Experiments with Words

Posted December 14, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Experiments I’ve tested on me,
trouble is key,
a raft that’ll throw me in darkness,
cars that will send unbelievable gifts like punches,
decades filled with insults,
I run and don’t stop to look back.
No food, no water.
Never leaves my head, never.
Sailors taunt me with burgers and water.
Nobody here, but me,
nothing but green grass.
I’m old, but not dead yet.
Midnight fills me,
nothing fills my body.
My life ends with a lily.

by Gwyneth, 4th grade


Meet New WITS Writer Meghan Gorry

Posted December 13, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Meghan Gorry is a writer of fiction and native Houstonian. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Rice University, where she studied English and Latin American literature and worked as a Writing Consultant for fellow undergraduates.  She has lived in Argentina and spent the past two years studying in Paris at the Sorbonne. Meghan is happy to be back in Houston and excited about her first year working with WITS:

I am really happy to be working with WITS this year. Children have important stories to tell, and I look forward to helping them find their writing voices.

Writing that inspired Meghan as a kid:

The Witches by Roald Dahl

“She might even be your lovely school-teacher who is reading these words to you at this very moment. Look carefully at that teacher. Perhaps she is smiling at the absurdity of such a suggestion. Don’t let that put you off. It could be part of cleverness.

I am not, of course, telling you for one second that your teacher actually is a witch. All I am saying is that she might be one. It is most unlikely. But–here comes the big “but”–not impossible.”

Meet New WITS Writer Florence Miyamoto

Posted December 10, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Florence is a wife, mother, retired teacher, and writer. A graduate of Fresno State College, with a BA in Social Science, she later received Texas Lifetime Certification in Elementary Education (EC-8), Early Childhood Education, and English as a Second Language (ESL). Reading Recovery trained through the University of Houston at Clear Lake, most of Florence’s teaching experience has been with the young struggling reader and writer.

Florence on her work, and working with Writers in the Schools:

The need to make individualized books for the child with a limited repertoire, turned into a collection and became Easy-to-Make Books That Target Specific Reading Needs (PK-K-1), published by Scholastic in 2009, to support the early behaviors of reading.

I hope to meet the following objectives as a WITS Writer:

– to weave a thematic thread throughout the framework of each lesson, a thread connecting reading, writing, and the fine arts to content areas of study, an integrated approach that will be meaningful for all children

– to focus on the individual needs of the learner by teaching within what Vygotsky calls the Zone of Proximal Development, the child’s instructional level, learning what each child knows through close observations, analysis of assessments, one-on-one conversations, and personal reflections

– Donald Graves has said, “The teaching of writing demands the control of two crafts, teaching and writing. They can neither be avoided nor separated.”  I hope to share that deep understanding with the students I teach.

Meet New WITS Writer M. Yvonne Taylor

Posted December 5, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

M. Yvonne Taylor has worked as a professional writer and editor for more than 20 years and in the field of education for 13. She graduated with a degree in English from the University of Houston and earned a master’s in liberal arts from Southern Methodist University. After a few years working as a technical writer during the high-technology boom of the ‘90s, she discovered higher education, becoming assistant director of publications and minority community affairs at Rice University. She was assistant editor of the university’s flagship magazine, Sallyport, and later worked as assistant director of student activities at Reed College, an English instructor at Lone Star College, and a high-school AP English teacher.

An essayist, who occasionally uncovers a poem while crafting prose, Yvonne writes restaurant reviews, bios, web sites and blogs and is working on a book about single motherhood, which helped her attain a Gardarev artist’s residency in Boston in 2011. Her book is to be a collection of personal essays and interviews with other single mothers in her nationwide tribe. Today, an essay was published on xoJane.

Yvonne particularly enjoys teaching young people how to use the personal essay as a vehicle to explore their role in and relationship to the world around them. She’s thrilled to have the opportunity to help students share their personal stories, vision, and talent this school year with Writers in the Schools.

A book that inspired Yvonne as a child was Katy’s First Day, by Jeane Konder Soule with illustrations by Aliki: “My mom read this book to me to prepare me for the daunting first day of school. Like Katy, I was shy and nervous, but I found school to be a fun, exciting adventure. I still remember the surprise Katy’s mom left for Katy in her front pocket.”

