Ekphrasis

Posted December 14, 2017 & filed under Notebook, Student Writing.

Run. Run and hide from the world and reality. Run until you are free of this world, of this place of laws and truths. Run until you find a place where anything could happen: the Narnia in your closet. Escape from judgement and the restrictions that come with it.

Embrace the darkness, the morbidity. Let the shadows spill over the wet, black earth. Allow the wolves inside and let them rip up the house. Let the child run away, and then what? What next? Well, that’s your choice. My choice. Anyone’s choice.

Never lose hope. The sun always comes up, until it doesn’t. The world spins until it doesn’t exist.

No judgement, no limits. Not once the writing starts.

 

by Carson, 8th grade

On This Porch

Posted December 12, 2017 & filed under Lesson Plan, Notebook, Student Writing.

 

On my parents’ porch, I feel a gust of air as I walk out the screen door. Am I hot? Am I cold? No. I am just right.  But even here, there’s a twisted feeling in my gut, my long lost dog sits in ashes on the top shelf of my parents’ desk. The screen door separates me from the air conditioning and the wild weather.

 

I rest my arms and elbows on the eleven-year-old railing and look down at the ditch under our driveway.  I used to catch tadpoles there.  On this porch I hear the waves beating on each other, the waves I body surfed on all afternoon.  My childhood flashes before me. Blink! All the memories of my siblings, preschool, my friends and cousins.

 

I look behind and see the little gray table with the tall chairs where my parents come to talk. I could sit on this porch for the rest of my life, listening to the waves.  I feel at peace thinking of my first friend, my dog, my childhood, what I felt as a baby.

 

All the responsibilities which I have now will only increase in high school, college, and adulthood. I feel all my life again and again in a matter of seconds, though I have had ten long years on earth.

 

I may not be old, but I have seen more than I think is humanly possibly.  On this porch I am all I’ve been, all at the same time, even in my dreams.  It is nothing but a miracle.

 

by Ryan, 4th grade

Playground

Posted November 27, 2017 & filed under mentor text, Notebook, Student Writing.

The trees sway in the wind, dancing upon our eyes. The joy-filled kids swarm past us like a flock of angry geese. The mud bestows heavy layers of stains at the tips of my shoes, leaving them with a brown bumpy concoction. The blades of grass at my feet tickle my toes, while the mulch does its job and makes the grass disappear. The fresh air roars through my skin, making its way into the roots of my hair. The sweat forms on my skin like rain in a thunderstorm, the warmth of the sun works its way down to the tips of my toes, to the roots of my fingernails. The pasty wind runs through my nostrils, leaving me with a sudden surge of cold. The creaks of the monkey bars crack through my ears, as love-filled kids rock upon them. The shrieks of laughter reach my ears like a mighty roar of thunder. The teachers happily talk to one another as if just meeting an old friend. The birds chirp above us sitting on trees stuffed to the brim with leaves. The playground is a place that makes any visitor feel free.

By Ella, 4th grade

A Travel Guide to My Heart

Posted November 20, 2017 & filed under Notebook, Poem.

 

Welcome to hot, humid Houston. If you travel northeast, you might find a place I love most: my home. You can take a right and find a wonderful white house. It’s so special with my mom, dad, my 5-year old brother, Sam, my 8-day old baby brother, Shepard and my two dogs, Gus and Zeus. Also, two beautiful fish used to live there, but they died.

Come with me and travel west. You’ll find my most beloved grandmother and grandfather. You’ll find them in a red brick house. Please travel east. A candy shop awaits! I could eat all the candy. If I could, I would spend tons and tons of hours eating chocolate. Come up North, flying high in the sky. See clouds as you pass by. Then you’ll see a paradise where you can relax. I will play in the pool all day long. It is a place I call Florida.

by Nellie, 1st grade

How The Leech Family Invigorates the Arts in Houston

Posted November 2, 2017 & filed under Notebook.

