Local educator, writer and sometime NUVO contributor Barbara Shoup is part of the new organization WITS, staging a 5K run/walk this Saturday, Dec. 10. This competitive run and fitness walk will start at the Indianapolis Arts Center, 820 E. 67th St. in Broad Ripple at 9 a.m. Entry fee $20. All proceeds from the event will benefit WITS for training and paying college students. For more information contact bryan@wits-indy.com

Q: What is WITS, anyway?

A: WITS stands for Writers in the Schools, a program designed to train undergraduate education students to teach creative writing and to practice what they learn with … real students.

Q: How did you get involved?

A: Over the years, I’ve done workshops for and sent out gazillions of writing exercises to teachers who want to teach creative writing but don’t know how. Putting together something “official” is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and through a series of cosmic events I got hooked up with Bryan Furuness, who was trying to put together a program that was exactly what I had in mind. We started slowly — just a few hand-picked students in a few middle schools this semester. Within a few years, we hope to be able to place 10-12 students a year.

Q: Can’t they just take a class? A: Generally, creative writing gets lost in the shuffle. We’re so obsessed with standardized testing these days that writing courses for teachers focus on the kind of writing education wonks think kids need to do to score well on ISTEP and the SATs.

Q: But that’s important, isn’t it?

A: Absolutely! It’s not everything, though. A lot of educators think creative writing is fluff; but, in fact, students skilled at creative writing do better on standardized testing because it teaches them how to think clearly and logically. It also teaches them how to wrestle with the unanswerable questions at the core of human existence. It teaches them how to ask, what if? And we’ve certainly learned the hard way how much that matters. Maybe if someone had observed those guys taking flying lessons who didn’t want to learn how to land and thought, what if … Well, you catch my drift. Young people need to learn to think creatively. Teachers need to learn how to teach them to think creatively. Thus, WITS-Indy. It’s a start.

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