Let's Talk Grief, Let's Talk Hope


Accalimed novelist, Jesmyn Ward, has a breathtaking personal essay up on Vanity Fair. 

In "On Witness and Respair: A Personal Tragedy Followed by Pandemic," Ward documents the unspeakable grief of losing her partner during the early stages of the pandemic and the startingly hope of the social justice movements that followed her loss.

If there is one personal essay that you need to read about our current events—this should be it. 

Oregon Writer With Published Work?

The submission deadline for the 2021 Oregon Book Awards is October 23rd, 2020

Alongside recieving financial support, winners and finalists attend the Oregon Book Awards Ceremony and are also invited to travel for the Oregon Book Awards Author Tour.

Follow this link for the entry form and guidelines. 

"Oregon Book Awards program honors the state’s finest accomplishments by Oregon writers who work in genres of poetry, fiction, graphic literature, drama, literary nonfiction, and literature for young readers." -Literary Arts

Virtual Book Tour for David Biespiel's Highly-Anticipated Memoir

Here's a treat. Read a sneak peek of an exclusive excerpt from the opening of Attic Institute founder David Biespiel's new book, A Place of Exodus: Home, Memory, and Texas

Starred Reviews and high praise are coming in for this "poignantly eloquent memoir" from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and others. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky calls A Place of Exodus a "surprising, heartbreaking, and inspiring story." 

Order at: BookshopPowellsAnnie Bloom's BooksBroadway BooksAmazon, or wherever you love to buy books from independent booksellers.

New Writing Fellows Join the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters Online Faculty

Beginning in August, writers are now fortunate to take workshops with three inspiring Writing Fellows.

Elinam Agbo was born in Ghana and grew up in Kansas. A graduate of the Clarion Workshop, she holds a BA from the University of Chicago and an MFA from the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program. She is also a winner of the 2018 PEN/Dau Short Story Prize, a 2019 Aspen Words Fellow, and a recipient of the honorable mention prize for fiction in the 2019 Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers. She lives in Ann Arbor, where she is an Assistant Editor at Michigan Quarterly Review and co-founder of MQR Mixtape. 



Zahir Janmohamed lives in Ann Arbor. He is a Zell Writing Fellow at the University of Michigan, where he completed an MFA in fiction and received awards in fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and playwriting. He is also the co-founder of the James Beard nominated podcast Racist Sandwich. His articles have been published in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Nation, Guernica, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and many other publications. He has received fellowships and scholarships from MacDowell, Bread Loaf, Kundiman, and VONA. Prior to beginning his writing career, he worked in the US Congress and at Amnesty International. 


Thea Chacamaty is a fiction writer living in Portland, Oregon. She received her MFA in prose from the University of Michigan's Helen Zell Writers' Program, where in 2019-2020 she was a postgraduate Zell Fellow. She has been a recipient of the Henfield Prize from the Joseph McCrindle Foundation, a Hopwood Award, the Kasdan Prize, and her writing has appeared in the Missouri Review.











Huge Book Sale: Donations to BLM and others

The weekend of June 12-14 the Attic sold or donated thousands of books to our Attic Institute, Portland, and Oregon communities. Thank you to everyone who bought books in support.

From sales of books, we donated $500 to Don't Shoot Portland, a Portland accountability group formed to scrutinize actions of the Portland Police Bureau.

We donated over 800 books of poetry to the Oregon State Hospital, which provides patient-centered, psychiatric treatment for adults from throughout the state who need hospital-level care.

We donated over 250 books of nonfiction to Street Books, a bicycle-powered mobile library, serving people who live outside in Portland.

How We're Responding In This Time Of Need | A Letter from Founder David Biespiel

June 7 2020

Everyday, for some twenty years now, I've always had a good feeling walking up the narrow stairwell to the Attic Institute's offices and libraries, where our writing workshops take place. It's always exciting to enter this haven for writers, a place of so many literary struggles and triumphs. And, it's always inspiring to be greeted by the special message for writers from Walt Whitman that is stenciled on the wall at the top of the stairs -- 

Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.  

You must travel it by yourself.  

It is not far. It is within reach.  

Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know. 

I'm excited about our upcoming Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 seasons of workshops -- all online, of course. Already the first of dozens of new workshops for the fall are open for registration, as well as summer workshops. Soon, over the next few weeks, we'll be adding new fall workshops from new faculty from around the country -- a first for the Attic. 

Since we migrated all our Portland workshops to Zoom back in March, already over 150 writers, from as far as Alaska to Pennsylvania, have registered and participated.

