Are you a 6th, 7th, or 8th grader with a love of words? Sign up now for a free performance poetry workshop with WITS writer Jasminne Mendez at Lone Star College – Kingwood during the Bayou City Book Festival.

In this workshop, you’ll learn about the writing and performance process, exploring revision, stage presence, and poetry slam methods/appreciation. Spots are filling fast, so register here today!

When?

April 8, 2017 from 11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Where?

Lone Star College – Kingwood

20000 Kingwood Drive Houston, TX 77339, Performing Arts Building Rm. 125

Learn more about the Bayou City Book Festival here.

 

About Jasminne

Jasminne Mendez is an award-winning author, performance poet, and educator. She received her B.A. in English Literature and her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. Mendez has performed her poetry in venues all around Houston, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Rice University, the University of Houston-Downtown, the University of Houston-Clear Lake, Barnes & Noble, and the Alley Theatre. She has shared the stage with respected writers and poets, notably, Sandra Cisneros and Taylor Mali. Mendez has been published both nationally and internationally, and her first multi-genre memoir Island of Dreams was published by Floricanto Press in November of 2013 and was awarded Best Young Adult Latino Focused Book by the International Latino Book Awards in 2015.

Do you know a teen between the ages of 13-19 who wants to be a published writer?

Check out Word on the Street / La Voz de Los Jovenes: a new online magazine of writing and the arts, created by the youth, for youth. Created, visioned, and led by a core squad of youth of color, this magazine is open to all youth and is bilingual.

Submissions can be in English or Spanish, and are completely free.

This opportunity is housed by the Asheville Writers in the Schools & Community. Thank you, Janet Hurley, for sharing!

Spring is in the air and so is our new performance workshop for youth ages 13-19! Starting today, we’re hosting a FREE workshop and open mic every first Friday of the month at the new Levy Park Conservancy. Join us from 7 – 8:30 p.m. No registration is required, and walk-ins are welcome. Learn more here.

Want updates on WITS events near you? Check out our website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Congrats to our WITS Digital students from Kashmere High School! Earlier this month, they competed at the HISD Together with Tech conference alongside 44 other student teams.

The conference was created by HISD to explore the impact that technology has made in the classroom, specifically through their initiative, PowerUp, which brought a laptop to every student in the district. Students presented a variety of projects, including digital animation, mobile app design, and more.

As finalists, our WITS Digital students were selected to share their project with Microsoft and take a private tour of the office in celebration of Digital Learning Day.

WITS Digital is an initiative held in partnership with Histrionix Learning Company. The innovative program combines writing and game-based technologies, bridging the process of writing with that of game design. Through game play, students become creators versus consumers of media, using their writing as the foundation for design as a new method of publication.

Watch a video about the event over at the HISD blog.

Learn more about the Together with Tech conference here.

Each year, the WITS Alliance heads to a different city to attend the AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) #AWP17 conference, a gathering of around 12,000 professionals. The conference provides an opportunity for writers to find support, discover resources, and build community.

The WITS Alliance has a strong presence at the conference. Whether it’s a quick morning meet-up with WITS leadership from all over the country, a booth filled with info for writers looking for jobs, or panels exploring such topics as video games in the classroom, women leaders, and creative writing as public art, WITS is there, strengthening its relationship with writers across the nation.

Here are a few highlights from the trip!

Associate Director, Jack McBride visited United States Senator Cornyn’s office with a message about how the arts are vital to business and education in Texas.

Jack McBride, Rick Brennan, Kelly Whitney, and Virginia McErneny chatted about how digital technology can transform the classroom and inspire even the most reluctant young learners to write.

Mahogany L Browne, Lori Pourier, Meggie Monahan, Jen Benka, and Amy King shared their experiences as women leaders in today’s world.

Kate Brennan, David Hassler, Alice Quinn, and Steve Young talked about how our communities can turn poetry into public art in public spaces.

Lauren Bullock, Michele Kotler, Ramiza Koya, and Giuseppe Taurino discussed how we can build more opportunities and systems that fuel diverse leaders.

Jasminne Mendez, Peter Mountford, Nina Swamidoss McConigley, and Glenn Shaheen, all former WITS writers, shared a piece from a WITS kid that inspired them, as well as some of their own work.

Alicia Craven, Stephanie Brown, Sunshine Ison and Mohamed Sheriff talked about how writers can leverage their skills in “From MFA to JOB: Making a Living, Making a Difference.”

One major highlight of the trip was the AWP gala, which featured words by renowned writers Jackie Woodson and Rita Dove. Here’s a quick selfie with our Executive Director, Robin Reagler, her childhood friend Sonya Gray, and Jackie Woodson.

