Blogs: Writing

A Room of One's Own by Virginia WoolfWhat do writers need? Virginia Woolf famously said that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction” (in the essay A Room of One’s Own), but of course that’s not all, and not for everyone (men, poets, playwrights…). Writers need time, and space to pursue their craft. Writers need support, which can take the form of opportunities to read aloud, or to hear other writers talking about writing, or a community of supportive critical readers.

There are lots of organizations in the Portland area that offer resources for writers! Some are free, others are cheap (though not all). They involve various commitments of time. Here are some local organizations, roughly grouped  - but you’ll see that they are hard to categorize… 

Writing groups, workshops, and classes

The Attic Institute presents workshops, classes, and individual consultation about writing projects.

Lewis and Clark Northwest Writing Institute offers classes for community members.

The Mountain Writers Series presents monthly readings and writing workshops. The links section of their webpage connects to a huge number of other local organizations!

The Multnomah Arts Center offers some wonderful literary arts classes.

PDX Writers facilitates workshops and retreats.

Portland State University has a few different graduate programs in writing.

VoiceCatcher is a nonprofit connecting and empowering women writers in Portland.

Write Around Portland offers free creative writing workshops in social service settings, and creates publication and reading opportunities for workshop participants.

Membership organizations

The Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) offers resources and workshops related to printing and book-making. They also have certificate programs in creative nonfiction/fiction, poetry, and comics/graphic novels.

Oregon Poetry Association, Oregon’s oldest and largest literary organization, offers community, contests, and conferences.

Oregon Writers Colony offers community, conferences and workshops, and the use of a beach house writing retreat!

Rose City Romance Writers, the Portland, Oregon chapter of Romance Writers of America, educates, supports, and mentors published and unpublished romance writers.

Willamette Writers hosts regular meetings for the exchange of ideas related to writing and craft.

Reading series

Literary Arts’ programs include Portland Arts and Lectures, Writers in the Schools, the Oregon Book Awards and Fellowships, and Delve Readers Seminars.

LitHop PDX is an annual literary pub crawl featuring many readings at different venues.

There are many different reading series in Portland! You could head out to hear writers read their work at the Mountain Writers series, the Spare Room series, the Loggernaut reading series, the Bad Blood poetry reading series, Burnt TongueIf Not for KidnapUnchaste ReadersSoft Show, or The Switch... you could catch a reading when the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (FWWA) Pacific Northwest Reading Series has a Portland event...  or you could see one of the many readings at Powell's BooksKBOO also maintains a list of regular readings in the Portland area.

Conferences/Festivals/Big events

Ooligan Press’s Write to Publish Conference aims to demystify the publishing industry for emerging writers.

At the Portland Zine Symposium, zine and minicomic creators sell and trade their self-published creations.

Wordstock is Portland’s biggest annual literary festival, featuring author readings, writing contests, workshops, exhibits and a book fair.

Other stuff

Oregon Authors is a great general resource for information about authors in Oregon! The site is a collaboration between Oregon Library Association and Oregon Center for the Book. It includes a great list of readers and writers groups in Oregon.

Last but certainly not least, Multnomah County’s Central Library offers the Sterling Room for Writers, where writers can find a quiet work space in close proximity to all the resources the library has to offer. Interested writers must submit an application and be approved to gain access to the room.

 

Portland has a new illustration and comics festival called Linework NW - it aims to highlight the dynamic energy of creators of comics, prints, graphic novels, and original art. The first-ever event took place on April 12, and we went in search of self-published minicomics and zines for the library’s zine collection. Portland’s Norse Hall was packed to the gills with art, comics, artists and appreciators. The atmosphere was super friendly and excited; I noticed a trend of folks getting their copies of zines signed with personalized illustrations. Of course, we found many wonderful things to add to the library’s zine collection! Here are a few of them:

I Made This to Impress a Boy by Jeannette Langmead consists of lovely color comics about the author's life spanning several years during which she moves to Japan and back to the U.S., ends a relationship, and does some self-reflection.

 

 

 

Mr Wolf #2 by Aron Nels Steinke is about an elementary school teacher in a charter school. In this volume, Mr. Wolf embarks on his second year of teaching.

 

 

 

Cover image for Falling Rock National Park #1

Falling Rock National Park by Josh Shalek is a series set in a National Park in the southwest. In volume 1, Ernesto the lizard introduces readers to Ranger Dee and various animal characters, then heads into the Uncanny Valley, where everything gets weird. We picked up #1, 2, and 3 at Linework!

 

 

 

Cover image for Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever #4

The most recent volume in the humorous series Henry & Glenn Forever and Everabout boyfriends Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig, includes an epic story about zombie mayhem, family relations, and the dark arts while guest starring Hall and Oates.

