Writers Promoting Peace, Democracy, Unity, and Hope

Posted January 13, 2017 & filed under Event, free Houston event, Notebook, Poem.

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.

Ode to Snowy Owls

Posted December 31, 2016 & filed under Notebook, Poem, Student Writing.

 

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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

The Best Christmas of Onasis Rodriguez

Posted December 25, 2016 & filed under Notebook, Student Writing.

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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.

Hanukkah Poem

Posted December 24, 2016 & filed under Notebook, Poem, Student Writing.

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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

 

Call for teen poetry!

Posted December 7, 2016 & filed under Notebook.

adult-1850177_1920Who: The Poetry Society of America

What: The Louise Louis / Emily F. Bourne Student Award

When: Entries must be postmarked by December 22, 2016

Why: The winner will receive $250 and recognition by the Poetry Society of America

About the Award

Endowed under the wills of Louise Louis Whitbread and Ruth M. Bourne, this prize is awarded for the best unpublished poem by a student in grades 9 through 12 from the United States.

Parents

Any high school student can send a single entry in for a fee of $5.

Teachers

You or an administrator from your school can submit an unlimited number of your students’ poems, one submission per student, for an entry fee of $20.

The Details

Entry should have one cover page and two collated copies of the poem. No previously published work can be submitted and translations are ineligible. Poems by more than one author will not be accepted. A poem that has previously won a PSA award cannot be re-submitted.

Find out more about the award requirements here: www.poetrysociety.org/psa/awards/annual/student_poetry_award

 

 

My Grandma’s House

Posted December 6, 2016 & filed under Notebook, Student Writing.

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The outside of the house has bright red bricks and dark green tiles on the roof. Her path to the front door is so pretty. It has all kinds of rocks that are yellow and orange. Her front porch has a long swing where at least three people can fit. Her swing is hard as a rock, with flowers all over it, all a different color. It’s the only place where I can calm down and just relax. Her backyard is gigantic. She has her vegetable garden there: tomatoes, green beans, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, onion, and potatoes.

I can smell flowers, chicken soup, lemonade, and my favorite perfume: Chanel No. 5. All of these smells will never leave her house. Even when we clean her house and spray different things, these smells never leave. I will always remember these smells. Even though they are just scents, these scents can also have memories.

I can hear bird calls. Each time is different. I think they are singing, but really they’re just talking to each other. I can hear the leaves rustling whenever the wind is strong. I can hear the squirrels running around and playing, and sometimes it sounds like they are laughing. My grandma’s house is never silent and is always talking.

I can feel the warmth from the oven whenever my grandma is baking cake or cookies. I can feel the porcelain dolls my grandma collected. I can feel the love my grandma gives me, and anyone who enters her house can feel it, too.

I always water the flowers whenever my grandma can’t. I like playing with the mysterious cat that comes to visit me. I also like playing with my best friends, the twins Liliana and Eva. Even though I can’t sit on my grandma’s lap like I used to, I sit next to her on her favorite couch and we talk for hours. I can never bear when we have to leave and come back to Houston, but there is always another summer vacation.

by Lila
Hamilton Middle School

Youth Poet Laureate

Posted November 15, 2016 & filed under Notebook.

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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.

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.

Oppression

Posted October 25, 2016 & filed under Notebook, Poem, Student Writing.

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

Green Windy Forest

Posted October 5, 2016 & filed under Notebook.

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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

Who will be the next Houston Youth Poet Laureate?

Posted September 22, 2016 & filed under Notebook.

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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.

 

Michelle Obama invites WITS Student to the White House

Posted September 13, 2016 & filed under Notebook.

 

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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!

 

WITS at HAP Conference | Sept. 9-10

Posted September 7, 2016 & filed under Notebook.

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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 »

Lila’s Bag-Free Bayous Petition

Posted August 29, 2016 & filed under Notebook.

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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 »

Are you the next Houston Youth Poet Laureate?

Posted August 24, 2016 & filed under Notebook.

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 »

Game Changer

Posted August 17, 2016 & filed under Notebook.

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 >>

Restaurant Week Supporting WITS

Posted August 15, 2016 & filed under Notebook.

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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)!

The WITS Family: Bettering Others, Bettering Ourselves

Posted August 4, 2016 & filed under Notebook.

by WITS Intern, Danielle Resh

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If I had to pick the most important qualities for a person or an organization to cultivate, I would choose three things: a capacity for empathy, a hunger for personal growth, and the ability to be true to oneself.

At WITS, empathy means seeking to truly understand and support others. It feels like the warmth of an encouraging hand on a struggling student’s shoulder. It sounds like the silence of closed and patient lips waiting for the right words to arise. It tastes like fresh banana bread baked by WITS staff members to sweeten the early mornings.

At WITS, personal growth means constantly working to improve ourselves and ensuring that our actions and values align. It looks like stacks of parent and teacher evaluations, each one carefully read and considered. It sounds like hands grazing walls covered with art and writing as we roam from classroom to classroom, seeking new ideas. It feels like a child’s sweaty palms as she overcomes her fear of public speaking and reads her poem aloud.

 

Continue Reading >>