The next deadline for submission
of a grant application is December 15, 2018.






Soapstone: Celebrating Women Writers

Study Groups Winter and Spring 2019

Reading Margaret Atwood, led by Trisha Snell
Four Saturday mornings, 10 to 1
Janaury 12, 26 and February 2 and 9
ArtSpace Room, TaborSpace, 55th & SE Stark

Reading Denise Levertov, led by Mimi Maduro
Four Saturday mornings, 10 to 1
March 9, 16, 23, and 30
ArtSpace Room, TaborSpace, 55th & SE Stark

Reading Lucille Clifton, led by Lois Leveen
Four Saturday mornings, 10 to 1
April 13, 20, 27 and May 4
ArtSpace Room, TaborSpace, 55th & SE Stark

The fee is $75; scholarships are available. The group is limited to 16. To register, send an email to, and a check made out to Soapstone, 622 SE 29th Avenue, Portland, OR 97214.

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Reading Margaret Atwood’s Poetry and Short Fiction, led by Tricia Snell

tell me
just as it was
from the beginning. — Atwood, 1967 

The parts of writers’ lives that are interesting are usually the part before they become a well-known writer. — Atwood, 2017 

Now I am a grownup
and literate
and I sit in my chair
as quietly as a fuse …Atwood, 1968

At the women’s marches of January 2017, several signs pled “Make Margaret Atwood fiction again!” Indeed! Well, this study group will attempt to do that—and more—by focusing on her deliciously direct, cut-to-the-core, yes-often-dark-but-frequently-very-funny early poems and short fiction, before she was thought of as the oracle of dystopia. We’ll also read and discuss a few recent poems and stories to see what connections we might uncover.

Our quest will be to revel in, or at least turn a few cartwheels inside, this earlier voice, and perhaps see how it compares to her current voice. We’ll also explore the world-view that blossomed into her marvelously varied and vivid body of work (by my count, she’s written 71 books of all kinds, as well as umpteen talks and articles and reviews).

I’m a Canadian who grew up in Atwood territory, literally in terms of geography, and literarily (yes it’s a word!) in terms of what I read as a young person (besides Atwood and a handful of other Canadians such as Alice Munro and Margaret Laurence, that early reading included a lot of British gothic and European social novels, with some James, Hemingway and Fitzgerald thrown in). Atwood’s worldview resonates with me in Old World-New World ways, with strong reverberations coming from the familial, tainted-love, power-structure dynamics of the Canada-U.S.A. relationship.

My hope is that excavating the origins of Atwood’s voice—or her many voices—will act as a launching pad for greater enjoyment of Atwood’s whole, vast body of work. Delight is the main goal. Along the way, I hope each of us as citizens of the Earth will gain insight into the sources of our own world views and voices.

One day you will reach a bend in your life.
Time will curve like a wind
and after that the young
will no longer be afraid of you
the way they ought to be …Atwood, 2007

Texts will include Eating Fire, Selected Poetry 1965-1995; selections from The Door (poems, 2007); and either Surfacing (a short novel, 1972) or Dancing Girls (short story collection, 1977). Confirmation of this will be sent out in good time prior to the first study group meeting. I’ll also show some early videos of Atwood reading her work.

Tricia Snell is a Canadian-American writer and flutist. She writes stories, poems, essays, reviews, and songs and is the author of the book Artist Communities (Allworth Press). Her writing has been published in Art PapersOregon HumanitiesThe Oregonian, and The Grove Review, and has been read by actor Barbara Rappaport on the National Public Radio show, The Sound of Writing. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, USA and an ARCT flute performance degree from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, ON, Canada. Tricia’s past roles include Executive Director of two arts nonprofits (Caldera and the Alliance of Artists’ Communities) and Writer/Project Manager for environmental organizations. She splits her time between Nova Scotia, Canada and Oregon, USA.


Reading Denise Levertov, led by Mimi Maduro

As a poet of both imagination and conscience, Denise Levertov continually examined and re-examined purpose, witness, and presence in the here and now.  Hers is a poetry of engagement where the precision of words matters. We will immerse ourselves in Levertov’s work across time and—over six decades beginning in England, the land of her birth in 1923 until her death in Seattle in 1997. We will explore her poetry through the lens of her celebration of mystery and political activism.  Through Levertov’s essays we will learn about her inspirations and perspectives on craft. We will listen to each other read poems of hers that move and resonate within us.  

Discovering Denise Levertov’s poetry and vision as an English Literature major in college was a pivotal moment of awakening in my life. This spark spawned a lifelong enchantment reading, studying and collecting Levertov’s poetry, essays, and letters. It’s a body of vibrant work I return to again and again.
The text will be The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov.  Published by New Directions. 2013. Edited by Paul A. Lacey and Anne Dewey.  Some additional essays, letters and articles will be provided as PDFs.  

Mimi Maduro is a member of the 29th Street Writers in Portland, and the Calliope Poets in the Columbia Gorge. She teaches classes in facilitation and in management fundamentals at Columbia Gorge Community College. These days she is focused on organizing and editing a manuscript of her poems spanning the past twenty-five years.   


Reading Lulcille Clifton’s Poetry, led by Lois Leveen

Every poet lives within the realm of language, stitching words together to make meaning.  But few have done it with the concise clarity of Lucille Clifton.  During a prolific writing career that spanned decades in which the women’s movement and the Civil Rights movement allowed the personal to be both political and poetic, Clifton wrote short, sharp, powerful poems.  Hundreds of them.   

In this group, we will delve into close reading of poems, exploring how Clifton crafted such emotionally potent work.  And we will luxuriate in reading as many Clifton poems as we possibly can, to examine what themes and styles persisted and what evolved over the course of Clifton’s work.

Text:  The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton, Rochester, BOA Editions, 2012 ISBN 978-1-934414-90-3

Lois Leveenis the author of the novels Juliet’s Nurse and The Secrets of Mary Bowser. Her poetry has appeared in literary journals and anthologies, and has been inscribed on a hospital wall.  A former faculty member at UCLA and Reed College, Lois holds degrees from Harvard University, the University of Southern California, and UCLA, and was a 2017 Kienle Scholar in Medical Humanities at Penn State University College of Medicine.  Lois has written about intersections of literature, history, and culture for The Atlantic, The Chicago Tribune, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and NPR.


To be notified about these programs and those of many other literary organizations, sign up for our bi-weekly community email announcements that come out every other week with information about readings, workshops and opportunities for readers and writers in Oregon and Southwest Washington. If you only want to hear about the study groups, sign up here.

For a complete list of study groups, events and grants awarded, please click here to see or download a PDF.


Soapstone provides grants to support ad hoc events and short-term study groups that introduce or offer the opportunity to delve into the work of women writers. All events and study groups are open to the public. Events are free of charge; there is a small fee for study groups, with scholarships available. The application process is simple and the time between applying and notification short.

Click here for general information about the grants.
Click here for information about applying for an event grant.
Click here for information about applying for a study group grant.