R.O.L.O Write-Up #2: Speaking OBJECTively

By IYWP Intern Rebecca Jefferson

This week at R.O.L.O. with Caleb Rainey students wrote from the perspective of various objects. Caleb challenged students to give life to objects: what would they feel? What would they love? what would they hate? With these questions in mind students turned ordinary objects into characters with stories both heart wrenching and silly!


Fatima at ROLO on 6.20.18
Fatima reading “The Quilt”

“The Quilt” – Fatima

If I was a quilt I would be confused of who I was. I would be confused because I would have so many parts. The quilt would want to be on the wall because people would call it beautiful. The quilt would be hanging up in the museum.  The quilt loves colorful things, so it would be lots of colors with more designs.

The quilt would be happy but at the same time still confused. The quilt would be a unique quilt, seeing all the people pass by calling it amazing and unique. The quilt would love it. It would see all the people taking pictures of it, the quilt loves the attention.

But when it turns night and it turns dark the quilt feels lonely. It doesn’t like being alone, it starts crying because there’s nobody there. The quilt doesn’t like the dark but at the same time it gets tired of all the attention. Hanging up on that wall on the glass, he starts not to like it that much.


Zariah at ROLO on 6.20.18
Zariah reading “The Floor and the Table”

“The Floor and the Table” – Zariah

Dear Table,

I am floor, the opposite of table…I think. So, people walk on me, but you stand on me, and I like that. In fact, I love you, I want you to marry me.

Table’s Reaction: “What! No, I will not marry you! I—I…I hate standing on you, so…I will just float in the air!

*mad face*


R.O.L.O was founded in the Fall of 2016 by Northwest Jr. High Staff members Renee Zukin, Jalexis Senter, and Whitney Lang. The program aims to connect students of color to positive adults in their community and provide support for students of color struggling behaviorally and academically. To learn more about R.O.L.O at Northwest Jr. High click here: http://roloatnwjh.blogspot.com/

Caleb Rainey is a writer, performer, and producer. He has led Slam Poetry Workshops for five different junior highs during the IYWP Junior High Writing Conference. Caleb is also the co-founder of the University of Iowa’s initiative to spotlight black voices on campus: Black Art; Real Stories (BARS). 




Summer Camp Blog: Work from Outdoor Poetry and World’s Away: Fantasy Writing

This week on our summer publication blog, we have work from our Outdoor Poetry camp, as well as work from our Worlds Away: Fantasy Writing camp. In this post, you will find work by Hazel Boerner and Lila Stark from Outdoor Poetry and work by Lulu Roarick and Enrique Cox from Worlds Away: Fantasy Writing. The featured image is a map drawn by Dimitri Cox at the fantasy writing camp.

Come back next week to see work from The Imaged Word and A God’s Toolkit: World Building 101.

Forest Battle

by Hazel Boerner

Cynthia staggered down the steep rocky hill leaning to the low stream. Her back right leg dripped with blood. Rocks and sand cut into her leg, making it almost unbearable. But still she got to the cool smooth water. Sweet honeysuckle drifted from the trees nearby. The water washed the blood and the sand away. Cynthia rubbed her other back leg against her hurt leg for the rocks. Then she barely made it home with her still bleeding and broken body.


by Lila Stark

Unicorns are grate

I wonder if they love me !!!

O wait they do 🙂

Lulu - ProseA Revision of Theseus and The Minotaur

by Lulu Roarick

Before the Minotaur was a feared monster, a creature to threaten kids into good behavior, he was a cruel businessman. He was a trickster, manipulative. He was an arrogant, and cocky man, whose wealth seemed to grow by the minute. There was only one man standing in his way for the most wealth and power. King Theseus. King Theseus had everything, and he always trumps the Minotaur with his money. So the minotaur attempted to steal the wealth of King Theseus. But the Minotaur was blinded by his own arrogance, he grabbed all the king’s gold, but he was caught.

