WritersCorps Live in the City by the Bay

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On March 7, 2013, WritersCorps and the Contemporary Jewish Museum joined forces for the third year to present WritersCorps Live at the CJM, featuring award-winning author Tamim Ansary, along with WritersCorps teaching artist Minna Dubin, and 8 students from 8 different WritersCorps sites in San Francisco.

As an organization employing professional writers and teaching creative writing to underserved youth, it is important to us at WritersCorps to have a connection to the city’s literary scene, which is exactly why we participate in public events. A bit about us: we are a joint project of the San Francisco Public Library and the San Francisco Arts Commission and have helped nearly 18,000 youth from neighborhoods throughout San Francisco improve their literacy and increase their desire to learn. We publish award-winning publications, produce local and national events, and are part of a national alliance with sites in the Bronx and Washington, D.C. In 2010, we were honored with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the White House, presented to us by First Lady Michelle Obama.

Before the reading began, about 80 WritersCorps students were treated to a private tour of Kehinde Wiley’s exhibit “World Stage: Israel,” by interns from CJM’s Teen Art Connect program. Our students thoroughly enjoyed the thought-provoking art and group discussion.

After the tour, students enjoyed some pizza while Tamim Ansary fielded their questions about being a professional writer, and signed their copies of West of Kabul, East of New York. (Thank you to Picador for their generous donation of copies of the book for our students!)

Savannah from Downtown High School started the reading off with a poem called “How to Dance with Wolves.” She was followed by DeAsia, from the WritersCorps Apprentices program, who read a poem that she shared on KALW’s Crosscurrents a few days earlier (check it out here).

Another highlight included Karla, from Hilltop High School, sharing a brave and moving piece on motherhood. Two of our students at the Woodside Learning Center inside the Juvenile Justice Center were represented by two short films of their poems which were screened.

Finally, our featured reader, the award-winning writer Tamim Ansary, treated us to an excerpt from West of Kabul, East of New York, his memoir about his family’s immigration from Afghanistan to San Francisco.

We are always happy to offer a space for our students to share their work and to let the community in on what we are doing.

The next WritersCorps event is Poetry Projection Project — a short film fest based on youth writing — on Saturday, April 13, 2 pm, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. More info on that here.

Alexandra Wilder

Program Associate, WritersCorps

So, You Want to Become a Writer in the Schools?

witsa messenger bagJoin us at the 2013 AWP Conference in Boston, March 6-9. Here is a list of the Writers in the Schools (WITS) Alliance events this year.

WITS Alliance Schedule of Events
AWP 2013: Boston
Hynes Convention Center

All events take place in the Hynes Convention Center unless otherwise noted.
 

WITS Alliance Booth: 210

 

Wednesday, March 6

WITS Day of Service hosted by WriteBoston
12:00 noon -4:00 p.m.

WITS Alliance Membership Meeting
Room 209, Level 2
4:30-5:45 p.m.

Thursday, March 7

WITS Writers on Teaching: A Reading

Lacy M. Johnson, Giuseppe Taurino, Miah Arnold, Stacy Parker Le Melle, Nicole Zaza
Related Panel
Room 102, Plaza Level
10:30-11:45 a.m.

This reading by new, veteran, and former WITS teachers will explore what it really means to be agents of the WITS mission—to engage children in the power of the written word, to nurture imaginations, and to awaken young minds to the adventures of language. Readers will discuss how WITS teaching can sometimes be at least as revolutionary for teachers as for their students, even having potentially life-altering effects on teaching, writing, and overall worldview.

A Reading from Writers in the Schools [WITS Alliance]

Alise Alousi, Bao-Long Chu, Michael Dickman, Tim Seibles
Room 201, Level 2
1:30-2:45 p.m.

Four poets will share work by young students as well as their own work. They will discuss the ways in which their work with school children has affected their own writing. Two of the poets will have participated in the AWP WITS Day of Service and will tell about that. Students from the Day of Service project will be invited to the event.

