World Premiere of Bound

Posted February 6, 2014 & filed under Notebook.

BOUND-art-newWITS Associate Director Bao-Long Chu has written an acclaimed libretto that will be performed on February 15 and 16 in collaboration with the Houston Grand Opera and the Asia Society Texas Center. Bound, inspired by a true story, is about a Vietnamese girl who is struggling to come to terms with her family’s past and her own complicated story. Music for the libretto was written by Huang Ruo.

Please visit the Asia Society’s website or HGO to reserve tickets to this special event, which celebrates Houston as a crossroads for Eastern and Western cultures.

“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


Posted May 29, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

One day I was sitting at home. It was the day after I got my hair cut short.  I thought I was stable but then I took a good look in the mirror, and I wasn’t comfortable with what I saw.  I stared and thought about it.  Then I took my journal (which I didn’t usually write in!) and picked up a pencil and started writing.  The words just poured out onto the page.  In a few minutes I had a written a poem called “Mirrors.”  I didn’t share it with anyone.  It was just for me.  Then I met the folks from Purple Songs Can Fly project, and they asked if I wanted to write a song.  I read them my poem, and they said, “Yes!  You’ve already written a song. This is perfect.”  So, I recorded my first song ever, “Mirrors.”

By Kaitlin, 15

Kaitlin participates in the Writers in the Schools (WITS) program at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Center.  She turned her poem “Mirrors” into a song through the wonderful Purple Songs Can Fly program.  Click here to hear Kaitlin’s song “Mirrors.”

Born Drummer

Posted May 3, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

I’ve always been interested in music.  One of my earliest memories was getting my first drum set.   I was seven.  My parents got it at a garage set, and as soon as I saw it, I was ready to start.  I taught myself just by listening to music and then trying to play what I heard.  When I was about 12, I started playing at school.  I had to audition to play the drums.   When I started, it was a lot more structured.  Instead of teaching myself, I had others teaching me.  I found out that I had developed some bad habits, but I still think the time I spent teaching myself was worthwhile.  Over the next few years I kept improving.  When I was 16, I joined a jazz band.  It’s the hardest thing I’ve done so far.  It’s a completely different style of playing, and it’s a lot harder.  The only teacher I had was another kid.  I love it.  We play at the school and at competitions.  I think you’re born into drumming.  Only about 8% of the world has the brain capability to drum well.  You have to be good at multi-tasking and being steady.  In drumming the terminology is based on sound.  For example, you might play a flamadiddle followed by a ratamacue.  If you don’t have a good drummer, you can’t have a good band.  I want music to continue to be a part of my life.

By Haden, 11th grade

My Passions

Posted January 12, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Radio Lollipop logo

Image via Wikipedia

I love music because it clears my mind.  When I’m in a good mood, I listen to Indie music on the radio.  The first time I ever heard Radio Lollipop (a fully equipped radio station staffed by a team of volunteers at Texas Children’s Hospital) was January 31, 2011.  I was in a bed feeling down on the 9th floor.  It was just my second day, and I was thinking about home.  When the music came on, I listened for a while.  Music is a way to daydream for me.  Someday I’d like to be a professional cello player. I learned how to play in 5th grade, and I feel in a better place when I play.  I had to quit when I got sick, but I want to start again.  Writing is another art that I like.  I use it to express myself.  I don’t share everything I write, but I think it helps me to get it out.  I remember I wrote a story once about two kids in an enchanted forest.  I don’t get writer’s block usually.  The words just flow out and onto the paper.  If I could tell people something, I would say that there are lots of ways to express yourself and to go out and find your passion.  For me, it is music and writing.

By Jasmine, 10th grade

Live, Laugh, Love with Allen Shamblin on November 3rd

Posted October 14, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Writers in the Schools (WITS) invites you to A Celebration of Story on November 3rd –  an evening of storytelling through music. Our featured performer, Allen Shamblin, is famous for penning chart-topping hits like Clay Walker’s “Live, Laugh, Love” and Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” He will be inducted to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame along with country music superstars Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, John Bettis, and Thom Schuyler on October 16 in Nashville.

WITS will honor Katherine Center, best-selling novelist and former WITS writer for her influence on Houston’s literary arts community and for embodying the mission of WITS through her life’s work. Center’s work includes The Bright Side of Disaster, Everyone is Beautiful, and Get Lucky.

Join us for an inspirational celebration of music, power, and story! Proceeds from the event will provide yearlong literacy programs for underserved students in schools, hospitals, community centers, parks, hospitals, and homeless shelters.

Click here to purchase tables and tickets or contact us at 713.523.3877. For more information about table and ticket sponsorships, click here.

