Writers in the Schools
Inspiring high school students to find their voices through creative writing.
Our Writers in the Schools (WITS) program brings working writers into high school classrooms to inspire students to write, revise, edit, and publish their writing. WITS writers collaborate with teachers to create semester-long inspiring and dynamic curricula that meet the goals for arts learning, while also helping students understand the real-world importance of reading and writing in all aspects of life. WITS writers share their expertise and personal experience of the writing life, helping youth learn to use writing as a form of creative self-expression.
WITS, established in Portland, Oregon in 1996, contracts yearly with public high schools in Portland and Gresham. Teachers request to host a WITS writer (in collaboration with their school administration), and residencies are designed to further class themes, curricula, and student interests. Each residency culminates with a public reading held in a local café, bookstore, or Zoom, and students are encouraged to submit their work for publication in our annual digital and print anthologies. Teachers who participate in WITS also earn professional development units.
“I learned to expand my thoughts and improve my writing in ways I hadn’t thought of before. I feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity.”Lincoln High School student
“It made me feel like my writing was valuable.”Cleveland High School student
Anthology & Readings
WITS students are encouraged to submit their work to our annual WITS anthology, which debuts every year at the Portland Book Festival with a public reading. We also organize student readings for each participating high school at local venues, such as bookstores and cafés.
“The writer was able to get the students to think about and create poetry in ways that they hadn’t considered before.”Rodney Maack, Wilson High School Teacher
“Students gained new vocabulary, sentence structures, and strategies for using examples to generate their own ideas.”Amy Ambrosio, Roosevelt High School Teacher
Teach for WITS
WITS hires published professional writers to teach creative writing to high school students. We are committed to building a roster of teaching artists that reflects the diversity of Multnomah County’s schools. This is a seasonal contractor position, and residencies take place during the school day. WITS provides an orientation prior to placement, as well as ongoing paid professional development opportunities. Residencies are the equivalent of about 15 teaching hours and are compensated at a flat rate of $1750 each.
Writers interested in teaching for WITS should send a cover letter, resume (including publication and teaching experience), the name and contact information for three references, and a brief writing sample (appropriate for high school students to read) via email to our Interim Director of Youth Programs, Emilly Prado, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications for the 2021-22 school year will only be accepted from June 1 – June 30, 2021. Applications for the 2020-2021 school year are now closed.
WITS Apprenticeship for BIPOC Writers
WITS offers apprenticeships for writers identifying as Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color (BIPOC). The WITS Apprenticeship for BIPOC Writers is designed to act as a pathway for BIPOC writers who do not yet have the experience necessary to be hired as a writer with WITS but who would like to gain the experience. Alternatively, we seek to support writers who have prior experience working with youth but may still be in the emerging stages of their writing career. As the WITS program hires writers with considerable experience both in writing and teaching, our apprenticeship addresses both requirements and offers resources for advancing in both fields.
Apprenticeship Application & Benefits
Apply to Become a Writer in the Schools (WITS) Apprentice
We are looking for BIPOC writers with:
- an established and disciplined writing practice
- experience with youth and/or other community work
- evidence of creative output (published work, or other forms of creative work out in the world)
The WITS Apprenticeship for Writers of Color offers:
- A competitive stipend ($1250; paid in 4 installments)
- Mentorship from an experienced and talented WITS writer
- Learning alongside a WITS writer during a residency in a co-teaching experience
- Professional development meetings offered by Literary Arts
- Up to three hour-long 1:1 consultations with local writers of color
- Complimentary admission to Literary Arts’ Portland Arts & Lectures series and special events (subject to availability)
- Reimbursement for external professional development fees (subject to approval)
A Note on Scheduling
WITS is a unique, immersive collaboration between Literary Arts and our partners in Portland Public Schools, the Parkrose School District, and Gresham-Barlow School District. Our residencies take place during class time in a wide variety of classrooms with teachers who have applied to have a WITS writer in their classroom sharing space. As a result, scheduling is unpredictable until the planning meeting occurs during which time WITS teachers and writers are given the autonomy of scheduling the class sessions. We strive to meet the scheduling needs of every WITS writer, teacher, and apprentice; however, we cannot guarantee school placement or hyper-specific scheduling conflicts. We appreciate your understanding and flexibility in shaping this unique program.
How to Apply
The WITS program has the capacity to work with two apprentices each year. Applications will be accepted for the 2021-22 school year will only be accepted from June 1 – June 30, 2021. Applications for the 2020-2021 school year are now closed.
Meet our Current WITS Apprentices
Fall WITS Apprentice CJ Wiggan is a Nebraskan writer and illustrator creating emotional artwork about gender, relationships, magic, nature, and hair. CJ relocated shortly after earning a double BA in English and Art from Black Hills State University in Spearfish, SD and now works in youth art programming in Portland. Some of CJ’s art can be found in Theories of HER: An Experimental Anthology, JUR(Y): The Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, and a little bit on this locked tumblr page: https://chanelheart.tumblr.com.
Spring WITS Apprentice Aliera Dulcinea Zeledon-Morasch is a Nicaraguan writer who was born and raised in Portland. Her work as an educator inspires her to honor her community through writing. Her creative non-fiction, prose poetry, and audio work explore family, ancestry, the forgotten, and the limits of language. She strives to use storytelling to understand movement and memory. Aliera completed an MFA in Writing at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY and you can find her work in Oregon Humanities and The Felt print literary journal.