Bryn Carlson ’20 compile creative works written by elementary students of the greater Seattle area at Seattle Arts & Lectures in Seattle, WA

Hi! My name is Bryn Carlson and I’m English major in the class of 2020 interning with Seattle Arts & Lectures for the summer. Seattle Arts & Lectures (SAL) is a literary nonprofit located in Seattle that is known for its annual “Speaker Series” that brings authors and artists like Zadie Smith, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Malcolm Gladwell and many more to share presentations about their work and ideas. SAL is also home to the program Writers In The Schools (WITS), which sends published authors to teach creative writing to K-12 students at public schools in the greater Seattle area.

This summer I’m helping to compile an anthology of student writing from the WITS program—this anthology is produced annually by the WITS team to give students the opportunity to have their work published. So far, I’ve had the chance to read and copy-edit all of the selected poems for publication and also made sure they were ready to send off to the designer. As part of this process, I selected striking lines from the students’ poetry as potential titles for the anthology. Some examples that I found are, “Break Free to the Surface”, “Sucking out the Starlight” and “The goodbye that keeps you up at night”.

Additionally, I’ve had the chance to read the poems of many middle-schoolers who participated in the WITS program this year and have used InDesign to create cover pages for six booklets of middle school poetry. Using a book binding machine in the office, I have hand-“published” almost 200 copies of chapbooks full of vibrant and amusing middle school poems. I’ve also been curating demographic-based collections of poems to share with elementary students. The idea behind my research is to create a pool of work to offset the disproportionate representation of groups within the literary canon and, specifically, to allow students to be inspired by the authors of shared identities.

While beyond the scope of my day-to-day duties as an intern, one highlight of the internship so far was grabbing coffee with Kathleen Flenniken last week. In addition to being a long-time WITS teacher with SAL, Kathleen Flenniken was appointed as the Washington State Poet Laureate in 2012. She has published a couple of collections of poetry, including her work Plume about growing up in Richland, WA while her father worked at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Kathleen and I spoke about teaching creative writing to elementary students. I was able to ask her advice about the creative writing workshop I’ve recently started with 4th graders in Walla Walla. She shared example lessons on how to teach poetry, tips for writing warm-up games and anecdotes about her time traveling to different schools as the state poet laureate.

As I consider a career in Education post-Whitman, I’m grateful for how this set of experiences has helped me to understand some of the behind the scenes work that goes into creating a more equitable education.

Experiences like Bryn Carlson’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez

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