Public Poetry Featuring WITS Student

Posted October 3, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Join us this Saturday, October 6th at 2pm, for a fantastic lineup of Public Poetry at the Vinson Neighborhood Library. A WITS student will read two pieces along with a talented selection of Houston writers. Free as always!

Visit Public Poetry for more information.

Meet New Writer Mark Williams

Posted October 1, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

WITS Writer Mark Williams

Mark Williams grew up outside Chicago, IL. He taught junior high and high school English there for three years before moving south—first to Boone, NC; then Louisville, KY; and now Houston. Currently, Mark is finishing a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition from the University of Louisville, where he has also studied creative writing.

Here are Mark’s thoughts on working with WITS:

I think creative work—doing our own, seeing others’—is how we all find out we have more in common (and more we can say) than we realized. But finding that out takes trust, and a lot of scaffolding. I can’t wait to join teachers and students in building both.

My favorite book as a child was Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton. Here’s a favorite section:

Credit: BetterWorldBooks

And it was Mike Mulligan

and Mary Anne

and some others

who dug the deep holes

for the cellars

of the tall skyscrapers

in the big cities.

When people used to stop

and watch them,

Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne

used to dig a little faster

and a little better.

Meet New WITS Writer Patrick James

Posted September 19, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

New WITS Writer Patrick James

Patrick Clement James is a poet, essayist, and musician. A graduate of the Manhattan School of
Music, he is currently a Master of Fine Arts candidate at the University of Houston. Having taught in
Montessori and public schools, he is excited to engage educationally with the community of Houston. In this capacity, he hopes to help students discover the power of their experiences, voices, and imaginations. One of his first resonating encounters with literature was when he read, for the first time, the final paragraph of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

“Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a
grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood: and how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long-ago: and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.”

Welcome to the WITS team Patrick!

Meet New WITS Writer Terry Portillo

Posted September 17, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

New WITS Writer Terry Portillo

Terry Portillo lives at the southern tip of Tornado Alley, with her husband, her horse, a donkey, two cats, a motley crew of rescue dogs, some chickens, and whatever else the wind blows in. When Terry isn’t teaching ESL classes for Lone Star College, she likes to read, write, walk her dogs, and prepare lavish dinner parties for friends.  Terry has had numerous poems published in literary and mainstream magazines, was a juried poet at the 2003 Houston Poetry Festival and is a five time Pushcart Prize nominee. She has also had three short stories published in Ellery Queen.

Terry looks forward to sharing her passion for literature and writing with her WITS students. She hopes to increase their sense of self-worth as she offers them a safe venue in which to unleash their creative energy and express their thoughts and feelings.

One of the books which inspired Terry as a child was J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit:

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. It had a perfectly round door like a porthole… The door opened onto a hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with paneled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats — the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill.”

Now that she thinks about it, the house Terry lives in today is very much like the hobbit’s!

Join us Saturday for LibroFEST!

Posted September 14, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Join WITS this Saturday, September 15th in celebrating Hispanic writers at Librofest, a book and arts festival that highlights the Latino community. A free event hosted by the Houston Public Library, Librofest will include storytelling, writing workshops, book giveaways, crafts, and performances for the whole family. This inaugural festival will feature a reading from several celebrated poets and writers including Gwendolyn Zepeda, Claudia Kolker, Javier O. Huerta, and Sarah Cortez. Feel free to stop by exhibitors’ tables and discover what’s new from Writers in the Schools, Arte Público Press, Casa Ramírez, Houston Public Library, Literal magazine, MECA, Nuestra Palabra, and Society for the Performing Arts.

WITS will be hosting a free workshop for kids at Librofest, located in the library’s main building (first floor gallery area) at 1:45 pm. WITS Writers Weezie Mackey and Carmen Jacobsen will lead students in exercises that explore creativity and celebrate Latino community and culture.

Fun for all ages! We can’t wait to see you there!

When & Where

Saturday, September 15, 2012
11:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Houston Public Library’s Central Library Plaza
500 McKinney St.
Houston, TX 77002

For more information, click here or call 832-393-1313.

Listen to WITS Writers Tonight

Posted September 13, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Current WITS Writer Miah Arnold and past WITS Writer Sarah Cortez will be reading at Kaboom Books tonight at LitFuse’s Fall Season Opener.

