Sunday, December 27, 2009

Writers at Soapstone: Jessica Lamb

Jessica Lamb just finished a week-long residency in December of 2009.

“I try hard to keep my writing alive while I’m teaching, but I typically end up without a lot of juice by the end of the term. The prospect of a week at Soapstone gave me a huge lift during those busy weeks when I wasn’t finding energy for much of my own writing–I thought about it every day all fall, looking forward to feeding my need for solitude and creative renewal. I was aware, too, having spent time on retreat in the past, that there’s a danger in pinning one’s hopes and expectations on a particular outcome.

“I was careful not to have any lofty goals for the week–I told myself I just wanted to read and write and walk–but what I forgot to factor in when I pictured being there was my exhaustion. When I finally arrived there was a big brain-dead part of me that frankly didn’t want to read and write at all. If I’d been home I probably would have watched a lot of movies and baked a lot of cookies. But the truth is, I would have been avoiding writing not just because I was tired but because it can be damn hard to start up after a dry spell. The enormous value of being at Soapstone for me was that I stuck with myself and kept writing.

“I spent a lot of time just watching the creek. The water was clear with ice on the fringes for the first several days. Every so often a piece would break off and float serenely away. Details of the surroundings began appearing in my writing immediately–the changing sounds of the creek, the ticking of the wood stove, the stirring of the wind in the alder branches. After a few days it began to rain–hard–and the creek was soon hurtling downstream at a frenetic rate. Being next to moving water made me very aware of my own pulsing circulating blood and the flow of energies and emotions and thoughts. When the writing felt most satisfying, I was responding effortlessly to that flow without trying to move it in a certain direction. But the days felt expansive enough to apply myself in many different ways; I did some very focused revision as well.

“I’m amazed at all the careful thought that’s been put into making this refuge for women writers, and I’m forever grateful for the chance to spend time there.”

Jessica Lamb has taught writing for many years through the Northwest Writing Institute, Portland Community College, and the Literary Arts Writers in the Schools program. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Poetry, The Southern Review, and Willow Springs. Her first book of poems, Last Apples of Late Empires, was published in the spring of 2009 by Airlie Press, an Oregon publishing collective of which she is a founding member.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Writers at Soapstone: Phyllis Thompson

Phyllis Thompson was in residence for a week in February 2004. In reply to our standard evaluation question, "How did being at Soapstone affect your writing?" she wrote: "A hundred details the Soapstone community has constructed directly supported my writing. The shape and size and arrangement of the spaces. The amenities provided (variety of chairs, rugs, blankets, vacuums, wood, fans, olive oil left by a previous writer, dishes, refrigerator, and on and on). The careful organization of the relationship with the other writer. Combined, these details created my own ideal conditions for work: A comfortable and convenient protected space where I could concentrate on writing only, yet providing opportunity for enough meditative activity (like wood hauling and feeding the stove, attractive places to walk) that I could stay healthy, and the option of unforced interaction with a congenial person when that happened.

"I was in residence with someone I didn't previously know, and it worked out wonderfully. We shared interests in hiking, birds, and China, and differences in the exact nature of our work and experience which made for interesting conversation. More important for me, however, was the complete freedom I felt not to interact with her most days and nights. I'm sure our compatibility was partly a factor (for example, we found it easy to agree to cut back on our water use and how to do that when Soapstone Creek started to rise). Also, the Soapstone guidelines cautioning us to come ‘without expectations for spending evening or other free time with the other writer’ made me feel quite free to stay in my room as much as I liked, and to take my adventures out of the womb alone."

Phyllis Thompson has just finished the manuscript she began during her Soapstone residency about her seven years living on a sailboat, The Journey: A Philosopher at Sea. She has been a creative nonfiction writer (also cartographer, archaeological illustrator, and intercultural communication teacher) since 1980. A particular interest of hers is the creation of dramatic readings of her own work which she has performed in Oregon, Colorado, and Arizona, sometimes in collaboration with other artists. The Six Voices and a Gong group, created to perform pieces from her book Dear Alice: Letters Home from American Teachers Learning to Live in China, won the International Association of Audio Information Services Program of the Year Award for Entertainment in 2006.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Writers at Soapstone: Anjie Reynolds

Anjie Reynolds had a two-week residency at Soapstone in January of 2008. She came home to “kids’ birthday parties, house guests, my job, and a hubby stressed by dental school,” struggling with feeling frustrated that she didn’t get more writing done on her novel, but realizing that she had made headway, nonetheless.

