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Writers in the Schools

Empowering young people to discover and develop their authentic writing and performance voices.

WITS is Hiring!

Are you a local writer who is passionate about teaching the power and pleasure of writing to young people? WITS Writer-in-Residence applications to our 2019/20 Writers in the Schools program are now open!

“My Ode to an ICU Bed,” by Nico Tobias

My Ode to an ICU Bed I really like the ICU beds. They remind me of my pillow. They’re always unpredictable — when you turn the head down, the back will inflate, when someone sits down on the edge, it will deflate, when someone stands up, it will inflate, if you set something on the […]

“Blessing to Mom,” by Nyomi Bennett

Blessing to Mom May you buy clothes that keep me warm day and night. May you create a strong roof over my head so I will be happy. May you tuck me into bed, every night and never forget. May you travel the world to make your magical sparkly dreams come true. May you dance […]

2018 WITS Year-End Readings: A Multimedia Gallery

From Kiyoshi Sakauye’s brave letter to America; to Chloe Dobson’s gorgeous comic of a young artist who feels “a fire awaken” when she draws; to Gage Barry’s hilarious short story narrated by a sardonic carrot named Jack Crunchy, this season’s WITS Year-End Readings featured the extraordinary talent of future Pulitzer Prize-winning voices. The annual celebration, which […]

SAL’s Writers in the Schools (WITS) program connects professional writers with public school classrooms throughout the Puget Sound region to elevate the voices of all students as they discover and develop their authentic writing and performance voices. Through WITS, students become authors of their own lives.


WITS Writers-in-Residence provide a professional writer to inspire a vibrant culture around writing for both students and teachers. Through working with professional, published creative writers, students are empowered to tell their own stories and given new tools to do so. By weaving the residencies into the school day, the program reaches students who might never elect to attend an after-school program in creative writing. We believe in bringing a racial equity lens to our work to increase literary arts access and opportunities for students throughout the city to be part of a collective conversation, fueled by a shared commitment and love for words. Through WITS, students become authors of their own lives.


  • Inspire students to engage in the writing process, build writing skills, and increase self-confidence
  • Invigorate the teaching of writing by providing teachers with innovative lessons and literature, fresh techniques, and the time and encouragement to join their students in writing.
  • Promote self-expression and build positive learning communities
  • Connect young writers throughout the Puget Sounds to the wider literary culture of our region

How WITS Works

Writers in the Schools works with each school to design a residency that meets that school’s particular learning outcomes, curriculum needs, and schedule. In a typical residency, the WITS Writer-in-Residence teaches three or four classes of students once or twice a week for an entire semester. Providing students with sustained, sequential learning allows them to engage with the full arc of the writing process: brainstorming, pre-writing, drafting, revising, publishing, and performing.

Each WITS Writer-in-Residence designs lesson plans based upon the curriculum, goals, and standards of the classroom teacher. Writers are responsible for preparing and teaching the lessons, commenting on student work, and planning a culminating project such as a reading or publication. Teachers are responsible for assisting the writer with overall planning, an understanding of the school’s culture, and classroom management; teachers are invited and encouraged to participate fully in, and learn from, the lessons.

We are committed to designing our creative teaching within larger learning benchmarks such as the Essential Academic Learning Requirements, Grade Level Expectations, the Writers’ Workshop, and state assessments, such as the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL).


of younger youth report they think they can continue to get better at writing after WITS.

I always learn something new from the WITS writers—be it an interesting warm-up exercise with language, or a more surefire way to encourage students to read their work publicly. Absolutely one of my favorite parts of any year.

— WITS classroom teacher

9 out of 10

teachers report that their partnership with the WITS writers enhances their own teaching skills and practices.

I loved how we were given chances to share our writing with others and get helpful feedback.

— WITS student


of students say they are proud of the writing they did as part of the WITS program.

WITS helps my teaching practice by reminding me that to dwell in uncertainty is often to validate our students and their experience. WITS has helped me to value silence and questions just as much as expression and answers.

— WITS classroom teacher


Survey results show that WITS improves students’ writing skills, invigorates the teaching of writing, and develops a growth mindset.

Ways to Get Involved

For Teachers and Principals

To discuss how WITS might work at your school or how to go about bringing WITS there, please contact Alicia Craven, Program Director, at acraven@lectures.org. We are also available to travel to your school to talk one-on-one with you or to make a larger presentation to a group of interested teachers and administrators.