 

 

Cover image for Abyss

Abyss by Saman Bemel-Benrud is a moody comic about burritos, construction sites, and the Internet.

 

 

 

Cover image for Cat People

Cat People / Dog People by Hannah Blumenreich is a two-in-one zine - one side is Cat People, and you flip it over to read Dog People. It contains some true and not-so-true stories of famous people and their pets.

 

 

 

Cover image for Never Forgets

In Never Forgets by Yumi Sakugawa, a character recovers from facial reconstructive surgery, while her best friend and her parents have different reactions.

 

 

 

Cover image for Comics for Change

Each volume in the Comics for Changeseries celebrates a community organizer who is making Oregon a better place for everyone: Alex Brown, Polo Catalani, Walter Cole, Dan Handelman, Cheryl Johnson, Paul Knauls, Ibrahim Mubarak, Genny Nelson, Kathleen Saadat, and Wilbur Slockish. The series is written and illustrated by a collection of talented Portland comic writers and illustrators.

 

Whenever I have to write something, whether it’s a research paper or an article, the first thing I do is keep track of my sources. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a really good fact, but not being able to remember where you found it!

There’s two good online resources, called citation makers, that I use to help me. The great thing is, you can use them to keep track of your resources while you do your research, but they also help you format the citations, and generate your list of sources, or bibliography.

Many students in Oregon use the OSLIS citation maker to generate citations. It allows you to chose between MLA and APA style guides. Be sure to read through all the instructions before you get started. You can’t save a list of citations here, so you’ll have to create your list all in one shot. 

Easybib is a free service that offers you a lot more, and is good for high school and college students. You can save multiple bibliographies here, use their note taking system, generate a bibliography in Word, and generate citations for up to 59 formats of material, in MLA, APA or Chicago/Terabian style manuals. Watch the training video to learn more, and please contact a librarian if you need more help.

Photo of Beverly Cleary from beverly cleary dot com

One of the most popular and honored authors of all time, Beverly Cleary has won the Newbery Medal for Dear Mr. Henshaw. Her books Ramona Quimby, Age 8 plus Ramona and Her Father have been named Newbery Honor Books.

Beverly Cleary was born in McMinnville, Oregon, and, until she was old enough to attend school, lived on a farm in Yamhill, a town so small it had no library. Her mother arranged with the State Library to have books sent to Yamhill and acted as librarian in a lodge room upstairs over a bank. There Mrs. Cleary learned to love books. When the family moved to Portland, where Mrs. Cleary attended grammar school and high school, she soon found herself in the low reading circle, an experience that has given her sympathy for the problems of struggling readers. (1)

Celebrate Oregon's beloved author and famous characters from her novels with the self-guided walking tour Walking With Ramona Description  & Map, published by The Library Foundation. The tour begins at the Hollywood Neighborhood Library, 4040 N.E. Tillamook Street, and continues through nearby neighborhoods, exploring the places where the events in her books "really happened." Visit the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden, a special gift to the City of Portland from Friends of Henry & Ramona. Cast in bronze by Portland artist Lee Hunt, the life-sized bronze statues of Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Henry's dog Ribsy welcome young and old to Grant Park.

Continue on through the park, scene of endless adventures: "He passed the playground where he heard the children's shouts and the clank and clang of the rings and swings. Henry didn't stop. He had work to do. He went to the edge of the park where there were no lights and turned on his flashlight. Sure enough, there in the grass under a bush was a night crawler. Henry nabbed it and put it into his jar."

Sculpture of Henry;  photo by Beverly Stafford, Multnomah County LibraryRamona sculpture - photo by Beverly Stafford Multnomah County LibraryRidby the dog sculpture - photo by Beverly Stafford, Multnomah County Library

We hope you enjoy this walking tour. Please be mindful of current residents as you pass by the homes where Beverly Cleary once lived.

Beverly Cleary now resides in California but her influence is always local for us.


Print: Walking With Ramona: 1. Description  2. Map    Copies available at the Hollywood Library

Sources:

  1. D.E.A.R. : Drop Everything and Read
  2. City of Portland: Grant Park Sculpture Garden. Dedicated on October 13, 1995.
  3. The publication Walking With Ramona was made possible by gifts to The Library Foundation.

 

Is writing by hand a lost art in this age of typing and tapping our words? For some of us who are old enough to have been taught proper handwriting in elementary school, but young enough to have been composing our written works on the computer for most of our writing lives, the state of our handwriting may have gone deeply downhill.  

