Student Writing and Art Contests

Posted October 18, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Fall 2013 Writing Contests
Essay: October 31, 2013
Poetry: December 5, 2013

The deadline for the Creative Communication essay contest has been extended to October 31, 2013, for the essay contest.  The deadline is December 5, 2013 for the poetry contest. Entries may be submitted online at the Creative Communication website or by mail. Each student in grades K-12 may submit one poem, a maximum of 21 lines of text on any topic. Each student in grades 4-12 may submit one non-fiction essay from 100-250 words on any topic. Full information is at www.poeticpower.com.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER

Creative Communication has also started an art competition with a publication deadline of October 24, 2013. Click here to learn more.

Rattle Wants to Hear Your Voice

Posted September 5, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

“There’s not a bad poet in first grade. None of them are anything but fresh and original … they don’t know how to avoid being original.”
—Sharon Olds, from Rattle #17

Rattle published an issue in 1998 of children’s poems, which is now out of print.  This year the editors want to begin an annual tradition of publishing work by young authors.

Be part of the 2013 issue!  If you are 15 or younger, you may submit up to 5 poems for consideration. Please visit the Rattle website for all the details about this wonderful opportunity to become a published poet in a premier journal.

Good luck, writers!

Public Poetry Reading at The Carriage House

Posted September 4, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

13_publicpoetry_summerseries_septemberPublic Poetry is back again with a stellar line-up of poets.

Join us on Saturday, September 7th, at 2 PM for our Summer Series reading at the historic Clayton Library, The Carriage House, 5300 Caroline, 77004.

As always, a WITS student will kick off the event with an original poem.

You won’t want to miss the last sizzling reading of summer 2013.

See you there!

Free Slam Poetry Workshops for Teens

Posted August 22, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Meta-FourIf you are between the ages of 13-19, come join us for Meta-Fourth Fridays, held Fridays from 7:00-9:00 PM at Hope Stone, 1210 West Clay, Suite 26, Houston, TX 77019. Bring a friend or come solo and meet some new friends.

These free workshops will teach you how to write and perform original poetry about issues that are important to you. Share your work in a supportive environment and grow as a writer.

Dates for Meta-Fourth Fridays, all free and open to teens 13-19:

September 27
October 25
November 22
December 20

Tell your friends!

Mayor Parker Announces Houston’s First Poet Laureate

Posted April 11, 2013 & filed under Poem of the Day.

imagesMayor Annise D. Parker and Houston Public Library (HPL) Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson announced that Gwendolyn Zepeda has been selected as Houston’s first Poet Laureate.

Gwendolyn Zepeda, a Houston-based author, has published numerous works of fiction and poetry.  Her book of poems, It’s Zepeda Not Zapata, will be published in 2014. As Houston’s first Poet Laureate, she will do community outreach and conduct poetry-writing workshops in diverse neighborhoods.  We’ll post those workshops here, so that you don’t miss them!

Robin Reagler, Executive Director of Writers in the Schools (WITS), served on the Houston Poet Laureate Selection Committee, which assisted in the nomination and selection process.

5 Writers Tell Us How WITS Teaching Transformed Them: Stacy Parker Le Melle

Posted March 21, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

stacy-plmFormer WITS writer Stacy Parker Le Melle, author of Government Girl: Young and Female in the White House (Ecco/HarperCollins) and founder of The Katrina Experience: An Oral History Project, describes what she learned in the WITS classroom and how it translates to her current work as workshop director at the Afghan Women’s Writing Project. Her essay is the first in a series of five installments where former WITS teachers tell how their WITS teaching taught them valuable life lessons.

On the Struggle to Truly Be Present

by Stacy Parker Le Melle

Be present, we’re told.  I’ve always accepted this wisdom.  However, acceptance is one thing, implementation another. As a Writers in the Schools teacher, I learned that on any given day in the classroom, if I could just be present, for a few students at least, I could call my day successful.

I don’t just mean being present as an instructor, leading my class through that day’s lesson.  That is crucial, of course.  What I really mean is being present for the one-to-one interaction, those moments spent crouched next to a desk, really trying to listen.

I think of the classrooms, the rows and rows of kids.  It takes hard work to deliver the lesson, all the while making sure there’s enough order in the room that everyone can participate.  My mind wants me in five places at once, tending to ten kids at the same time.