Thursday, September 13, 2012
Kaboom Book in Woodland Heights

7:30 PM, free

Here’s the announcement from LitFuse:

WITS Writer Miah Arnold

For our Welcome To Fall season opener, LitFuse is excited to welcome three of Houston’s very best: Miah Arnold, Marc Phillips, and Sarah Cortez. Miah Arnold is the author of Sweet Land of Bigamy (Tyrus Books 2012). Her essay, “You Owe Me” (originally published by Michigan Quarterly Review) will appear in Best American Essays 2012. She grew up in a house attached to The Three Legged Dog Saloon in rural Utah, studied history at Carleton College, and earned a Ph. D. in writing and literature at the University of Houston. She has served as a fiction editor at Gulf Coast and a poetry editor at Lyric Poetry Review. Her work has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Nanofiction, Confrontation, Painted Bride Quarterly, and the South Dakota Review. She has received a Barthelme Award, an Inprint/Diana P. Hobby Award, and an Established Artists Grant from the Houston Arts Alliance for her work.

Marc Phillips. “Author, journalist, in print since 1991. Award-winning short stories, poetry. Debut novel The Legend of Sander Grant (Telegram 2009). Lives in Houston.”

Former WITS Writer Sarah Cortez

Sarah Cortez is the author of an acclaimed poetry collection, How to Undress a Cop, and winner of the PEN Texas literary award in poetry. She edited Urban Speak: Poetry of the City; Windows into My World: Latino Youth Write Their Lives (winner of the 2008 Skipping Stones Honor Award); Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery; and Indian Country Noir (Akashic Books). In May 2011, her latest project entitled You Don’t Have a Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens was released by Arte Público Press. Her most recent title is “Walking Home: Growing Up Hispanic in Houston,” a mixed-genre, groundbreaking memoir. Her work has appeared in The Sun, Rattle: Poetry for the 21st Century, The Houston Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, The Texas Review, New Texas, Louisiana Review, Blue Rock Review, Pennsylvania English, The Midwest Quarterly and elsewhere and is widely anthologized in collections by Penguin, the Great Books Foundation, and other international publishers.

Happy Arts in Education Week!

Posted September 10, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

This week is National Arts in Education Week. Ask your schools about their commitment to arts education, and ask them about WITS!

 

Meet New WITS Writer Shane Lake

Posted September 6, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

WITS Writer Shane Lake

Shane Lake was born and raised in Mattapoisett, MA. He left the Bay State for Pennsylvania, where he was a student in the creative writing program at Susquehanna University. In 2012 he received an MFA in poetry from Arizona State, and he is currently a doctoral student in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Houston. Shane’s thoughts on what he wishes to accomplish with WITS:

 As a new WITS writer, I hope to help students find their individual voices, and to help them realize that they all have important stories to tell. I owe so much to the great teachers I have had in the past, and I just want to pass on what I have learned to younger generations of writers.

Excerpt from a favorite childhood writing:

When I was growing up, my favorite book was Maurice Sendak’s classic, Where The Wild Things Are. I always loved the part where Max’s room turns into a forest:

 “That very night in Max’s room a forest grew, and grew—and grew until his ceiling hung with vines and the walls became the world all around.”

 After reading this, I always wanted the same thing to happen to my room.

Welcome aboard Shane!

Sept. 11 Reading: WITS Writer Lacy Johnson

Posted September 4, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Come Hear WITS Writer Lacy M. Johnson

Tuesday, September 11th

7:30 p.m.

Kaboom Books

 3116 Houston Avenue

Lacy M. Johnson is the author of Trespasses: A Memoir, which was published by the University of Iowa Press earlier this year. She holds a PhD from University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program and has been awarded fellowships from the Kansas Arts Commission, the Mitchell Center for the Arts, and Millay Colony for the Arts. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Creative Nonfiction, Sentence, TriQuarterly Online, Memoir Journal, Gulf Coast, Pebble Lake Review and elsewhere. She lives in Houston with her husband and two children and currently teaches writing to public school teachers and pediatric cancer patients.  http://www.kaboombooks.com/events.html

Exciting Year Ahead

Posted August 30, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

New Writers at Orientation

With 80 writers on our roster, we are excited about the new school year and community projects and partnerships that have been developed. We continue to engage children in the pleasure and power of reading and writing, and our vision is to continue to revolutionize the way reading and writing are taught, nurturing the growth of the imagination and awakening students to the adventures of language.

