Write Here | Cameron Dezen Hammon

Posted August 4, 2020 & filed under Event, free Houston event, Notebook, WITS People.

Join WITS on Instagram Live this Thursday, August 6, at 5:30 PM Central for Write Here, for an interview with author Cameron Dezen Hammon. Hosted by Outspoken Bean, Write Here features interviews with WITS Writers from the past and the present. Cameron’s book, This Is My Body, has won numerous awards and gotten amazing reviews. Don’t miss this important and heart-felt conversation.

I Wonder

Posted February 14, 2014 & filed under Notebook.

Who knows when the rain is coming?
What in the world are you doing?
Where do birds go in winter?
And when are you coming back?
How much money does a flying car cost?
Does Mars have aliens?
How many aliens are in space?
Why does the rain cool?
Why am I not sitting with you
on this pretty Valentine’s Day?

by Omar, 2nd grade

Illustration by Patrick Moberg

Keel’s New Novel Debuts Nov. 17th

Posted November 15, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Elizabeth Keel

On Sunday, November 17, 14 Pews will host a celebration of WITS Writer Elizabeth Keel’s new novel, Life After Myth. This event marks the end of Elizabeth’s year long residency with 14 Pews. There will be live music performed by Greg Cote, then a reading from Keel’s new book, then more music with Rom Ryan and Moodafaruka.  Join the party beginning at 6 PM. For more info, click here.

 

What My Mom (Who Never Eats Breakfast) Tells Me Every Morning

Posted September 23, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

So, my mom is always saying, “Jill, you have GOT to eat breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day. How are you going to do any work without some calories to fuel you? You can’t be in such a rush that you don’t have time for some Cheerios. Come on, Jill, make a list of foods you can eat for breakfast and post it on the bathroom mirror. Boom, there’s the list right in front of you to remind you to eat…”

By Jill, 9th grade

“Imagine” Video Wins Award

Posted May 22, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

imagine

POP Video, a Houston-based video production company, worked with Writers in the Schools to develop a thirty second spot called “Imagine” that captures the creativity happening in WITS classrooms across the city.

The Telly Awards recently named POP Video as a Bronze winner in the 34th Annual Telly Awards for their piece about the work of Writers in the Schools.

“The Telly Awards has a mission to honor the very best in film and video,” said Linda Day, Executive Director of the Telly Awards. “POP Video’s accomplishment illustrates their creativity, skill, and dedication to their craft and serves as a testament to great film and video production.”

Congrats to POP Video for their accomplishment and a big thank you for helping to tell the WITS story!

About POP Video Houston
POP Video is a full service video production company founded in 2010 and based in Houston, TX. It specializes in commercial and corporate video production, including post-production editing, motion graphics, and visual effects.

To enjoy their award-winning video “Imagine,” please visit the WITS website and scroll down to Latest Videos.

Aunt Polly Dolly

Posted March 6, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

 

Whenever my aunt comes into town, we have lots of fun. She’s my mom’s sister and we call her Polly Dolly.  She is very funny and crazy.  She wears boots and furry scarves around her neck, and she knows how to talk with lots of different accents.  If you’re bored, she always says, “Make some fun!”  She’s good at turning a regular day into something interesting.  When my little brother is sad, she puts spoons on her nose and makes them stick.  When my little sister is yelling and being bad, she will crawl around on the floor and play pony with her.  She can cheer me up when I feel depressed.  I hope I grow up to be just like my aunt.

By Annette, 3rd grade

Elephant March I

Posted February 26, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

WITS Intern Eriel

WITS Intern Eriel

From WITS Intern Eriel:

A little under a month ago I started working with WITS Writer MaryScott at Travis Elementary as an assistant teacher. In the past I’ve worked as an “In-home Tutor” for my siblings, cousins, second cousins, the younger siblings of friends, my neighbors’ kids, and so on. However, I’ve never taught within an actual classroom, especially with kids I’ve never met or even seen before. My biggest worries the night before were whether jeans  were too casual for my first day, if Hannah Montana was still relevant, and if the fourth graders would be taller than me (sadly, most of them are!).

