dsc_0663Soapbox Youth Nonfiction Slam

Date: December 3, 2016
Time: 2pm
Location: Morris Frank Library | 10103 Fondren Rd, Houston, TX 77035

Join the WITS Youth Advisory Council on Saturday, December 3rd, at 2pm at the Morris Frank Library for the Soapbox Nonfiction Slam. This event is free and open to youth ages 13-19. Bring your most interesting holiday story to share (5 minutes max) and wear your best holiday sweater. Prizes for the best stories!

RSVP to soapboxslamstories@gmail.com

FREE

side_announcement_deadlinesEntries for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are due soon. In years past, these prestigious awards have gone to recipients including Joyce Carol Oates, Truman Capote, Ken Burns, Stephen King, and Sylvia Plath. Check out their website to find the specifics for your city or region.

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Call for submissions from teen writers in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico!

Who: Voices, a regional arts and literary journal published annually by students and faculty at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.

What: Imaginative, original works of fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, art, and drama from high school, undergraduate, and graduate students in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico!

When: Submit by December 2, 2016

Why: If accepted, students work will be published in a university journal

The Details

Fiction: Short Stories or Flash Fiction of up to 3000 words

Creative Nonfiction: Essays or Flash Nonfiction of up to 3000 words

Poetry: Up to 4 to 5 poems (50-line maximum for each poem)

Drama: One act plays of up to 2000 words

Art: Entries must be submitted as a .jpeg. Initial submissions may be at 72 dpi, but if accepted, the artist agrees to supply a 300 dpi version of the submission.

 

REGIONAL STUDENTS- send email submissions to:voicesATmwsuDOTedu
Please include your genre in the subject line of the email.

MIDWESTERN STATE STUDENTS- please visit the Submissions page at mwsu.info/voices and fill out the online submission form.

For more information, click here.

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I’m thankful for the sunshine and for food.

I’m thankful for warm weather, for clouds and for

leaves.

But!

I don’t like getting shots, I don’t like cheese,

And I Hate frogs!

 

by Delila, 1st grade

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Introducing Houston’s New Youth Poet Laureate

Fareena Arefeen, 17, is Houston’s new Youth Poet Laureate. Fareena, a student at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA), was chosen amongst dozens of talented Houston teens to share her insightful voice and creative spirit with the City of Houston.

Houston’s Youth Poet Laureate is an initiative led by WITS, the City of Houston, and the Houston Public Library. The position was designed to help young teens foster creative growth in our diverse and unique city. At the annual WITS gala, Fareena, a first-generation American, shared a poem and a captivating story about her background and love of writing.

“Poetry wasn’t just the esoteric words in my school textbooks; it was alive and real and right there in the apartment building where I lived, on the sidewalks where I walked, and at the gas station where my mom worked,” Fareena shared. “Poetry didn’t just belong to people who didn’t look or sound like me; it belonged to me.”

Fareena wants to use her poetry to provide “comfort and stability” to underserved and marginalized communities. But she also believes that poetry has another use, to “challenge and push people in power toward change and new perspectives,” and inspire people to fund the arts for underrepresented communities.

You can read Fareena’s poem, Hurricane Season, below:

 

Hurricane Season

 

My mother tells me that I was born outside of the eye of a hurricane,

where the storm is strong and moves quickly in radials.

I think I am a series of low pressure systems and winds that can carry bayous.

 

I’ve heard that a child playing on the coast in Africa

can cause the start of a hurricane in the Atlantic and maybe

a working immigrant in Toronto can be the origin of a poet in Houston.

 

My ninth birthday was suspended in the space between cyclone and serene.

I watched my city build itself up again after Hurricane Ike and

I guess we are both having growing pains.

 

I’ve learned that my purpose is flooding.

I want to form inundations of words and earn

the title of a Category Four. Drought relief and filler of bayou banks.

Hurricanes bring heat energy from the tropics

the way I would like to bring light to the city that taught me how to hold rainwater in the form of

letters.

~

On my thirteenth birthday, I watched the bayou

spill into this dizzy headed space city

like a push of blood to the lungs.

 

Inhaling atmospheric pressure of a tropical storm

in the eye of hurricane season felt like bayou backwash

of building Rothko layers.

