Summer Camp 2014 Registration Opens January 31st

Posted January 27, 2014 & filed under Notebook.

IMG_7409

Sign up for Creative Writing Camp, sponsored by WITS and Rice University, in locations across Houston. Campers ages K-12 will immerse themselves in fun activities and exercises all focused around building and strengthening their love of reading and writing. Registration begins January 31st. Classes will fill up that day so mark your calendars!

Where Words Fly

Posted June 28, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Today nearly 1,200 Houston students are celebrating the amazing stories, poems, essays, autobiographies, and screenplays they have created this summer at Creative Writing Camp. The Summer Creative Writing Workshops are offered by Writers in the Schools in collaboration with Rice University’s School Literacy and Culture Project (SLC). We offer a supportive environment where children engage in writing stories, poetry, essays, and plays, as well as simply reading for pleasure. We place WITS writers in other summer programs this summer. Next year register early to get your children a spot in our camp!

Creative Writing Camp

Posted February 7, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Registration is filling up quickly!

Within the first 20 minutes of open registration, over 100 students enrolled in Creative Writing Camp, a WITS record! Though it comes as no surprise – with our 8 campuses, 70 classrooms, and now 23 years of camp – that parents and kids look to Creative Writing Camp as a staple of their summer plans. Enroll now and find out why Houston Press described the workshops as the “best effort to inject culture into Houston” and AOL City’s Best listed it among Houston’s 6 Best Summer Camps for Kids.

About Creative Writing Camp

Creative Writing Camp offers a supportive environment where children engage in writing stories, poetry, essays, and plays, as well as simply reading for pleasure. Through these activities even the most hesitant child discovers the joy in writing, the intrigue of language, and the confidence of authorship. Students will work with teachers and writers, and the low teacher-student ratios ensure individual attention. Workshops end with a culminating performance and/or reading, and each child will receive an anthology with their published work.

A Collaboration

The Summer Creative Writing Workshops are offered by Writers in the Schools in collaboration with Rice University’s School Literacy and Culture Project (SLC).

Check out the 2012 Camp Highlights:

2012 Creative Writing Camp Highlights from Writers in the Schools on Vimeo.

Re-imagining the Alphabet

Posted August 14, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

The inspiration for Russell’s poem came from a prompt I borrowed from Janine Joseph, a fellow WITS writer. The lesson is called “Re-imagining the Alphabet.” The lesson asks students to re-imagine letters as objects in their everyday world. We practiced doing this as a class, looking at the letter “M” and noticing how it could be imagined as a mountain or a crown and so on, and we also read and discussed e. e. cummings’ poem, “i.” Students were then asked to write poems of their own with letters we gave them (it was a coincidence that Russell received the letter “r,” which he used very cleverly in his poem).

Who Are You r

r is a diving board, hanging over a pool.

r is also a ladder,

helping people to

climb out of the pool.

r is both sides of a spear

or a battle-ax

and a soldier’s hat.

r is the targeting scope of a gun,

and the gun itself.

r is also the first letter of my name,

Russell.

by Russell, 3rd grade

Listening to the students read the wonderful poems inspired from this lesson was one of the high points of camp for me.

by Michelle Oakes, Creative Writing Camp faculty

Michelle Oakes is a poet pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Houston whose work has appeared in The Laurel Review and RHINO. She is a poetry editor for Gulf Coast: a Journal of Literature and Fine Arts and an instructor for the 2012 Boldface Conference. Michelle earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Central Missouri, where she was also Associate Editor of Pleiades: a Journal of New Writing. She taught at the River Oaks Elementary campus during Creative Writing Camp.

Scenes from Creative Writing Camp

Elizabeth Wolf-Fighter, Snake-Rattler, Boar-Eater

Posted August 9, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

In the 1800’s there was a girl named Elizabeth Wolf-Fighter, Snake-Rattler, Boar-Eater. She’s not an ordinary girl. She’s a thunderbolt, a strike of lightning, an alligator hunter. She’s as tough as an ox. One day she decided to head west. Along her way she came across some horrible conditions. Nothing  bigger than her normal. One afternoon, she was sitting against the body of a pine tree. Suddenly a fierce animal approached the tree when Elizabeth was training her pet cobra. The animal was a rare white large mountain panther with razor sharp teeth. The people of the woods were scared of the big white beast.