 

Rowing Your Boat across the Curriculum [WITS Alliance]
Amy Swauger, Sarah Dohrmann, Margaret Dougherty-Goodburn, Mary Rechner, Terry Ann Thaxton
Room 102, Plaza Level
4:30-5:45 p.m.
 

From lyrics on the nesting habits of eagles to odes to the ozone layer, teachers are incorporating creative writing projects in science, math, and social studies curricula. From kindergarten to college, instructors are being asked to merge the disciplines. In this session, panelists will share strategies to engage students in creative writing across the curriculum.

 

WITS Alliance Reception

Room 303
7:00-8:15 p.m.

Friday, March 8

Founder’s Toolkit: How to Start a Non- Profit in Your Own Backyard [WITS Alliance]
Long Chu, Allen Gee, Janet Hurley, Lisa Murphy-Lamb, Jerome Vielman
Room 102, Plaza Level
10:30-11:45 a.m.

If every organization is the lengthened shadow of one person, and if the MFA is the new MBA, then poets and novelists are already equipped with the imaginative drive and divergent thinking necessary to start and operate a successful nonprofit. This panel of founding directors and arts administrators will provide useful information on how to start a literary non-profit. We will guide participants through the process of incorporating one’s passion into a viable project working for public good.

Fundraising with Individuals – Crafting the Story [WITS Alliance]
Jack McBride, Kate Brennan, Lee Briccetti, Michele Kotler
Room 102, Plaza Level
3:00-4:15 p.m.

Non-profits start brainstorm sessions with this phrase: if money were no object. But, money is an object, and not having it is an obstacle. In an economy where revenues and contributions are down, non-profits rely on individual donors. While 70% of all giving comes from individuals, just 5% of donations go to the arts. How do we shape a passion for our work into a message that encourages increased giving? This panel explores ways we craft our stories to win the hearts of individual donors.

Saturday, March 9

Writing to Change the World: Social Justice and Youth Writing Programs [WITS Alliance]
Janet Hurley, Tamiko Ambrose Murray, Glenis Redmond, Christina Shea, Terry Blackhawk
Room 208, Level 2
12:00-1:15 p.m.

Does the endeavor of creative writing intrinsically encourage the subject of social justice and/or nurture the same? Panelists who work with students, elementary through college age, will discuss the art of teaching youth. They will chronicle the ways in which creative writing often triggers or gives space for idealism in students and empowers a sense of agency. What are the teachable moments and what risks are involved?

 
Where in the World is the Writer in Residence? [WITS Alliance]
Cecily Sailer, Alise Alousi, Tina Angelo, Josephine Jones
Room 102, Plaza Level
3:00-4:15 p.m.

Although people might agree poets make the world a better place, poetry is often marginalized to classrooms. What happens when we move the poet from the ivory tower into the real world? What if a poet-in-residence could work in the hospital, museum, theater, or science lab? This panel explores how individuals and arts organizations can enliven and deepen the teaching of creative writing through unlikely collaborations. 

Teachers and Writers Launches the Digital Resource Center

Teachers and Writers Collaborative Digital Resource Center

The WITS Alliance welcomes the very much needed Digital Resource Center to the Internet. It is an online repository of lesson plans designed by writers for teachers and writers. Access to these materials is FREE.

Teachers & Writers Collaborative in New York has led this project, raising funds from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the National Endowment for the Arts. Currently the resources made available by the site include materials from the extensive Teachers & Writers archives, several decades of book publications and magazine articles. In the coming year, member organizations of the WITS Alliance will help build the collection by adding their best lessons. According to Amy Swauger, the Executive Director of Teachers & Writers, “The Digital Resource Center grew out of our desire to give new audiences easy access to T&W’s 45 years of print resources. We are delighted to work with our colleagues in the WITS Alliance to add materials from other organizations to this new database, which we believe will be of value to both existing programs and to those just starting to send writers to teach in K-12 schools.”

Congratulations, Portland WITS!

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Congratulations to Literary Arts, the home of Portland Writers in the Schools (WITS), for winning the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation Creative Leadership Award. Only four nonprofits in the Northwest received this award (read the full press release here) in honor of “innovative and bold leadership, and in recognition of the ability to thrive amidst challenging times and to continue to deliver high-caliber programming and services in our community.” Way to go, Andrew, Mary, and all our friends in Portland.

