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The Literary Arts Emergency Fund

LitNet is hosting a Town Hall about  The Literary Arts Emergency Fund on Tuesday, August 4, at 2:00 pm ET to hear from the executive directors of the Fund’s managing organizations: Jennifer Benka of The Academy of American Poets, Mary Gannon of CLMP, and Lisa Lucas of the National Book Foundation. They will discuss the Fund’s guidelines and answer questions.  RSVP for the Town Hall by emailing this address. The funding is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and will grant $3.5 million to the literary arts field. Literary organizations, Writers in the Schools programs, and publishers can apply for a one-time emergency relief grant ranging from $5,000 to $50,000.

Teaching Artist Project (TAP) Registration Opens

The Teaching Artist Project, a program of the Community Word Project in NYC, will be virtual this year and offers sessions throughout August. This training program is designed for the advanced teaching artist, with at least two years of experience. Here’s some of what will participants can expect:

  • ​Expand your impact in teaching for social justice
  • Deepen your teaching with experiential, inquiry and reflection processes
  • Connect with Teaching Artists from around the country
  • Explore creative processes and critical thinking
  • Investigate techniques for project-based arts integration
  • Build new strategies for classroom management

To find out more about the program or to register, click here.

Bad Birds and Good Poems: Writing in Quarantine

Detroit’s Inside Out Literary Arts Project has created IO At Home for the families and teachers who are sheltering in place. This collection of writing prompts are specially designed to “enliven the at home experience.” Projects are divided by audience– you can find lessons for elementary, middle, and high school students, as well as ones for City Wide Poets, the Detroit youth slam team. One favorite is called Bad Birds, riffing off poems by Jamaal May and Mary Oliver. This is an amazing free resource from a founding WITS Alliance member organization.

Creative Writing Camp is Going Global

From visiting Mars to exploring the depth of the inner ear, there is no limit to the places Creative Writing Camp (CWC) Online can take your students!

Join Writers in the Schools (WITS) and Rice University online this summer and explore the wonderful world of creative writing. With a clear learning focus and innovative lessons, CWC Online activities are student-centered, rigorous, and most of all– fun! Each camp day, professional teachers and authors will engage with K-12 students in a virtual setting, offering participants artistic mentorship as well as academic support. Following best practices for online learning, CWC Online camp days will include:

  • fun community building activities
  • live sessions where students can interact with instructors and classmates
  • small group sessions and creative projects 
  • independent writing and art projects
  • recorded sessions where students can learn at their own pace
  • one-on-one conferencing with instructor(s)
  • virtual field trips

Parents can expect their children to partake in the same quality educational summer experience that Rice and WITS have consistently provided at CWC for three decades. Through CWC Online, young writers learn that their voices are powerful and their stories matter. 

To ensure student safety, CWC Online will be hosted on Canvas, a secure platform supported by Rice University through Google Chrome.

Registration is now open! You can register your student today on the WITS Houston website.

Writing Memoir with WITS Portland

Writers in the Schools (WITS) in Portland, Oregon, a part of Literary Arts, is providing a course in memoir writing for quarantined students everywhere. This series, led by WITS Writer Brian Benson, is delivered through a series of YouTube lessons. You can follow the entire playlist, and submit your best work to be published in their anthology. Brian, a travel writer, will take you on a remarkable memoir journey and what you find there–who knows?–may surprise you!

This is YOUR Summer for Reading

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What might one do to pass the time during a summer pandemic? One option is to read your heart out! And lucky you, Seattle Arts & Lectures (SAL) has a bingo game to motivate you.

SAL Summer Book Bingo launched in April, so there’s ample time to fill in your entire bingo card. See their site to find customized cards for young people (17 and under), adults, and Spanish-readers. Download the one that’s right for you.

For WITS students in Seattle and everywhere, they even created bingo card for writers! Pull out your journal and and use these fun writing prompts to make up your own poems and stories. Thanks, SAL!

 

Your Covid19 Cabin Fever Survival Guide

The good folks at Missoula Writing Collaborative (MWC) in Montana know all about Cabin Fever. That’s why when Covid-19 forced families to stay at home, MWC quickly put together their Cabin Fever Survival Guide. Written for both parents and kids, this handy e-book will help you be productive and write, even on the most stir-crazy of homeschool days. Young writers can even submit their polished work to be aired on the radio or published! You can check out MWC’s extensive Digital Poetry Resources on their website too. These easy to use lessons prove once and for all, poetry really is for everyone.

Quick WITS

The Pandemic has led many families to homeschooling, and WITS Houston has created Quick WITS as a free resource for students in grades K-5. Let Writers in the Schools help you with the writing portion of the school day. These 8-15 minute videos make writing fun and easy for children. Led by incredible teachers such as Jasminne Mendez, Dr. Kathryn Peterson, and Elizabeth Keel, these lessons will make you fall in love with writing.

_1 QUICK WITS - Lesson 8 What Color is Your Day - YouTube

Online Prompts and Publication for Young Writers

owl photo CPITS online lessons

California Poets in the Schools is providing a great resource for families homeschooling during the Pandemic. Their online poetry workshops are easy to use and beautiful as well. Once students complete their poem, they can submit it for publication on the California Poets website. The opportunity to become a published poet is exciting!

There are over 30 workshops already and new ones are being added each week. These exercises make writing easy and fun. And the slideshow format means that students can work at their own pace. California Poets in the Schools is providing an amazing opportunity for students feeling trapped by the Covid-19 quarantine.

