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Pat's poem, Barry Moser's illustration. Proceeds to AWA outreach. For the text of the poem, click here.

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Pat’s Blog

I was honored many weeks ago to be interviewed by Tara Backes for the Ageless Women online summit. She’s graciously sent me a copy of the video she made; I’m sharing it with you here. The interview is about 40 minutes long. Enjoy!


It’s been a long time since you’ve heard from me – we’ve had some health challenges here over the winter.

I’m delighted to be sending out this news today – Peter’s poem “Lost in Plain Sight” is the poem on Ted Kooser’s “Poetry in America” today!

This is a big deal! Newspapers carrying the column download it as a PDF and run it on their usual print schedules; subscribers will receive it electronically. Current readership is about 4.6 million people.

People in 71 countries now receive the column: Nepal, Indonesia, Uganda, Bangladesh, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Egypt, Tunisia, most of Europe, Mexico, India, The Philippines, Turkey, China, Canada, Viet Nam, South Korea, Myanmar, the Tarawa atoll, Argentina and the U.K., as well as U.S. readers from Maine to Hawaii.

Also recently a friend of ours created this lovely video where Peter and I are both interviewed, recite some of our work, and recall how we first met; it includes Peter reading this poem.

Pat & Peter from Steveg1000 on Vimeo.

And here is Peter’s beautiful poem:

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.


One of the funnier things that occurred in the entire history our organization had to do with the fourth issueof our literary journal. Before we had a “press,” there was Peregrine.

The dream of a journal followed upon the formation of our budding organization: what had been simply my own workshops was growing into a community of people, some of whom had dreams beyond my own. We named ourselves Amherst Writers & Artists; Elizabeth Finn (French) wanted to lead art classes, Ani Tuzman wanted to lead a workshop for children, and simultaneously, Walker Rumble and Elizabeth wanted to found a literary journal.  It became clear to methat I could not personally handle everything that was fermenting, and so I drew together a few of my closest friends among the writers in my workshops,and asked them to act as a Board of Directors. We decided there would be no decision other than by unanimous consent.

In1983, when the first issue was ready to go to press, we needed a name for the journal.  After a first suggestion failedto get unanimous consent from the Board, Elizabeth Finn suggested “Peregrine.”  Our first reaction was, “huh?”  Elizabeth told us that not only was the peregrine falcon an endangered species, not only had a sheltered nest and a mated pair been placed on top of UMass’s new library building, but also the word meant “pilgrim.” We accepted the title. (By the way, the nested pair have now produced so many little peregrines, they feed on the mourning doves at my window birdfeeder – not my idea of ideal bird food!!) That first issue was only 35 pages, saddle-stitched (stapled) and sold for $3.  We called our press “Amherst Writers & Artists Networks Press.” Walker and Elizabeth did all of the editing; Sharleen Kapp, our new Board chairwoman, managed production, Elizabeth designed the cover of the first two annual issues, reversing the brown and cream elements in the two. For the third and fourth issues, we asked Margaret Robison, an area artist, for cover art, increased our pages to 74, dropped“Networks Press” and named Peregrine“The Journal of Amherst Writers & Artists.”

Sharleen is a brilliant, funny, and very clear-headed woman – single mother of five who had risen to the top of the design department of Massachusetts Mutual Insurance Company, known throughout the valley as “Mass Mutual.” In that role, she had access to the entire design department in the basement of their huge building in Springfield. She had taken each of the first three issues of Peregrine into MassMutual, given it to “the guys” in the basement who copied it at night and turned it into a journal.  When it came time to print the fourth issue, Sharleen and I were a little too giddy with the brilliance and importance of what we were doing!  We decided to ask the absolutely most famous artist in our area for cover art for our journal (whose wife, Peggy Gillespie, just happened to be in my workshop.) Gregory, whose work hangs in theMetropolitan Museum in New York City, responded graciously, “Sure!  That dresser is full of images – you can use any one you want!”  Sharleen and I went through drawer after drawer, image by image, and silently put them down.  Every one – in Gregory’s inimitable style, and to our eyes definitely high art – nevertheless included naked body parts, not erotic, but in very explicit detail. It was 1984, both Sharleen and I were middle-aged women who truly wanted to be artistically and culturally “cool,” but we couldn’t put body parts on the cover of our journal.  Finally we came to a slide that, held up tothe light, seemed to be a woman seated at a table on which lay a fruit of somekind.  We sighed in relief and Sharleentook it to the guys in the basement of Mass Mutual and went upstairs to her desk. Whereupon one of them called her and asked, “Have you looked at this image?”  She answered, “Yes.”  “Well,” he said, “We think you should come down and look at it again.”  She did.  The object on the table was not a fruit.  It was a bisected body part.

Sharleen and I first were appalled, then we laughed, and fairly quickly decided to vote on the side of art.  “Go ahead and print it,” we said.  And they did. Soon after, we asked Barry Moser, an equally celebrated local artist, if he might have an illustration of a Peregrine falcon that we could use.  His image has been on every issue since.  Our secret is, he didn’t have a Peregrine, but his turkey vulture serves beautifully!

Please note: this post was originally published without the illustrations.  Apologies of the webmaster for the oversight.

I am having a great time writing my “Narrative History” of Amherst Writers &Artists. I’m doing it as an introduction to the huge amount of Archives of AWA in the Jones Library, Amherst — newsletters, publications (We’ve published 39 books and a literary journal for almost 40 years!) — so much that it would be impossible for some grad student wanting to research our history to get a true “feel” of who we have been. And still are. I’m trying to provide the stories, my own and those of others willing to contribute their stories.

But yesterday morning before daylight I came downstairs and in the lovely dark –Kafka said even dark is not enough solitude for the writer. I came down to write, and was thinking about strangeness, how John Gardner said the most important thing in good writing is a quality of strangeness.
Continue reading


by Pat Schneider

Amherst Writers & Artists is one manifestation of what came to be known in and following the 1970’s as the writing process movement. Although its deepest origins are in books by two women, Dorothea Brande, 1934, and Brenda Ueland, 1938, they have seldom been recognized as the founding mothers of a new and profoundly more humane way of teaching writing. Before the 1970’s, a competitive, negative-response method was used almost universally. Then there emerged a groundswell of reaction. In 1973, Peter Elbow’s articulation of a new approach in Writing Without Teachers (Oxford University Press, 1973) became well known in academic settings; and starting in 1979, knowing nothing of Elbow’s work, I began to develop a new workshop method, non-hierarchical, non-classist, craft-based but specifically designed to eliminate shaming, belittling, and bullying in responses to written work—all of which were deeply engrained in the teaching of writing in schools, colleges, and universities. From second grade on through a doctorate, persons were being taught, both subtly and overtly, that they could never be “a writer.” Continue reading

EPSON scanner image

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.” Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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.
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.