Writers with Guest Merna Hecht

With the addition of 23 writers this year, we hope to expand our reach and continue to fulfill our mission:

-Every child deserves a holistic education that encourages critical thinking, creativity, and personal responsibility.

-Writing is an art that must be practiced and developed over time.

-Low-income students can thrive and grow through high-quality art education programs.

-The relationship between the WITS writer and the classroom teacher is a partnership.

-WITS supports classroom teachers as they adopt new approaches to teaching creative writing.

-WITS writers reflect Houston’s diversity to meet the needs of the community.

-Everyone has a personal story to tell. WITS provides opportunities for storytelling and the skills needed to do it well.

Meet Merna Hecht

Posted August 24, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Merna Hecht, an amazing educator, poet, essayist, and storyteller, will visit WITS Houston this weekend for the annual Writer Orientation. Merna has thought deeply about the important role of stories and storytelling:

Stories are like mirrors in which we see ourselves reflected. When we keep the wisdom of stories
with us, we find the courage to explore our deepest complexities and ambiguities. I believe that
engagement in literary art forms that includes multicultural stories and poetry from diverse global voices can contribute to teaching us how to live in closer community with others. I think arts education can and must support students in learning to embrace and respect viewpoints that differ from their own. I believe every student deserves an active engagement with creative process and explorations of their own imaginative, creative and participatory capacities.

Merna has won numerous awards, including a 2008 Jack Straw Writers award, a National Storytelling Community Service Award, and a National Storytelling Network Brimstone Award for Applied Storytelling. Her participation in the Writers in the Schools orientation will take place August 24 and 25, 2012.

The Serbian Express 5

Posted August 23, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

I just got back from working with Creative Writing Workshops in Northern  Serbia, even on the Hungarian border.  I was in Novis Sad and Subotica and then  South, towards Macedonia at Nis. It was fantastic. We had between 23 and 33 kids in each group at each American Corners. In Subotica, I got to see Hungarian Successionist architecture and, as I was already a fan of Viennese Soccesionism, you can imagine my delight with this mixture of art nouveau and art deco. Riding to and from the American Corners I would have had my head out the window like my daughter’s dog Freddie, if only we could have opened the window. But when  you are in an armoured car, you just have to bend over and look in air-conditioned comfort at what is outside that window.  In Nis we saw the amazing Roman mosaic instead of having lunch, and it was a good thing that we did, because we returned to a brilliant group of creative writing students ready to work from a Word Board in teams and then individually to create “Found Poetry” and then on to some pretty heady intellectual discussions on creative writing to influence.
My favorite moment of the traveling Creative Writing Camp was certainly the afternoon group at Subotica with 33 students-so many students that we had to get out an extra card table and put the students on the steps two to a step.  I called those students “My Step Children” and they did very well.  I actually had always wanted step children (having three children of my own) so, as these were likely to be my only step children in this life, I enjoyed directing them and their work.  The librarians at the American Corners were fabulous. They worked to make the Awards, Best So Far for each assignment and then  Best of the Best, accurate, even installing of the Creative Writing Meritocracy. Today I have three talks, including a noon speech at the National Library of Serbia on Creative Writing. May your good thoughts be with me, along with “the Force” of course.

by Merrilee Cunningham, Writers in the Schools

The Serbian Express 4

Posted August 21, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

So tonight we wrote the invitations to the closing party of the Belgrade American Corners Creative Writing Workshop. They were very beautiful, and we look forward to giving out two sets of awards: the “Best So Far Awards’ in the morning and the “Best of the Best” Award in the afternoon. The “What’s in my Head” and “What”s in My Heart” assignment went great with some of the teenagers. One of the burning questions came when I asked the students to  tape the two pieces of paper according to how they should exist. Should the work about “What’s in my Head” be beside, below, or above “What’s in My Heart.”  Since the question is too hard for me to answer, even for myself, I love asking other people what they think about it. Generally, all the students refused to put one above the other.  They were willing to tape their two anatomies of their heart and head side by side, but they were firmly unwilling to put one above the other. Is it their age? Is it their culture? Are they right? Alas, I do not know. All I know is that there were not ambiguous about their unwillingness to make one subservient to the other.

