Saturday, November 2, 2013

Trusting the Voices

How mysterious, how fragile is the voice of the artist . . . we ponder the vast, misty place it dwells, and feel overwhelmed with gratitude and fear when it emerges from the depths.  Our own depths are intensely personal and ruthlessly guarded.  And then you meet Pat Schneider, founder of Amherst Writers and Artists

I attended the Pat Schneider Retreat held by Inkslingers this month in beautiful Buckhorn.  The WestWind Inn hosted the event, and the image above was taken by me one frosty morning just after snow.  Yes, snow in October.  Emerging from sleep, arriving for a writer's breakfast, ready to face another day of myself, reaching in, reaching out. 

This image closely represents for me the experience of working in a Pat Schneider writing circle.  You start out all sleepy and misty, wondering if you can write anything at all.  The depths feel murky, the horizon distant, and there are all these reflections and indefinite shapes waiting to trick your vision.  Then you pause, and breathe, and draw in the reflections.  You notice the shimmering of the water, the variances of colour, the tiny details, become intensely interested in what's hiding, what's happening, what just happened, even what did not happen.  And then you write.

It's affirming, it's exhausting, and it's some of the best writing you will ever do. 

Pat Schneider and the AWA 'Method' is about voice.  Not just finding it, but living it.  Growing first voice, like a fledgling that must become strong to survive.  And in the writing world, where there are so many to tell you what will not work, what is not good, what will fail to sell, what is not good form, good manners, right trend, your voice is going to need to be iron willed.

And that's an important word, will.  Will you 'succeed'?  What will you write, who will you be when your voice grows up?  Will you muster the will to write, perfect and share?  These are the questions and also the answer.  You will.  I will.  The simplest message has a voice.

Trust your voice, a writer will hear, over and over.  But first, you must learn what that voice is.  And a voice will only emerge when it does not fear censorship.  How can you perfect what has not yet been expressed?  With Pat, you express, you feel, you express.  You are given feedback on what resonates so you can hear your voice and strengthen it.  Once you recognize that, you can trust it and defend it out in the world.

Then others will recognize it too.  They will see your emotion, your beliefs, your respect for others and for the written word in every sentence you release to the world.  That grows your voice even more; it grows your ability and willingness to write; and it protects you from the critical eye that, once you are open to it, will improve your work and strengthen your voice.

Will, Trust, Recognition.  That's what Pat teaches.  I feel extremely lucky to know her, and thankful to Sue Reynolds at Inkslingers, who brought her into our lives.  The writers in our circle shared many deeply held moments and secrets over the course of that week, touching pieces of our lives we did not know we had the skill and courage to share.  We came there good writers and left better writers, and more than that, we left with the will to write, the trust that we can write, and the recognition of why we write that becomes innate, and shelters us in this challenging pursuit of the writer: to be heard.


  1. Well, that is just beautiful, Sally. I love the voice that comes through and I wish I had been there with you. So glad you reached inside and pulled out plum parts but I'm not surprised. So beautifully written!

  2. Thank-you, Elaine! High compliment from you, when the scene in The Loyalist's Wife where your heroine tries to make it to the fort gave me chills.