Wilhelm Fellows Awarded

August 6th, 2013 9:18 PM

We are pleased to announce two new recipients of the Jeffrey D. Wilhelm Fellow Award.

Amy Philbrook has been named the Wilhelm Fellow for 2012 and David Farady has been named for 2013.

The Wilhelm Fellow is awarded annually to a member of the Annual Institute who exemplifies devotion to teaching, collegial spirit, and scholarship.



Amy Philbrook has been an elementary teacher since 1988, taking a significant amount of time off to raise her four, active boys.  After three years as an education technician teaching writing and other subjects to third graders, Amy will begin this fall as the sixth grade teacher at Mount Desert Elementary School in Northeast Harbor.  For twenty years, Amy and her family lived year round on Little Cranberry Island, but now live in Northeast Harbor during the school year.

In 2012, Amy introduced institute Fellows to yoga (breathing in, stretching out and opening the mind) as a way to support student engagement with writing. Amy’s work with third grade teacher Rebecca Heniser and her students can be seen on the Edutopia website as part of its series on “Schools That Work.”

Amy returned in 2013 as a course mentor to support our 2013 Institute Fellows. Each year, she has demonstrated a special brand of quiet leadership that supports others as they grow and pursue their own interests while helping to build a cohesive community of writers and teachers.


David Farady is in his third year teaching 9th grade writing and literature at Erskine Academy in South China, Maine.  He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing and English from The University of Maine at Farmington, an MAT in English Education from Boston University, and he attended The Salt Institute for Documentary Studies (located in Portland, Maine) with a focus on non-fiction writing and editing.

Relevance is David’s guiding principle in teaching, and during the 2013 July institute he inspired other fellows with his nontraditional choices in the texts he uses to grab the attention of his students and encourage critical thinking.  As his teaching demonstration description stated, “If you struggle with getting kids excited about creative writing…and if you want to look at
questionably (in)appropriate art and brainstorm questionably (in)appropriate stories, then this workshop could be fun for you.”

David proudly notes living in Hallowell, “the smallest city in Maine where it is written in the town by-laws that every major holiday must be accompanied by a parade.” He most enjoys catching live music and losing himself in the western Maine mountains.

The Wilhelm Fellow Award was established in celebration of the contributions made to the Maine Writing Project and the educational community of Maine by our former site director, Jeffrey D. Wilhelm. Recent recipients include Teri Brown ’09, Susan Sandler ’09, Patsy Baldus ’10, and Pete St. John ’11.

TC Spotlight: Woody Woodsum, poet.

July 15th, 2013 5:45 PM

Happy Summer, MWP friends!  We want to make sure all of you have a chance to know and read the work of Douglas “Woody” Woodsum, who completed the MWP Summer Institute in 2008.   Read about him here, and then check out his impressive collection of published works.


Woody grew up in Maine and earned degrees in English from Middlebury, Denver University, and Michigan, where he won two Hopwood Awards. He worked at Bread Loaf in the Green Mountains for fourteen years, and studied at both the School of English and the Writers Conference. A former Ruth Lilly poet, Woody won the Bread Loaf Poetry Prize and a Maine Times fiction prize. In 1995, he changed his focus from his own writing to teach high school English first in Oakland, Maine and now at Carrabec High School in North Anson. With his students, he has published over a dozen anthologies of oral history, folklore, and creative writing. Two collections are abridged on CDs.  Woody and his wife, the artist, Donna Asmussen, live in Smithfield, Maine. He’s published poetry and prose in dozens of magazines, newspapers and anthologies. His book, The Lawns of Lobstermen, is available from www.artjourneyer.com.


Woody headshot

excerpt from “Ode: To Trees”

You giants, you dwarves; you leaners, you poles;
you gnarled fists, you saplings with two leaves;
you bare harbingers of cold, you budding
heralds of green . . . I sing your praise.

