School is almost out and summer is almost here! Don't miss these bookend events celebrating our Writers In the Schools (WITS) program and another year of inspiring work from young writers across the Puget sound region.
Join us for the inaugural year of Camp WITS: Writers in the Summer, part of our WITS (Writers in the Schools) program. Camp WITS will consist of two weeks of half-day creative writing workshops that focus on a range of genres and techniques, open to students entering 2nd through 12th grades.
Calling all young poets, spoken word artists, emcees and writers! This is your chance to represent Seattle as the 2016 Seattle Youth Poet Laureate.
Our WITS Writers-in-Residence are some of the most creative and inspiring minds around, always bringing relevant lessons to public school classrooms that address timely issues, confront challenges head-on and take students' creativity to new places. Each year, every writer shares an essay about a memorable and meaningful experience they had in the classroom, and we are now able to feature their moving words on SAL's blog, Sonder.
Position Description: Writers in the Schools (WITS) is a literary arts education program that places professional local writers in 25 public schools and in four schools districts, as well as Seattle Children’s Hospital. The mission of WITS is to inspire student and teacher excellence in literacy and the literary arts, and to establish the foundation for a life-long commitment to reading, writing, and creative expression.
September is here, which means Writers in the Schools is gearing up for a new school year!
First up is our WITS Back to School Breakfast, on Thursday September 17 at 7:00 a.m. We couldn’t be more excited to share our plans for the coming year as we expand into more schools, support Seattle’s first ever Youth Poet Laureate, and prepare to launch a WITS summer camp in July 2016. Tickets are going fast, but we would love to see you at this incredible morning of strong coffee, curious otters, and a great cause!
After spending a summer reading hundreds of poems, stories, comics and memoirs written by K-12 students who participated in WITS during the 2014/15 school year, we are also thrilled to announce the publication of our annual WITS anthology on Monday, September 28! We hope you can join us for this special night at Benaroya Hall, when we will celebrate another year of writing that has moved us to laughter, tears and all things in between. The evening will feature a reading and book signing with the authors, as well as sweets from our generous friends at Cupcake Royale, beginning at 7:00 pm in the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall.
We were also excited to see our Year-End Readings that took place at the Seattle Public Library this past May featured on the Seattle Channel on August 20! Brian Callanan of CityStream spoke with WITS Program Director Jeanine Walker, the incredible artists from the School of Visual Concepts who designed our WITS broadsides, and the young authors themselves, whose authentic voices shined brightest on that inspiring evening.
In case you missed our WITS Year-End Reading this past May or would like to hear the work of these incredible young writers again, we are excited to share audio podcasts of the event. Thank you to the Seattle Public Library for hosting these events and sharing these inspiring recordings!
Leija Farr, a junior from Cleveland High School, is Seattle's first-ever Youth Poet Laureate!
Leija was awarded the title on Saturday, May 23, after eight 14-19 year old finalists shared their poetry as part of the Northwest Folklife Festival. The competition was fierce, from Roosevelt High School's Meghan O'Kelley's incantatory words, "We grew up like this:/ outside in boxes and beneath trees,/ branches shaking under the weight of the sky," to Mt. Rainier High School's Sunny Phaiboutsady's moving and energy-filled delivery on identity: "I am...ah, I don't understand me./Sometimes it gets behind me./ My thoughts./ I see corruption in my life, but I fight."
All of the young writers were well-received, but Farr engaged the crowd deeply with her poem "For Black Boys," which begins, "Delicate black boy. Soldier, plum painted spirit, deep rooted, dreamer. I can tell from the oceans on your bed that you've never been told you were beautiful." Poet and mentor Matt Gano announced Farr as the winner, which inspired joyful cheers from her family and friends. A tearful Farr--who will not only tour Seattle as a young poet this year but also received a book deal to publish her first manuscript of poems from Penmanship Books in New York City--managed to say "thank you" into the microphone before the audience re-erupted with applause.
