Archive for the Uncategorized Category

New Stories in New Places: The WITS Blog is Moving!

Posted in Uncategorized on December 1, 2015 by writersintheschools

We are excited to announce that Seattle Arts & Lectures has a new blog! Sonder is a new place for us to gather the stories of different voices from across the organization: those of writers, speakers, students, teachers, readers, supporters, listeners, and all points in between.

The posts written by our talented WITS Writers, as well as those about our school visits and other WITS happenings that have populated this blog, will now live on Sonder, alongside the many other ideas and events happening at SAL.  You can find out more about Sonder here.

If you would like to focus on WITS-related posts, you can select the “Writers in the Schools” category or simply follow this link:

We hope you will join us there!

Upcoming Events – WITS Writers in the Community

Posted in Uncategorized on August 11, 2015 by writersintheschools

When they are not in the classroom encouraging creativity and enriching young minds, the WITS writers are actively reading, performing, hosting, and teaching in the community. Be sure to check out some of the exciting events happening around town (and farther afield) in the next couple of months.

When: August 13th 7pm
Where: Hollow Earth Radio
What: Presenting Alan Sincic and his story “Sugar”
WITS Writer Involved:
Corinne Manning’s The Furnace Reading Series with Big Fiction
More Info:

When: August 19th 7:30pm
Where: The Jewel Box Theater
What: Jennifer Jasper’s Family Affair – Cabaret Served up Family-Style
WITS Writer Involved: Jeanine Walker
More Info:

When: August 20th 7:00 p.m.
Where: SoulFood Coffee House, Redmond, WA
What: Poetry reading
WITS Writer Involved: Ann Teplick

When: August 29th (time TBA)
Where: Heller Center for Arts & Humanities, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
What: Reading with Aaron Anstett
WITS Writer Involved: Erin Malone

When: August 29th 12pm-10pm
Where: Starts in the Hing Hay Park (ID) and ends at the Nepo House (Beacon Hill)
What: Nepo 5k Art Walk
WITS Writers Involved: Rachel Kessler & Sierra Nelson – Vis-a-Vis Society
More Info:

When: September 25, 7pm
Where: Auntie’s Bookstore, Spokane, WA
What: A reading for the paperback release of Horses That Buck
WITS Writers Involved: Margot Kahn Case

When: September 26, 6:30-8:30pm
Where: INK/Spark, Spokane, WA
What: 2-hour “skillshop” on writing the profile
WITS Writers Involved: Margot Kahn Case

When: September 27, 4pm
Where: Shakespeare & Co., Missoula, MT
What: A reading for the paperback release of Horses That Buck
WITS Writers Involved: Margot Kahn Case

Many of the WITS writers also teach at Hugo House. Head to the course catalog to register for some of these upcoming classes:

Visual Poetry Laboratory with Greg Stump and Sierra Nelson
Create new collaborative and individual writing with text and visual work, plus a mini-zine celebrating our collective efforts by weekend’s end. We’ll look at work by artists such as Julie Doucet, Phillip Guston, Nedko Solakov, Raymond Pettibon, and William Steig…
Start Date: 8/22/2015 – 10:00 AM

Yearlong Manuscript Class in Prose with Peter Mountford
An updated version of the original yearlong class at Hugo House, this advanced course is for students working in either fiction or nonfiction. The class will contain a mix of genres, and the models we look at will be from…
Start Date: 9/15/2015 – 7:00 PM

Advanced Personal Essay Workshop with Peter Mountford
Hilary Mantel said: “Memoir’s not an easy form. If other people are to care about your life, art must intervene.” It can be disorienting to transform actual people and events into characters and plot elements in an essay or memoir,…
Start Date: 9/15/2015 – 5:00 PM

Yearlong Manuscript Class in Young Adult Fiction with Karen Finneyfrock
This class is open to those writing in any genre of fiction intended primarily for a teenage audience. Through reading assignments, lectures, in-class exercises, special guests, and workshopping your manuscript, you will learn to hone your voice, develop a clear…
Start Date: 9/16/2015 – 7:10 PM