-Woody Woodsum


Woody, on the highlights of his time with the Maine Writing Project’s Summer Institute:

“The biggest highlight from my MWP institute was the incredibly positive, nurturing, and upbeat cadre. At the same time, we were still critical and professional as we posed hard questions and held each other to high standards. My teaching demonstration did not go well, I was told, but I still felt supported. A lot of my previous professional development was a more begrudging experience, a sort of the-beatings-will-continue-until-morale-improves experience. Often my colleagues and I had serious questions about the pedagogical value. Not so at MWP. The required reading alone, taught me so much more than I had ever learned about teaching before (except from experience). Two other highlights were vastly improving my computer and technology competencies (note the two CDs above) and, finally, writing much more prose than I usually do.”


Woody, on how the MWP influenced his work as a writer:

“My MWP provided me with a new network of colleagues. I find teaching draining, both emotionally and physically, so it’s easy for me to let my writing life slip away. But my colleagues in the MWP have kept me involved in the annual spring writing retreat, Poetry Out Loud, publishing in the anthology, being a Poet in Residence, and submitting some of my MWP work (including the aforementioned prose) for publication. My 2008 MWP colleague, Clare Caddell, wrote in our anthology that “lasagna” was her favorite Italian word. That thought always stuck with me, and, much later, I wrote and published my poem “Amore” in Maine Magazine. My poem’s first line is “always, I have loved the word ‘lasagna.'” Thanks Clare and MWP.”


 Woody’s future writing plans:

“I plan to put together a new book-length poetry manuscript and an abridged chapbook version. I hope to find a publisher for both of them, and I plan on sending groups of poems to magazines as I always have. I’m in a poetry group again, finally, after many years of hiatus. We meet every two weeks, and that pressure to write to “deadline” helps. A year ago, I bought a boat, and I’m learning how to fish in fresh water (both liquid and frozen). A few fishing poems are coming along.”


Woody’s writing can be found in the Beloit Poetry Journal, on Fishousepoems, the English Journal, his wife’s website:  www.artjourneyer.com  and on the website of his publisher, Moon Pie Press. 

excerpt from “Blackberry War”

I do not often go looking for black.
Afraid of the old dark all my life, I’ve learned
To be in darkness and control my fear,
Learned how rare it is to find true darkness.
It’s found deep in new moon woods on starless nights
Or in the windowless cellar of a house
With the door shut tight at the top of the steps
And the metal bulkhead padlocked outside.
War is another way into the black:
The tracers and coffins I need not recount.

-Woody Woodsum


Thank you, Woody, for your inspiration, and congratulations on your success.  Write on!

MWP Promising Practicies Conference, this summer!

June 6th, 2013 8:18 AM

As the school year is winding down, and you take the leap into the summer season, please keep the following date in mind and save it for the University of Maine Writing Project’s new Promising Practices Conference.


On July 11, 2013, your presence is requested as The University of Maine Writing Project hosts our Promising Practices Conference on the University of Maine Campus. This day will feature our 2013 fellows as they showcase their teaching demonstrations. They want our feedback.  We all can relate to that, right?

9:00 am -4:00 pm at Donald P. Corbett Hall (next to Shibles).

The day will include:
–    time to connect with the 2013 fellows
–   time to reconnect with fellow TCs
–    meet and greet  MWP leaders
–    lunch (on the house)
–    writing time on your own
–     door prizes
–    contact hours

Please contact the conference coordinator Kristina McBean with any questions and if you plan to attend.

TC Spotlight: Natalie Davis

April 26th, 2013 8:03 AM

The Maine Writing Project is pleased to introduce you to High School English Teacher Natalie Davis!  Natalie has some amazing ideas about increasing student investment by writing to an authentic audience.  There is a take-away in her interview for every teacher of writing.  Enjoy!

natalie head shot


Natalie Davis earned her BS in Secondary Ed at UMaine Farmington and graduated with honors. She taught one year of  8th grade ELA in South China, Maine, and has since been teaching 9th grade English in Old Town. So far at Old Town High, she has created 9th Grade Teams, directed a student-staffed writing center for a year, and currently co-advises the student council.  Natalie attended the Maine Writing Project in 2009 and was a mentor in 2011.  In 2012, she earned her Master’s Degree in Literacy at UMaine.

