Student Writer at Discovery Green
It doesn’t always have to rhyme,
but there’s the repeat of a beat, somewhere
an inner chime that makes you want to
tap your feet or swerve in a curve;
a lilt, a leap, a lightning – split: –
thunderstruck the consonants jut,
while the vowels open wide as waves in the noon-
by Eve Merriam (1916-1992)
This is a poem that greatly influenced new WITS Writer Florence Miyamoto.
M. Yvonne Taylor has worked as a professional writer and editor for more than 20 years and in the field of education for 13. She graduated with a degree in English from the University of Houston and earned a master’s in liberal arts from Southern Methodist University. After a few years working as a technical writer during the high-technology boom of the ‘90s, she discovered higher education, becoming assistant director of publications and minority community affairs at Rice University. She was assistant editor of the university’s flagship magazine, Sallyport, and later worked as assistant director of student activities at Reed College, an English instructor at Lone Star College, and a high-school AP English teacher.
An essayist, who occasionally uncovers a poem while crafting prose, Yvonne writes restaurant reviews, bios, web sites and blogs and is working on a book about single motherhood, which helped her attain a Gardarev artist’s residency in Boston in 2011. Her book is to be a collection of personal essays and interviews with other single mothers in her nationwide tribe. Today, an essay was published on xoJane.
Yvonne particularly enjoys teaching young people how to use the personal essay as a vehicle to explore their role in and relationship to the world around them. She’s thrilled to have the opportunity to help students share their personal stories, vision, and talent this school year with Writers in the Schools.
A book that inspired Yvonne as a child was Katy’s First Day, by Jeane Konder Soule with illustrations by Aliki: “My mom read this book to me to prepare me for the daunting first day of school. Like Katy, I was shy and nervous, but I found school to be a fun, exciting adventure. I still remember the surprise Katy’s mom left for Katy in her front pocket.”
Find out more about through Yvonne’s blog.
Layla Benitez-James was born and raised in Austin, Texas. She realized early on that she absolutely loved Texas and studied English, Spanish, and creative writing at Trinity University in San Antonio. She was lucky enough to continue her Texas tour in Houston where she is currently an MFA student in the University of Houston’s creative writing program. Layla enjoys riding her horse, Tonka, and reading and writing poetry and short fiction.
As a new WITS writer I would love to help young writers discover new authors who inspire lifelong obsessions with creative writing. I remember getting obsessed with different lines of poetry or novels and they would just play in my head over and over and eventually find their way into my own work.
I was first introduced to Edna St. Vincent Millay in seventh grade with the poem “Counting-Out Rhyme.” I loved all of its rhymes and rhythms and memorized it so I could have it with me wherever I went. I cannot read it or recite it without smiling.
Silver bark of beech, and sallow
Bark of yellow birch and yellow
Twig of willow.
Stripe of green in moosewood maple,
Colour seen in leaf of apple,
Bark of popple.
Wood of popple pale as moonbeam,
Wood of oak for yoke and barn-beam,
Wood of hornbeam.
Silver bark of beech, and hollow
Stem of elder, tall and yellow
Twig of willow.
WITS Writer Megan Applegate
A southern girl (and proud Texas Aggie) at heart, Megan earned her MFA in creative writing in 2004 and celebrated by spending the next seven years in Alaska. She currently resides in the Katy area with her Prince Charming husband and four amazing children. Life is never dull around the Applegate house. A former reporter who loves to ask a million questions, Megan writes middle grade fiction and specializes in fairy tales, folklore, and mythology… believing every story needs at least one troll!
This year, Megan’s biggest hope in the WITS program is to model the idea that imagination can take you anywhere and that you’re never too young, too old, or too anything to dream (and write!) big. Megan’s inspiration has always been Shel Silverstein, and “Crowded Tub” was the first poem she ever memorized:
There are too many kids in this tub
There are too many elbows to scrub
I just washed a behind that I’m sure wasn’t mine
There are too many kids in this tub.