Last week marked the end of the 2014-15 school year with another incredible set of readings by the talented K-12 students in our Writers in the Schools (WITS) program! In the Seattle Public Library, the confident, poignant and heartfelt words of fifty-five elementary, middle and high school students and patients from Seattle Children’s Hospital resounded over two nights last week. Some read the truths they discovered about their families and their first loves. Others constructed fantastical worlds and wove together deliberate imagery. Still more ruminated on moral questions and complicated relationships.
All of us, students and audience alike, left the room awed and moved, thinking about the world and the people in it a little differently than when we came in. To paraphrase the words of sixth grader Pele Lilikoi Ellis of Broadview-Thomson K-8, “…my words send you to a magical world / giving you love, pain and life.”
The Writers in the Schools (WITS) year-end readings & celebrations are coming up! 53 K-12 public school students and patients from Seattle Children’s Hospital will read their original creative writing to a crowd of 250+. These readings are free and open to the public and held at Seattle Central Library, 6 p.m. Each student reader will be introduced by his or her writer-in-residence. The readings will be followed by a cupcake celebration, courtesy of Cupcake Royale.
The Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Program (YPL) aims to identify youth writers and leaders who are committed to civic and community engagement, poetry and performance, human relations, diversity and education across Seattle. Sponsored by Seattle Arts & Lectures' Writers in the Schools Program, the YPL application is open to any Seattle resident between the ages of 14-19. Click on the "CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS" title above to link to a PDF with more details!
Nine Writers in the Schools resident writers mirror the creative process they inspire in their students and read from their own, original works-in-progress on Wednesday, April 29, from 7:30-9:00 p.m.
The reading takes place in the Richard Hugo House Cabaret and features a dynamic roster of Seattle's best local writers: Aaron Counts, Vicky Edmonds, Karen Finneyfrock, Kathleen Flenniken, Peter Mountford, Sierra Nelson, Ed Skoog, Greg Stump and Ann Teplick.
Gather around the Hugo House Cabaret and enjoy a night of fantastic writing!
For full details and to RSVP for this free event, visit SAL's Facebook page.
“If you come up to me afterwards, you can touch my brain,” Sherman Alexie told over three hundred HS3 High School students, who began applauding the moment the renowned writer appeared in their auditorium to speak last week. Referring to a quartet of lingering “soft spots” that resulted from brain surgery he underwent when he was five months old, the invitation could be understood in both a literal and literary way—the standard for much of what Alexie went on to say that morning.
A strong sense of a connection between the writer and the students made the large room feel deceivingly small, as though there were only a handful of people listening instead of hundreds. The question that brought the most insight was of the kind that only students are fearless enough to ask: “If you weren’t poor and didn’t grow up on a reservation, do you still think you’d be as successful as you are today?” Giving one of his longest pauses of the morning, Alexie answered slowly, his words gaining their sense of assuredness as he reached the answer’s end: “If you can survive these agonies, it gives you a sense of strength. And it makes you original.”
To read more about Sherman Alexie’s visit to HS3, visit the WITS blog.
"Journalism is a lot like the scientific process. We all want to prove our own theories about the things we are researching, but all of the facts and evidence must be in order before we can do that." The connections author Sheri Fink made between the writing and scientific processes resonated with over one hundred students at Cleveland High School, who stayed after classes ended for the day, in order to hear her speak this past Tuesday. Themselves in the middle of a mock trial inspired by Fink's book, Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist was careful to present her information gathering techniques and writing approach to the students as fact-based insights, so as not to bias their perspectives mid-case.
Dr. Fink spoke to many questions about the people she interviewed, her experiences on the ground in New Orleans and the process of putting together a truthful accout of a complicated story using research compiled over six years, inspiring a new generation of scientists and journalists with equal force.
Read more about Dr. Fink's visit to Cleveland High School on the WITS blog.
