New Book Makes Strong Case for Writers in Schools Programs

9781441111944Forthcoming from Bloomsbury in January 2014, Terry Ann Thaxton’s book Creative Writing in the Community makes a powerful statement in favor of the expansion of Writers-in-Schools programs. Here’s some of the buzz surrounding the new book:

“Terry Ann Thaxton’s thorough and thoughtful guide to community-based creative writing programs mixes inspiring stories with concrete strategies to turn inspiration into action. The voices gathered in Creative Writing in the Community make the strongest possible case for the value of the literary arts and convey the joy of helping students
find their voices as writers, whether those students are seven or seventy years old.” – Amy Swauger, Director, Teachers & Writers Collaborative

Creative Writing in the Community is a unique, comprehensive guidebook – an indispensable, whole-hearted resource both for aspiring writing teachers and practicing writers who, like the author, believe that the union of creative writing and service based learning can build confidence and generate, in learners from all walks of life, a sense of hope, possibility, and purpose.” – Michael Steinberg, Professor Emeritus, Michigan State University and co-author (with Robert Root Jr) of Those Who Do, Can; Teachers Writing, Writers Teaching (1996)

From the publisher: Each chapter is packed with easy-to-use resources including: specific lesson plans; case studies of students working with community groups; lists of suitable writing examples; “how to…” sections; examples and theoretical applications of creative writing pedagogy and techniques; reflection questions; writings by workshop participants. Enhanced by contributions from directors, students and teachers at successful public programs, Creative Writing in the Community is more than an essential guide for students on creative writing courses and leaders of community-based learning programs; it is practical demonstration of the value of art in society.

Terry Ann Thaxton is Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Central Florida and the founder of Literary Arts Partnerships. Other directors and leaders of WITS Alliance programs who authored chapters are Terry Blackhawk, Allen Gee, David Hassler, and Robin Reagler. To pre-order the book, click here. It will be officially released in January 2014.


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.

InsideOut Goes To The White House

InsideOut Founder Terry Blackhawk, City Wide Poet Lena Cintron, and First Lady Michelle Obama at the Coming Up Taller Award Ceremony 2009

InsideOut Literary Arts Project, a member of the WITS Alliance headquartered in Detroit, has been nationally recognized as one of 15 youth arts and humanities programs to receive the prestigious 2009 Coming Up Taller Award. They received the award for City Wide Poets, an after school writing and performance program. For more information, click here.

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.