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

Jokes and Jingles and More!

Posted June 18, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Do you ever wonder what goes on at Creative Writing Camp?  Some folks think that campers spend 3 straight hours writing stories (a good thing, for sure!), but so many other kinds of writing happen, too.

In school most children learn that the main purpose of writing is to persuade.  During camp kids love to explore all the ways to use written language, including to entertain, surprise, explain, amuse, and delight.

Here’s a list of some of the kinds of writing that we do during camp:



advice columns










puppet shows



movie scripts

want ads





travel logs

tongue twisters


I Want to Write

Posted June 14, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Campers in 5th and 6th grade read Margaret Walker’s poem “I Want to Write” as inspiration for thinking about the subjects that they might want to cover during Creative Writing Camp.

Here is a poem that uses anaphora to highlight what kind of writing this camper wants to do:

I want to write

I want to write for my fathers and forefathers

I want to write about war across the universe

I want to write words coated with light

I want to write hope for my people

I want to write

By Ben, 6th grade

Collage Poetry Game at Camp

Posted June 13, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Rob Kimbro, a theatre director and educator, is co-teaching with WITS writer Kiki Przewlocki a class of entering 3rd graders at the Creative Writing Camp this summer and shared this about his first day:

Writer John Looking for Inspiration

The 3rd grade class at Travis Elementary got off to a great start with a game of Everybody Who…  This game is similar to Musical Chairs.  The person without a chair has to share something true about themselves, and everybody else for whom that thing is true has to get up a find a new chair.  When the chaos dies down, a new person is left in the middle. That person shares a true thing about themselves, and we’re off again.  After learning a lot about each other, we wrote poems based on what we’d shared.  Here’s a collage poem made of lines from each of the young writers.

Collage Poem

I am poetic

I am an illustrator

I like sushi

I know how to write in cursive

I am really, really strong

I have been on a plane

I hate sushi

I like to read and write

I want to be awesome

I like chocolate marshmallows

I am a great artist

I love sports

I have an ear for everything

I can ride a bike

I have good parents

I have a good sense of humor

I like math

I have a bunk bed

I love the computer

I ate chocolate ice cream last week

My dance style is snazzy

Poetry Reading at Brazos on Thursday

Posted June 6, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

On Thursday, June 7th at 7 PM, please join us at Brazos Bookstore to hear read two former WITS writers, Glenn Shaheen and Lauren Berry.

Lauren’s book The Lifting Dressis a National Poetry Series Selection for Penguin. Lauren received her MA from the University of Houston, where she won the Inprint Verlaine Prize and served as poetry editor for Gulf Coast.

Glenn’s work has appeared in Ploughshares, The New Republic, and many other journals.  He received an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston and works as the Secretary of Communication for the Radius of Arab-American Writers, Inc.

Calling Houston Young Writers

Posted May 9, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Summer is coming.  Have you made your plans? There are still spaces available in the Writers in the Schools (WITS) Program.

Who: Middle and High school students

What: Summer writing workshops

Where: Bellaire High School

When: June 11-29, 9 am -12 noon

Why: Because you have a story to tell

How: Click here to sign up today

In the Creative Writing Camp, you explore different literary genres (poetry, fiction, essay, drama) with friends. You learn about craft and revision in one-on-one conferences with published authors. Through multi-disciplinary projects combining text and art (such as painting, sculpture, or music), you will also find new ways to address a particular audience. At the end of the three weeks, you will publish your best work in an anthology and celebrate!

  • Write your own poems and stories, real or imaginary.
  • Compose an essay or a manifesto.
  • Perform your play.
  • Discuss your revisions with published writers.
  • Spend your Fridays on the Rice University campus.
  • Gather material and gain the skills to write a great essay for college applications.
  • Visit a real publisher.
  • Publish your work in an anthology.
  • Make friends with other writers.

Click here to find out more from a Rice News story. This summer program is sponsored by Writers in the Schools (WITS) and Rice University’s School Literacy and Culture Project.

Space is very limited. Click here to enroll.

Call for Submissions: Slinging Ink

Posted March 2, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

From our friends at DiverseWorks:

Slinging Ink is a war of words in which you are invited to submit your own writing about a given theme.