“With all that thinking, I saw places where I needed to do more information-gathering and how the arc of the story should work.” Recently she headed to Eastern Kentucky, where the novel is set: “something I discovered I needed to do as I sat in the Wind Studio—I just had to get my husband through dental school and our family through a re-location to Ashland, Oregon, first.

“Since my novel wasn’t flowing, I turned to nonfiction. I sold 'Emergency' to NPR's San Francisco station, and it aired a month after I left Soapstone. It focused on a family health emergency that gave me a heightened awareness of the need for healthcare reform. Its airing led me to work with the Children's Defense Fund,, and the 100% Campaign. Not long after it aired, I testified in Sacramento before the California State Senate Budget Subcommittee with my kids at my side, urging the state not to cut children’s medical coverage.”

Anjie Seewer Reynolds currently lives in Ashland, Oregon, where she teaches courses at ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum and writes. Her work has appeared in The Sun, is forthcoming in The Christian Science Monitor, and has aired on KQED, San Francisco's NPR affiliate.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Writers at Soapstone: Rosalind Bell

Rosalind Bell wrote at Soapstone for two weeks in the winter of 2003. She wrote about her time there:

"I arrived expecting to bring my story to conclusion. What happened instead was that I realized the story was not ready to end. Words rushed out like that river roaring in front of my window as the story opened up. I left with sixty pages of new material.

Gwen Morgan and I didn’t know each other before we arrived, but we nixed the kitchen times starting on day one and co-habited the space like we'd been roomies for years. It was non-intrusive and worked well for us. The guidelines are ideal for most people who don't know each other; for renegades who like to color outside the lines when the feeling is mutual, they were still handy.

Back in Tacoma, I was not prepared for the comedown from such an exhilarating high. For days I wandered about in a sort of no-woman's land, searching for my bearings, longing for Soapstone. Sometime during our last week, Gwen and I fantasized about boarding up the place, refusing to leave, and threatening the two newbies with buckshot if they came any closer! Yes, we had it baaaaaad.”

Rosalind Bell has authored five screenplays, two novellas, a novel and a collection of short stories. She received a Callaloo Literary Journal Fellowship. A short film of one of her stories, "Tootie Pie," was screened at the Seattle International Film Festival in 2006 and The Port Townsend Film Festival in 2009. In 2007, her play The New Orleans Monologues was produced by the University of Puget Sound. She is currently an artist in residence at the university and is working on 1620 Bank Street, a play about love, family and integration at her Louisiana Catholic high school.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Step Right Up!

Construction was completed last month on the new stairs to the Wind sleeping loft in the Soapstone cabin. We're extremely pleased with the project, which involved not only replacing the ladder to Wind with stairs, but also adding a bay to the meadow side of the cabin, including two round windows for additional light.

A special thank you to Stephen Slusarski, who did a wonderful job on the construction. You can also read about Andrews Architects, who designed the remodel, here and the Spirit Mountain Community Fund, which helped to fund the project, here.

This season's residents are now at Soapstone enjoying the newly enhanced cabin. Come on out and see it at our next
work day on June 26, 2010.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Birthday Greetings for Ursula Le Guin

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Ursula, from all of us at Soapstone.

We thank you for all you have given to Soapstone over the past two decades and all you have given to the world of literature.

We wish you many good things in the years ahead.

Judith, Ruth, Brittney, Noel, Kathleen, Nancy, Ann, Maureen, Katy, Liz, Janice and Patricia

Friday, October 16, 2009

Writers at Soapstone: Barbara Sjoholm

Barbara Sjoholm was in residence at Soapstone for a week in the summer of 2001 and a week during the winter of 2003. She wrote about the first week:

“I accomplished far more than I had hoped. I brought a number of memoir/essays to work on and ended up not only writing but being able to see them as a unified whole. I was surprised at how much I was able to get done. I felt intensely focused on the work—the days seemed much longer than at home.

“I was happy to be at Soapstone with a friend. Most nights we took turns reading our work to one another and giving feedback. We worked through the days except for two escapes to the coast on sunny afternoons. Perhaps especially since we are friends, I was glad to have the excellent “rules” and not have to bother to work out any of that ourselves.