But split attention is weak attention.  When it’s time to write, and students have questions, or don’t know to begin, I learned that I couldn’t just repeat the directions and hope to be understood (though I often did that). I needed to really listen.  Zero in.  Focus.  Not rushing to the next raised hand, not trying to quiet the back row.  At least, not for the time it took to think through the question and respond with a thoughtful answer.

The time spent paying attention yielded results: increased trust, better developed work, more enthusiasm the next time around.

I bring the problem of presence to my current role as workshop director of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project (AWWP).   I work for a nonprofit organization that connects American writers and teachers to Afghan women writers via secure online workshops.  Nearly 95% of my work is done via email.  When I feel overwhelmed, the desire is to scan emails.

But scanning is not reading.  Scanning is hoping that you’ll learn by osmosis.  I have yet to learn by osmosis. Maybe I get a feel for what is happening, but I don’t process content.  Just like in the classroom, when you must take the moment to pause, to truly listen to the one child and not the several, I now find that if I can consistently be present as I read emails then my understanding of issues facing our work deepens, as do, hopefully, my relationships with all those involved.

I reread this and my advice feels painfully obvious.  But I find it is advice I work to implement on a daily basis.

For writing teachers, there is one last benefit to presence that I wish to share: that moment you discover one of the students wrote something extraordinary.  At AWWP, we are working a Fetzer Institute-sponsored “Love and Forgiveness” project.  Many of our writers are writing on these two themes.  I will never forget how I felt when I opened Massoma’s email.  Here is a portion of her poem:

I’ve Forgiven All

My head was exploding

It was full of their talking

They talked and talked and sold me

They were happy and laughing

I was sad and crying

I had no ability to do anything

I played and was playing

But I had to go towards life

My head was exploding

It was full of new talking

They talked and talked and talked

I was not a good bride

I was not a perfect woman

Because I was thirteen

My head was exploding

It was full of their talking

They talked and talked and beat me

My head was exploding

It was full of hurts and their talking

I was a mother but with nothing

I’ve forgiven all I love my life

I move towards the future

I am happy

My head was exploding

For the moments I read and imagined Massoma, visualized what she went through, sat mesmerized by the power of her love and forgiveness, I didn’t need to push myself to focus.  The rest of the world had already fallen away.

*For more about the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, please go here: www.awwproject.org.

The Average Fourth Grader is a Better Poet than You (and Me Too)

Posted March 18, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

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Please visit Harriet, the literary blog for the Poetry Foundation, so that you can read Hannah Gamble’s guest post “The Average Fourth Grader is a Better Poet Than You (and Me Too).”

Hannah explains how teaching 3rd-6th graders in Houston, Texas, with Writers in the Schools (WITS) made her a better poet.

Hannah, former editor for Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts, is the author of Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast (2012), selected by Bernadette Mayer for the 2011 National Poetry Series.

Thanks for your inspirational words, Hannah!

Elephant March I

Posted February 26, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

WITS Intern Eriel

WITS Intern Eriel

From WITS Intern Eriel:

A little under a month ago I started working with WITS Writer MaryScott at Travis Elementary as an assistant teacher. In the past I’ve worked as an “In-home Tutor” for my siblings, cousins, second cousins, the younger siblings of friends, my neighbors’ kids, and so on. However, I’ve never taught within an actual classroom, especially with kids I’ve never met or even seen before. My biggest worries the night before were whether jeans  were too casual for my first day, if Hannah Montana was still relevant, and if the fourth graders would be taller than me (sadly, most of them are!).

One of our first lessons together focused on using concrete words and abstractions in poetry. MaryScott had each student draw two cards from two separate envelopes; one envelope had cards with abstract words on them and the other had cards with names for various locations. From there, the students would combine the two words to create a poem. Be it “The Gas Station of Awkwardness” to “The Cafeteria of Freedom,” “The Ice Cream Truck of Sadness” to “The Broom Closet of Success” – these kids produced some of the most imaginative and comedic pieces I have ever seen young minds compose.
Bio
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith (Illustrator)

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith (Illustrator)

Born and raised in Houston, I was home schooled for six years by my parents before attending a private school for my final years of high school. You could say homeschooling permitted me some free time. I was able to split my time between class by day and theater by night, singing lessons once a week, and, of course, writing every single day. Currently, I am more than halfway through my second year as an honors student at the University of Houston, where I am pursuing a double major in Creative Writing (fiction concentration) and Journalism (print sequence), and a minor in Creative Work, through which I received my internship with Writers in the Schools. I started at WITS back in October, and after the first day, on which I was shown to their library and asked to organize it, I was in love. From skimming through “Harold & The Purple Crayon” to admiring the artwork in “The Stinky Cheese Man,” I could almost smell my first day of Kindergarten right there.