“That’s an easy one to wrestle,” Elizabeth said.

As she looked into the eyes of the big cat, she whispered to herself, “You’re too easy to wrestle so I can just bring you home.”

After she said that, the white panther looked more friendly. He roared and bellowed. Luckily, Elizabeth taught herself how to speak mountain panther. He said, “Yes, you can train me to be more fierce, like you.”

“Yes,” she said.

Then she packed up her cobra and got on the back of a mountain lion and road home. When she got home, the people were no longer afraid of the beast. “Hurray for Elizabeth Wolf-Fighter, Snake-Rattler, Boar-eater!” they cheered. Then everyone was friends with the panther.

by Mikala, 4th grade

Notes from WITS Writer Sarah Gajkowski-Hill at Creative Writing Camp:

At camp that day we had a discussion of how rough it would’ve been to be a pioneer and how their entertainment, after a long hard day of work, was telling stories. Pioneers wouldn’t have been too impressed with these stories unless the heroes and heroines were larger than life and won against the elements. This discussion led to the students writing tall tales and then we distributed clay and they molded their main characters out of the clay.

 

“Words” from Creative Writing Camp

Posted August 6, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

WITS Writer Lesa Boutin

From the first time Carson read his work for my teaching partner, Rosa Nam, and me, we knew we had a jewel. When he shared his writing, we would stare open mouthed at each other. This piece, “More Silence, Fewer Words,” was inspired by “The Quiet World” by Jeffrey McDaniel. I have no doubt that the day will come when I am standing in an autograph line, book in hand, hoping to have Carson sign it, and I’ll be able to say, “I knew him when.”

More Silence, Fewer Words

It is the year 2024. Everyone has a word counter, and can only say one hundred words. Everyday. The day starts off with a hug, a kiss, and five words. “I love you too, Mom!” My amount of words decreases, like a time bomb. Tick-Tock. Lunch at school is silent. This isn’t unusual, though. Instead of yelling our disgust for lunch, we make faces. Basketball after lunch has changed with the new law. Instead of whooping and hollering when we get points, we all clap. Loudly. The bully hears and silently punches us. The videogames I play after school have changed. They now sound like the old video games my dad played, silent, with the occasional beep or ping. After the word-consuming phone call from Gramma, Mom says, “Dad didn’t make it. I’m so, so sorry.” I feel empty suddenly, and feel like I’m dead, too. At the funeral, I break the silence. “I loved him so much. Now he’s gone.” I cry. I say no more words, since I am at my limit. I go to sleep thinking how I have to do this everyday. Forever.

by Carson, 5th grade

Submitted by WITS Writer Lisa Boutin

Lesa Boutin is a children’s author who discovered a love for every aspect of a book’s life, from concept to completion. With a background in education, Lesa started her own publishing company, Boot in the Door Publications, in 2006, followed by the release of her young adult novels, Amanda Noble, Zookeeper Extraordinaire in 2007, and Amanda Noble, Special Agent in 2008. Lesa enjoys sharing her imagination and passion for storytelling with her students. Lesa taught at the AOS campus in this summer’s Creative Writing Camp.

A Pantoum from Creative Writing Camp

Posted July 24, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Camp Instructor Abby Estillore, a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a BA in English and a secondary teacher certification from UTeach Liberal Arts, is currently completing an MA in literature at the University of Houston—Clear Lake. For the past eight years, she has been teaching English Language Arts to middle school students and serving as the grade level lead at Welch Middle School for HISD. Two years after recovering from open-heart surgery in 2008, Abby’s first poem, “Sleep,” appeared in The Marrow Literary Journal of the University of Houston–Clear Lake. She studies and writes poetry that focuses on language play, distortion, and imagination. This is her first summer working with the WITS Creative Writing Camp at the Bellaire campus. Here is a poem from her camp classroom:

To Do

To do you have to try
To know you have to learn
To stop you must defy
Success you have to earn

To know you have to learn
To get you have to reach
Success you have to earn
To help you have to teach

To get you have to reach
To fight you must stand tall
To help you have to teach
To rise you have to fall

To fight you must stand tall
To stop you must defy
To rise you have to fall
To do you have to try

by Aditya, 7th grade

Abby’s notes on the piece:

