Missouri State University
Writing Project

OWP Hosts Writing Conference for High School Students

By Colleen Appel

In December, 165 high school students and their teachers from 18 school districts across southern Missouri converged on the Missouri State University campus for “Make Your Statement, Write Your Story,” a day-long conference sponsored by the Ozarks Writing Project (OWP), a project of MSU’s Center for Writing in College, Career, and Community (CWCCC). Throughout the day, young people attended sessions led by teacher leaders who were excited to share their journeys as writers. The offerings included parody writing, flash fiction, six word memoirs, comic books, slam poetry, and more.

The day was modeled on OWP’s successful conference for middle school students, now in its tenth year and bringing more than 500 students to the annual event in the spring. Dr. Keri Franklin, director of the CWCCC, said, “We wanted to offer the same rich writing experiences for high school writers that we’ve been offering to our middle school writers.”

The day concluded with an assembly open to the public. The students were addressed by President Clif Smart and Dean of the College of Arts and Letters Gloria Galanes who invited the students to spend a day on campus and consider a career in writing. Keynote speaker Michael Frizell, author and MSU faculty member, told the student audience, “You have something to say. Your voice is important and we want to hear it.” Students were then invited to share some of the work they had written during the day in open mic fashion.

Teacher Jana Simpson summarized the day with a thank you to facilitators. “My students come from a very poor rural district. For many of them this was their first visit to a college campus. They loved the writing today so much that we had our own open mic in the car on the way home. You all have no idea what this meant to these kids.”

Co-facilitators Colleen Appel and Terri McAvoy are now preparing for the middle school conference to be held May 12, 2017. See the Youth Writing Conference website for more information.


Posted in Ozarks Writing Project | Comments Off on OWP Hosts Writing Conference for High School Students

Make Your Statement. Write Your Story.


At the first-ever High School Writing Conference on Friday, December 9, some of the most talented teacher-writers in southwest Missouri will conduct sessions designed to inspire students in grades 9-12 to Make Your Statement, Write Your Story.  Session topics include script writing, parody, slam poetry, comic books and graphic novels, making money from writing, flash fiction, and a writing marathon.  The last session of the day in Plaster Student Union will include a keynote address by author Michael Frizell and an open mic; this session will be open to the public.

The cost per student is $45 which includes lunch.  Their teachers attend free.  Limited seats are available, so sign up early!  Please register by November 11.

Here’s a handy printable to distribute to your students.

Questions? Contact Colleen Appel at Appel7208@missouristate.edu.


Posted in Ozarks Writing Project | Comments Off on Make Your Statement. Write Your Story.

Perspectives on Teacher Leadership from i3 Teacher Leaders

i3-communityCongratulations to Heather Payne, co-director of Ozarks Writing Project (OWP), and Laurie Buffington,
OWP teacher consultant and English teacher at Laquey High School, for being invited to share their experiences as teacher leaders during a webinar hosted by the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) Community.

The webinar, which took place on September 14,  is available online.  We encourage you to listen for our representatives from OWP as they discuss their journeys in becoming successful teacher leaders!

Thank you, Heather and Laurie, for your important work with the College-Ready Writers Program.


Posted in Ozarks Writing Project | Comments Off on Perspectives on Teacher Leadership from i3 Teacher Leaders

Morris Named Rookie Teacher of the Year

JulieMorrisSWRTAJulie Morris, English teacher at Macks Creek High School, has been named MSTA Southwest Region Rookie Teacher of the Year for 2015-2016.  This prestigious award is designed to recognize the contributions of a classroom teacher of 5 years or less who is exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled, and has the ability to inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn.

This is Morris’s fourth year at Macks Creek, where she teaches 7th and 8th grade English, along with dual credit Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition.  She also serves as a class sponsor, cheerleading coach, FBLA adviser, and active CTA member.  She is a Teacher Consultant for the Ozarks Writing Project, and she has a printed publication to her credit.

Morris’s ability to inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities is what makes her such a successful teacher in the rural Missouri school system.  Part of her educational philosophy is, “Students must be developed intellectually, emotionally, and socially to succeed in life, and deserve an education that will nurture the expansion of all three.  As an educator, I strive to give students the best education possible, and to help them succeed in and out of the classroom.”  She was also named the Missouri Association of Rural Education Outstanding Middle School Teacher of the Year for the 2014-2015 school year due to her efforts in and out of the classroom.