At the same time, it's with a heavy heart that I am giving you the news today that on July 1, we will be moving out of our location because of the public health crisis. We're going to miss our wonderful, funky, brick building on Hawthorne Boulevard so much, a place we proudly think of as the birthplace of Portland's literary renaissance. 

Sadly, social-distancing and intimate in-person writing workshops don't go together. 

Anguish and Action: A Statement from Attic Institute of Arts and Letters 

In the days since George Floyd's death, it is impossible not to feel grief for his family--and outrage, revulsion, and vexation that his death is the latest in a long line of tragedy and injustice, and an agonizing reminder that a person's race still determines how they will be treated in almost every aspect of American life. 

No one deserves to die the way George Floyd did. Truth is, if you're white in America, the chances are you won't.  

That truth is what underlies the pain and the anger that so many of us--faculty, staff, and students--at the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters are feeling and expressing, that the path of an entire life can be measured and devalued by the color of one's skin. 

Over 1,000 people are killed by police every year in America, and Black people are three times more likely to be killed than White people. 

We, at the Attic Institute, join the call for reforms to combat police violence and systemic racism within law enforcement. 

At the Attic Institute, we believe stories help us make sense of the world. And we believe that we all can and must do more to listen to and amplify the stories of people who have suffered the legacy of racial oppression and violence that has festered throughout the history of the United States.

ONLINE: Self-Portraits: Writing from Life w David Biespiel | May 31 | 9am-4pm

This workshop, led by Attic Institute founder David Biespiel, is the kind of study every writer needs, from beginners to the most advanced. It's an opportunity to write from studying your own self-portrait via photos, drawings, snapshots, b&ws, candids, distortions, &c. The workshop approach empahsizes the concept of obseravtional writing as a direct route to achieve new imaginative possibilities, whether you're writng fiction, memoir, or poems. The approach demands careful observation and the translation of those observations into clear and precise notes, jottings, and studies. Self-portrait writing is one of the foundational skill sets that all writers should practice. It hones your concentration on details and the language that comes from those details, and it releases you into new zones for your memories and projections to emerge. Our focus will be almost entirely on making new pieces of writing with hardly any time dedicated to critique or revision. Included in your tuition is a signed copy of the tenth anniversary edition of David's book, Every Writer Has a Thousand Faces, with a Foreword by Chuck Palahniuk, which we will use as a "textbook" for the workshop. [Because this workshop is seven hours, there will be frequent, scheduled breaks to step away from the computer screen and rest.]

Register for this Workshop

NOTE: To protect everyone during the COVID-19 pandemic, we're offering this special course via Zoom. All students must first sign up for a free Zoom account. Setting it up is easy. And we can help you with questions, if needed. For each class, you'll receive a Zoom "invitation," from the instructor. Click the link...follow the simple directions about the settings for your microphone and in-computer video, and you're immediately in the "room" for the workshop. For critique workshops, instructors will communicate with students about the process of sharing work. For more generative workshops, students will be writing together while on Zoom.

This workshop will have frequent breaks to ease the strain of working online for so many hours, as well as breakout sessions to work one-on-one or small groups.



JUST PUBLISHED: Every Writer Has a Thousand Faces (Tenth Anniversary Edition)

With a new Forword by Chuck Palahniuk

Publication date is March 20 for this classic book on writing. 

Attic founder David Biespiel cracks open the creative process and challenges traditional assumptions about writing that can stifle creativity.

Preorder this book

Powell's Books

Broadway Books



Save the date / Apr 21 / David Biespiel in Conversation with Matthew Dickman, Broadway Books, Portland, 7pm 

Ashley Toliver's SPECTRA named a finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award

Congratulations to Adjunct Fellow in Poetry Ashley Toliver, whose first book of poems, Spectra (Coffee House Press), has been named a finalist for the prestigious Kate Tufts Discovery Award in Poetry. 

From "Spectra" —

Dear night possessor: your funeral barge rocked tight in the fisting water makes small winter melodies. The light ends a pattern we learned to stupefy by motion or admitting away. A statutory list puts the blame on the hour. You move as I move, whistling measures in salted grass, patient and guarded processions. At night, the line is a current to wade through: older names sifting past the flotsam, the water rising up to here.

Learn more about the book 

3 New Weekend Workshops

Whether you're new to writing or advanced, knowing how to concentrate on what you're alert to and how that gets put on paper is critical for writing success. Our Life Writing and Life Writing: End of Year Resolutions weekend workshops this fall break down the process and share tips, suggestions, techniques, and strategies. 