 

Maybe if I could say that brown is my favorite color,

I would finally see the whirlpools that rest in my skin and in the Buffalo Bayou.

And someday I could love the greens hidden in browns hidden in labyrinths of color.

 

I only came into my skin

after I grew into this city and they both happened like storm clouds; rolling in and all at once.

 

Now, I find impressions of myself in the silt

as there are maps of this city pressed into my hands like footsteps on wet ground.

~

On my seventeenth birthday, the clouds broke light rays

the way I want to leave fractures in my city

that can be filled with the work of new artists and immigrants to take my place.

 

My favorite smell is rain

falling through concrete and cumin because they combine homes.

I can be a drop of water falling in multiple places

 

I am stuck to the city I’ve learned to call my own

like humidity on skin that can finally

hold its own storm.

long-voted

When I’m old enough to vote,

I’m going to vote with my feet,

my head, my heart, my voice,

my thoughts, my dreams.

I’m going to vote like I mean it.

 

By Ni’cole, 4th grade

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#NaNoWriMo sounds like nonsense, right? But it’s a real thing — November is National Novel Writing Month — and there’s a version of the project retooled especially for young writers and their teachers. You can think of NaNoWriMo as a boot camp to help writers at any level produce a first draft of a novel in 30 days. Participation is free and so much fun. Check out the Young Writers Project.

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As I look at the twists
and turns in your palm,
I see something,

something more than lines,
like a virus worming its
way deeper,

deeper into your veins,
riding them to your
heart.

Another hill is like a
weakness, trying to hide
until it is strong,

hiding in those little
creases, just waiting for
the right time to show itself.

 

But you will love-I see
it deep in your heart,
waiting for your future.

 

by Katie, 3rd grade

kettle-653673_640Oppression is a steaming kettle pot

in an endless black hole.

The steaming kettle pot

holds pressure

just like a human

holds the pressure of oppression.

Oppression is a steaming kettle pot

in an endless black hole

until you decide to let it go.

The streaming kettle pot will have no more

pressure to hold on to.

The black hole will finally have an end.

The end of something

is the beginning of something

new and beautiful.

By Jonathan, Hamilton Middle

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The lamp light sounds like jazz.

Purple feels like soft lavender.

The future tastes like sweet honey.

Moonlight smells like deodorant.

A bee’s buzz is the color yellow.

Pop music is the color baby pink mixed with baby blue and purple.

A viola’s sound tastes like a chocolate strawberry.

The sun tastes like sour lemon candy.

A bee is the color black.

Leaves taste saltless.

The number 23 feels warm and fuzzy.

 

by Pinar, 7th grade

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The beautiful sunset
making shades
of blue,
green,
red,
pink,
yellow,
and orange,
eyes of the wandering beings
opening,
looking,
watching
from their windows,
the golden yellow tree,
the sunset lake,
children playing,
bluebirds chirping,
the blue leaves,
dark green haunting shadows,
a red horse,
people hard at work,
a bright sunny day,
trees reaching up to grow,
mothers making supper for their children,
and a door opening,
telling people to come,
this is the birth of color.

by Kirby, 3rd grade

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(Inspired by the Cy Twombly Gallery at the Menil Collection, Houston, Texas) 

The forest air smells like sweet pine trees.
I walk through the forest, looking at the cloudy sky.
The wind pushes me to the right, then to the left.
It tosses me for a while; then stops
and drops me into a wet, cold, blue, shiny river.
The river pushes me to the shore
where I find a mirror reflecting the forest green.
I stare at the trees and the wind,
all in that tiny mirror reflecting something
I cannot see.
by Danica, 4th grade

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We hope you can join us as we announce the new Houston Youth Poet Laureate at the Writers in the Schools Gala on Thursday, November 10th, 6pm at The Astorian.

Writers in the Schools (WITS) and the Houston Public Library, in partnership with the City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA), and with support from Urban Word NYC, the Academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of America, and PEN Center USA, launched a city-wide competition to select Houston’s second Youth Poet Laureate.

Talented young poets, ages 14-19, submitted work in hopes of becoming the next Houston Youth Poet Laureate and last night submissions came flooding in until the stroke of midnight. Now judges will begin reviewing submissions and the top 5 finalists will be interviewed on Saturday, October 8th. From those finalists, Mayor Sylvester Turner will appoint the 2016-17 Houston Youth Poet Laureate.