Spotlight Auction Item: WITS Broadsides Project
The broadsides project—its fifth year in the making now—is a partnership between WITS, SVC, and Seattle Children’s Hospital. This year’s beautiful broadsides will be part of our live auction at our benefit gala on March 12, as will a spot at the final collating party, in which the artists present their completed work and speak about their design process and the inspiration behind their work. We look forward to sharing these with you! Please click the title to read more about this process.
WITS is excited to announce our first student writing contest of the New Year! We are thrilled to invite all students who attend WITS partners schools in the 2014-15 school year to submit one piece of writing on the theme of "Wild," in celebration of renound author Cheryl Strayed's book and upcoming lecture, on Thursday, March 5. Editors will choose four finalists and one winner. The winner will have the opportunity to read on stage at Benaroya Hall, before Cheryl's talk!
On Tuesday, January 13th, eight WITS writers mirror the creative process they inspire in their students and read from their own, original works-in-progress from 7:30-9:00 pm.
The reading takes place in the Richard Hugo House Cabaret and will feature a selection of Seattle's best local writers: Samar Abulhassan, Daemond Arrindell, Emily Bedard, Katy Ellis, Erin Malone, Corinne Manning, Imani Sims and Greg Stump. Join us for a night of fantastic writing!
For full details and to RSVP for this free event, visit SAL's page on Facebook.
What do the book, Zombie Haiku, and Jack Collom's version of the lune have in common? WITS writer-in-residence Erin Malone creates a poetry lesson inspired by both for her students at Whittier Elementary School. Read more about the lesson and some of the students' work on the WITS blog.
WITS is hiring! Applications due August 7, 2015 at noon. Click above for full guidelines.
"How do we explain a character? What is the difference between a generic character and a dynamic character?" WITS writer-in-residence Michael Overa shares an excercise that helps students capture the magic of thoughtfully constructed characters on the WITS blog.
Our WITS writers-in-residence are making headlines with their recent practices and projects!
Corinne Manning launched The James Franco Review, a journal that "considers your work of prose and poetry assuming it's already worthy of an editor's attention." Read more about Corinne's project in her interview with the Poetry Society of America.
Peter Mountford also recently discussed his two novels, The Dismal Science and A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism, with Nancy Pearl on Book Lust.
In the gaping-yet-cozy Gary classroom at Hugo House, the twenty 2014-15 WITS writers-in-residence discussed reasons why they teach for WITS. Their motivations were as varied as the people who shared them, from fond memories of writing in school to lamenting that their early education never afforded them the sort of writing mentorship WITS provides, from ambitious visions of the future—“Creativity in the hands of youth changes the course of the world”—to one writer’s affirmation of unity: “There’s no us-them; we’re all in this together and not alone.”
"The poetic elements...help us dig down into the deeper ground of being and shine light to try to see the particular beauties that are waiting there." Seattle poet and WITS Writer-in-Residence Vicky Edmonds writes of the things poetry can reveal to us in her post, "Invisible Beauties," on the WITS blog.
We hope you will join us for Local Voices on Tuesday, November 3rd at 7:30 p.m. at Hugo House for your chance to meet the acclaimed local novelists, poets, essayists and storytellers who teach with our Writers in the Schools Program. This evening will feature readings of original works by Margot Case, Vicky Edmonds, Katy Ellis, Karen Finneyfrock, Kathleen Flenniken, Matt Gano, Corinne Manning, Michael Overa and Ann Teplick. These talented writers inspire over 6,000 students each year, and their writings will inspire you too. This is the first of two events, each featuring half of our corps of teaching artists, and it is free; if you can’t make this date, mark your calendar now for the second reading on Wednesday, January 20th.
On Tuesday, November 4, seven WITS writers mirror the creative process they inspire in their students and read from their own, original works-in-progress from 7:30-9:00 pm.
The reading takes place in the Richard Hugo House Cabaret and will feature a selection of Seattle's best local writers: Sara Brickman, Aaron Counts, Laura Gamache, Matt Gano, Melanie Noel, Michael Overa and Greg Stump. Join us for a night of fantastic writing!