The ninth annual WITS gala, Many Voices | One Houston, is coming up soon—November 9 at the Astorian. (Tickets and tables are still available.) As we anticipate this celebration of Houston’s resilient voices, we’d like to take a moment to highlight some of the accomplishments of this year’s gala honorees, The Leech Family.

 

The Leech Family has been dedicated to making art, music, and writing available to everyone. Perryn Leech serves as Managing Director for the Houston Grand Opera. Together with WITS, the HGO continually showcases Houston voices in a variety of forms including poetry, opera, and spoken word. After Harvey hit and floodwaters rose, the HGO was forced to temporarily close its doors. But, as Perryn Leech said in an interview with The New York Times after the storm, “Houstonians are robust. We’ll come up with something that gives them an opera season.” Before long, the HGO managed to continue its season at the George R. Brown Convention Center, dubbing the repurposed space “The Resilience Theater.” The show must go on.

 

The inspiring works of The Leech Family don’t stop there. Caroline Leech is an author whose YA debut, Wait For Me, was published by Harper Teen earlier this year. Her second novel, In Another Time, will be out next spring. (Read an interview with her here). The Leech children are also artistic forces: Jemma, Kirsty, and Rory are high school students at Lamar HS and HSPVA, and have been WITS students for more than a decade. The oldest, Jemma, is an award-winning poet and essayist who has garnered national attention. “Poetry fills my soul with delightful hues of life’s momentary escapes into bliss, and torment,” Jemma said. “Language is my paint and my keyboard is my brush.” She is living proof of the healing power of poetry and storytelling.

 

Gala attendees will be treated to a moving performance of “The Jemma Songs” by the Greenbriar Consortium quartet, featuring Julia Fox, soprano (Houston Grand Opera); Anne Leek, oboe (Houston Symphony); Daniel Strba, viola (Houston Symphony); and Paul Boyd, piano (Foundation for Modern Music). The performance will include poems written by the honoree, Jemma Leech, beautifully set to music by Houston composer, Mary Carol Warwick.

 

Together, the Leech family passionately promotes the artistic power of the written word. Their efforts to preserve the arts in Houston are inspiring to us all. Please join us in honoring them at the Many Voices | One Houston gala November 9, an evening where we’ll come together as a city and a writing community to celebrate the resilient spirit of Houston.

Inprint’s Cool Brains! Presents Newbury-Winner Katherine Paterson

Posted October 31, 2017 & filed under Notebook.

Great news for readers both young and young at heart: As part of its Cool Brains! Reading series, Inprint presents an afternoon with Katherine Paterson, two-time winner of the Newbury Medal and the National Book Award. Paterson will give a presentation about her new middle grade novel, My Brigadista Year at Meyerland Performing & Visual Arts Middle School on Sunday, November 12 at 3pm. A Q&A will follow the talk, as well as a book sale and signing.

 

A beloved and bestselling middle grade author, Paterson is best known for Bridge to Terabithia and The Great Gilly Hopkins. Both novels have been adapted into movies within the last decade and remain celebrated parts of many school-reading programs. Paterson’s new novel, My Brigadista Year, tracks the efforts of the brigadistas, a group of mostly young women who sought to eradicate illiteracy in Cuba. Any WITS supporter will recognize the brigadista campaign as a worthy cause.

 

About the novel, Publishers Weekly says, “Through Lora’s naïve but openhearted perspective, Paterson weaves in details about Cuban history and the events that led to the overthrow of the Batista regime and the rise of Communism… Paterson’s story is without political agenda, focusing instead on an improbable (and successful) literacy campaign and how it dramatically expands the world of one sheltered but determined girl.”

 

WITS extends an invite to fans and families to come meet a living literary legend! This even is free an open to the public. Doors open at 2:15pm. For more information, visit Inprint.

