank you to people who act for the things I believe in.  One helpful way to do that is at the Americans of Conscience Checklist, at, which gives me well-researched information and exact addresses.


Forty-some years ago, in the early days of Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA), one of the founding editors of our literary journal Peregrine, Walker Rumble, along with Karen Donovan, started up their own small journal, Paragraph.

This magazine had many fans, and a long run. Now Editor Elizabeth George and artist Adell Donaghue, through Simian Press, will be launching LINEA, a journal of previously unpublished paragraphs of fiction.

LINEA will be similar to Paragraph, but with its own unique, artistic flair. Co-editor on the project is my good friend and another early dreamer of our work together in AWA, Carol Edelstein.

Let’s offer work for the premier issue of LINEA!** (More information from Carol and Elizabeth below). (**Marge Piercy says “never say ‘submit!’– say ‘offer!'” You go, Marge, girl!)


With best wishes,

Pat Schneider

Linea is a linen thread; the warp and weft during weaving; a fishing line; a plumb line; a bowstring; a geometric boundary; the long markings, dark or bright, on a planet’s surface; a line of thought; an outline; a sketch.

Linea is a literary journal of short fiction published by Simian Press. We celebrate the literary snapshot, the atmospheric vignette, the emotion jotted in the margin, the lives, characters, moods and settings that come alive within narrow straits.

We invite you to offer your previously unpublished short fiction for the inaugural edition of Linea, to be published in the fall, 2018. Edited by writers Carol Edelstein and Elizabeth George and designed by artist Adell Donaghue, Linea promises a cornucopia of fiction, taut, crisp, breviloquent, and lovely, as well as illustration artfully designed using both modern letterpress and digital technologies.

Work is accepted via email to Please limit your pieces (no more than 3) to 180 words, using twelve-point Times New Roman type, single spaced, in block text format (single paragraph, no indentation, spoken word embedded). In addition, please send us your postal address and a brief biography. The submission deadline is August 1, 2018. Contributors will receive a complimentary copy.

We look forward to hearing from you!


Elizabeth George

Carol Edelstein


Something quite wonderful has just happened, and it moves me to celebrate the work of my husband, Peter Schneider. Yesterday he received a letter from Poet Laureate,Ted Kooser, asking permission to use Peter’s poem, “Lost in Plain Sight” on American Life in Poetry, which “reaches 1.5 million readers in newspapers and on the web!”

To read his poem, go to: LOST IN PLAIN SIGHT

Although he has a beautiful book of poems, Line Fence, and we are in the process of publishing a new collection, Below the Remembering Mind, Peter does not think of himself as a poet. Nor does he credit himself for his 25 years of work in our farmhouse basement, managing all of the business of Amherst Writers & Artists.

It was 1990. We had left 25 years of his work pastoring Methodist churches, and he had followed that with ten years in a business he founded with lawyer Michael Pill, responding to the need for turbines in small dams in New England. He retired from that work and joined me in AWA at the point in 1990 where the organization was growing into an international fellowship of people trained in our method.

Through the next 25 years, Peter jokingly called himself “the old fart in the basement”, and always responded with surprise when someone commented that our entire organization rested on his management of more than a dozen volunteers working in and out of our basement at all hours of the day and night.

He is a beautiful, humble, brilliant poet and clarinetist now, 87 years old, and not at all “lost in plain sight” to the rest of us!

Peter in clarinet tee shirt

Peter Schneider & Emily Savin in Concert, 2017

by Peter Schneider

Somewhere recently
I lost my short term memory.
It was there and then it moved
like the flash of a red fox
along a line fence.

My short term memory
has no address but here
no time but now.
It is a straight-man, waiting to speak
to fill in empty space
with name, date, trivia, punch line.
And then it fails to show.

It is lost, hiding somewhere out back,
a dried ragweed stalk on the Kansas prairie
holding the shadow of its life
against a January wind.

How am I to go on?
I wake up a hundred times a day.
Who am I waiting for,
what am I looking for
why do I have this empty cup
on the porch or in the yard?

I greet my neighbor, who smiles.
I turn a slow, lazy Susan
in my mind, looking for
some clue, anything to break the spell
of being lost in plain sight.

Twenty-two people is about a dozen more than fit really comfortably in our living room, but we were all happy to be there two weeks ago to help Jen Cross celebrate the publication of her quite wonderful book, Writing Ourselves Whole: Using the Power of Your Creativity to Recover and Heal from Sexual Trauma.
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Jen Cross, an AWA-certified Affiliate, has been doing break-through work in California, using the AWA method to liberate and empower persons who have suffered sexual trauma, and to give voice also to healthy, joyous sexual experience.

I have been in awe of her work for years.  Recently I was greatly honored to be asked to write a Foreword for her new book, which I was happy to do, because Writing Ourselves Whole is simply wonderful. (This foreword is included at the bottom of this post, if you’d like to read more.)

You are invited to join Jen Cross and I in Amherst to celebrate the release of Writing Ourselves Whole: Using the Power of Your Own Creativity to Recover and Heal from Sexual Trauma (Mango, 2017).


