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.