Plus: Poets Studio: Introduction. This special weekend workshop is for poets interested in applying to the Jan-June 2020 Poets Studio program. (Note: "Poets Studio: Introduction" enrollment is open to anyone whether you're thinking about Poets Studio for next year or not). Poets Studio is designed to give form and focus to your poetry writing. It's a steady, supportive, and comprehensive study of your poetry among other poets.

Learn more about weekend workshops at the Attic

20th Anniversary Reading

We Celebrate the Attic's Birthday!

Thank you to everyone who came out to Literary Arts in downtown Portland to celebrate the Attic's 20th anniversary with stellar readings by Associate Fellow Brian Benson and Attic students Craig Brandis, Iris Chung, Jennifer Dorner, and Valarie Rea.


Reedsy Launches Book Discovery Platform for Self-Published Authors

Since the the dawn of the current self-publishing revolution, goodereader.com says, startups across every aspect of the publishing process have come and gone. Some of these offered formatting, cover design, and editing; others promised to garner much-needed book reviews–legitimate ones or not. Other companies took authors’ money and promised beautiful print and ebook editions, while other companies provided digital enhancements like annotated reading, soundtracks, animation, and more.

But one thing that companies haven’t been able to deliver on is the promise of book discovery. Anybody–including the authors themselves–can make a really nice-looking book, and some companies can even put the book in front of a lot of reading consumers. No one, however, can make anyone actually purchase a book.

Book PR and marketing platforms share a fairly common feature: they’re expensive. Yes, there are a handful of reputable outlets helping to promote indie authors’ work for more manageable prices, but there are a lot of companies taking authors to the cleaners with the promise of increased exposure and discoverability.

Award-winning indie promotion platform Reedsy does appear to be offering both affordability and credibility with its newly launched Reedsy Discovery. Billed as a more functional Goodreads combined with the concept of NetGalley, this site engages readers and reviewers around indie titles. The cost to an author to submit a book for reviews, newsletter promotion, a custom sales page, and interactive listing is only $50, a far cry from what many companies charge for far less opportunity.

“More writers than ever are choosing to self-publish over the traditional route. They enjoy the business model and creative freedom. But then these writers struggle to find a market for their books,” said Emmanuel Nataf, CEO and co-founder of Reedsy. “Reedsy Discovery is the game-changing answer for indie authors seeking to match with both readers and reviewers. We want to make Discovery the go-to platform for any author looking to create momentum for their launch."

Get the full story here

Free Readings Celebrate Write Around Portland's 20th Year

2019 is a big year! Our own Attic Institute is turning 20, and so is Write Around Portland. WAP runs community-building creative writing workshops at hospitals, schools, homeless youth shelters, senior centers, low-income housing buildings, prisons, treatment facilities and social service agencies - so that people of all ages and backgrounds can come together, learn from one another and bond over what makes us uniquely human. 

And you can help them celebrate! Write Around Portland invites the public to attend one or both of their free community readings featuring powerful work written by participants in their spring 2019 writing workshops. Readers will include adults in recovery; youth in alternative high school and therapeutic school settings; youth experiencing homelessness; adults living with disabilities; members of low-income housing and assisted living communities and many others.

Admission to both readings is FREE, but donations of any amount are accepted to support the work of Write Around Portland. We will also be collecting donations of new journals for writers in our fall 2019 workshops. ADA-accessible. If other accommodations needed to attend, please contact the Write Around Portland office at 503-796-9224 one week before the scheduled event.

Reading 1
WHERE: First United Methodist Church, Collins Hall, 1838 SW Jefferson St, Portland, OR 97201 located at the Goose Hollow MAX stop.

WHEN: Thursday, May 16th, 6:30–8:30pm

Reading 2
WHERE: The Rosewood Initiative, 16126 SE Stark St, Portland, OR 97233 one block from the Max Blue Line. 

WHEN: Wednesday, May 22nd, 6:30–8:30pm

Copies of the anthology will be available for purchase for $12. 

Local Store Hosts a Book-Themed Escape Room

In the flurry of bookstore-related news, here's one we missed: the opening of Books Around the Corner at 40 NW 2nd Street in Gresham. In addition to the main attraction (books!), the store hosts a writer's group, readings by local authors, and several monthly bookclubs (all listed on their website). Oh - and they host a book-themed escape room.

