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From songs to sonnets, from cover letters to love letters, Writers in the Schools (WITS) inspires young people to discover and develop their authentic writing and performance voices.

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WITS needs your help. Donate today to bring the power and pleasure of language to Puget Sound students.
WITS is Hiring!

WITS is hiring! Applications due August 7, 2015 at noon. Click above for full guidelines.
 

WITS Year-End Reading Podcasts Now Available!

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!

Elementary and middle school students

Middle and high school students

Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Chosen!

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. 

The WITS 2015 Year-End Readings: Words to Live By

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.”

WITS Year-End Student Readings on May 20 & 21

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. 
 

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Seattle Youth Poet Laureate

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!

WITS Writer Works-in-Progress Reading at Hugo House on April 29

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.

Sherman Alexie Speaks at HS3 High School

“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.

Sheri Fink Visits Cleveland High School

"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.

WITS Broadsides Project

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.

"Wild" Writing Contest for Students is Now Open for Entries!

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!

WITS Writer Works-in-Progress Reading at Hugo House on January 13

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.

Lunes and Zombie Haiku

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.

Creating Characters with Ruby Red Pens

"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.

WITS Writers in the News

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.

WITS Teaching Year Kicks Off with Writer Retreat and Public Reading Tonight at Richard Hugo House

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.”

Poetry's Invisible Beauties

"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.

WITS Writer Works-in-Progress Reading at Hugo House on November 4

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.

James McBride Speaks to Students at Garfield High School

“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.

2014 WITS Anthology Launches with Many Smiles and Much Inspiration

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.

WITS Back to School Breakfast: A Morning of Writing Champions

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.

WITS Inaugural Back to School Breakfast

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. 

WITS Anthology Reading & Celebration

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.

WITS Writer Works-in-Progress Reading

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. 

WITS Writer Works-in-Progress Reading

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. 

WITS Writer Works-in-Progress Reading

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. 

Tribute to Maya Angelou

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."

WITS Year End Reading: A True Celebration

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.

Presidential Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco Speaks to Garfield High School Students

The Presidential Inaugural Poet, Richard Blanco, speaks to students at Garfield High School about equality, childhood, cultural landscapes, and being a "full-time poet."

Writing the Good Stuff: Gillian Flynn Visits Shorewood High School

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.
 

The Power of Arts Education in the Classroom

WITS Writer Laura Gamache shares her thoughts on arts education in words and pictures. 

How Much Trouble Can You Get In?

Poet J.W. Marshall enchants and engages a group of 4th grade students at Lafayette Elementary School. 

The Catharsis of Angry Letters!

WITS writer-in-residence, Eli Hastings, shares the healing power and poetry of angry letters. 

Poet Bob Hicok Visits Nathan Hale High School

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.”

Poet Dorothea Lasky Visits B.F. Day Elementary

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 All Over
The excitement of our WITS students when they have the opportunity to read their work in public is always inspiring and utterly infectious. As we prepare for our WITS Year-End Readings and Celebrations on May 22nd and 23rd, we’ve received many emails from parents telling us how thrilled their kids are to have been asked to participate. WITS writers choose students for the reading based on the quality of their work, their effort, and their improvement over the year, and the significance of this recognition to them really shows. We recently received an email from the mother of one WITS student who said, “My daughter told us that she received ‘the best news ever’ today - we asked her if she had won the lottery and she responded, ‘No! It’s way better than that!’ She created quite a build-up,” the proud mom continued, “And said it was quite possibly the best day of her life so far.”
 
For more on how WITS is inspiring young writers all over, click here.
WITS Writers In the News

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 Lesbianhttp://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 Visits Chief Sealth High School

Karen Russell, author of 2011’s Swamplandia!, visited with 9th and 12th grade Chief Sealth International High School students on the Thursday, April 4.

WITS Poetry Contest Winners Meet Julie Ostsuka, Al Gore

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.

WITS Winners for the "Origins" Contest

The results of the WITS "Origins" contest are in!

Winner:

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!

Poet Dean Young Visits the Hutch School
The visit began with introductions. The kids—the hosts for the day—introduced themselves to the poet: each told where he is from, his age, and named the patient in his family. Eighteen students from all over the country, ages five to eighteen, introduced themselves to visiting poet Dean Young. Young’s accolades include being a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize, fellowships from the NEA, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and being the author of over a dozen books of poetry. And yet, last Wednesday, the kids were the stars. At the Hutch, they always are.
2011-12 WITS Anthology Debuts September 30 at Free Celebration

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 Chosen as Writer-in-Residence at Hugo House

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.