The Mechanics of Comics and Graphic Novels with David Lasky and Greg Stump
Learn to develop and strengthen the storytelling skills used to create successful comics and graphic novels. A cartoonist faces choices about composition, point of view, emphasis, symbols, poses, and other aspects of visual communication. We’ll look at examples from masters…
Start Date: 9/19/2015 – 10:00 AM


Posted in Uncategorized on April 15, 2015 by writersintheschools

By Margot Kahn Case, WITS Writer-in-Residence

For my 12-week course at Franklin High School, we’ve been working on profiles, or portraits, of other people. Each week we tackle one aspect of getting to know a person. How do they identify themselves? How do they present themselves to the world? Where have they come from? What’s important to them? Who and/or what do they love? What are their secrets, their dark sides? What do they want in life? To practice asking these questions of others outside of class, we ask them of ourselves in class first.

For our third session together, I brought in food. I’m no veteran teacher, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that a little food goes a long way when it comes to paying attention. “I brought you snacks,” I said to kick off class. “So listen up!” Everyone cheered. So easy!

Together, we read two essays from an old 2010 issue of Saveur Magazine. “Lost in Translation” by Monique Truong is an excerpt from her book Bitter in the Mouth. It’s about how her South Vietnamese family first encountered Jell-O salad on the table of their North Carolina neighbors who were kind enough to have them over for dinner. “We were horrified,” she writes, “which was really saying something considering that this man, woman, and child had only months before escaped from a country at war.” In “Our Daily Bread”, Richard Rodriguez remembers the simplicity of his father’s refried beans and chorizo. It was a dish his father made daily, and one that Rodriguez didn’t fully appreciate until after his father had passed away.

We read these two essays and talked about how much we learn from the narrators—Where are they from? What are their families like? What is important to them? Family, respect, ritual, hard work. We talked about how these essays are about food, yes—but the food is really just a vehicle to talk about so much more.

In the penultimate paragraph of Rodriguez’s essay he talks about Proust’s Madeleine, so we talk a little about Proust’s work being an exploration of how memory works. We talk about the difference between voluntary and involuntary memory—voluntary memory being the memory we call upon (What’s her phone number? Where did I put my homework? What year did the Civil War begin?) and involuntary memory, those memories that comes to us unbidden (walking down the street we catch a whiff of blossoming roses and think of our grandmother who used to wear a rose-scented perfume). I gave everyone a madeleine cookie and instructed them not to eat it until I started reading:

“No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory—this new sensation having had on me the affect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. ….Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? …And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of Madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Leonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little Madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.”

What is Proust talking about? He takes a sip of tea and all the hardships of his life—even the fact that one day he will die!—everything falls away and all that fills his head is the memory of being with his aunt on Sunday mornings before going to church, sitting in her bedroom and eating this cookie dipped in a cup of tea. Taste and smell have the power to flood us with memories, have the power to evoke experience and emotion. And they can be powerful writing tools, as well.

After the crumbs were brushed from our desks, we set to work. The assignment was (choose one):

Write about a food you love. Or a food you hate.

Write about a food that is important to you or your family.

Write about a memorable meal (because it was so delicious, or because something wonderful or terrible happened).

There were no blank pages on this one. Everyone wrote. About a week later we were lucky enough to have Molly Wizenberg visit, which was an inspiring experience for many. Here are a few excerpts of the results.


In Calmar, the family piled into the kitchen, mashing potatoes, rolling dough, flipping the thin disks onto the hot grill. To make an excellent lefse was a virtue we all yearned for. Political and religious differences were forgotten. Guilt over leaving Iowa melted right along with the butter.

I always hated visiting Calmar, but I always craved lefse. Grandma’s house was an unwanted destination, claustrophobic and full of expired food. I begged to stay with my Uncle Luther when we visited. But the lefse was never expired. Never overwhelming. It was always sweet and kind. Everyone made it; everyone ate it.

We had lefse at my uncle’s wedding. We had lefse at Grandma’s Christmases, too. The last time Grandma and Grandpa visited Seattle, they brought a lefse grill. Grandma convinced mom to buy the special pastry cloth and the flipping-stick. Grandpa sat in the green recliner we got him just for that trip while we filled the kitchen with flour, sugar and potatoes. At Grandpa’s funeral, we had lefse. I don’t think I ate any. Maybe I wasn’t ready for the memories that buttery-sweet Norwegian tortilla would bring.

