The Poetry Circus: Joanna Fuhrman on Teaching Kenneth Koch

WITS Alliance member organization Teachers & Writers Collaborative publishes an outstanding periodical called Teachers & Writers Magazine. Check out a fun essay by Joanna Fuhrman on teaching the poetry of Kenneth Koch. And have a ball at the Poetry Circus.


Immerse Yourself: “Writers on Writing” in Key West

The theme of the next Key West Literary Seminar is “Writers on Writing,” and  financial assistance is available to teachers and librariansScholarships are also available to students and writers who would not otherwise be able to attend.  “Writers on Writers” will be an opportunity to re-experience some of the world’s most enduring authors (think Thoreau, Dickinson, Hemingway, Melville, and Woolf) through the eyes of the contemporary writers who know them best (Geoff DyerPico Iyer, and Colm Tóibín, among others).

“Writers on Writers” has now expanded to include two sessions. Session One will take place January 10-13, 2013. Session Two will take place the following weekend, January 17-20. The writers’ workshop program takes place in between the two seminar sessions, January 13-17. The seminar and workshops are independent of one another; you may attend both programs or choose between the two.
Registration is open now. The scholarship application period is also open now. Priority deadline for scholarship applications is June 30, 2012.

Report from AWP Chicago

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We had a great time at AWP 2012. Thanks for your enthusiasm about the Writers in the Schools movement. We loved seeing you at the WITS booth, at our panels, and at our reception. Once you’ve recuperated, please be in touch.

Writers in the Schools (WITS) at AWP 2012 in Chicago – Join the Movement!

The Writers in the Schools (WITS) Alliance will present an exciting series of panels, meetings, and events at the 2012 AWP Conference in Chicago. Here is a schedule of all the WITS happenings. We will be in the Bookfair the entire time. Come say hello at Booth #609. See you in Chicago!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Membership Meeting
Wednesday, February 29th, 4:30 to 5:45 PM
Joliet, Hilton Chicago, 3rd Floor
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, March 1, 2012

Celebration in Any Language: Teaching Bilingual Students  
Jack McBride, Alise Alousi, Merna Ann Hecht, Milta Ortiz, Cara Zimmer
Thursday, March 1st, 9:00 to 10:15 AM
Location: Grand Ballroom, Palmer House Hilton, 4th Floor
As student populations become increasingly diverse, most writing teachers work with bilingual students. We face specific challenges in creating an inclusive classroom community but ultimately celebrate linguistic difference through powerful writing and creativity. Panelists will discuss strategies for reaching all students, the challenges in navigating multiple languages in one classroom, and successes in creating a safe place for students to tell their own individual stories.

What You Need to Know Before You “Stand and Deliver”: K-12 Teaching 101
Rebecca Hoogs, Cecilia Pinto, Valerie Wayson, David Hassler, Cecily Sailer
3:00 to 4:15 PM
Location: Empire Ballroom, Palmer House Hilton, Lobby Level
Standing in front of a classroom and delivering inspiring and effective lessons doesn’t just happen. And just because you’re a great writer doesn’t mean you’re ready to be a great teaching artist in a K-12 classroom. But this panel will help you understand the path to becoming the teacher you want to be, that your teachers expect you to be, and that your students deserve. We’ll share tips and tricks of the trade and offer concrete advice for how to get the experience you need to succeed.

WITS Alliance Reception
Thursday, March 1st, 7:00 to 8:15 PM
Location: Hilton Chicago Hotel, Astoria, Hilton Chicago

Friday, March 2, 2012

Finding a Common Language in the Public Schools
Long Chu, Renée Watson, Giuseppe Taurino, Keith Yost
Friday, March 2nd, 1:30-2:45 PM
Location: Private Dining Room 1, Hilton Chicago, 3rd Floor
WITS organizations have deep artistic roots, and may approach the teaching of creative writing in ways public school administrators and teachers misunderstand or find irrelevant to their concerns. How do we make the case for WITS programs as valuable partners in meeting schools’ goals for student learning, but still remain true to our artistic identity? This panel of school administrators and WITS leaders share real world ideas to strengthen outreach to school partners.

