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Travis Heights Elementary School PTA > Young Writer’s Workshop

Young Writer’s Workshop

Young Writer’s Workshop is a wonderful day on which authors, poets, playwrights, song-writers, and journalists volunteer their time to share their love of writing with our 3rd through 5th graders. If you want to be amazed by the quality of writers our kids will get to work with on their own writing skills, see the list of writers and their bios below.

Our Pre-K through 2nd graders are not left out and also have a special treat that day. This year bilingual story teller/musician Sue Young is performing for them. Sue performed for YWW 3 years ago and was a huge hit with the kids and teachers. If you would like to purchase her CD and or book, please print out the attached order form and return with a check made out to Sue Young to your child’s teacher by Thursday.

We are so lucky to have this special day of learning, inspiration and fun for our students which is supported by our teachers, administrators, and our PTA.

THES Young Writers’ Workshop Presenters List 2014



SAM HURT is a cartoonist and painter. He writes and draws the comic strip Eyebeam in the Austin Chronicle and Root Causes in Edible Austin magazine. His cartoons have been collected in nine books, and can even be found on the most prestigious and exclusive forum of all: the worldwide web!

Workshop: Mr. Hurt will draw on the overhead projector while he explains principles of storytelling in the cartoon medium. Then he will give the students simple drawing assignments intended to apply those principles. Students will then draw cartoons for the rest of their lives.



KIM SIMPSON is a songwriter and guitarist whose songs have appeared on a number of CDs, TV shows, and stage productions. He is also a radio host (KUTX’s Folkways, KOOP’s International Folk Bazaar), author (Early ’70s Radio), and a college English instructor.

Workshop: This workshop will be all about writing songs and using words to make music sound more memorable. Mr. Simpson still hums songs to himself from previous groups, such as “Larry the Scary Penguin” and “I Like to Learn Spanish.”

JON DEE GRAHAM & CHIP DOLAN Graham is a longtime resident of Travis Heights, Jon Dee Graham has recorded 7 solo albums and is currently at work on number 8. His work has been featured on film and TV, he is the only member of the Austin Music Hall of Fame to be inducted 3 times and he was voted Musician of The Year in 2006 by The Austin Chronicle Music Awards. He lives behind a white-picket fence with his wife Gretchen, his son Willie and the two barkiest dogs in Travis Heights. Friend and fellow musician Chip Dolan co-leads the workshop.

Workshop: After a BRIEF discussion about the songwriting process, we bravely dive headfirst into actually writing a song. The lyrics will be drawn from the students themselves with minimal guidance from the adults.

***This team-effort has, in past workshops, produced BLOCKBUSTER HITS, including but not limited to “The Cockroach Song” and “Snowday.”***

LAURIE FILIPELLI is a poet, editor and educator who has taught high school English and trained writers to teach in public schools. Her book of poems, Elseplace, was released by Brooklyn Arts Press in 2013.

Workshop: We’ll explore connections between images, sounds and words as we look at an illustrated poem by Sandra Cisneros or Maya Angelou. Then we’ll create pictures and poems of our own.



LINDSEY LANE has been a writer her whole life: a journalist at the American Statesman and Austin Chronicle, the playwright of several plays, including The Miracle of Washing Dishes and the author of the picture book Snuggle Mountain. In September, she will be the author of a debut Young Adult novel, The Evidence of Things Not Seen. Best of all, she is the mom of a 17 year old daughter and lives in South Austin.

Workshop: Secret, Secret who has a secret? The secret behind every great story is a character with something to hide. Ms. Lane will help students discover the funny, scary or silly secrets of their characters and find out what lengths the characters will go to hide them.

DAVID MODIGLIANI creates film and theater at the intersection of the personal and political. His recent 12-part documentary series on veterans, “Wounded: The Battle Back Home” was acquired by MSNBC, which will broadcast a new film each month for the coming year. His feature-length documentary, Crawford, about the tiny Texas town George Bush turned into the Western White House, premiered at SXSW in 2008 and was the first film to premiere on Hulu.

Workshop: What’s one way to take our writing projects from good to great? Editing! Whether it’s a poem, a short story, a play or a screenplay, every piece of writing gets better when we revise it for our readers. We will use the first draft of a scene from a play and ask ourselves what is essential to the story, what are the details we can’t live without, and what parts can we cut out, change or re-order to keep our reader focused on what’s most important? Together as a group of editors, we will peel away extra layers to uncover and polish a beautiful gem at the center of a draft.

SUSAN MORRISON is the mother of two Travis Heights graduates. She is Professor of medieval literature at Texas State University – San Marcos and has written two books: one on medieval women pilgrims and one on excrement (that’s poop!) in the late Middle Ages. She has edited her mother’s newly discovered diaries written during World War II. This book, Home Front Girl: A Diary of Love, Literature, and Growing Up in Wartime America, was named by the Children’s Book Committee of the Bank Street College of Education to the Best Children’s Book of the Year 2013 list (Memoir: Ages 14 & up). Susan blogs at

Workshop: Take a step back in time. But beware! Ogres, dragons, and evil knights await! . . . Did you know the authors of the Narnia series and The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings were professors of medieval literature at Oxford University in England? Did you know Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series is based on the magician Merlin from the tales of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere? Some of the greatest literature ever written takes place in the distant past. After a brief introduction to the many tales taking place in the Middle Ages or containing medieval subjects, participants in the workshop will write their own stories festooned with castle, armor, swords, towers, dragons, and magic. Make the Middle Ages come alive!