Does it matter? The importance of handwriting is a subject that’s certainly open to a variety of opinions. Portland’s influential handwriting teachers and authors Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay (creators of the Getty-Dubay italic handwriting method and authors of Write Now: The Complete Program for Better Handwriting) say that poor handwriting is like  “mumbling on the page.” In The Art of the Handwritten Note: A Guide to Reclaiming Civilized Communication, author Margaret Shepherd says that a handwritten note “says to the reader, ‘You matter to me, I thought of you…’” There’s certainly something to be said about the grace and character of handwritten words. You can read about the history of handwriting in Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting, by Kitty Burns Florey, orThe Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting, by Philip Hensher.

Indeed, there are resources for those of us who would like to improve our handwriting. Better Handwriting by Rosemary Sassoon is a brief, basic guide with practical tips. The aforementioned guide by Getty and Dubay has exercises for clear, legible italic writing. While you’re writing by hand, you might also enjoy making some fancy letters! Draw your Own Alphabets: Thirty Fonts to Scribble, Sketch, and Make your Own by Tony Seddon, or Scripts: Elegant Lettering from Design's Golden Age by Steven Heller might be fun. If you get really motivated, you could take a class at the Portland Society for Calligraphy.

Handwriting, of course, is distinct to each of us. What does your handwriting say about you? If you’re interested in deciphering the meaning of the loops and slants, you might enjoy The Definitive Book of Handwriting Analysis: The Complete Guide to Interpreting Personalities, Detecting Forgeries, and Revealing Brain Activity through the Science of Graphology, by Marc J. Seifer. Or perhaps Your Handwriting Can Change your Life (by Vimala Rodgers)!

"Music is the poetry of the air." 
--Jean Paul Richter

If poetry lifts up your spirits, chances are really good that you are also uber fond of music. Legendary songwriters like Tupac and Bob Dylan are poets at heart. Writing a poem is already quite a task, but coming up with words that fit a particular melody is an entirely different journey.

Do you feel that there is an inner songwriter in your that is just aching to explode out of you? Our library collection can certainly aid you in creating musican content. Who knows? Maybe this is your songwriting year!

 

MLA Handbook coverDoes your writing assignment require that you follow a particular style of citation, such as MLA, APA, or Chicago? Or are you writing for a particular discipline, industry or audience? Perhaps you are wondering: why are there so many different forms of citations?!?

A style guide (also known as a stylebook or handbook) is a set of standards for writing and document organization. These are used for different kinds of writing - academic, journalism, business, and so on. Each style guide sets out guidelines for writing and documentation of research in the discipline in question, and (perhaps most famously) they tend to be chock-full of really specific rules for formatting and punctuating citations.

Where to turn for authoritative advice on writing style and citation? Try these guides for writing for specific disciplines:

 

Academic writing tends to be guided by either the MLA, Chicago (or Turabian), or APA styles.

The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers is often used for high school and undergraduate students, while the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing is geared toward graduate students, writers and researchers in the humanities.

The Chicago Manual of Style, created by the University of Chicago Press, is used in editing and publishing as well as academia. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers by Kate L. Turabian (sometimes you'll hear people refer to “Turabian style”) guides undergraduate and graduate student writing, but perhaps more for coursework than for publication. Turabian style is based on Chicago style, and almost identical to it.

The Concise Rules of APA Style is the go-to guide for students and researchers in the social and behavioral sciences, particularly above the undergraduate level and for published work.

 

There are also style guides for different professional writing disciplines.

The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law is the standard used by newspapers and the news industry in the United States.

The Gregg Reference Manual is the style guide for business, both for professionals and students.  

The Elements of Legal Style is a handy guide to legal writing, based somewhat on Strunk and White’s classic text on writing style (see below). Citation in legal writing is complicated, because different courts have different requirements for citation. Most of the various forms of legal citations are based on the Bluebook system, which is described in the book Legal Writing Citation in a Nutshell, by Larry L. Teply.

The Yahoo Style Guide for the Web is a great resource if you’re writing for the web.  

 

Not sure what you need, or perhaps your classes require that you use different citation formats… a guide that covers the different styles might be useful to you:

A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker contains extensive advice about grammar and academic writing style, in addition to citation guides for MLA, APA, and Chicago style.

Cite Right: A Quick Guide to Citation Styles--MLA, APA, Chicago, the Sciences, Professions, and More by Charles Lipson focuses on citations, including many different styles.

Last but definitely not least, try out the OWL - Online Writing Lab from Purdue University. It’s a free online resource that covers academic citations formats (MLA, APA, Chicago) as well as a wealth of information about general writing, grammar, research, job search writing, ESL, and more. In short, it’s rather amazing.

 

Above I mentioned Strunk and White's classic guide to writing, The Elements of Style,​ which is a guide to language usage and form (not citations). It continues to be a great resource, and is freely available online via Bartleby. For other guides to writing, grammar, and composition, see our blog post about improving your writing skills.