The Wired Writing Classroom: The Marriage of Technology and Teaching
Cecily Sailer, Jeanine Walker, Janet Hurley, Jim Walker, Bertha Rogers
Friday, March 2nd, 3:00-4:15 PM
Location: Lake Huron Room, Hilton Chicago, 8th Floor
With an endless supply of evolving technology, how can educators capitalize on innovative web platforms and social media to augment classroom teaching, inspire students, and showcase their work? In this panel, several administrators from writers-in-the-schools organizations share multi-media projects that marry technology and traditional teaching methods. These stories of “teachnology” touch upon best practices while considering questions of safety and authenticity.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Low Res, Full Res, No Res: The Poet and the Terminal Degree
Christopher Salerno, Amy Gerstler, Bob Hicock, Timothy Liu, Robin Reagler
Saturday, March 3rd, 10:30 AM to 11:45 AM
Location: Wiliford C, Hilton Chicago, 3rd Floor
This panel will address what about the different MFA/CW program models is transcendent, what is common, and what is hindrance. We’ll discuss ways poets use, ignore, dismiss, or are damaged by aspects of each. What intersections are there amongst the MFA options? How does one take ownership of their track? Is an MFA necessary? Panelists will discuss why they did (or did not) pursue their particular terminal degree, and how those experiences inform their teaching practices in these programs now.

Marketing the Literary, or Putting some Poetry into your PR
Robin Reagler, Alison Granucci, Tree Swenson, Kristine Uyeda
Saturday, March 3rd, 1:30 PM to 2:45 PM
Location: Boulevard Room A,B,C, Hilton Chicago, 2nd Floor
For many writers, the business of promoting literature does not come naturally. Many literary organizations are led by writers for whom marketing is unfamiliar terrain. But some programs are finding surprising ways to connect with a larger public through low-cost campaigns to promote individual writers, literary arts education programs, memberships, and donations.

Crisis Economics for Nonprofits
Amy Swauger, Rebecca Hoogs, Michele Kotler, Melanie Moore
Saturday, March 3rd, 3:00 – 4:15 PM
Location: Grand Ballroom, Palmer House Hilton, 4th Floor
How are some nonprofits thriving in the current economy while others struggle to keep the doors open from one day to the next? The panelists in this session, who represent presenting organizations, literary publishers, and writers-in-the-schools programs, discuss their strategies for weathering the financial storm by identifying different sources of funding, collaborating with other nonprofits and for-profit partners, and finding ways to maintain programs and services while cutting costs.

Renee Watson Guest Stars in H-Town

On August 26th, and 27th, Renee Watson, author, actress, and teaching artist for Community Word Project, led a a series of workshops with the theme, Talking Back to the World: Empowering Students to Define Themselves through Writing and Visual Art.

High points of the training were a dramatization of The Emotional Bus (have you ridden on it before?) and a revision lesson using music from the Fugees. The WITS orientation is designed to inspire and prepare WITS writers for the new school year.

Sheryl Noethe Named the New Poet Laureate of Montana

Founder and Artistic Director of the Missoula Writing Collaborative, Sheryl Noethe, was named the Poet Laureate for the state of Montana. The Missoula Writing Collaborative is a member of the WITS Alliance.  Governor Brian Schweitzer wrote about Sheryl in his appointment letter:

I was particularly struck by your statement, “a few words from an adult can shape a child’s idea of who they are and who they can become.” Your commitment to teaching children that they “have the ability to find their own literary voice” is evidenced in your outstanding work in Montana schools.

For more information about Sheryl and the Missioula Writing Collaborative, click here. Sheryl’s two-year term begins in August 2011.

Our Difficult Sunlight

Georgia Popoff, an independent teaching artist in central New York, has something to celebrate, a new publication. Her book, Our Difficult Sunlight: A Guide to Poetry, Literacy & Social Justice in Classroom & Community, written in collaboration with Quraysh Ali Lansana, has just been released.  Georgia was a panelist in one of the WITS Alliance panels at the 2011 AWP Conference in Washington DC last week. You can read more about the book publication and launch schedule here.

WITS Alliance Schedule at AWP 2011

The WITS Alliance will be a literary co-sponsor of the AWP Conference 2011 in Washington, D.C. again this year. The dates are Feb. 2 – 5. For anyone interested in starting, joining, or learning more about the Writers in the Schools (WITS) movement, please join us for the following activities.

Wednesday, Feb. 2

12:00 – 5:00 PM
Marriott Wardman Park, Exhibition Level
Bookfair setup
Booth #307

4:30 – 5:45 PM
Thurgood Marshall West Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

W103. WITS Membership Meeting. (Robin Reagler) 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.


