News from Colorado Writers in the Schools

Fall 2011 has been a stellar season for WITS Colorado, thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. We have included two new sites in Pueblo and Grand Junction, which means we are now across the entire state!

During a series of six to ten-week residencies we helped 675 students from elementary, middle, and high schools create writing and published it in an anthology for each school. In October our resident writers were trained by national River of Words co-founder Pamela Michaels, and they helped teachers submit their students poetry to the River of Words contest. Our anthology celebrations were a big hit, attended by parents and community alike.

This Spring we will continue our partnership with University of Denver’s Creative Writing program, training their graduate and undergraduate students in the WITS model. We will also expand the program to the northern part of the state, adding two new schools in Greeley and one more in the Grand Junction area.

by Tim Hernandez, WITS Colorado

Colorado Arts and Humanities

WITS at Literary Arts in Portland, Oregon

During the 2010-2011 school year the WITS program of Literary Arts in Portland, Oregon employed 23 professional writers to teach 49 semester-long creative writing residencies, serving all of Portland Public School’s high schools and several alternative programs.

WITS coordinated 13 student readings at local bookstores, cafes and libraries.  A whopping 181 students publically shared their writing with friends, classmates, families and community members.

World-renowned writers such as poet Natasha Trethewey and comic artist Art Spielgelman visited schools, and WITS partnered with Multnomah County Library on Everybody Reads, providing books, tickets and transportation to over 900 students and teachers to see Wes Moore author of The Other Wes Moore.

WITS convened its annual WITS Summit to support WITS-like writing programs throughout Oregon, and piloted a College Essay Writing Workshop where trained volunteers worked one on one with high school juniors and seniors on the essays they need for college and scholarship applications.

The WITS anthology No One Carries an Umbrella Here showcases student poetry, prose, drama and comics, and additional student work can be found on the WITS blog W.o.o.t.s. and in the WITS digital chapbooks.

For more details about the WITS program of Literary Arts in Portland, read the full WITS Report.

WITS Alliance Folks in the News

Art by Carmelo Arden Quin

There’s plenty of good Writers in the Schools (WITS) news around the world. Here are a few articles about WITS Alliance members and the work they’re doing.

  • Terry Blackhawk, founding director of InsideOut Literary Arts Project in Detroit has been a featured blogger this month on the Huffington Post. Check out her column here.
  • Cecily Sailor, Education Programs Manager for Badgerdog Literary Publishing in Austin, TX, was interviewed by Write by Night magazine.
  • Seattle WITS has the highest level of service in its 16-year program: 26 elementary, middle, and high schools and one hospital.
  • In the fall of 2010 the Missoula Writing Collaborative received new funding from the Heineman Foundation ($30,000) to
    support their work teaching kids to love to write, and this funding was renewed in November 2011 at the same level.
  • WITS Houston’s Executive Director Robin Reagler was elected to the AWP Board of Directors. Her first term will begin in February 2012.

Share your literary education news with us, please.

WITS at the 2012 AWP Conference in Chicago

The Writers in the Schools (WITS) Alliance will present a series of panels, meetings, and events at the 2012 AWP Conference in Chicago. Here is a schedule of all the WITS happenings. Please join us!

 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Membership Meeting

Writers in the Schools Alliance, 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.

Wednesday, February 29

4:30 PM to 5:45 PM

Joliet, Hilton Chicago, 3rd Floor

 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Celebration in Any Language: Teaching Bilingual Students  
Jack McBride, Alise Alousi, Merna Ann Hecht, Milta Ortiz, Cara Zimmer
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.

Thursday, March 1

9:00 AM to 10:15 AM

Location: Grand Ballroom, Palmer House Hilton, 4th Floor

 

What You Need to Know Before You “Stand and Deliver”: K-12 Teaching 101

Rebecca Hoogs, Cecilia Pinto, Valerie Wayson, David Hassler, Cecily Sailer
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.

Thursday, March 1

3:00 PM to 4:15 PM

Location: Empire Ballroom, Palmer House Hilton, Lobby Level

WITS Alliance Reception

 Thursday, March 1

 7:00 PM 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
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.

Friday, March 2

1:30-2:45 PM

Location: Private Dining Room 1, Hilton Chicago, 3rd Floor

The Wired Writing Classroom: The Marriage of Technology and Teaching

Cecily Sailer, Jeanine Walker, Janet Hurley, Jim Walker, Bertha Rogers
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.

Friday, March 2

3:00-4:15

Location: Lake Huron Room, Hilton Chicago, 8th Floor

 

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
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.

Saturday, March 3

10:30 AM to 11:45 AM

Location: Wiliford C, Hilton Chicago, 3rd Floor

 

Marketing the Literary, or Putting some Poetry into your PR
Robin Reagler, Alison Granucci, Tree Swenson, Kristine Uyeda
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.

