InsideOut Literary Arts Seeks New Detroit Leader

047-1InsideOut Literary Arts, the WITS Alliance organization in Detroit, is seeking a new Executive Director. Their founder, Terry Blackhawk, is retiring after and illustrious 20 year run. Check out the press release (below) or their website for more information.

Founder Terry Blackhawk Retiring in June

(DETROIT, MI) InsideOut Literary Arts Project ( iO) is pleased to announce a national search for its next Executive Director, as founding director Dr. Terry Blackhawk prepares to retire June 30th after 20 years.

“I am excited about entering a new phase with iO and thrilled to see the organization flourishing as we launch our 20th anniversary year,’’ says Blackhawk, an award-winning poet and educator. “The work has grown beyond my wildest imaginings.’’

iO was founded in 1995 in just five Detroit high schools, with weekly classroom visits by a writer-in-residence, the publication of a literary journal for each school, and a vision of sharing the power of poetry with youth. Twenty years later, iO has taught more than 50,000 K–12 students how to “think broadly and create bravely.’’ iO’s work has earned national exposure(including invitations to the White House) and a feature presentation on PBS NewsHour.

Blackhawk’s retirement will coincide with a series of public arts celebrations honoring her work and iO’s longevity. The anniversary year will be anchored by the publication of “To Light A Fire: 20 Years with the InsideOut Literary Arts Project,’’ an essay compilation published by Wayne State University Press and edited by Blackhawk and iO’s Senior Writer, Peter Markus. With essays by 23 iO writers, the book shines a light on the triumphs and challenge of using poetry as a bridge of understanding between a city and its children. “When I founded InsideOut in the mid 1990s, the burgeoning creative writing movement, industry, community — call it what you will —was beginning to take off but I could not have imagined the reach that it has today.’’

The search for Blackhawk’s successor, who is expected to be named in September, is being led by the Non-profit Personnel Network. Long-time iO Associate Director Alise Alousi will manage day-to-day operations starting July 1st.

CONTACT: Nichole Christian, director of communications, or 313.577-4601

ABOUT iO: InsideOut Literary Arts Project is a nationally recognized 501c3 nonprofit, celebrated as a hub of creativity for Detroit K-12 students who are curious about exploring their worlds through poetry and self-expression. Major funders include Detroit Public Schools, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Skillman Foundation and the United Way of Southeastern Michigan.


WITS Alliance Schedule at #AWP15 in Minneapolis


WITS Alliance at AWP 2015

Booth: #1301

Hashtag: #WITSAlliance #AWP15

Thursday, April 9

Life After the MFA: Extra/ordinary Career Paths for Writers
1:30-2:45 p.m.
Room 101 B&C, Level 1

Panelists: Erin Kottke, Charlie Scott, Giuseppe Taurino, and Zayne Turner

Genre 2.0: Game-Based Learning and Creative Writing
4:30-5:45 p.m.

Room 205 A&B, Level 2

Panelists: Michael Angst, Rick Brennan, and Long Chu

WITS Alliance Reception

6:30-8:00 p.m.

Location: Room 203B, Level 2

Friday, April 10

WITS Alliance Membership Meeting

10:30-11:45 a.m.

Room 208 C&D, Level 2

Host: Robin Reagler

The Creative Writer as an Agent of Change

1:30-2:45 p.m.

Room 208 A&B, Level 2

Panelists: Tina Cane, Laura Moulton, Monica Prince, Mary Rechner, and Renée Watson

The Writing on the Wall: Poetry for Public Places

3:00-4:15 p.m.

Room 205 A&B, Level 2

Panelists: Kate Brennan, David Hassler, Michele Kotler, Christine Podas-Larson, and Alice Quinn

Saturday, April 11

Start a WITS Program at Your University
12:00-1:15 p.m.
Room 211 A&B, Level 2

Panelists: Terry Blackhawk, Julia Kasdorf, Frances Payne Adler, Amy Swauger, and Terry Thaxton

The Resuscitation of Childhood: A WITS Reading

1:30-2:45 p.m.

Room 101 D&E, Level 1

Panelists: Matthew Burgess, Jason Koo, Erin Malone, Emily Perez, and Tiphanie Yanique

Download Schedule »

Teachers & Writers Magazine – Now Online


Teachers & Writers Magazine is now ONLINE with a beautiful site and archives too. With the transition from print to web, anyone can subscribe for FREE. Here’s more about the journal:

T&W publishes Teachers & Writers Magazine as a resource for teaching the art of writing in kindergarten through college and in non-classroom settings. The online magazine presents a wide range of ideas and approaches, as well as lively explorations of T&W’s mission: “educating the imagination.”

Classroom teachers and WITS Writers can search lesson plans on the site. You can submit articles online too. Subscribe today!

What Do Texting and Ancient Poetry Share?