This round’s theme:
Babysitting for Fun and Profit

Deadline for submissions: March 15, 2012.

The selected winner receives $100!

Stories and more – both true and imagined – from all the points of view of the babysitting experience: the parent, the babysitter, or the babysat.
Jockeying for an in-demand sitter on date-night, or coming home to a house in turmoil.  Making mad stacks as a pre-teen, raiding the fridge, or finding out what it takes to put the brats to bed. As a child: testing limits, exploring mischief while free of ordinary restraint, or falling in love.
As we know, babysitters may be adept or inept; they may be kind or cruel.
We’re looking not only for creative writing, but other short forms and documents, like letters, reports, memories, wish-lists, notes, manuals, proposals, complaints or recommendations.

Dig these out of your shoebox, or write them down for us.

To submit your brief submissions (between 1500 and 1800 words), first download the doc form or download this Google Doc form.

Please send COVER SHEET and RESPONSE TO THEME (in .DOC format) to [email protected] by March 15.

A “blind” panel will select four writers in April and will invite them to read their work for an audience on May 8, 2012.

The audience will select a winner for the evening who will take away a $100 prize.

The review panel:  Hank Hancock, Kate Schmitt and Kyle Henricks.  More info about the panel here.

Send questions to Hank Hancock at [email protected].

Writing/Yoga Retreat

Posted February 15, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Are you a teacher?  writer?  mom?  dad?  CEO?  Then you might be feeling the winter blues.  Here’s your chance to re-charge with a midwinter retreat where you will practice Forrest Yoga ®, Mondo Zen, and Creative Writing with a Zen practitioner and a teacher from Writers in the Schools (WITS).

Where: Blackwood Educational Land Institute (Hempstead, TX)

Instructors: Zenrin Jeff Goodman and MaryScott Hagle

When: February 11-12, 2012


This brief retreat is designed to “spark you up” and light your way through the last few weeks of winter. You’ll get tools for building physical and emotional health, a new approach to spirituality and opportunities and inspiration for creative expression.

Facilitators MaryScott Hagle, a WITS writer, and Zenrin Jeff Goodman, a Zen priest, will guide your journey through yoga practice, MondoZen sessions and writing exercises in the beautiful serenity of Blackwood Educational Land Institute.

About the practices

Forrest Yoga ® cultivates strength and flexibility through sequencing principles designed over three decades by Ana Forrest, who sees yoga as central to her mission of “mending the hoop of the people.” Forrest Yoga emphasizes breath, core work and hands-on assists from teachers to help students get maximum, stress-melting benefits from every pose.

Hollow Bones Zen/ Mondo Zen, developed by Jun Po Roshi, is a form of Zen Buddhist practice stripped of cultural and monastic confines that offers immediate and portable benefits after just three sessions. You’ll gain deep insight into the truth of who you are, enhancing your ability to transform your reactions and interactions and understand the purpose of your emotions. If you have been curious about meditation, or if you’re a failed or lapsed meditator, Mondo Zen will give you just the kick start you need to begin or revive your practice.

Field Writing is the working title for a group of creative writing practices MaryScott has developed through her work with students of all ages for Writers in the Schools (WITS) and as a consultant for HISD. Field Writing exercises cultivate introspection, reflection and invention across genres and in a variety of settings.

About the Setting

Blackwood Educational Land Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to land-based learning that encourages the spirit and feeds the soul as it challenges and educates the mind. It inspires all of us to be complete, healthy and accountable to ourselves, our colleagues and our natural world as a whole. Located near Hempstead, Texas (about one hour from Houston), a formerly neglected tract of land has been turned into a living learning environment. There are many wooded acres, a pond fed by a natural spring, abundant plant and animal life, and more. Blackwood is an ecosystem and living classroom that inspires and teaches students of all ages to explore the natural web of life and to develop a healthy, respectful relationship with nature.

More information?
Email MaryScott at [email protected]

Photo by patriziasoliani via Flickr

Writing Retreat for Kids and Parents

Posted February 9, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Have you ever wanted to attend a writing workshop with your son or daughter?  Now is your chance!  Esalen Institute, a workshop and retreat center in Big Sur, California, is offering a special opportunity for parents and children to journey together into the imagination.