Natalie, on the highlights of the MWP:
“Without a doubt, the best thing about my time in the summer institute was making 13 amazing, new friends. I don’t think I could have had as much fun or learned as much about teaching and myself as I did without each and every one of the teachers from my summer.  We are so often alone in our classrooms, and we forget that there are other dynamic, innovative teachers out there striving for camaraderie and support.”

Natalie, on how her teaching has changed since the MWP:
“I walked away from my summer institute ready to change the world, but I also knew that I couldn’t do it alone. I needed support and help. I am fortunate to work closely with the wonderful, smart, witty 2010 MWP TC, Megan Watson. In the four years we’ve worked together, we have created and tweaked a new, progressive freshman curriculum.  Without my time in the Writing Project,  I would not have been as open to the kinds of collaboration and planning we do. For me, the summer institute solidified the idea that as a teacher, I cannot and should not be an island.”

Cool things Natalie does with kids with writing: Authentic Audience!  It really works.

Portfolios, shared with a “keeper”
“I enjoy, very much, working with my freshman students because their growth is so evident.  Megan and I use mid-year and final portfolios in our classes (thanks, Rich – Room 109 is dog-eared and sticky-noted). They compile all of their writing from a semester into one place, including revisions and at least one new piece.  They then write a letter to the reader reflecting on their work. We ask them to share all of this work with a “keeper” (a trusted, important adult, aka “authentic audience”!) who responds to their portfolio in a letter.

Freshmen enjoy seeing where they started and where they end up, and I think they most enjoy that TWO people write to them about their work. This assignment goes beyond the classroom, and having an authentic audience makes it worthwhile and real for the kids.”

Fairytales for Elementary School “Buddies”
“Students in English 9 Honors study a unit on fairy tales. They learned about the structure, archetypes, and history of the tales. As a culminating assessment we asked them to write a fairytale of their own. In the spring of 2010, our students composed fairy tales for a “buddy” at Old Town Elementary School. We partnered with two classrooms, students conducted interviews with their elementary buddies, and then they incorporated the elements we had studied as well as information about their buddy into a fairy tale for and about the younger student. Students submitted several drafts of their stories – until they were virtually perfect – and they illustrated them as well. When they were finished, we walked our freshmen to the elementary school where our students read the personalized fairy tales to their buddy. Our high school students were invested in making their fairy tales amazing, not because they wanted an A, but because there was a real person on the other side of this assignment.”

natalie books

Letters to an Author
“This year, after completing a unit on the novel Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher, our students prepared a piece to send to the author. As part of an in-depth character analysis, students had to create a character credo using the voice of their assigned character. During the unit, they also used Crutcher’s words to create found poems. The kids chose one of these two assignments to polish, or they wrote a letter to the author about their reaction the novel.  We compiled roughly 40 assignments, and sent them off Chris Crutcher. The students had discovered earlier in the unit that Mr. Crutcher emails and tweets his readers (we asked him a question via twitter and got an almost immediate response), so they were confident that he would take the time to read their work. The idea that someone else cared about what they had to say motivated them to take time to edit and revise. Chris Crutcher emailed me back and said he planned to read every page and get back to us. There were 62, so we’re still waiting – but the investment the students showed in their writing was enough for me.”

On behalf of the MWP community, thank you Natalie, for your innovative and enthusiastic teaching of writing. 

Young Author Camps 2013

March 4th, 2013 4:44 PM

young authors group photo

Each year MWP hosts several Young Authors Camps (YACs) around the state. YACs provide young writers an environment to:

  • explore different genres of writing, including autobiography, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction
  • develop their writing while working with experienced classroom teachers and Maine Writing Project teacher-consultants
  • celebrate their work and share their creative pieces in a relaxed atmosphere with peers and writing project mentors.

young authors group ohot

students working

Here are the details of the  Young Author’s Camps for Summer 2013:

Maine Writing Project Young Authors Camp: University of Maine   Orono, Maine

July 8th to 12th    Grades 3-12    Price:  $125.00     ($110 per each additional child in family).  Fee includes morning snack, T-shirt and Anthology.

