“Words” from Creative Writing Camp

Posted August 6, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

WITS Writer Lesa Boutin

From the first time Carson read his work for my teaching partner, Rosa Nam, and me, we knew we had a jewel. When he shared his writing, we would stare open mouthed at each other. This piece, “More Silence, Fewer Words,” was inspired by “The Quiet World” by Jeffrey McDaniel. I have no doubt that the day will come when I am standing in an autograph line, book in hand, hoping to have Carson sign it, and I’ll be able to say, “I knew him when.”

More Silence, Fewer Words

It is the year 2024. Everyone has a word counter, and can only say one hundred words. Everyday. The day starts off with a hug, a kiss, and five words. “I love you too, Mom!” My amount of words decreases, like a time bomb. Tick-Tock. Lunch at school is silent. This isn’t unusual, though. Instead of yelling our disgust for lunch, we make faces. Basketball after lunch has changed with the new law. Instead of whooping and hollering when we get points, we all clap. Loudly. The bully hears and silently punches us. The videogames I play after school have changed. They now sound like the old video games my dad played, silent, with the occasional beep or ping. After the word-consuming phone call from Gramma, Mom says, “Dad didn’t make it. I’m so, so sorry.” I feel empty suddenly, and feel like I’m dead, too. At the funeral, I break the silence. “I loved him so much. Now he’s gone.” I cry. I say no more words, since I am at my limit. I go to sleep thinking how I have to do this everyday. Forever.

by Carson, 5th grade

Submitted by WITS Writer Lisa Boutin

Lesa Boutin is a children’s author who discovered a love for every aspect of a book’s life, from concept to completion. With a background in education, Lesa started her own publishing company, Boot in the Door Publications, in 2006, followed by the release of her young adult novels, Amanda Noble, Zookeeper Extraordinaire in 2007, and Amanda Noble, Special Agent in 2008. Lesa enjoys sharing her imagination and passion for storytelling with her students. Lesa taught at the AOS campus in this summer’s Creative Writing Camp.

A Pantoum from Creative Writing Camp

Posted July 24, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Camp Instructor Abby Estillore, a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a BA in English and a secondary teacher certification from UTeach Liberal Arts, is currently completing an MA in literature at the University of Houston—Clear Lake. For the past eight years, she has been teaching English Language Arts to middle school students and serving as the grade level lead at Welch Middle School for HISD. Two years after recovering from open-heart surgery in 2008, Abby’s first poem, “Sleep,” appeared in The Marrow Literary Journal of the University of Houston–Clear Lake. She studies and writes poetry that focuses on language play, distortion, and imagination. This is her first summer working with the WITS Creative Writing Camp at the Bellaire campus. Here is a poem from her camp classroom:

To Do

To do you have to try
To know you have to learn
To stop you must defy
Success you have to earn

To know you have to learn
To get you have to reach
Success you have to earn
To help you have to teach

To get you have to reach
To fight you must stand tall
To help you have to teach
To rise you have to fall

To fight you must stand tall
To stop you must defy
To rise you have to fall
To do you have to try

by Aditya, 7th grade

Abby’s notes on the piece:

Though some structured poetic forms might feel restrictive, I took a chance introducing pantoums to my students. The majority of the group had an aversion to rhyming poems, so I thought about experimenting with the idea of recycling lines/phrases in poems as
well as allowing these lines to direct the poem’s path instead. In our final anthology, I did not expect several/multiple pantoum submissions; these poems carried a deep sense of the inarticulable and explainable, presence and absence. Of these sophisticated pantoums, I was impressed by Aditya’s “To Do.” Not only did he choose rhyming patterns, but he also infused a sense of urgency behind unassuming one-syllable words (try-learn, reach-teach, know-stop, fight-rise, must-have). The logical-poetical approach of his poem turns the philosophical into practicality. Aditya’s “To Do” is a straightforward, no-nonsense wise saying that should be printed on a WITS bookmark!

A snapshot of Creative Writing Camp

WITS Writer Leslie Gauna Featured on Nuestra Vida

Posted July 11, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

WITS Writer Leslie Gauna and her daughter Marina, a former WITS camper, will be featured on Sunday’s edition of Nuestra Vida on Univision Channel 45. A professor at the University of Houston pursuing a doctorate degree, Leslie has taught Creative Writing Camp and speaks with host Grace Olivares on the joys of teaching for WITS and the power of writing in the classroom. Tune in this Sunday morning, July 15, to catch the interview. You can also find the interview here: http://univisionhouston.univision.com/comunidad/nuestravida/


Posted April 27, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

If there is a cat on your head


If there is a feather in your spaghetti


If there are ants in your pants

freak out

If there is love in your heart

pass it on.

By Johana, 4th grade

Click the link (above) to listen to the poem read on KPFT radio by Kathryn Chavez, a 4th grade student at Parker Elementary in Houston.


