Outdoor Poetry Events on April 20th

Posted April 18, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Come out and enjoy lovely weather and superb poetry this Saturday, April 20th.  WITS students will participate in events across the city.

image006An incredible line-up of WITS students will be reading their poems and stories on the Menil Entrance Stage at 12 noon as part of the Menil Community & Houston Indie Book Festival. Bring a blanket and stay the whole afternoon!  This annual family-oriented festival features music, film, yoga, children’s story time, and food trucks! WITS writers also will be leading FREE writing tours of the Menil Collection at 1 PM and 3 PM.

66445_authorxaviergarzIn addition to the WITS reading at the Menil Community & Houston Indie Book Festival, several WITS students will read with award-winning author Monica Brown, whose books include Tito PuenteMambo King and Clara and the Curandera, at Discovery Green as part of the Día de los niños/Día de los libros celebration from 12 noon to 2 PM.  This event is also free and open to the public.  It will be kicked off by Houston’s new Poet Laureate, Gwendolyn Zepeda.

Meta-FourLast but not least, our Meta-Four youth performance poets will be making appearances at several parks, including the Park at Palm Center, George T. Nelson Park, and MacGregor Park, as part of the AWE Celebration to promote arts, wellness, and the environment.



WITS Student Writer Gets Published!

Posted October 15, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Exciting news! A student from our Discovery Green workshops, Amaris S. Bobbio-Tarco’s (6th grade), short story has been published in the 2012 I Write Short Stories by Kids for Kids Anthology.
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

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/

Blooms: The Young Writers Reading Series at Discovery Green!

Posted May 1, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Writers in the Schools (WITS) will celebrate some of Houston’s most talented young artists at its Young Writers Reading, an annual literary event held May 6th, at 3 pm at Discovery Green Park in downtown Houston. The event is free and open to the public.

WITS Young Writers Reading event enriches the lives of students ranging from elementary to high school age by giving them the chance to read the work they have written under the guidance of a professional writer. Each student has been chosen from a juried competition. WITS publishes the best work in a bound anthology called Blooms.

The Young Writers Reading Series began in 1989 as a way to celebrate the achievements of the city’s most gifted young writers.  For more information, visit www.witshouston.org.

You won’t want to miss this wonderful event at Discovery Green!  Arrive early to play with our friends from Playworks Houston.  Please come out on Sunday to support Houston’s youngest poets and writers!

Public Poetry

Posted November 2, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Don’t miss out on what Houston Press named the Best Reading Series 2011.  The next Public Poetry event will take place at 2 PM on November 5th at Discovery Green.  As usual, you’ll meet award-winning poets as well as children authors who have worked with WITS writers in schools, hospitals, libraries, museums, and homeless shelters.

The Featured Poets on November 5th are Sam Amadon, Robin Davidson,  Elisa A. Garza, and Dave Parsons, the 2011 Texas Poet Laureate.  Each Featured Poet has 6 minutes to read, followed by a short WITS student poem, another fast round, and a final bonus student poem.  You won’t want to miss the 2 PM start, with a special guest appearance by Houston singer/songwriter Don Sanders.

October: National Arts and Humanities Month

Posted October 13, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

National Arts and Humanities Month (NAHM) is a coast-to-coast celebration of culture in America. Held every October and coordinated by Americans for the Arts, NAHM is the largest celebration of the arts and humanities in the nation.

President Obama issued a White House proclamation that states that “we must recognize the contributions of the arts and humanities not only by supporting the artists of today, but  also by giving opportunities to the creative thinkers of tomorrow.”

Writers in the Schools (WITS) understands the power of developing imaginations through arts education. We do it everyday in schools across the city.  We even do it on the weekends!  So, bring your “creative thinkers of tomorrow” to Discovery Green any Saturday in October, 10:30-11:30 AM, to celebrate National Arts and Humanities Month. WITS teams up with Houston Public Library (HPL) Express and Discovery Green to provide Houston’s only year-around free and open writing workshop for children. See you there!

Public Poetry at Discovery Green, Saturday at 2 pm

Posted September 30, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Public Poetry — which was just named the best reading series in Houston by the Houston Press– offers up its next event on Saturday, October 1, 2011 at 2 pm at Discovery Green park in downtown Houston. To kick off the event, there will be a performance by The Mighty Orq. The featured poets will be Rich Levy, Martha Serpas, Eva Skrande, and Deborah “DEEP” Wiggins Mouton. WITS Third grader Helena de la Cruz will join the group. The reading is provided in partnership with the Houston Public Library. It is a free event, and the public is welcome.