Robin also gave a speech at the gala, sharing her thoughts on why gathering together as writers is important for sustaining a strong community of literary citizens.

Our WITS booth, where we talk with new writers and educators about the WITS Alliance, was filled with sweet swag to giveaway, like these dual writing/art notebooks.

The booth was a popular space! Here are WITS Alliance members, Amy Risher and Michele Kotler, as well as WITS Writer, Jonathan Meyer, chatting us up.

Cultivating relationships with writers at AWP is essential to ensuring that we continue to place writers in the classroom and work toward our mission of giving every child the opportunity to read and write. Until next year!

My heart

is the sea

brushing on

the rocks

My heart

is an invincible

sumo wrestler

My heart is

Christmas

morning over

and over

My heart

is fierce,

an unbelievable

force

It is all true

because it is

my heart.

By Nelson, 3rd grade

Originally published Dec 10, 2010.

Do you know a child with a talent for writing?

The PBS KIDS Writers Contest is now accepting submissions from young writers and illustrators in Kindergarten through 3rd grade. Anyone who enters will receive a Certificate of Achievement, with Finalists participating in an award ceremony this May. The winning stories will be produced for broadcast on Houston Public Media!

The deadline is March 15, 2017. Learn more here.

Coach calls a time out.
As we the team run to coach,
the blur in my eyes,
barely could hearing what he’s trying to say,
trying desperately to see the words
come out of his mouth,
too embarrassed to say,
“Coach, get me off the field.
I’m not making a difference.”
So then they call us all into huddle,
“Blue 42 going to Dan.
put those boys asleep and
go out for Sunday dinner.
One more thing, block.”
The quarterback says,
“Hut one, hut two, hut three.”
I run off thinking if I don’t catch the ball, it’s
going to be three things: me
coach and hell.
I thought that again
And again and again…then
I spin my head to the
side and see a brown leathery
diamond-shaped ball sail sweetly
into my hands.
And everyone knows what
happens next.
a stop, turn, another turn,
the other way, jump, scream,
and dance into the end zone.
And now that mad-wanna-be-grin
On coach’s face was a smile.

by Dan, 8th grade

Original post: August 24, 2007

Traveling to a new place requires a certain amount of fearlessness. Luckily, WITS Writer Chris Cander thrives on new experiences. So when the Dostyk American International School in Atyrau, Kazakhstan invited her to become a writer-in-residence for a week, and teach creative writing to young expatriates between pre-K and 8th grade, Chris immediately said yes.

Chris Cander with the Pre-K and K youth, after creating “dictionaries” from interesting-looking words and imagining their meanings.

Chris, an avid traveler, knows that living in a foreign place can be an extraordinary experience that could be lost if it’s not mapped on the page. She designed lesson plans that would allow her students to reflect on the spaces around them, and returning to those reflections as they got older. Most of all, she encourages her students to not worry about the blank page. She wants her students to be “fearless writers” who are ready to brave it all.

Chris created a workbook for each grade level with room for poetry and prose exercises. At the end of the week, a celebration was held, with each student sharing a favorite piece with parents and teachers.

Find out more about Chris’ journey over at her blog. https://chriscander.com/blog/

Grades 1-2 write a group poem based on “heart maps.”

The final poem, shared at the celebration with parents and educators on Friday.

 

 

Author Janine Joseph; Photo by Jaclyn Heward

Janine Joseph, who taught with Writers in the Schools from 2009-2013, will be reading tonight at Houston’s Poison Pen Reading Series at 8:30 p.m. at Poison Girl Cocktail Lounge. She will be reading alongside University of Houston writers, Allegra Hyde and Will Burns. The event is free and open to the public (21 and up).

Janine was born and raised in the Philippines and Southern California. She is the author of Driving without a License (Alice James Books, 2016), winner of the 2014 Kundiman Poetry Prize, and is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Oklahoma State University. Her poems and essays about growing up undocumented in America have appeared in Kenyon Review Online, Hayden’s Ferry Review,  The Asian American Literary Review, The Collagist, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series, and elsewhere. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Houston, where she was a poetry editor for Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts.

This weekend, WITS and Meta-four Houston held a free youth slam workshop with Danez Smith at The Pilot on Navigation. Post-rain, students poured into The Pilot’s theater space to hear what Danez would say about the craft of performance poetry.

Even WITS writers and educators came out to the event to see what they could learn from Danez, well-known in the poetry community as the author of Don’t Call Us Dead (2017), and [insert] Boy (2014), as well as winner of the Lambda Literary Award, the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. Danez’ background in slam includes several championship titles and a year as festival director for the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam, as featured on HBO.