In Calmar, we’ve been getting rid of garbage bags full of junk for the past week. My aunts and uncles have thrown out moldy puzzles, age-old medicine, clothes full of moth balls. Grandma rides back to her house and asks, “Where did everything go?” In her new kitchen in an assisted living building, she makes lefse. It tugs at my gut at first, and then somewhere deeper. Lefse is the Norwegian roots we’ve all but forgotten.

– Hannah B.

Seaweed Soup

My parents used to fight a lot. They fought over who did or didn’t lock the door at our family restaurant. They fought about whether the chairs had been arranged the right way. But when it came to dinner, all the fighting ceased. We often did not talk to each other when we ate dinner; the only noise came from the TV. Silently, my parents shared their love for one another by putting food in each other’s bowls of rice. When ‘I love you’ was hard to say, my mother would put a piece of beef in my father’s bowl. Sometimes, my father would put in my mother’s bowl a boiled enoki mushroom.

If my mom and I had been fighting, I’d gently twirl my chopstick to tangle the strands of seaweed together before placing it in my mother’s bowl to let her know I was sorry. My mother and I did not fight often until she whisked the family away into a new life in Seattle. The spacious home we lived in before was gone, and the differences between my mother and I were becoming more obvious. She grew up in China, and I was growing up in the United States. Neither of us felt we understood each other, and I never made the effort to understand that the sixteen hours my mother worked each day had all been for me. I would often yell at her for refusing to accept me for who I was while actively refusing to acknowledge the Chinese traditions that she lived by. I preached empathy and kindness towards others but could not be bothered to be empathetic to my mother’s viewpoint as a Chinese mother in a society speaking only English.

Some days, there would be a bowl of seaweed soup on the table as a side dish. It was my favorite, aside from pork bone soup. When there were leftovers after dinner, I’d drink bowls of it, feeling the soup warm all sides of my belly while washing away the dry feeling of rice I had just eaten. Sometimes I would wait until everyone was asleep just so I could have another bowl of seaweed soup. It had just the right balance of saltiness and warmth to comfort me on a cold day. Though seaweed soup takes less than an hour to make, it showed up on the table only sporadically. The soup is healthy and known to lower blood pressure, but my mom did not make it often because of my low blood pressure.

The soups that my mother strenuously labored over for hours, adding expensive ingredients like birds nest and sea cucumber, were her only way of showing how much she loved me when I refused to listen. The seaweed that I placed in her bowl was my only way of telling her I was sorry when I was too embarrassed to say it myself. Food was what brought the family together when we had no other way to show our love for one another.

– Judy W.


As a Filipino, it is almost customary that our shelves have cans upon cans of Filipino sardines, corned beef, Vienna sausages, and Spam. Also, as a lazy male, I am determined to make fasts form the cheapest ingredients. That is how I spent my afternoon.

While heating up a pan, I cut the Spam into thin slices and put those in a bowl. Then I diced the Vienna sausages and put them in another bowl. From my fridge, I took several eggs and cracked them in a bowl. After beating the eggs, I added some salt, pepper and some spices I found in the shelf. I don’t know if anyone else does this, but when my family makes Spam they sort of marinate the slices in egg. After putting oil on the pan, I cooked the Spam until they were dark. The layer of egg stuck to the slices. While cooking them, I would sprinkle some more pepper just because. Then came the corned beef. Nothing special was done there. I just put it in the pan and stirred it around. Once the corned beef was done, I put it in a bowl, but left some in a separate place. After that, I made an omelet of sorts. I poured the Vienna sausages in the egg and mixed it well. Then I poured the mixture onto the pan. While I was at it, I added some cheese. Before folding the eggs, I took the spare corned beef and spread it across the top. All that was left was the sardines. There’s a little meal my family makes with sardines. I don’t remember it anymore, but I remember that it was supposed to have onions and garlic, add water and oil, crack some eggs into it and then add at least two cans of sardines in tomato sauce.