Though some structured poetic forms might feel restrictive, I took a chance introducing pantoums to my students. The majority of the group had an aversion to rhyming poems, so I thought about experimenting with the idea of recycling lines/phrases in poems as
well as allowing these lines to direct the poem’s path instead. In our final anthology, I did not expect several/multiple pantoum submissions; these poems carried a deep sense of the inarticulable and explainable, presence and absence. Of these sophisticated pantoums, I was impressed by Aditya’s “To Do.” Not only did he choose rhyming patterns, but he also infused a sense of urgency behind unassuming one-syllable words (try-learn, reach-teach, know-stop, fight-rise, must-have). The logical-poetical approach of his poem turns the philosophical into practicality. Aditya’s “To Do” is a straightforward, no-nonsense wise saying that should be printed on a WITS bookmark!

A snapshot of Creative Writing Camp

“My Alone Blues” from Creative Writing Camp

Posted July 23, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

WITS Writer Sarah Gajkowski-Hill

WITS Writer Sarah Gajkowski-Hill is a poet and local writer who reviews art, music, food, and individuals for publications such as 002 Houston Magazine and the Rice University Jones Business Journal. Gajkowski-Hill has been married to a local teacher for a decade and has three children who attend Travis Elementary School: Magdalena, Jude, and Frances Lisieux. Her most recent poetry has been published in Relief Journal and Dappled Things.

At the AOS campus, Sarah’s group played Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Houston Bound.” After talking about the origin and stylistic attributes of the blues genre, they read a chorus from “San Francisco Blues” by Jack Kerouac. Gajkowski-Hills says, “We talked about what bums kids out, and Sarah was feeling down that day about being an only child, which brought about “My Alone Blues”!”

My Alone Blues

Music inspiring campers

I’m all alone
Nothing to do
I’m as blue as
A blue sky day
Nothing bluer
Than that.
I’m all alone
Only toys and me.
If only I had
A sibling.
I’m all alone

And nothing to do.

I’m bluer than blue paint

On a blue day.

So hey, I’m all alone
And nothing to do,
I got the alone blues.

by Sarah, 4th grade

“A Tall Tale” from Creative Writing Camp

Posted July 18, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

WITS Writer Elizabeth A. M. Keel

One of our Creative Writing Camp instructors is Elizabeth A. M. Keel-a local novelist and playwright. Her plays have been produced by the University of Houston, The Nova Arts Project, The Scriptwriters/Houston, Big Head Productions, Bootown, and Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company. Her first novel, Running Into Trouble, was published in 2010. Elizabeth currently works as a teaching artist for the Alley Theatre, helping local teens write and produce short plays.

From Elizabeth’s Classroom:

 

A Tall Tale

Well, I was born out of an alligator’s mouth. When he tried to eat me, I punched his gut. When I went fishing, I would tie myself to a branch and fish with my bare hands. Once I tried staring down a fish. And it worked! Everyone wanted me to stare down the biggest fish this side of the Mississippi so I went and found it. I stared at it for five days and nights but it was just a rock.

by Jackson, 4th grade

This summer Elizabeth taught at our AOS campus, and had this to say about the above piece:

 As a playwright, I love hearing stories told out loud. Some of my favorites are the wild, exaggerated Tall Tales that came out of Texas and the rest of the American West. The camp lesson we formed incorporated colorful metaphors and the power of hyperbole – which, of course, can be more fun that a sack of badgers! But also offered the students the opportunity to write in a new voice: one of over-the-top, zany fun. Jackson’s Tall Tale portrays a classic surprise twist and a sprinkling of the humility that helps keep a Tall Tale hero in his place!

WITS Writer Leslie Gauna Featured on Nuestra Vida

Posted July 11, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

WITS Writer Leslie Gauna and her daughter Marina, a former WITS camper, will be featured on Sunday’s edition of Nuestra Vida on Univision Channel 45. A professor at the University of Houston pursuing a doctorate degree, Leslie has taught Creative Writing Camp and speaks with host Grace Olivares on the joys of teaching for WITS and the power of writing in the classroom. Tune in this Sunday morning, July 15, to catch the interview. You can also find the interview here: http://univisionhouston.univision.com/comunidad/nuestravida/

Creative Writing Camp Connects to Houston Arts and Culture

Posted July 9, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

In an ongoing effort to enrich creative writing through an integration of literacy and art, students at our Creative Writing Camp took field trips to iconic Houston art and cultural centers including The Menil Collection, Rice University, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. On these tours, they experienced and wrote about public art pieces, including James Turrell’s “Twilight Epiphany” and Jaume Plensa’s popular “Mirror.” Younger writers in grades K-2 were visited in the classroom by artists, including contemporary dancers and drummers, who help students find beauty and unexpected inspiration in art and culture. “Children are most stimulated by the things and activities that surround them,” said Robin Reagler, Writers in the Schools Executive Director. “Through the experience of seeing, touching and hearing art firsthand, our camp shows students that their writing is art and their words are powerful.”