Here is the information about Rip the Page! A Workshop for Kids and Parents from the Esalen website:

Weekend of April 13-15, 2012

Rip the Page! A Workshop for Kids and Parents

Karen Benke

“This is an imaginative writing weekend for children aged eight to fourteen and their parents to loosen up on the page while experimenting with zany poem-making prompts, dares and double-dares, and truths and lies,” writes Karen Benke. “This experience can un-stick ideas, dreams, and stories. We will erect a fun and safe tent of wonder in which to unleash the dreaming and doodling sides of our minds as we put the zing back in our writing and capture images guaranteed to connect to our hearts and voices. This is a creative writing play-shop where the punctuation police are left behind and best-guess spelling is more than fine. No grades. No gold stars. Just plenty of encouragement and quirky experiments involving magic word tickets that you’ll make and take back home. No prior experience is necessary. All materials are provided. Simply arrive with a willingness to surprise yourself and a fast-moving favorite pen. On Saturday afternoon, we’ll be joined by singer/songwriter, Scott Grace, who will create on-the-spot songs using our poems and literary creations.” 

Please note: This workshop has the following schedule. Friday: 7:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday: 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; 3:30-6:30 p.m. Sunday: 9:30-11:30 a.m.

Reservations Information (Accommodations & Pricing)

Summer Camp Registration Begins Today

Posted February 1, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Registration for the 2012 Summer Creative Writing Workshops is now open. Our program, named the Best Summer Program for Kids by the Houston Press, is produced through a collaboration between WITS and Rice University. This year we will have locations conveniently located throughout Houston. Click here to register online.

Get WITS in YOUR School!

Posted October 10, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Writers in the Schools (WITS) is offering a second price reduction for qualifying schools.Through a generous donation from the Simmons Foundation, Writers in the Schools (WITS) announces a second price reduction for the 2011-2012 school year. The new price—which is nearly half of last year’s fee—is available for Title 1 schools with 60% or more students eligible for the free/reduced lunch plan.  The discount is available on a first-come first-served basis.

Why consider WITS?  Research has shown that students who complete the WITS program perform better on standardized tests than their counterparts.  Over 10 years of data collected by University of St. Thomas Professor Dr. Carl Scott indicates that students who complete the WITS program demonstrate:

  • improved writing skills
  • greater self-efficacy, and
  • higher test scores

than those who did not participate in the program.  In a new study called “The Effect of Creative Learning on Student Achievement” by the Houston Arts Partners found that WITS students maintain:

  • Increased attendance
  • Better behavior in school

If you choose WITS for your school, we will tailor the project to fit your needs..  The cost of the program includes:

  • Professional writers who teach the writing process from a practitioner’s expert point of view
  • Bilingual writing teachers (upon request)
  • Optional field trip to a local art museum or other cultural venue, and
  • Publications of student writing free-of-charge for every participating student.
The discount for Title 1 Schools with 60%+ free lunch students are:
Full year           $1,000/classroom        (compared to last year, $1,800/classroom)
Half year           $500/classroom           (compared to last year, $900/classroom)
Typically we serve several classrooms in each weekly visit. For more information, please contact WITS Associate Director Long Chu (713.523.3877 or [email protected]) for more information.

Through the Eyes of an Intern: My Summer at WITS

Posted July 27, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

When I applied to intern at Writers in the Schools (WITS), I wasn’t exactly sure what I would learn. As an education major, I had no background in creative writing and very limited experience with non-profits. I wondered what sort of insights would I gain from working with WITS. Two short months later, I am leaving 1523 West Main with an armful of incredible experiences and valuable lessons learned.

Getting to be a fly on the wall at the WITS office this summer, I was given an authentic experience of the non-profit world. I was invited to sit in on meetings, converse with the WITS staff, and participate in the summer programs. From those opportunities, I have learned about non-profit structure and some of the challenges of non-profit involvement in education. I now have a true appreciation for the “behind the scenes” work of non-profit programming and am grateful for the effort that non-profit organizations put into positively affecting the community.

Interning with WITS has also influenced the type of teacher I will be in the future. Before WITS, I really hadn’t given much thought to the involvement of creativity in the classroom. That’s what the art and music teacher focused on, right? After observing the Summer Creative Writing Workshops this summer, experiencing how the students became so engaged and excited about learning and teachers who were passionate about authentic learning experiences, I will never again disregard the importance of creativity and imagination in the classroom.

