Long-time AWA Affiliate Annie Fahy shared with us how she became involved with the AWA method, her workshop leadership and how it intersects with her work in the mental health field, and about her new book, The Glass Train published this year by AWA Press!
In her own words:
I took my first AWA workshop in 1999. I was looking for ideas for a Women’s substance disorder treatment program I was designing and thought a creative tool would be a great addition to the other therapy we were offering. When I got to the workshop, I had a major panic attack because I had never really written anything but letters. I found my poetry in Pat’s [Pat Schneider, founder of AWA] living room and have created and found my way into AWA writing circles ever since. I think I fall in love again and again with those circles of voices and writers.
I have always been a helper so have tried to offer AWA to non-writers and have done this in treatment centers, jails, homeless shelters and to teens in a high-risk drop-in center. I have also offered a regular writing workshop in both Athens GA and now in Asheville NC where I live. Right now I am offering a Saturday Writing Group two Saturdays a month and am looking for another pro bono project.
My favorite moment from a writing workshop was when a homeless man wrote fairly serious Suicide Note and the group looked at me to intervene. I used the method and we talked about how effective and scary the writing was. He came back the next week and began to write poems that knocked my socks off.
I am affiliated with the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT), the Harm Reduction Therapy Center in San Francisco (HRTC) and Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA). I have authored two chapters in The Praeger Handbook of Community Health, one on addictions in 2007 and one on aging and substance use forthcoming in 2017. I wrote a feature article for The Journal of Social Work: “The Unbearable Fatigue of Compassion: Notes from a Substance Abuse Counselor Who Dreams of Working at Starbucks.” My work specialty is difficult clients both in health and behavioral healthcare so I have good job security in these crazy times.
I won an honorable mention for my poem “Yoko” in the 5th Annual Pat Schneider Writing Contest. The poem was published in Peregrine in 2016 and I published my first book of poetry The Glass Train this year with Amherst Writers & Artists Press. I was fortunate to receive guidance and editing suggestions from Pat Schneider and Jan Haag with this effort. Sue Reynolds did a beautiful design for my book and Sue Walker offered me an endorsement.
I am an artist as well as a poet and did the cover art as well as a drawing for one of my poems which is included in the book. I often illustrate my poems and may do a graphic poetry book next. I am writing and publishing regularly on Medium. I like this platform as a means of connecting with other writers. Check out Don’t Waste Good Drugs on a Bad Mood for professional writing or What If for recent poetry.
Annie kindly shared a poem for us to publish here, from her book The Glass Train:
This letter has only one purpose.
It wants to flood your skin
It wants to whisper in your ear
It wants to feel the full length
of your body as it curves
around my back and hips
into a crescent of pie
spilling on to the plate.
This letter only wants to be a love letter.
It wants to do its job
and then end up in a box with siblings
tied in black thread.
It wants to be found by grown children
after a death,
with disbelief that someone
who smelled like unwashed clothes
and forgot the name for most things
could have a letter like this one.
Still wet, juicy and overflowing
with fat berries out of the crust.