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WritersCorps Rocks Litquake

CAnetsberger_LitQuake2012_41

WritersCorps, a WITS Alliance organization in San Franciscowas thrilled to be a part of Litquake again this year, the annual literary festival that brings hundreds of writers and thousands of literature lovers to San Francisco for a fun-packed week of events. Our teaching artists and students read on Saturday, October 13, 2012, as part of Lit Crawl, the last hurrah of the Litquake fest for the year which features three hours of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction readings in bookstores, bars, art galleries, restaurants, stores, cafés, laundromats, and community spaces in SF’s Mission district.

As an organization employing professional writers and teaching creative writing to underserved youth, it is important to us at WritersCorps to have a connection to the city’s literary scene, which is exactly why we participate in events like Litquake. A bit about us: we are a joint project of the San Francisco Public Library and the San Francisco Arts Commission and have helped nearly 18,000 youth from neighborhoods throughout San Francisco improve their literacy and increase their desire to learn. We publish award-winning publications, produce local and national events, and are part of a national alliance with sites in the Bronx and Washington, D.C. In 2010, we were honored with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the White House, presented to us by First Lady Michelle Obama.

At Lit Crawl, WritersCorps packed the house at gift shop Serendipity. Teaching artist Rose Tully read an excerpt from a short story in which Crisco played a starring role. harold terezón read a series of poems, including one made up of all the names he’s ever been called. Carrie Leilam Love, true to her name, read a series of love poems. Roseli Ilano read an excerpt from her story, “Treasure.” Minna Dubin read from a prose piece. Anhvu Buchanan read a bromance ode to Jeremy Lin. Representing our students, Indiana PehlivanovaEvelyn León, and Roger Lopez read from recent work.

CAnetsberger_LitQuake2012_24

Though the entire reading was a success, a particular highlight was Evelyn reading a poem about her father and bringing him, and nearly everyone else present, to tears.

To see all of the photos from the event, click here. To see all of the videos, click here. Thanks to Litquake, all of our teachers and students, and photographer Cole Anetsberger!

by Alexandra Wilder

Program Associate, WritersCorps

Little Kids Write about the Big Apple

The book is out!  A POEM AS BIG AS NEW YORK CITY, a collaborative work by the talented students of Teachers & Writers Collaborative, hit the stores this month. With illustrations by Masha D’Yans  and a forward by Walter Dean Myers, this is a truly beautiful book. Here’s part of the publisher’s press release:

A POEM AS BIG AS NEW YORK CITY could only come out of the hearts and minds of New York’s schoolchildren.
Hundred of lines of poetry created by New York City students were collected and edited to form a single poem that
speaks with many voices. The project was organized by the Teachers and Writers Collaborative, a 40-year old
nonprofit organization that offers innovative creative writing programs for students and teachers throughout the five
boroughs. This beautifully illustrated picture book offers a kids-eye view of the sights, sounds, and soul of NYC, as
well as a chance for kids of every age to rediscover the Big Apple. “These are young people learning to celebrate the
ordinary and to transform that ordinary into the rich stuff of life,” says award-winning novelist Walter Dean Myers in
his Foreword. “They boldly discard the stale as they bring their own rich and unique inner visions to the page. I am
sometimes surprised at the talent represented here, but not the creativity. It is what young people are capable of
when given the chance.”

If you are interested in helping your students write about their own community, here are some lesson plans and teaching ideas that worked well for Teachers & Writers. Congrats to everyone at T & W!

Symposium for Writers in September

California Poets in the Schools will host its 48th annual Writing and Teaching Symposium on September 14th – 15th in Petaluma. Camille Dungy will be the featured presenter. The weekend event will take place at the IONS retreat center in Marin County, about 30 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Participants from out of state are invited to attend. It’s truly a magical location very close to San Francisco. Either SFO or Oakland airports provide relatively easy access to the site, by rental car or by Super Shuttle. The registration deadline is Aug. 31, 2012.  For more information about this conference for writers who teach children, click here.