DSC_1586I will be writing a series of blog posts that peer into a WITS classroom and my experience. I know, it’s an odd title. Why “Elephant March”? A) My abnormal fascination with the creatures, B) “Elephant” was my nickname in elementary school and since my time at Travis marks my “return to elementary” school, I thought it was appropriate, and C) Elementary school kids “march” everywhere they go, I’ve noticed, whether it’s to the bathroom or across the room, they march – one foot after the other, almost militantly. I remember being ‘taught’ by my first grade teacher to walk that way – her way of taking the ‘one foot after the other, hands behind our backs’ rule to the extreme.

One Voice Poetic Choir Tonight!

Posted February 22, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

As a featured component of Society for Performing Art’s Movement Toward Literacy initiatives and its Performance Prelude series, Writers in the Schools’ Meta-Four Houston is producing the One Voice Poetic Choir. Tonight, young poets will perform an original collaborative poem in the Grand Foyer of the Wortham Center as a prelude to the dance concert by Motionhouse. Members of the choir received complimentary tickets to Motionhouse this month and to see STOMP perform at Jones Hall last month.

Join us at the Wortham Center’s Grand Foyer before 7pm to catch the One Voice Poetic Choir and stop by the WITS information table to say hello!

Images from Angela LaMonte Only Once Images

Images from Angela LaMonte Only Once Images

About Meta-Four Houston

Meta-Four holds monthly workshops that encourage teenage writers to develop their work and expand their artistic processes. For teens who are completely new to poetry, getting involved in Meta-Four is a great way to share ideas, receive feedback, and find inspiration. Meta-Four also holds monthly slams that allow more experienced poets to compete and share their work in a safe and encouraging environment. Writers of all backgrounds and skill levels will be both supported and spurred by this spoken word program.

One of the things that makes Meta-Four great is its leader. The program is headed by slam veteran and Houston poet laureate nominee, Outspoken Bean. “Bean”, as he is commonly called, is an expert at both performing poetry and coaching poets. His skill as a writer and performer has led him to open for such well-renowned names as Talib Kweli, Buddy Wakefield, and Cornel West. And Bean’s natural proficiency as a leader and teacher had allowed him to champion his former college team to regional victory in his very first coaching experience. With Bean at its head, Meta-Four is capable of honing any youth writer into a performer and competitor.

Another reason to get involved in Meta-Four is that it helps poets to branch out and find like minds. Every year Meta-Four, sends 4 to 6 of its poets to an international slam poetry competition called Brave New Voices which draws in hundreds of the best youth poets in the world. These competitions have taken place in states across the country, from California to New York and participants have come from places as far as England, Guam, and South Africa to take part. Meta-Four’s involvement in Brave New Voices provides a way for Houston youth to network with other teens.

The upcoming Brave New Voices competition will take place in Chicago, Illinois. To help Meta-Four prepare for this competition, WITS will be providing space for workshops and rehearsals, as well as helping Coach Bean to schedule features and performances all around Houston which exhibit the Meta-Four slam team’s material. These features help writers get comfortable performing, while also exposing the city to the talent its youth possesses. These workshops, rehearsals and features were a vital part of Meta-Four’s success last year. Our team went on to place 21st in the Brave New Voices competition and land a feature spot on the semi-final stage. WITS hopes to help Meta-Four’s 2013 team duplicate, and even surpass that level of success in this year’s competition, while encouraging all of its young poets to write and perform to the best of their abilities.

by WITS Intern and former Meta-Four Member Jeremy

Black Rock Today

Posted February 20, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Student writing at the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center

Student writing at the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center

Today I am a small, black, little thing,
the size of a quarter.
Today I am a rock with a message saying “don’t go there.”
Today I am a rock with no reason and no purpose
but to sit there in the soft, mushy soil.
Today I am life,
I am light.
Today I am flight.

by Zachary, 4th grade

 

Forest Life

Posted February 11, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

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If I lived in the forest, I would see turtles
and smell the flowers.
I would be a bird and fly away,
and would climb trees so high…
I would even jump in the water
with the turtles,
and give them food,
and they’d better not bite my fingers
or I would scream!
If I lived in the forest, I would touch
the mushrooms and they would be soft.
I would be a bird and make bird sounds.

by Mackenzie, 3rd grade

Writers in the Schools has partnered with the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center since 2002 to engage urban youth with their environment, exposing and educating students on the natural world.