WITS Year-End Reading Builds Community

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.

WITS Writer Spotlight: Ann Teplick

Find out what makes Ann Teplick, poet, playwright, prose writer, and WITS Writer-in-Residence tick.

WITS Year-End Reading & Celebration on May 22 & 23

The WITS Year-End Readings & Celebrations will feature 58 students from the 26 sites in the 2011-12 WITS program, including Seattle Children’s Hospital and two Port Townsend schools, in addition to students from public elementary, middle and high schools in Kent, Seattle, and Shoreline. May 22 will feature students in WITS’ elementary and middle school programs, while May 23 will feature high school students. These free events are open to the public and will begin each evening at 6 pm in the Microsoft Auditorium, Level 1 of the downtown Seattle Public Library. The readers will be introduced by their Writers-in-Residence and then read one original piece of creative writing. A reception will follow with sweets donated by Cupcake Royale. For more information, email This Link Requires Javascript.

Poetry Visualized
WITS is delighted to present, for the second year in a row, a portfolio of 16 hand-set artist-made letterpress broadsides featuring poems by patients at Seattle Children's Hospital. Each week this school year, WITS writers-in-residence Sierra Nelson and Ann Teplick worked one-on-one and in small groups with patients at the hospital. We selected poems by 16 patients, and, in collaboration with the School of Visual Concepts, 16 local artists translated these poems into works of lasting beauty. Each patient in the project will receive a portfolio of the broadsides, as well as ten copies of their piece. Click here to see these broadsides at our Facebook page. To see them in person, and to hear some of the patients read their work, come to the WITS year-end readings on May 22 and 23 at the Seattle Public Library. 6pm. Free.
WITS Co-hosts SAM's Teen Night Out

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.

Starbucks & Other Generous Firms Support WITS End-of-Year Reading

Seattle Arts & Lectures is grateful to the Starbucks Coffee Company and Reed Longyear Malnati & Ahrens PLLC for supporting our Writers in the Schools year-end Readings and Celebrations May 22 and 23 at the Seattle Public Library. The readings will feature 50 students from the 26 sites in the 2011-12 WITS program, including Seattle Children’s Hospital and two Port Townsend schools, in addition to students from public elementary, middle and high schools in Kent, Seattle, and Shoreline. May 22 will feature students in WITS’ elementary and middle school programs, while May 23 will feature high school students. These free events are open to the public and will begin each evening at 6 pm in the Microsoft Auditorium, Level 1 of the downtown library. The readers will be introduced by their Writers-in-Residence and then read one original piece of creative writing. A reception will follow with sweets donated by Cupcake Royale. For more information, email This Link Requires Javascript

Kathleen Flenniken: State Poet Laureate & WITS Writer

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.

Say Yes to Karen Finneyfrock

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.

WITS Students Write Poetry in Response to Gauguin & Polynesia
The Writers in the Schools Program (WITS) partnered with the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) in March to bring eight Seattle Public High Schools to the special exhibit, "Gauguin & Polynesia," and write poetry from the artwork. Six hundred high school students from Seattle had the opportunity to visit the exhibit when the museum was closed to the public. With clipboards, paper, and pencil in hand, students studied three pieces of art closely and wrote creatively based on prompts designed by local writers who led their small groups into a marriage of art and poetry.
WITS Writer Spotlight: Daemond Arrindell
Daemond Arrindell is a poet and educator who believes in the power of the word to transform lives. He has coached the Seattle National Poetry Slam team for seven years and facilitates residencies at Monroe Correctional Complex and Echo Glen Children's Center. Daemond teaches poetry for Writers in the Schools at Washington Middle School and Garfield High School. He has worked as a WITS Writer-in-Residence for five years. Click on the title to read more.
WITS Celebrates Its First-Ever Playwright Residency

This year, WITS took on its third school in the Shoreline School District, Shorewood High School, where local playwright Tracy Vicory-Rosenquest has taught 10th and 11th grade students since October. On Tuesday, January 24, students performed a staged reading of five original one-act plays and five individual scenes. The genres varied from comedy to satire/parody to drama, each with unique characters ("Johnny, a 15 1/2 year old boy who loves to read poetry to Violet" was one of my favorite descriptions) and complex plots ("The Magic 8 Ball," for instance, sees a love-struck girl go crazy while taking erratic advice from her Magic 8 Ball.)