 

*Please note that the book signing will be conducted on a first-come, first-served basis. Upon entering the theater, people wishing to have books signed will be given a number, and the book signing will take place in numerical order after the on-stage presentation.

Call for Submissions: The 2018 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

Posted October 25, 2017 & filed under Notebook.

Here’s a great opportunity for young writers and artists to get recognition for their hard work. The 2018 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are open for submissions from all students in grades 7–12. All middle and high school students are invited to submit original writing and works of art and writing in 29 categories of visual and literary art, including essays, drama, fiction, humor, journalism, poetry, and more. All submissions are blindly judged based on: originality, technical skill, and the emergence of a persona, vision, or voice.

Teen poets whose work receives a Gold Medal have the opportunity to receive scholarships and awards, to be published, and to be selected as National Student Poets, the nation’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work, selected by the U.S. Poet Laureate and other amazing jurors. Graduating seniors may submit Portfolios.

Scholastic Awards recipients earn opportunities for recognition, exhibition, publication, and scholarships. In 2017, the Scholastic Awards distributed more than $250,000 in direct scholarships and more than $5 million in scholarships was offered to Scholastic Awards participants by colleges and universities across the country. Visit artandwriting.org/how-to-enter to learn more about the submission process.

Submission deadlines vary by region. The Harris County submission deadline is Monday, December 4, 2017. Visit artandwriting.org to create your profile.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious recognition program for creative teens. The early promise of some of our nation’s most accomplished and prolific creative leaders has been identified through the Awards, such as Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, Charles White, Philip Pearlstein, Sylvia Plath, Kay WalkingStick, Luis Jiménez, Ken Burns, Stephen King, Lena Dunham, Richard Linklater, and Zac Posen. Will you be next? Submit your work and find out!

Questions? Contact info@artandwriting.org.

Nadiyah’s Island of Cats

Posted October 20, 2017 & filed under Fiction, Notebook, Student Writing.

If I had my very own island, it would be near Hawaii. What makes my island special is the fact that it has all the cats in the world. My mom, sister, grandparents, aunt and baby cousin live there. (No boys allowed, except for my grandfather.)

My island has crystal blue water and white beaches. Coconut trees, pineapple trees, palm trees, and banana trees cover the island. Cat toys and cats cover the island. The island is 1,000 miles long and 1,000 miles wide (so we and the cats have enough space.) We each have our own two-story house. There is a 100 miles long and 100 miles wide island connecting to our island. It has plants growing. All the types of fruits and vegetables in the world grow on them. A large cellar under the ground stores all the food. There is also a pool if we get hot.

Gardeners collect ripe fruits and vegetables every day. Then, chefs cook a meal with the bountiful harvest. They set the table in the dining hall and serve us our meal. We also have a garden filled with all the flowers in the world and a smaller garden filled with herbs and spices. We have a tiny spa just in case we strain our backs or our nails get damaged, especially for our gardeners. There are vets if the cats get sick. We have our very own hospital if we get hurt, too. My island is awesome.

by Nadiyah, 4th grade

(photo from pixabay.com)

Fire

Posted October 15, 2017 & filed under mentor text, Notebook, Poem, Student Writing.

I am fire in the wind.
One little spark
can ignite the entire world. The air
crisp and smokey,
the fire big and beautiful.
I am that wildfire,
spreading like gossip in teen girls’ hands.
My ways of life are dangerous; I lunge from tree to tree,
It takes 1,000,000 people to slow down my fiery
reign of terror.
The outcome of my worldwide scare is poor.
I leave people with almost nothing to live on.
But with pain
comes beauty,
and I watch as friends and family, mountains and trees
gather together
to build the world up again.
I am not all bad
for my flames create opportunities
to get stronger, more powerful.
I can transform the weakest squirrel into the strongest lion.
When my destruction ends, I am exhausted.
I tell myself that my wildfire is a warning.
My silent, screaming
message: stay alert.
Another fire is coming.
I am the fire in the wind, ready to ignite.

by Irene, 5th grade

Minute Maid Park

Posted October 13, 2017 & filed under Event, Notebook, Poem, Student Writing.