This morning we had the author’s chair for the award winners; then we took another chair and had the Harry Potter chair with the sorting hat. This is all from two amazing websites that David showed us called HarryPotter wiki and Pottermore. On Pottermore, you can actually answer some interactive questions and be assigned a house. I was tempted to have the younger children do that and then write about what it meant to be accepted to their university house.  I am still working on thinking about a Harry Potter assignment. Time will tell if it ever amounts to anything.

Tomorrow we also have a skype meeting and this will be my first skype meeting. All of you that are very practiced in skype meetings I wish you were with me now so that I could have your wisdom.  There are four more Creative Writing Workshops in four cities, including a city that is very close to the Hungarian border. So Friday I will be leaving in the morning for one of the cities, though I will be back on Friday night in time for my weekend of wandering around the citadel, enjoying the Serbian endless appreciation of Rock and Roll and Jazz.  I had a big argument with one of the students about the musical value of Bon Jovi.  It seemed that we agreed on the greatness of Guns N’ Roses, AC-DC ,and Megadeath, but when he introduced the possibility of a musician appreciation of Bon Jovi, I suggested that he might as well add Kiss and give them all music lessons.  I hope he is at the party. I liked his passion for Guns and Roses.

Tonight I will walk past this amazing building on the plazza that combines the architecture of Austrian-Hungarian work with Soviet themes. It shows two men holding up the earth.  Now, as a lover of mythology, I hoped that I would be seeing Atlas, the Titan, and Hercules, the hero, sharing the terrible task as Soviet brothers.  But I believe, from the hammer-like image those same figures are working lower in the sculptural messaging.  Alas, today it holds a shop that sells designer bags.  Off I go to sleep, but I will pass Atlas and Hercules, interpreted in the early  20th century by a genius who might not approve of the Marc Jacobs pocketbooks.

by Merrilee Cunningham, Writers in the Schools

Serbian Express 3: The Power of Pizza

Posted August 17, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

The American Center in Belgrade

This was the second day of the Belgrade Creative Writing Camp and it was amazing. Last night, this guy brought a group of ten teenagers into the American Corners who belong to a club that has a stipulation of membership that you have no parents taking care of you.  There are other stipulations of age as well, but that first one can be a real shocker. They came in together and the leader explained that there would be more tonight, but there was a rugby game final that they were in so some of the guys would miss the first day.

We started working on Haiku from our books on Haiku and then they began to write their own as they build the hut of a great Haiku master from Japan.  They were great and soon laughing and talking with each other.  Then the pizza came. As a former debate squad coach and presently a coach of UHD’s Model UN Team, I can promise you that pizza (or the cheese on the pizza) is the glue needed for all student organizations. And it seems that the long-time leader understands what we do, the universal binding nature of this wonderful food invented just one peninsula away from the peninsular that is The Balkans.

This morning the children made hearts and told us what was in their hearts. And the answers are wonderful:

There is a bunny in my heart

My lost dog is in my heart

My brother is in my heart.

from the wonderful blog thirteen red shoes

Then we put sleeping masks on the students and drew the configuration that is their profile so they could write what is in their head.  I thought of this concept from looking at Eighteenth Century children’s cut-out portraits done in black paper. PPS announces that “Adventure requires a trusted friend” and this is, in part, a test of trust. Does the child trust the counselor enough to allow the counselor to take away an important protective aid (sight) in order to protect those eyes?  It was wonderful.  The children were so excited about what was going on.  They loved that their counselors were giving them an outline of their actual head. They loved the attention, and they wrote wonderful works about what lives in their heads and hearts.

What would it take to put a bunny in your heart, metaphorically speaking?