For many young writers, getting on stage is not easy. Not only do they have to share original poetry with their audience, but they have to do so in such a way that they command their audience’s attention. That requires confidence, and at a deeper level, comfort with their own bodies’ ability to express feelings and ideas.

To get students comfortable with the stage, Danez introduced the two-hour session with a few acting exercises, including one where each participant “lead with their favorite body part” and one where the participants had to work together to fill the stage with movement. After these exercises, Danez sat down with the students to discuss powerful poems by Patricia Smith, Franny Choi, and Jeffrey McDaniel. Together, the group imagined worlds that are only possible with poetry, worlds where anything can be said, and anyone can have a voice.  

Photo credits: Pin Lim

Educators! As you know, the Houston Super Bowl is right around the corner. Here’s a unique opportunity for your students to get excited about football and literature.

On Friday, January 29th, Inprint Cool Brains! presents Tim Green, author of the New York Times bestseller for middle-schoolers, Football Genius. Tim will be reading from his new book, Left Out, at 3 p.m. at Meyerland Performing and Visual Arts Middle School.

After the reading, he’ll answer questions from the audience, and sign books for fans. The event is free and open to the public.

To find out more and/or download a curriculum guide for the book, visit the Inprint Page here.

 

WITS Writer and Slam Poet, Loyce Gayo

If you’ve ever witnessed a slam poetry performance by our Meta-Four team, a crew of 13-19 year-old WITS students with a desire to be heard, you know that there is a magical quality to the energy they expend on stage.

Performance poetry is an opportunity for students to empower themselves, to use their bodies and their voices to create an artistic moment that represents their particular vision of the world. Here at WITS, we’ve seen first-hand how these students grow as they perform, and we’d like to give even more students that opportunity.

One of our most exciting new adventures is our new partnership with the Salvation Army Young Adult Resource Center (YARC). The YARC connects homeless young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 with housing and other means of support, including meals, respite, job coaching, recovery coaching, tutoring and non-traditional educational support.

WITS writer and slam poet, Loyce Gayo, will spend 12 weeks introducing performance poetry to these young adults. Loyce hopes the project will inspire curiosity in her students, a curiosity that leads to new perspectives.

“If you are able to look at anything in a different light,” she says, “you can approach your [personal] vision in a different light.” To Loyce, curiosity is the root of critical thinking. Helping her students consider new possibilities is the first step in contributing to their overall confidence and future success.

Loyce is excited about incorporating popular music into the classroom, using the complicated and nuanced work of popular rap albums to help her students connect with performance poetry, and gain enthusiasm about creating their own.

We will be checking in with Loyce in a few months to share the results of this new program.

About Loyce

Loyce Gayo is a Tanzanian-born slam poet, singer, teaching artist, and activist currently based in Houston, TX. Gayo is profoundly influenced by her experience in the African Diaspora and uses her craft to celebrate the journey of a people dispersed. She also uses her voice to advocate for the empowerment of marginalized people by supporting local efforts and organizations. Gayo was the slam champion of the UT Spitshine poetry slam team, which won the 2014 Collegiate Union Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI). Her work has been featured on Button Poetry, Write About Now, Badilisha Poetry, and PBS. She teaches creative writing for Writers in the Schools, Houston.

15622540_1259547307447195_5086618294382902961_nThis Sunday 1/15/17 in over 70 US cities, writers will gather to speak out for equity and justice, as part of a movement called #WritersResist. To represent the Houston community, Houston poets and writers of diverse backgrounds will come together to share messages of peace, democracy, unity, and hope. The diversity of our city, the solidarity among its writers, and the power of the written and spoken word are at the center of these readings.

Houston has planned two events–

1) #WritersResist Houston: “We Too Sing America” – on Jan. 15th, 5 – 8 pm at the Holocaust Museum Houston (5401 Caroline Street). For more information, click here.

2) #WritersResist Houston: “Let Us Gather” – on Jan. 20th, 7-9 pm at St. Paul’s Houston (5501 Main at Binz/Bissonnet 77004)
For more information, click here.

WITS will be represented by Robin Reagler, Outspoken Bean, Deboroah DEEP Mouton, Fareena Arafeen, and several others. Please join us for both of these inspiring free events.

 

owl-1819609_1920

photo credit: pixabay

Oh, snow owls, your beautiful sound

from the heavens lets light

through the clouds in the sunset.

Snow owls, when you rise at the dawn of winter,

your wings shimmer from the frosty bits

and you fly like a dove.