An escape room (in case you have missed out on the recent craze) is a real-life adventure game in which you and your team assemble in a themed room and have one hour to complete your mission and "escape" the room. A successful escape requires you to find hidden clues and solve challenging puzzles throughout the room. Everywhere you look is a potential clue. But hurry! The clock starts ticking as soon as you enter the room. 

At Books Around the Corner, the escape room scenario begins like this: "you suddenly wake up, alone, in a darkened bookshop. What happened? To your dismay, the bookshop is closed and you find yourself locked in for the night. Then you remember, this is the bookshop that is haunted by a woman who had died when a bookshelf collapsed on her. The ghost, Rose, is said to be wandering the stacks. Work as a team to escape the bookshop before Rose gets you!" 

Email info@booksaroundthecorner.com to reserve, or for more information. 

How to Link Up a Short Story Collection: Advice from "Craft"

Anyone interested in publishing a book of short stories has probably seen the advice: Submit to literary journals. Enter contests. Also, it may improve your odds of publication if the stories are linked together with a common element. Linked collections can share a subject, like Alison Lurie's Women and Ghosts or a setting, like the Vietnam War in The Things They Carried. Or they may revolve around the same main character, like Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son. It's up to the reader to discover these points of connection, to realize that the child of the first story is the old man of the last story. A linked collection is like a mysterious and disarticulated novel. 

But how does a writer go about creating (or uncovering) the connections between the stories? A recent article in Craft, How to Link Up a Short Story Collection, addresses this very question. 

Save the Date! Attic Alum Kate Hope Day Launches Debut Novel

Authors Kate Hope Day and Lindsey Lee Johnson first met in an Attic workshop on the novel, and the two have been critique partners ever since. So what could be a more fitting way for Day to launch her debut novel "If, Then" than in conversation with Johnson - whose own debut, "The Most Dangerous Place on Earth," was previously published in 2017? Join them at Powell's on Hawthorne on Monday March 18 at 7:30, when they will discuss topics of interest to Attic students.  

When: Monday March 18 at 7:30

Where: Powell's Books, 3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland OR

Cost: Free

An Interview with the Attic's David Ciminello

David Ciminello thinks of the workshops he teaches as spaces for generative creativity, where the individual voice of each writer is respected and fostered above all else. “My primary focus in teaching is to help students find and cultivate their own voice.”

“It's so, so important for writers to find their voice.”

Ciminello’s own journey of finding his voice began at the Attic. He first came to the Attic as from Los Angeles, where he’d been working as an actor and screenwriter. “I wanted to explore writing in a new way,” he says. Ciminello saw an ad in the Willamette Week for a flash fiction course taught by David Biespiel and signed up.

“The Attic at that time was in a literal attic. I think it was above a beauty salon. You had to circle and go around the back and go up this rickety set of stairs.”

Ciminello was enthralled with fiction. He went on to take several poetry classes at the Attic as well. “Throughout my journey as a prose writer I was interested in taking various workshops in different genres and forms, particularly ones that were foreign to me,” he says.

Writing Prompt: Fight Scene

What a wealth of writing resources are available online! Recently, I've been enjoying Bryn Donovan's blog that includes How To's, Writer Worries (!), and Prompts. In this entry, she provides a long list of prompts - fifty of them! - related to fight scenes. Some of my favorites? 

#1: Two people fight without waking or disturbing a third person.

#9: Fortunately, his blood is also a weapon. 

#11: Someone's trying not to hurt the person who's attacking him.

#25: Bullying the bartender or server was a mistake. 

#37: The fight is a ruse to distract people from what's really going on.

Great practice, so choose your favorite, set the timer and write! 

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Friends Purchase Drama Book Shop in NYC

When I was in high school, my family began a semi-annual tradition of visiting New York City. I was theater-crazy - we all were - and back then, tickets to a Broadway show seemed like an affordable splurge. (Today, they cost twice your car payment, but that's a different story). We organized those trips around the theater. We'd see a play every night, of course, and matinees on the weekends and Wednesdays. When the show was over, the house lights would come up, and we'd stumble out to see the actual City.

Sometime in the course of that wandering, I found the Drama Book Shop: a century-old bookstore that sold scripts and sheet music and theater histories to the New York theater community out of an attic-like space near Times Square. There is no feeling like the marvel of discovering your tribe. I lurked around the store, reading scripts and stealing glances at the other patrons, wondering if they were in one of the shows I'd just seen. 