For full details and to RSVP for this free event, visit SAL's page on Facebook.
“If hip hop motivates you to want to graduate high school, study poetry,” James McBride told the hundreds of Garfield High School students gathered to hear him speak inside the Quincy Jones Auditorium Wednesday afternoon. These are only a few of the words of wisdom the author, musician, screenwriter and 2013 National Book Award winner generously offered to the students of the WITS partner school, where several classes were already reading his memoir, The Color of Water.
Last night, Benaroya Hall was filled with awe-inspiring words written and read by over fifty K-12 students from our Writers in the Schools Program, who gathered to celebrate the publication of our 2013-2014 anthology, The Sixth Breath Blows You Home. The bold honesty, clever wit, astute observations and deep emotions of these young writers' words came to life among an audience of over three hundred, who could not have looked happier to meet the authors afterwards, as they signed copies of their published works over Baby Cakes from Cupcake Royale. Thank you to all who attended the launch of this incredible collection of new writing!
Special thanks goes to our generous supporters: 4Culture, Amazon.com, ArtsFund, Brown Family Foundation, Expedia, Inc., Fales Foundation Trust, The Law Firm of Reed, Longyear, Malnati & Ahrens, Mannix Canby Foundation, Medina Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Norcliffe Foundation, Office of Arts & Culture, Seattle, Seattle Foundation, Umpqua Bank, US Bancorp Foundation, Washington State Arts Commission, Petunia Foundation, Tom Alberg & Judi Beck, Kip Robinson Geenthal & Stanley Greenthal, and Candace Tkachuck & Don Guthrie.
Thank you to all who attended the inaugural WITS Back to School Breakfast this morning! We were thrilled to see so many people come out in support of our Writers in the Schools Program over a fantastic breakfast at the Palace Ballroom. From hearing the inspiring words of student alumni, to seeing a special performance by several of the program's talented writers-in-residence and experiencing the profound support of everyone in the room, we cannot think of a more exhilarating way to start the school year.
Since 1994, WITS has matched local, professional creative writers with public schools to inspire more than 100,000 students to tell their stories, improve their writing, and turn imagination into ink through year-long arts education residencies.
Join us on TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23 to celebrate the publication of WITS' annual anthology, featuring creative writing by students in last year's program. 50 young authors will move you to tears, laughter, awe, and wild applause.
Our writers-in-residence are talented instructors and accomplished writers. Please join us to hear them read in progress work at Hugo House, November 4, 7:30 pm.
Our writers-in-residence are talented instructors and accomplished writers. Please join us to hear them read in progress work at Hugo House, January 13, 7:30 pm.
Our writers-in-residence are talented instructors and accomplished writers. Please join us to hear them read in progress work at Hugo House, April 29, 7:30 pm.
WITS writer and poet Daemond Arrindell wrote a moving tribute to Maya Angelou.
"Maya Angelou, who didn’t consider herself wise, but “in root.” She saw herself as connected, to the past – the earth she was metaphorically planted in – but also to the young leaves sprouting. She chose not to look down upon those who came after but to look up at us, with love, to recognize the nutrients of experience and courage and love that she had within her to pass on. Griot that she was, she seemed to delight in this burden. Though, I doubt highly that she would have ever called it a burden."
We were so pleased to celebrate the K-12 students in our Writers in the Schools (WITS) program with two nights of readings! Last Wednesday and Thursday, The Seattle Public Library was flooded with the words, voices, and creativity of 32 elementary and middle school students and 24 high school students. Nathan Hale High School student Anna Dong closed the event on Thursday night with her poetic question, "Why am I an artist? To see the world right...." Thanks to these young writers, we can all see our lives a little more clearly.