Creative Writing Camp

Posted February 7, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Registration is filling up quickly!

Within the first 20 minutes of open registration, over 100 students enrolled in Creative Writing Camp, a WITS record! Though it comes as no surprise – with our 8 campuses, 70 classrooms, and now 23 years of camp – that parents and kids look to Creative Writing Camp as a staple of their summer plans. Enroll now and find out why Houston Press described the workshops as the “best effort to inject culture into Houston” and AOL City’s Best listed it among Houston’s 6 Best Summer Camps for Kids.

About Creative Writing Camp

Creative Writing Camp offers a supportive environment where children engage in writing stories, poetry, essays, and plays, as well as simply reading for pleasure. Through these activities even the most hesitant child discovers the joy in writing, the intrigue of language, and the confidence of authorship. Students will work with teachers and writers, and the low teacher-student ratios ensure individual attention. Workshops end with a culminating performance and/or reading, and each child will receive an anthology with their published work.

A Collaboration

The Summer Creative Writing Workshops are offered by Writers in the Schools in collaboration with Rice University’s School Literacy and Culture Project (SLC).

Check out the 2012 Camp Highlights:

2012 Creative Writing Camp Highlights from Writers in the Schools on Vimeo.

An Evening of Literary Placemaking

Posted February 5, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Writing__CSiting_Houston_-_Banner

Join Writing & C/Siting Houston for an event featuring WITS founder Philip Lopate, WITS Writer Miah Arnold, and great friend of WITS, Bill Monroe, as they share stories about the special places that make the Bayou City unique.

When: Wednesday, February 6th at 7:00 pm

Where: University of Houston Honors Commons (212 MD Anderson Library)

More about the readers:

Phillip Lopate has written three personal essay collections – Bachelorhood (Little, Brown, 1981), Against Joie de Vivre (Poseidon-Simon & Schuster, 1989) and Portrait of My Body (Doubleday-Anchor, 1996); two novels, Confessions of Summer (Doubleday, 1979) and The Rug Merchant (Viking, 1987); a pair of novellas; three poetry collections, The Eyes Don’t Always Want to Stay Open (Sun Press, 1972), The Daily Round (Sun Press, 1976) and At the End of the Day (Marsh Hawk Press, 2010); and a memoir of his teaching experiences, Being With Children (Doubleday, 1975).

Miah Arnold is the author of Sweet Land of Bigamy, and a number of short pieces of literature. Her essay “You Owe Me” will appear in Best American Essays 2012. She earned a Ph.D. in writing and literature at the University of Houston. She teaches adults and children throughout Houston in University and nonprofit settings. She has served as a fiction editor at Gulf Coast and a poetry editor at Lyric Poetry Review. Her work has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Nanofiction, Confrontation, Painted Bride Quarterly, and the South Dakota Review. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and two children.

William Monroe is professor of English and Dean of the Honors College at the University of Houston. His book Power to Hurt: The Virtues of Alienation was selected as an outstanding academic book of the year by Choice magazine and nominated for the Phi Beta Kappa/Christian Gauss Award. His other publications include the play Primary Care, which deals with personhood issues related to Alzheimer’s Disease, and articles on T.S. Eliot, Vladimir Nabokov, and Willa Cather. He is currently at work on The Vocation of Affliction: Flannery O’Connor and American Mastery.

About Writing & C/Siting Houston: Writing & C/Siting Houston is a collaboration among Houston Arts Alliance Folklife + Traditional Arts Program, the Cultural Enrichment Center at the University of Houston-Downtown, and Houston Folklore Archive of the University of Houston and has been funded in part with support from the Texas Commission on the Arts, Humanities Texas, National Endowment for the Arts, and Houston Endowment Inc.