Landscape with Birds by Lucien Freud
My fall made a fortune of the alphabet
The small city trembled like a drum
Opera chants smelled like garlic
The sky looked like a clump of salt
Your secret was a gift to the tongue
The continent filled with ashes
The ink slipped into my tongue
The metaphor shot tomorrow into a million pieces
The flame jumped into a storm of Oklahoma stars
The crowd leaped over the fortune of gifts
In the morning my tongue swallowed my flute
Friday was born by laughing and remembering
My spitted truth made a knot in my tongue
by Luis, 7th grade
Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers
Poems for a Quarter Century
Saturday, November 3, 2012
7:00 p.m. Free Public Program
Sasha West, poet, professor, and literary editor, will curate an evening of poetry readings about art and artists whose work hangs in the Menil Collection, including poems by Writers in the Schools students who visited the museum through the Writing at the Menil program. The Menil Collection is celebrating its 25th year anniversary with special events and programs.
Students reading art-inspired works at The Watchful Eye Reading in May at the Menil
Jonathan Safran Foer, whose novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is the 2012 pick for Gulf Coast Reads (www.gulfcoastreads.org) will be at the Houston Public Library this Saturday, October 27, at 2 PM. Mr. Foer will go on at 2 PM, but the event kicks off at 12:30 (Doors open at noon) with the Main Street Theater interpreting a scene from the book. Refreshments will be served and special guests, such as Mayor Parker, and last year’s Gulf Coast Reads author, Chitra Divakaruni, will be joining us. The event is entirely free and open to the public.
WITS Writer Weezie Mackey has worked after hours to help Amaris revise this short story. Congratulations to Amaris and Weezie for such excellent work. We’re very proud!
Program Director Jack McBride and Weezie Mackey at Discovery Green
Led by WITS Writer and renown performance poet Emanuelee “Outspoken” Bean, WITS is offering free Spoken Word workshops every Wednesday starting today at Smith Neighborhood Library. Open to all high school students, workshops will be from 3:30-5:00 p.m.
Smith Neighborhood Library
3624 Scott St.
Houston, Texas 77004
Workshops on the following dates:
February 13 (Celebration)
Dr. J. Matthew Boyleston, Interim Dean, School of Fine Arts at Houston Baptist University, will read selections from his collection of poetry Viewed from the Keel of the Canoe at 7:00 on Thursday, October 11th at 7pm in the Fine Arts Museum at HBU.
Matt is a former WITS writer and a big supporter of Writers in the Schools.
Poems and essays in The City, Confrontation, Religion and the Arts, Transgressive Culture, The Madison Review, Yemassee, Time of Singing, Tipton Poetry Journal, The Roanoke Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Portland Review, Sierra Nevada Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Harpur Palate, The New Orleans Review, The Flint Hills Review, Puerto del Sol, The GSU Review, The GW Review, The South Carolina Review, The Powhatan Review, Poetryfish, Writers at Carolina, Aspects, The Echo, Carolina Writes and The July Review.
Meet acclaimed children’s author Lois Lowry at Cool Brains! Inprint Readings for Young People
Lois Lowry at her home in Cambridge, MA
Lois Lowry is the celebrated young adult author of over 40 books, including Number the Stars and The Giver. Nearly 15 years after the release of The Giver, Lois Lowry has published Son, the fourth and final book of The Giver series. Son brings together characters from the previous three stories – The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger – to tell a story about the significance of human connection. Kirkus Review calls Son a book “written with powerful, moving simplicity…. As the final volume in this iconic quartet, it holistically reunites characters, reprises provocative sociopolitical themes, and offers a transcending message of tolerance and hope. Bravo!”
The event will take place on Sunday, October 14, 2012, at Johnston Middle School, 10410 Manhattan Drive (77096), at 3 p.m. (doors open at 2:30). Admission is free and open to the public. Lowry will make a presentation about her new book Son and will take questions from the audience. A book sale and signing will follow, giving families a chance to visit with the author. For information about this and other readings in the Cool Brains! Series, check out www.inprinthouston.org or call 713-521-2026.
