Exciting Year Ahead

Posted August 30, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

New Writers at Orientation

With 80 writers on our roster, we are excited about the new school year and community projects and partnerships that have been developed. We continue to engage children in the pleasure and power of reading and writing, and our vision is to continue to revolutionize the way reading and writing are taught, nurturing the growth of the imagination and awakening students to the adventures of language.

Writers with Guest Merna Hecht

With the addition of 23 writers this year, we hope to expand our reach and continue to fulfill our mission:

-Every child deserves a holistic education that encourages critical thinking, creativity, and personal responsibility.

-Writing is an art that must be practiced and developed over time.

-Low-income students can thrive and grow through high-quality art education programs.

-The relationship between the WITS writer and the classroom teacher is a partnership.

-WITS supports classroom teachers as they adopt new approaches to teaching creative writing.

-WITS writers reflect Houston’s diversity to meet the needs of the community.

-Everyone has a personal story to tell. WITS provides opportunities for storytelling and the skills needed to do it well.

Meet Merna Hecht

Posted August 24, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Merna Hecht, an amazing educator, poet, essayist, and storyteller, will visit WITS Houston this weekend for the annual Writer Orientation. Merna has thought deeply about the important role of stories and storytelling:

Stories are like mirrors in which we see ourselves reflected. When we keep the wisdom of stories
with us, we find the courage to explore our deepest complexities and ambiguities. I believe that
engagement in literary art forms that includes multicultural stories and poetry from diverse global voices can contribute to teaching us how to live in closer community with others. I think arts education can and must support students in learning to embrace and respect viewpoints that differ from their own. I believe every student deserves an active engagement with creative process and explorations of their own imaginative, creative and participatory capacities.

Merna has won numerous awards, including a 2008 Jack Straw Writers award, a National Storytelling Community Service Award, and a National Storytelling Network Brimstone Award for Applied Storytelling. Her participation in the Writers in the Schools orientation will take place August 24 and 25, 2012.

The Serbian Express 5

Posted August 23, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

I just got back from working with Creative Writing Workshops in Northern  Serbia, even on the Hungarian border.  I was in Novis Sad and Subotica and then  South, towards Macedonia at Nis. It was fantastic. We had between 23 and 33 kids in each group at each American Corners. In Subotica, I got to see Hungarian Successionist architecture and, as I was already a fan of Viennese Soccesionism, you can imagine my delight with this mixture of art nouveau and art deco. Riding to and from the American Corners I would have had my head out the window like my daughter’s dog Freddie, if only we could have opened the window. But when  you are in an armoured car, you just have to bend over and look in air-conditioned comfort at what is outside that window.  In Nis we saw the amazing Roman mosaic instead of having lunch, and it was a good thing that we did, because we returned to a brilliant group of creative writing students ready to work from a Word Board in teams and then individually to create “Found Poetry” and then on to some pretty heady intellectual discussions on creative writing to influence.
My favorite moment of the traveling Creative Writing Camp was certainly the afternoon group at Subotica with 33 students-so many students that we had to get out an extra card table and put the students on the steps two to a step.  I called those students “My Step Children” and they did very well.  I actually had always wanted step children (having three children of my own) so, as these were likely to be my only step children in this life, I enjoyed directing them and their work.  The librarians at the American Corners were fabulous. They worked to make the Awards, Best So Far for each assignment and then  Best of the Best, accurate, even installing of the Creative Writing Meritocracy. Today I have three talks, including a noon speech at the National Library of Serbia on Creative Writing. May your good thoughts be with me, along with “the Force” of course.

by Merrilee Cunningham, Writers in the Schools

The Serbian Express 4

Posted August 21, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

So tonight we wrote the invitations to the closing party of the Belgrade American Corners Creative Writing Workshop. They were very beautiful, and we look forward to giving out two sets of awards: the “Best So Far Awards’ in the morning and the “Best of the Best” Award in the afternoon. The “What’s in my Head” and “What”s in My Heart” assignment went great with some of the teenagers. One of the burning questions came when I asked the students to  tape the two pieces of paper according to how they should exist. Should the work about “What’s in my Head” be beside, below, or above “What’s in My Heart.”  Since the question is too hard for me to answer, even for myself, I love asking other people what they think about it. Generally, all the students refused to put one above the other.  They were willing to tape their two anatomies of their heart and head side by side, but they were firmly unwilling to put one above the other. Is it their age? Is it their culture? Are they right? Alas, I do not know. All I know is that there were not ambiguous about their unwillingness to make one subservient to the other.

This morning we had the author’s chair for the award winners; then we took another chair and had the Harry Potter chair with the sorting hat. This is all from two amazing websites that David showed us called HarryPotter wiki and Pottermore. On Pottermore, you can actually answer some interactive questions and be assigned a house. I was tempted to have the younger children do that and then write about what it meant to be accepted to their university house.  I am still working on thinking about a Harry Potter assignment. Time will tell if it ever amounts to anything.

