Faces of WITS: Ann Teplick
October 15, 2020
Not only do WITS Writers-in-Residence work with students in public schools across Seattle and the greater Puget Sound region—they’re also placed in the school at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where they work with young patients who are writing about their experiences and becoming the author of their own lives. Ann Teplick is a poet, playwright, and prose writer who inspires the children at Seattle Children’s to write from the heart.
Ann has been a teaching artist for 23 years in Seattle public schools, Hugo House, Coyote Central, Pongo Teen Writing, King County Juvenile Detention, and the Washington State Psychiatric Hospital. Read on to learn about her latest project, what’s inspiring her, and one of her favorite poems that she loves to teach. (Hint: it’s from a poet that has been on the SAL stage recently.)
How long have you been working with WITS?
I’ve just begun my eleventh year working with WITS. For the last nine years, I’ve written with children and teens at Seattle Children’s Hospital through the Education Department, which includes youth in the Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit. Before Seattle Children’s, I had the honor of teaching at Kimball Elementary School in Beacon Hill and Sanislo Elementary School in Delridge.
What is your favorite part about teaching with WITS?
What I love about WITS is writing and learning from students of all ages. They are our muses and guides, and they hold the light, as they keep us upright with their truths and fearlessness. I also love the WITS community of teaching artists who are brilliant, humble, and generous. I would be the happiest human as a student in each of their classes. My deepest appreciation to Alicia Craven, SAL Director of Education; Bre’Anna Girdy, WITS Program Coordinator; and Piper Daugharty, WITS Program Associate, who support and encourage us to be our creative best in every segment of our lives.
What are you working on right now in your writing life? Do you have any projects, performances, or publications you want to tell us about?
Right now, I’m working on a young-adult novel in vignettes, in the voice of a seventeen-year-old boy who searches for forgiveness and reconciliation for a sexual assault he had committed.
What are you reading right now?
I’m currently (re-)reading: Pansy and Lord of the Butterflies, by Andrea Gibson. And playwright August Wilson’s series of ten plays, The Pittsburgh Cycle.
What is text that you love to teach?
Collecting mentor texts for possible lesson plans is an ongoing and joyful practice of mine. I have many long-time favorites and continue to discover new favorites. I’m most interested, these days, in every opportunity to explore the world we want to build together. Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, “Gate A-4,” is the perfect invitation to do this—A gate at an airport; an older Palestinian woman, who speaks no English and is thrown into worry when she learns her flight is delayed; phone calls to her family to comfort her; and the community of flyers at the gate who celebrate her.
What’s your hidden talent?
My hidden talent is invisibility. Since I was little, I’ve struggled with shyness that sometimes becomes incapacitating. My favorite place to be is behind the curtain. Working as a teaching artist, all these years, is one of the few things that has drawn me out.
What has inspired you lately?
My daily inspiration for calm and anchoring is Thich Nhat Hanh, the revered Vietnamese Buddhist monk, peace activist, and poet.