Find out more about through Yvonne’s blog.

Dates Announced for Second Saturday Series for Teachers

Posted December 4, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Following a successful Fall Series, Second Saturdays are back in the Spring with four exciting new workshops for teachers:

Teachers, Words, and Art (January 12 at the Menil Collection)

Civil “Writes” (February 9 at the African American Library at the Gregory School)

Music and Poetry (April 13 location TBD)

Teachers as Writers: How to Get Published (May 11 at Bright Sky Press)

For more information, read a description of the workshops here or contact Tina Angelo

Meet New WITS Writer Layla Benitez-James

Posted November 19, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Layla Benitez-James was born and raised in Austin, Texas. She realized early on that she absolutely loved Texas and studied English, Spanish, and creative writing at Trinity University in San Antonio. She was lucky enough to continue her Texas tour in Houston where she is currently an MFA student in the University of Houston’s creative writing program. Layla enjoys riding her horse, Tonka, and reading and writing poetry and short fiction.

As a new WITS writer I would love to help young writers discover new authors who inspire lifelong obsessions with creative writing. I remember getting obsessed with different lines of poetry or novels and they would just play in my head over and over and eventually find their way into my own work.

I was first introduced to Edna St. Vincent Millay in seventh grade with the poem “Counting-Out Rhyme.” I loved all of its rhymes and rhythms and memorized it so I could have it with me wherever I went. I cannot read it or recite it without smiling.

Counting-Out Rhyme

Silver bark of beech, and sallow
Bark of yellow birch and yellow
Twig of willow.

Stripe of green in moosewood maple,
Colour seen in leaf of apple,
Bark of popple.

Wood of popple pale as moonbeam,
Wood of oak for yoke and barn-beam,
Wood of hornbeam.

Silver bark of beech, and hollow
Stem of elder, tall and yellow
Twig of willow.

Meet New WITS Writer Megan Applegate

Posted November 15, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

WITS Writer Megan Applegate

A southern girl (and proud Texas Aggie) at heart, Megan earned her MFA in creative writing in 2004 and celebrated by spending the next seven years in Alaska. She currently resides in the Katy area with her Prince Charming husband and four amazing children. Life is never dull around the Applegate house. A former reporter who loves to ask a million questions, Megan writes middle grade fiction and specializes in fairy tales, folklore, and mythology… believing every story needs at least one troll!

This year, Megan’s biggest hope in the WITS program is to model the idea that imagination can take you anywhere and that you’re never too young, too old, or too anything to dream (and write!) big. Megan’s inspiration has always been Shel Silverstein, and “Crowded Tub” was the first poem she ever memorized:

“Crowded Tub”

There are too many kids in this tub
There are too many elbows to scrub
I just washed a behind that I’m sure wasn’t mine
There are too many kids in this tub.

A Celebration of Story

Posted November 8, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Thank you to all of the volunteers, host committee, board, staff, and supporters that have made tonight possible!

The Truthful Tongue

Posted November 6, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Landscape with Birds by Lucien Freud

My fall made a fortune of the alphabet
The small city trembled like a drum
Opera chants smelled like garlic
The sky looked like a clump of salt
Your secret was a gift to the tongue
The continent filled with ashes
The ink slipped into my tongue
The metaphor shot tomorrow into a million pieces
The flame jumped into a storm of Oklahoma stars
The crowd leaped over the fortune of gifts
In the morning my tongue swallowed my flute
Friday was born by laughing and remembering
My spitted truth made a knot in my tongue

by Luis, 7th grade
Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers

True Colors

Posted November 5, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

You see paintings shaped in upright rectangles.
But I see stars and a moon and also a blue sky.
There was a shooting star.
I made a wish to get everything purple.
It came true!
Now I am inspired to look at art and see
its true colors.
by Senyea, 4th grade

From Writing at the Menil, a 22-year old collaboration between Writers in the Schools (WITS) and the Menil Collection

WITS Writer Janine Joseph Pens Opera Opening Nov. 3

Posted November 2, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Photo courtesy HGOco

WITS Writer Janine Joseph Pens Opera

WITS Writer Janine Joseph collaborates with composer Jeeyoung Kim in From My Mother’s Mother, an opera about a young Korean-American woman dealing with the traditions of her family’s culture.