SHELDON PACOTTI is a writer of fiction, nonfiction, and video games. His writing has appeared in magazines like The Bridge, Bellowing Ark, and Games he has worked on include Wishbone and the Amazing Odyssey, Cell: emergence, and Epic Mickey.

Workshop: Story Maze Are you brave enough to enter the Story Maze? We will start in a dark, dangerous place, and you will have to get us out. We will split into three groups, each deciding what to do, then we will split up and choose again. In the end, we will have nine endings — nine stories — the pathways of… the Story Maze.

NEAL POLLACK is the author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction, including the bestselling memoirs Alternadad and Stretch and the novels Jewball and Downward-Facing Death. Pollack writes for many newspapers, magazines, and websites, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Workshop: Create Your Own Detective Learn how to write your own detective story from a bestselling mystery and thriller writer! Mr. Pollack will talk about what makes a good detective and a good detective story, and then he’ll help you create your own. He’ll even get you started writing your own mystery!

RUPERT REYES is an Austin playwright and Artistic Director of Teatro Vivo, a bilingual theater company dedicated to reaching all audiences and creating bridges between cultures. He is a graduate of the University of Texas Department of Theater and Dance. The B. Iden Payne Theater Awards committee has nominated his plays for best new scripts and he has received several acting nominations as well. His claim to fame is small parts in the feature films; Office Space and Miss Congeniality. He recently published, at the urging of his friends, the first of the Petra Trilogy, Petra’s Pecado. He newest script, Dancing Across Bridges, will premiere in August 2014 at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center her in Austin.

Workshop: Tutored by the Collective Creation style of one of best Chicano Theater companies in the US, students in Mr. Reyes workshop will create a scene as a group. This playwriting process uses each individual to contribute toward a finished product. Following prompts given at the start of the workshop, each student will have a opportunity to write a part to create the entire scene. Then groups of students will be given the opportunity to perform the scene for the entire class.



KATHY BLACKWELL is the features editor at the Austin American-Statesman. A former schools reporter, she helps plan and edit stories and still occasionally writes for the paper when she has time. A native of South Carolina, she graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1991 with a degree in journalism and English and worked as an editor and page designer at the News & Record in Greensboro, N.C., and at the Orlando Sentinel before moving to Austin 12 years ago to work at the Statesman.

Workshop: “Details tell the story.” The best features writers pay attention to everything around them – color, smells, conversations they overhear – and put those details in their stories. It brings the story to life. Write a few paragraphs about something that happened at breakfast, lunch or dinner the day before. Describe how the food smelled, how it looked, how it tasted, who was eating with you, what you were doing while you ate, what people said. You might be surprised by what you remember!

CEDRIC GOLDEN is a sports reporter and columnist for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. He will lead a fun and informative workshop on sports reporting.
MICHAEL HALL is a journalist and musician who lives in Austin. He graduated from the University of Texas in 1979 and worked as a writer and editor at Third Coast Magazine, the Austin American-Statesman and the Austin Chronicle before becoming a writer at Texas Monthly in 1997. He writes mostly about criminal justice and music–which he sometimes plays in various bands in town.

Workshop: “How to Write a Story.” We’ll talk about how journalists pick stories and then how they write them. We’ll all write a short piece ourselves; this year I think the topic will be “The Best Day of My Life.”

JOHN HUBNER was an investigative journalist and long-form (magazine) writer for 30 years. John has published four narrative non-fiction books and is currently writing fiction.

Workshop: How do you tell a story? And how do you get people to tell you things they shouldn’t?

ALISON MACOR is the author of the award-winning book Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids: Thirty Years of Filmmaking in Austin, Texas. Alison spent eight years as a film critic writing for The Austin Chronicle and the Austin American-Statesman. Currently she teaches film history at Texas State University, and she’s also a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a variety of publications including Texas Monthly and Houston magazine.

Workshop: “How to Write a Film Review.” We’ll talk about the basics of an engaging film review and read some examples. Then we’ll watch a short movie and write our own reviews to share with the class.

NETTIE REYNOLDS is a nationally published essayist and speaker, and storyteller. She’s a humorist and has spoken at Erma Bombeck Conference, Texas Governor’s Conference for Women, BookExpoAmerica, Social Venture Network Conference, the Living Room Series, Frontera Fest and others. Nettie was most recently featured as a participant in the nationally lauded Listen To Your Mother show. She is a laughter yoga instructor, hula hooper and ukulele player. Ms. Reynolds believes in the power of humor in stories. She will help you find the funny story inside of you that you’re aching to share. She’ll walk you through her five minute funny exercise which you can use anytime to help you find the humor in any story and write it so others laugh as well.



PATRICK ANCIPINK started his career as a technical writer 18 years ago and continued to leverage his written and verbal skills into his current position as a marketing executive for a Fortune 500 software company. Patrick spends his working days finding fresh and compelling ways to communicate complex technical products and concepts as well as “ghost writing” for the Travis Heights Elementary PTA. Patrick has a BA in American Studies from Yale University. BILL TALBOT is a Director of Solution & Product Marketing at CA Technologies. He has over 15 years of B-to-B marketing, sales and alliance development experience. Bill earned a B.A. from Boston University, and an M.B.A. with a focus on high tech marketing from The University of Texas at Austin.

Workshop: Patrick and Bill will discuss how writing—from the technical to the creative–is essential for business and especially the marketing profession. The workshop will use a wide variety of examples to demonstrate how different writing styles and outputs can be used to market and sell products and ideas. We will work collaboratively to create materials to launch a new product to the market.