One of our first lessons together focused on using concrete words and abstractions in poetry. MaryScott had each student draw two cards from two separate envelopes; one envelope had cards with abstract words on them and the other had cards with names for various locations. From there, the students would combine the two words to create a poem. Be it “The Gas Station of Awkwardness” to “The Cafeteria of Freedom,” “The Ice Cream Truck of Sadness” to “The Broom Closet of Success” – these kids produced some of the most imaginative and comedic pieces I have ever seen young minds compose.
Bio
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith (Illustrator)

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith (Illustrator)

Born and raised in Houston, I was home schooled for six years by my parents before attending a private school for my final years of high school. You could say homeschooling permitted me some free time. I was able to split my time between class by day and theater by night, singing lessons once a week, and, of course, writing every single day. Currently, I am more than halfway through my second year as an honors student at the University of Houston, where I am pursuing a double major in Creative Writing (fiction concentration) and Journalism (print sequence), and a minor in Creative Work, through which I received my internship with Writers in the Schools. I started at WITS back in October, and after the first day, on which I was shown to their library and asked to organize it, I was in love. From skimming through “Harold & The Purple Crayon” to admiring the artwork in “The Stinky Cheese Man,” I could almost smell my first day of Kindergarten right there.

DSC_1586I will be writing a series of blog posts that peer into a WITS classroom and my experience. I know, it’s an odd title. Why “Elephant March”? A) My abnormal fascination with the creatures, B) “Elephant” was my nickname in elementary school and since my time at Travis marks my “return to elementary” school, I thought it was appropriate, and C) Elementary school kids “march” everywhere they go, I’ve noticed, whether it’s to the bathroom or across the room, they march – one foot after the other, almost militantly. I remember being ‘taught’ by my first grade teacher to walk that way – her way of taking the ‘one foot after the other, hands behind our backs’ rule to the extreme.

One Voice Poetic Choir Tonight!

Posted February 22, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

As a featured component of Society for Performing Art’s Movement Toward Literacy initiatives and its Performance Prelude series, Writers in the Schools’ Meta-Four Houston is producing the One Voice Poetic Choir. Tonight, young poets will perform an original collaborative poem in the Grand Foyer of the Wortham Center as a prelude to the dance concert by Motionhouse. Members of the choir received complimentary tickets to Motionhouse this month and to see STOMP perform at Jones Hall last month.

Join us at the Wortham Center’s Grand Foyer before 7pm to catch the One Voice Poetic Choir and stop by the WITS information table to say hello!

Images from Angela LaMonte Only Once Images

Images from Angela LaMonte Only Once Images

About Meta-Four Houston

Meta-Four holds monthly workshops that encourage teenage writers to develop their work and expand their artistic processes. For teens who are completely new to poetry, getting involved in Meta-Four is a great way to share ideas, receive feedback, and find inspiration. Meta-Four also holds monthly slams that allow more experienced poets to compete and share their work in a safe and encouraging environment. Writers of all backgrounds and skill levels will be both supported and spurred by this spoken word program.

One of the things that makes Meta-Four great is its leader. The program is headed by slam veteran and Houston poet laureate nominee, Outspoken Bean. “Bean”, as he is commonly called, is an expert at both performing poetry and coaching poets. His skill as a writer and performer has led him to open for such well-renowned names as Talib Kweli, Buddy Wakefield, and Cornel West. And Bean’s natural proficiency as a leader and teacher had allowed him to champion his former college team to regional victory in his very first coaching experience. With Bean at its head, Meta-Four is capable of honing any youth writer into a performer and competitor.

Another reason to get involved in Meta-Four is that it helps poets to branch out and find like minds. Every year Meta-Four, sends 4 to 6 of its poets to an international slam poetry competition called Brave New Voices which draws in hundreds of the best youth poets in the world. These competitions have taken place in states across the country, from California to New York and participants have come from places as far as England, Guam, and South Africa to take part. Meta-Four’s involvement in Brave New Voices provides a way for Houston youth to network with other teens.