Apply for the Attic Institute Fellowship at RWW

We are excited to announce the opening for applications to the special collaboration between the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters and the Rainier Writing Workshop. The Rainier Writing Workshop is one of the premier low-residency MFA programs in the country, based at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington.  

The Attic Institute Fellowship funds one writer's attendance to the annual RWW summer residency, which takes place on the Pacific Lutheran University campus.

The Fellow will attend the residency from Aug 2-6, 2019, participating in workshops, classes, and other activities offered during the residency. Room, board, and tuition are free: a $700 value (the Fellow will pay for his/her transportation to Tacoma).

The Attic Institute Fellowship is intended for a writer who does not have an MFA but is interested in knowing more about the low-residency MFA experience.  

Writers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry are invited to apply for the fellowship. To apply, send a writing sample of 5-10 pages, names (s) of the Attic workshops you've taken, and a brief essay (no more than 500 words) describing your writing history so far, your writing goals, and your reasons for wanting to participate in the RWW residency as an Attic Institute Fellow.  

The deadline for submitting the application is Friday, March 29, by 5PM

Send you application to mfa@plu.edu.  

If you have questions about the fellowship, please contact Rick Barot, the Director of RWW, at barotrp@plu.edu.  

A Closer Look at the Creative Nonfiction Studio

Attic instructor Brian Benson says that the most important part of a successful creative writing workshop is trust. As the instructor of the Attic’s Creative Nonfiction Studio, Benson is especially familiar with this kind of trust.

“There’s this feeling in the room when the writing gets to this rare level. It feels like the whole room is at a crackle. It’s exciting to be there, to be sharing at that level.”

“I feel lucky to be able to be in the presence of it.”

Benson first came to the Attic as a student in a nonfiction workshop. “I’d always convinced myself for a million reasons that I wasn’t creative. Then I finally signed up for a workshop at the Attic. I loved the atmosphere that developed in the workshop. People, total strangers, end up trusting each other in a way that feels really uncommon.”

A Closer Look at WORKSHOP 8

Whitney Otto says that the most important thing she provides her students isn’t a road map for writing a novel –  it’s time, focus, and a room full of energetic and considerate readers.

As the instructor of WORKSHOP 8 Otto is able to give her students even more time. “I tell them they might not get through a first draft, but they’ll get enough of a book going that they’ll start to see how it hangs together. They’ll have readers that are familiar, and they’ll have a sense of continuity.”

“We talk about process, pacing and revision –  elements of fiction and nonfiction. Of course there’s no rules in writing, just guidelines.”

Save the Date! AWP is Coming to Portland

...and just what is AWP, you may ask? The Association of Writers and Writing Programs, the largest literary conference in North America, with over 12,000 attendees and over 800 presses, journals, and literary organizations. AWP is an annual event that's held in a different host city each year. In 2019, it's our turn! That's right: AWP will be in Portland March 27-30, 2019 at the Oregon Convention Center.

Grand Opening of The Stacks Coffeehouse this Sunday

A coffeeshop that doubles as a community library? I'll be there! 

The Stacks Coffeehouse, at 1831 N Killingsworth, serves up beautiful books, along with its coffee and snacks. Enjoy the books on site - or sign up for one of The Stacks' community library cards and take a book home. "The library card essentially just says that you're a member of our community library," say owners Nathan and Mary. "And that when you're done with the book, you'll return it." Fill out an application for a library card online and pick it up the next time you're in the shop (be aware that it may take a few days to process your application). The Stacks also accepts book donations. 

Want to check it out? The Stacks is having its Grand Opening Party this Sunday, December 16, where they'll be featuring 5-minute readings all day long by amazing local authors. Hope to see you there! 

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From David Biespiel, President of the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters


Letter in 2010 announcing the new Attic Institute

"Eleven years have gone by in a blink. But today begins a new era as we renew our dedication both to the word and to the world."


Interview about the founding of the Attic Institute

"All sorts of excellent pieces of writing get started and finished here. That's what it means to be a literary studio."


Essay in the New York Times on they mysteries of poetry

"Poetry connects us to our past, and poets unmask both private and civic memories, dreams, and urgencies. By harmonizing the body with the mind, serving both young and old, poetry is a guide to deliver us into a fresh engagement with our inner lives and with modernity."


Essay on poets and democracy in Poetry magazine: "This Land Is Our Land"

"America's poets have a minimal presene in American civic discourse and a miniscule public role in the life of American democracy. I find this condition perplexing and troubling -- both for poetry and for democracy."