The afternoon will include a reading, book signing, an opportunity to write in community, and a time for Q&A.

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Today two very nice things are happening for me and my poetry!

The first is that an interview of me by Daisy Mathias and reading of my poems is being broadcast at 5 p.m.on WMUA, 91.1 FM., the radio station of UMass.

For eleven years, Daisy Mathias has produced a weekly radio program on WMUA-Amherst, 91.1 FM, the student and community radio station of UMass-Amherst. Poetry à la Carte features poems both ancient and modern, commentary, and interviews with local poets. The program is streamed live at, Mondays, 5 pm EST.

In her spare time, Daisy consults as a pediatric speech-language pathologist at Shriners Hospital, Springfield, MA.

And the second is that a poem of mine is being featured on Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry.

Newspapers carrying the column download it as a PDF and run it on their usual print schedules.

People in 71 countries now receive the column in Nepal, Indonesia, Uganda, Bangladesh, Egypt, Tunisia, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, most of Europe, Mexico, India, The Philippines, Turkey, China, Viet Nam, South Korea, Canada, Myanmar, Argentina, Tarawa Atoll, the U.K., and U.S. Readers from Maine to Hawaii. It’s amazing to think of people in all these places reading the work of contemporary American poets each Monday.

Current readership is about 3,500,000 per week. Subscribers receive it electronically.


Additional info:

My mother telling stories on her last Christmas day

Yesterday I received a card from my daughter, Bethany, that was beautiful. On the cover, the words: When Peace, Like a River.

A rush of memories came, as she knew they would. My mother, whom I have finally written myself into forgiving and loving truly with all my heart, had a hard, hard life. And countless times I heard her singing to herself an old hymn, When peace like a river, attendeth my way . . .

Her father was a southern Missouri fundamentalist Christian who walked the floor at night struggling with what he perceived (rightly) were contradictions in the Bible — which to him meant the whole thing was worthless. He gave it up, embraced Darwin, and told my mother as a young girl, “I’d rather see you in your grave than baptized.” When she was an early teenager, she put Sunday clothes in a paper bag, changed into them behind bushes alongside the country road, walked to a Methodist camp meeting and got herself secretly baptized. Then in her late teens she joined a deep-down fundamentalist sect called “Mount Zion Holiness community.” Women there never cut their hair, wore their skirts to their boot tops, their sleeves to their wrists – almost unimaginable in those hot, southern summers. Their belief was that there are “two works of grace — salvation sand anctification.”
After sanctification, it was impossible for believers to sin.

My mother, Lelah Ridgway Vought, in earnest discussion with our theologian daughter, Laurel Schneider

Then she married my father, had two kids, and four years later divorced him for his drinking and whoring. (Another telling, for another time: he, too, has his story.)

She returned to the holiness community, rented a farmhouse on their land, across a two-track dirt road from their tabernacle. They considered her a fallen sinner for divorcing; they loved her and set themselves to trying to redeem her. She told me they were “the little, stingin’ kind,” and to stay away from them. But on summer evenings she sat on the porch during camp meetings in the tabernacle, and sang along as they sang hymns in four-part harmony – the music that Garrison Keillor has called the most sensual music in the world. Only once, in her entire life, did she ever again go to a church.

Granddaughter Sarah’s first violin

But she had a favorite hymn. Only the first verse, as the others are full of the theology she had fled. The words she sang are remarkable, given her story. It was written by Isaac Watts, who wrote some 600 hymns, among which is “Joy to the World.”

The card from Bethany brought my mother so strongly back to my mind and heart, I looked for a recording of the song, and was surprised not to find only one poor one in English, but a good number, both sung in Korean and instrumental. (Inserted at the end of this post). I chose a beautiful instrumental recording: When Peace, Like a River, Taiwan Gospel Book Room, Hymns of Praise 6.

Here are the words:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows, like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul!


Bless your heart. Whatever your tradition, may you be able to find joy in it, or in the memory of it, in this holy season. May it be well with your soul. May you be blessed with music and with peace, like a river.

I have very seldom expressed myself on social media about political matters, but I am so pleased with this discovery I want to share it. Continue reading

It was a wonderful celebration, and it put me in mind of what miracles can happen when a small group of friends work together.  This weekend Amherst Writers & Artists Press released our thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth books of poetry by poets who have come into their own voices over many years of participation in AWA workshops, trainings, and in leading their own workshops.  Ellen Summers’ chapbook, Spooner’s Cove, is celebration of the ways of water, in the human body as well as on the face of the earth. Poet Patricia Lee Lewis calls them a “gorgeous collection of sea-spangled, archetypal poems. The Glass Train, by Annie Fahy, is a full book.  Sue Walker, Poet Laureate of Alabama, 2003-2012, wrote about it, “The poems . . . are delicate, beautiful, clear as crystal but also momentary shards of glass that cut when they deal with trauma.” Continue reading


Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA) is the organization that is carrying on the work Pat established and carried on for more than 30 years. To discover how you can write with an AWA Method Group, or become trained as an AWA facilitator, please click this link.