As I looked at my work, I felt very proud. Until I realized that I had to wash the dishes.

– Joshua I.


Hot, moist air out in the field. Under the sun, a familiar figure bent down caring for her crops. Every piece of food we ate was full of her love and care. Her sweat planted every potato, every carrot. The grandmother she loved and missed, reminding herself of the memories with every bite of pickled radish. The crunch sound resembles the fresh smile on her aged face; salty sweet was her vibe. Yellow, golden slices of carrots and the time we bonded to make seasoned vegetables can only be remembered from old-time pictures and bits of salted carrots.

– Ling C.


My dad is so picky when it comes to food. “It has to be an awe in your mouth,” I translated as I interviewed him. As we continued on, he talked me back to when he was a kid—poor, with literally nothing but a pair of pants he wore every day to everything. Somehow, I realized the pain my dad went through as he told me that a potato was like a perfectly baked chicken to him. My father, a man full of anger and pride, teared up as he told me “with the potato I dug up, I shared with my family of 9, and that was our best meal I ever had, even to this day.” With that, I teared up realizing how much he has worked and sacrificed for me. And we ended our conversation there as I cleaned up and he went upstairs like usual.

– Thien N.


Food Memory

Ever since I was a little child, my mom, my sister and I make lots of Christmas cookies. My favourite ones are Vanillekipferl and the recipe is really easy. But the actual cookie is so delicious that nobody would think of it as an easy dessert. The butter gives it this creamy and tasteful note and the grounded hazelnuts that slightly crunchy texture. The flour adds the softness to the Kipferl. So when you try one, it will melt in your mouth as soon as it starts to break into little crumbs. The sweetness comes from the powder sugar, which has to be powdered to make the cookie so soft. The taste reminds me of a relaxing Christmas time, time with my family, eating the cookies in front of the homemade advent wreath, my dad lying on the couch, the book with the Christmas stories in his hand, reading in a calm voice. My sister and I would cuddle with our mom and drink Punsch, which my mom made. It also reminds me of Christmas Eve. Waiting for the bell to ring, to signal that everything is prepared and we can come in. My sister and I would run into the living room and stop in front of the tree, full of awe of its beauty. We would wait until my grandparents made their way to us from the room we had waited in, in a slower pace with a big grin on their lips. Then we would sing “Stille Nacht” together and wish everyone Happy Christmas. My sister and I would fall to the ground, grab as many presents as possible, and hand our family their presents as fast as possible, so we can start ripping open ours, with sparkling eyes and joy in our hearts. Meanwhile, my family would sit together, talking, eating Vanillekipferl, and smiling with love in their eyes at us, every time we run to them to show them our presents. After unpacking everything, we would join them eating the cookies, while we are waiting for our parents to prepare the raclet, open all the jars and put them on the table.

Another memory would be a baking day with my mom and my sister. My sister and I would get something to stand on, to see on the counter; my mom would measure the soft butter, the powdered sugar, the crunchy hazelnuts and the fluffy flour. Then she would put everything in a bowl and let us try to stir it. Now I am able to make my own dough, but when I was younger I wasn’t strong enough so my mom had to make it. Then the dough has to rest for a while and we would drink a cup of tea, talking and cuddling with my mom. When the dough had settled long enough my mom would separate it into two pieces, one for each of us, and then my sister and I would start forming the Kipferl and my mom would make them smaller and reform them every time we looked away so they would look good enough to serve to guests. My mom told me years later that I now make prettier Kipferl than her. “The student gets better than the teacher,” she once said with a smile on her face.

Because the dough doesn’t contain raw eggs I normally ate a lot of the dough, when my mom wasn’t watching. Then they had to bake for a short time in the oven. My sister and I would run nearly every minute to the oven to see if the cookies were already gone, or sit in front of the oven until our mom would drag us away to get some tea and relax in front of the advent wreath. My mom would pull the cookies out of the oven when they were still soft, because they will “bake” for a short time after they are out of the oven. I still only would eat our Kipferl and never buy them, because ours are soft and melt on the tongue, unlike the crunchy ones from everyone else. The smell and taste mean a calm family day at home, baking with my family, feeling safe at home, and this special Christmas feeling to me.