Dogs: Poetry in Motion

Posted June 24, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Every July in Houston DockDogs come to town.  DockDogs will take place at Discovery Green for its fourth year on Friday, July 1 to Sunday, July 3. This national dog jumping competition features four-legged athletes who compete for prizes in jumping competitions.  They leap and fly over water and through the air to catch frisbees and toys.

In honor of dogs who love the water, here is a poem by Gary Soto.   In WITS classes we often use Soto’s poems to teach children how to write about things that they love, such as their pets.

Nelson, My Dog
by Gary Soto
Like the cat he scratches the flea camping in fur.
Unlike the cat he delights in water up to his ears.
He frolics. He catches a crooked stick – 
On his back he naps with legs straight up in the air.
Nelson shudders awake. He responds to love
From head to tail. In happiness
His front legs march in place
And his back legs spark when they push off.
On a leash he knows his geography.
For your sake he looks both ways before crossing,
He sniffs at the sight of a poodle trimmed like a hedge,
And he trots the street with you second in command.
In the park, he ponders a squirrel attached to a tree
And he shovels a paper cup on his nose.
He sweeps after himself with his tail,
And there is no hand that doesn't deserve a lick.
Note this now, my friends:
Nelson can account the heritage of heroic dogs:
One, canines lead the blind,
Two, they enter fire to rescue the child and the child's toy,
Three, they swim for the drowning,
Four, they spring at the thief,
Five, they paddle ponds for the ball that got away,
Six, for the elderly they walk side by side to the very end,
Seven, they search for bones but stop when called,
Eight, they bring mud to all parties,
Nine, they poke among the ruins of a burnt house,
Ten, they forgive what you dish out on a plate.Nelson is a companion, this much we know,
And if he were a movie star, he would do his own stunts – 
O, how he would fly, climb the pant legs of a scoundrel
And stand tall rafting on white-water rivers!
He has befriended the kingdom of animals:
He once ran with wolves but admittedly not very far,
He stepped two paces into a cave and peeked at the bear,
He sheltered a kitten,
He righted the turtle pedaling its stumps on its back,
Under the wheeling stars he caravanned with the mule,
He steered sheep over a hill,
He wisely let the skunk pass,
He growled at the long-bearded miser,
He joined ducks quacking with laughter,
Once he leaped at a pheasant but later whined from guilt.Nelson's black nose is a compass in the wilds.
He knows nature. He has spied spires of summer smoke,
He circled cold campfires,
He howled at a gopher and scratched at the moon,
He doctored his wounds with his tongue,
He has pawed a star of blood left in snow.
He regards the fireplace, the embers like blinking cats,
This too we know about Nelson.
True, he is sometimes tied to parking meters
And sometimes wears the cone of shame from the vet's office.
But again, he is happiness.
He presents his belly for a friendly scratch.
If you call him, he will drop his tennis ball,
Look up, and come running,
This muddy friend for life. When you bring your nose
To his nose for something like a kiss,
You can find yourself in his eyes.

by Marcia Chamberlain, Writers in the Schools

Congratulations Young Writers!

Posted May 2, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

David Avent charms the crowd with his poem, "Going to Cuba." Photo by Yvonne Feece

Seventy-five courageous boys and girls read from their hearts on the Discovery Green main stage  this Sunday, proving to the audience they have what it takes. The Blooms reading of the Houston Young Writers Reading Series, presented by WITS, was the biggest literary celebration of the school year thanks to the principals, teachers, parents, sponsors, and volunteers  in attendance, and most of all, to the children who amazed everyone with their outstanding poems, essays, and stories.

Keynote speaker Karen Walrond shared her personal journey of how she became a writer and encouraged the students to own the statement, “I am a writer,” acknowledging that their pieces had been selected from thousands of entries and published in Blooms. (Read more of Walrond’s powerful speech here.) The students shouted in unison from their seats, “I AM A WRITER!” then individually recited their work with strength and conviction.

Congratulations, winners!

Matilde Acosta
Leen Aldarrab
Daniel Alvarez Fedyaev
Etse Amewolo
Edwin Argueta
David Avent
Alberto Avila
Noble Benjamin, Jr.
John Boland
Emily Bonilla
Daylen Brooks
Abigail Calderon
Genesis Cantu
Jocelyn Cardenas
Priscila Cardoso
Graciela Carrillo
Alex Cope
Kassandra Cortez
Sady Davalos
Teagan Davis
Helena de la Cruz
Leyla Delorme
Bella Deutser
Carlos Escamilla
Mia Fares
Natalia Flores
Josseline Garay
Eleanor Geno
Chris Gonzales
Kingston Griffin
Lesly Guerra
Grace Guerriero
Jordan Hall
Gracie Halperin
Olivia Havre
Rhemi Herron
Anuj Jajoo
Xoloni Johnson
Isabella Krafka
Aamir Lateef
Esther Le
Rachel Lee
Ava Leung
Hugo Lopez
Itzel López
Emely Luna
Sadie Many
Anna Miller
Angelique Montes
Ioana Nechiti
Imnet Petro
Grace Rampaul
Saul Rivera
Estevan Rodriguez
Angel Rosa
Emily Salinas
Jose Sanchez
Jefferson Santos
Julian Santos
Ana Serrano
Smrithi Shibichakravarthy
Kevin Situn
Elizabeth Soriano
Deandrea Stevens
Sarah Swackhamer
Jade Treviño
Truc Trinh
Long Hoang Vu
Bryanna Williams
Julia Zheng
Jose Ramos

