Writers in the Schools

Inspiring high school students to amplify their voices through creative writing since 1996.

Our Writers in the Schools (WITS) program brings working writers into high school classrooms to inspire students to immerse themselves in creative writing. WITS writers closely collaborate with classroom 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.

“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

OUR HISTORY

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. Students whose work appears in our annual print anthology are invited to read on stage at Portland Book Festival.

PILLARS OF THE WITS MODEL

  1. Creative writing instruction and inspiration
  2. Individualized feedback
  3. School-wide public reading
  4. Invitation to publish

BENEFITS TO CLASSROOM TEACHERS

WITS matches writers from our teaching roster with classroom teachers based on genre preferences, shared curriculum interests, and desired outcomes. Classroom teachers are vital partners to the residency experience for students. We celebrate our partnerships with teachers and those who work with us will:

  • Gain new tools, writing exercises, and strategies for their curriculum
  • Learn about new literature and diverse writers
  • Discover more about their own students through observation in the writing process
  • Write alongside students in class, thus revitalizing their teaching of the craft
  • Earn 18 professional development units for each semester-long WITS residency
  • Be invited to read their work at student readings and our annual end-of-year reading for WITS teachers, writers, and liaisons

“Providing a space to be creative also impacts the teaching staff. WITS is reenergizing and inspiring. It’s akin to project-based learning. It’s thinking outside of the box, in terms of curriculum, but also multi-generational, community-based, and a space where everybody’s voice is heard.”

Ursula Loret de Mola, WITS partner and Alliance High School teacher

School Partners

New WITS partnerships are reviewed and determined on an annual basis, during the summers. If you are interested in working with WITS or our Youth Programs, please contact Director of Youth Programs, Emilly Prado at emilly@literary-arts.org.


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.

Learn More

“The prompts were really fun to do. I felt supported with all my pieces of writing and it just felt like a happy environment.”

WITS student

Teaching for WITS    

WITS hires professional writers with teaching backgrounds to lead creative writing residencies for public 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 15 in-class teaching hours and are compensated at a flat rate of $1750 each.

Applications for the 2020-2021 school year are now closed.

Writers interested in teaching for WITS for the 2021-22 school year should send a single PDF document that includes the following items, as well as any questions, to Emilly Prado at emilly@literary-arts.org by Sunday, June 13, 2021:

  1. Cover Letter
  2. Resume or CV with publication and teaching experience
  3. A creative writing sample or video link of your work (appropriate for high school students)
  4. Sample creative writing lesson or unit plan
  5. Name and contact info for two references
  6. Your schedule/availability for the 2021-22 school year

Review the full WITS writer contract position listing after May 17.

Applications for the 2021-22 school year will only be accepted from May 17 – June 13, 2021.

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 at two deadlines: August 1, 2021 for the fall semester and December 1, 2021 for the spring semester.

Writers interested in the Apprenticeship for BIPOC Writers should send a single PDF document that includes the following items, as well as any questions, to Emilly Prado at emilly@literary-arts.org:

  1. Cover Letter
  2. Resume or CV with publication and teaching experience
  3. A creative writing sample or video link of your work (appropriate for high school students)
  4. Name and contact info for two references
  5. Your schedule/availability for the 2021-22 school year

Meet our 2021-22 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.