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Writers in the Schools

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

The 2020/21 WITS Year‑End Digital Gallery

This gallery is a celebration of student voice and writing over the course of the 2020/21 school year.

The 2019/20 Year-End WITS Digital Gallery

We’re pleased to present this multi‑media gallery, which commemorates the time students spent writing and creating with WITS during the truncated 2019/20 school year.

“Home in My Heart,” by Lesley Torres

With every breath You savor The honey flavored Air With every glance You catch The sun beams that Light up the ranch With every hearing You perceive The cows and dogs living here The cars in the main road appear With every touch You feel Mexico in such A way that makes it stay In […]

“I Remember,” by Julian Camba

A brown tree and its rough bark a boar with big tusks shifting through leaves my grandma strolling me through a park Singapore, and how it had so many trees When I wake up, when it’s still dark The bitterness of sour candy My grandma buying me sweets my grandma’s room, it was dandy my […]

“Turf,” by Gianni Johnson

We don’t have to kill our environment to make beautiful things If life was on a dark path, should we continue on to see what life brings? Self-inspired hope after finding new ways to cope Dealing with demolition would leave one so pessimistic Watching it all fall then running off in the distance Returning to […]

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 us at wits@lectures.org to learn about opportunities for current or former WITS students.

Internships with WITS

Internship opportunities are currently closed while we’re working virtually. We look forward to opening intern positions once again when we’re back in the SAL office!

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 and teachers from all WITS schools, representing all writing genres. The 2020/21 writing contest, open until May 14, invites students and teachers to address the theme “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” inspired by Ocean Vuong’s novel of the same title. Download the guidelines.

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, publicized by Seattle Arts & Lectures.
  • Free tickets to all SAL events throughout the season.


Gliding Between the Land of This and That

Pre-order the 2019/20 & 2020/21 Anthology.


To the Mountainside to Find the Sunrise

Order the 2018/19 WITS Anthology.


Samar Abulhassan

B.F. Day Elementary School, Dearborn Park Elementary School, Laurelhurst Elementary School

Naa Akua

Franklin High School

Daemond Arrindell

Evergreen High School, Seattle World School, South Lake High School, Washington Middle School

Sara Brickman

Hamilton International Middle School

Gary Copeland Lilley

Port Townsend High School

Aaron Counts

Co-founder of Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Program

Laura Da’

WITS Writer, Youth Poet Laureate Mentor

Karen Finneyfrock

Lafayette Elementary School, Lowell Elementary School, TOPS K-8 School

Matt Gano

Renaissance School of Art & Reasoning, co-founder of Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Program

Evelin Garcia

Puesta del Sol Elementary School

Ramon Isao

WITS Writer

Jourdan Keith

WITS Writer

Rachel Kessler

Ballard High School

David Lasky

Renaissance School of Art and Reasoning

Corinne Manning

The Center School

Arlene Naganawa

TOPS K-8 School

Sierra Nelson

Catharine Blaine K-8 School, Seattle Children's

Raúl Sánchez

Evergreen High School

Greg Stump

McClure Middle School, Seattle World School

Ann Teplick

Seattle Children's

Jay Thompson

Catharine Blaine K-8 School, Evergreen High School, Nathan Hale High School

Arianne True

Hamilton International Middle School, Licton Springs K-8 School, Nathan Hale High School, Seattle World School, Youth Poet Laureate Mentor

Jeanine Walker

Leschi Elementary School

Lisa Wells

TOPS K-8 School