Maine Writing Project Young Authors Camp:  Benton Elementary School    Benton, Maine

July 8th to 12th    Grades 1-12       Price:   $115.00     ($100.00 each additional child in family).   Fee includes morning snack, T-shirt and Anthology.

Maine Writing Project Young Authors Camp:  College of the Atlantic     Bar Harbor, Maine

August 12th to 16th    Grades 3-12        Price:   $125.00     ($110 per each additional child in family).  Fee includes morning snack, t-shirt and Anthology.


To register your child, or for more information, contact:

Roxanne Lee: ( 207) 581-2412  roxanne.lee@umit.maine.edu

student working


For other YAC locations in Southern Maine please visit the Southern Maine Writing Project.

Writing Ourselves–Annual Gathering of MWP Members

February 15th, 2013 5:43 PM

The Maine Writing Project membership will gather for a writing workshop conducted by award-winning author Monica Wood (When We Were the Kennedys, Any Bitter Thing, The Pocket Muse). We’re also serving a scrumptious luncheon… at no charge.

Writing Ourselves with Monica Wood

Monica Wood

Monica will conduct a two-hour writing workshop titled
“Life Stories: Beginner’s Guide to Memoir and Personal Essay”

Buchanan Alumni House
160 College Avenue, Orono, Maine
Saturday, April 6th, 2013

9:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Registration & coffee
10:00 a.m.— Writing Workshop
12:00 noon — Luncheon
The afternoon is free for writing and mingling with friends

RSVP by March 25th – Space Limited

Contact: Roxanne Lee
(207) 581-2412

After the luncheon, the 2013 Fellows will attend orientation. We suggest that TCs take time for their own writing life or to visit with MWP friends. If you have any questions, please write. We hope to see you on April 6th.

TC Spotlight: 2nd grade Writing Teacher Kim Oldenburgh

January 28th, 2013 5:10 PM

Kim Oldenburgh

The Maine Writing Project is pleased to highlight the amazing work of 2nd grade teacher and MWP Teacher-Consultant Kim Oldenburgh.  You can feel her enthusiasm about writing and teaching through her words.



Kim, on the MWP and how it affected her as a teacher:

“I participated in the MWP in 2005.   I went into the Writing Project imagining I’d go back to school in the fall with a “toolkit” for teaching writing, but what I left with was so much more than that.

I’ve always found it difficult to explain the essence of the Writing Project when colleagues ask me about it because it was so life changing for me.  During that summer, I developed strong bonds with my fellows, and for the first time, I wrote about feelings that had been covered up for years, feelings I forgot I had.

Through my fellows, I learned about my own writing during the process of getting through the messy parts.  I went back to my classroom that fall knowing I had to emulate that same process for my students.  By paying more attention to my own writing process, I became a better writing teacher and my students got more out of my lessons.

When living closely with a group of writers for so many days, you trust them enough to take risks and share.  This is the type of community I have developed in my own second grade classroom: a community of writers trusting each other to write and share from their hearts.”

Kim, on her work with 2nd grade writers:

“I’ve found the best way to get second graders to write is to allow them to write about what interests them.   Several years ago, I spent one whole year implementing an inquiry study on my boy writers as I always felt they weren’t as engaged as I thought they could be.  While researching the works of Graves, Fletcher, and Newkirk, I learned a lot, but what has resonated with me is that writing in school is often dominated by personal narrative (boys’ least favorite genre) and that female teachers often stifle the creativity in their boy writers by viewing their writing as problematic due to the potty humor and violence they often enjoy writing about.

That year, I learned to foster their creativity by teaching them how authors infused humor and violence into their writing with intention.  The boys quickly learned if their violence didn’t have a purpose, they didn’t use it.  That year, one of my most reluctant writers (who, prior to my inquiry, thrived on writing stories that were violent and spent a great deal of time trying to get his peers to laugh when he shared his writing) wrote a powerful book about September 11th and he was so proud of the work he put into his published piece.”