 

Minute Maid

Saturday!

Five forty five  A.M.

Screaming, booming

Jose Altuve, Orbit, Carlos Correa

Play games, eat ice-cream

Two months!

Happy.

by Anthony,  2nd grade

ZOOM

Posted October 6, 2017 & filed under Notebook, Poem.

Love cries out with joy.

Infinity multiplies forever.

The Earth gets dizzy from spinning.

My friend loves me.

All of these ideas make my heart zoom!

 

by Isabelle, 1st grade

Houston

Posted September 22, 2017 & filed under Notebook, Poem, Student Writing, WITS People.

Summer melting

into Fall

a perfect morning

letting the wind

wash over you

on the porch.

Lime Ice

reminds you

that the sweaty

days are over.

You enter

the realm

of cool breezes.

Gleeful children

run through

the streets

laughing,

returning home

to dinner,

garden fresh.

 

by Lila, 5th grade

The Shelter of Imagination

Posted September 11, 2017 & filed under Notebook, WITS People.

Meggie with Armoney, age 6,
at George R. Brown Convention Center

Days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, WITS Program Manager, Meggie Monahan, volunteered at George R. Brown Convention Center, reading, writing, and playing with children who had been displaced by the storm and floodwaters. Meggie reflects on the power of imagination, the generosity of listening, and the resilience of children. Read an excerpt from “The Shelter of Imagination,” which originally aired on KPFT 90.1 FM’s “So, What’s Your Story?”.

When I was a child, our sticky Pennsylvania summers were filled with “make-believe” games. My siblings and I strung stage curtains out of old Sesame Street bed sheets. We wrote new & improved scripts for our favorite Disney movies, and we choreographed music videos for Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” album. Then one summer, our parents got a new refrigerator. And in the weeks to follow, that huge empty box in the garage became pure and total magic. It was our special hideout: a dark and cool refuge from parents and chores, an escape from mosquitoes, and a ticket to a bigger world.

I haven’t thought about that refrigerator box in a long time. But last week at the George R Brown Convention Center, I recognized it from across the room as Davion and Abu led me by the hand to their special fort. We snaked our way through a sea of cots and blankets and belongings, and there was this beautiful empty box— a space that could be anything at all, anything they wanted it to be. There, smack-dab in the middle of noise and need and exhaustion and loss, these boys had chosen to stand on the shoreline of their imaginations and create a new, more hopeful world.

I came to Houston to study creative writing, and I stayed in Houston because of Writers in the Schools, an organization that believes in the life-saving power of the imagination. We believe that every child has a voice, that every voice is valuable and deserves to be heard— and that the act of sharing our stories is what makes us human, and what connects us to each other. When talking about WITS, I like to say that “wherever kids are, that’s where we want to be,” and that includes inside a cardboard box in the middle of the 4th largest city in the nation.

In the aftermath of Harvey, I’ve had the opportunity to sit with some of our city’s children at the GRB and the NRG and listen to their voices. And it has reminded me and affirmed in me two things: one, that kids are kids wherever they go. And two, that playfulness, imagination, and creativity are trustworthy tools for healing. Even after being displaced by a hurricane, kids want to sit in your lap and wear your sunglasses. They want to pretend to be tigers and practice their super hero moves with you, cover you in stickers, and braid your hair. Most of all, when they believe you are truly listening, kids want to talk. They are natural storytellers, and they want to tell you about their pets and their best friends and their dream vacations, and what they want to be when they grow up. And at WITS, our most important job is to listen— to really listen— and to celebrate and encourage and elevate children’s words at every level.

