NeWP Youth Writing Festivals!

NeWP Youth Writing Festivals

Elkhorn South High School

IMG_1750The Nebraska Writing Project hosted the 2015 Youth Writing Festival at Elkhorn South High School on March 21st. This was a wonderful opportunity for students in grades 6-8 to participate in a variety of writing exercises and activities. The students got to go on a writing marathon, and each student also participated in two unique writing sessions led by area teachers. These sessions dealt with creating backstories for fiction, writing creative nonfiction, and reversal poetry.

When asked what they enjoyed about the sessions, the students had lots of great things to say. One student said, “I enjoyed the session about creating fictional worlds the most because it gave me lots of freedom of thought and I got IMG_1746a good idea.” Another said, “I enjoyed all of my experiences because I learned a lot.” Finally, one student hit at the heart of the writing festival, “I really liked the Marathon. I liked that I was able to read with out criticism.”

Each student received a t-shirt, notebook, and pencil. The students also had the option of publishing their writing after the festival. Student writing can be found at

by Amy Tasich, Elkhorn South High School

Stuart High School

On Saturday, March 21st, 60 youth and their instructors from 10 communities traveled to Stuart to participate in the Youth Writing Festival sponsored by the Nebraska Writing Project.  Communities represented in the festival were Stuart, O’Neill, Arnold, North Platte, McCook, Loomis, Kimball, Neligh-Oakdale, Valentine, and Alma.

Students were able to attend their choice of three sessions presented by Melissa Pilakowski, Valentine High School; Jan Knispel, adjunct professor, Mid Plains Community College; Brian Mohr, Grand Island Central Catholic High School; Kendra Vanderbeek, O’Niell High School; and Brenda Larabee, Stuart High School.  Following the sessions, participants enjoyed a sack lunch and then headed out for a writing marathon around the town of Stuart led by Janell Stoeger, Valentine High School.  Upon completion, students returned to the school to publish their writing from the day.  

 In addition to the Stuart High School site, the Youth Writing Festival also takes place at Elkhorn South on the same date.

Students who chose to submit writing have their writing posted on the Nebraska Writing Project Youth Writing Festival blog at WordPress.

Information regarding the festival can be found at The Nebraska Writing Project Events page

 The Nebraska Writing Project prides itself on the philosophy of teachers and students writing together.  This was a shining example of that philosophy in action.

by Brenda Larabee and Jan Knispel


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Now Accepting Applications For The 2015 Nebraska Holocaust Educator’s Summer Satellite Seminar

The Nebraska Writing Project, the Institute for Holocaust Education, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Memorial Library in New York City are pleased to release the details of the  2015 Nebraska Holocaust Education Satellite Seminar for teachers, held June 22 – 26, in Lincoln, NE.  This is the 4th year of this workshop, and the seminar is free to all accepted participants; it even includes some meals during the seminar, educational training materials, and lodging if needed.

Questions may be communicated to Katrina Gotschall (O’Neill High School) by emailing her at or Tom Seib (Pius X High School) at  For your convenience, this year’s detailed brochure is attached, and you can apply for the seminar by clicking on this link:

We hope you will consider joining us for this amazing learning opportunity, and if you know of any other teachers who may be interested in this awesome seminar, please feel free to pass this along to them, or if you prefer, you can share their information with the facilitators, who are happy to contact them.  This seminar has greatly impacted many educators, and we enthusiastically encourage you to apply!


Katrina Gotschall
Social Studies and ELA, O’Neill High School
Nebraska Writing Project
Holocaust Educator’s Network
NYC Holocaust Educator Seminar Alumni
Nebraska Holocaust Education Consortium

Tom Seib
AP Social Studies, Pius X High School
Holocaust Educator’s Network
NYC Holocaust Educator Seminar Alumni
Nebraska Holocaust Education Consortium

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NCTE 2014: Writing Marathons in Washington D. C.

Jeff at the Gaylord

This November, I had the wonderful opportunity to represent the Nebraska Writing Project and Westside High School at the National Council of Teachers of English conference in Washington D. C. I also attended the National Writing Project national conference where we celebrated the 40th year of the writing project’s existence! The energy and enthusiasm was infectious. I felt surrounded by thousands of creative educational experts.



I was invited to present with Dr. Susan Martens, formerly of the Nebraska Writing Project and now the director of the Prairie Lands Writing Project in St. Joseph, Missouri. We were joined by Richard Louth of the Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project and Casey Olsen of the Montana Writing Project.

Casey, Richard, Jeff, and Susan

Each of us shared our pedagogical approach to using Writing Marathons as an educational tool with students of writing. We presented to teachers from all over the country and capped off the presentation by taking them on a miniature writing marathon right there in the conference room. It was wonderful to be able to share our mutual love for writing and teaching with other professionals.

Teachers of Writing




Later that day, we invited everyone to join us on a rogue marathon into historic Alexandria, Virginia. Sixteen of us took a fairy across the freezing Potomac river and into the beautiful suburb filled with wonderful pubs and restaurants. I am confident that those first-timers will return to their classrooms to share the magic of the writing marathon with their own students.


The Rogue Writing Marathon

My own teaching was enhanced by partaking in presentations on teaching Shakespeare, the Gettysburg Address and many other reading and writing topics. The trip was a fantastic journey to the nation’s capital while staying at the festive Gaylord Resort center just south of Washington D.C.

Thank you to NeWP and Westside for making the trip possible and to Susan Martens for inviting me to join the panel!

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