If you are unable to attend but would like to support WITS, visit our donate page. The schedule for the evening includes:

6:00 PM VIP reception

7:00 PM Registration and silent auction

8:00 PM Dinner

8:30 PM Story songs by Allen Shamblin

Silent auction items include: United Airlines vacation getaway, Wii and PS3 gaming systems, sports memorabilia, gift certificates from t’afia, Alley Theatre, Benjy’s, Houston Ballet, and many others.

Original art donated by:

Joe Acker
Ian Anderson
Michael Arcieri 
Long Chu
Aaron Courtland
Michael Guidry
Rebecca Kveton
Van McFarland
Tami Merrick
Donna E. Perkins
Patrick Palmer
Nicola Parente
Liz Conces Spencer
Richard Varela
Wendy Wagner

and many others.


Poet Laureates

Pulitzer Prize Winners
H-E-B Tournament of Champions
Susman Godfrey, LLP
Wells Fargo

Newbery Medalists
Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing / Lizzie and Scott Fletcher
Deborah Detering
Christina Gonzalez
King & Spalding
Karen McKibben Morris and The Honorable William Morris
Xavier Peña
Sysco Corporation
Vinson & Elkins LLP

NY Times Bestsellers
Bristow Group Inc.
CenterPoint Energy
Jenny and Jim Elkins Fund
Eva Geer
MaryScott Hagle and Daniel Kornberg / Antonia Day and George Helland
Julie and David Itz
Lenora Noroski & Fred Insulbuch
Marcia and Michael Nichols
Emily and James Blackwell / Michael Pipkin
Patricia Delaney and Warren Rawson
Josephine and The Honorable Bill Rice
Nancy and Ken Spitler
United Airlines
Ann and Benjamin Ziker / BHP Billiton


Greg P. Audel
Jessica Rossman and Gordon Bethune
Emily Pipkin Blackwell and James Blackwell
Stanley Chan
Carliss Chatman
Nicola Parente and Aaron Courtland
Jennifer Langdon and Joe Crownover
Melanie Malinowski and Andy Cunningham
Robin and Tony Davidson
Lizzie and Scott Fletcher
Nancy and Joe Ford
Tina and Craig Freedman
Jennifer LeGrand Howard
Lenora Noroski and Frank Inselbuch
Karen Walrond and Marcus Jennings
Shelley and Alexander Kaplan
MaryScott Hagle and Daniel Kornburg
Jacqueline S. Martin
Karen McKibben Morris and The Honorable William Morris
Whitney Botsford Morgan
Isabel Cowles Murphy and Christopher Murphy
Marcia and Michael Nichols
Roberta Weldon and James Pipkin
Josie Edwards and Monica Pope
Patricia Delaney and Warren Rawson
Josephine and The Honorable Bill Rice
Dr. Roxanne Riefkohl
Susan and Tom Scotty
Ginya and Clayton Trier
Laurette Veres
Andrea Ferguson White and The Honorable Bill White


Xavier Peña, President
Christina Gonzalez, Vice President
Michael Pipkin, Treasurer
Garrick Malone, Secretary
Mark Cervenka
Brian S. Cheadle
Jane Creighton
David Francis
Beth McFarland Haag
Barry Hammond
Danielle Houston
Chanler Langham
Marcia Nichols
Amanda Martin Nicolo
Chris Porter
Sheleah Reed
Carolyn Rodz
Rachel Etheridge Solar
Julie Tran
Ann Ziker

I Heard a Song

Posted May 13, 2011 & filed under Notebook.


I heard a song
that took me to Germany.

Touring a castle,
seeing everything
knights in shining armor
to the beautiful
with gold and silver.

Everything is wonderful
and beautiful
and peaceful.

A spark in my mind
that someone lived here at this place!

Someone had enough
money to buy everything
anything they wanted.

Someone lived here at this
at that time.
They could get whatever
they wanted.

They are greedy
and selfish
and ungrateful.

Everything in my
mind stops when the song is over!

By Reagan, 6th grade

A Poem by Jose

Posted September 8, 2010 & filed under Notebook.


Today time is blue
like a jazz musician
playing his saxophone.
Same thing,
same routine.
But the beat
carries me along.

By Jose, 12th grade

Photo by Lady Lipton via Flickr

Houston, Get Wired with Poetry 11/13/09

Posted November 12, 2009 & filed under Notebook.


Former WITS Writer Radames Ortiz and Houston poets Lupe Mendez and Byron Jones have joined forces to bring Houston @Wired: A Multimedia Explosion of Poetry. @Wired is a revolutionary approach to exposing the literary masses to a new type of poetry reading. By incorporating social media, music, song, imagery and technology to enhance their poetic performances, @Wired seeks to reconstruct the poetry reading and to engage local creatives to actively participate in making a unique event even more special.