“You’ve done an incredible job organizing the process from beginning to end. Every question and/or contingency had an answer in the materials, leaving our brain cells free to create. Thank you!”

Barbara Sjoholm is a novelist, memoirist, translator, and mystery writer. Her books include Blue Windows: A Christian Science Childhood, The Pirate Queen: In Search of Grace O'Malley and Other Legendary Women of the Sea, Incognito Street: How Travel Made Me a Writer, and The Palace of the Snow Queen: Winter Travels in Lapland. Her short pieces have been published in the Harvard Review, The American Scholar, Antioch Review, the New York Times, Slate, and Smithsonian. Barbara has also published several collections of short stories and three novels; she is one of the founders of Seal Press and the nonprofit Women in Translation.

Many readers know her as Barbara Wilson, author of two successful, offbeat mystery series. In 2001, a film of Gaudi Afternoon was released, starring Judy Davis and Marcia Gay Harden. Her awards include a Columbia Translation Prize for Cora Sandel: Selected Short Stories, a British Crime Writers' award, and a Lambda Literary Award.

She is currently working on a translation from the Danish of With the Lapps in the High Mountains, by the painter and ethnologist Emilie Demant Hatt. You can find out more about Barbara on her website.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Writers at Soapstone: Marjorie Sandor

Marjorie Sandor was awarded a week’s residency at Soapstone in August of 2003. She wrote, “I managed to stay at my desk for double my usual time, and was able to do a lot of very difficult ground work for the last quarter of a long novel, The Descent of Luck, set in a Southern California botanical garden with a rich history about to be lost.” A long chapter that she worked on at Soapstone will appear this December in the Winter 2009 issue of The Hopkins Review. “I'm hugely grateful for the concentrated intensely focused time that Soapstone gave me at a crucial juncture in this book.”

Marjorie Sandor is the author of two story collections, Portrait of My Mother, Who Posed Nude in Wartime and A Night of Music; and a memoir, The Night Gardener: A Search For Home. Her short fiction has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize XIII and The Best of Beacon. Her writing has been published in journals such as The Georgia Review, The Southern Review and The New York Times Magazine. Awards include a National Jewish Book Award in Fiction, Rona Jaffe Foundation Award for Fiction, and the Oregon Book Award for literary nonfiction. She is a professor of English and Director of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Oregon State University.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Writers at Soapstone: Bette Lynch Husted

Bette Lynch Husted was awarded a two-week residency at Soapstone in 2002, during which time she completed her memoir, Above the Clearwater. During a second two-week residency in 2006 she worked on her poetry collection, At This Distance.

She wrote about her time in 2006:

“Something happens, I suppose, in any writing residency simply from having, at last, uninterrupted time. But Soapstone has, for me, a special magic. I feel as if I am inside my self—inside my head and heart, listening to that voice that comes through my fingers—and inside the world at the same time, not separated from the hummingbirds at the feeder or the deer wading up the creek or the thrushes calling from the elderberry bush. Somehow I am able to look more clearly at my writing, to see it from both inside and above, at the same time. As I walk to the Hatchery or on the beach, as I share and revise with the other resident in the evenings, even as we talk over dinner, the writing process goes on uninterrupted.

I’m grateful to have been at Soapstone in two seasons. Memories of fires (even when none are burning; it’s past the summer solstice), of sun and wind and hail, of conversations with other writers and friends, stay at Soapstone almost as physical presences.

I want the words I write to be as close as possible to the presence of what they represent. There is always a gap, I know. At Soapstone, the gap narrows, sometimes feels as if it closes altogether. And I can bring traces of that magic home with me, like the bottle of water I brought home from the McKenzie River after my first week at The Flight of the Mind, shaking my head yet finding myself unable to leave it behind.”

Bette Lynch Husted is the author of Above the Clearwater: Living on Stolen Land (OSU Press, 2004) which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award and the WILLA Award in creative nonfiction; and a poetry chapbook, After Fire, published in 2002. Her poetry collection At This Distance will be published in fall 2010 by Wordcraft of Oregon. She received a 2007 Oregon Arts Commission fellowship and was a "Found at Fishtrap" fellow at Fishtrap's 2007 20th anniversary celebration. Her work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Northwest Review, Fourth Genre, Oregon Humanities and other journals.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Residencies Awarded for 2009-2010

We are pleased to announce that the following writers have been awarded residencies at Soapstone for 2009-2010.

