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! 

Bookstore Moves to a New Location - With a Human Chain, Book by Book

If you love bookstore, here's a story that will put a smile on your face. Thanks to NPR for bringing it to us:

"When October Books, a small radical bookshop in Southampton, England, was moving to a new location down the street, it faced a problem. How could it move its entire stock to the new spot, without spending a lot of money or closing down for long?

The shop came up with a clever solution: They put out a call for volunteers to act as a human conveyor belt. 

As they prepared to "lift and shift" one Sunday, they expected perhaps 100 people to help.

'But on the day, we had over 200 people turn out, which was a sight to behold,' Amy Brown, one of the shop's five part-time staff members, told NPR. 

Shoulder to shoulder, community members formed a line 500 feet long: from the stockroom of the old shop, down the sidewalk, and onto the shop floor of the new store.

Tiny Books Aim to Change the Way We Read

As a physical object, the printed book is hard to improve upon. "Apart from minor cosmetic tweaks," the New York Times reminds us, "the form has barely evolved since the codex first arose as an appealing alternative to scrolls around 2,000 years ago. 

So when Julie Strauss-Gabel, the president and publisher of Dutton Books for Young Readers, discovered "dwarsliggers" - tiny, pocket-size, horizontal flipbacks that have become a wildly popular print format in the Netherlands - it felt like a revelation. 

'I saw it and I was like, boom,' she said. 'I started a mission to figure out how we could do that here.'

Literary Arts Archive: A Talk With YA Authors

  Image result for the archive projectCan't wait for Emily Whitman's Writing Middle Grade and YA Novels workshop to start? Disappointed that the class filled so quickly? The Literary Arts Archive has you covered. Listen now and be inspired by YA authors Jenny Han, Sandhya Menon, and Zan Romanoff as they discuss their atypical YA romance novels.

From the Literary Arts Archive press release: "In Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi, two first-generation Indian-American teens are set up by their parents in an arranged marriage, but the plans backfire when they are paired up at the same coding camp. In Zan Romanoff’s Grace and the Fever, Grace is swept up in the world of the boy band she secretly loves and struggles to keep up her double life as she learns what really happens behind the scenes. In Jenny Han’s Always and Forever, Lara Jean, Lara Jean Song heads into her senior year looking forward to prom with Peter, who was her pretend boyfriend but now is her real boyfriend, and college, when some unexpected news forces her to rethink all of her plans. Moderated by Brendan Kiely (The Last True Love Story)."

The Literary Arts Archive is home to recordings of the most sought after talks and readings from the Portland Arts & Lectures series and special events dating back to 1988. Loose yourself in the abundance of thought-provoking talks, readings, and lectures on everything from creative writing and craft to journalism and history. Your new favorite podcast is here!

NEWS: Ashley Toliver joins the faculty of the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters

We're thrilled to welcome Ashley Toliver to our faculty. Ashley is the author of Spectra (Coffee House Press, September 2018) and a chapbook, Ideal Machine (Poor Claudia, 2014). A poetry editor at Moss, her work has been supported by fellowships from Oregon Literary Arts, the Cave Canem Foundation, and the Academy of American Poets. She received her MFA from Brown University in 2013. 

Ashley will begin teaching poetry workshops in January 2019.

SPECIAL EVENT: The Resistance Begins with Books | Let's Flip the House: David L. Ulin in Conversation | Sep 15

YOU'RE INVITED to meet and listen to writer David Ulin talk about the act of reading--as a path to critical thinking, individual and political identity, civic engagement, and resistance.
The former LA Times book critic expands his short book, The Lost Art of Reading: Books and Resistance in a Troubled Time, on the consequence of reading to include the considerations of fake news, siloed information, and the connections between critical thinking as the key component of engaged citizenship and resistance. 
David Ulin will be in conversation with two-time Oregon Book Award recipient David Biespiel, about the case for reading as a political act in both public and private gestures, and for the ways it enlarges the world and our frames of reference, all the while keeping us engaged.
Plus! Plus! Plus! Let's Flip the House!
David Ulin is using his book tour to spur the Resistance to flip the U.S. House of Representatives. The event will also be a fundraiser for the Oregon 2nd Democratic candidate, Jamie Skinner-McLeod, who is running to unseat Republican incumbent, Greg Walden, the fifth-ranking member in the House leadership. 
Let's Flip the House: David L. Ulin in Conversation
Co-Sponsored by the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters + Mother Foucault's Bookshop
Date: Saturday, September 15, 7pm, Free
Place: Crows Nest (home of David Biespiel and Wendy Willis), 3730 SE Stark Street
Wine and snacks served, and if you want to bring a bottle of wine to share with others because you believe that any Resistance worth its name must come with good wine...feel free!

At the Rainier Writing Workshop as an Attic Fellow

In the last week of July, I attended the Rainier Writing Workshop (RWW) as the inaugural Attic Institute Fellow. RWW is a low-residency MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, and the Attic’s David Biespiel is among the distinguished faculty. This year, for the first time, the Attic sponsored a fellowship enabling one lucky writer to attend at no cost the first week of this residency that is usually open only to the program’s MFA students. I was thrilled to learn I’d been selected: This was a rare chance to experience an MFA program from the inside. (And heads up: the Attic has announced they will offer this fellowship again next year). 

VIDA Count Finds Women Writers Still Underrepresented in Literary Publications

VIDA, a feminist nonprofit aimed at fighting the lack of gender parity in contemporary literature, has released their 2017 VIDA Count, which tallies the gender disparity in major literary publications and book reviews. The VIDA Count examines thirty-nine journals and periodicals to provide a numerical breakdown of their demographic representations.