King Theseus was furious, and as punishment, he turned the cruel Minotaur int half bull and placed him into the unescapable Labryinth. Every year, King Theseus sent the children of families that he hurt with his cruel manipulation ways, and the children were there to seek revenge for their families poverty that the Minotaur inflicted. But the children never came back alive, the Minotaur ate them.

King Theseus covred up the failed attempts at seeking revenge by telling the villages he ruled over that the children were sacrifices, and they did terrible crimes to reach that unfortunate end.

Years later, children were still being sacrificed, and Theseus was tired of it, so since none of the children could kill the Minotaur, he thought he should do it himself.

Theseus followed the group of children down the labryinth, and had a string trailing behind, to lead a trail. He found the Minotaur, and stabbed him in the heart. The Monster had finally been slain.

King Theseus Victorious, lead the children back to the safety of their villages.

Enrique - Art (camera picture)


Free Topic Tuesdays #2: What Is “Meme” Culture, and How Can Volunteers Use It?

A guide to the references made by our students

By IYWP Intern Rebecca Jefferson

Throughout my time as a volunteer I’ve found that my students are increasingly knowledgeable about internet culture. They often reference what the internet savvy might call “memes”. Memes (pronounced Me-ems) are internet-wide jokes that often feature a familiar image that is captioned to reflect various situations. Now if you’re looking for a straightforward way to get your students to converse with you, perhaps consider using their references to your advantage. This post will detail where the most popular “memes” come from. So, if you’re at sea for what to talk about, this may give you a jump-start.

It’s a given that the “meme” culture of our students will vary based on their ages, but realizing when a meme is half the battle already. When students say something that seems scripted, or if a student says something seemingly innocuous which then inspires a bout of laughter, a reference is being made. Of course, don’t be afraid to ask what they’re referencing (you may get rebuffed with a “you wouldn’t understand,” but stay strong!) If you do know what’s being referenced go ahead and share it. Students love when volunteers are interested in what they’re interested in, and it’s a great way to keep students engaged if they’ve finished early.

So, without further ado, some things students might reference:

Anime: Anime (ah-ni-may) are Japanese cartoons with genres as varied and wide as American television shows. Anime can follow characters with deep and convoluted backstories or be silly and lighthearted. They can be most easily recognized by their fantasy-like art style purporting characters with big eyes and multi-colored hair.

Comics: Can include Marvel comics or DC comics, as well as Manga (Mang-gah) Japanese comics), and web-comics (usually web comics differ in that their style of comic is a mash of traditional American comics with Japanese style comics, usually in a scrolling or mobile format)

TV shows: Most TV shows I’ve seen referenced by students are cartoons, but often students are very familiar with Netflix’s repertoire of shows as well. Popular kids show that are liable to be “memed” by your students include SpongeBob, Gravity Falls, and Steven Universe.

Vines: If your students intentionally mispronounce words it could be that they are quoting a vine. Vines are six second videos of everyday occurrences made hilarious by their out-of-context nature. Vines were made using the social media avenue “Vine”, which has been shut down for a couple years now. (Students may say “Vine is dead,” in reference to your inquiries, do not be alarmed they are only mentioning the shutdown of the company)

Video Games: Video games are as varied in content as any of the categories both in style and console type.  Games change depending on the perspective (like First-person [3-D games where you directly interact with the world around you], third-person [3-D games where the screen view includes the full body of the character], scrolling [2-D games that are one continuous stretch of screen], etc.) and style of narration (an RPG or Role-playing game might spend more time building up characters and plot as opposed to a shooting game which might function on a certain tasks each level).

YouTubers: More likely than not your students have a favorite YouTuber or Web series they like to follow. Ranging from Makeup Gurus, channels dedicated to unsolved mysteries, vloggers (YouTuber records daily life) and play-throughs (YouTuber records self playing a game), YouTube content is no less varied.

Podcasts: Podcasts can be narrative or informative, usually formatted as audio stories or reports.

It’s important to create a lively class culture where students can feel comfortable to share their interests, these interests may even help guide their writing styles and inform volunteers what kinds of things students want to work with.  In recognizing the references of your class and incorporating them into the class,  a natural organic class culture can arise!