Norina Beck
Jennifer Borges Foster
Wendy Breuer
Sharline Chiang
Kerry Cohen
Jenesha De Rivera
Tracy Debrincat
Monica Drake
Anita Feng
Sara Guest
Karen Holmberg
Fowzia Karimi
Jess Lamb
Kate Lebo
Ellen Lewis
Christina Lovin
Margaret Malone
Louanne Moldovan
Ly Nguyen
Pam Ore
Soham Patel
Deborah Poe
Andrea Stolowitz
Cheryl Strayed
Ellen Urbani
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon
Ann Whitfield Powers
Kathleen Worley
Bo Yu

We'd like to thank the readers on our selection committee: Anita Bigelow, Ruth Gundle, Kevia Jeffrey-West, Catherine Johnson, Nancy LaPaglia, Ellen Notbohm, Carla Perry, and Katy Riker.

Applications for 2011 will be accepted during the summer of 2010. For more information about our application process, please visit our website.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Writers at Soapstone: Luciana Lopez

Luciana Lopez wrote to tell us, “I greatly appreciate Soapstone’s policy of allowing month-long residencies to be taken in chunks and spread over several years, for those of us who can’t get away for more than a week or two weeks at a time. Over three residencies in 2006, 2007 and 2008, I worked on short stories, creative non-fiction, poetry and even a screenplay. I wrote a lot, felt free to experiment, and grew as a writer. Many of my best pieces originated at Soapstone and would never have been written if not for the time away from my hectic life as a reporter for The Oregonian.

“I'm grateful, too, that the community Soapstone builds doesn't end with the residencies. The annual work days were always more than just weeding or planting or doing repairs — they were a chance to get together with other writers who knew what it was like to spend time in these rooms, trying to bring something into the world, and to meet some of the extraordinary women who helped make this place a reality. I loved those days, the opportunity to contribute to the community that nurtured me and, of course, the chance to be at Soapstone, to see the retreat again and feel the joy that always helps me write.”

Luciana Lopez is now an economics reporter for Reuters in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Her work has appeared in literary journals and anthologies, including Portland Noir, Rio Grande Review, ZYZZVYA, and Lichen.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Writers at Soapstone: Cecelia Hagen

Cecelia Hagen was in residence at Soapstone for two weeks in October 2006. She wrote to us afterwards:

“I had planned on working with Ovid’s Metamorphoses during my stay, but as I read and researched other, less well-known works of his, I became more drawn to his Tristia and Letters from Exile. Being able to read for long stretches allowed me to be completely charmed by Ovid, and to immerse myself in his plight as a political exile on the Black Sea. The transformations described in the Metamorphoses are so often imposed from without--a god changes a girl into a tree or a swan in response to her request for help in escaping an attacker. Ovid was the first to write these stories down, but they weren't his. Many writers since Ovid have based works on his tales, and I had thought I would add my versions to the mix, but that task seemed less appealing the more I learned about Ovid's other works.

“His Letters from Exile sprang from his fervent desire to return to Rome, and he used all his rhetorical skill to convince his readers to do what they could to get the Emperor Augustus to reverse his sentence. Although this may sound like tedious reading, it's not at all, because it's done from the heart, and with consummate skill. I loved every page and was inspired to see how his plight, and his irascible wit, could seem so fresh even after two thousand years. This inspired me to open my heart and speak from there, rather than trying to impose any kind of outside change or template on my writing. My writing process often follows this circuitous path: I have something to say but start by backing away from it, looking for a handle that will allow me to pick up my subject without getting burned. But eventually I realize that I have to hold it in my hand, I have to seize it and get burned if I want the reader to feel what I'm feeling. The gracious shelter of Soapstone and the sense I had of the guiding presence of previous tenants of Wind studio made it possible for me to find my way into what I wanted to say.

“My new chapbook, Among Others, was conceived in the solitude of Soapstone. Most of the poems are persona poems, spoken by a character I conjure up. These characters are always like me in that they are outsiders, observers of their situation. I can enlarge my perceptions through these characters, can enter the depths of their experiences in an almost extrasensory way. I felt a great sense of permission to experiment at Soapstone, to play and explore all the sides of myself, to hear these other voices and get them on the page.”