I realized that when a teacher’s emphasis is moved from student performance to student experience, engaging students with opportunities to explore and create, authentic learning is the natural result. The teacher is also provided with an incredible platform to get to know a student through their artistic expression, enriching the student-teacher relationship. Through WITS, I have gained this understanding, which will affect not only how I teach, but also the students that I teach.

I am honored to have been welcomed into Writers in the Schools this summer. I am grateful for my experience of working for an organization with true passion for quality fine arts education and belief in the importance of every person’s story. Thank you WITS, for the lessons I have learned and the experiences you have given me. You will always be a part of my story.

By Megan McKitrick

[Megan McKitrick was the 2011 ExxonMobil Community Summer Jobs Program Intern at WITS. She is a rising junior at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.]

WITS Writers to Read Tonight at Brazos

Posted February 11, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

What: WITS Writers Chuck Carlise and Ryler Dustin will share their work tonight at Brazos Bookstore as part of the Gulf Coast Reading Series, sponsored by the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program. This event is free and open to the public.

When: 7PM, February 11

Where: Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnett

About the Writers

Chuck Carlise was born in Canton, Ohio, and has since lived in twelve states and on two continents.  He holds degrees from Wittenberg University and the University of California at Davis, and has been awarded fellowships from the Mitchell Center, Wildacres, Inprint, and the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow.  His poetry and nonfiction appear in Southern Review, Quarterly West, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cimarron Review, and others.  He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in literature and creative writing at the University of Houston, where he is the nonfiction editor of the journal Gulf Coast.  He has taught with WITS for three years.

Ryler Dustin is originally from Bellingham, a small town near Seattle, but has traveled across the U.S. performing poetry and teaching poetry workshops in venues like New York’s Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe and the Berkley Poetry Slam. His collection Head Lead Birdsong was recently published by Write Bloody and has earned him a Pushcart nomination, the Sue C. Boynton Award, and the Bart Baxter Award. He has been a finalist in the Individual World Poetry Slam and is now an M.F.A. candidate at the University of Houston.

WITS Writer Jameelah Lang Will Read Tonight at Brazos

Posted November 12, 2010 & filed under Notebook.

WITS Writer Jameelah Lang will share her work tonight at Brazos Bookstore as part of the Gulf Coast Reading Series, sponsored by the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program. This event is free and open to the public.

Jameelah is a Ph.D. student in fiction and nonfiction at the University of Houston.  She received both her B.A. in English literature and her M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Kansas. In Lawrence, Jameelah co-founded the Bathtub Kansas Writers’ Collective, an initiative aimed at creating a more integral relationship between creative writing and community.  During the third year of her M.F.A., Jameelah also served as the year-long Writer-in-Residence at HUB-BUB, a non-profit, grassroots arts organization based out of Spartanburg, South Carolina.  There, she interned for Hub City Press.

What: Gulf Coast Reading Series

When: November 12, 2010 at 7:00 PM

Where: Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet

WITS Offers Free Writing Workshops in Sugar Land

Posted October 1, 2010 & filed under Notebook.

Writers in the Schools (WITS) is bringing the pleasure of reading and writing to Sugarland during the first ARTernative Festival Saturday, October 2, 2010 in Town Square Plaza. WITS will provide a FREE and fun creative writing session for kids grades 2-5 from 1 – 2 PM. Join a professional WITS writer, and create your own story or poem. The workshop is FREE but limited to the first 15 kids. WITS will provide a free journal for the participants. This event is hosted by Spacetaker and Fresh Arts Coalition. For more information and the current schedule, click here.

Tune In to the Poet’s Corner Friday

Posted September 15, 2010 & filed under Notebook.

During the Summer Creative Writing Workshops, WITS students visited Taping For The Blind, a nonprofit whose mission is to enrich the lives of individuals with visual, physical and learning disabilities by transforming what is seen into what is heard. Tune in this Friday, September 17, and listen as Emma, Alyssa, Jivanni, Leah, David, and Vincent read their poems on The Poet’s Corner. You can tune in at 88.7 FM KUHF, or following Friday’s broadcast, download the archived recording, “WITS Students,” by clicking this link.