Tracy worked hard alongside partner teachers Tim Murray and Becky Eckhert to make the residency a great success. Thanks also goes to three local directors, Pearl Klein, Ana Maria Campoy, and Joe Homes, who volunteered their time to help prepare the students for the performance. The characters, the turns of phrase, the complex-but-still-uniquely-youthful plots--all were a pleasure to watch, and an honor to be able to claim as part of the WITS program.

WITS Book Launch on Vimeo!

For the first time ever, WITS was able to video record our annual book launch. This year’s celebration, held on Sept. 25 at Benaroya’s Recital Hall, is now available on Vimeo for your viewing pleasure. These students have much to say, and they articulate themselves with intention and eloquence. Smart, poignant, and funny, all of the students demonstrate a serious endeavor to create something with their words, and they have succeeded. Whether you want to relive a memory of the night or catch up on an evening missed, this video is a must-see.

WITS Anthology Launches with a Stunning Reading by K-12 Students

Fifty-six area K-12 students read their original poetry, prose, and comics on stage at Benaroya Hall on September 25 to celebrate the publication of Our Beautiful Robotic Hearts. Students read their words with confidence and poise, and were met at the end with a standing ovation from the crowd. Celebrating with babycakes donated from Cupcake Royale, authors autographed the books and spoke with admiring fans. Photographs from the event available from Libby Lewis: http://www.libbylewisphotography.com/pickpic/gallery/splash.php?gallery_id=267.

Save the Date! Our Beautiful Robotic Hearts Available for Purchase September 25

Our Beautiful Robotic Hearts, the 2010-11 WITS anthology of student writing, will be available on September 25 for a suggested donation of $10 a copy. Please click on the Donate button underneath the cover design on any of the WITS pages or email This Link Requires Javascript to obtain your copy. Previous years' issues are currently available for purchase.

WITS Book Launch Scheduled for September 25

Area students will present their original creative writing at the launch of the 2010-11 anthology of Seattle Arts & Lectures’ Writers in the Schools program on Sunday, September 25, 2011 at 5:00 at Benaroya’s Recital Hall.

The anthology, titled Our Beautiful Robotic Hearts, represents the “best of the best” from the 27 sites in our 2010-11 WITS program, which included public elementary, middle and high schools in Seattle, Kent, Shoreline, Port Townsend, on the Lummi Nation Reservation, and at Seattle Children’s Hospital. The 137 students featured in the anthology represent just a fraction of the stunning and insightful creative writing produced this past year by the 4,400 K-12 students WITS served.

WITS Launches Year-End Reading Tumblr Blog

Students, teachers, parents, writers, citizens of the world: join the conversation on the new Tumblr WITS blog! Each day from now until our year-end readings and celebrations on June 1 & 2, we will post a poem from a student who's had WITS this year. We also invite others to post writing prompts, poetic lines, questions, musings--WITS welcomes and encourages all. Find the Tumblr blog here: http://witsink.tumblr.com/.

The WITS year-end readings will be Wednesday, June 1 for elementary and middle school students and Thursday, June 2 for high school students. Both readings will be held in the Seattle Public Central Library's Microsoft Auditorium. 50 students will read over the course of 2 nights. More information can be found on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=208644069164067.  

WITS Program Provides Books for Schools

Students in Lori Eickelberg’s 7th grade class at TOPS K-8 were delighted to discover the wide array of books their teacher had ordered for them, and students spent some time one recent morning picking through the titles to find their favorites. Through a grant from the D.V. & Ida J. McEachern Charitable Trust, WITS is able to provide each of its schools with an assortment of books, free of charge to the schools. Schools place orders to add to the library, request class sets of novels students will be reading that year in their Language Arts classes, or provide exciting new titles for classrooms the schools might not otherwise be able to purchase.

"Poetry is like a second throat that you have."
           When asked by a ninth grade student at Nathan Hale High School what her favorite thing about poetry is, Patricia Smith replied, “You can tell huge, huge stories in very small spaces….[That’s] the magic of poetry.”
            Indeed it is. Few moments have seemed more magical than the audience of 150 ninth grade students in rapt attention last Tuesday morning. Not a text was typed, not a note passed, not a secret whispered. Students watched and listened to the poet transfixed, as though under a spell—the magic—of words.
           
It's Luck, But You Have To Be Listening
“It has a lot to do with luck,” Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee said in response to a question from a Chief Sealth student during his talk about cancer research, “but you have to be listening.”
 