Cecelia Hagen's chapbook, Fringe Living, was published by 26 Books; Among Others will be released by Traprock Books in 2010. She was the Fiction Editor for the Northwest Review for many years. Her work has been published in The Seattle Review, Prairie Schooner, Pedestal, Caffeine Destiny, Puerto del Sol, Burnside Review, and in the book, From Where We Speak: An Anthology of Oregon Poets. In 2007 she won first place in Passager magazine's annual competition (as a result of discovering Passager on the bookshelves at Soapstone).


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Writers at Soapstone: Angie Chuang

A poet and nonfiction writer, Angie Chuang’s work has been published in many literary magazines, including Calyx, Mizna, and The Grove Review. She is an award-winning journalist, and was, for seven years, The Oregonian’s first race and ethnicity issues reporter.

Angie was at Soapstone for a week in the spring of 2006 and again for another week during the winter of 2007; she worked on a memoir that came out of a reporting assignment after September 11 to "put a human face on the country we're about to bomb." It led her on a journey into an Afghan American family's life and story, and took her to Afghanistan and into a long-term friendship with the family. The memoir explores “the complexity between generations, between American and Afghan cultural influences, and between optimism and despair. Ultimately, the family helped me see that Afghanistan as a country--and my own fractious immigrant family--are caught between ways of thinking, between unity and fragmentation.”

She wrote to us after her first week at Soapstone: “Days and nights took on an organic flow around writing--everything either was a preparation for (morning yoga and walks, making coffee and breakfast, tidying up around the house or hauling in wood), or a break from (reading a chapter in a book, making dinner, sleeping) writing. I found myself constantly thinking about what I was writing, but in the best possible way. I'd have breakthroughs and revelations while practicing yoga or on a walk, and I'd actually remember them later on! Luciana Lopez and I are both night owls, and did our most productive writing at night, sometimes very late. It worked out well for us, sitting in front of the Duchess together, writing in mostly silence, into the wee hours sometimes.”

She wrote to us after her second week: “Not only was I able to get more done than I ever would in a one-week period, my writing and thinking were deepened by the simplicity of life at Soapstone, the lack of real-world drains on energy and time. I had breakthroughs that were prompted by the unique environment. One afternoon, during a torrential downpour, watching and listening to the rain glide down the skylight, I was finally able to hone a pivotal chapter that hinged on the description of tropical rains in Taiwan. Another day, I felt unfocused so I told myself I was "locking" myself in the Cube until I could come up with the beginning of another chapter. I sat in there for a long time and inadvertently began the hardest chapter of my memoir, the one I had been dreading writing and therefore had avoided. By the end of the week I had finished it.”

She emailed just recently: “I've been thinking a lot about Soapstone recently because I just did a three-week residency this summer at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts that dramatically moved my project forward and changed how I see myself as a writer.” Angie is now an assistant professor at the American University School of Communication in Washington, D.C.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Shout Out to the Spirit Mountain Community Fund

We are extremely grateful to the charitable foundation of the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde, the Spirit Mountain Community Fund, for a grant of $5000 in May to help finance the construction that's going on right now at Soapstone.

Since 1997, the Community Fund has distributed 6% of the profits from the Spirit Mountain Casino to nonprofit organizations in Western Oregon, fulfilling "their Native tradition of potlatch, a ceremony at which good fortune is distributed." We extend to them our sincere appreciation for their generosity to the community and their support for Soapstone's writing residency program for women.

Ancestors of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde have occupied Western Oregon since time immemorial, developing distinct lifeways through generations of interaction with this bountiful and diverse landscape. You can trace this journey by visiting Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story, a multimedia exploration of the history and culture of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

The tribes that make up the Grand Ronde Confederation – Chasta, Rogue River, Umpqua, Molalla and Kalapuya – signed seven treaties ceding their vast lands to the federal government in the 1850s. Tribal members were force-marched 263 miles over 33 days in February and March of 1856 to Grand Ronde. The assault on the Tribes’ way of life continued until finally, in 1954, Congress passed the Western Oregon Indian Termination Act. The Grand Ronde Tribe was terminated. Tribal members were no longer acknowledged as Indians by the federal government and other tribes and had no rights to their reservation lands.