New WITS Writer Chris Cander
Chris Cander is a novelist, children’s book author and freelance writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of national publications. Since entering a writing contest in fifth grade, she’s suffered from an insatiable urge to write. Hardly a day passes that she isn’t at her desk, trying to capture the hearts and souls of imaginary people on paper.
Chris graduated from the Honors Program at the University of Houston in 1990 with a BA in French and a minor in Political Science. In 1994, she attended the Ploughshares International Fiction Writer’s Seminar at Kasteel Well, Netherlands. The following year, she attended the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, where she was able to work alongside some of her favorite authors.
As passionate as Chris is about writing, she is even more so about reading. She can still remember certain passages from Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell, which is the book that first taught her that literature was the most powerful form of transportation. “I was gripped by Karana’s brave plight, her desires and her determination,” Chris says. “As I read, I can remember being simultaneously drawn into Karana’s story—and inspired to write my own. Listen:”
“Would the four winds blow in from the four directions of the world and smother me as I made the weapons? Or, would the earth tremble, as many said, and bury me beneath its falling rocks? Or, as others said, would the sea rise over the island in a terrible flood? Would the weapons break in my hands in the moment when my life was in danger, which is what my father had said?”
“The power of story is within all of us,” Chris says. “Being able to tell it—to write it—lends a fluency to the rest of life. As a WITS teacher, is my great hope to help others discover, tell and share their stories via the written word. Chris is a member of of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Author’s Guild, and MENSA. Her children’s picture book, The Word Burgler (Bright Sky Press) is now available for pre-order!
Vote for Writers in the Schools (WITS) and Aurora Picture Show to present our Moving Story Project program at the 2013 SXSWedu conference-the deadline is tomorrow! VOTE and SHARE here.
Moving Story Project was created to give students the opportunity to combine the arts of creative writing and film making (stop motion animation). Students leave the program with ways to talk and think about both art forms – creative writing and film making – analytically and deeply. Here is a past project:
- How can arts education raise the level of learning and prepare students for the 21st Century?
- How does media literacy improve writing skills, and how do improved writing skills influence the creation of the moving image?
- How can the integration of arts education into a language arts curriculum operating in a standards-based world improve student performance on standardized tests, efficacy in other disciplines, and student attendance/retention?
I think they were praying
for their dads, moms, brothers
and sisters. I think somebody
was praying for his mother
because she died. There are
white walls. The paintings are blue, black,
brown, and dark blue. The ceiling is
rough like the cement on the streets.
One painting looks likes clouds.
There is a train in another.
There is a cemetery. There are
six people burying someone.
I think the cemetery represents
where the artist that painted
these pictures died.
-by Eliseo, 3rd grade
Happy 109th Birthday to Mark Rothko! Our Writing at the Menil Program and the students who have walked through the Rothko Chapel have been continually inspired.
New WITS Writer Patrick James
Patrick Clement James is a poet, essayist, and musician. A graduate of the Manhattan School of
Music, he is currently a Master of Fine Arts candidate at the University of Houston. Having taught in
Montessori and public schools, he is excited to engage educationally with the community of Houston. In this capacity, he hopes to help students discover the power of their experiences, voices, and imaginations. One of his first resonating encounters with literature was when he read, for the first time, the final paragraph of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:
“Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a
grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood: and how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long-ago: and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.”
Welcome to the WITS team Patrick!
Join WITS this Saturday, September 15th in celebrating Hispanic writers at Librofest, a book and arts festival that highlights the Latino community. A free event hosted by the Houston Public Library, Librofest will include storytelling, writing workshops, book giveaways, crafts, and performances for the whole family. This inaugural festival will feature a reading from several celebrated poets and writers including Gwendolyn Zepeda, Claudia Kolker, Javier O. Huerta, and Sarah Cortez. Feel free to stop by exhibitors’ tables and discover what’s new from Writers in the Schools, Arte Público Press, Casa Ramírez, Houston Public Library, Literal magazine, MECA, Nuestra Palabra, and Society for the Performing Arts.
