2020 award: Leanne Grabel
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2019 award: Barbara LaMorticella
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To be notified about these programs and those of many other literary organizations, sign up for our bi-weekly community email announcements If you only want to hear about the study groups, sign up here.







Soapstone Bread and Roses Award given to

One Woman, One Vote & Maureen Michelson

International Women’s Day, March 8, 2021
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for full details.

Feature Story in Oregon ArtsWatch:
Maureen R. Michelson: publishing as an act of resistance


To register for a study group send an email to, and once you receive a reply saying there is room in the group, we'll ask for a check made out to Soapstone, 622 SE 29th Avenue, Portland, OR 97214. People of all genders and identities are welcome.

Study Groups Fall 2021

Reading Diane di Prima’s LOBA, led by Lauren Mallett
Four Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. PST
September 18 through October 9 via Zoom
$50, scholarships available
Limited to 16 participants

In an interview with Jacket magazine, Diane di Prima said, “I wanted everything—very earnestly and totally—I wanted to have every experience I could have, I wanted everything that was possible to a person in a female body.… So my feeling was, ‘Well’—as I had many times had the feeling—‘Well, nobody’s done it quite this way before but fuck it, that’s what I’m doing, I’m going to risk it.’”

Di Prima (1934-2020) was a poet of the Beat movement and the author of more than 40 books. She was born in Brooklyn and grew up on the East Coast. As an adult she ventured out west and settled in California. Di Prima taught at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and Amiri Baraka was one of her closest collaborators.

Di Prima’s LOBA is the most ambitious of her writing projects. Adrienne Rich described LOBA as “An epic act of language, a great geography of the female imagination.” This four-part study group will focus primarily on LOBA’s form, content, and craft. We’ll discuss the risks di Prima takes, and what she achieves as a result. The facilitator, poet and long-time LOBA fangirl Lauren Mallett, will provide brief excerpts from di Prima’s Memoirs of a Beatnik and Recollections of My Life as a Woman to complement our discussion of LOBA. On our final Saturday together, we will also consider di Prima’s legacy in contemporary poetics.

Our required text is the expanded edition of LOBA by Diane di Prima (blue cover, Penguin Books, 1998). Interest in the divine feminine, second-wave feminism, and literary myth-making is far more important to our conversation than poetry experience or vocabulary.

Lauren Mallett (she/her/hers) is a poet, teacher, doula, and mushroom forager. She has lived and studied in Guanajuato and Xalapa, Mexico. Lauren taught dual-language immersion fifth grade in Richmond, California. She earned her MFA and was the Assistant Director of Creative Writing at Purdue University. Her poetry appears or is forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, Salamander, Passages North, Fugue, Tupelo Quarterly, and other journals. Lauren is a 2016, 2019, and 2020 Pushcart Prize nominee. She has taught for Purdue University, the Lafayette Writers' Studio, and the Reynolds Young Writers Workshop. She lives on Oregon's north coast, on the traditional homelands of the Clatsop people.


Reading Alison Bechdel & Roz Chast, led by Leanne Grabel
Six Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. PST
October 16, 23, 30, November 6, 13, 20 via Zoom
$75, scholarships available
Limited to 16 participants

Alison Bechdel and Roz Chast are masters of the graphic memoir--a genre that I have fallen completely in love with. Their two beautifully written and illustrated books are, above all else, courageous--without boundaries. They reveal the deepest, darkest, highest, brightest, most difficult, most honest, most human of moments. Bechdel's and Chast's choice and precision of detail reveal naked, honest humanity--and the humanity of humanity.   

Can a memoirist write without boundaries? Is there such a thing as too much information (TMI)? I mean, should we know that Chast's elderly mother shit all over herself and the bathroom? Is it too much? But then again, how can a writer reveal the depths and edges of life if boundaries block the entrances and exits? Does humor expand the boundaries? Do illustrations? Do they make the secrets more allowable? Do they make it all easier to bare, to bear and digest?

Bechdel published the graphic memoir Fun Home, a coming-of-age story that detailed her relationship with her father, a closeted gay man, suspected pedophile, and high school English teacher with an obsessive eye for decorative detail (which she obviously inherited). The memoir is also the story of Bechdel's own emerging lesbian consciousness. Fun Home won the Eisner—the most-prestigious award in the comics industry—for best reality-based work. In October 2013 Fun Home was brought to the stage. In 2014 it was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for drama. The musical made its Broadway debut in April 2015, and it went on to garner a dozen Tony award nominations, winning for best musical, best actor, best direction, best book, and best score.