WHEN: Friday, November 13, 2009 at 8 pm

WHERE: Rudolph Projects ArtScan Gallery, 1836 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77098

COST: Free

Premiere of “The Jemma Songs”

Posted October 26, 2009 & filed under Notebook.


On Tuesday October 27, 2009, Houston will see the premiere of what has become known as “The Jemma Songs.”  The performance will include seven poems written by WITS student, Jemma Leech, and beautifully set to music by Houston composer, Mary Carol Warwick.  The performance will take place at 7.30pm on Tuesday evening at the First Unitarian Universalist Church at 5200 Fannin St. Houston, TX 77004.  Click here to view a map. Admission is free.

The poems performed will be The Angel Series:  My Name is Jemma, From Nobody to Somebody, The Time of the Angels,and One Wish or Three as well as The Ike Cycle:  Waiting for Ike, Listening to Ike and After Ike.  Some of these poems were written at the WITS Summer Creative Writing Workshops.

The pieces have been set for oboe, viola, piano and soprano, and will be performed by The Greenbriar Consortium, which includes members of the Houston Symphony Orchestra.  In addition to musicians from the Houston Symphony, performers include Anita Kruse, Julia Fox, Sonja Brusauskas, Keith Weber, Paul Boyd, and Miriam Leek-Meira.

The Greenbriar Consortium recently gave an interview about Jemma’s work and the upcoming concert on The Front Row, Houston’s daily arts magazine show on 88.7 FM KUHF.  Click here to listen to the interview.

Here I Go

Posted September 9, 2009 & filed under Notebook.

Texas Children’s Cancer Center is full of young authors. I work with them every week through WITS and always leave inspired.  The children in outpatient treatment come in to the clinic regularly, so I often get to build a relationship with them. When we are first getting to know each other, many children choose safe, familiar writing topics.  They talk about puppy dogs and basketball and trips to the beach.  Their words conjure up “normal” lives, which they want to return to as soon as possible.

As time goes on, some children find power in writing more directly about their illnesses—how it feels to be told you have cancer or what happens when kids tease you at school or how you deal with the effects of chemo.  Opening up about their sickness takes an incredible amount of courage.Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman, a teenager who is dealing with a recent relapse in her cancer, wrote this song several years ago when she learned that she was cancer-free.  It is an A-Z list poem that captures her will to survive.  Please join us in sending healing thoughts and love to Alice Hoffman, a longtime participant in WITS.  Her song was mixed and recorded by Purple Songs Can Fly, another wonderful project at Texas Children’s Cancer Center.

posted by Marcia Chamberlain, Writers in the Schools


Here I Go by Alice Hoffman

A is for Atavan
B is for Bactrim
C is for Codeine
D is for Dilauden

E is for Excedrin
F is for Fluoxodine
G is for Groggy
H is Hydrocodone

Cancer treatment for two years
Radiation, Chemo
Difficult by here I am
I made it, here I go

I is for Iodine
J is for Jittery
K is for Kitral
L is for Loratab

M is for Marinol
N is for Nexium
O is for “Oh My Gosh”
P is for Previcid

Cancer treatment for two years
Radiation, Chemo
Difficult by here I am
I made it, here I go

Q is for Queezy
R is for Really Long
S is for Stomache Ache
T is for Tremodol

U is for Underweight
V is for Verconizol
W is for Weepy
X is for X-Ray

Cancer treatment for two years
Radiation, Chemo
Difficult by here I am
I made it, here I go

Y is for YoYo moods
Z is for Zofran
Mac & Cheese & drinking Boost
Part of the Med Plan

Cancer treatment for two years
Radiation, Chemo
Difficult by here I am
I made it
Here I go
Here I go…here I go…
here I go….

by Alice Hoffman

[Photo of Alice was taken by Yvonne Feece at the WITS Young Writers Reading in May 2008 at The Menil Collection. The WITS program at Texas Children’s is funded by the Periwinkle Foundation.]

Where Are We Now: Kiki

Posted July 30, 2009 & filed under Notebook.

kiki third ear caravanThere’s very little (if anything!) that Kiki Przewlocki can’t do.  She devotes June of each year to the WITS summer camp and teaches full time at AOS during the school year. She’s a writer, visual artist, and performer. But wait, there’s more!  She’s also the lead singer of a band called Third Ear Caravan.  They’ve been writing new material, and you can hear it on their site. They perform regularly around Houston, and their schedule of gigs are also posted on MySpace. You owe it to yourself: check them out!
third ear caravan