9:00 – 10:15 AM
Executive Room
Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

R119. Realities of the Classroom—Personalities and Boundaries [WITS Alliance]. (Michele Kotler, Giuseppe Taurino, Eli Hastings, Sherina Sharpe, Renée Watson) The classroom in the movies is not the classroom we walk into. How do we shape who we are as teaching artists? How do we create constructive boundaries with our students? How do we navigate gender, race, class, and age with the students we teach? How do we prepare ourselves for this work? How can we respect classroom legalities and our students’ rights? This panel will address the above in an active discussion about the sensitivity and toughness needed to be a successful writer in the school.

3:00 – 4:15 PM
Virginia A Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

R199. [WITS Alliance] A Classroom as Big as the World. (Jane Creighton, Georgia A. Popoff, Loyal Miles, Jim Walker, Nicole Robinson) The New York City sidewalks of Frank O’Hara. The Idaho wilderness. A soul food restaurant in Indianapolis. Forget four walls; the most exciting writing in K-12 education is happening beyond the chalkboard. Writers and administrators from programs that teach writing to young people will talk about their experiences getting kids out of the box of the classroom to get out of the box with their writing.

4:30 – 5:45 PM (Related Event)
Delaware Suite Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

R211. Speak Peace: American Voices Respond to Vietnamese Children’s Paintings Dramatic Reading. (David Hassler, Ellen Bass, Dorianne Laux, Long Chu, Bruce Weigl, Alberto Ríos)Speak Peace: American Voices Respond to Vietnamese Children’s Paintings features original poems written by American children, veterans, and established poets in response to Vietnamese children’s paintings on peace and war collected by the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam. Created by Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center & School of Art Galleries, with Soldier’s Heart, this exhibit and dramatic reading offers a timely testament to the emotional truth of war and peace. Readers range from award-winning poets to elementary-age children, presenting a readers’ theatre-style performance. To learn more about this project, visit

7:00 – 8:15 PM
Maryland C
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

A Reception Hosted by Writers in the Schools (WITS). Join Writers in the Schools (WITS) for a Reception.


4:30 – 5:45 PM
Thurgood Marshall East Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

F215. [WITS Alliance] Poetry and Partnerships: The Critical Elements for Writers-in-the-Schools Programs. (Melanie Moore, Alise Alousi, Loyal Miles, Robin Reagler, Nancy Daugherty, Rebecca Powers) The partnership between working writers and classroom teachers is at the heart of writers-in-the-schools programs, but it’s only one of the critical partnerships required to make a program happen. Panelists from three organizations that have WITS programs will offer insights into the other critical partnerships that enable effective writing initiatives to thrive in schools, including relationships with board members, funders, and key decision-makers for school districts.


9:00 – 10:15 AM
Virginia B Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

S114. (WITS ALLIANCE) Paths of Passion: WITS Links to University Teaching and Writing Careers. (Laura Long, Tiphanie Yanique, Cody Walker, Keya Mitra, Robert Fanning, Robin Davidson) A legacy is emerging as WITS teachers develop college-level teaching and writing careers. How does WITS experience help writers get jobs as professors, and then shape that teaching? How does it nurture one’s own writing? How does the WITS commitment to underserved students change the teacher, so art profoundly connects to pleasure, gift exchange, and political activism? The panelists are professors who have taught in diverse settings and write poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and translation.

10:30 -11:45 AM
Thurgood Marshall East Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

S130. [WITS Alliance] Camps: Artful Paths for Summer Income. (Long Chu, Cecily Sailer, Megan McNamer, Janet Hurley) Writing outside the classroom takes us several easy steps toward helping students experience writing as fun, while also anchoring good writing habits during time off from school, and making parents happy. This heady cocktail can allow these tuition-based camps to more than pay their own way, by introducing a writing project and its creative programming in your area that can provide work for writers, and perhaps help launch a writers-in-the-schools program.

1:30 – 2:45 PM
Virginia C Room
Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

S180. [WITS Alliance]—We Were All Poets in the 3rd Grade: What Happened? (Jack McBride, Janine Joseph, Mary Rechner, Giuseppe Taurino, Jeanine Walker) WITS Writers will discuss their paths as writers and teachers, from when they fell in love with writing, how they were discouraged or made to feel anxious about the process, and how they subsequently came back to it. Investigating why K-12 students go from a willingness to engage creative writing (and all it entails: vulnerability, creativity, risk) to being afraid or indifferent, panelists will explore best teaching practices for re-engaging students and collaborating with classroom teachers.

Key West Literary Seminar Shares Archival Collection

Key West Literary Seminar has added new lectures to their Audio Archives Project, presenting the finest recordings from acclaimed poets such as Poet Laureate Kay Ryan and past laureates Richard Wilbur, Billy Collins, Robert Pinsky, Rita Dove, Charles Simic, Maxine Kumin, and Mark Strand. The archive also houses lectures from historians Eric Foner and David Levering Lewis in addition to readings from Pulitzer Prize novelists Geraldine Brooks, Junot Diaz, and William Kennedy.

