The Write Time with Author/Activist Luma Mufleh and Educators Jessica Baldizon and William King

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Luma Mufleh is an activist, twice-published author, entrepreneur, coach, and thought leader in refugee and English Language Learner Education. As an asylee, as well as daughter and granddaughter of Syrian refugees, Luma continues to draw on her personal experiences to fuel her passion for empowering refugees and immigrant children through education. In 2006, she founded Fugees Family, the only network of schools in the U.S. dedicated to refugee and immigrant education. Luma’s work is not only changing the lives of children and families, but also shifting the narrative around refugees from one of fear to one of courage and resilience. Her TED Talk on educational justice has been viewed more than 1.8 million times and she is the author of two books, 2022’s Learning America: One Woman’s Fight for Educational Justice for Refugee Children and the recently released memoir From Here. Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield teacher-consultants William King and Jessica Baldizon conduct the interview.

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Ashleigh Allen: Why I Write

I began writing poetry as a child because I felt alive differently when I wrote. The page offered me a place to create on my own inventive terms, at my own pace, and under my own evolving directions. As a teen, I started taking poetry reading and writing more seriously. Inspired by some of the classics I read in school, like Shakespeare’s plays and the poetry of T.S. Eliot (notably “Ash Wednesday”), I was also under the magic spell of hip-hop and the genius of MCs; I was hypnotically drawn to both the original beats and the lyrics in their storytelling. From hip-hop I learned the absolute delight of surprise in a turn of phrase. Eventually, I was introduced to The New York School poets who wrote about quotidian things like drinking soda and going to the movies; those poets helped me appreciate the poetry of my life and those around me more deeply. Near the end of high school, I met a lifelong friend who also wrote poems, and together we found a monthly open mic night to attend so we could be in the world of live poetry. This evolution to finding community was a significant turning point in how I read, wrote, and valued creative writing and its possibilities.

I did not study English literature at university, and I think it needs to be said that many writers do not take the English lit. route. No matter what topics of scholarship one engages in school, there is storytelling in every single field of study. My first creative writing workshop was in graduate school, where I found a vast, lively community of people who shared my curiosity for the world and drive to create with language. Unsurprisingly, I was drawn to OuLiPo in my mid-20s when I took workshops with some of the group’s members. Since beginning my MFA in 2008, I have been writing and teaching writing, first in New York City and, more recently, in Toronto. Creative writing has shaped my relationships with people and places, including the natural world. Writing is quintessential to every aspect of my life—it cannot be separated out.

Writing is often a solitary act but can happen in community, sitting (IRL or virtually) alongside others. I write with my students and friends. I write in community workshops I lead and those I attend as a participant. What matters most to me in a writing space (a traditional or unconventional learning space) is that anyone who wants to attend can, and those who show up feel safe, free, and inspired to write.

One of my favorite poets, Paul Celan, said in a speech he gave shortly after surviving World War II—“Reachable, near, and unlost amid the losses, this one thing remained: language,” and this declaration profoundly comforts and guides me with its startling truth, especially today. A person stands to find others and themselves not exclusively but profoundly in language, even in the darkest of times. I have found myself, over and over again, in language. My writing practice has been a constant, even a mainly gracious, space. I hope you reach out for language; I promise it is within your grasp.

Literacies Before Technologies

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In this NWP Radio episode we are joined by Troy Hicks and Jill Runstrom of the Chippewa River Writing Project as they discuss their new book Literacies Before Technologies: Making Digital Tools Matter for Middle Grades Learners. In this book, recently published by NCTE as part of their Principles in Practice series, Jill and Troy—alongside several other colleagues—share their classroom practices as they inquiry into the Beliefs for Integrating Technology into the English Language Arts Classroom. Their stories start during the 2020-21 school year and extend into the ways they continue to consider literacies alongside (but always before) technologies.

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Inner Realms Journey

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Join us for a fascinating conversation with Aaron Pyne, creator of Inner Realms Journey, a fantasy-themed adventure game in which  participants embark on a series of audio-guided meditative experiences. If you can imagine the place where role-playing games, meditation, and mindfulness meet for fun and learning, you might be close to Inner Realms Journey. Come hear all about it.

