Get WITS at AWP 2014 in Seattle

AWP WITS Alliance leaders
Bao-Long Chu, Amy Swauger, Terry Blackhawk, Robin Reagler, and Robin Davidson

If you want to learn more about Writers in the Schools (WITS) programs, please join us at the annual AWP Conference. This year it will take place in Seattle starting Feb. 26, 2014. Here is a listing of our panels. A more complete list including meetings and receptions will be posted in December.

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
R218B. Being Juvenile is a Good Thing: A Reading of Old Writers Inspired by Young Writers
Room 304, Western New England MFA Annex, Level 3
(Rebecca Hoogs, Terry Blackhawk, Garth Stein, Nick Flynn, Dorothea Lasky)
In a recent New Yorker profile of James Salter, the writer dismissed his teenage writing as “terrible”—a common refrain for most writers of renown—yet such false modesty does damage to the public perception of what young people can do. This panel will present writers who have worked with Writers in the Schools programs to read their work and the work of the amazing young people who have inspired them. The reading will also feature a special guest appearance by a young writer from Seattle.

4:30 pm to 5:45 pm
R253. From Page to Stage, Performance Poetry and the WITS Process of Teaching and Learning
Willow Room, Sheraton Seattle, 2nd Floor
(Mary Rechner, Desmond Spann, Aricka Foreman, Monica Prince, Janet Hurley)
Competitive Poetry Slams inspire diverse youth populations to produce dynamic poetry on both the page and the stage. Panelists explore the complexities unique to teaching students to write poetry meant for performance, the socio-political history of the form, the nuts and bolts of organizing youth slams, and the expanding world of opportunities for young performance poets.

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
F114. Preparing for Exuberant Life Beyond the MFA
Room 602/603, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6
(Michele Kotler, Lauren Berry, Peter Hyland, Jason Whitmarsh, Elizabeth Wales)
For the writer with a fresh new MFA degree, getting a college teaching job is becoming increasingly more difficult, but there are many other options available. On this panel, five writers will share their career paths to meaningful and satisfying full-time positions in the city of their choosing. The options include working with Writers in the Schools (WITS) programs, becoming a grant writer, teaching in a high school, and becoming a technical writer and a literary agent.

3:00 pm to 4:15 pm
F235. Storytelling for a Cause
Cedar Room, Sheraton Seattle, 2nd Floor
(Kate Brennan, Karen Lewis, Lisa Murphy-Lamb, Philip Shaw, Lisa Howe Verhovek)
Make a difference through the art of storytelling. Led by members of the Writers in the Schools Alliance, this panel discusses how to craft meaningful stories that further the work of a charitable cause. With experts from the nonprofit sector, the philanthropic community, and the marketing industry, hear what makes an effective story and how to best share that story with targeted constituents. This panel will also touch on topics such as cause marketing and guerrilla marketing.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

12:00 pm to 1:15 pm
S182. Creativity and the Future of K-12 Education
Room 609, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6
(Jack McBride, Cecily Sailer, Harold Terezón, Tina Cane, Sheila Black)
According to creativity advocate Ken Robinson, schools are “killing creativity.” As schools struggle to reinvent themselves and become more relevant, what is the role of the arts in the classroom? How can the teaching artist enhance education in the age of the data-driven? Four Writers in the Schools teaching artists and administrators discuss the precarious position of creative writing and the arts in the K-12 classroom.

1:30 pm to 2:45 pm
S216. Rivers and Tides: Balancing Leadership with the Writing Life
Room 615/616/617, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6
(Amy Swauger, Jeanine Walker, Jennifer Benka, David Hassler, Stephen Young)
The desire to make a difference in the world does not always coexist peacefully with the desire to write poetry. Many writers struggle with balancing the demands of being literary and being a leader. These panelists hail from five different literary organizations, and they discuss how their careers and their poetry have fed (and sometimes bled into) one another.


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.

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

  • Booth #307 in the Bookfair
  • on the web


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


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


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


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.


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.