Julie is a 2005 graduate of Clearwater High School. She is the daughter of Mike Morris and Holly Ferguson of Piedmont.

Press Release, Missouri State Teachers Association


Posted in Ozarks Writing Project | Comments Off on Morris Named Rookie Teacher of the Year

Two Upcoming Opportunities for Youth Writers

Missouri State Poetry Society (MSPS) Youth Contest:  The contest is free and open to students in grades 6-12.  There will be three winners with cash prizes and seven honorable mentions awarded in each category.  First place winners will be published in the MSPS Anthology, Grist.  Winning poems and honorable mentions will be submitted to the Manningham Student Poetry Award Contest sponsored by the National Federation of State Poetry Societies.  Deadline: Postmarked by February 15.

Nick Harkins Memorial Scholarship:  The Piddington family is sponsoring a scholarship to honor the memory of Nick Harkins, who passed away in October 2013 due to a very rare and deadly brain disease called PML.  Nick lived his short life to the fullest, embracing it with gusto, love, and an infectious laugh.  He was truly “one of a kind” and stood up proudly for what he believed.  Hopefully this scholarship in his memory will remind others that even if you walk a different path than the majority, you are not walking alone.  Entries must focus on any theme related to diversity, equity, and/or inclusion.  May be descriptive and/or issue-orientated and may be of any genre.  Deadline: Postmarked by March 11 or delivered to Willard High School by 4:30 pm on March 18.


Posted in Ozarks Writing Project | Comments Off on Two Upcoming Opportunities for Youth Writers

“Why I Write” Assignment Results in Inspiring Poster

When Macks Creek teacher, Julie Morris, formed a plan to kick off her dual credit Creative Writing class with a “Why I Write” assignment, she was not anticipating an enthusiastic response from her students—they’re high schoolers, after all. But they surprised her. Looking back, Morris realizes she should have known the group of kids were capable of more than she—and often many of us adults—initially assumed.

Last year, Morris pulled from OWP resources to help construct the class. After reading through the text, she asked her students to draft a single page on the reasons why they write. Morris’s middle school kids blew away her expectations when they all responded with multiple, powerful pages featuring inspiring statements ranging from the boldly bright-eyed to the heart-achingly hopeful. Some are dramatic, yet undeniably profound. Some show signs of writers dipping their toes in flowery prose. Some get straight to the point. They’re all are unique and succinctly describe the sincere reflections of a creative journey.

Why I Write

Morris took many of the standout snippets from what each student had to say and scattered them across a poster called “Why I Write.” Since hanging the poster, Morris has noticed it’s a hit with visitors, “Every person that has come into my room has read it, without me asking them to, and commented on how great it was. Some assumed I made it (which I technically did physically write all of it on there), but all of the ideas came from the kids.”

“To let others know they’re not alone.”

The poster really is hard to ignore. Written in multicolored ink, many of the statements suggest deep emotional struggles students are effectively working out through their writing. One statement answers “Why I Write” with, “Because I’d rather stain paper with ink, than my wrists with blood.” Another (in orange ink) claims he or she writes “To let others know they’re not alone.” And another: “To clean out my brain.”

Morris’ retelling of the decision to effectively highlight these statements brims with energy. She’s encouraged entirely by her students and gives them all the credit. Fortunately, she thought to pass along a great idea to her colleagues at OWP, which was accepted quite happily. Simply put, Morris recognized what her students wrote as an opportunity to challenge and inspire others – ideas perfect for a poster and perfect for sharing.

Julie Morris is an English teacher at Macks Creek, where she teaches 7th and 8th grades, as well as dual credit Composition, Creative Writing, and Literature. She graduated with a bachelor’s in 2009 and her master’s in 2014, both from Missouri State University. Morris was chosen as the Missouri Association of Rural Education’s Outstanding Middle School Teacher of the Year in 2015.

Morris attended the 2012 Summer Institute and has been involved in many OWP programs since then, such as the Youth Writing Conference, Digital Writing Institute, National Writing Project Scoring Conference, and multiple Advanced Institutes, including the Advanced Institute on Argument Writing. She has been trained as an OWP Teacher Consultant.