Special thanks goes to our generous event sponsors, Reed, Longyear, Malnati & Ahrens, PLLC, and Goldman, Sachs & Co. Also much thanks to our sweetness-making in-kind sponsor Cupcake Royale and our community partner The Seattle Public Library, as well as to The Elliott Bay Book Company, Liz Johnson, Paper Hammer, Starbucks, and Greg Stump.
The Presidential Inaugural Poet, Richard Blanco, speaks to students at Garfield High School about equality, childhood, cultural landscapes, and being a "full-time poet."
This afternoon at Shorewood High School, Gillian Flynn told a group of juniors that she’d always been interested in dark topics.
As a third grader she wrote a story called "The Outhouse" about a pioneer girl who, in the end, was eaten alive by wolves. The group gasped.
“I know!” she said. “My parents were probably like who is this creepy person?”
Writing had been a strong interest early; in high school she wrote for the school newspaper and it was after college that she went into journalism. She liked that there was this opportunity to make a living at writing and her job for Entertainment Weekly gave her the chance to pull together everything she loved: books, music, and TV.
Being forced to write every day as part of her job was the greatest training in being a writer.
“A lot of [the work of] writing is just making yourself write. When you write the bad stuff it’s your brain trying to get to the good stuff.”
Flynn shared that she did a lot of extra writing to get to know her characters and the situations in her novel Gone Girl: Nick from the point of view of his kindergarten teacher during a family visit, characters’ iPod playlists, Netflix accounts.
“I have a questionnaire for my characters. Do they eat breakfast? What do they eat?” Her advice to young writers is to find different ways to get into the heads of their characters.
“When a character is real and starts doing their own thing, that’s when you know you’re doing the job right.”
Which Flynn clearly did. She didn’t expect Gone Girl to be such a hit, but through word of mouth it succeeded in reaching millions of people.
“You can kind of forget that you’ve written it,” she said. “You are by yourself with your laptop and it gets released into the world and suddenly it has its own life.”
After learning that the “most A-listish actor” in the upcoming film would be Ben Affleck, the boy who initially asked this question asked threw his hands down onto the desk. His excitement was palpable, and it made the rest of us pretty excited too.
“That’s crazy. He’s going to be doing the thing, that’s the thing you made.” He asked again, a bit later what it took to become a Ben Affleck-worthy writer?
“Part of being a writer is the sheer stubbornness,” she said. Writing could really be a drag sometimes and you got to show up every day and work your way through. “If something gets you back into the chair, it’s worth it.”
A student wanted to know, with all of this work, did she feel attached to her books? How did she transition from book to book?
“Usually, I’m so sick of the book by the time I’m done with it … , but I do spend enough time with the characters that I get attached and I’ll catch myself thinking: I wonder what so and so is doing.”
Another girl timidly raised her hand. “I chose to study you for an English project,” she said.
“What did you find out?” Flynn asked.
The student learned from an NPR interview that much of her time was spent thinking about the perfect crime.
“What led you to writing about them, rather than performing them?”
“I’d be too chicken,” she said, laughing. “My characters are bolder, so I let them handle it.”
Gillian Flynn is speaking tonight at Town Hall starting at 7:30. Q&A moderated by Maria Semple.
WITS Writer Laura Gamache shares her thoughts on arts education in words and pictures.
Poet J.W. Marshall enchants and engages a group of 4th grade students at Lafayette Elementary School.
WITS writer-in-residence, Eli Hastings, shares the healing power and poetry of angry letters.
Bob Hicok visited Nathan Hale High School this morning and spoke to the 9th grade poets, some of them dressed as super heroes.
He read for fifteen minutes to a completely absorbed group of twenty-three students and shared lines such as, “Tattoo my front door to my tombstone/ and place a key on my tongue like a mint,” and ending, from “Primer,” that explores his Michigan roots, with, “Let us all be from somewhere./ Let us tell each other everything we can.”
Award-winning poet Dorothea Lasky conducted a lively poetry lesson for 3rd graders at B.F. Day Elementary School. Find out how she sparked a classroom full of future writers and performers.