Kim, on the writing assignment she developed to engage kids AND meet the Common Core State Standards:

“This school year, I attended a workshop with Shelly Moody regarding Customized Learning and for the first time, the work she does with her students surrounding unpacking the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) finally made sense to me.  Since then, I’ve been looking closer at the standards and have discovered many of my current practices already align with the standards. Rather than using the standards as a checklist, I’ve been doing what Calkins, Ehrenworth and Lehman (2012) suggest and going deep and broad within the standards.  With my students, I have been unpacking some of the standards into kid-friendly language so they own the standard and understand their goals as learners.

Opinion Writing

One standard that I hadn’t covered in the past but was particularly interesting to me was opinion writing. I started with a guided opinion piece where I polled the class to see if they liked inside or outside recess the best.  We created a chart with reasons for their opinion.  During this guided activity, students were then able to write an opinion piece about their choice.  This was highly engaging as they tried to convince their readers to like their choice the best.

Toy Reviews

Our next assignment would be a toy review.  Over the next few days, toys trickled in and photos were taken.  Throughout that time, we began reading toy reviews online.  I then printed out 20 reviews the class had particularly liked and partners worked with highlighters to note something about the review they could use in their own writing.  We added their ideas to a chart and the next day we began writing toy reviews.

toy reviews

Over the next few days, students worked with partners and me to revise and edit their reviews.  The kindergarten class is planning to begin writing toy reviews and we will share our reviews with their class and then we plan to hang them in the hall to try to convince other students to buy the toys reviewed.

Check out some of these 5-star reviews.

toy review


toy review

As far as the assessment of these opinion pieces, the CCSS only asks that second graders be able to state an opinion about a topic, supply reasons and provide a concluding statement.  Scroll back to the chart we created as a class and you’ll see the students noticed features about opinion writing that the standards don’t cover.  However, what the students noticed is what makes the pieces engaging to read.  By immersing students in an inquiry study of opinion writing and scaffolding the writing process of this new genre, all students were successful in creating their toy reviews.”

Thank you, Kim, and may all 2nd grade students have writing teachers like you.

TC Spotlight: Emily Morrison

December 10th, 2012 6:33 PM

The Maine Writing Project would like to introduce you to the smart, witty, and talented teacher-consultant Emily Denbow Morrison. 

Emily studied English Literature and Secondary Education at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, VT and graduated with honors in 2001. She married her classmate, Matthew Morrison. Emily began her teaching career in southern New Hampshire and currently teaches in A.P. English Literature at Bucksport High School. After her daughter was born, she began writing a book, Investigating the Mysteries of Motherhood. Three children later, she’s still working on it. Emily has a Masters in Literacy and writes for The Maine Edge. Her work has also appeared in The New Maine Times.

Emily Morrison

Emily, on the highlights of the MWP Institute, which she attended this past summer:

“So much of our time as teachers is dedicated to students. Whether we’re reading their writing, preparing for class, or fleetingly meeting with colleagues, let’s face it: there isn’t a whole lot of time built into our lives for writing (the craft we teach). MWP enabled me to work on my own writing again, and it gave me a group of people to sound off with. Plus, there was a yummy snack table and an excellent salad bar. Refreshments equal brain food.”

Emily, on how the Maine Writing project influenced her life as a writer:

“MWP helped me write for myself again. I’ve spent a good deal of my life the past two years writing about writing. I had forgotten the pure joy of writing something for myself and for others to be entertained or inspired. Luckily, MWP was a jumping off point for me. After the summer seminar, I spent one month polishing my personal writing and submitting it to The English Journal, local area newspapers, and online magazines. Currently, I have published eighteen articles, and I write a weekly column for The Maine Edge.”

Emily’s Writing Life:

“Right now my weekly articles keep me pretty busy. Initially, I wanted to write two or three pieces a week, but then teaching and mothering started to seem like chores, so I had to put my writing life in perspective! I decided to publish one article a week and work on long range writing goals sporadically. Most of my writing centers around balancing my three passions: running, teaching, and my family. Plus, my husband built me a new writing shack out back so now the pressure is really on. If he builds it, the words must come…”

Please enjoy some of Emily’s recent articles, published in The New Maine Times and The Maine Edge.

