Texas Teen Book Festival Hits Austin on October 7th

Posted October 3, 2017 & filed under Event, News, Press, Student Writing, WITS People.

The Texas Teen Book Festival brings nationally known YA authors from across the nation for readings, writing workshops by WITS’ sister program Badgerdog, and even a literary costume contest. Participants in the FREE event will get to meet Renee Watson, Jason Reynolds, Marie Lu, Adam Silvera, Jennifer Mathieu, and many more.

WITS student Pearl R. is a Houston-based member of the BookPeople Teen Press Corps. Check out this post she’s written to encourage readers and writers to attend the festival in Austin on Saturday.

Calling all writers, readers, and lovers of kiwi!

 

Join us at the Texas Teen Book Festival in Austin, Texas, on October 7th, 2017. Yup, that’s this weekend, so I suggest that you get packing.

You will not want to miss this glorious occasion that The New York Times calls “life-changing and more fun than Wisconsin’s annual cheese-eating contest.”

(Editor’s note: The New York Times never said that and I’m pretty sure we’re going to be sued now.)

This festival features all your favorite YA authors! Some of them came willingly, and some of them we had to smoke out of their houses with firecrackers. We’re going to show these authors some Texas love, which means slathering them in barbecue sauce and putting them on a mechanical bull while they read opening lines from their books. Get ready for some fun!

In addition to lots of readings and book signings, there will be a literary costume contest and free writing workshops. The grand finale will be a Lord of the Flies inspired pig-hunting contest where the winner gets $10,000 cash!

(Editor’s note: This is why we shouldn’t let teens write for our blog. Seriously, I have no idea what this kid was thinking.)

By Pearl R

Letter from the Director

Posted September 1, 2017 & filed under News, WITS People.

Jarvis, age 5, tells his story, “Batman and Robin Saving People,” through a drawing.

Dear WITS Family,

Finally the rain has ended in Houston. The storm has affected each of us in some way, even those of us lucky enough to avoid flood waters.

After five days of mad precipitation, the deluge transformed into mist and disappeared. That’s when I noticed my Instagram feed was populated with hundreds of sky photos—not dramatic sunsets or hyperbolic clouds, just pale blue sky. Here in Houston, we have never appreciated blue sky as much as we have this week.

When we asked the WITS Writers if they wanted to volunteer to work with flood-affected families, all 30 spots filled in less than an hour. I am humbled to work with such talented, authentic, and generous poets and writers.

Thousands of evacuated families are living in the George R. Brown Convention Center. Although many of the children have experienced trauma, we are not asking them directly about their experience. Instead WITS Writers are bringing joy and playfulness to these kids, telling stories, building houses out of blocks, and pretending to be cars or frogs. As we’ve discovered in the classroom, the stories we most need to share come through, regardless of the subject matter. Humans are storytellers to the core. We connect with one another through language. Through poetry. That’s what makes WITS a powerful part of the healing process.

I have been moved beyond belief by the spirit of generosity demonstrated here in Houston this week. Our Democratic Mayor and our Republican County Commissioner are working as a dynamic duo. It seems as though everyone who remains unscathed is pitching in, helping to feed, clothe, and support those in need. Even the pop radio station that my cynical teens like best has been sharing tales of human kindness, ending with the refrain: “We are all neighbors. We are all family. We are #HoustonStrong.”

Nothing has brought our city together like this moment. It is truly inspiring. It makes me want to work harder than ever to bring the healing power of storytelling to every Houston child.

With love,

Robin

Joshua Nguyen, Robin Reagler, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Emanualee Bean, and Reyes Ramirez working for Houston’s recovery after Hurricane Harvey.

WITS Student Writes Poem of Hope to the City of Houston

Posted August 30, 2017 & filed under News, Notebook, Poem, Student Writing.

This morning, we received a touching gift – a poem written by one of our Writers in the Schools (WITS) students, Eshaan.

Eshaan, a 6th grader, crafted this poem during the course of his family’s journey through Harvey, and offers it up to the city of Houston as a way of bringing everyone together with words of hope.

Starting this week, WITS is volunteering at shelters to help more of our young neighbors tell their stories, because storytelling is healing, and we are #houstonstrong.

Hurricane Harvey: A Terrifying Tempest

Daily gales gossip of terror,
And tornadoes clone as if in infinite mirrors,
God watches over us though,
And as the winds blow,
He oversees,
Cities turning into seas.

I feel helpless,
As I pray for victims’ wellness.
Distraught and crying,
Kin of victims sighing,
Why is Mother Nature so cruel?

One minute there is sunrise,
The next moment you hear cries,
Young babies,
Old ladies,
All trapped in this haplessness.

A second Noah’s Ark,
God tells us to hark!
Batten down the hatches,
And as He snaps trees like matches,
Remember we are all one.

As bombs explode,
And tears flow,
Those on cloud seven,
Come down from heaven.
As barrages fire,
All unite in this horrid quagmire.

As we come together,
We will remake Houston for the better.
Resurrection is impossible,
But together we make it possible.
Harvey left distraught in his wake,
Many a person who stay awake.
If we unite as one,
We can get rebuilding done.