Chast's cartoons and covers have appeared continuously in The New Yorker since 1978. She has published several cartoon collections and has written and illustrated several children’s books. Her astonishingly honest, courageous, heartbreaking and hilarious graphic memoir chronicling her parents’ final years Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the inaugural Kirkus Prize, and was short-listed for a National Book Award in 2014. The editor of The New Yorker David Remnick has called her “the magazine’s only certifiable genius.”

Required texts: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel; Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

Leanne Grabel is a writer, illustrator, performer & retired special education teacher. In love with mixing genres, Grabel has written & produced numerous spoken-word multi-media shows, including “The Lighter Side of Chronic Depression”; and “Anger: The Musical.” Her poetry books include Lonesome & Very Quarrelsome Heroes; Short Poems by a Short Person; Badgirls (a collection of flash non-fiction & a theater piece); & Gold Shoes, a collection of graphic prose poems. Grabel's memoir TAINTED ILLUSTRATED, a graphic stretched memoir, was serialized in THE OPIATE from 2018-2020. She wrote a monthly illustrated column for Another Chicago Magazine in 2020, responding to the political and social scene in America. Grabel just completed illustrating a novel for filmmaker/writer Penny Allen. Grabel is the 2020 recipient of the Soapstone Bread and Roses Award for longtime contributions to women's literature in the Pacific Northwest. Shel is currently working on a one-woman multi-media show about AGING.


Reading Ellen Bass and Dorianne Laux, led by Allisa Cherry and Laura Moulton
Six Sundday Mornings, 10:00 to 12
November 7 through December 12 
via Zoom 
$75, scholarships are available
In an interview for Poets and Writers, Ellen Bass said, “Sometimes when I don’t have a way to enter a poem, I’ll read other poets, and then all of a sudden I’ll think, ‘I have something to say about that’." It is true that every poet is part of a chorus of all poets. Across distance, time, experience, poems exist in conversation with each other. In this spirit, we’ll read and consider the work of Dorianne Laux and Ellen Bass, friends, whose long careers have often overlapped in publications and academic settings.

Ellen Bass has published four volumes of poetry; her poems appear frequently in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, and many other journals. In 1973 she co-edited the first major anthology of women’s poetry, No More Masks!  After taking more than a decade off from writing poetry in the nineties while working to support survivors of sexual abuse and assault, Bass reconnected with Dorianne Laux. Laux has said, “Ellen Bass sees into the life of things with a quiet power, creating poetry that goes straight to the heart.”

Dorianne Laux is the author of eight poetry collections, the most recent, Only As the Day is Long: New and Selected Poems, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. What We Carry was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Kwame Dawes has said of her work, that she “…somehow manages to sift through the ordinary, quotidian, and squalid realities of our world, to produce moments of grace and shimmering beauty, and empathetic illumination.”

Each week we will choose poems that speak to one another in either form or theme and yield rich topics for discussion. We’ll all share our reactions, questions and insights in a relaxed conversation via zoom.

Required texts: The Human Line byEllen Bass and Only As the Day is Long by Dorianne Laux

Allisa Cherry was born and raised in the rural southwest of the United States and attended Brigham Young University, where she met Laura Moulton and bonded over poetry and the dawning of their shared disenchantment with patriarchal religions. She has since relocated to Portland, OR where she works as a writing tutor and small-scale urban farmer and has recently completed an MFA in poetry at Pacific University. Her work has received Pushcart Prize nominations from San Pedro River Review and High Desert Journal, and is forthcoming at SWWIM and in Tar River Poetry.

Laura Moulton grew up in rural Idaho and has lived in Portland since 1998. She leads writing workshops at the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College and for Literary Arts’ Writers in the Schools program. She earned an MFA from Eastern Washington University. She is the founder of Street Books, a bicycle-powered mobile library serving people who live outside and at the margins. Her book about this project, Loaners: The Making of a Street Library will be released in October with Perfect Day Publishing.


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To be notified about these programs and those of many other literary organizations, sign up for our bi-weekly community email announcements. They contain 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.