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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Nebraska’s Warrior Writers

By Scott Gealy and Beverly Hoistad
Nebraska’s Warrior Writing Project and Nebraska Writing Project


Photo from L to R:  Scott, Sharon, Jim, Andy, Mary,  Not pictured:  Barb, Muhammed, Dr. Ritchie, Dr. Naseem, Beverly
Photo from L to R: Scott, Sharon, Jim, Andy, Mary,
Not pictured: Barb, Muhammed, Dr. Ritchie, Dr. Naseem, Beverly

The kernel of an idea for Nebraska’s Warrior Writers was sown at a national conference almost a year ago and germinated with casual airport conversation on the journey home to Lincoln, Nebraska. The people who dream big at Humanities Nebraska, Chris Sommerich and Erika Hamilton, began visualizing how Missouri’s writing project could be adapted for Nebraska veterans and applied for grant money.

Following funding approval, the seed began to root, as representatives from the Human Services Federation, the Nebraska Writing Project, Humanities Nebraska, and the Veterans’ Administration met to decide how best to publicize, staff, and implement what was tentatively described as the Nebraska writing project for veterans and active military.

Workshops officially began in September at the V.A. in Lincoln and have been attended by veterans from both Lincoln and Omaha. Workshops focus on strategies and skills to develop writers, regardless of expertise or experience. The instructors integrate model texts for writers to look more directly at how good writing is built, and provide opportunities for writing practice and immediate feedback. Two book-length texts used for the preliminary six-week leg of the workshop were Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower and Art Spiegelman’s Maus. Instructional focus has included idea acquisition, revision and editing, and publishing, while developing a strong bond as a community of writers willing to share a variety of works in progress, from poetry to fiction to memoir. While the number of participants as varied a little from week to week, the workshop has cultivated a strong core of committed writers. Each week the group had poets and prose writers, storytellers, historians, essayists, and songwriters.

The last day of the fall workshop was Saturday Oct. 25th, when participants shared work developed during the previous six weeks and fellow group members proudly provided final feedback and support. One saying at the Nebraska Writing Project is that a sign of an effective final day read-around is a few tears. There were tears, but members gratefully dried them and made plans to meet the following month for a new set of stories.

Participants and leaders will meet monthly until the next set of six workshops funded by Humanities Nebraska begins January 17th at the VA in Lincoln. A subsequent workshop is planned for the fall in Omaha. If you are interested in signing up, know a veteran who might be, or would simply like more information, email Beverly at Beverly Hoistad.


Check out the video! 


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