The world premiere of From My Mother’s Mother is scheduled for 1 p.m. November 3 at Discovery Green.

Additional performances:

-1 p.m. Sunday, November 4, at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Brown Auditorium (1001 Bissonnet)

-6 p.m. Wednesday, November 7, at Houston Public Library, Julia Ideson Building Auditorium (500 McKinney Street) 

-12pm and 7 p.m. Friday, November 9, at the University of Houston, Jose Quintero Theatre (133 Cynthia Woods Mitchell)

For information, visit the HGO website or call 713-546-0230. Sung in English. Free. Read the full Houston Press Article

Meta-Fourth Fridays Tonight!

Posted October 26, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Join Meta-Four Houston every fourth Friday of the month to participate in a FREE spoken word workshop and poetry slam!

When: 7:00 pm – Workshop

8:00 pm – Slam

*Note: You must attend workshop to participate in the poetry slam

Where: Hope Stone Dance Studio

1210 West Clay

About Meta-Four

Meta-Four Houston encourages self-expression and literacy among Houston’s youth through creative writing and performance.

Public Poetry to Feature WITS’ Executive Director

Posted October 25, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

From Public Poetry:

“Poetry on TV??  Absolutely!  And we want YOU to be part of the audience on Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 2 PM at Vinson Neighborhood Library, 3810 W Fuqua, 77045 when Houston Media Source’s camera rolls!

It’s all about filming our featured poets – Jasminne Mendez, John Pluecker, Robin Reagler and Scott Wiggerman – in a fabulous new library, built just two years ago, that is moving into the future.  It’s an inviting, interesting, people friendly place that combines both hi-tech and old school, with 46 computers, a colorful fantasy space for young kids to listen to story-time and another to express their creativity, a vibrantly hued hi-tech section that has flat screens for video gaming, side rooms for groups to meet spaced throughout, and of course, books and books and reading nooks.

Please arrive by 1:45. We’ll be set up for filming inside the rotunda entrance, sharing the space with artist Elaine Bradford’s zoo of vibrantly-hued crocheted animals. Filming will go on for about an hour and a half, so come prepared for that.  BUT, if you’re a camera shy lover of poetry, simply take a seat at the back, and you’ll be guaranteed off-camera privacy and anonymity.

Never camera shy, there will be some students reading their poems, too, including kids who participate withWriters In the Schools (WITS).”

Houston Cinema Arts Festival

Posted October 23, 2012 & filed under Notebook.


Writers in the Schools is a proud partner of the Houston Cinema Arts Festival, November 7-11, 2012, which focuses on films and media by and about artists in the visual, performing, and literary arts. The festival takes place at different venues all around Houston, and tickets go on sale tomorrow!


This years’ festival includes interesting literary arts-related documentaries. Visit their web site for more information, and read the Houston Chronicle article about actor/director Robert Redford being honored and speaking about his lasting career.

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

Houston Poetry Fest This Weekend

Posted October 12, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Schedule and Lineup for the Weekend: 

Willow Street Pump Station, 811 North San Jacinto


Friday, October 12 @ 7:30 p.m. 

Juried Poets


Jerry Bradley

Lillian Susan Thomas

Norma Edwards Koontz

Daniel Carrington, Jr.

Maria Illich

Adamarie Fuller

Terry Jude Miller

Sandi Stromberg

John E. Rice

UHD Visiting Writers

Meta-Four Houston (info)

Featured Poet

Cindy Huyser

Saturday, October 13 @ 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm

Traditional Open Reading

Saturday, October 13 @ 7:30 pm

Guest Poet

Credit: uhd.edu

Jane Creighton

Juried Poets

Lynn C. Reynolds

Elizabeth Sydnor

Christopher Carmona

Sylvia Riojas Vaughn

Elisa A. Garza

Oscar Peña

Sean Johnson

Julie Pujol-Karel

Larry L. Fontenot

Kelly Ann Ellis

Sunday, October 14 @ 2 pm

Guest Poet

Joseph Campana

Juried Poets

Craig Bertuglia

Deborah “D.E.E.P.” Mouton

Winston Derden

Priscilla Frake

Kirsty McCormack

Geraldine Gobi Greig

Carolyn Praytor Boyd

John Milkereit

New and Free! Spoken Word Workshops

Posted October 10, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Led by WITS Writer and renown performance poet Emanuelee “Outspoken” Bean, WITS is offering free Spoken Word workshops every Wednesday starting today at Smith Neighborhood Library. Open to all high school students, workshops will be from  3:30-5:00 p.m.