Click here for more information

Dare to Dream Writing Contest

Posted January 28, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Dare to Dream Cvr
The Dare to Dream … Change the World Annual Writing Contest for Kids aims to promote literacy, poetry writing, and nonfiction research while inspiring students to follow their dreams. It’s based on the award-winning Dare to Dream … Change the World (Kane Miller Books, 2012), which pairs biographical and inspirational poems about people who not only changed their own lives, but the lives of people all over the world. Click here for more information.
CONTEST DETAILS
WHO: For students in 3rd through 8th grade.
WHAT: Following the format of the book, students will write a biographical poem and non-fiction paragraph about someone who not only dreamed, but who took action and made the world better.
HOW: Send your entry by e-mail to daretodreamchangetheworld@gmail.com, subject line of “DARE TO DREAM Writing Contest.” Be sure to include your first name only, your e-mail address and your parents’ e-mail address.
DEADLINE: April 30, 2013

In My Dreams

Posted January 25, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

In partnership with Aurora Picture Show’s Media Arts Instructors Felisa Prieto and Camilo Gonzalez, students at KIPP Academy created short films from poems written in their WITS program with writer Autumn Hayes. Aurora was brought in to collaborate on creating stop-motion animation films from these poems. Enjoy!

To The Lady in White Cloth

Posted January 21, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

I saw your photo.
You were sitting in a police car;
you were going to jail.
You were strange
because you were not crying
when I saw you.
Just eating in a white
restaurant, that should not
have been big trouble.
You were fighting for your rights,
your rights as a citizen of these United States.
I know your dream is peace,
is calm,
is equality.
Maybe your children
wait for you at home;
maybe your sister needs
help with the cooking;
maybe your dear husband
wants to give you a birthday surprise.
But everything was broken
by the foolish rule about skin color.
Now, because of your courage,
your dream has come true.
Our dream has come true.
Everyone is equal in this free country,
whatever their skin color.
And we even have
an African American president
in our great country.
Congratulations, madam,
you helped to make our history.
You are successful beyond your dream.

by Tianli, 10th grade

Published in the 2011 The Watchful Eye Anthology, inspired by Civil Rights-Era Photographs at the Menil Collection

Students Writing at the Menil

Students Writing at the Menil

Outside in Winter

Posted January 18, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

I am outside looking at the snow falling, and I hear the wind blowing the trees.
I am outside smelling the hot chocolate and hearing the birds.
I am walking and looking at the animals outside.
Children are playing and people are saving the plants.
I am looking at my family playing.

by Jorge, 3rd grade

Tonight! Meta-Fourth Friday

Posted January 11, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Meta-Four-Jan-11

All Houston area youth ages 13-18 are invited to participate in the city’s first poetic choir. Come out tonight to Hope Stone Studio (1210 West Clay Street) 7-9pm for more information-its not too late to join! All participating students will perform at the Wortham Center Feb. 22. A special thank you to the Society of Performing Arts and Houston Public Library for making this all possible. Here is the calendar for the One Voice Poetic Choir:

January 11 (Fri)  

“One Voice Poetic Choir” Practice @ Hope Stone 7-9pm

January 25 (Fri)

Meta-Fourth Friday @ Jones Hall 6-7:30pm practice (8pm STOMP show time, students will be seated by 7:50) Food will be provided

February 16 (Sat)

“One Voice Poetic Choir” Run-through @ TBD location 10am-12pm

February 22 (Fri)

Meta-Fourth Friday “One Voice Poetic Choir” Performance @ Wortham Center arrive at 6pm, performance at 7pm (Food will be provided)

True Colors

Posted November 5, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

You see paintings shaped in upright rectangles.
But I see stars and a moon and also a blue sky.
There was a shooting star.
I made a wish to get everything purple.
It came true!
Now I am inspired to look at art and see
its true colors.
by Senyea, 4th grade

From Writing at the Menil, a 22-year old collaboration between Writers in the Schools (WITS) and the Menil Collection

WITS Writer Janine Joseph Pens Opera Opening Nov. 3

Posted November 2, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Photo courtesy HGOco

WITS Writer Janine Joseph Pens Opera

WITS Writer Janine Joseph collaborates with composer Jeeyoung Kim in From My Mother’s Mother, an opera about a young Korean-American woman dealing with the traditions of her family’s culture.

The world premiere of From My Mother’s Mother is scheduled for 1 p.m. November 3 at Discovery Green.

Additional performances:

-1 p.m. Sunday, November 4, at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Brown Auditorium (1001 Bissonnet)

-6 p.m. Wednesday, November 7, at Houston Public Library, Julia Ideson Building Auditorium (500 McKinney Street) 

-12pm and 7 p.m. Friday, November 9, at the University of Houston, Jose Quintero Theatre (133 Cynthia Woods Mitchell)

For information, visit the HGO website or call 713-546-0230. Sung in English. Free. Read the full Houston Press Article