by Merrilee Cunningham, Writers in the Schools

Serbian Express 2

Posted August 16, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Today I am writing from beautiful downtown Belgrade.
After an adventurous flight in an almost empty plane headed for London to pick up American Olympians and their followers, I waited at Heathrow with the Slovakian Olympic Team to fly to Vienna and then, sans athletes, on to Belgrade last night. Today, we had the first of our three-day Belgrade Creative Writing Camp at the American Center and it was a wonderful start. The children arrived mostly not knowing each other, so we had a round of introductions of the young ones and their five counselors. The counselors were great. They created a program of explanation of Haiku as a Japanese poetic form for the campers and made selections from the great Basho.  They created a word wall in Serbian and English all over the bookshelves of the library to allow the students to create ‘Found Poetry” in the tradition of “Found Art”.  Small Japanese umbrellas were placed in another bookshelf in order to ask the students why umbrellas exist, what and who protect them and what and who are they willing to protect.  After a rather serious question like that, a colorful little umbrella that usually goes into some summer beach drink made of juices is not only the focus of a rather serious work, but then after the Haiku House is built, the umbrella works well on the house itself. I call those “Creative Writing Camp Two-fers” after the notion of a two for one sale found regularly, in Houston, at your local drug store.
The American Corners librarians are very brave. Even when the bottles of glue and finger paints came out, there was not a sign of faint-heartedness. But then historically, Serbians have had to be brave to be where they are, basically, at cultural dividing points between different worlds.  This can be seen in their Cyrillic alphabet.  No one even signed (in any of their languages) at the placing of open cans of fingerpaint on the beautiful blonde wooden table. “No worries, we can always wash it off” was the only statement from the head librarian.  I was very impressed,  I am getting used to the young men, aged 7 or 8, who speak native English that they learned from computer games and television and are brought to the American Corners workshops to practice their English with “real human beings.” The notion that these kids have actually learned a language from machines is very interesting to me, as I tried the same thing at the Northwestern University French Lab many years ago with much less success. Let me repeat, these machine-taught, native English speakers are 7 and 8 years old.

This afternoon we will start the Creative Writing Camp with the older students. But now I am free to go to the Citadel. Most Serbian cities have a Citadel. They are terrifically useful to gather together behind powerful walls and in a high place so that you can focus your efforts on defending yourself against your enemy.  A culture with a lot of cities with Citadels tells you something about their expectations and their preparation for those expectations. They expect to be attacked. They expect to have to retreat to the Citadel. They expect to have to defend themselves there and to be plagued by plagues, overcrowdedness, and warfare. Today the citadel in Belgrade is an entertainment and market center, a place to enjoy music, lilke the amazing blues festival that they will have tonight or the jazz I heard last night in front of the Austro-Hungarian edifice of the National Museum.  There I listened to a young Russian girl, two middle-eastern young men, and a Serbian host, argue over whether or not one should live for pleasure or the contributions one can make to the betterment of mankind. All of this argument was in English, because it was their only common language as that took classic Roman positions of Marcus-Aurelius-lilke stoicism versus Hedonism.  It was all I could do not to enter the conversation, but then sometimes the young should travel this path by themselves, unlike our campers, who better have their four haiku ready by in the morning. As I dear old friend of mine would say, “more anon” from Belgrade Serbia on the Serbian Express.

by Merrilee Cunningham, Writers in the Schools

A New WITS Mission Abroad

Posted August 15, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

 

The Serbian Express 

Did you miss the Macedonian Express last summer?  Are you ready for more reporting from the Beautiful Balkans?  This is a fair warning. I know last year you must have noticed the absence of blogging from the Balkans and must have wondered “what’s up?”  But here in the last days of Houston summer, as children begin attempting to get their Summer Book List completed at the local library, we in Houston watch one more time as Altuve plays like a madman and yet the Astros still can’t seem to get a win, and parents everywhere try to figure out how to buy and pay for those back to school items that simply must be purchased,  I am off, via London and Vienna, to Belgrade to begin the Serbian Express.

And I would love to have you go with me one more time as we try to expand our wonderful Creative Writing Camp to Belgrade,  Kragujevac, Novi Sad, Nis, and Sabotica (near the border with Hungary).  So, as you can see,  there will be a lot of traveling once we arrive in Serbia, though our first four days will be Belgrade.

The word Balkans means mountains and  so I am very excited about seeing the beautiful land  that was once the central part of old Yugoslavia but is now its own country with many significant cities. So I will be flying into Nikola Tesla Airport, named after the great inventor who worked alongside Thomas Edison (and may have gotten a few ideas stolen from him during the relationship).  I love airplanes, and I love to be in airplanes that are traveling to exotic places, so, even though the trip will take about 18 hours, I am very excited about the ride.  For one thing, I will be returning on a plane from Houston to London to pick up the folks who have been at the Olympics and want to bring those  medals back to Texas. For another,  I am such a bad cook that  I love British cooking (alas, global warming has not gotten to the point where even British Airways can serve British wines).  For another,  since I am an Associate  Professor at University of Houston-Downtown, I always fall behind on my movie watching, and I get to catch up on my flight over the pond.  I know you  might think that these overnight flights were made for sleep, but I have no desire  to sleep on a plane.  I want that window seat so I can feel myself traveling thousands of miles to teach Creative Writing–the WITS way. It’s one thing to be alive, but it’s another to feel that you are alive or to know that you are alive.  I will be thrilled with airplane culture of a few hundred people traveling at 33,000 feet over the Atlanta on the way to the Old World. No doubt, from time to time, I will be humming  William Blake’s” Chariots of Fire”  before we set down in London on the way to Belgrade. (I have learned that the more stops you are willing to take, the cheaper your fare  if you amortize it by fun  and the more fun you will have).  If I can help British Air get their plane back to London in time to bring those medals home and they will reward me for it, I am willing.