The Audio Archives Project is an essential resource for teachers and professors of literature. You can listen to the podcasts online and subscribe to current recordings via iTunes or through RSS feed.

WITS Alliance AWP Schedule – Newly Updated

WITS Alliance Schedule for AWP 2010

Wednesday, April 7th
4:30 – 5:45 PM Granite Room
Hyatt, 3rd Floor
Membership Meeting

AWP Book Fair Booth =

Exhibit Hall A, 400
Thursday, April 8th
10:30 AM to 11:45 AM
Room 304 – CCC
Raising the Funds for Changing the World. This WITS Alliance-sponsored session focuses on strategies to fund creative writing programs for students in K-12 schools. This panel of funders and fundraisers will share their success stories in garnering support from individuals, foundations, corporations, government grant programs, and school budgets in order to place writers in the schools. (Amy Swauger, Michele Kotler, Robin Reagler, Amy Stolls, Elma Ruiz)
12:00 PM to 1:15 PM
Mineral Hall ­ Hyatt
Geek to Write: True Tales from the Literary Internet. The buzz words of technology—twitter, facebook, blurb, flickr, and YouTube—may sound bizarre to the uninitiated, but web applications offer writers options that were unthinkable even three years ago. On this panel, writers who are also educators will share their experiences in which they have used the new media technology to teach, learn, publish, and create stronger communities. (Robin Reagler, Nandi Comer, Brent Goodman, Amy King, Paul Munden, Jim Walker)
1:30 PM to 2:45 PM
Room 111 – CCC
Journey to Identity: Teaching Creative Writing to Immigrant Students. Beyond the debate on immigration, teaching writers have to deal with the very real issues of how to teach first and second-generation immigrant students. How do we encourage students to tell these often secret and untold stories? How do we create and manage trust? How do we navigate language barriers? This panel will explore these questions and other issues surrounding the topic. Panelists will share practical teaching ideas that writers can utilize in their classrooms. (Long Chu, Jose Luis Benavides, Margot Fortunato Galt, Ellen Hagen, Merna Ann Hecht, Sehba Sarwar)
5:30 p.m.Altitude Restaurant – Hyatt

Res. in name of

Mellissa Barrett

Small Group Discussions

  • Vietnamese Children’s Art Exhibit (David H.)
  • Professional Development Programs for Classroom Teachers (TBD)
  • Other?
7 p.m.  Hyatt – Granite WITS Alliance Reception
Friday, April 9th
12:00 PM – 1:15 PM
Rooms 210, 212 Colorado Convention Center,Street Level
Navigating Need: Teaching Creative Writing to Students with Disabilities. In educational jargon, the special needs label serves as a catch-all for students with disabilities who have been left behind by a highly standardized school curricula. WITS writers are asked to teach students who are deaf, blind, autistic, dysgraphic, or who have other disabilities, often without training or having these students identified. However, as these five teaching writers show through case studies, creative writing becomes an amazing bridge among all students, regardless of ability. (Jack McBride, Nicole Callihan, Sharon Ferranti, Jourdan Keith, Laren McClung, Giuseppe Taurino)
Friday at 1:30:
Room 109
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level
Starting a Writers in the Schools Program at Your University. (Melanie Moore, Chloe Honum, Sean Nevin, David Hassler, Terry Ann Thaxton) On this panel sponsored by the WITS Alliance, panelists discuss the pragmatic aspects of starting a Writers in the Schools outreach program. Topics include developing relationships with public schools, finding funding sources, and compensation/course credit for students teaching in the program. Program directors from the University of Arkansas, Arizona State University, the University of Central Florida, the Wick Poetry Center, and Badgerdog Literary Publishing will share their expertise.

Related and Recommended:

Friday, April 9
3:00 PM to 4:15 PM
303 – CCC
Writing on the Walls: Promoting Writing and Museum Relationships within the Community
Saturday, April 10thNoon

Room 111
Colorado Convention Center, Street Level

What Do Kids Want? Building Community In and Around Schools. What do kids want from writing instruction? How do you figure out what kids want, and how do you go about providing it? Teachers and administrators from youth writing programs across the country share their experiences getting buy-in in order to build community in the classroom, after school, and beyond. (Rebecca Hoogs, Sheryl Noethe, Jeff Kass, David Hassler, Margot Kahn Case)