The upcoming Brave New Voices competition will take place in Chicago, Illinois. To help Meta-Four prepare for this competition, WITS will be providing space for workshops and rehearsals, as well as helping Coach Bean to schedule features and performances all around Houston which exhibit the Meta-Four slam team’s material. These features help writers get comfortable performing, while also exposing the city to the talent its youth possesses. These workshops, rehearsals and features were a vital part of Meta-Four’s success last year. Our team went on to place 21st in the Brave New Voices competition and land a feature spot on the semi-final stage. WITS hopes to help Meta-Four’s 2013 team duplicate, and even surpass that level of success in this year’s competition, while encouraging all of its young poets to write and perform to the best of their abilities.

by WITS Intern and former Meta-Four Member Jeremy

Black Rock Today

Posted February 20, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Student writing at the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center

Student writing at the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center

Today I am a small, black, little thing,
the size of a quarter.
Today I am a rock with a message saying “don’t go there.”
Today I am a rock with no reason and no purpose
but to sit there in the soft, mushy soil.
Today I am life,
I am light.
Today I am flight.

by Zachary, 4th grade

 

I Believe

Posted January 30, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

DSC_1564

I believe in the pink, fresh flowers
That grow slowly in a garden.
I believe in the aroma of the strawberry, sweet perfume
That flows through the air.
I believe in the soft rain
That falls from the clouds to the ground.
I believe in the slippery black and white penguin
That plays with me.
I believe in the sour, yellow lemon with salt
That I adore.
I believe that one day I will see all of nature
That I am missing.
I believe in me.

by Julieta, 3rd grade

John Palmer Art names Writers in the Schools Charity of the Year

Posted January 23, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

John Palmer Art has named Writers in the Schools as its 2013 Charity of the Year and will support our organization for the entire calendar year through the raising of funds and awareness.

John Ross Palmer & WITS

Artist John Ross Palmer says, “We fell in love with WITS and their team from the get-go.  They are 100% committed and enthusiastic about their work–just like me!  Look forward to our events that support WITS this year–both our cherished art collectors and their patrons should be ready to be wowed!”

As John Palmer Art’s 2013 Charity of the Year, WITS will be specifically honored at the following events at the John Palmer Art Gallery & Studio: Official Charity of the Year Launch Party on April 6th, The Afternoon & Evening of Escapism on October 19th and an Official  Fundraising Party for WITS (Date to be Determined). Visit johnpalmerart.com for more information about John and his incredible work.

Outside in Winter

Posted January 18, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

I am outside looking at the snow falling, and I hear the wind blowing the trees.
I am outside smelling the hot chocolate and hearing the birds.
I am walking and looking at the animals outside.
Children are playing and people are saving the plants.
I am looking at my family playing.

by Jorge, 3rd grade

Meet New WITS Writer Elizabeth Keel

Posted January 16, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Elizabeth A. M. Keel is a 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. Her first novel, Running Into Trouble, was published in 2010. Elizabeth also works as a teaching artist for the Alley Theatre, helping teens write short plays.

Elizabeth’s thoughts on WITS: 

All the stories I’ve ever read have stayed with me. They fill my tool box. I’ve read screwy stories, and ones that hammered things home. Sometimes, a certain story was the only thing that could spackle a crack in my life.

WITS is the Home Depot of story-tools. They are aisle after aisle of improved thought, humor, creativity, and hope. My goal is to hand out wrenches and saws to the next generation of thinkers. To teach them to look at problems, and instead of panic, draw on their writing and reading to see them through.

Elizabeth was influenced by Half Magic written by Edward Eager: 

“The children generally divided grown ups into four classes. There were ones like Miss Bick and Uncle Edwin… who–frankly, and cruel as it might be to say it–just weren’t good with children at all…

“Then there were ones like Miss Mamie King who–when they were with children–always seemed to want to pretend that they were children too…

“Somewhat better were the opposite ones who went around treating children as though they were as grown-up. This was flattering, but sometimes a strain to live up to.

