My NWP began in 1986 at the invitation of Susan Lytle at the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education and with the founding of the Philadelphia Writing Project.

As I reflect on Our NWP today, I am filled with gratitude, awe, and renewed commitment to our mission and vision. Thank you, Jim Gray, and all who have taught, nurtured, and inspired me throughout these years. You are amazing.

Opening Plenary, 2013 NWP Annual Meeting:

Dear Jim,

At this official opening bell of the National Writing Project’s 40th anniversary year, I felt compelled to write to you to let you know that the NWP network—joined by our common mission and bonded through yet another round of crises and challenges, is flourishing. In a world and an education landscape that you might have some difficulty recognizing, advancing the importance of writing and the teaching of writing for all learners, is more important than ever. And you would be thrilled to see what the core belief in gathering teachers together—to learn, to write, and to create new knowledge for themselves and the field—has generated. If I started to list all of the wonderful new work, the Plenary would go on far too long, which you would not approve of, I know.

So let me just tell you a few things and then, as you know, Writing Project site directors, teachers, and colleagues will guide the way to deeper learning throughout the day. We started early—so our first sessions already took place. We still continue the practice of squeezing every moment available to create spaces for dialogue and learning. The coffee has improved since those first days of gathering chairs into circles in a ballroom like this (was there even coffee?) which does help these early morning sessions…

There are three things I wanted to share that stem directly from your legacy.

One—Teachers are really smart and have so much to contribute to one another’s learning, if only we can get people out of their silos. Thank you and your pioneering colleagues for creating intensive summer institutes for kindergarten through university teachers. Knowing about writing across this spectrum has provided a generative framework for so many, many teachers over the years. While much about the NWP has been validated, exported, and replicated, this core principle is sometimes overlooked. It has generated much new knowledge and has also served us well as we make new arguments for the continuing relevance of writing and the teaching of writing in today’s world. We know more collectively because we have learned together.

Two—Writing for a range of audiences and purposes is a simple idea, but profound in its execution. Again, the basic principle that teachers of writing must write themselves prepared us for the leap into the digital age. We are here—still writing and learning—with a whole new range of affordances. It is an amazing new world—and writing is at its core. The joy and opportunities for writing in this new world are immense, as are some of the challenges. For those of us in NWP though, the digital age has provided significant new platforms for our shared work. You can’t miss engaging in that learning today, and our social media platforms and statistics show only a fraction of all that is underway.

And finally, I want to thank you and all of our Writing Project colleagues across these forty years, for the “Legacy of Welcome” as Vanessa Brown, my now retired colleague from the Philadelphia Writing Project, named it. The Writing Project invites people to learn, to write, to explore—to hang out, mess around, and geek out—a key word is invite and the tone is of welcome. This may perhaps be one of our most important attributes—hard to capture, to market, to monetize in today’s world—but perhaps for this reason, more important than ever.

This summer’s work included new institutes, intensive school partnerships, and work with a range of partners from science museums to the maker community. We launched the Educator Innovator initiative, a growing community of partners who share the vision of Connected Learning and have multiple ways to invite young people and their teachers and mentors, to learn, to grow, to create, and to write for what has become a global audience. In our Summer of Making and Connecting, Writing Project leaders invited us to learn together and, as always, to make our learning public. It is easier now to share products generated across the network, to try your hand at making something new, to explore a new genre, to immediately read an essay, a blog, or a digital story created 1,000 miles away. But it is the intentional invitation to do so and the welcome to a community that still is foundational to the active participation of so many across our overlapping communities.

So, WE ARE STILL HERE, Jim, learning and writing together in this new world. Thank you for the invitation you extended to imagine a world where these ideas could grow and generate worlds not yet created.

And yes, we will write more today, too.

All best,

Judy Buchanan-NWPJudy Buchanan is currently the Deputy Director of the National Writing Project (NWP) where she draws on previous work as a classroom teacher, Writing Project director, and a life-long passion for learning in collaborative communities of practice.