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 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 in 1996, contracts yearly with public high schools in Portland and East Multnomah County. Teachers request to host a WITS writer, and residencies are designed to further class themes, curricula, and student interests. Teachers who participate in WITS can earn professional development units and continuing education credits. 

If you are interested in working with our Youth Programs, please contact emilly@literary-arts.org or 503-227-2583 ext 109.

Anthology & Readings

Students are encouraged to submit their work to our annual WITS anthology, which is launched every year at the Portland Book Festival. We also organize student readings for each participating high school at local venues, such as bookstores and cafes.

Learn More

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 professional development. 

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 emilly@literary-arts.org. Applications for the 2020-21 school year will be accepted from May 1, 2020 – June 15, 2020.

Applications for the 2019-2020 school year are now closed.

WITS Apprenticeship for Writers of Color

About the Program

WITS offers apprenticeships for writers identifying as Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color (BIPOC). The WITS Apprenticeship for Writers of Color 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 the Writers in the Schools program 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.

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.

Apply to Become a Writer in the Schools (WITS) Apprentice

We are looking for writers of color 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)

The WITS program has the capacity to work with two apprentices each term. Applications are competitive and are accepted on a rolling basis, with priority deadlines for each semester-long placement as follows:
January 1 for Spring semester placements and August 1 for Fall semester placements

Applications for the 2019-20 school year are closed.

Meet our Current WITS Apprentice

Tenzin Sangpo is a Tibetan refugee who grew up in Nepal and India. As a physics major at Reed College, he once operated their Nuclear Reactor, fired X-rays on Gadolinium nanocrystals at Argonne Labs, and then coauthored a research paper on the findings. But after attending a creative writing workshop for fiction, he realized scribbling was his true calling. Tenzin’s writings explore the trials of exile, the trauma of cultural genocide and the wisdom in compassion. Through his stories he hopes to preserve the lived experiences of the Tibetan diaspora for generations to come – so that the Tibet cause may yet endure. Tenzin lives in Portland, Oregon, and is presently working on his debut novel. Tenzin is the WITS Spring 2020 apprentice.

Please send letter of interest and resume, or any questions about the application process, to Interim Director of Youth Programs, Emilly Prado, emilly@literary-arts.org.