280g flour

210g butter

100g grounded hazelnuts

70g powdered sugar

Dr. Oetker Vanilllasugar


Put everything into a bowl and knead it to a dough. Form a big ball and let it rest for several minutes. Make 3 inch thick rolls out of it. Cut small pieces of it and form a Kipferl. Put it into an preheated oven at 355°F. Take it out when they are still soft because they will “bake” a little bit longer after they are out. The tips shouldn’t be brown. Mix powdered sugar with vanilla sugar in a small bowl. Turn the still hot cookies in the sugar mixture, so the sugar sticks to it. Be careful to don’t break them.

– Natalie C.

Natalie C.’s Vanillekipferl


Smashing Expectations: Kyle Bolton Reads at Broadview-Thomson K-8 School

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 17, 2014 by writersintheschools

By Erin Langner, WITS Program Associate 

When I think back to the week before winter break when I was in elementary school, I remember things like “mailing” cards to friends in other classrooms, a mess of a candy cane and its wrapper leaving my desk sticky for days, and extended periods of time spent bundling up and bundling down every time we went outside. Amidst the inevitable chaos and distractions that surround such a week in an elementary school, I would hardly expect to find a group of sixty fifth graders sitting quietly on the floor in the library, listening to someone read.


As unlikely as it seems, this was a real scene at WITS partner Broadview-Thomson K-8 School this week, when Seattle comic artist Kyle Bolton visited, to read from his brother Chris Bolton’s and his book, Smash, Book One: Trial By Fire. All eyes were on the author as he animated the story of a ten-year-old boy who finds himself bestowed with superhero powers using a thorough assortment of voices and sounds to match each action. Building up to a critical moment of realization, the entire library gasped when Kyle unveiled the final, “To be continued…” slide of his reading; the cliffhanger was severe, despite only hearing a small part of a story the Boltons have planned to fill five books.

The kids sitting around the lingering “To be continued…” slide did not see this as an end but as an opportunity. Their imaginations ignited, when Kyle invited questions, every third hand raised brought ideas for the next four Smash books. Methods for defeating villains, suggestions for co-conspirators, new narrative twists and potential wardrobe ideas were floated for consideration. While it is hard to know which directions the authors might find best suited for the next iterations of Smash, it was clear that no outside distractions were too much for this room full of story tellers, who found new suggestions to share through the end of the hour—ideas that I hope to run into again someday, when these creative students put their pencils to the paper and let the inspiration flow.


Posted in Uncategorized on December 17, 2014 by writersintheschools

By Kathleen Flenniken, WITS Writer-in-Residence

The best way to become a better writer is to read a lot. It makes sense that sometimes I meet a poem that I immediately recognize could fill a whole classroom with smart things to say about how to write. I ran into Bruce Dethlefsen’s poem, “New Moons” (from the June 2014 issue of Hummingbird) at Seattle’s all-poetry bookstore, Open Books. The minute I finished reading it, I wished I had written it. And then, I wished I could write it. And then, I knew it would be a lesson for my fourth graders.


Image from Open Books,


Here is Bruce Dethlefsen’s witty and inspiring poem:

New Moons

the moon of the burning cold

the slice of ice moon

the peeking moon

the moon of potential

the reunion moon

the moon of dance and play

the moon most beautiful

the angry dog moon

what was that feeling moon

the two faced moon

moon of the closing door

and dune
the wall at the end of the world moon

I love to read poems to children and then open the conversation up with the question, “What do you notice?” My students immediately picked up on the way the months in “New Moons” were mash-ups of our everyday, conventional months. Right away, they also saw the possibilities of inventing new ones. It wasn’t easy to categorize the lines that described the moon, but we could all agree that those lines contained the poem’s magic, that something about the names of the months inspired them, that those lines didn’t necessarily need to make perfect sense.