Posted in Ozarks Writing Project | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on “Why I Write” Assignment Results in Inspiring Poster

Four Ways to Get Connected with OWP

1. Summer Institute Nominations

Teacher Consultants:  Do you know an exemplary teacher (K-16, any content area) who should become part of the Ozarks Writing Project community?  Does he or she desire to grow personally as a writer and deliver quality writing instruction in the classroom?  Send names of nominees for the 2016 Summer Institute to Graduate Assistant Emily Duncan (emily5392@live.missouristate.edu).  In your message, include the teacher’s school and email address.

2. Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

Fall is here, and that means it’s time for a friendly reminder about the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards!  Students in grades 7-12 can apply in 29 categories of art and writing for a chance to earn scholarships and have their works exhibited or published.

The Missouri Writing Region includes the entire state of Missouri, plus both Wyandotte and Johnson Counties in Kansas.  Online submission is quick, easy, and user-friendly.  This year, we have an option for online payments ($5 per entry).  Remember, there is a fee waiver available to students who need one.

The regional deadline for submission is January 8, 2016.  Please don’t hesitate to contact Missouri Writing Region Coordinator Kate Willaredt (kate@gkcwp.org) with questions.

3. Tools of Engagement: Revitalizing Reluctant Readers & Writers

In this Spring 2016 online course, participants will work with tools designed to engage students who feel disconnected from the classroom.  If you are a high school dual credit instructor who wants to be involved in important conversations, practices, and research related to student engagement with and through reading and writing, sign up today!  Please view the Tools of Engagement flyer for more details.  Then, check out a complete list of graduate courses for dual credit teachers offered through Missouri State University.

4. Writing & Thinking Conference

It’s not too early to begin looking forward to the February Writing & Thinking Conference.  Send a team of teachers to visit the Missouri State University campus on Friday, February 19, 2016 for a day of world-class literacy professional development.  Over 100 teachers (some from as far as 200 miles away) joined us for our October conference and left with strategies for improving student learning in any classroom.

Posted in Ozarks Writing Project | Comments Off on Four Ways to Get Connected with OWP

Writing Marathon Writing by Terry Bond

This is an excerpt of writing from the writing marathon that took place at Bennett Springs State Park on September 19.

2:37 p.m., along the stream between spring and river

water2Families come to Bennett Spring, the one next to us a mother, father, and an eight-year-old son. Norman Rockwell, were he painting in Missouri this day, could do no better. The gnats, though, might tax his concentration. I’m wondering, at the moment, what I should write. Something about gnats? Instead, I shift positions, but they follow.Terry

What profundity can I dredge up? None, I confess. It is enough, this moment, to be, that tiresome old cliché. I care not if I fish, care not much if the mosquito circling my right ear takes a meal. I’m at peace, and the sense of surprise at this feeling says rather too much. I am not distressed by my mother’s failing mind, failing body, and recent death; my father’s frailty and neediness; the pestilence of moles in my lawn . . . not even by the “ain’t gonna’s” employed by the mother ten yards up-river from me in conversation with her son (rather marring the Rockwell effect). Today, the river flows past, and if I fail to deliver a kick-ass simile to impress my companions, it’s ok. And I didn’t even have that second beer at lunch.

I cannot fix everything, perhaps anything. I can, however, take pleasure in the company of people, teachers whom I grew to admire and respect during the summer. I can accept the gift of a perfect day.

Posted in Ozarks Writing Project | Comments Off on Writing Marathon Writing by Terry Bond

Fall Writing Retreat Reflection by Karen Leonard

This reflection was written in response to our OWP Fall Writing Retreat and Renewal at Bennett Springs State Park on Sept. 18-20. 


For the short time that I was there it was like coming home and being with my own kind.  All of the teachers that I have been involved with have exhibited true professionalism and dedication.  In the twenty years that I have been a teacher I have witnessed the most enthusiasm and always words from the heart of each teacher.  The Fall Writing Retreat was like a family reunion.  We had fellowship, enjoyed the outdoors (not the bugs, though), cooked, ate, laughed, cried, wrote, and shared over the weekend.  Being an older teacher, I appreciate it when I get a new spark in my teaching career.  My students are catching the enthusiasm, too. Thank you, OWP teachers and staff, for helping me to enjoy writing and teaching again.

Posted in Ozarks Writing Project | Comments Off on Fall Writing Retreat Reflection by Karen Leonard