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Writers in the Schools

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

“Between You and Me,” by Adrienne K. Tibbs

It’s the tree that fills me with serenity. the green that towers me with hope. the roots that surround me in the twists and turns of sound. those roots that have grown to help me find mine. the limbs that make me long for touch. the smell that brings me back to that safety. It’s […]

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

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 bed that shouldn’t be there, it […]

“Blessing to Mom,” by Nyomi Bennett

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 all night with […]

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 expressions 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 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 access to the literary arts and opportunities for students throughout the city to be part of a collective conversation, fueled by a shared commitment and love for words.


  • 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 Sound 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, providing an understanding of the school’s culture, and managing the classroom. They are also 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 teachers agree that WITS students are proud of their writing.


of students reported a growth mindset about the quality of their writing.

I teach a self-contained special-ed ELA class with many students who are disengaged with school and have strong aversions to anything school-related. Writing poetry gave them an outlet to express their feelings while expanding their writing skills in a creative way.

— WITS classroom teacher

9 out of 10

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

[The best thing about WITS was] how free you were writing a poem—it relaxed me and I love WITS. I would love to continue next year.

— Younger Youth Participant

2 out of 3 youth

report that the writing skills they gained in WITS will be useful in the future.

[My favorite part of WITS was] presenting my work at the end. I felt confident in my poem and my writing so I faced my fear of public speaking. It ended up being fun and gave me a boost of confidence.

— Older Youth Participant

[The best thing about WITS was] that when you write a poem it feels like you are leaving your desk when really you are not.

— Younger Youth Participant

If you can’t think of anything to write down, write down what you’re thinking.

— WITS Digital Youth Participant

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, Education 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, Education 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 WITS Anthology Launch in September.

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.

Internships with WITS

We are looking for two Fall 2019 interns to help the WITS team implement our arts education program in public schools throughout the Puget Sound! For more information, head to the application page. For best consideration, applications are due by September 21, 2019.

Seattle Youth Poet Laureate

Founded in 2015, the Youth Poet Laureate (YPL) 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.

Elaine Wetterauer Writing Contest

Every year, WITS holds the Elaine Wetterauer Writing Contest for students from all WITS schools, representing all writing genres. The 2018-19 writing contest invited students to address the theme “Feel Free,” based on the title of SAL author Zadie Smith’s collection of essays. Smith’s essay collection examines art, history, culture, and their impacts on the world we live in. The contest invited applicants to explore similar themes, or, alternatively, to reflect on art and culture that makes them “feel free.” See the winning pieces.

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 closed.

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 four times a year at Hugo House at 7:30pm, publicized by Seattle Arts & Lectures:
    • Wednesday, November 6, 2019
    • Monday, January 13, 2020
    • Wednesday, March 11, 2020
    • Monday, April 27, 2020
  • Free tickets to all SAL events throughout the season.


To the Mountainside to Find the Sunrise

Order the 2018/19 WITS Anthology.


Tomorrow I Will Whisper Your Name

Order the 2017/18 WITS Anthology.


Samar Abulhassan

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

Naa Akua

Franklin High School

Daemond Arrindell

Evergreen High School, New Start Alternative School, South Lake High School, Washington Middle School

Christina Lee Barnes

Roosevelt High School

Sara Brickman

Hamilton International Middle School

Gary Copeland Lilley

Port Townsend High School

Aaron Counts

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

Laura Da’

WITS Writer

Karen Finneyfrock

Lafayette Elementary School, Salish Coast Elementary School, TOPS K-8 School

Kathleen Flenniken

View Ridge Elementary School

Laura Gamache

TOPS K-8 School

Matt Gano

Renaissance School of Art & Reasoning, Nathan Hale High School, Youth Poet Laureate Mentor, co-founder of Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Program

Evelin Garcia

Puesta del Sol Elementary School

Shelby Handler

West Seattle High School

Ramon Isao

Big Picture School, West Seattle High School

Jourdan Keith

Seattle World School

Rachel Kessler

Ballard High School, Salish Coast Elementary School

David Lasky

Lowell Elementary School

Corinne Manning

The Center School

Peter Mountford

Blue Heron Middle School

Arlene Naganawa

McClure Middle School

Sierra Nelson

Seattle Children's, Catharine Blaine K-8 School

Raúl Sánchez

Evergreen High School

Greg Stump

McClure Middle School, Cascade K-8 School, & South Shore PK-8 School

Ann Teplick

Seattle Children's

Jay Thompson

McClure Middle School

Arianne True

Hamilton International Middle School, Licton Springs K-8 School, Nathan Hale High School

Jeanine Walker

Alki Elementary School, Blue Heron School, Leschi Elementary School

Lisa Wells

TOPS K-8 School