For Parents

If you are interested in bringing WITS to your child’s school, please contact Alicia Craven, WITS Program Director, at acraven@lectures.org to discuss the possibilities. We encourage you to bring your children to our annual public events: our spring Year-End Readings in May and our fall anthology book release and readings. See our Calendar for more information.

For Students

Love WITS and want to be involved in keeping it great? Email wits@lectures.org to learn about opportunities for current or former WITS students.

Elaine Wetterauer Writing Contest

Every year, WITS holds the Elaine Wetterauer Writing Contest for students from all WITS schools, representing all writing genres. The 2017-18 writing contest invited students to address the theme “Sing, _______, Sing” to explore the subjects of yearning, struggle, and hope in relation to their personal experiences and the world around them. This year’s contest winners will be announced at Jesmyn Ward’s event with SAL on January 17, 2018, in celebration of her National Book Award-winning novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing.


Youth Poet Laureate

Founded in 2015, the Youth Poet Laureate program gives a platform to youth who care deeply about literary arts as a tool for civic engagement and change. Learn more about the program here.

For Community Members

  • Donate supplies. Composition books, pocket folders, art supplies, treats for our Writer meetings, pizza and cupcakes and drinks for our author celebrations, goodies for the gift bags that honor our young writers at year-end-readings, audio/visual services, spaces for Writer meetings, in-kind printing. The list goes on!
  • Spread the word. Speak about WITS to your friends who are teachers, who are parents, who are writers, who work at newspapers and magazines, who are supporters of the literary arts, and who are supporters of education. Tell them you support this program and that you’d like them to support it, too, in whatever way they can!
  • Come to events. Your ticket to a SAL event helps support the education program, and your presence at WITS readings expands the audience and community for our young writers. All WITS and Youth Poet Laureate readings are free and open to the public!
  • Make a tax-deductible donation: Your generosity helps WITS keep the program going strong, allows for more subsidies to high-needs schools, and allows us to pay the incredible working writers who teach in WITS classrooms. Click here to donate today.
  • Email wits@lectures.org for more information on how to get involved!

For Writers

Applications to join the WITS Writers-in-Residence corps are now open! Click here to download the 2019/20 Guidelines.

For writers, the WITS program includes:

  • Placement in a public Puget Sound K-12 school for an extended, paid creative writing residency.
  • Professional development throughout the year, including quarterly meetings with WITS peers, mentorship for new WITS Writers, and racial equity training.
  • Inclusion in the Local Voices reading series, a reading by WITS Writers held three times a year at the Sorrento Hotel’s Fireside Lounge, publicized by Seattle Arts & Lectures.
  • Free tickets to all SAL events throughout the season.

Samar Abulhassan

Dearborn Park Elementary School, B.F. Day Elementary School, Laurelhurst Elementary School, & Salish Coast Elementary School

Naa Akua

Franklin High School

Daemond Arrindell

TOPS K-8 School, South Lake High School, & Washington Middle School

Christina Lee Barnes

McClure Middle School

Sara Brickman

Licton Springs K-8 School

Letitia Cain

Catharine Blaine K-8 School

Aaron Counts

Youth Poet Laureate Mentor, co-founder of Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Program

Laura Da’

West Seattle High School

Karen Finneyfrock

Lafayette Elementary, Salish Coast Elementary, & Licton Springs K-8

Kathleen Flenniken

View Ridge Elementary School

Laura Gamache

Hamilton International Middle School, TOPS K-8 School

Matt Gano

Roosevelt High School, Youth Poet Laureate Mentor, co-founder of Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Program

Evelin Garcia

Puesta del Sol Elementary School

Ramon Isao

Big Picture High School

Jourdan Keith

Nathan Hale High School, Renaissance School of Art & Reasoning

Rachel Kessler

Ballard High School, Salish Coast Elementary School

David Lasky

Lowell Elementary School

Gary Copeland Lilley

Port Townsend High School

Alex Madison

TOPS K-8 School

Corinne Manning

The Center School

Maiah Merino

Evergreen High School

Peter Mountford

Blue Heron Middle School

Sierra Nelson

Seattle Children's & McDonald International Elementary School

Raúl Sánchez

Evergreen High School

Greg Stump

McClure Middle School

Ann Teplick

Seattle Children's Education Department

Jeanine Walker

Alki Elementary School, Blue Heron School, & Leschi Elementary School