The 2017 Main VIDA Count found only two of fifteen major literary publications, Granta and Poetry, published 50 percent women writers. Eight of fifteen, a simple majority, published less than 40 percent women. A notable change in gender parity consisted of the The New York Review of Books, which dropped to the count’s lowest rank at 23.3 percent publications from women. Boston Review also dropped nearly ten points to 37.8 percent in 2017.

“This is a good reminder that achieving gender parity is not a one-time goal,” wrote Amy King and Sarah Clark, members of the VIDA Board of Directors.

Some publications were able to show significant improvements in this year’s count. The Paris Review, a literary staple of the US, increased their representation of women writers to 42.7 percent, up from 35 percent in 2016. Tin House also managed to hover around 50 percent, dropping 0.9 points to 49.7 percent. Get the full story on VIDA's site. 

Crowdfunding Ursula K. Le Guin's Final Poetry Collection

Copper Canyon Press is currently raising money to fund the publication of Ursula K. Le Guin’s So Far So Good, her last collection of poems before she passed away on January 22, 2018.

In addition to being the author of more than twenty novels, Le Guin wrote twelve collections of poetry, more than 100 short stories, several collections of essays, thirteen books for children, and five volumes of translation. Her books have been translated into more than forty languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide. "She's a guide for how to process the world in different ways, how to process the environment, your day to day life, how you process the end of your life," said Silky Shah, a longtime Le Guin reader and Executive Director of the Detention Watch Network, according to Bustle.

“When Le Guin brought the manuscript for her final collection, So Far So Good, to Copper Canyon Press, she did so with faith in us as a nonprofit, independent publisher to do justice to her poetry,” begins the Kickstarter campaign’s opening paragraph. “We were deeply saddened when Le Guin passed away… just days after she sent her last edits to what would be her final poetry book.”

APPS DUE AUG 30 Creative Nonfiction (CNF) Studio | Sep 20 - Dec 13

The Creative Nonfiction (CNF) Studio is based on the idea that inspiration, accountability, and community are essential to every writer’s growth. Over the course of their time in the CNF Studio, writers can expect to read widely and gain deep insight into their own writing, all the while exploring questions of structure, form, narration, truth, memory, influence, and voice.  The Studio culminates in a celebration at a nearby watering hole. | Maximum 10 students


Holly Roland wins Civic Saturday Poetry Contest, to read her poem Sat July 7 at Taborspace

Congratulations to Holly Roland. Selected by Attic Institute Associate Fellow Wendy Willis, Holly will reading at Portland's first Civic Saturday on July 8. 

Holly Roland is a poet and creative arts therapist who believes in the transformative power of words. She has been published in The Norton Pocket Book of Writing by Students, received The Kratz Fellowship from Goucher College to write bilingual poetry in the Galapagos Islands, and previously served as the Volunteer Student Services Coordinator at The Attic Institute. She studied at Hollins University's MFA program in 2012, and her work is often narrative in nature, echoing Appalachian voices. Her new blogging project, Travel Tonic, aims to feature community-minded travel essays, stories, and of course, poems.

The July 7 Independence Day picnic and Civic Saturday is a gathering of friends and strangers for a shared purpose. This is an opportunity to connect with the community, neighbors, and friends, plus there will be poems and songs along with a civic sermon from poet, essayist, lawyer, and Portlander Wendy Willis! Bring a lawn chair or blanket!

Civic Saturday is a civic analogue to church: a gathering of friends and strangers in a common place to nurture a spirit of shared purpose. But it’s not about church religion or synagogue or mosque religion. It’s about American civic duty—the creed of liberty, equality, and self-government that truly unites us.  It is free and open to all.

"Civic Saturday exists so that together we can remember that no condition in our country was created yesterday, and no citizen of this country will live forever. Civic Saturday exists so that we can teach each other how not just to tell the truth about our history but also reckon with it." -Eric Liu, founder of Citizen University

Civic Saturday 
Date: Saturday, July 7th
Time: 11am-1pm
Location: Taborspace lawn | 5441 SE Belmont St
Price: FREE! Please register in advance.

This is the first Civic Saturday in Portland. Civic Saturday is a project from Citizen University, in partnership with Oregon HumanitiesHealthy DemocracyKitchen Table DemocracyDeliberative Democracy Consortium, and the Attic Institute.

Congratulations New Atheneum Fellows for 2018-2019

We are so excited to announce the new Atheneum class of 2019.

Fiction: Tracey Lock, Azalea Micketti, Jay Rubin, Wendy Stekloff

Nonfiction: Mary Afsari, Alison Alstrom, Myrna Gusdorf, Teri Rowe

Poetry: Sarah Brenner, Monika Cassel, Tyler Sowa, Rachel Zakrasek

These writers will work with an amazing faculty, including: Matthew Dickman, Merridawn Duckler, Karen Karbo, Whitney Otto, Ed Skoog, and Vanessa Veselka.

Learn more about the Atheneum master writing program.


A Good Read: the Spring Edition of "VoiceCatcher" is Out

VoiceCatcher is an online journal that supports, inspires, and empowers female-identified writers and artists in the greater Portland and Vancouver areas. Their Spring 2018 edition has just launched, and promises to be better than ever. The pieces include "Strata of Motherhood" by Valarie Rea. Rea is an alum of the Attic's Creative Nonfiction Studio, and was also an Udziela Scholarship recipient. 





"Faith" by Nicole Willford

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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."