2016 Writing Marathons Announced

Whether you are new to writing marathons or a veteran, 2016 is an exciting year. It marks the eighth anniversary of writing marathons in Nebraska. Writing from this year’s spring and winter writing marathons is attached. Information is located at the close of this article on how to become involved with a marathon as well as when the 2016 marathons are scheduled.

This year marks the eighth2015 Writing Marathon year of the organization’s writing marathon. The inaugural marathon took place in September 2008 at Platte River State Park. Writers filled three cabins that weekend to set forth in the woods to write together. Susan Martens, current director of the Prairie Lands Writing Project and then NEWP leadership team member, organized the event after experiencing the event at a NWP conference. “After I’d done one, I realized how perfect it was, how simple but also how powerful. It’s the relationship between the writer, the group and the place.”

Writing marathons have been practiced on a national level since 1994 and have continued to evolve within classroom and writing communities since.

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Richard Louth, the director of the Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project, developed the marathon process during a NWP event. It was inspired by Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones. The activity which inspired the Writing Project version of writing marathon involves a series of sessions where writers write for ten minutes then share what they have written, without comment or revision.

A pause naturally happens after each reader, but we do not say “That was great” or even “I know what you mean.” There is no good or bad, no praise or criticism. We read what we have written and go on to the next person… What usually happens is you stop thinking; you write; you become less and less self-conscious. Everyone is in the same boat, and because no comments are made, you feel freer and freer to write anything you want. (150)

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It is a gentle process that brings writer to both place and community. In small groups, marathon participants find a series of locations where they choose to visit. Stopping at each location for at least ten minutes to sit, observe, and write. Writers can choose to write in any genre and on any thought or inspiration. After an agreed upon time, the writers gather to share their work. Each member reading in part or whole the piece they have created. The other members listen and do not comment on what is shared other than to smile, nod, or simply say “thank you.” The group repeats this process at each location it travels to.

The practice of sharing this kind of writing opens the participant to noticing of space and interactions that take place within a writer’s world. The simple structure of the marathon allows the writer to see the place, community and self through new eyes.

In some way, writers have always been on some version of the writing marathon. Ernest Hemingway notes one of his experiences of a similar practice in Paris.

The story was writing itself and I was having a hard time keeping up with it. I ordered another rum St. James and I watched the girl whenever I looked up, or when I sharpened the pencil with a pencil sharpener with the shavings curling into the saucer under my drink.

This quote has become an important part of the marathon as it brings focus to the muse of place and allows us to pause, step aside, and participate in experiencing the world around us.

Participants find writing marathons to be one of the most refreshing writing activities. Students and teachers revel in their freedom and the creative inspiration that seems to present itself when one pauses to notice. Since the introduction of the writing marathon to Nebraska by Susan Martens in 2008, the NeWP has held four writing marathons a year, one each season. Additional marathons sites have varied between urban, rural, and suburban sites as well as within museums, forests, and even kayaks.

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The Platte River State Marathon is an annual fall event typically held in September. Nebraska Writing Project members, family, and friends also meet for winter and spring marathons. Past locations have included, North downtown Omaha, Kearney, Stuhr Museum, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, O’Neil, Benson, and downtown Lincoln. In addition, marathons take place in institutes and classrooms across Nebraska. “NeWP was always a great place for marathons to flourish because our site is so committed to the principle of the best teachers of writing being teachers themselves.” (Martens)

It’s true. A writing marathon becomes a unique opportunity to put pen to page with an incredible community of writers. You are invited to join in celebrating this year.


Grab your pen, favorite writing notebook, and a comfortable pair of shoes. The 2016 NEWP writing marathons are set, and waiting for you. RSVPs for the writing marathons can be sent to dweis@cox.net

Winter Marathon – Downtown Lincoln
McFarland’s and Sons’ Irish Pub
710 S P St.; downtown Lincoln, NE
Saturday, January 23, 2016
Lunch at 12:30; launch at 1:30

Spring Marathon – Stuart, NE
Cast Iron Grill
806 East Highway 20; Stuart, NE
Saturday, April 9, 2016
Lunch at 12:00; launch at 1:00

Fall Marathon – Platte River State Park
14421 346 St.; Louisville, NE
Owen landing boat dock
Saturday, September 24th
Meet and greet at 11:00; launch at 12:00

Fall Retreat – Platte River State Park
Owen cabins 8 & 9
Friday, September 23rd-25th
RSVP for a space in the NeWP cabin

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NeWP Teachers Enjoy National Council of the Teachers of English Convention

Nebraskans at NCTE in Minneapolis
Nebraskans at NCTE in Minneapolis

At least sixteen Nebraska Writing Project teachers descended on the Twin Cities for the National Council of the Teachers of English convention November 19-23.