We talked about other categories that could be mashed up. I had a few already started:

Times of day: morning, noon, afternoon, evening, night, dusk, dawn, twilight, sunrise, sunset

Meals: breakfast, snack, lunch, teatime, dinner, midnight snack

Seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall (Autumn), Winter

Moods: happy, angry, sorry, sad, irritated, blue, jealous, silly, serious, shy, embarrassed, afraid, depressed, bored,

School subjects: Arithmetic / Math / Algebra, History, Writing, Reading, Physical Education, Art, Chemistry, Biology, Physics

Languages: Latin, Greek, Spanish, German, French, Mandarin, Farsi, English, Russian, Portuguese, Hungarian, Arabic, Japanese, Tagalog

Styles of potatoes: baked, French fried, boiled, au gratin, hash browns

Donuts: sprinkled, raised, cake, chocolate covered, maple bars, holes, fruit filled

Fruit: apples, strawberries, peaches, apricots, watermelon, blueberries, blackberries, bananas, kiwi, pineapples, oranges, grapefruit, grapes, cherries, persimmons, pomegranates, pears

Vegetables: peas, green beans, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, corn, potatoes, rutabagas, kale, chard, lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, turnips, broccoli, brussel sprouts

Musical Instruments: violin, cello, bass, piano, trumpet, saxophone, bassoon, oboe, guitar, trombone, flute, piccolo, clarinet, xylophone, tuba, glockenspiel, accordion, harp, recorder, zither

Street Signs: Stop, Yield, No Parking, Caution, Soft Shoulder, Freeway Entrance, Exit, Transit Only, School Zone

Housing: tepee, yurt, tree house, mansion, castle, cave, hut, colonial, trailer, cape cod, craftsman bungalow, log cabin, mother-in-law, condominium, apartment, tent, cottage, farmhouse

These helped get students’ brains turning. But, as usual, my fourth graders had lots of ideas beyond my initial prompts and even thought about combining lists in ways I hadn’t considered. For ideas about mixing across categories, take special note of Waylon’s mash-ups of hunger and emotions (I confess this hits very close to home), Gabe’s mash-ups of popular culture and vegetables, and Aidan’s mash-ups of pop stars and musical instruments.

I love the way this prompt invites young writers to use their senses of humor in very natural and surprising ways.

Carlyn /New Vegetables

A long, red veggie crunchy and fresh
as Snow White’s apple before the potion.

A tough, lush green food for dinner in shadow skin
like the dark leather on my worn-out coat.

If you slice this neon yellow vegetable your tears
will fall like smooth rain on the silver blade.

My family isn’t fond of this umbrella-shaped mushroom.
But the green tummy-filler matches my taste buds,
like the colors in a sunset.

My dad sautés them with eggs but don’t eat it whole!
These flaky potato-like veggies aren’t tasty if you eat them entirely.

An aqua, freckled berry spicy on a stove for Mom and I to gobble up
till we’re full as a tiger licking her lips.

Hayden /New States

The people who live there can run over 50 mph

Their bodies are made out of squid

Don’t drink a sip from their sippy cup

New Vania
The people won’t give anything away until it’s
10 years old

Their floor companies are really good

Their heads are made out of chocolate

They miss everything that leaves

Everyone eats ham

It rains 20 hours every day

There are human-eating frogs there, so beware.

Lita /Ways of Change

the waves wash on the sandy beaches
like a leaf in the breeze

Color fills the trees, a brush of air that silences all

The snow falls and there is new life all around

and Sprall
the flowers sprout and bring joy everywhere,
the shouts of voices and music fill the air.

Sofia /Book World

When you’re worried, you go to her.

Harry Kane
An English wizard with Egyptian parents.

Star Magic
A glazxy with good and bad fairies.

Judy B. Jones
A silly gilr with two brothers, Stink and Ollie.

Diary of a Wimpy Doll
Greg’s journal about his life as a doll.

Dork Breath
Nikki Dorkbreath is a dragon. She writes in a diary.

Timmy Warrior
A cat detective whose partner is a polar bear.

Rima /Time of Day

I can’t wait till Christmas tomorrow.

The sun has not shined at all today
I wonder where noonsun has gone?

I always try to wake up at 8:00
but instead I wake up at noon.

When it is morn I sleep all day.
When it is daw I play all night.