Blooms Reading this Sunday at 3 PM

Posted April 30, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Photo by Brian Cheadle

Are you ready for the biggest literary celebration of the school year? Blooms takes place this Sunday, May 1 from 3:00 – 5:00 PM on the  Discovery Green main stage featuring renowned author and photographer Karen Walrond as guest speaker. The audience will be treated to an uplifting afternoon filled with the discovery and intrigue of language and will experience the evidence of each child’s personal achievements in their artistic journey.

Become a Facebook fan of WITS and RSVP for this event. For more information about the Houston Young Writers Reading Series, click here.

What: Blooms Reading at Discovery Green Park

When: Sunday, May 1, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Where: Discovery Green Park

Cost: Free and open to the public

Special thanks to Travelers who made this event possible.

Photo by Brian Cheadle

Un Breve Paseo a Discovery Green ~ A Brief Trip to Discovery Green

Posted March 3, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Un Breve Paseo a Discovery Green

El cielo era azul como un lago. La tierra era negra como una cueva, y el hielo era blanco como una ventana. Sí, había hielo, y yo estaba patinando en Discovery Green. El sol brillaba como fuego. Yo pensé que no podía patinar, entonces me agarré del muro. ¡Shwoosh! ¡Yo sí podía patinar! Miré alrededor, y vi que estaba patinando más rápido que mi mamá y mi hermano. ¡Shwosh! ¡Shwash! ¡Shwush! Yo patinaba más y más rápido. ¡Woohooo! El hielo era un trueno.

¡Chapú! Me caí. Raspé todo el hielo, y mis pantalones estaban muy húmedos. Me pusé de pie, y pensé que aún no estaba todo terminado ahora. ¡Shwoosh! ¡Shwoosh! ¡Shwoosh! Iba yo patinando nuevamente, como un pájaro que vuela y divirtiéndome como en un rollercoaster. Pero todo llega a su fin, y nosotros dejamos de patinar.

Entonces salí a buscar donuts. Caminé hasta que vi un hombre vendiendo donuts. Olía delicioso a pastrie y a azúcar caliente. Mi mamá compró los donuts. Yo tenía tanta hambre que ¡Smack! Smack!, yo comía los donuts como un cerdito mientras gritaba mentalmente, “¡Deliciosos!” Había sido un largo día patinando, tanto que hasta lamí el azúcar de la bolsa de los muchísimos donuts que comimos.

¡Broom! !Broom!, Montamos al carro, que mi mamá encendía, y luego nos alejamos del Discovery Green. Un abrazo de mi hermano cerró un fantástico día, que ahora sí, llegaba a su fin.


A Brief Trip to Discovery Green

The sky was blue like a lake. The soil was black like a cave, and the ice was as white as a window. Yes, there was ice, and I was skating at Discovery Green. The sun was shining like fire. I thought that I couldn’t skate! So I held on to the wall. Shwoosh! Yes! I could skate! I looked around me, and I saw that I was skating faster than my mom and my brother. Shwosh! Shwash! Shwush! I was skating faster and faster. Woohooo! The ice was thunder.

Chapú! I fell, I scraped the ice, and my pants were very wet. I stood up, and I thought that not every­thing was finished yet. Shwoosh! Shwoosh! Shwoosh! I was back skating again, like a flying bird, and it was as fun as being in a rollercoaster. But everything comes to an end, and we stopped skating.

Then I went in search for donuts. I walked until I saw a man selling donuts. It smelled delicious, like patisserie and warm sugar. My mom bought the donuts. I was so hungry that Smack! Smack! I ate the donuts like a pig. “Delicious,” I was yelling mentally. It had been a long day, skating, so much that I ended up licking the left over sugar in the bag of the many donuts we had eaten.

Vroom! Vroom! We got in the car. My mom drove away from Discovery Green. A hug from my brother closed out a fantastic day that, at that moment, had come to an end.

By Joshua, 4th grade

Photo by Troy Burwell via Flickr

100 Hours, 100 Smiles: A Volunteer’s Success Story at WITS

Posted December 3, 2010 & filed under Notebook.