Neighbors help neighbors,
And the common man labors.
The hand hardened from oaring,
Helpful souls soaring.
911 is overworked,
As residents do their tornado homework.

We must pray,
And not stray,
Stay calm and strong,
For I believe God will see us through this storm.

By Eshaan

Meta-Four Houston Celebrates 10th Year

Posted July 20, 2017 & filed under Event, News, Public Poetry.


At 7 p.m. on Sunday, half an hour before the Meta-Four Houston vs. Houston VIP Send-Off Slam was set to begin, the performance space at Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston (MATCH) was already nearly full of families, friends, and fans awaiting an evening of pulse-pounding, breathtaking poetry.

The Send-Off Slam, part of a yearly slate of events leading up to Meta-Four Houston’s journey to Brave New Voices International, is more family reunion than competition. It’s a chance for Houston V.I.P., the nationally acclaimed adult slam team, to give their blessing and best wishes to the youth of Meta-Four. With many former members of Meta-Four going on to join Houston V.I.P. as adults, the collaboration serves to cultivate the next generation of gifted slam poets and grow Houston’s poetry scene year by year.

When all the performing team members and judges were in place, Emanuelee “Outspoken” Bean, head coach of this year’s Meta-Four team and the DJ/emcee/scorekeeper of the night, kicked off the event with an introduction to the roots of slam poetry and an explanation of the slam’s format before volunteering himself as the “sacrificial poet,” the first performer of the night to brave the judges’ evaluations and the audience’s reactions.

After a joking round of all ones (with a single nine) for the sacrificial poet, the competition began in earnest. First up was Meta-Four, performing a searing group poem about school shootings and America’s seeming indifference to gun violence. Next, Houston V.I.P. sent up a single team member whose voice trembled with emotion as she performed a poem comparing black lives ended too soon to flowers ripped from the ground before being given a chance to fully bloom.

With each round came individual and group poems from both teams that covered a wide range of personal and political themes: “problem kids” in school, human trafficking in Houston, fears and phobias, and self-defining success in the face of personal challenges. The collection of performances had viewers in spellbound silence, peals of laughter, and most of all, full of shouts and snaps.

The judges were tough, and as is tradition in the slam world, audience members were quite vocal in reacting to the judges’ scores. Only one poem received not just one, but multiple scores of ten out of ten: MetaFour’s “Kill Bill,” a haunting poem about the daughter left behind in the wake of Philando Castille’s murder, and the irony of fictional characters receiving justice that real-life victims do not. The final tally was close, with only seven-tenths of a point difference, but Meta-Four emerged victorious.

This year’s send-off held a special significance, coming at the ten year mark for Meta-Four. The youth slam team was founded in 2007 by Shannon Buggs, a member of the WITS Board of Directors, after her first visit to Brave New Voices International. In the ten years since, the program has grown and evolved with collaboration from WITS Executive Director Robin Reagler, Houston Poet Laureate and former WITS Special Programs Manager Deborah DEEP Mouton, Meta-Four Coordinator Emanuelee “Outspoken” Bean, and Sixto Wagan. Director of the University of Houston Center for Art & Social Engagement. In addition, Brave New Voices International celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year, and in the slam’s inaugural documentary-style podcast, Meta-Four will be one of three teams followed on their journey through the competition.

As the Meta-Four team jets off to San Francisco today, with their pockets full of poems and the wind of past successes at their backs, we here at WITS send our best wishes for an unforgettable Brave New Voices experience and look forward to ten more brilliant years from the bright burning star that is Meta-Four.

by Willow Curry

Analicia Sotelo’s Houston Reading 5/27/17

Posted May 25, 2017 & filed under Event, free Houston event, News, WITS People.

WITS Communications Strategist Analicia Sotelo will read from her new chapbook, Nonstop Godhead, on Friday 7pm at Brazos Bookstore. She will be joined by WITS Board Member Roberto Tejada and WITS Writer Beth Lyons. Nonstop Godhead recently won a fellowship award from the Poetry Society of America. It was selected by Rigoberto Gonzalez. Sotelo’s first full-length book, Virgin, will be published by Milkweed Editions in 2018. It is the winner of the Inaugural Jake Adam York Prize.

Fiction Writing Contest for Young Texans

Posted May 6, 2017 & filed under Contest, Fiction, News.

The Annual Fresh Ink Writing Contest is now accepting submissions. Texas students in middle and high school may apply.

Here’s some information from their site:

Winners receive a cash prize: $250 for first place, $100 for second, and $50 for third. In addition, winners are awarded a plaque, have their stories published on the TBF website, and are invited to participate on a panel during the Texas Book Festival weekend. Entries must be 2,000 words or less, 12 point type, double-spaced, and related to the 2017 Fresh Ink Fiction Contest theme: “Funny Running Into You Here.”

Read the complete guidelines before applying. The submissions are due June 1st, 2017.

U.S. Poet Laureate To Visit Houston

Posted April 17, 2017 & filed under Event, free Houston event, News, Public Poetry.