It was luck, perhaps, that saw the warming of the air, the melting of the snow, and allowed Dr. Mukherjee to arrive successfully on a flight from Los Angeles and head to Chief Sealth International High School, where he spoke last Wednesday to a group of 100 students from chemistry, history, and language arts classes. 
WITS in West Seattle

WITS is excited to be working with West Seattle High School this year. Check out the West Seattle blog for a glimpse into the residency, led by poet and writer-in-residence Katie Ogle.

Native Poet Cedar Sigo Visits The Center School

Native poet Cedar Sigo will visit the Center School to speak with students in Jon Greenberg's creative writing class on Wednesday, Nov. 17. Born February 2, 1978, Sigo was raised on The Suquamish reservation near Seattle, Washington. In 1995 he was awarded a scholarship to study writing and poetics at The Naropa Institute in Boulder Colorado where he studied with Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, Lisa Jarnot, Alice Notley, and Joanne Kyger, among other poets. He has lived in San Francisco since 1999.

In 2003 Ugly Duckling Presse published the first edition of his Selected Writings.  A second large collection Stranger In Town has just been published by City Lights.

WITS Student Opens for Robert Pinsky

Francis Nyssen read his poem "Ode to Birds," published in the WITS 2009-10 anthology You Will Not Come Back Unchanged, on stage at Benaroya Hall on October 15. Francis inspired cheers and admiration from the sold-out crowd at the Poetry Series opening night with former poet laureate Robert Pinsky.

You Will Not Come Back Unchanged Book Launch Celebrates Student Work from 2009-10

The 2009-10 Writers in the Schools anthology, You Will Not Come Back Unchanged, featuring the poetry and prose of students in twenty-one area schools, will be launched at the Seattle Art Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. in the Plestcheeff Auditorium. Students will read from their published work on stage. Free and open to the public. Come join us!

WITS Year-End Reading Available on Podcast

On May 26 and 27, two students from each WITS school read their best work at the downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library. 250 were in attendance each night to listen, laugh, cry, and be moved by the work of young minds. You can listen to the podcast of the two nights on the library website.


Pictures from the event are available from Libby Lewis photography.

Newberry Medalist Karen Cushman to Make a TOPS Appearance
Classrooms, libraries, and individuals are welcome to tune in to Ms. Cushman’s free, live webcast from the TOPS library on May 4 at 10:30 PST. To be a part of the webcast and register to win a signed set of Karen’s books, visit http://www.hmhbooks.com/karencushman/. To learn more about Karen’s life and works, visit www.karencushman.com
Nathan Hale Senior Nicole Dupler Wows the Crowd

Nicole Dupler, one of two winners of a WITS scholarship, made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts Access to Artistic Excellence program, provided a powerful opening poem for national-recognized poet Sharon Olds on Sunday, April 18 at Benaroya Hall.

WITS Scholarship Winner Opens for Olds
12th grade WITS student Nicole Dupler, from Nathan Hale High School, will open for poet Sharon Olds on April 18 by reading an original work of her own. Nicole was one of two winners of a WITS scholarship, made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts Access to Artistic Excellence program. The scholarship allows each student to attend a workshop with a poet appearing in SAL’s Poetry Series. Nicole will be a part of Sharon Olds’ workshop on April 17.
Seattle7Writers to Support Seattle Arts & Lectures’ Writers in the Schools (WITS) Program

Seattle7Writers, a collective of Pacific Northwest authors
, has named Seattle Arts & Lectures’ Writers in the Schools (WITS) program as the first beneficiary of their outreach. Seattle7Writers is dedicated to 
creating connections 
between writers, readers, 
librarians, and booksellers to foster and
 support a passion 
for the written word.

Roosevelt Students Read Their Work at Barnes & Noble

Roosevelt High School 10th grade students studying poetry with WITS writer Emily Bedard read at the University Village Barnes & Noble on January 21 at 6:00pm.

WITS Student Featured in American Life in Poetry
A piece by Nancyrose Houston, a student in the 2008-09 WITS program, was featured this week in "American Life in Poetry," a nationally syndicated newspaper column showcasing contemporary American poems. 
WITS Blog
Go behind the scenes with WITS to get an up-to-the-minute scoop on how we turn imagination into ink!
“Writers in the Schools not only gave me the freedom to express myself, but also helped me express myself in better, stronger, and more creative ways.”
-- Roosevelt HIgh School 10th Grader
Student Anthology  The best student poems, prose, comics, and plays from the 2011-12 school year! Suggested donation $10, or email This Link Requires Javascript.