As always, please feel free to ask a librarian if you have questions - we’re always happy to help with research, citations, and writing projects!

book and e-bookYou’ve written something, and it’s time to publish! Self-publishing isn’t what it used to be - expensive, and often ignored by booksellers. Now you can bring your writing into physical form relatively cheaply, and it can be as glossy and perfect-bound as you like, or if you prefer, hand-stitched and hand-painted. With print-on-demand (POD) services,  you can have one beautiful book printed for a family member or friend, or you can print many to distribute to bookstores. It can also be an e-book - many authors are finding great success with self-published e-books. The avenues to self-publishing are diverse!

Because there are so many options, you’ll want to inform yourself as best you can. Things to consider include:

  • Do you want your book to have an ISBN?
  • How do you plan to market your book?
  • Who is the intended audience for your book?

Check out our booklist featuring books about self-publishing. Many of the books on this list discuss these questions, among others, that you should consider as you plan your self-publishing project.

What follows are just a few of the many resources available for you to choose from as you consider your self-publishing process.

For print-on-demand (POD) publishing, you can choose from a wide range of printers. Some popular POD printers include LuluBlurbCreateSpace (a division of Amazon.com), Lightning SourceIngram Spark (a division of Ingram, a major book distributor), and Smashwords (which publishes e-books only).

There some local resources that might be relevant to your project, too: 

  • Portland State University’s Ooligan Press is a teaching press staffed by students pursuing master’s degrees in the Department of English at Portland State University (PSU). PSU is also the home of Odin Ink, a print-on-demand publisher.
  • Powell’s Books has print-on-demand self-publishing technology in the form of its Espresso Book Machine.
  • Portland’s Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) is a membership organization with resources and workshops related to printing and book-making. They also have certificate programs in creative nonfiction/fiction, poetry, and comics/graphic novels.

If you’re interested in making contact with a local publisher or association, you might find the following organizations useful:

For advice and news, the Alliance of Independent Authors has an advice blog about self-publishing.

Are you interested in having your e-book available in the library? OverDrive is the service that many libraries, including Multnomah County Library, use to provide access to e-books. Like publishing houses, self-publishers must fill out a Publisher Application found on OverDrive's Content Reserve site. OverDrive has also created a helpful Intro to Digital Distribution pdf for new authors and publishers. OverDrive's public contact info can be found here. If your e-book is added into the OverDrive catalog, you can then suggest that we purchase it.

In your creative work, you may find yourself wondering about copyright law and how it applies to you. We have quite a few books that provide guidance on these subjects - two of these are The Copyright Handbook: What Every Writer Needs to Know by Stephen Fishman and Fair Use, Free Use, and Use by Permission: How to Handle Copyrights in All Media, by Lee Wilson. You’ll find quite a few others under the subject heading Copyright -- United States -- Popular Works.

Have fun, enjoy the process, and feel empowered to get your work into print! As always, please let us know if we can help direct you to books or other resources to help with your project. 

 

 

Whether you’re just beginning to work on expressing yourself in writing, Ernest Hemingway writingor have been working at it for a while, there is always room to improve your writing skills. From the basics of grammar and punctuation to the finer points of style and persuasive rhetoric, there’s a lot to learn. Practice helps, of course, and all writers continue learning as they go!

We have many books and other resources (including DVDs!) about developing those writing skills. A selection of resources for beginning and intermediate writers is available here as a booklist, but you might also browse the following subject headings:

There are also some great resources online, many of which are developed by college writing centers to help undergraduate students (and anyone else!) finesse their writing. Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) is a favorite, and UT Austin’s Undergraduate Writing Center and Colorado State’s Writing@CSU pages are also quite helpful. William Strunk and E.B. White’s classic guide to writing, The Elements of Style, is also freely available online.

Please feel free to stop by any library location or contact us if you have a question about writing, or would like some help finding just the right writing guide or other resources for you!

When faced with a blank page, how do you begin a new writing project? Sometimes just getting the pen moving or keyboard clicking feels like the toughest aspect of creative writing.

Writing prompts or exercises can help you create an entry point into your work, provide a little momentum, and release the pressure of the scary expanse of white page. Whether you’d like to write a novel, short stories, poetry, memoir or other nonfiction, you have to start somewhere.
 
There are some great books that offer advice about the craft of writing, advice about the writing life, as well as offering prompts to get you started. A few web resources also offer writing prompts, including Poets & Writers magazine and LitBridge.
 
Of course, writers and other artists find inspiration in all sorts of places. Perhaps a visit to browse the shelves at your favorite library will turn your eye to something that makes you want to write!

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