WITS writers-in-residence are in the news! Daemond Arrindell, who has taught middle and high school students through WITS for five years, was featured in The Seattle Times on Sunday, April 7. Check out the article here: http://ow.ly/kckoJ. Karen Finneyfrock, a local and national slam poetry legend whose first YA novel was released this winter, has an interview published in The Seattle Lesbian: http://ow.ly/kckvj. Karen has taught elementary, middle, and high school students through Writers in the Schools for six years. Congratulations to Daemond and Karen!
Karen Russell, author of 2011’s Swamplandia!, visited with 9th and 12th grade Chief Sealth International High School students on the Thursday, April 4.
Throughout the school year we here at Writers in the Schools provide as many opportunities as we can for students to showcase their work, from a year-end poetry reading at the Seattle Public Library, to a letterpress project in collaboration with Seattle Children’s Hospital and the School of Visual Concepts, to our annual anthology of the best student writing from the year. This January, we further extended our reach with two student poetry contests, featuring topics inspired by author events at Seattle Arts and Lectures.
The results of the WITS "Origins" contest are in!
Maga Barzallo Sockemtickem of Seattle Children's Hospital
And four finalists, in alphabetical order:
Angie Flores of Seattle Children's Hospital
Moneka LaFrambois of West Seattle High School
Faith Mulugeta of BF Day Elementary School
Ruby Strickland of BF Day Elementary School
Maga read last night as the opening act for Julie Otsuka's lecture through the Literary Arts Series. All five poets had their poems on display in the lobby, and you can read them on the WITS blog: http://salwits.wordpress.com/.
Congratulations to all of these excellent poets!
WITS staff have been hard at work this summer compiling and editing our annual anthology featuring the very best writing from the previous year’s WITS program. We are excited to announce that the title of this year’s anthology is In the Sliver of a Second, drawn from a poem written by Hutch School student Abby Rodriguez. Join us on Sunday, September 30 at 5:00pm at Benaroya’s Recital Hall for a free celebration of the arrival of the book. Many of the young authors appearing in the book will read their work, and then we will all celebrate with a book-signing sweetened by Cupcake Royale.
Peter Mountford, a longtime WITS Writer-in-Residence, has been chosen by Richard Hugo House to fill their own Writer-in-Residence post. These authors are selected on their strength as writers and teachers, and their ability to engage in the writing community and act as ambassadors for Hugo House.
On Wednesday, May 23, a new community of young writers was born. I had the privilege to emcee the event, and, standing at the front of the Microsoft Auditorium in the downtown Seattle Public Library as the reading progressed, I started to notice the posture of the other teen readers: they were leaning forward, elbows on their knees and palms on their chins, fingers folded across their mouths, brows in furrowed concentration, listening. They wanted to hear what the other writers were reading. They wanted to know the words of those who comprise their community.
Find out what makes Ann Teplick, poet, playwright, prose writer, and WITS Writer-in-Residence tick.
Seattle Arts & Lectures' Writers in the Schools Program co-hosts Teen Night Out at the Seattle Art Museum on Friday, April 13. One student from each of the 8 high schools that participated in the WITS field trip to the Gauguin & Polynesia exhibit will read an original poem inspired by artwork in the exhibit. 600 area students visited the exhibit during the month of March and, led by local, professional writers, penned poems in response to Gauguin's paintings and Polynesian art. The experience culminates Friday in a teen-curated reading and tour through the galleries.
Mary Ann Gwinn, the Seattle Times' book editor, interviewed Washington State Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken, who has also been a WITS Writer-in-Residence for a number of years.
Karen Finneyfrock does it all. She writes poetry of both the written- and spoken-word varieties, collaborates on projects with other creative folks (including a chocolate artist), teaches creative writing at the Hugo House, has a forthcoming Young Adult novel and is currently working on her second novel. On top of all that, she is also the Writers in the Schools writer-in-residence at Nathan Hale High School, where she teaches poetry once a week.