Once there, the adventure starts.  Come with me in these dog days of summer to a place just as hot, but where great writing is about to take place, Haiku Houses are about the be built celebrating Basho,  plays will be written and presented,  and a world of imaginative use of words will rise like the ascents of those planes that I will be traveling on.

by Merrilee Cunningham, Writers in the Schools

Re-imagining the Alphabet

Posted August 14, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

The inspiration for Russell’s poem came from a prompt I borrowed from Janine Joseph, a fellow WITS writer. The lesson is called “Re-imagining the Alphabet.” The lesson asks students to re-imagine letters as objects in their everyday world. We practiced doing this as a class, looking at the letter “M” and noticing how it could be imagined as a mountain or a crown and so on, and we also read and discussed e. e. cummings’ poem, “i.” Students were then asked to write poems of their own with letters we gave them (it was a coincidence that Russell received the letter “r,” which he used very cleverly in his poem).

Who Are You r

r is a diving board, hanging over a pool.

r is also a ladder,

helping people to

climb out of the pool.

r is both sides of a spear

or a battle-ax

and a soldier’s hat.

r is the targeting scope of a gun,

and the gun itself.

r is also the first letter of my name,

Russell.

by Russell, 3rd grade

Listening to the students read the wonderful poems inspired from this lesson was one of the high points of camp for me.

by Michelle Oakes, Creative Writing Camp faculty

Michelle Oakes is a poet pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Houston whose work has appeared in The Laurel Review and RHINO. She is a poetry editor for Gulf Coast: a Journal of Literature and Fine Arts and an instructor for the 2012 Boldface Conference. Michelle earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Central Missouri, where she was also Associate Editor of Pleiades: a Journal of New Writing. She taught at the River Oaks Elementary campus during Creative Writing Camp.

Scenes from Creative Writing Camp

Elizabeth Wolf-Fighter, Snake-Rattler, Boar-Eater

Posted August 9, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

In the 1800’s there was a girl named Elizabeth Wolf-Fighter, Snake-Rattler, Boar-Eater. She’s not an ordinary girl. She’s a thunderbolt, a strike of lightning, an alligator hunter. She’s as tough as an ox. One day she decided to head west. Along her way she came across some horrible conditions. Nothing  bigger than her normal. One afternoon, she was sitting against the body of a pine tree. Suddenly a fierce animal approached the tree when Elizabeth was training her pet cobra. The animal was a rare white large mountain panther with razor sharp teeth. The people of the woods were scared of the big white beast.

“That’s an easy one to wrestle,” Elizabeth said.

As she looked into the eyes of the big cat, she whispered to herself, “You’re too easy to wrestle so I can just bring you home.”

After she said that, the white panther looked more friendly. He roared and bellowed. Luckily, Elizabeth taught herself how to speak mountain panther. He said, “Yes, you can train me to be more fierce, like you.”

“Yes,” she said.

Then she packed up her cobra and got on the back of a mountain lion and road home. When she got home, the people were no longer afraid of the beast. “Hurray for Elizabeth Wolf-Fighter, Snake-Rattler, Boar-eater!” they cheered. Then everyone was friends with the panther.

by Mikala, 4th grade

Notes from WITS Writer Sarah Gajkowski-Hill at Creative Writing Camp:

At camp that day we had a discussion of how rough it would’ve been to be a pioneer and how their entertainment, after a long hard day of work, was telling stories. Pioneers wouldn’t have been too impressed with these stories unless the heroes and heroines were larger than life and won against the elements. This discussion led to the students writing tall tales and then we distributed clay and they molded their main characters out of the clay.