Youth Writing Festivals 2016

newp kinseyOn Saturday, March 19th, NeWP hosted the Youth Writing Festivals. For our Eastern Festival, we moved locations to Gretna High School and we had a fantastic turnout. There were over 50 students there from eight different schools/districts. The Eastern Festival is for middle school students and they ranged from 6th to 9th grade. Each student received a notebook and t-shirt for their participation in the festival.

The day was broken up into four sessions, with two groups of students traveling between the sessions. Sessions were led by area middle school teachers Elizabeth Lambert, Heather Kinsey, Shelley Sheets, and Amy Tasich. Sessions focused on character development, character interactions, topic and story creation, ignoring the editor, and there was a writing marathon for each student as well. The final session of the day was for publishing student work. Student pieces can be found on our blog
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This is the fifth year the Nebraska Writing Project has hosted a Youth Writing Festival, and the third year it has been geared towards middle school students. If you have any questions or would like to participate in the 2017 YWF, contact Amy Tasich at




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Winter Board Retreat 2016

January 23, 2016
Andrews Hall
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Amy Tasich and Stacey Waite
Amy Tasich and Stacey Waite

Led by acting Director, Stacey Waite, the Nebraska Writing Project board met on Saturday to share, learn and plan. Twenty members of NeWP participated in the annual retreat.

The first item on the agenda was the new t-shirts and polos sporting the brand new NeWP logos. T-shirts are on sale for $15 and polos are $25. Contact Stacey Waite if you are interested in purchasing one for you and your NeWP friends!

The traditional writing project introductions followed, and then it was down to

New Polo
New Polo

business. The official agenda began with NeWP members sharing all of the amazing programs that we have offered over the past few months including the Warrior Writers program, the Gretna embedded institute, and the upcoming Youth Writing Camp and Festival.

More information on these programs and all of the upcoming Writing Marathon dates can be found at here.

Danielle Helzer and Jeff Grinvalds both announced that this would be their last year serving on the Leadership Committee as Co-Director and Technology Liaison, respectively. NeWP Board Members are encouraged to apply for these positions. Application information can be found here.

Board Members were then encouraged to nominate teacher-leaders for the Leadership Retreat. Last year we had twenty teachers from across the state attend the three-day conference, and we are hoping for another group of activist teachers to join us. Please nominate any teachers that you believe would be interested in participating and who exhibit leadership qualities. If you are not on the board, email Danielle Helzer for more information or to make nominations.

The board continued its busy agenda by discussing the Professional Writing Retreat which will be held at the St. Benedict monastery from July 27-29. If you have any questions or are interested in attending, please contact Jane Connealy for more information.

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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

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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