Teacher, rock star, gymnast: Same thing” appeared this summer as an OpEd piece in The New Maine Times.This article deals with the disconnect between schools and our students dreams.

On the lighter side of things, “Powerless” is an article that details a morning without power in the Morrison household.

Another humorous article that’s been quite popular for some reason is “My son is a rapper.” He cannot stop his flow, and I’ve given up trying to mold him into a light rock listener.

Shortly after this article came out, I competed in a foot race with my husband. Teaming up with his massive sports ego was quite an adventure, so I wrote about it in “Dynamic Duo: the foot-race that will make or break you!” This one also made the most popular list for several weeks.

MWP is proud of you, Emily! Keep up the great work!

TC Spotlight: Paul Frost

November 13th, 2012 3:08 PM
Paul Frost

Paul Frost

For our first MWP Teacher Consultant Writer Spotlight, we’d like to introduce you to Paul Frost.  Paul attended the Maine Writing Project Institute in 2006. Since that time, Paul has been active in a writing group on MDI and has published poetry and op-eds in the Bangor Daily News.

Paul, on the highlights of the MWP Institute:

 “From the get-go I felt energizing connections with each member of my writing group. These connections rooted in our rich authentic responses to each other’s writing. They grew in our dialogues about Ralph Fletcher’s What a Writer Needs and Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. They blossomed in our celebrations of our pieces and, frankly, of each other.”

On how MWP influenced Paul’s life as a writer:

“Writing without response ceased to be an option, and I learned responders brought different gifts. I began to feel comfortable deciding which responses worked for me as writer.

I discovered that marginal drafts and promising drafts could happen on my laptop when I was fresh or driven, and they could happen on my lined pad when I was tired and reflective.

I became compulsive about reading drafts out loud. I read “hard-fought-for” paragraphs and entire pieces as soon as they were written; I read them a half hour later and the next morning. I learned each “read aloud” enabled me to cut “clutter” and advance my quest for Bill Zinsser’s favored elements, “precise nouns” and “powerful verbs.” “Read alouds” remain a treasured tool.

I came to believe most of my writing is something I live with for a while, not something I make time to get done.”

Current writing endeavors:

“I’ve written poetry, grants, and a couple of op-eds. Currently in my writing group on MDI, I’m writing whatever stories come up about my childhood as I look at furniture transplanted from my parents’ home.”

The following is a current list of Paul’s published writing:

Poetry: “25 – 65” Maine Writes Issue 3, Volume 4, October 2006

“Dual Worlds” Maine Writes

Op-Ed: “Confronting Cultural Genocide, Maine Leads Nation,” Bangor Daily News, March 22, 2012

Op-Ed: “To heal we must learn: a mandate for Wabanaki child welfare, Bangor Daily News, September 6, 2012

The Maine Writing Project is proud of the work Paul is doing!

2012 National Day on Writing

October 20th, 2012 1:36 PM

We celebrated the National Day on Writing here at MWP!  Last year on the National Day on Writing, the National Writing Project asked people to talk about “Why I Write” and many folks shared their thoughts on blogs and through social media.  This year, the topic is “What I Write.”

You can learn more about this National Day here on the NWP website.

So, what do we write?

We write all day.  We write emails, blog comments, grocery lists, and to-do lists.  We write love notes, thank you notes, apology notes, and notes in our kids’ lunchboxes.  We write essays, novels, funny stories, journal entries, and poems.

In classrooms, we write notes to students, notes on the board, homework assignments, and directions for activities.  Whether we like it or not, our students are writing under their desks and in their pockets, even while we are teaching about writing.  Text messages, status updates, and comments about what their friends are writing.

Rich Kent, Director of the Maine Writing Project, writes  emails, Facebook posts, marginal notes in books/articles, articles, oh, and…books.

Ken Martin, Associate Director of the Maine Writing Project, writes  emails answering student questions, entries in online class discussion Forums, notes and goals on my golf scorecard, margin notes in just about everything I read, letters to the editor (not always submitted!)

Follow us on facebook, and tell us what YOU write.

Happy National Day on Writing!