Saturday, March 3

1:30 PM to 2:45 PM

Location: Boulevard Room A,B,C, Hilton Chicago, 2nd Floor

 

Saturday, March 3, 2012 (cont.)

Crisis Economics for Nonprofits
Amy Swauger, Rebecca Hoogs, Michele Kotler, Melanie Moore
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.

Saturday, March 3

3:00 – 4:15 PM

Location: Grand Ballroom, Palmer House Hilton, 4th Floor

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.

2011 Bechtel Prize Deadline Approaches

Teachers & Writers Collaborative
Image via Wikipedia

Submissions for the 2011 Bechtel Prize are due on June 30. This year the Bechtel Prize will be judged by Patricia Hampl. Here is more information from the Teachers & Writers site:

Since 2004, Teachers & Writers Collaborative (T&W) has honored the author of an exemplary essay on literary arts education with the annual Bechtel Prize. Submissions for the award address important issues in creative writing education and/or literary studies.

For more information, click here.

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.

The Writers in the Schools (WITS) Alliance Schedule – AWP 2011

  • Booth #307 in the Bookfair
  • Witsalliance.org on the web

Wednesday

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

Thursday

9:00 – 10:15 AM
Panel: Realities of the Classroom—Personalities and Boundaries
Executive Room, Omni Shoreham Hotel, West Lobby

3:00 – 4:15 PM
Panel: A Classroom as Big as the World.

Virginia A Room, Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

4:30 – 5:45 PM
Reading: Speak Peace: American Voices Respond to Vietnamese Children’s Paintings

Delaware Suite Room, Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

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

Friday

4:30 – 5:45 PM
Panel:  Poetry and Partnerships: The Critical Elements for Writers-in-the-Schools Programs

Thurgood Marshall East Room, Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

Saturday

9:00 – 10:15 AM
Panel: Paths of Passion: WITS Links to University Teaching and Writing Careers
Virginia B Room, Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

10:30 -11:45 AM
Panel: Camps: Artful Paths for Summer Income
Thurgood Marshall East Room, Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level

1:30 – 2:45 PM
Panel: We Were All Poets in the 3rd Grade: What Happened?
Virginia C Room, Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level

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.

Thursday

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 http://www.speakpeace.net.

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.

Friday

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.

Saturday

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.

WITS Alliance to Present at the 2011 AWP Conference

Again this year the WITS Alliance is proud to be a Literary Sponsor of the AWP Conference 2011 in Washington DC. If you are interested in starting or developing a Writers in the Schools program, WITS will be offering four days worth of activities to both assist and inspire you. We hope you will join us in DC. Here are the panel discussions. A complete schedule will be posted in the upcoming weeks.

Poetry and Partnerships: The Critical Elements for Writers-in-the-Schools Programs
Melanie Moore, Alise Alousi, Loyal Miles, Robin Reagler
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, with funders, and with key decision-makers for school districts.

We Were All Poets in the 3rd Grade: What Happened?
Jane Creighton, 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.

A Classroom as Big as the World
Georgia Popoff, David Hassler, Loyal Miles, Renee Simms, Jim Walker
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.

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 anchoring good writing habits during time off from school and making parents very happy. This heady cocktail can allow these tuition-based camps to more than pay their own way, 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.

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.

Realities of the Classroom – Personalities and Boundaries
Michele Kotler, Giuseppe Taurino, Eli Hastings, Sherina Sharpe
The classroom in the movies is not the classroom we walk into. How do we shape who we are as teaching artists? How do 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.

WITS Alliance Joins Forces in Houston for First National Conference

Photo by Yvonne Feece

The Writers in the Schools (WITS) Alliance hosted its first national conference August 26 – 28 in downtown Houston, convening 15 literary arts groups to discuss how to turn America’s students into outstanding creative writers. The meeting combined intensive training sessions and professional development for 15 nonprofits representing each region of the U.S. Participants included administrators from Texas, New York, Michigan, Florida, Washington State, Indiana, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Ohio. The conference provided participants with the necessary tools for running a successful WITS-type program.

WITS flew in experts Michele Kotler and Keith Kamisnski, from New York’s Community Word Project (CWP) to demonstrate the Teaching Path model for curriculum development. Together with WITS Associate Director, Long Chu, the team led lessons on engaging student work and enforcing effective teaching strategies for under-served children.

On the last day of the program, WITS welcomed 79 writers to the 2010-2011 roster for an interactive orientation focusing on best practices in education and tips on planning a successful school year.  Kotler’s inspirational keynote address was the highlight of the morning followed by a community poem exercise that writers performed as a group – the largest collaborative piece ever recorded by CWP.  Each attendee walked away with a comprehensive lesson plan to use in their classrooms.  Says Josephine Jones of Colorado Humanities Center for the Book, “The Conclave renewed my passion for the work and prepared me with more tools for positive change than I can hope to use as I begin to assume responsibility for training the teaching writers in our program this year.  I’m honored to be part of the Alliance.”

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.