WITS Alliance Schedule for AWP 2010

Again this year the WITS Alliance will host a strand of events at the annual AWP Writing Conference in Denver. If you can join us, we’d love to see you there!

Wednesday, April 7th
4:30 PM – 5:45 PM Granite Room
Hyatt Regency, 3rd Floor
Membership Meeting
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)
7 p.m.  Location TBD WITS Alliance Reception
Friday, April 9th
12:00 PM – 1:15 PM
Rooms 210, 212 Colorado Convention Center,Street Level

1:30-2:45 PM

Room 109

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)

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.

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)

The WITS Alliance at AWP 2009 in Chicago: A Report

The WITS Alliance events at AWP:img_0210

WITS Alliance Members Meeting with Robin Reagler

 My Voice, Wide as the Sun: Preparing to Teach Creative Writing in K-12 Classrooms. (Robin Reagler, Ellen Hagan, Beth Divis, Darel Holnes, Avery Young, Rebecca Hoogs, Jack McBride) How do writers prepare to work with under served youth? Five organizations will share how they train MFA students, graduates of MFA programs, and professional writers to enter the K-12 classroom. As MFA graduates and professional writers look to share their love of writing and earn a living, Writers in the Schools work is an important opportunity. The panel will discuss different internships and training seminars for writers to transform their teaching methods to meet the needs of younger writers.

From The Ground Up, Developing A Writers In The Schools Program At Your College. (Allen Gee, David Hassler, Derrick Medina, John Teschner ) On this panel sponsored by the WITS Alliance, faculty and students from Georgia College and Kent State will discuss the pragmatic aspects of developing a Writers in the Schools program. The panel will talk about developing relationships with public schools, finding funding sources, incorporating service learning components, preparing college students as teachers, planning typical program calendars and events, and the many rewards of community outreach for faculty and students.

WITS Alliance Reception with Terry Blackhawk and John Oliver Simonimg_0235

Building Online Literary Communities: An Overview and Case Studies. (Emily Warn, Robin Reagler, Loyal Miles, Giuseppe Taurino) Emerging online technologies, loosely called Web 2.0, provide exciting new avenues to form literary communities and promote literary culture. For writing educators, technology choices—blogs, podcasts, distance learning, forums, YouTube, and Yahoo and Google groups—can sometimes feel overwhelming. This panel presents an overview of technological options as well as tips on where to start. Panelists will then present case studies from three WITSA programs that have used technology to better serve their students, their instructors, and their broader communities.

A Room of One’s Own: Student Writing Centers. (Amy Swauger, Renee Angle, Sherina Sharpe) Sponsored by the WITS Alliance, this session examines efforts to provide a writing community for students. Picture a young writer in a space where an older author is available to talk conversationally about the student’s work, to discuss the work seriously, critically, with both generosity and honesty. Whether based in a school or on a college campus, writing centers provide a place for students who want to write or to know more about writing to be welcomed and understood.img_0218

Writing Helps Kids…But Can You Prove It? (Melanie Moore, Kirk Lynn, Rebecca Hoogs, Mark Creekmore, Caroline Newman) This is part of the Writers in the Schools Alliance strand of panels addressing various aspects of literary arts programming for children. New and experienced program directors, as well as the countless writers who go into schools to work with kids, will learn the good, the bad, and the ugly of proving the effectiveness of literary programs in today’s data-driven world.

Best Practices: Teaching Expressive Writing With Hospital Populations. (Austin Bunn, Long Chu, Paul Sznewajs) This panel brings together representatives from four programs that teach creative writing to hospital patients and those struggling with illness: The Patient Voice Project (Iowa Writers’ Workshop), WITS Houston, and Snow City Arts in Chicago. The aim of the panel is to study and share the practical approaches to launching these programs, the current research on writing and wellness, and the challenges and rewards of teaching hospital populations. Given the multitude of art therapy programs, our specific focus is on the “best practices” for writing projects related to program design and pedagogy. The Patient Voice Project offers free creative writing classes to the chronically ill, taught by MFA graduate students in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. WITS Houston and Snow City Arts provide creative writing classes expressly to young people, as extensions of hospital education programs.