“Last and best and rarest of all were the ones who seemed to feel that children were children and grown-ups were grown-ups… and there wasn’t any reason why they couldn’t get along perfectly well and even occasionally communicate, without changing that fact.

Mr. Smith turned out to be one of these.”

Meet New WITS Writer Delicia Daniels

Posted January 14, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Delicia Daniels is a poet, essayist, and biographer. She received her B.A. in English from Dillard University and her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Chicago State University. She is the founder of Dark Symphony, a new literary journal at Wiley College. Her publications most recently appeared in WarpLand, and Cream City Review. Ms. Daniels is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Texas Southern University.

You can read a poem by Delicia here.

Delicia’s thoughts on working at WITS: 

Poetry is limitless. I hope to spread the beauty of its craft, highlight the trailblazing poets who strived to give it wings, and encourage the students participating in Writers in the Schools to own their place in its universe.

Delicia was greatly influenced by:  I Wish I had Duck Feet by Theo. LeSieg:

Say!

I know what!

I wish I had

two horns up on my head!

I wish I had two deer horns.

They would be a lot of fun.

Then I could wear

ten hats up there!

Big Bill can just wear one.

I think they would

be very good

to have when I play ball.

Then nobody could stop me.

No, sir! Nobody at all!

My horns could carry

Books and stuff

Like paper, pens and strings

and apples for my teacher

and a lot of other things!

BUT…

If I had big deer horns,

I would never

get a ride.

I could never ride the school bus.

I could never get inside!

………………………………………………………….etc

……………………………………………………………

……………………………………………………………

AND SO…

I think there are some things

I do not wish to be.

And that is why

I think that I

just wish to be like ME.

Meet New WITS Writer Florence Davies

Posted January 7, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Florence Sarah Davies is currently an MFA student of Writing & Literature at Stony Brook University in New York. There, she taught for YAWP (The Young American Writers Project) as a Teaching Artist. She received her BA in English-Creative Writing at Texas A&M University. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant at Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters and as a CRLA-certified writing consultant for the Texas A&M University Writing Center. While she doesn’t have any pets, she is the proud owner of three or four stealth blogs. Her thesis is a novel-in-progress for young adults.

Florence’s thoughts on Writers in the Schools: 

I hope to inspire a group of young writers to actively engage in their unique and legitimate voices. And I hope, in return, they inspire me to do the same with my own work. It is my belief that the act of writing in its organic form can create a myriad of beautiful symbiotic relationships.

One of my favorite books as a child, though I suppose the context was a bit beyond me when I first read it, was The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I finally read its original translation, Le Petit Prince in my high school French class, but the words resonate in any language. Particularly:

Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.

Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Happy New Year from Writers in the Schools

Posted January 1, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

WITS is so grateful for the young minds we encounter like Magnolia, who offers such wise words for the new year:

Advice from a Butterfly

Fly high and wide in the blue sky.
Always be your beautiful self.
Never give up flying to somewhere hard.
Enjoy your multi-colored wings.
Don’t ever change your colorful wings.
Remember, no two butterflies are the same.
You have to go home because home is where the heart is.
Always think long term.
Sometimes you have to go out on a limb.
Challenge yourself harder every day.
Always be kind to other animals.

by Magnolia, 2nd grade

The Best Christmas of Onasis Rodriguez

Posted December 24, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

My best Christmas was two years ago because somebody my dad knew from work invited us to his apartment to celebrate. When my dad and I got to the apartment, we marveled that it was so pretty. All the decorations were nice because the guy my dad knew from work put a lot of effort into them. Decorations were all over the apartment. There were candles, presents, lights, and lots of food. My dad and I sat on the sofa. We met some people at the party who we didn’t know, friends and relatives of our host. All of us ate chicken sandwiches and drank sodas. I couldn’t help staring at the tree and how it was decorated with lights, ornaments, a star on top, and especially, presents underneath.

boysWhen it was time to open the presents, everybody did, except me and my dad
because our host didn’t get us any, and his guests didn’t know us. So you might think that I was sad. But here’s the best part of all: a lady at the party gave me a present. She went to her room and came back and gave me a present! I opened the present, and it was a shirt, and it fit, and I thanked her because she gave me a present. I didn’t know her, but she was nice to me. To tell the truth, I prefer a Wii or Xbox game for a gift rather than a shirt. My dad didn’t care about himself. He was happy that I got a present. My dad felt as good as I did. When it was at 12 o’clock, it was time for my dad and me to go. When we got back home, my dad and I went to sleep. The next day I wore the shirt.