NeWP teachers presented at three panels. Pius X teachers Lauren Funk, Katie Elsener, Tom Seib (emeritus) and Jane Connealy (emeritus) presented on their Holocaust education program.
NeWP Director Robert Brooke was joined by three past NeWP teacher leaders, now site directors at other Midwestern Writing Projects, for a panel on NWP and community engagement. Maggie Christensen, Director of the Oxbow Writing Project, spoke about their young writers partnership at the Hope Center. Cathie English, Co-Director of the Ozarks Writing Project, spoke about her teacher education course. Susan Martens, Director of the PrairieLands Writing Project, spoke about Writing Marathons. Robert Brooke, NeWP Director, spoke about the Veterans writing workshops our site ran this year in Lincoln and Omaha.
NeWP University partners Lauren Gatti, Nicole Green, and Sarah Thomas presented a panel on the Secondary English Education program at UNL, and were part of a post-conference workshop session Monday on the same topic.
Jeff Grinvalds, our Technology Liaison from Westside High School, Jane Connealy, Maggie Christensen, and Susan Martens all represented our site at the NWP meeting the day before the conference. Susan Martens organized a NWP- sponsored Writing Marathon in downtown Minneapolis on Friday and was joined by fellow Nebraskans, Dan Boster, Jane Connealy and Jeff Grinvalds.


Writing Marathon Minneapolis Style
Writing Marathon Minneapolis Style

Other attendees from Nebraska included Daniel Boster (Ralston), Sally Burt (Pius X), Katrina Gottschall (O’Neill High School), Darin Jensen (Metro Community College), Jeff Lacey (Ralston Schools), and Colleen McBride (Pius X).


Presenters at NCTE
Doctor Robert Brooke, Director of the Nebraska Writing Project
Inside the Skyway

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2015 Young Writers Camp: Epilogue

The Young Writers Camp was a great success this year, registering a final count of 40 students, and involving ten undergraduate interns, two NeIMG_0727braska Writing Project teacher consults, Derek Funk and Jennifer Long, and two University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate students studying writing in our Ph.D. program. The YWC also sent two of its campers and three interns to “I Love to Write” on East Campus where the older kids and interns mentored the younger students in a slam poetry workshop.

At camp this past summer, we offered over 20 workshops, including titles suchs as “They Lived Half My Life: Odes to Common Things,” “Karate Chop Your Writer’s Block: Using Deep Memories and Anaphora to Create Poetry,” “Poetry and Science: Perennial Frenemies,” “Dear “Scientists”, Where’s my jetpack? Sincerely, Everyone,” and “From Script to Screen: A Crash Course in Screenwriting.” The writers at YWC had the wonderful opportunity to attend large workshop sessions with visiting writers this year: Kwame Dawes, Jennine Capo Crucet, Jennifer Perrine, and Matt Mason. We also included some guest writers: Bernice Olivas, Marcus Meade, Maureen Sinclair, and Ian Rogers. It has been such an amazing gift to have so many wonderful writers in our community who have contributed to the camp!

IMG_0731You can find the work of our Young Writers in the process of publication here. One of the amazing things about our anthology this year is that all the images of the kids that appear before their work were actually DRAWN by one of our interns, Lincoln North Star graduate of 2013, Individual High School Poetry Slam Champion, artist, and UNL student, Katharen Hedges!

Our program has been growing by 5-10 students each summer since our first summer, which is promising for the future! Thanks to all the NeWP teachers I know who make sure their students know about our summer writing programs!

Watch the 2016 Video here!

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