This poem is featured as part of the 2012 A Poem A Day campaign, a National Poetry Month celebration by Writers in the Schools (WITS) that features a different poem by a WITS student every day during April. Click here to learn more.

Goodbye Vacation

Posted August 23, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Goodbye playing outside
with my friends and sister.
Hello test.
Goodbye making cakes!
Hello science test.
Goodbye Mexico!
Hello T.H. Rogers School.
Goodbye vacation,
Hurry back again!

By Angelique, 3rd grade

Photo by stopherjones via Flickr

Menil Reading Tonight at 7:00 PM

Posted May 20, 2010 & filed under Notebook.

Writers in the Schools and The Menil Collection will present The Watchful Eye, a reading in response to the Torres-Garcia and Cattelan exhibitions, tonight at 7:00 PM in the museum foyer. The reading will feature both WITS students and University of Houston students from their undergraduate literary magazine Glass Mountain. Join us for a night of creative writing inspired by art, including the poem below.

The Boy on the Roof

Maybe he was flying
in a helicopter
or a plane
and he jumped down
by parachute.
Or maybe
he got lost in the attic
and found a trap door
going up
instead of down.

By Camille, 3rd grade

WITS Board President Publishes New Book

Posted November 23, 2009 & filed under Notebook.

Robin Davidson is a busy person.  Not only is she a full time professor of English at University of Houston Downtown, she’s also the president of the board of directors at Writers in the Schools.  And if that wasn’t enough, she just had her first book published by Northwestern University Press.

The book, The New Century: Poems by Ewa Lipska, is a collection of poems by a post-World War II era poet from Poland.  Ewa Lipska is regarded as one of the most important poets of her day but until now her work has not been translated widely.  The New Century is the first collection of Lipska’s poems to appear in English.   Robin Davidson co-translated the poems with Ewa Elzbieta Nowakowska and authored the foreword.

WITS Orientation 2009

Posted September 1, 2009 & filed under Notebook.

WITS Fall Orientation 2009 took place this past weekend with over 80 writers participating in the training event. Special thanks go to our two guest presenters, Laura Long and Yvonne Murphy, as well as to our hosts, the Houston Arts Alliance and The School at St. George Place (HISD).

Schools that have not yet signed up for WITS for the 2009-2010 year can make their requests to Associate Director Bao-Long Chu via email.

Want WITS in Your School?

Posted August 19, 2009 & filed under Notebook.

WITS KidFor more than 25 years Writers in the Schools (WITS) has helped Houston area children gain the skills to become articulate writers and creative thinkers. The WITS in-school programs focus on the writing process and address key objectives in language arts, including original voice, inventive word choice, sentence fluency, and clear organization. Through long-term programs, the WITS program allows students to develop relationships with professional writers while receiving intensive instruction and time to practice and master new techniques. Through innovative approaches, WITS writers help students build skills in reading and analysis,.

Please call 713-523-3877 or e-mail us to learn more about how to get a WITS program started at your school.

Where Are We Now: Karen Shepard

Posted December 19, 2008 & filed under Notebook.

Karen Shepard worked with WITS as a writer and a staff member between 1989 and 1993.  She is now living in Massachusetts with her husband, three children, a beagle, and a parakeet.  She teaches creative writing at Williams College half of the year and writes the other half.

Karen recalls numerous instances in which the magic of WITS came alive to inspire her and the students she taught. “I remember so many things. In particular: the boy who came to the Menil to write. His teacher was shocked at how much he was writing, how into it he was. When she asked why he didn’t write like that at school, he said, ‘At school, you don’t let us lie on the floor.’  I remember the Young Writers Reading Series as a few of the best nights out of my whole time in Houston.  I still have photos from the readings on my shelves at home.”

Karen believes that teaching with WITS changed and continues to change her writing, teaching, and parenting. “I think about the possibilities and pitfalls of all of those endeavors. I think, and try to practice, the mix of rigor and optimism that is at the heart of WITS. We demanded better of our students and ourselves because we believed we were capable of better.”

Karen has published three novels: Don’t I Know YouThe Bad Boy’s Wife, and An Empire of Women.

I Am

Posted December 12, 2008 & filed under Notebook.

sushi-moleskine-by-renmeleonI am the taste of sushi like butter on my tongue.

I am the smell of my grandpa’s old books that smell like dust.

I am the bursting fireworks and the smoke they leave behind.

I am music without a beat.

I am the smell of exotic spices.

I am the messy fluff on my dog’s head.

I am the scholar that ponders impossible questions.

I am always sleeping.

I am the taste of spicy wasabe burning my mouth.

I am the graceful arcs and curves of the Japanese alphabet.

I am the velvety fur of my rabbit.

I am the overgrown backyard full of soft grass and strong oaks.

I am the mysterious trinkets collecting dust in the attic.

I am the smell of treats baking in the oven.

I am the scratchy blankets that warmed my mom once.