Smith Neighborhood Library
3624 Scott St.
Houston, Texas 77004
Workshops on the following dates: 
October 10
October 17
October 24
October 31
November 7
November 28
December 5
December 12
December 19
January 9
January 16
January 23
January 30
February 6
February 13 (Celebration)


Former WITS Writer Dr. Matt Boyleston Reading at HBU

Posted October 9, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Credit: HBU.edu

Dr. J. Matthew Boyleston, Interim Dean, School of Fine Arts at Houston Baptist University, will read selections from his collection of poetry Viewed from the Keel of the Canoe at 7:00 on Thursday, October 11th at 7pm in the Fine Arts Museum at HBU.

Matt is a former WITS writer and a big supporter of Writers in the Schools.

Other publications:

Poems and essays in The City, Confrontation, Religion and the Arts, Transgressive Culture, The Madison Review, Yemassee, Time of Singing, Tipton Poetry Journal, The Roanoke Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Portland Review, Sierra Nevada Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Harpur Palate, The New Orleans Review, The Flint Hills Review, Puerto del Sol, The GSU Review, The GW Review, The South Carolina Review, The Powhatan Review, Poetryfish, Writers at Carolina, Aspects, The Echo, Carolina Writes and The July Review. 

Meet New WITS Writer Chris Cander!

Posted October 5, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

New WITS Writer Chris Cander

Chris Cander is a novelist, children’s book author and freelance writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of national publications. Since entering a writing contest in fifth grade, she’s suffered from an insatiable urge to write. Hardly a day passes that she isn’t at her desk, trying to capture the hearts and souls of imaginary people on paper.

Chris graduated from the Honors Program at the University of Houston in 1990 with a BA in French and a minor in Political Science. In 1994, she attended the Ploughshares International Fiction Writer’s Seminar at Kasteel Well, Netherlands. The following year, she attended the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, where she was able to work alongside some of her favorite authors.

As passionate as Chris is about writing, she is even more so about reading. She can still remember certain passages from Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell, which is the book that first taught her that literature was the most powerful form of transportation. “I was gripped by Karana’s brave plight, her desires and her determination,” Chris says. “As I read, I can remember being simultaneously drawn into Karana’s story—and inspired to write my own. Listen:”

“Would the four winds blow in from the four directions of the world and smother me as I made the weapons? Or, would the earth tremble, as many said, and bury me beneath its falling rocks? Or, as others said, would the sea rise over the island in a terrible flood? Would the weapons break in my hands in the moment when my life was in danger, which is what my father had said?”

“The power of story is within all of us,” Chris says. “Being able to tell it—to write it—lends a fluency to the rest of life. As a WITS teacher, is my great hope to help others discover, tell and share their stories via the written word. Chris is a member of of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Author’s Guild, and MENSA. Her children’s picture book, The Word Burgler (Bright Sky Press) is now available for pre-order!

We Need Your Vote for SXSWedu!

Posted October 4, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Vote for Writers in the Schools (WITS) and Aurora Picture Show to present our Moving Story Project program at the 2013 SXSWedu conference-the deadline is tomorrow! VOTE and SHARE here.

Moving Story Project was created to give students the opportunity to combine the arts of creative writing and film making (stop motion animation). Students leave the program with ways to talk and think about both art forms – creative writing and film making – analytically and deeply. Here is a past project:

Questions Answered

  1. How can arts education raise the level of learning and prepare students for the 21st Century?
  2. How does media literacy improve writing skills, and how do improved writing skills influence the creation of the moving image?
  3. How can the integration of arts education into a language arts curriculum operating in a standards-based world improve student performance on standardized tests, efficacy in other disciplines, and student attendance/retention?