The Write Time with Author Janae Marks, Educator Terri Fredrick, and Tesla

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Janae Marks is the New York Times bestselling author of middle-grade novels, From the Desk of Zoe Washington, A Soft Place to Land, and On Air with Zoe Washington. She has an MFA in Writing for Children from The New School, and lives in Connecticut with her husband, daughter, and miniature schnauzer named Cookie.

Terri Fredrick is a Professor of English and Writing Center Director at Eastern Illinois University. She is also the director of the Eastern Illinois Writing Project. She and her daughter have read three of Janae Marks’s novels together.

Tesla, Terri’s daughter, is a 7th-grade student in Champaign Illinois. She enjoys theater, basketball, dance, and track. She loves Janae Marks’s books.

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The Write Time with Author Nikki Grimes and Educator Barrett Rosser

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New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the 2022 CSK Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award, the ALAN Award for significant contributions to young adult literature, the Children’s Literature Legacy Medal, and the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. The author of Coretta Scott King Award-winner Bronx Masquerade, her most recent titles include the YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults title Between the Lines, companion to Bronx Masquerade. Ms. Grimes lives in Corona, California.

After over a decade of facilitating student, teacher, and adult learning as a literacy teacher, adjunct professor, teacher coach, and diversity, equity, and inclusion specialist, Barrett Rosser is currently a full-time doctoral candidate in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. She is in the Reading, Writing, and Literacy program and has been the Philadelphia Writing Project Scholar for the last three years. Barrett leads communities of teachers, principals, parents, and out-of-school-time leaders to explore literacy, writing, teaching, and learning across all grade levels and disciplines. Further, Barrett is the founder of the Black Girls’ Literacies Project, an out-of-school inquiry group for high-school-aged Black girls to use their literacies to build knowledge about and practice self-love. Barrett is also a dreamer, lover, and poet. She loves reading and giving back to the Philadelphia community.

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Next Generation Genres with Jessica Early

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How can we remix writing instruction to invite students to write across a range of genres? How might a genre framework for teaching writing support students in writing for specific audiences and purpose? Listen to this NWP Radio interview to hear Dr. Jessica Singer Early talk about her new book Next Generation Genres: Teaching Writing for Civic and Academic Engagement.

How do we support young people to tell the truth/make a difference?

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Join us for a conversation about our educational WHY and how we can support students to become their best selves. We’ll be talking with portrait artist Robert Shetterly, and educators Connie Carter and Richard Koch.

Related Links from the Show

Americans Who Tell the Truth

The Mindful Writing Workshop

Design for Belonging with Susie Wise

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Join us for this episode of NWP Radio in which we talk to Susie Wise about her new book Design for Belonging, a Stanford guide. In her book, Susie talks about what it means to belong and some of the contexts, or moments, that can be designed using particular levers like space, role, ritual, and groupings. The Design for Belonging website also includes toolkits and resources to get started, wherever you are.

The Write Time with Author Ralph Fletcher and Educator Tracey Flores

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Ralph Fletcher, a member of the NWP Writers Council, has been a long-time mentor to teachers and young writers and has helped generations of teachers understand the importance of letting go and trusting their writers.

Ralph Fletcher has written over fifty books for writing teachers and young readers including Joy Write, Nonfiction Craft Lessons, What a Writer Needs, Focus Lessons: How Photography Enhances the Teaching of Writing, and The Writing Teacher’s Companion. His most recent books are The World’s Loneliest Elephant, a picture book illustrated by Naoko Stoop, and A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You. Ralph visits schools and speaks at educational conferences around the world, helping teachers find wiser ways of teaching writing. He also has a passion for nature photography.

Tracey T. Flores is an assistant professor of Language and Literacy at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Flores is a former English Language Development (ELD) and English Language Arts (ELA) teacher, working for eight years alongside culturally and linguistically diverse students, families, and communities in K-8 schools throughout Glendale and Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Flores is the founder of Somos Escritoras/We Are Writers, a creative space and writing workshop for Latina girls (grades 6-8) that invites them to write stories from their lived experiences using art, theater, and writing as a tool for reflection, examination, and critique of their worlds.

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