I am ancient voices telling forgotten stories.

I am a page full of printed letters worn by time.

I am the spicy bursts of flavor in Thai food.

I am the calming warmth of a cup of tea.

by Charles, 7th Grade

The Thread that Binds: Art by Houston Women

Posted March 4, 2008 & filed under Notebook.


WITS Writers Carina Gauna and Diana Muniz will be featured in an Art Exhibit at MECA running from March 1 – 15. “The Thread that Binds” is part of an exhibition of female artists from diverse backgrounds and cultures. The public is invited to the Opening Reception on March 6th, 2008, at MECA.

Visual Art Exhibit: The Thread that Binds

ON DISPLAY: March 1-15, 2008
Featuring work from female artists from diverse backgrounds and cultures in celebration of Women’s Month.

OPENING RECEPTION: Thursday, March 6, 2008 – 7 p.m. at MECA (MAP: Click Here)



  1900 Kane Street
Houston, TX 77007
  Time:7:00 PM

(photo by sillydog via flickr)

Introducing 3 New Bloggers

Posted December 4, 2007 & filed under Notebook.

Three of the writers (teachers) from the Writers in the Schools (WITS) program will join the Poem a Day blogging team this week. Here’s a brief introduction to each one of them.

wits-blog-pics-007.jpgAmy Lin participated in the WITS program as an eighth grader at Sharpstown Middle School and fondly remembers her WITS writer, her Menil visit, and her anthology. She is delighted to have experienced WITS as a student and as a writer. Amy is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she received her degree in secondary education. Before joining WITS, she taught three years of freshman and sophomore English at Kempner High School in Sugar Land, Texas. Amy enjoys writing personal essays, reading mysteries, and perusing cookbooks. She is currently an associate editor with Texas Family Magazine and writes for their education section. This is Amy’s sixth year with WITS and her first as Field Coordinator.

wits-blog-pics-002.jpgJulian Martinez attended high school at Bellaire High School in Houston and graduated with a B.A. in liberal arts from the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to teaching with WITS, he als leads ESL courses through Literacy Advance Houston and can be heard on the radio every Wednesday at 11:30 A.M. on 90.1 KPFT’s “Human Rights Show.” He co-edited a student newspaper at UT and has contributed articles to periodicals nationwide. He has completed one unpublished novel and is currently at work on a second. He has lived in Ohio, Kentucky, Florida, and Texas and has called Houston home now for over five years. He’s an avid runner, and in between short stories you can find him at Memorial Park.

wits-blog-pics-003.jpgTria Wood  is a native Texan and lifelong art aficionado who earned her M.A. in English from Texas A&M University, where she also served as an assistant lecturer before moving to Houston. In addition, she holds an M.Ed. in Art Education from the University of Houston. For several years, she mentored disadvantaged youth through arts-based nonprofits.  Tria serves as Editor in Chief of Visual Arts for ArtsHouston magazine, which allows her to merge her passions for writing, aesthetic theory, and contemporary art. Tria’s poetry, fiction and reviews have appeared in a variety of publications; she also teaches creative writing to Houston area children through the Writers in the Schools program.

Look for their insights and their bylines in the weeks to come.

Poetry Slam: The Next Generation

Posted August 7, 2007 & filed under Notebook.

The national poetry slam comes to Austin next week. Here are the details.

DATE & TIME: Saturday, Aug. 11th, 3:15 – 4:45 pm
PLACE: Ruta Maya World Headquarters, 3601 S. Congress, Austin TX
For more information, contact the Texas Youth Word Collective.

HYPE: What do you get when you combine the Texas Youth Word Collective’s Austin Under 21 Poetry Slam with the National Poetry Slam and Austin Poetry Slam? One incredible afternoon of spoken word artistry! Come hear some of the best youth slammers from across the country compete for the title of National Youth Slam Champion!

Here’s the stage for the next generation, open to all poets under the age of 21. The slam will be hosted by Kim Holzer (Durham, NC), Saturday, August 11th, 3:15 – 4:45 p.m., Ruta Maya Int’l Headquarters, 3601 S. Congress, D-200, Austin. Free.

And be sure to check out the rest of the National Poetry Slam! A Youth Writing Workshop will take place on Friday, Aug. 10th, 2:30-4:00, at the Hideout Upstairs. The competition will involve more than 300 poets competing and reading at many of the venues that serve as home to performers during Austin’s famed SXSW Conference. This year’s NPS will draw audiences numbering in the thousands to the premier annual showcase for performance poetry. The event will culminate with the Individual Finals show on Friday, August 10, and the Team Finals show on Saturday, August 11; both events will be at Austin’s historic Paramount Theater, home to sold-out poetry competitions when Austin hosted the National Poetry Slam in 1998 and 2006. Tickets for both events, as well as passes for the entire week of competitions, readings, and late-night shows, will be available at gettix.net.