April is National Poetry Month, and U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera will make a special Houston visit on Wednesday, April 19th. Herrera is the son of migrant farmers. He has published 30 books in his illustrious career, and he was named the first Mexican-American U.S. Poet Laureate in 2015. The University of Houston – Downtown will host this performance and discussion in the Robertson Auditorium at 5:30 pm. The event is free, and the public is invited to attend.

 

 

Soapbox Youth Nonfiction Slam

Posted December 1, 2016 & filed under Contest, Event, free Houston event, News, Student Writing.

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

Happy National Novel Writing Month!

Posted November 1, 2016 & filed under Contest, Event, free Houston event, News, Notebook, Student Writing.

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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.

Send-Off for Meta-Four Team!

Posted July 8, 2016 & filed under Event, free Houston event, News, Student Writing, WITS People.

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Join WITS on Saturday, July 9th, 2 pm as the Meta-Four Houston team gives their FREE farewell performance at the Live Oaks Meeting House on 26th Street in the Heights before jetting off to Washington, D.C. to perform at the Brave New Voices International Festival. Meta-Four Houston recently won first place in the state of Texas. Come check out these talented poets!

Date: July 9, 2016
Time: 2pm
Location: 1318 W 26th St Houston, TX 77008

 

 

Visual Poetry Exhibition Featuring WITS Students on Display

Posted July 6, 2016 & filed under Event, News, Notebook, Poem, Press, Student Writing.

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The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) Graphic Design Research Initiative (GDRI) and Writers in the Schools (WITS) recently collaborated on a special project that featured WITS students and University of Houston graphic design students.  The GDRI students turned the children’s poems into graphic designs, using inspiration from various fields, including concrete poetry, expressive typography, and Dadaism. The visual poetry exhibition is currently on display in Houston’s City Hall Annex. Click here to read about this innovative project.

Mid-Main Festival Proceeds to Benefit WITS

Posted May 24, 2016 & filed under Event, free Houston event, News, WITS People.

 

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Spend an evening with WITS on Thursday, June 2nd, 6-10pm for Mid Main’s First Thursday event. There will be live music, performances, art shows, tasty drinks and appetizer specials. A $5 donation will give guests access to the Art Garden and drinks from Topo Chico, St. Arnold, and Deep Eddy. Proceeds will benefit WITS and help us bring the WITS creative writing program to more Houston children!

Location: 3700 Main Street 77002

Cost: FREE

 

Dear Poet 2016

Posted April 15, 2016 & filed under Contest, News.

It’s National Poetry Month, and students in grades 5-12 are invited to enter the Dear Poet Competition this April. Students respond in the form to one of a select group of poetry videos, including the one above by Juan Felipe Herrera, the US Poet Laureate.To enter, email your letter to dearpoet@poets.org by April 30, 2016. Winners will be published on the poets.org website in May.

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Poetry Contest | Bayou Preservation Association

Posted April 13, 2016 & filed under Contest, News, Notebook, Poem, Student Writing.

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Middle and high school students from the surrounding Houston area are invited to participate in the 2016 Watershed Awareness Student Contest! The theme is Our Bayous, Our Pollution. Houston- area bayous and waterways lead to Galveston Bay in turn affecting the Gulf of Mexico and its Flower Garden Banks. Help raise awareness about our local watershed and bring attention to the importance of the health of our local waterways, bayous and our bay! We challenge you to research, explore, interpret and say something meaningful about the connections between human activity and the health of our bayous and ocean through art or shape poetry.

Download the complete contest details here >>

Happy writing!

Grocery Poems

Posted April 10, 2016 & filed under News.

What if food could talk? During April WITS showcases food-themed poems written by Houston students, reaching 600,000 customers at four H-E-B markets: Montrose, Buffalo Speedway, Bunker Hill, and San Felipe. So, as customers pick through apples, they read poems about apples. These students words make shopping a unique experience at H-E-B! The grocery poem project is made possible by H-E-B Tournament of Champions, Copy.com, and the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance.

 

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Work for WITS | Summer Internships

Posted March 3, 2016 & filed under News.

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Writers in the Schools is looking for enthusiastic college students to join our team of interns this summer. These exciting and rewarding positions will work alongside writers and teachers to get youth excited about writing.

Internships begin June 1st, 2016. Both full-time and part-time positions are available. Applicants must be enrolled in a college or university and be 18 years of age or older.

Please visit our Work for WITS page for more info and to apply >>

 

 

 

 

Sign Up for 2015 Common Ground Teachers Institute

Posted May 6, 2015 & filed under Event, News.

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WITS will sponsor two courses being offered at the 2015 Common Ground Teachers institute that will be held from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. June 26 – July 10. For more information about this innovative institute, click here. Teachers who submit a reservation by May 31st (extended to June 10th) will be offered a place in one of this summer’s Common Ground seminars. After June 10th, participants will be added on a first-come, first-served basis until each seminar is filled. Please contact Keri Myrick with any questions.

Apply for the 2015 seminars here.