 

 

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Writers in the Schools student, Regional and Houston Youth Poet Laureate, Andrew White, was invited to the White House last week to meet with the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. Students performed poetry in the State Dining Room and met with First Lady Michele Obama, and nationally-acclaimed poets, Q-Tip, and Elizabeth Alexander.

During Obama’s speech, the First Lady recognized Andrew and the other 4 Regional Youth Poet Laureates in the audience and had them stand for a roaring applause.

Congratulations to Andrew and all of the other young poets! And thank you, Michele Obama, for encouraging students to write!

 

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WITS is a presenting sponsor at the Houston Arts Partners Conference on Friday, September 9th and Saturday the 10th! Stop by our booth for some fun WITS swag and more information about our programs. We will also host 2 panels and our very own Meta-Four youth performance poetry team will give a special performance at Friday’s Happy Hour event. Check out the program for a full listing of panels >>

  • Friday, September 9th 11-12pm: Using Video Games and Game Design in the Creative Writing Classroom
  • Saturday, September 10th 11-12pm: WITS and a Collaborative Approach to Teaching Writing

 

Register Today »

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WITS 4th Grader, Lila, has started a petition for Bag-Free Bayous! We are so proud that one of our students is dedicating her time and energy to bettering the quality of life for all Houstonians and cleaning up our waterways.

“Every year, about 300 million pounds of plastic are produced, but only 10 percent is recycled.[1] It is estimated that Americans go through about 100 billion plastic bags a year, or 360 bags per year for every man, woman, and child in the country.[2] Many of these bags end up on the streets and sidewalks or caught in tree branches. Others wind up in bayous. Not only does the litter look bad and hurt wildlife in the bayous, it washes into our bays, the Gulf of Mexico, and beyond. The adoption of reusable bags could save taxpayer dollars related to cleanup costs….”

Sign Lila’s Petition » Watch Lila’s Story »

YPL2016logoCalling all poets,writers, spoken word artists, and emcees! Here is your opportunity to represent Houston as Youth Poet Laureate.

The Youth Poet Laureate Program aims to identify youth writers and activists in our community who are dedicated to civic engagement through poetry and performance.

This program is open to youth ages 14-19 in Houston, Texas (must have a valid Houston address).

Applications are due Wednesday, September 21, 2016, at 11:59pm.

The Houston Youth Poet Laureate is a joint program of Writers in the Schools and the Houston Public Library with support from Urban Word NYC, the Academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of America, PEN Center USA, and Penmanship Books. The Houston Youth Poet Laureate Program aims to identify young writers and leaders who are committed to civic and community engagement, poetry and performance, human relations, diversity, and education across Houston.
Download Flyer » Apply Now »

by WITS Writer, Lesa Boutin

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I’m not a gamer, but when I heard about WITS Digital I wanted in. As a fiction writer, the idea of creating the story behind a video game intrigued me. I admit to having a certain mindset when it came to gaming. I thought it a solitary experience, which writing is, and maybe that’s what drew me to it. Turns out I was wrong.

My first two Digital classes were after school placements at Lantrip Elementary. In the beginning, I feared not being a gamer would be a hindrance. I soon realized I was over-thinking it. Once I learned the ins-and-outs of Gamestar Mechanic, the online program WITS Digital uses for the game building, I found it easy and surprisingly fun.

The inaugural class at Lantrip was an exceptional group of self-starters. It was this class, particularly Isaac Cruz, who helped me find my way from the start. Isaac would go home after the lesson each week and play/work on his Quests. Quests are played before actual game design and teach the gamer how to build the game itself. He’d come back for the next class and share what he’d discovered. He wasn’t the only one, and I started to notice something I hadn’t expected, a spontaneous development of community. When one would have trouble mastering a level, he or she would shout out, moan, or any other verbal form of frustration, and someone would come to the rescue. Together, they’d work to overcome the obstacle.

Continue Reading >>

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WITS is excited and proud to announce that Cuchara Restaurant has generously chosen to donate $5 out of every $35 spent at Cuchara on Tuesday, August 30th and Wednesday, August 31st to WITS! We encourage everyone to go have a delicious meal and enjoy the beautiful murals and ambiance. Great place for a date night or lunch meeting (hint, hint)!