HISD’s Instructional Media TV stopped by to capture the experience. View the segment.

Cleaning Up the American Corner, Skopje

Posted August 12, 2009 & filed under Notebook.

The library is closed. The children have left. Debris is scattered everywhere. Only my two teachers and I remain to clean up the  remains of paper, left magic boxes, tiny tomatoes that somehow were not eaten at the luncheon we had the last day.  One student returns because he forgot something, or maybe because he just doesn’t really want to leave for the last time and is stalling, giving himself a chance to do what he did, wave one last time and say goodbye and that “It was so nice to meet you.”  He had done great work and he knew it.  The other two teachers are busy taking clothes pins off lavender ribbon where we kept the Portfolio Center, and the library will go back to being what it is — a library.

The quiet after the storm is not just a hackneyed phrase: it is what we are experiencing now.  Pencils are rolling one last time across tables.  Scissors are being put into sacks for some occasion as yet unknown, to be brought out as school approaches or next year.  Everyone is tired, but happy with how things went. Everyone can see one thing that should have been done better. Did we select the best play for “Best Play”?  We are not sure about that one. Did we make a mistake or two.  Probably.  Did we do a great deal of truly good work. Undoubtedly. So now we will clean up for the last time.

The next time I write, it will be from Kosovo.

Merrilee Cunningham, WITS Writer in the Balkans

Skopje Celebrates Young Writers

Posted August 11, 2009 & filed under Notebook.

You are reading the blog of a woman who has been through five small earthquakes and did not feel a thing, yet when the American Corners was full of both the early morning kids and the afternoon kids, doing the plays that they themselves wrote, it seemed chaotic.  The U.S. Embassy sent its best and its brightest to award the children their certificates of completion for the program and to congratulate the winners of “Best Play,” “Best Long Poem,” “Best Lyric Poem.” “Best Short Story.”  The competition was fierce, and I got up early this morning to arrive in front of the library where we had to make tough decisions about who go which awards with my co-teachers and translators.  We had our differences of opinions, but the disputes were friendly, and everyone played by the rules. We had stayed up all night typing the anthology entries, as Bitola and Skopje had full-blown anthologies, complete with videos of the plays and 200 pictures of the camp. Still, there was no tee-shirt, though the embassy promises a tee-shirt if we will just come back and do this again next year.  This is a bribe that will work on my 1960’s soul.

The librarians are very excited about the program and have allowed us to take our dramatic chaos throughout the library, all the while these committed guardians of learning are actively attempting to carry on their regular programs, check out books, check in books, and do all the other things that help allow for people to get the kind of information that they need in order to make wise decisions about their lives, their votes, and their families.

After the plays this morning, we continued the tradition of ending the program with a proclamation of the rights of children. The right to go to the dentist was perhaps the most interesting. One has to wonder about the story behind an eight year old child understanding the importance of dental hygiene.  But the right to clean water, clean air, life with a temperature that was livable (Macedonia has been very hot this summer) were also important. When the children read their table of contents on their journal, they were very happy with themselves and saw how very much they had been able to write.  Then I asked them which works still needed more revisiting, and they slowly were able to tell me which works they would be working on and revising. It was great. Click here to see a 3:30 video of a news story about the project.

Tonight my youngest daughter arrives from Cairo, and we have dinner with a friend from the embassy and then we are off to Kosovo and Bulgaria as my daughter continues on to Istanbul.  So the Macedonian Express will be traveling West away from Skopje and into Kosovo and Bulgaria.  I hope that you will be coming with us, because after that, I need to revisit my syllabi for World Literature I and World Mythologies, and Renaissance Drama and Roman History Independent Study at the University of Houston Downtown so that my university gets its fair share of what talents I possess.

posted by Merrilee Cunningham, Writers in the Schools (WITS)

Young Poets of Skopje, Macedonia

Posted August 7, 2009 & filed under Notebook.