 

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What? Free Writing Workshops in NYC?

Yes!  Teachers & Writers is pleased to offer FREE poetry workshops for children and teens this summer!

With generous support from The Lily Auchincloss Foundation and The Lotos Club Foundation, T&W is partnering with the Brooklyn Public Library, the New York Public Library, and the Queens Library to offer poetry workshops based on our 2008 A Poem as Big as New York City project. Bring kids of all ages to pay poetic tribute to New York.

These FREE one-hour poetry workshops will be held in select library branches on the following dates and times.

 More free workshops will be offered in the fall.

Kew Gardens Hills – July 2, 4:30-5:30 (Queens)

Mott Haven – July 10, 3:00-4:00 (Bronx)
Dyker – July 10, 4:00-5:00 (Brooklyn)
McKinley Park – July 11, 2:00-3:00 (Brooklyn)
Rugby – July 12, 2:30-3:30 (Brooklyn)
Paerdegat – July 13, 2:00-3:00 (Brooklyn)
Clason’s Point – July 16, 2:30-3:30 (Bronx)
Dyker– July 17, 4:00-5:00 (Brooklyn)
Flatlands – July 18, 2:30-3:30 (Brooklyn)
McKinley Park – July 18, 2:00-3:00 (Brooklyn)
Roosevelt Island – July 18, 4:00-5:00 (Manhattan)
Bellerose – July 18, 2:30-3:30 (Queens)
Inwood – July 19, 3:00-4:00 (Manhattan)
Coney Island – July 20, 4:00-5:00 (Brooklyn)
Paerdegat – July 20, 2:00-3:00 (Brooklyn)
Lefrak City – July 20, 2:30-3:30 (Queens)
Dyker – July 24, 4:00-5:00 (Brooklyn)
McKinley Park – July 25, 2:00-3:00 (Brooklyn)
Coney Island – July 27, 4:00-5:00 (Brooklyn)
Paerdegat – July 27, 2:00-3:00 (Brooklyn)
Melrose – July 31, 2:00-3:00 (Bronx)
City Island – August 6, 2:00-3:00 (Bronx)
Homecrest– August 7, 2:30-3:30 (Brooklyn)
Grand Concourse – August 8, 2:00-3:00 (Bronx)
Tottenville – August 9, 3:00-4:00 (Staten Island)
Children’s Center @ 42nd Street – August 11, 3:00-4:00 (Manhattan)
Broadway – August 14, 3:30-4:30 (Queens)
Castle Hill – August 14, 11:00-12:00 (Bronx)
Francis Martin – August 15, 3:00-4:00 (Bronx)
Soundview – August 20, 3:30-4:30 (Bronx)
Coney Island – August 24, 4:00-5:00 (Brooklyn)
The poems created in the project were adapted into a single narrative by T&W writer Melanie Maria Goodreaux, A Poem as Big as New York City, which Universe Publishing (an imprint of Rizzoli) will publish as a hard-cover, illustrated children’s book in fall 2012. The book includes a foreword by T&W Board member, three-time National Book Award finalist, and newly appointed National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Walter Dean Myers. Masha D’yans will illustrate the book.

Creative Writing Camp Connects to Houston Arts and Culture

The WITS Blog

In an ongoing effort to enrich creative writing through an integration of literacy and art, students at our Creative Writing Camp took field trips to iconic Houston art and cultural centers including The Menil Collection, Rice University, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. On these tours, they experienced and wrote about public art pieces, including James Turrell’s “Twilight Epiphany” and Jaume Plensa’s popular “Mirror.” Younger writers in grades K-2 were visited in the classroom by artists, including contemporary dancers and drummers, who help students find beauty and unexpected inspiration in art and culture. “Children are most stimulated by the things and activities that surround them,” said Robin Reagler, Writers in the Schools Executive Director. “Through the experience of seeing, touching and hearing art firsthand, our camp shows students that their writing is art and their words are powerful.”

Jameelah Lang, a second-year WITS writer goes on to say: “I continue to…

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