WITS will be hosting a free workshop for kids at Librofest, located in the library’s main building (first floor gallery area) at 1:45 pm. WITS Writers Weezie Mackey and Carmen Jacobsen will lead students in exercises that explore creativity and celebrate Latino community and culture.
Fun for all ages! We can’t wait to see you there!
When & Where
Saturday, September 15, 2012
11:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Houston Public Library’s Central Library Plaza
500 McKinney St.
Houston, TX 77002
For more information, click here or call 832-393-1313.
Current WITS Writer Miah Arnold and past WITS Writer Sarah Cortez will be reading at Kaboom Books tonight at LitFuse’s Fall Season Opener.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Kaboom Book in Woodland Heights
7:30 PM, free
Here’s the announcement from LitFuse:
WITS Writer Miah Arnold
For our Welcome To Fall season opener, LitFuse is excited to welcome three of Houston’s very best: Miah Arnold, Marc Phillips, and Sarah Cortez. Miah Arnold is the author of Sweet Land of Bigamy (Tyrus Books 2012). Her essay, “You Owe Me” (originally published by Michigan Quarterly Review) will appear in Best American Essays 2012. She grew up in a house attached to The Three Legged Dog Saloon in rural Utah, studied history at Carleton College, and earned a Ph. D. in writing and literature at the University of Houston. She has served as a fiction editor at Gulf Coast and a poetry editor at Lyric Poetry Review. Her work has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Nanofiction, Confrontation, Painted Bride Quarterly, and the South Dakota Review. She has received a Barthelme Award, an Inprint/Diana P. Hobby Award, and an Established Artists Grant from the Houston Arts Alliance for her work.
Marc Phillips. “Author, journalist, in print since 1991. Award-winning short stories, poetry. Debut novel The Legend of Sander Grant (Telegram 2009). Lives in Houston.”
Former WITS Writer Sarah Cortez
Sarah Cortez is the author of an acclaimed poetry collection, How to Undress a Cop, and winner of the PEN Texas literary award in poetry. She edited Urban Speak: Poetry of the City; Windows into My World: Latino Youth Write Their Lives (winner of the 2008 Skipping Stones Honor Award); Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery; and Indian Country Noir (Akashic Books). In May 2011, her latest project entitled You Don’t Have a Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens was released by Arte Público Press. Her most recent title is “Walking Home: Growing Up Hispanic in Houston,” a mixed-genre, groundbreaking memoir. Her work has appeared in The Sun, Rattle: Poetry for the 21st Century, The Houston Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, The Texas Review, New Texas, Louisiana Review, Blue Rock Review, Pennsylvania English, The Midwest Quarterly and elsewhere and is widely anthologized in collections by Penguin, the Great Books Foundation, and other international publishers.
This week is National Arts in Education Week. Ask your schools about their commitment to arts education, and ask them about WITS!
WITS Writer Shane Lake
Shane Lake was born and raised in Mattapoisett, MA. He left the Bay State for Pennsylvania, where he was a student in the creative writing program at Susquehanna University. In 2012 he received an MFA in poetry from Arizona State, and he is currently a doctoral student in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Houston. Shane’s thoughts on what he wishes to accomplish with WITS:
As a new WITS writer, I hope to help students find their individual voices, and to help them realize that they all have important stories to tell. I owe so much to the great teachers I have had in the past, and I just want to pass on what I have learned to younger generations of writers.
Excerpt from a favorite childhood writing:
When I was growing up, my favorite book was Maurice Sendak’s classic, Where The Wild Things Are. I always loved the part where Max’s room turns into a forest:
“That very night in Max’s room a forest grew, and grew—and grew until his ceiling hung with vines and the walls became the world all around.”
After reading this, I always wanted the same thing to happen to my room.
Welcome aboard Shane!