Gryffindor House Cup at Word Wizardry on 20180606_115717308
Ethan, Ben, and Kate from Gryffindor at the World of Wizardry Summer Camp

R.O.L.O Write-Up #1: What’s In A Name?

By IYWP Intern Rebecca Jefferson


RESPECT: we respect ourselves and each other

OWNERSHIP: we take pride in our school and community

LEADERSHIP: we are leaders, guiding the way for others around us

OPPORTUNITY: we take hold of opportunities that provide positive growth and pay it forward

Imagine you’re in a room full of people you know very well. People you don’t want to mess up in front of. Imagine you’ve written your barest truth on a small slip of paper which you hold in trembling hands. There’s a microphone in front of you and your peers are waiting for you to share your heart. Sounds a little scary, doesn’t it? But somehow you don’t feel fear. Somehow you find the bravery deep in your stomach and that bravery bolsters you up. Suddenly, you are speaking without realizing and performing without realizing. Without realizing it, you’ve shared your truth. The IYWP has partnered with Northwest Jr. High’s R.O.L.O Program and Spoken Word artist Caleb Rainey to make scenarios like this a reality.

 “The primary focus for R.O.L.O. is to provide students of color an opportunity to hone their leadership skills, embody the tenants of respect for self and others, to cultivate a sense of ownership and belonging to our school and community, and connect with positive mentors…” – R.O.L.O at Northwest Jr. High

Wednesday, June 14th, I had the opportunity to intern under the IYWP with the ROLO program at Northwest Jr. High. Wednesday’s camp is geared towards the practice of Spoken Word, at it’s most simple we encourage kids to write and perform poems through various exercises and activities.

Perhaps the most powerful moment of the Workshop was when the students were directed to speak what they’d written into a microphone in front of the class. I could feel the student’s excitement at the opportunity, standing up there speaking into the mike imparted a sense of importance. It indicated to the students that their voices could be powerful. There was a lot of pauses or deep breathing into the microphone which turned from horseplay to a tool that could immediately capture their classmates’ attention. Even students who were afraid to share read, and some students asked to go up again and again, bolstered by the positive feedback from their peers.


I’m excited to see what next week will bring!


R.O.L.O was founded in the Fall of 2016 by Northwest Jr. High Staff members Renee Zukin, Jalexis Senter, and Whitney Lang. The program aims to connect students of color to positive adults in their community and provide support for students of color struggling behaviorally and academically. To learn more about R.O.L.O at Northwest Jr. High click here: http://roloatnwjh.blogspot.com/

Caleb Rainey is a writer, performer, and producer. He has led Slam Poetry Workshops for five different junior highs during the IYWP Junior High Writing Conference. Caleb is also the co-founder of the University of Iowa’s initiative to spotlight black voices on campus: Black Art; Real Stories (BARS). 

Summer Camps Blog: Work From Word Wizardry

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

So, this summer, we’re trying something new at IYWP. Each week, we’ll be featuring work from our amazing campers. While only one or two pieces from each camp will be posted here, all of the work we’ve received will be featured in our IWYP Summer 2018 Digital Publication at the end of the summer.

This week, we are featuring work from the first week of Word Wizardry: a Harry Potter Camp. Our featured works are a short story by Flora Zhu and a drawing by Lacy “Lark” Keber.

Flora ZhuIce-Phoenix

by Flora Zhu

-The cold version of a phoenix

-Found only in the coldest areas, where it stays below -65 degrees Fahrenheit all year long

-Can breath a deadly ice breath

-Can turn its opponents to ice

Ice-Phoenix Creation Story

Once upon a time, a phoenix decided to travel to the farthest corners of the world to see what it was like. So she set off, but when she got there, she discovered it was very cold. She turned blue and started shivering. She found a cave with a fire going on in it, and inside was an old wizard. The wizard offered to make her immune to the cold, so the phoenix said yes.