Vedika /FYI I Have Feelings

Keep it up! Keep on making it!

Why did you let Tim play with my Babie?

I know you got more pins down, but I’ll get more down for sure!

I gave my wood blocks to you and you make them in the shape of the White House

Why did you attach a microphone on me while I was singing to myself?

Ah! Yes you can put me in the newspaper.

Gabe /Teenage Mutant Ninja Turnips

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turnips
those veggies sure pack a punch

Sour Rangers and N.C.urger
taking a bite out of crime

Star Taco
a taco with a dream

a dog playing Pokemon

Big Bang Steak
A smart steak

Sim Spaghetti
A show with stringy humor

Nati /Months of the Year

The lights go out at
midnight and all spirits
fly away.

The very chilly wind
takes over the land
and it turns quiet.

The entire world covers
with flowers and piece
flies through the world like
a horse galloping through
the sunrise.

The entire universe
covers the planet with snow
all over like an eagle
soaring through the sky

The globe fills with
birds and the sun comes out
like a lake glimmering
through the shadows.

pouring down rain comes
down like a waterfall
flooding the city
Vani /The Fruit Bowl

I’m nice but I have a sour face

I take much pride in eating grapes

A purple outside layer will make you laugh

This will get you to the razziest parties

Your delicious ticket for a black belt

It’s so small and juicy you could eat it in one bite

Alex /Screwed Up Names

my birthday and Christmas at the same time.

stop there’s an exit.

Feel sad about my life.

Running around with shirts without sleeves and shorts shorter than ever before. The hottest time of the year.

something so hard even the teacher can’t figure it out.

Angry at the world but sorry at what I did.

Yanka /Fruits

an apple that is banned far away,

a berry from the water’s wave,

a blue banana who feels alone inside,

a fruit from a plum tree,

a plum from rasp bushes in a garden,

a man with a kiwi on his head,

a persimmon from an O’s tree that is shaped like an O,

a cherry on an apricot leaf,

a pineapple on an orange bush,

a fruit from the stars in the sky

Nora /My Instruments

My own boom-box.
Is a golden bird floating through the air.
A place where I die.
Ends up in your cake.
The sound that wakes you up.
Makes a horrible sound.
The state’s capital.
Better not go to school.

Aidan /Crazy Instruments


Guilor Swift
Strumming loudly

Kim Karbassian
Low and inappropriate

Flutin Beaber
A high-pitched singer.

A tooting rapper.

Drummy Fallon
A loud comedian

Bill Tubas
Low and techy

Waylon /Hungry Emotions

Don’t make me angry or I will eat you.

This meal was good so want to go skateboarding?

Don’t say anything! I feel like eating pizza.

“Stop talking to me. Let’s just eat. Got it?”

Why did the turkey not cross the road? Because he didn’t want to be paved over.

Ruby Red Pens

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 21, 2014 by writersintheschools

By Michael Overa, WITS Writer-in-Residence

How do we describe certain characters? The first words that spring to mind are inevitably generic. A character is a boy or a girl, young or old. But, if we want to be specific we have to say that a character is a self-conscious orphan with unknown magical powers. Or something like that.

At TOPS K-8, I start our discussion of character by handing out three by five cards and instructing students to write three adjectives about themselves (or adjective phrases) on one side of the card. They are not to put their name anywhere on the note card.

And then I collect the cards, shuffle them, and explain the rules of the game.

Rule 1: Once I read the three adjectives aloud the class will have three guesses to identify the card’s rightful owner.

Rule 2: There are to be no criticisms (i.e.: That can’t be so-and-so, he’s not smart).

Rule 3: The owner has to admit as soon as his/her name is guessed.

Perhaps not surprisingly the students enjoy this get-to-know you game. As they guess each other’s names, I write the student’s name on the back of the card, which gives me one way to begin to learn the students’ names. It also helps me get an idea about the unique chemistry of the class.

At the same time, I have started them thinking about character. How do we explain a character? What is the difference between a generic character and a dynamic character? And from there, we delve into the creation of their own original characters.

The note cards have given us a way to start to talk about character and a way to get to know each other.