A relocation program, scattering members across the country, followed termination. But in 1972 a small group of tribal members began the work to restore the tribe. Their base of operation was a small shack without running water and electricity located on the only land officially left of the once large Grand Ronde Reservation – the 2.5-acre tribal cemetery. Tribal members held bake sales, car washes and get-togethers to raise money to fund restoration efforts. They earned the support of members of Oregon’s congressional delegation and local community members. Finally, on Nov. 22, 1983, President Reagan signed the Grand Ronde Restoration Bill, making Grand Ronde a restored and federally recognized tribe, and the work of rebuilding a nation began. Just last fall, they celebrated their 25th anniversary as a restored tribe.

Soapstone urges you to learn about the history of all the Oregon tribes at this excellent website.


Monday, August 31, 2009

Writers at Soapstone: Jennifer Culkin

Jennifer Culkin’s absorbing debut memoir, A Final Arc of Sky: A Memoir of Critical Care was published by Beacon in the spring of this year to much critical praise such as this, from Judith Kitchen: “I loved the stories, the language, the point of view, but what I loved most was the way this book was able to break my heartthen mend it.”

Much of the book focuses on Jennifer’s experiences aboard an emergency helicopter keeping victims of heart attacks and critically injured survivors of traffic accidents alive as they are being transported to hospital emergency rooms and the risks of being an emergency flight nurse—night flights, bad weather, human error—including dealing with the deaths of colleagues in helicopter crashes. A former neonatal and pediatric intensive-care nurse, she writes vividly of the tiny patients whose lives were in her hands.

Jennifer worked on A Final Arc of Sky during a two-week residency at Soapstone in the spring of 2006 and again for another two weeks in the winter of 2008. She wrote to us in March:

“I can't tell you how much the gift of concerted, focused, untroubled time helped metime that was completely untethered from the stressors of job and home. At Soapstone each morning I journaled purely for fun over coffee in front of the Queen, worked on the material for my book up in the cube from late morning until mid-to-late afternoon, spent the last two hours of daylight riding my bike to Nehalem or Manzanita and back, a wonderful 25-mile ride out to the sea past the woods and the farms of the area; after a quick dinner I continued to work on the book up in the cube until 1 a.m.

“I never write in the evening at homeI have MS and am exhausted by the time evening rolls aroundso this new capability surprised and delighted me. It was enlightening to discover how much I can do as a writer when the usual constraints and energy drains are removed.

“This gift of time is enhanced and heightened by the secluded beauty of the natural setting, by the house itself, and by your amazing management of the facilities. I love the houseit balances perfectly on the cusp between aesthetic and necessity. I love the natural materials, the simple comfort of the furnishings, the quirkiness of the Wind Studio. I love that it has absolutely everything one needs without any froufrou, and the same can be said of the Nehalem/Manzanita area, as well. The total environment you've created frees the writer to focus exclusively on the work and on forms of relaxation and inspiration that enhance the work.”

A 2008 recipient of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, Jennifer lives on Bainbridge Island and is the nonfiction editor for Crab Creek Review. You can find out more about Jennifer on her website.


(Photo of Jennifer courtesy of Elisha Rain)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Andrews Architects

Martha and Jim Andrews shine out among Soapstone’s angels. As Andrews Architects, Inc., they designed the major construction project of 1997 which added the Water Studio, breezeway, hallway, etc., good naturedly putting up with a large committee of representatives from Soapstone who almost always had divergent opinions. All pro bono. Most recently, they designed a smaller, but significant improvement: the replacing of the ladder to the sleeping loft with stairs, which is in the process of being built now (they will have sides and handrails).

Over the course of six months, Martha and Jim once again worked with a committee to find the best solution to adding stairs built to code in a very small space. They provided drawings at various stages as well as final construction drawings. Again, all pro bono. This project, which required a small bay extension of the main room, will make the sleeping loft more accessible and user-friendly.

We are enormously grateful to them—and will always be—for their generosity, their creativity, and their community spirit.

Martha and Jim both grew up in Eastern Oregon, and have practiced in Oregon, except for a brief period, since 1976. In addition to raising a family and designing a wide range of commercial and residential structures, they always make time to serve their communities, working on political campaigns, being architects in residence in public schools, and serving on their neighborhood community organization board as well as on numerous professional, city, and state boards, including the Portland Planning Commission, the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission, the Portland Solar Access Task Force, and the Architecture Foundation of Oregon.