You are as majestic as an eagle,

soaring in the salty breeze.

Your eyes are like diamonds floating in the angry sea,

a tsunami of delighted sadness

trapped in a cage of anger.

Your feathers are like snow

falling from the dusk of twilight.

Snow owls,

stay in the heavens of midnight.

 

by Eva, 3rd grade

christmas-1890467_1920

My best Christmas was two years ago because somebody my dad knew from work invited us to his apartment to celebrate. When my dad and I got to the apartment, we marveled that it was so pretty. All the decorations were nice because the guy my dad knew from work put a lot of effort into them. Decorations were all over the apartment. There were candles,  presents, lights, and lots of food. My dad and I sat on the sofa. We met some people at the party who we didn’t know, friends and relatives of our host. All of us ate chicken sandwiches and drank sodas. I couldn’t help staring at the tree and how it was decorated with lights, ornaments, a star on top, and especially, presents underneath.

When it was time to open the presents, everybody did, except me and my dad because our host didn’t get us any, and his guests didn’t know us. So you might think that I was sad. But here’s the best part of all: a lady at the party gave me a present. She went to her room and came back and gave me a present! I opened the present, and it was a shirt, and it fit, and I thanked her because she gave me a present. I didn’t know her, but she was nice to me. To tell the truth, I prefer a Wii or Xbox game for a gift rather than a shirt. My dad didn’t care about himself. He was happy that I got a present. My dad felt as good as I did.

When it was at 12 o’clock, it was time for my dad and me to go. When we got back home, my dad and I went to sleep. The next day I wore the shirt.

By Onasis Rodriguez, 8th Grade

 

This essay was written by a WITS student a number of years ago but remains a favorite. We thought we’d re-share it with you today.

candles-897776_1920

Light the glittering candles

Chant the ancient prayers

Spin the colorful dreidels

Eat the crunchy latkes

Sing a holiday song

Remember a Jewish miracle

Tear open a hundred gifts!

By Sam

 

notebook-1886731_1920Is your teen looking for something to do over winter break? They could be writing original work and submitting to these amazing publishing opportunities.

ONE TEEN STORY

ONE TEEN STORY is an award-winning quarterly literary magazine that features the work of today’s best teen writers (ages 13 to 19). One Teen Story is looking for stories about the teen experience, especially dealing with issues of identity, friendship, family, and coming-of-age. They publish 4 stories a year, with subscribers receiving one great short story at a time in print or on their digital devices. Submissions are free and open from now until May. Read more here.

CLAREMONT REVIEW

The Claremont Review publishes the best poetry, short stories, short plays, visual art, and photography by young adults (ages 13 to 19) from anywhere in the English speaking world. They publish work in many styles that range from traditional to modern, preferring pieces that explore real characters and reveal authentic emotion. Submissions are free and open from now until April 30th.

The Claremont Review also hosts an Annual Art and Writing Contest for contestants aged 13-19, with prizes of up to $1,000 CAD. Submissions open in January and should be postmarked by March 15th. Read more here.

 

books-1835753_1920

2017 Foster-Harris Prizes for Young Writers

The University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, in recognition of the Professional Writing Program’s 65th anniversary in the college, invites submissions for the 2017 Foster-Harris Prizes for Young Writers. Two $500 awards will be given, one for a short story of up to 1000 words by a high school student and another for a short story of up to 2000 words by an undergraduate student. There is no entry fee.

The University of Oklahoma’s Professional Writing Program offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees focused on creative writing for publication, including fantasy, horror, mystery, suspense, romance, and other popular fiction genres, as well as screenwriting and commercial nonfiction. The program focuses on building a writing career by learning the business of publishing while studying creative writing under award-winning, best-selling professors with long and successful publication histories. For more information, click here.

Entrants will retain all rights to their entries. Entries must include a header with the student’s name, school, and email address. They should use a 12-point font and be formatted with one-inch margins and page numbers.

To submit, email the story as a Microsoft Word attachment to Harris.PrizeATouDOTedu.

Students currently enrolled in a U.S. high school, grades 9-12, should use this header:
Harris Prize for High School Students

Students currently enrolled as an undergraduate in a U.S. college or university should use this header: Harris Prize for Undergraduate Students

Entries must be received by March 1, 2017 at noon. Winners will be announced in May 2017.

Mary Anna Evans, Assistant Professor
Professional Writing
Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communications
University of Oklahoma
For further information on Harris Prize, email Harris.Prize@ou.edu
For information on the Professional Writing program, email maevans@ou.edu