Tomorrow we also have a skype meeting and this will be my first skype meeting. All of you that are very practiced in skype meetings I wish you were with me now so that I could have your wisdom.  There are four more Creative Writing Workshops in four cities, including a city that is very close to the Hungarian border. So Friday I will be leaving in the morning for one of the cities, though I will be back on Friday night in time for my weekend of wandering around the citadel, enjoying the Serbian endless appreciation of Rock and Roll and Jazz.  I had a big argument with one of the students about the musical value of Bon Jovi.  It seemed that we agreed on the greatness of Guns N’ Roses, AC-DC ,and Megadeath, but when he introduced the possibility of a musician appreciation of Bon Jovi, I suggested that he might as well add Kiss and give them all music lessons.  I hope he is at the party. I liked his passion for Guns and Roses.

Tonight I will walk past this amazing building on the plazza that combines the architecture of Austrian-Hungarian work with Soviet themes. It shows two men holding up the earth.  Now, as a lover of mythology, I hoped that I would be seeing Atlas, the Titan, and Hercules, the hero, sharing the terrible task as Soviet brothers.  But I believe, from the hammer-like image those same figures are working lower in the sculptural messaging.  Alas, today it holds a shop that sells designer bags.  Off I go to sleep, but I will pass Atlas and Hercules, interpreted in the early  20th century by a genius who might not approve of the Marc Jacobs pocketbooks.

by Merrilee Cunningham, Writers in the Schools

Serbian Express 3: The Power of Pizza

Posted August 17, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

The American Center in Belgrade

This was the second day of the Belgrade Creative Writing Camp and it was amazing. Last night, this guy brought a group of ten teenagers into the American Corners who belong to a club that has a stipulation of membership that you have no parents taking care of you.  There are other stipulations of age as well, but that first one can be a real shocker. They came in together and the leader explained that there would be more tonight, but there was a rugby game final that they were in so some of the guys would miss the first day.

We started working on Haiku from our books on Haiku and then they began to write their own as they build the hut of a great Haiku master from Japan.  They were great and soon laughing and talking with each other.  Then the pizza came. As a former debate squad coach and presently a coach of UHD’s Model UN Team, I can promise you that pizza (or the cheese on the pizza) is the glue needed for all student organizations. And it seems that the long-time leader understands what we do, the universal binding nature of this wonderful food invented just one peninsula away from the peninsular that is The Balkans.

This morning the children made hearts and told us what was in their hearts. And the answers are wonderful:

There is a bunny in my heart

My lost dog is in my heart

My brother is in my heart.

from the wonderful blog thirteen red shoes

Then we put sleeping masks on the students and drew the configuration that is their profile so they could write what is in their head.  I thought of this concept from looking at Eighteenth Century children’s cut-out portraits done in black paper. PPS announces that “Adventure requires a trusted friend” and this is, in part, a test of trust. Does the child trust the counselor enough to allow the counselor to take away an important protective aid (sight) in order to protect those eyes?  It was wonderful.  The children were so excited about what was going on.  They loved that their counselors were giving them an outline of their actual head. They loved the attention, and they wrote wonderful works about what lives in their heads and hearts.

What would it take to put a bunny in your heart, metaphorically speaking?

by Merrilee Cunningham, Writers in the Schools

Serbian Express 2

Posted August 16, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Today I am writing from beautiful downtown Belgrade.
After an adventurous flight in an almost empty plane headed for London to pick up American Olympians and their followers, I waited at Heathrow with the Slovakian Olympic Team to fly to Vienna and then, sans athletes, on to Belgrade last night. Today, we had the first of our three-day Belgrade Creative Writing Camp at the American Center and it was a wonderful start. The children arrived mostly not knowing each other, so we had a round of introductions of the young ones and their five counselors. The counselors were great. They created a program of explanation of Haiku as a Japanese poetic form for the campers and made selections from the great Basho.  They created a word wall in Serbian and English all over the bookshelves of the library to allow the students to create ‘Found Poetry” in the tradition of “Found Art”.  Small Japanese umbrellas were placed in another bookshelf in order to ask the students why umbrellas exist, what and who protect them and what and who are they willing to protect.  After a rather serious question like that, a colorful little umbrella that usually goes into some summer beach drink made of juices is not only the focus of a rather serious work, but then after the Haiku House is built, the umbrella works well on the house itself. I call those “Creative Writing Camp Two-fers” after the notion of a two for one sale found regularly, in Houston, at your local drug store.
The American Corners librarians are very brave. Even when the bottles of glue and finger paints came out, there was not a sign of faint-heartedness. But then historically, Serbians have had to be brave to be where they are, basically, at cultural dividing points between different worlds.  This can be seen in their Cyrillic alphabet.  No one even signed (in any of their languages) at the placing of open cans of fingerpaint on the beautiful blonde wooden table. “No worries, we can always wash it off” was the only statement from the head librarian.  I was very impressed,  I am getting used to the young men, aged 7 or 8, who speak native English that they learned from computer games and television and are brought to the American Corners workshops to practice their English with “real human beings.” The notion that these kids have actually learned a language from machines is very interesting to me, as I tried the same thing at the Northwestern University French Lab many years ago with much less success. Let me repeat, these machine-taught, native English speakers are 7 and 8 years old.

