At last week’s WITS Orientation for the 2012–13 school year, 6 new and 8 returning writers got together with Program Director Mary Rechner, Program Coordinator Mel Wells and other Literary Arts staff to discuss strategies and stories about the WITS program. Food and drink from the nearby Elephant’s Delicatessen was served. The friendly atmosphere and occasional splitting up into small groups provided an opportunity for writers to get to know eachother and learn from one anothers’ experiences.

Writers gather around the table in the events room for the 2012–13 Writer’s Orientation

This was the first year the orientation was held in Literary Arts’ new offices downtown. In a presentation, Executive Director Andrew Proctor explained how the events room was built to house many different kinds of events and foster a community of writers and lovers of literature. His presentation helped writers get a sense of what Literary Arts as an organization is about and how other programs at LA blend together with the Writers in the Schools program.

One aspect of the orientation focused on how some of the multiple aspects of LA are interrelated. For example, students who work with WITS writers also attend Portland Arts and Lectures events through Students to the Schnitz and realize that they can also be writers, too.

Writers split up into smaller groups at the end of the orientation

Program Coordinator Mel Wells explained how last year’s students’ submissions were selected and incorporated into a print anthology and digital chapbooks published on Issuu. She also presented the newly updated blog W.o.o.t.s, which is a valuable resource full of writing-related tools and links.

Everyone gathered for a group photo

Lincoln High School teacher Tracey Wyatt provided valuable insight on how WITS has helped her, and was available for questions the writers had. Former WITS writer Joanna Rose who helps to plan WITS residencies and supervises WITS writers also shared her experience about how to interact with and encourage students to read aloud from their work in the classroom. She stressed the importance of making sure there is no wall between the writer and shared strategies to help students remain engaged, focused and involved.

Another important conversation was about how some teenagers feel invisible or ignored in large high schools. Writers did an exercise reflecting back on their own experiences in high school to remember where high school kids are often coming from.

Writers that missed the orientation will be meeting in smaller sessions to get acclimated or reacquainted with WITS. You can see all the writers’ bios with their photos on the Literary Arts Website at http://www.literary-arts.org/wits-home/writers/roster/.

—Maya, WITS Intern

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