We love their playfulness (see Jim’s Avian Architecture), their love of and considerable knowledge about the natural world, their lovely pen and ink drawings in Soapstone’s journals, and their example of exemplary citizenship.

For more about the Andrews, check out this article on Soapstone's website.



Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Writers at Soapstone: Cheryl Strayed

For Cheryl Strayed, a residency at Soapstone allowed her the simplest of things, and what she most needed—time. “Something happens at Soapstone that can’t happen in real life—a total immersion into my work.”

For one week in October 2008 and another week in February 2009, Cheryl worked on getting the first half of her new book, Wild, a memoir about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail after her mother's death, ready to be sent out to publishers. A writer and mother of two children, ages 3 and 5, Cheryl said, “It’s often difficult to focus and work, so I deeply appreciated and utilized my time at Soapstone.” The timing of her residency couldn’t have been better, and her work at Soapstone paid off. Cheryl sold her memoir in May; it will be published by Knopf in 2010.

Cheryl Strayed's debut novel, Torch, was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2006, and her personal essays have appeared in several magazines, including the New York Times Magazine and the Washington Post Magazine, and twice have been selected for inclusion in Best American Essays. Over the past two decades, Cheryl’s had many residencies, but Soapstone was special for two big reasons. First, she says, Soapstone "is a world created by women writers for women writers—I feel that giving and strong spirit when I'm there." Second, Soapstone was the first residency Cheryl's had since becoming a mother five years ago. The week-long shorter residencies, a rare thing, allowed her to get an incredible amount of work done without being away from her family for long periods of time. "Each week I have spent in residency at Soapstone has equaled triple and quadruple what I'd have accomplished at home."

I was fortunate enough to have a residency at Soapstone with Cheryl. She was Water; I was Wind. My favorite part of the day was around five in the afternoon, when we would leave our work and go for a long walk. We rarely knew exactly where we were going—each afternoon was a little different—but we would walk in the forest and talk about writing, the future and our lives. We’d talk about what was going great with the day’s work, what was going wrong, and what wasn’t going at all. At some point, one of us would say, “Should we turn around?” and then the other would say we should, or urge us on a little further, before heading back to write some more.

At Soapstone, there is no balancing act—it is just you and the woods and the writing. This is the real miracle of its residency. There, the act of writing is all that matters; it is more important than anything else.


Friday, July 3, 2009

All In A Day's Work

Our annual work day was this past Sunday, and it was a smashing success. A special thanks to everyone who came to Soapstone to help us out (from as far away as Hood River and Ilwaco!).

Ann Dudley

Anna Johnson

Becky Hart

Brian Padian

Cynthia Dettman

Ellen Notbohm

Eric Sweetman

Forest LaPointe

Jackleen de la Harpe

Jurgen Hess

Kathleen Fisher

Kathleen Worley

Marcia McKean

Margaret Malone

Penelope Scambly Schott

Sara Kelsheimer

Sara Guest

Sidney Chase

Sue Cody

Susan Hess

Ruth Gundle

Judith Barrington

Brittney Corrigan-McElroy

With an enthusiastic crew, we were able to accomplish an incredible amount of work in preparation for the start of our residencies this fall. We stacked wood in the woodshed and filled the wood starter ricks; cleared out behind the woodshed; scraped, sanded, and painted the wrought iron gate; weed-whacked the meadow and driveway; weeded in the native plant area, the terrace and stone paths, and around the cabin; removed the rotten wood from the large stumps in the meadow; used wood chips to level the trails in places and spread compost around the native plants; reclaimed river rock for around the house; chose stones from the creek to engrave for the Avenida de las Angeles and unearthed the current stones from the forest floor; washed the windows; fixed the gasket on the woodstove and the leather chair from the discussion room; moved items out of the main cabin in preparation for the construction that has begun; rehung Antlered Yorick where he overlooks the creek on the outside of the building; and continued to build up the berm with wheelbarrows full of the weeds that were pulled.

We had a gorgeous, sunny day and enjoyed each other’s company in our labors and for a communal lunch and potluck dinner. It was wonderful to go from group to group, listening to conversations of Soapstone, writing, and daily lives as everyone shared in the work and the dogs frolicked happily in the meadow.

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