This afternoon we will start the Creative Writing Camp with the older students. But now I am free to go to the Citadel. Most Serbian cities have a Citadel. They are terrifically useful to gather together behind powerful walls and in a high place so that you can focus your efforts on defending yourself against your enemy.  A culture with a lot of cities with Citadels tells you something about their expectations and their preparation for those expectations. They expect to be attacked. They expect to have to retreat to the Citadel. They expect to have to defend themselves there and to be plagued by plagues, overcrowdedness, and warfare. Today the citadel in Belgrade is an entertainment and market center, a place to enjoy music, lilke the amazing blues festival that they will have tonight or the jazz I heard last night in front of the Austro-Hungarian edifice of the National Museum.  There I listened to a young Russian girl, two middle-eastern young men, and a Serbian host, argue over whether or not one should live for pleasure or the contributions one can make to the betterment of mankind. All of this argument was in English, because it was their only common language as that took classic Roman positions of Marcus-Aurelius-lilke stoicism versus Hedonism.  It was all I could do not to enter the conversation, but then sometimes the young should travel this path by themselves, unlike our campers, who better have their four haiku ready by in the morning. As I dear old friend of mine would say, “more anon” from Belgrade Serbia on the Serbian Express.

by Merrilee Cunningham, Writers in the Schools

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

Last Few Days of Summer

Posted August 13, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Summer

Every time I walk in my room

I feel a great breeze of hot air
And a great pool of sunlight
That doesn’t make me freeze.
When I look at my bed
I see only one layer of blankets,
And if I look at the ceiling
I see a fan blowing air.

Outside everyone plays in the water
Splashing each other,
Building sand castles,
Or laying on a chair
Feeling the nice warm sunlight.

I can feel the warm sunlight on me
As I walk toward the water.
I have pale skin,
But in the summer
It’s pretty red.

Does anyone have suntan lotion?

by Bryson, 3rd grade

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.

WITS Writer Miah Arnold Launches Her Debut Novel

Posted August 2, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

WITS writer Miah Arnold began the launch of her first published novel with a book signing at Brazos Bookstore on July 19, almost selling out of the pre-ordered books on hand. Arnold has been on a national book reading/signing tour since.

Arnold is a fiction writer from rural Utah educated at Carleton College, The New School for Social Research, and the University of Houston where she earned a PhD in creative writing and literature. Her stories appear in a number of literary magazines, including Confrontation, Painted Bride Quarterly, and the South Dakota Review. She won a Barthelme Award for nonfiction in 2006 and the Inprint/Diana P. Hobby Award for her fiction at the University of Houston in 2008.

In Sweet Land of Bigamy, the main character, Helen, falls in love with and marries a poet from India, while her first husband is away in Iraq. “The Sweet Land of Bigamy is a funny and surprisingly touching exploration of what marriage can be.” Visit Miah’s web site for more reviews, information about her book tour, and to read her latest blog posts.

Upcoming Readings: 

Aug. 4 Reading at Auntie’s Books in Spokane, Washington
Aug. 6 Reading at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, Washington
Aug. 7 Reading at Broadway Books in Portland, Oregon

Allow Me to Introduce Myself

Posted July 30, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Allow me to introduce myself.

They call me the back breaker,

the rope shaker,

the billboard breaker.

They call me the wireless TV connector,

the earth shaker.

They call me the perfect piece of the world.

They call me the United States President.

They call me the Steamer.

Allow me to introduce myself.

by Mark, 2nd grade

WITS Students Create Walking Tour with Poetry

Posted July 27, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

SPARK Park

The 2011-12  Writers In The Schools class at Meadow Wood Elementary School consisted of 69 amazing, creative students and 3 teachers who worked hard to honor the building of a new school. The students collected objects and memories to place in a time capsule; then they scripted a poem, with each student reading his/her line, which you can listen to as you walk a 1 mile walking tour through SPARK Park. Click here to access the audio walking tour and a map of the park. Congrats to a wonderful project honoring our city!

Time Capsule Items

Hear Our Houston is a collection of public generated audio walking tours around Houston.

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.

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.