Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Writers at Soapstone: EM Lewis

EM (Ellen) Lewis was in residence at Soapstone for two weeks in early January, 2010. While there, she kept a daily journal of the experience on her blog, which gives a great sense of what it’s like to be a Soapstone resident and includes many wonderful photos. Following are some excerpts from her blog.

I woke up this morning to rain painting my window, making the trees outside look Monet-soft. Lovely. I haven't left the cabin today. I imagine one of the particular joys of a mid-winter residency here is how cozy the cabin seems when the wind is roaring through the trees, and the rain is pounding down, and the river is rushing past, high and fast and brown and wild. I am ready to sink deeper into my writing.

“I'm sneaking up on this play like a wild animal. It is deeply personal, and focusing on it has exploded all my previous notions. I discovered the heart of the play here, and began to listen to its music, and to get a notion of its trajectory.

“Words aren't the only thing I've found in these woods, though. I feel like I've found myself again, in a way. The world get
s so busy sometimes. All telephones and traffic. Sometimes I have trouble hearing myself think. I have rested here. Does it make me sound crazy if I say it helped me remember how to breathe? I have walked amongst the trees and let their strength and solidity make me feel stronger, and more solidly rooted in this earth. I have lifted my face to the rain, and feel refreshed.

“Thank you to all the people who have created Soapstone, and who let me come here to live and work for two wonderful weeks. It has been a great gift. I will cherish the memory of it forever.”

EM Lewis is a playwright whose work has been produced around the country. She won the 2009 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award from the American Theater Critics Association for her play Song of Extinction, which premiered in Los Angeles. The play also won the Ashland New Plays Festival, University of Oregon's EcoDrama Festival, the Ted Schmitt Award for the premiere of an outstanding new play from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, and Production of the Year from the LA Weekly Awards. It was published in Dramatics Magazine in January 2010, and will be coming out in an acting edition from Samuel French this year. Lewis also wrote the Iraq War hostage drama Heads (winner of the 2008 Primus Prize for an emerging woman theater artist). Her first full-length play, Infinite Black Suitcase (about grief and redemption in rural Oregon), didn't win any awards, but she likes it anyway. Lewis is a member of Moving Arts Theater Company, the Dramatists Guild, the International Centre for Women Playwrights and the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights. She lives in Santa Monica, California now, but she is originally from Oregon. You can read more about her on her website.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Writers at Soapstone: Barbara LaMorticella

Barbara LaMorticella wrote at Soapstone for two weeks during the summer of 2004.

She wrote to us afterwards: “It was a new and wonderful experience for me to be in an atmosphere which so completely valued and supported writing. I came away with a new dedication to the craft, with the beginning of a new book, and with pages of information about resources for writers gleaned from various publications on the shelves.”

“Praise and thanks. The whole world has seemingly been hijacked by militarism and psychopathic thuggery. A writing retreat specifically for women, sustained by a women’s writing community, has never been more evidently necessary than now—a sheltered space wherein the seeds of new vision and new life might germinate, sprout and flower.”

Barbara LaMorticella has a new manuscript circulating, The Great Dance: Poems 1969 – 2009. Her two poetry chapbooks are Even the Hills Move in Waves (Leaping Mountain Press, 1986) and Rain on Waterless Mountain (26 Books, 1996), which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award.

In 2000 she received the first
Oregon Literary Fellowship for women writers, and in 2005 she was awarded the Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award for outstanding contribution to Oregon's literary community. Her work is featured in many anthologies, most recently To Topos Poetry International: Poverty and Poetry (Oregon State University, 2008), Not a Muse (Haven Books, 2009), and Eating the Pure Light (The Backwaters Press, 2009). In 2009 she established a desktop publishing company, The Present Press. She has hosted a regular poetry program, The Talking Earth, on radio station KBOO in Portland since the late 1980s.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Writers at Soapstone: Shelley Washburn

Shelley Washburn was a resident at Soapstone for a week in March of 2006. She wrote to us afterwards:

“Instead of polishing the story I brought with me, I tore it apart and stitched it back together again. I am very pleased with it—I would say I had an extremely successful week.

“I was feeling anti-social when I came to Soapstone and didn’t think I would want to interact much with the other writer. I was looking forward only to getting back to my writing and to slowing down and having time to sleep, think, and listen to the stream. But that changed when I met her—she was funny, creative, smart and soulful. We found we had the same work habits and food preferences so we ate dinner together. We did dishes and chores together. We were so compatible that there was no need to discuss a process for living and working together.

“Every evening after dinner we read each other's work (she helped me see where I had extraneous scenes and characters in my story). Then we’d talk late into the night about our lives and writing and politics and how we could make ethical contributions to our community.”

Shelley Washburn’s articles and short stories have appeared in various publications, including DoubleTake magazine and two anthologies by the Crossing Press. In 2005, she won The Journal’s annual short story contest for her piece “When the River Lay Quiet with Snow.” She is the director of Pacific University’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing program.