So, when we get to the creation of unique characters the students have another frame of reference from which to create their fictional characters. Granted, that frame of reference is themselves. Eventually they end up surprising themselves (and me) with what they’ve written.

And that’s my favorite part; it’s what I think of as the Wizard of Oz moment. I get to stand back and say: “You’ve had that power all along.”


For this exercise students were asked to take a newly created character and create a short scene in which the character would be embarrassed. This stems out of our work creating dynamic characters by taking into account not only the character’s strengths and weaknesses, but the character’s wants, desires, and needs.

“The room was nearly obliterated. Gregory was slumped in the corner of his room, tracing the scratches etched into the dusty floor, avoiding the occasional clump of hair or feathers from the pillows. He felt his oddly shaven head and thought about how his mom, or his friends, or worse – the class – would react to this. He’ll be the laughing stock. I’ll never get Lily’s attention, he thought.” – Kenji N, Grade 7

“Charlotte walked along the dusty path toward the lunch area. She wiped sweat of her brow and quickened her pace. She hated this lonely walk. She didn’t mind being friendless in class where she could list attentively, or at lunch where she could sit hidden in the shade of the willow tree by the gurgling brook, but in the bright sunshine there was nowhere to hide. Charlotte felt a tap on her shoulder. She jumped and whirled around. There stood Beth, the nicest girl in school.” –Evelyn C, Grade 7.

You Call It the Fall; We Call It the Autumn

Posted in Uncategorized on November 3, 2014 by writersintheschools

by Jeanine Walker, WITS Program Manager


“What I want in a novel is for every character to have more than one characteristic,” Irish author Colm Tóibín told a room of sixty rapt 10th graders at Roosevelt High School this morning. He clicked his red glasses closed, which connected and separated in the middle to allow them an easy hang around his neck. If a character is mostly “bad,” he said, he should have a moment “of extraordinary kindness,” and if a character is mostly good? “I want them to steal.”

Supporting in his person what he demands of his characters, Mr. Tóibín gave a talk that highlighted opposites, the surprising side: the well-lit, filmed disappointment of not winning a prestigious literary prize he’d been nominated for; how a writer should do the cutting of words as he’s writing, not after; because there are too many novels already, no one will notice if you don’t work—but “no one else will write the book you will write.”

Responding to students’ questions, Tóibín revealed that his experience in not winning the Man Booker Prize—his first nomination, in 1999—heavily informed the first chapter of The Master, which the students, under the tutelage of their teacher Adam Karl, had read in preparation for his visit. In that section, the writer and protagonist Henry James learns that the opening night of his play has been a failure. “The build up of excitement,” Tóibín said—“I was using that experience of not winning the prize, and I gave it to Henry James.”

Further into the topic of how to create memorable and realistic characters, Tóibín used the example of a house. Instead of inventing a house, he said, use your own house or that of a friend, which will help you think about where the car is parked, what the doorknob looks like. And what are you doing when you do this? According to Tóibín, “You are anchoring emotionally by using details that are real.”

Due to Tóibín’s details—his comical imitation of an English accent, his story about finding the opening for The Master in a walk up the street in Italy, and even that he “still write[s] with one of these. It’s called a pen.”—the room of 15 and 16-year-olds became emotionally anchored. They asked questions about his inspiration, about how he structured a novel, about his daily routine, and about writer’s block.

To the last question, he said, “I think writers’ block is a kind of laziness…. It’s an invention, and there’s a way out of it: just simply describe yesterday and give it to your character.” Sometimes, half way through a book, Tóibín said, he’ll feel himself lagging. No one else will write the book if he doesn’t, though, so he has to, and sometimes deadlines, even self-imposed deadlines, work to that end.

At that point, he told the 10th graders, it can often feel like finishing a paper for school. “You can actually under pressure do an immense amount of work if you have no choice.” He adds, laughing, and with affirmation that this is easier said than done: “I just finish everything I start.”

Colm Tóibín will finish an inspiring day at Town Hall tonight, 7:30 p.m., as part of Seattle Arts & Lectures’ Literary Arts Series. He will speak on the subject of the Irish Renaissance. Tickets are $15, $5 for students, and will be available at the door.