For the Love of WITS

by Kori Linn, WITS Intern

Working in the classroom with Rachel Kessler has changed my writing life. Changed it in a way that there is no going back (nor desire to go back) from.

Not only do I get new writing exercises, I get the freedom to approach them without constraints. In a room full of high schoolers, a place that was once stifling for me, I find myself willing to follow the advice I give to the students: write whatever comes into mind without judging yourself or your instincts.

On Monday, I had the pleasure of doubling up on my WITS experience: I spent the morning at Ballard High School with Rachel and three freshman English classes and I spent the evening at the Hugo House listening to WITS instructors from all over the city – my own among them – read new creative work.

Attending this event stunned me. I could not help but be impressed by the amount, and more importantly, the scope, of talent that makes itself available to local students via the WITS program.

The performances included poetry, fiction, genre-bending and even encyclopedia entries. One reading, by Emily, touched on ear wax, death, and candy in such clarity and quick succession that my emotions could barely keep up. 
Kevin Emerson read from his forthcoming novel, starting a fire in my mind to match the one in his main character’s childhood. My own Rachel Kessler read three poems, one of which she had mentioned that very morning in class while explaining to the students how a title can hint at the meaning of a poem or add another level of depth to it.

The last performance – and it’s a good thing it was, because nothing could have followed it – was, of course, the encyclopedia entry by Karen Finneyfrock. This was a piece to get lost in – it circled in on itself, telling the story of its own story, having a conversation with itself that we, the audience, were just lucky to overhear. Filled with self revelation, Norse mythology, and material moonlight, Karen’s words crowded in my mind, creating mesmerizing images and tangential thought patterns.

As a graduate student of creative writing, I encounter brilliant writers on a regular basis, whether it be classmates, professors, or visiting writers. However, I am amazed that students – elementary, middle, and high school students – have access to writers such as the ones I heard on Monday night, writers who are not just amazing in their own right but in their enthusiasm to share this thing they love so much.


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