And that’s what I love about WITS: that we as a community of writers are committed to excavating and elevating the stories of our young people, and emboldening them to use their words to create a more just and beautiful world. And one day these kiddos— the Davions and Abus and Tianas and Bobbies and Anthonys and Nathans and Christiannas and Zias— all of these children are going to tell stories to their children about what happened when it rained for days and days they needed to leave their homes and live in a new and unfamiliar place. And it’s my hope that peppered within their stories and their families’ stories, there might be some small, treasured moments of play, lightness, and getting to be a kid, even in the midst of tragedy.

There is an Irish saying that “it is in the shelter of each other that the people live,” and I would expand upon that by saying, “It is in the stories of each other that the people live.” When we take the time to sit and listen to the story of another person, especially a child, they may not know where to start— but the act of listening is powerful and invites generosity and willingness in the speaker. And when children know they are being listened to, they can’t help but fill empty spaces— air and pages and cardboard boxes— with all kinds of magic. Their giggles bounce across poured concrete floors. Their litanies of favorite foods transform phrases like “shrimp with garlic butter” into prayerful syllables in a crowded convention hall. And their Red Ninja lava super powers are, somehow, enough to defeat the Blue Ninja’s endless waves of water.

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

Death

Posted August 5, 2017 & filed under mentor text, Notebook, Poem, Student Writing.

Death is not

a tall figure dressed

in black.

It doesn’t have an intimidating

black cloak

or a skull for a face,

and it doesn’t bear a scythe to kill you.

We shouldn’t have to see Death as

this monster,

this scary,

violent,

ruthless

monster.

Maybe if we saw

Death

in a different light, not as a scary

entity, but as a small

but strong,

kitten

with dark–but not black–fur

and large, white, caring eyes,

we wouldn’t be so afraid

when Death crawls into our laps

to take us away.

 

by Cheyenne, 7th grade

The Warrior

Posted July 27, 2017 & filed under Notebook, Poem, Student Writing.

 

The fire beside her was freshly

Lit and crackling. He stood there,

Above her sleeping body,

Quiet and waiting,

Waiting for her to awake from her

Peaceful sleep. The last

Dose of sunlight shone

On her face. Before, he too,

Went to sleep for the night,

He stood there thinking,

Thinking of what chaos would come

After this silent morning.

“Why am I doing this?”

Unable to find the answer,

He stood there watching,

Watching her and waiting.

 

by Mary, 10th grade

Revision Strategy #3: Rubber Banding

Posted July 18, 2017 & filed under Lesson Plan, Notebook, Student Writing, WITS People.

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With younger children, this concrete activity called “Rubber Band Stretching” works well.  Demonstrate how a rubber band starts out small and can be stretched much larger.  Read a simple sentence out loud, and ask for suggestions about how to expand it.  After a student successfully stretches a sentence by adding new words, hand her a rubber band ball.  When a second student stretches the sentence further, the first student passes the ball to the second.  The game continues until it is impossible to stretch the sentence anymore!  Students then apply the lesson to a piece of their own writing.

With older students, the rubber band can be used to discuss sentence length in more complexity. Bring in a strong piece of writing that includes short, medium, and long sentences.  Discuss the various effects.  If you have a geo board, you can actually record or map out the sentences using rubber bands.  Show how the rhythm of a piece changes depending on sentence lengths.

As a spinoff activity, ask students to map out sentence lengths in advance.  Then, try to write a paragraph that fits, and notice how the paragraph sounds.  For older students, it is empowering to see how they can control the rhythm of their piece just through sentence length.

-Marcia Chamberlain, WITS Houston

My Name

Posted June 23, 2017 & filed under Notebook, Poem, Student Writing.

My name is all the numbers because

I don’t have a favorite.

 

My name is silver because

it is shiny and is in Slytherin.

 

My name loves vegetarian cooking

that makes me hungry.

 

My name is the peaceful sound of the sea

and the sound of a stormy sea.

 

My name feels happy when I save

my money to take a trip.

 

My name means HUMANITY!

 

by Vishwa, age 6