Jameelah Lang, a second-year WITS writer goes on to say: “I continue to be fervently involved in WITS Creative Writing Camp because it teaches children that what they have to say is important. They learn writing skills dictated not by someone else, but by their own strengths and points of view.” This year’s summer Creative Writing Camp served more than 1,000 students, the largest turnout Writers in the Schools has ever seen. Stay tuned this month for poetry and writing from these field trips and camp.

Creative Writing Camp Highlights

Posted July 3, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

This year’s summer Creative Writing Camp served more than 1,000 students, the largest turnout Writers in the Schools has ever seen. Check out this slide show of the awesome 3 weeks we spent together:

2012 Creative Writing Camp Highlights from Writers in the Schools on Vimeo

Although the three-week program has ended, parents can still enroll their children at:

  • University of Houston-Downtown. One-week writing camps from June 4 through July 9 in suburban locations throughout Houston. Cost is $259 for grades 2-10 and $315 for grades 11-12.
  • Discovery Green. Free Saturday creative writing programs through August.
  • Jewish Community Center. Writing camp offered for children in grades 1-2 beginning July 23 and ending August 3. Cost is $375.

Visit https://witshouston.org/additional-summer-programs for more information.

2012 Summer Creative Writing Camp is hosted by Writers in the Schools (www.witshouston.org) and the School Literacy and Culture Project at Rice University (http://centerforeducation.rice.edu/slc/). This collaboration has been successfully reaching Houston youth for 22 years.

A huge thank you to Young Audiences of Houston (http://www.yahouston.org) for providing the wonderful visiting artists.

A Poem from Camp: What I Want

Posted June 29, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

What I Want

I want to crush the trash of struggle

that my people go through

for the invisible spirits of joy

to appear as happiness again.

I want to capture the moment when

the devastation of my people blows

away with the monsoon winds that

come from the north.

I want to remember how the

Vietnamese dragon once came,

bringing happiness like a rare toy

to our people.

I want to write about how the

wet rice fields were our only key

to survival and how my people will

bring peace to the world.

By Jacqueline

A Poem from Camp: Slow Beauty

Posted June 28, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Slow Beauty

A hippo ambles

on the sandy floor.

It strides and staggers

and saunters, uttering a low moan.

With great effort,

after a few minutes

of clear and glossy silence,

it hauls itself back

to the shimmering pond

making soft,

exquisite ripples.

By Seo-Ho, 4th grade

Notes from a Writer at Creative Writing Camp

Posted June 27, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Here are notes from Marcela Descalzi, who is teaching at one of the camp sites in the Montrose area.  Marcela shares about the “reign of kindness” that she and her teaching partner are experiencing in their classroom:

My writing partner Patty and I create community with “our” children. In 3 lightning weeks, we gather in the morning to celebrate writing. On our first day, we had asked the young writers to share values that helped build a community of kindness. Among words like respect, generosity and active listening, we were surprised to hear awareness. Our fourth graders were on a roll.

In our gathering circle of the morning, we share many of our own passions as we play Connections– a game that invites active listening and voicing moments and feelings from our day. It began to rain hard. When it was my turn, I said with a certain amount of enthusiasm, how much I loved the rain. Shortly after, as we introduced the Haiku, rain and thunder washed over our room. Submerged in the energy of rain anecdotes, I shared with them my attempt to capture feelings in a tiny bucket:

Love raindrops whipping

at the window sill

trying to get in

That same afternoon, over the bustle of goodbyes that mark the end our daily time together, one of our young poets dropped a folded paper into my hand. Ella left softly before I could ask her what she needed. I found this:

 

Rain, rain, rain

sprinkles down so softly

sounds like fingers

softly touching the stained glass windows

 

watch, watch, watch

the rain trickle down the window

 

run, run, run

out of the house to feel the rain slip down

my dark brown hair

 

but rain, rain, rain

what I love about rain

are the fingers it sets on my stained glass window sill.