Stories of Arrival: Refugee & Immigrant Youth Voices Poetry Project

Somali Sky Omar Refugee Voices

This poem by Omar was written through the Refugee & Immigrant Youth Voices Poetry Project in Washington State.

Merna Hecht and Carrie Stradley, the Co-Directors of the project, put the poem into context: “Similar to our other students from countries with prolonged war, Omar Abdi, age 15, from Somalia, celebrates what is unique and beautiful about his homeland while at the same time he writes of the violence and danger that war brings. Omar wanted to picture only the beauty of Somalia in his painting, while including more about his country’s struggles in his poem.” The painting was created under the mentorship of teaching artist Melissa Koch.

To learn more about this project, visit their Facebook page.

Writing at the Kitchen Table

WOWTTeachers & Writers Collaborative in New York City is serving the educational needs of families “sheltered in place” with a new initiative called Writing Our Way Through. These are no-nonsense writing activities to help all the home-schooling families during the pandemic. As Matthew Burgess explains, you “do not need to identify as a writer or a teacher in order to make this happen. We are writing these lessons with the kitchen table in mind, or a circle on the carpet with notebooks. In most cases, the only materials you will need are sheets of paper and pencils or pens.”

These lessons capture the pure joy of writing and can be used with all ages. Start with Spring Poems” with E.E. CummingsorOde to Animals and remember that whatever you write, it’s right!

 

 

Literary Organizations Make a Case for Emergency Funding During COVID-19

The WITS Alliance joins 300+ organizations in advocating for Emergency Support for literary initiatives. Please read this letter from the Nonprofit Literary Arts Coalition which consists of the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP), LitNet, Writers in the Schools (WITS) Alliance, and the Poetry Coalition.

Dear Friends, 

We write to you on behalf of over 300 nonprofit literary arts organizations and publishers throughout the United States whose work has taken on new significance in this unprecedented time. Reading offers a vital space for people to find solace and connection; writing provides a meaningful way for people of all ages to communicate their experiences, to process grief and pain, and to imagine the future. We need dedicated emergency assistance from the philanthropic community to ensure our efforts in the months and year ahead. 

Collectively, nonprofit literary organizations and publishers have a presence throughout America and reach tens of millions of readers annually. A unique and key part of the arts and culture sector, our organizations spend more than $110 million annually to offer programs and publications to our communities and employ thousands of people. Since shelter-at-home orders have been in place we have seen remarkable increases in digital engagement and have pivoted to offer powerful new initiatives to meet the moment, including online readings and workshops, virtual book festivals and book clubs, and remote learning curriculum for K-12 schools.

The literary arts are perhaps our most democratic art form, reaching millions of Americans through free and low-cost programming. The nonprofit organizations we represent produce literary journals, books, festivals, conferences, retreats, writers-in-the-schools programs, poetry readings, writing workshops, and much more. We serve readers and writers who come from every demographic by:

  • publishing the work of poets and writers, making it available to the widest possible readership. Publication fees paid by publishers are an important income stream for writers;
  • presenting poets and writers through readings, lectures, panels, and conversations at conferences, festivals, schools, libraries, and performance spaces. These appearances help introduce writers to readers and provide honorariums to speakers, another essential income stream;  
  • teaching creative writing, including through education initiatives in prisons, senior centers, hospitals, and in-school and after-school programs. Teaching widens the readership for writers’ work and provides income for thousands of teaching artists; 
  • leading workshops and retreats that offer essential spaces for creative expression, gathering writers together in ways that have a lasting impact on their careers;
  • creating public art projects that place poems and prose in shared civic spacesfrom sidewalks to parks to buses and subwaysmaking the literary arts part of everyday life; 
  • honoring the achievements of poets and writers, giving their work visibility in the media, reaching new readers, and helping them secure employment and publication opportunities; and 
  • supporting the creative practice of poets and writers by providing grants and fellowships to help sustain them so they can create new work.  

Despite the breadth of work that literary arts nonprofits offer, they are among the most vulnerable cultural organizations. The majority of our organizations have modest budgets, limited financial resources, and all have been deeply impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, losing funding due to cancelled lectures, workshops, fundraising events, and in-school programs, as well as a precipitous loss in book sales. Those with spring and summer galas have experienced considerable loss of revenue, and those with fall galas are anticipating cancellations. Across the board, the financial losses are severe. Members report already suffering over $4 million in losses and forecast losses nearing $20 million over the next four months. 

Without our presence, literary culture in America will markedly diminish. Our organizations bring writers into public schools, host retreats and provide mentorship for writers of color, encourage teen writers through poetry slams, facilitate a broad range of writing workshops, gather entire cities together at festivals, and have made possible donations of over a million books to underserved communities. Our nonprofit publishers share the work of a diverse array of authors, and are often the place where writers and translators are published for the first time, launching their careers. Books published by our presses, and poets and writers funded by our organizations, have won Pulitzer Prizes, National Book Awards, National Book Critics Circle Awards, Lambda Literary Awards, and more. 

Collectively, our members celebrate language, promote reading, and lift up the transformative power of written expression. If the ecosystem we are a central part of collapses, it will significantly harm poets and writers, readers and communities. Our work is an essential thread in the social, educational, and cultural fabric of the United States.

Please help us ensure that nonprofit literary arts organizations and publishers can continue  responding creatively and powerfully to our immediate crisis, and remain viable in the months and years ahead as an important part of the recovery. 

We would be grateful for an opportunity to talk with you about the scope and impact of the nonprofit literary field, and how we might partner toward sustaining the organizations we represent. 

Thank you for your consideration. 

CLMP / LitNet / WITS Alliance / Poetry Coalition