By Onasis Rodriguez, 8th Grade

Although it’s been a while since it was written, “The Best Christmas” is still a favorite WITS holiday story. It captures the spirit of generosity and gratitude that comes out in us this time of year. Happy Holidays from the WITS Crew!

The WITS staff at A Celebration of Story 2012

This story was published in You Hear Me? Poems and Writing by Teenage Boys. Edited by Betsy Franco.

 

Meet New WITS Writer Pamela Bond

Posted December 20, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

photo credit to B. Wise Photography

Pamela’s thoughts on writing and working for Writers in the Schools: 

I started writing when I was 14 and never stopped – I wrote for my high school and college newspapers, wrote in my internships, wrote in my undergraduate and graduate classes, and wrote for newspapers and magazines. What’s amazing about writing is there’s no limit to what you can write about. As soon as the ink dries on one story, I’ve awakened to another fascinating idea that I can’t stop thinking about and crafting a well-written story seems the only way to do it justice.

I hope the students I meet through WITS will come to share my passion for writing as a form of expressing themselves and a way to question themselves and the world around them. I want them to know that there is an incredible freedom in creative writing, without having to formulate one right answer or follow a set pattern, and that ability to think innovatively will help them reach their goals, whatever those may be.

A work that influenced Pamela from an early age: 

“At the end of class, Mr. Bonner gave us our homework: to write about what our own struggles were.

So that night I spent three hours writing about my struggles. When I started, I couldn’t think of any struggles. No struggles! So that was why I wasn’t interesting.

And then I started to think of struggling with moving and figuring out where I was and why my family had sent me away. I wrote about struggling with homesickness and with figuring out who I was. On and on I went. I was full of struggles! And that made me so happy: If I was full of struggles, maybe I was interesting!”

(from Bloomability by Sharon Creech)

Meet New WITS Writer Sarah Jerasa

Posted December 18, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Sarah Jerasa comes to Houston from Bloomington, Indiana where she had been teaching at The Project School, a project based arts infused charter school. She received her BA and MAT from the University of Virginia and has been teaching writer’s workshop for over 6 years.

What Sarah hopes to accomplish as a WITS writer:

I love to learn side by side with young writers by writing daily and sharing books and experiences. As a WITS writer I look forward to finding authentic writing experiences for students to be keen observers of the world around them I want to help make an impact for students of all backgrounds and spark a passion for writing in each student I work with.

What inspired Sarah as a kid:

I wasn’t always a big fan of books or reading growing up. I had the toughest time finding stories that were compelling or interesting to read. As a young writer, I had similar challenges of finding inspiring topics to write about. But the first time I read E.L. Konigsburg’s “From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler“, something finally clicked! I was completely pulled into a book for the first time, connecting with these two ordinary siblings who decided to pull off running away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I had such a mental movie as a reader and loved how the author was able to create an adventure using just her words! One of my favorite parts of the book was how the main character, Claudia, planned each detail of their escape:

by Phil McAndrew

“Claudia loved the city because it was elegant; it was important; and busy The best place in the world to hide. She studied maps and the Tourguide book of the American Automobile Association and reviewed every field trip her class had ever taken. She made a specialized geography course for herself. There were even some
pamphlets about the museum around the house, which she quietly researched. ”

After reading this book, I too wanted to write about my real and make-believe adventures. I wanted my readers to be completely hooked on my stories and to allow them to feel and experience what my characters would go through.