 From that moment on, as Houston’s summer clouds offered water, many a young voice would herald the rain, just in case the adults in the room forgot to notice gifts of awareness sprinkling through.

A-washed with kindness

 within our community

of young WITS writers.

A Poem from Camp – Wonder

Posted June 26, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Wonder

(inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poem “Hope”)

Wonder is the thing with sun and light

That lands straight in the soul,

And twists and turns—all night

And only stops at the answer

And the brightest marvel is in the fire

And faith must be in the water

That could abandon the small weak light

That made so many wonder

I’ve seen it in the arid places,

And in the oddest land

But, never, in extreme,

It makes me question all that gleams.

By Amy, 5th grade

Notes from a Site Supervisor at Creative Writing Camp

Posted June 25, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Here are notes from Sherry Dubin, the Site Supervisor at the Creative Writing Camp in southwest Houston:

As site supervisor at The Shlenker School I get to see the power of Creative Writing Camp on a daily basis. I see it in the faces of the children as they arrive each morning eager to begin their day. I see it in the beautiful Color Poems authored by kindergarten children and the dramatizations of original stories that the first graders proudly perform. I see it in the third graders creating self portrait collages inspired by nature with eloquent descriptions, such as “My eyes are stars from the deep blue sky.” I see the power of camp in the second graders as they collaborate, rewriting a familiar song while the fifth and sixth graders use metaphors to describe themselves (“I am a clever fox hunting in a green forest trying to find a rabbit…or at least a friend”). I see it in the fourth grade students who gather together in small groups, collaboratively writing scripts to perform or creating individual Erasure Poems.

Children at camp thrive as they explore good literature, diverse genres, new authors, and all types of creative expression. They see themselves as writers. They are engaged, enthusiastic, and excited to share their writing. For teachers, writers, parents, and children, Creative Writing Camp is a gift…three weeks to discover or rediscover their writer’s voice, experience the pleasure of writing, and just have fun.

Notes from a Teacher at Camp

Posted June 22, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Here are notes from Elizabeth Winston, a teacher at Creative Writing Camp:

During the first week in my 7th/8th grade Creative Writing Camp class, my teaching partner and I had the students work on writing short stories.  This week, we shifted the focus to poetry.  What’s interesting about having students try their hand at different kinds of writing is watching them each discover what kinds of writing they truly like to do – what inspires them, what they feel they’re good at.  Some of our students immediately got very involved in working on their short stories, and were anxious to get back to them when we moved to poetry.

One student, however, took us by surprise.  This particular boy– his name is Alex – told us on the first day that his dream is to be a fiction writer.  We assumed he’d be one of the ones that wanted to get back to his short story. What he brought to me today to type up for the classroom anthology, though, were two poems.  I asked him if he had written poetry before, and he shook his head no.

“I don’t know if I’m doing it right,” he told me.  “But I really like it.”  In his eyes was an excited light – he had been inspired by the poetry we’d read and discussed in class, and nodded eagerly when I offered to give him the titles of several books of poetry I thought he might enjoy.  Alex had discovered a new love, which will hopefully be a lifelong one.  For me, the kind of excitement I saw in him is the greatest reward of teaching writing.

We’re Built Like Horses

We are built like horses,

Strong, free and stubborn,

Our manes meant to feel the wind

But we were not born as such

We do not live with tenderness or freedom

Because we were born into bondage

Unto fingers cold to the touch

Every step is planned

Every stray is punished

In a land ruled by the likes of injustice

Where lies spread like fires to an open plain

Speech is not free

Every word has a price

And we are afraid to speak

For our words are their scripts

We are not us

But those that they want us to be

Shackled by the atrocities of their rule

Under an oath to be their servants

So, I say, they must be cast away

Replaced with those true in heart

Overrun by those with knowledge and goodness

So that they may be realized as the monsters they are

Whey we finally open our eyes

The people will be free

Our ignorance will fade

And the sun will shine again

We are built like horses,

Strong, free, and stubborn

Truly free at last, horses we can be

By Alex

Scenes from Summer Camp

Posted June 21, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Creative Writing Camp is at the half-way point.  Field trips this year are to Rice University, the Menil Collection, and Glassell School/Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Here are a few snapshots by WITS Writer Nancy Pearson.