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Check out a wonderful essay, Texting the Shining Princeby David Andrew Stoler from Teachers & Writers Magazine. In it Stoler tells about how he made ancient Japanese poetry relevant and vital to New York City teenagers. It’s a great read! Here’s an excerpt:

And while it may be true that each generation of teenagers invents the entire world from scratch (just ask them!), we’re not talking here about text messages and Twitter, despite the similarities. No; a thousand years ago teenagers in the Japanese Court were doing the same thing as their modern counterparts—sending secret messages back and forth—limited then by formal poetic structure instead of digital character count. These messages, though, were being sent under markedly different conditions than those faced by modern-day texting teens: traditional court etiquette made it difficult for a teenage boy to even properly see a girl who wasn’t  in his family, forget about holding a conversation. And if the wrong boy was caught talking to the wrong girl, they weren’t simply sent to their rooms, didn’t  just get their phones taken away for a month—they were exiled far away, sent to live a life of poverty, coldness, and isolation.


So, instead, Japanese teenagers—and, in fact, most members of the Heian  Japanese court—sent each other poems. A glimpse of just the outline of a member of the opposite sex behind a carriage window screen was all it took to begin a steady stream of poems back and forth. Often snuck out in the sleeves of staff members, the poems followed the strict structure of early 11th-century Japanese Waka, a form  that  dictated  a set number of characters /syllables, and whose subject matter often revolved around nature. The quality of the metaphors—and the penmanship—were used to judge the potential suitability of a sweetheart: the equivalent of today’s Jordans or Uggs. Puns and double-meanings abounded—if the poems were intercepted, one could at least then argue his or her innocence.


The form was famously immortalized in Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji,  a classic text considered by some to be the first-ever novel.The book follows the life and loves of the title character from his boyhood to his death (and beyond, actually—the English translation is 1000-plus pages long and goes deep into the romantic history of his sons, too), and is loaded with Waka that are both opulent and emotional. It also makes a perfect lesson for middle and high school students today, connecting them to the history of poetry via a structure and a type of secrecy that are immediately familiar to them from the late-night texting barrages that swell their parents’ cellphone bills each month.


Click here to read the rest of the essayFrontcover1-229x300


Can I get 100 AWP members to vote–again?

Please help AWP make it to the governance finish line!

Literary Citizenship


Let’s practice some genuine literary citizenship, people. Let’s do something positive.

AWP is this close to having a quorum. They are at 54%. They need to get to 60%. By next week!

Incentive for them: If they get to 60%, they save beaucoup bucks in legal fees, and they’re better equipped to serve you.

Incentive for you: You can win a Kindle Fire or Paperwhite. Plus, you know, making a difference and all that.

Just go here and vote.

Even if you voted last year–the last time I tried to help in this effort–you have to vote again!

How should you vote? Vote yes or no. Doesn’t matter. Just vote.

Who should vote? Every freaking body. Tenure-track faculty. Non-tenure track. Individual members.

What are you voting for? Here’s the explanation from my friend and colleague, Jill Christman, member of the AWP board.

We are closer than we have *ever*…

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Where To Be at #AWP14

photo by Porter Anderson
photo by Porter Anderson

If you want to learn all about Writers in the Schools (WITS) opportunities across the US and abroad, please join us at the annual #AWP14, the Conference. This year it will take place in Seattle starting Feb. 26, 2014. Here is a listing of our panels, meetings, and receptions.

Writers in the Schools (WITS) Alliance
2014 AWP Conference Schedule
Seattle, Washington

Visit us at Booth #200 in the Bookfair


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

4:30 pm to 5:45 pm
W103. WITS Membership Meeting
Room 2A, Washington State Convention Center, Level 2
Writers in the Schools (WITS) Alliance invites current and prospective members to attend a general meeting led by Robin Reagler, Executive Director of WITS-Houston.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

1:30 pm to 2:45 pm
Being Juvenile is a Good Thing: A Reading of Old Writers Inspired by Young Writers
Room 304, Western New England MFA Annex, Level 3
Featuring Rebecca Hoogs, Terry Blackhawk, Garth Stein, Nick Flynn, Dorothea Lasky

4:30 pm to 5:45 pm
From Page to Stage, Performance Poetry and the WITS Process of Teaching and Learning
Willow Room, Sheraton Seattle, 2nd Floor
Featuring Mary Rechner, Desmond Spann, Aricka Foreman, Monica Prince, Janet Hurley

7 pm to 8:15 pm
Writers in the Schools Reception
Greenwood Room, Sheaton Seattle

Friday, February 28, 2014

9:00 am to 10:15 am
Preparing for Exuberant Life Beyond the MFA
Room 602/603, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6
Featuring Michele Kotler, Lauren Berry, Peter Hyland, Jason Whitmarsh, Elizabeth Wales

3:00 pm to 4:15 pm
F235. Storytelling for a Cause
Cedar Room, Sheraton Seattle, 2nd Floor
Featuring Kate Brennan, Karen Lewis, Lisa Murphy-Lamb, Philip Shaw, Robin

Saturday, March 1, 2014

12:00 pm to 1:15 pm
Creativity and the Future of K-12 Education
Room 609, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6
Starring Jack McBride, Cecily Sailer, Harold Terezón, Tina Cane, Sheila Black

1:30 pm to 2:45 pm
Rivers and Tides: Balancing Leadership with the Writing Life
Room 615/616/617, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6
Jeanine Walker, Jennifer Benka, David Hassler, Stephen Young

For more detailed information about each of these panel discussions, click here.