The children in the Creative Writing workshop in Skopje were ready to select their images for the Ekphrasis assignment and one of the masks that the teachers put on the board looked, from far away, like the famous Mask of Agamemnon, so, gold mask macedonianever the one to stand back timidly, I said, “Oh, the mask of Agamemnon.”  At that point both my Macedonian teachers (one married to an archeologist), fell upon me and gave me the what-for!  “Oh no. Many golden masks have been found in Macedonia.” One, found in 1934, is in the museum in Belgrade with its fellow. Others have been found recently in 17 graves from the 6th. century B.C.  in a village near Lake Ohrid. There is much excitement about the discovery of the bronze age graves near Ohrid. But there is also much pride about the beautiful mask that is in Belgrade. I was amazed by its beauty, the face surrounded by the ancient image for enigma and questioning.

Which brings me to the constant questions that the kids in the workshop are asking. “Do you go to NASA often?” How many computer languages do you know?”  “Do you know Obama?”  “Have you seen AC/DC?”  “Do you have a hamster?”  What do you do with questions like that asked by students who have learned their English by playing video games or whose goal in the workshop is to write an epic poem?

The answer, of course, is provide them with challenges, and that is exactly what I am best at, so tomorrow they have to perform the play that they are writing today, but only after they create their life clock on a large white paper plate, starting, at 12 o’clock with they day, month, and year that they were born.  Did you want a brother?  Did you want a baby sister? Did you want to learn computer languages?  Did you want a hamster?  Did you want to make good grades?  Did you want to have a bird?  Did you want to fly? Did you want to work with E.A. Blizzard or Krytech?  Did you want to meet Miley Cyrus?   Did you want to be a teacher? Did you want two new cousins?  I know I did. Did you want someone to love you all your life?

I feel like the Art Linklater of Creative Writing Teachers.  Kids say the funniest things.  They also say the wisest.

posted by Merrilee Cunningham, Writers in the Schools (WITS)

Our Indiana Jones and the Macedonian Hamburgers

Posted August 6, 2009 & filed under Notebook.

Mere technology interrupted my transmittals from Macedonia. It seems that I was in line for a new computer at my university, and I knew that IT was going to take this time to get rid of my XP-powered bulky computer and arm me with my beloved Microsoft 2009 with all its many charms, templates, and  almost apple-like advantages.  Little did I know that getting rid of my literal machine would interrupt the flow of the Macedonia Express. But there is time now to catch up and my new machine, I trust, is awaiting me in my little office at the university, a better fate than Indiana Jones would have had in his handsome office at the University of Chicago. Yet there has been an Indiana Jones quality of this adventure. Five earthquakes, however small, in Bitola, a trip to Heraclea’s amazing mosaics, and a look at the on-going archeological work there, a wonderful ride from Bitola on the mountain rode to Tetovo, and we were ready for the second round of writing workshops.The anthology from Bitola was amazing. The children outdid themselves, and the staff, Elena and Bijana, worked so hard to make the anthology happen and make sure that the students revised well, and their work was not in vain. When I left Bitola for my sojourn on a narrow road through the beautiful mountains on Macedonia, past Lake Ohrid, where the Roman amphitheater is and where the amazing golden mask, that looks a bit like the Mask of Agamemnon, was found. I will write more about that mask tomorrow as it is one of the images of our Ekphrasis assignment.

Today I want to write about our adventures in Tetovo.  I was, once again, fortunate enough to have an enthusiastic and able staff of teachers and students who were more than  ready to work.  The walls hung with Leslie Gauna’s “found poetry” assignment as well placed words in Albanian as well as English on the walls. By now, we have a cache of words in Macedonian, Albanian, and English for the students to select from.

After the workshop, my colleagues took me to an amazing natural spring in the mountains where people came who wanted to both bathe in the waters and drink the spring waters for their health. As this site is an ancient Ottoman Empire site, the very center of the spring is circled by white material for the use of the women who want to bathe and enjoy the waters, while the men enjoyed the waters outside the very large white circle where they could not enter. The mystery of inside that forbidden place was almost more than I could stand as I watched women go in and out of the large white, covered center.  After we bathed and collected water from the spring, offered us in used Coca-Cola bottles, we were off to have a Macedonian hamburger (the less said about this the better).

I was then off in my car to Skopje and the final week of workshops at the American Corners Center there. Tomorrow, more about the recent archeological discovery at Lake Orhid. And, not  a single earthquake I hope.

Merrilee Cunningham, Writers in the Schools (WITS)