A New Name for a New Era
The Attic Institute
A Letter from David Biespiel
"The times call for a new paradigm for how a writer engages the world and develops his or her voice. They call for a new model to gain the depth needed not only to write well but also to think well, imagine well, create well, even to live well."
I usually use this form of one-on-one communication with you to make brief announcements and to speak to the subject of artistic ambition and discipline.I hope you're able to take the time to read this message all the way to the end because today's letter is different and special. And, I hope it represents the beginning of a new pathway for your creative life.
Since 1999, the Attic Writers' Workshop has been a literary gem in Portland, and we have been proud to be called a haven for writers. During that time, the Attic has been a nexus for a vibrant community where writers have developed important friendships, seeded collaborations, writing groups, and literary endeavors.
We have been devoted to the word and, to be more precise, to your words.
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.
Up until now the Attic's message has been: "Be a writer out in the world and when you're ready to be accountable, come on up. Then when your workshop is over, go on back out and be a writer."
"We renew our dedication both to the word and the to world."
That's a good program. It's a fine method. It works extraordinarily well so long as the primary goal is the improvement of your manuscript. Thousands of writers have come up to the Attic for just this sort of accountability and community. The Attic experience has come to mean inspiration and motivation. And we will continue to offer just that sort of experience.
But the times call for a new paradigm for how a writer engages the world and develops his or her voice. They call for a new model to gain the depth needed not only to write well but also to think well, imagine well, create well, even to live well. As essential as workshops on craft and method are, I believe that you, as a writer, require much more in order to develop your most essential strengths and talents, to grow as an imaginative artist, and to invent stories and poems and all those things that -- to be honest -- never before existed until you wrote them down. Never existed. Not once in the whole history of humanity. Until you wrote them down.
That's why the Attic Writers' Workshop is changing to become the Attic Institute.
A new name? Yes. The same experience? No. A better one.
". . . Attic Festival, Partners in the Arts, the New Initiative, Learn It Now . . ."
In addition to the classic workshops that are the heart of the Attic's day to day life, the Attic Institute will unveil new programs and classes over the next few years that invite you as writers -- invite any artist for that matter -- to cross-fertilize your creative and intellectual pursuits.
Some programs are already in place such as the Attic Atheneum for writers interested in a year-long study and Life Sketches for individuals 55-over. Others will be natural extensions of what we do now, linking your writing life to, say, your life with food, gardening, history, philosophy, science, the city, and other creative interests. All of these will be geared toward rewarding and renewing your artistic lives. And, we will continue to run outstanding and supportive writing workshops in the literary genres.
In so many ways, I envision the Attic Institute linking itself to the tradition of the great philosophers and imaginative writers of ancient Greece -- Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripedes, Aristophanes, Thucydides, Demosthenes, Aristotle and others -- who spoke and wrote "Attic Greek" and who influenced the course of world civilization.
What will be new? Coming in the future will be the Attic Festival, Partners in the Arts, the New Initiative, Learn It Now classes, and a growing list of opportunities for community, learning, and making a contemporary artistic life filled with innovation, imagination, and connection.
"It'll mean examining life in ways that elicit pleasure and inspire."
In the meantime, I hope to hear from you.
Give me your best ideas for how to make the new Attic Institute unique and urgent. What classes should we create? What areas of creativity might we focus on? What collaborations with other arts and civic interests might we pursue? You know what you want and need, so tell me!
Slowly the changes will evolve. Ten years from now, it'll seem like we always did it this way. We always created an environment where being a writer means more than just knocking off one manuscript after another.
Instead, being a writer will mean following your strengths and interests in order to grow your imaginative potential. It'll mean looking for avenues to expand your connections with experience and broadening your understanding of what it means to be a creative human being. It'll mean examining life in ways that elicit pleasure and inspire you . . . well, yes, to write.
Out of the Attic Institute, we hope -- I predict -- will come electrifying conversations, dynamic community, and important artistic accomplishments. So let the new Attic Institute begin as a haven to create, explore, and innovate.
Come on up!
With best wishes and a very happy new year to you,