This semester, as part of an academic program I am in at the University of St. Thomas, I am working on 100 hours of community service and WITS graciously allowed me to volunteer for them. As my school year winds down – or speeds up seeing how many paper assignments I have – and my hours come to a close, I have come to realize that the kids I’ve been working with for the past two months have taught me far more than I could ever have hoped to teach them.

I’ve been working mainly on two projects at WITS. The first is an afterschool program with Community Family Centers at Carillo and Gallegos Elementary Schools. We have about sixty students, and it’s afterschool, and they probably rather go outside to play on the playground, but they rise to the occasion every day. A few weeks ago we created our own postcards on index cards to send to family and friends or as our own keepsake from an imaginary adventure. They made cards for San Antonio and Houston and Mexico and beaches and all over the place. We did not have stamps or addresses to mail them at the time, so most everyone took theirs home. The next week, several ran up to me to say that they had mailed their postcards. Then the week after that, one of the boys told me how his uncle had received the postcard and mailed him a letter back. They took a small lesson on letters and postcards and turned it into something far more real and beautiful. Even many of the kids who resisted writing every day ended up making a postcard, or two, or four.

Just when you think you have it all figured out, they surprise you with their enthusiasm and pure unbridled energy.

Every day, when I walk through the door, someone will run up to me and give me a great big hug. It doesn’t matter that they saw me just two days before, they are just so happy that we are there; their joy causes me to smile even on the cloudiest of days.

I also help out at the Discovery Green workshops on Saturday mornings. Now, I am not at all a morning person, but the opportunity to work with the kids who come out each week is well worth every yawn. Discovery Green is a truly intimate space to work in. Some weeks we had very few young writers come, so it was a very personalized workshop, and other weeks we were able to fill nearly the whole library which made us close in a very different sense of the word. But the level of creativity and talent in that room just astounds me. An hour is not very much time to build a community, write, and then share, but somehow it happens each and every week. We almost never have the exact crowd twice, but many return again and again bringing with them that snippet of story they started a week before now as a fully-fledged piece of art. For me, it is an honor to hear what they have written at the end of the workshop.

I am thankful for my time with WITS this semester. Many of my classmates have grumbled about their service projects, but mine has brought me far more laughter and joy than I deserve. I might have taught a lesson on how to write a postcard, but they have taught me how to draw fantastical creatures, to smile at punctuation, to use stories to solve math homework, to be patient and understanding, to listen to myself and others, to realize that I am not quite grown up yet after all. So while I look forward to the upcoming break from paper writing and class, I will truly miss all the wonderful students and writers that I have come to know through WITS.

By Rebecca Mechler, Junior, University of St. Thomas Houston

2010 Summer Camp Intern, WITS

See more of Rebecca’s journey at WITS on Flickr.

Young Writer Workshops at Discovery Green

Posted March 17, 2010 & filed under Notebook.

Saturday morning Young Writer Workshops are held at Discovery Green every Saturday (March 13 – June 26, 2010) from 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM. This is a free drop-in program that takes place at Discovery Green in the Houston Public Library Express building.

There’s no need to pre-register, but parents are asked to sign in at the library. Class size is limited so arrive on time. Parents can drop off their kids at the HPL building by 10:30 AM, and pick them up by 11:30 AM. Each Saturday creative writing workshop is team-taught by two WITS writers to ensure successful interaction with multi-age groups.

WITS on the Echoing Green

Posted May 15, 2009 & filed under Notebook.

Marcia&boy2Every Saturday morning from 10:30-11:30 Kent Shaw and I co-teach a free WITS workshop inside the HPL Express Library at Discovery Green Park in downtown Houston.  A group of 10-15 kids sit with us in a circle and write poems and stories. We use the downtown space as inspiration—studying the trees, the sculptures, and the skyscrapers and observing the yogis, Frisbee golfers, and dancers.

Some of the young authors are drop-ins, but at least half are regular WITS kids who come rain or shine with journals tucked under their arms.  The youngest ones show up because it’s fun to write about heroes and roller coasters and pet snakes.  The older ones come to get feedback on their work, including novels in progress, and meet other kids like themselves.

Most classes begin with a 5-minute Finger Warm-Up where we write non-stop about whatever pops into our heads—skunks, spaghetti and meatballs, the color green.  Once our brains are awake, we read and discuss a piece of writing, such as “Ode to a Tomato” by Pablo Neruda or “A Hand” by Jane Hirshfield.  Then, we write.

The class often ends with an impromptu reading. The kids stand up, one by one, and read out loud their works in progress.  Parents, siblings, and library patrons clap and snap.  Waking up on a Saturday morning to write and share poems and stories is something to celebrate!

posted by Marcia Chamberlain, Writers in the Schools