A couple days later, she came back and asked to be turned blue, so she could blend in more and have a lower chance of being seen by potential predators. So the wizard said “Abracadabra, Abrakaream! Turn phoenix to the blue of the sky!” With that, phoenix was blue and she set off again.

The next day, phoenix came again, and asked to breathe in instead of fire. So the wizard performed a spell , and the phoenix said thank you and left.

Phoenix came across a scary monster. Suddenly, just after she though it, the monster turned to ice! That is how the Ice-Phoenix came to be.



Free Topic Tuesdays #1 – Fave Childhood Book

Free Topic Tuesdays: Where the Topic changes every week!


By IYWP Intern Rebecca Jefferson

When my mother describes me as a baby she can’t resist telling anyone how much I cried. It was prolific, it was legendary, and it was non-stop. As she says this her features will contort, and she’ll look as though she’s seen things, things you can’t describe, but even so her expression won’t last for long. Immediately after she’s shared this, she’ll lean in real close (the most mischievous twinkle in her eye) and say, “but she’d always stop if I read to her!” And my favorite book we’d read when I was a kid was The Spider and the Fly written by Mary Howitt and illustrated by Cathie Shuttleworth.

There’s just something irresistible about that book, even now, perhaps it’s the illustrations; the perfect shading of the Fly’s debonair outfits or her cool dismissive attitude. We’d read it and I’d be in awe every time. In a big house of five children perhaps books allowed me one on one time with my mother I would not have gotten otherwise.

We read so often before my nap time that eventually I was the one reading to her. I can’t remember exactly when it started, I just remember one day we were sitting in my mom’s big bed and I was struggling through every world. I would sound them out in my head and give my best interpretation, my reading was stilted but my mom had the biggest smile on her face. We got to this one word, “fantastic”, you may have heard of it, it’s a pretty big word, but my four-year old self was not to be daunted. I steamrolled right through it, and I got the pronunciation perfectly. My mom was so in awe I felt like the world’s hottest four-year old, and I have never been as cool since.

This is all to say that sometimes the most precious books are precious because of the memories surrounding them, and while it’s often said we should read to children, never forget the power of letting them read to you!

Join us for a week of literary events


The IYWP and the UI English Society are teaming up to bring you a week of literary events! From February 26 to March 2, we’ll be doing lots of bookish and writerly things that everyone can enjoy, so be sure to mark your calendars! All of the proceeds from these events will go directly to the IYWP, so if you love what we do, we would love for you to stop by. This post has been updated to add information on times and and prices of events.


Monday, February 26th: Join us from 12 to 3 p.m. for the Literary Bake Sale in the IMU! Some goods on offer will include: a “tell-tale tart,” Emily Dickinson’s coconut cake, gingerbread mice and men, and a recreation of Harry’s birthday cake (as made by Hagrid in book/movie 1), among many others. 

Tuesday, February 27th: Stop by the EPB from 12 to 3 p.m. for a book sale! We’ll be selling a range of lightly used novels, classics, textbooks, etc. (we’re also accepting any and all donations of these through Monday, February 26th. A donation box can be found on the 3rd floor of the EPB on the free books table). 

Wednesday, February 28th: The English Society Open Mic Night will be held at 7 p.m. in the Gerber Lounge on the third floor of the EPB. A night of readings ranging from poetry, to prose, to song showcased by talented UI students – walk-in readers always welcome. There will be a raffle for a $20 Prairie Lights gift cards at this event. No tickets required, but if you want to make a donation, we will have an open donation jar will be available. 

Thursday, March 1st: The Murder Mystery Dinner will be held at 7 p.m. in the Gerber Lounge on the third floor of the EPB. The English Society is accepting RSVPs from people who want to participate in the narrative portion of the dinner for a fee of $7, and those who want to eat and watch the mystery unfold can RSVP for a $5 fee. To RSVP, visit studorg-english-society@uiowa.edu. 

Friday, March 2nd: IYWP Fundraising Showcase. A reading held at Prairie Lights featuring distinguished readers from the Iowa City community. There will be a pay-in raffle for a $50 dollar Prairie Lights gift card at this event and further donations always accepted.