2020 award: Leanne Grabel
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2019 award: Barbara LaMorticella
Click here






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
click here
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 Winter/Spring 2022

Reading Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing
Led by Tricia Snell
Six Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. PST
Jan. 22, 29, Feb. 5, 12, 19, 26, 2022
via Zoom
$75, scholarships available
Limited to 16 participants

“While his father sulked and his mother shouted, … [Sparrow] swayed at his desk, singing and singing again this exhilarating music in front of him, his audition piece for the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Every hair on his head seemed to flutter like wings. The score his father had given him to learn was Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor, arranged for the Chinese two-stringed violin, the erhu." --from Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien

What happens when listening to Bach or reading a novel become political crimes worthy of death? Madeleine Thien answers this terrible question in her tender, exquisitely researched and imagined, polyphonic, Giller-Prize-winning, Booker-shortlisted, Governor-General-Award-winning, NYT Critics’ Top Book of 2016 novel, Do Not Say We Have Nothing.

Thien tells her story through the voices of three generations of two intertwined families who lived through China’s 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

While the words “well researched,” above, could imply dry and difficult, this book is written in simple, intimate prose. And while “polyphonic” could imply impenetrable, each of the voices in the novel is as clear and true as a row of piano notes. In this reading group we’ll discuss everything from language to structure to content, AND we’ll listen to the music that is woven throughout the book (especially Glenn Gould’s recordings of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, a favourite of one of the main characters, Sparrow). Our goal will be to discover, engage, and delight in all that the book offers.

Canadian writer Madeleine Thien is a bold and innovative writer of five works of fiction. She was born in 1974, the same year her parents immigrated to Vancouver, B.C. from Malaysia. She studied dance before deciding writing was the main thing. She has lived, written, and taught all over the world (she likes to write in cafés for weeks on end), and she is a prolific essay-writer and critic fascinated by music, human rights, feminism and female beauty, privacy, race, and the relationship between arts and politics. We may touch on many of these subjects!

I’m a writer (bio below) and a classically-trained flutist (who did my conservatory training, incidentally, in the same conservatory that Glenn Gould did). I am not a scholar of Chinese history nor of Chinese literature, nor an expert in the stories of Chinese-Canadian immigrants. I chose this novel because I love Thien’s writing style, storytelling, innovation, and her inclusion of music, and because, in our times, this particular story is one I think we all should know.

Required text: Do Not Say We Have Nothing, novel by Madeleine Thien, (2016, published by Vintage Canada, a division of Random House)

Tricia Snell is a Canadian-American writer and flutist. She is currently working on a novel. Recently her story "Out to the Horses" was published in Room Magazine, a Canadian quarterly literary journal that has been featuring the work of women and genderqueer writers and artists since 1975; the story was also longlisted for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's (CBC's) 2019 Short Story Prize. Her writing has also been published in Every Day Fiction, Art Papers, Oregon Humanities, The Oregonian, and The Grove Review, and has been read by actor Barbara Rappaport on the National Public Radio (NPR) show, The Sound of Writing, a PEN Syndicated Fiction project. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing/Fiction (George Mason University) and an ARCT flute performance degree (Toronto Royal Conservatory of Music). Tricia's past roles include Executive Director for two arts nonprofits (Caldera and the Alliance of Artists’ Communities). She lives in Nova Scotia, Canada.


Small, Potent Packages: Reading Short Stories by Women Writers
led by Anndee Hochman
Six Sundays, 11 a.m. -1 p.m. PST, Feb. 20, 27, March 6, 13, 20, 27, 2022
via Zoom
$75, scholarships available
Limited to 16 participants

“In a rough way the short story writer is to the novelist as a cabinetmaker is to a house carpenter.” —Annie Proulx, author of The Shipping News and other books

In this study group, we will poke into the “cabinets” of six exuberantly different writers, exploring their contents, wondering about their meanings and examining how they are made.

Here’s our eclectic reading list:

“Sweat,” by Zora Neale Hurston
“Goodbye and Good Luck,” by Grace Paley
“In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried,” by Amy Hempel
“The Shawl,” by Louise Erdrich
“The Thing Around Your Neck,” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“Night of the FEMA Trailers,” by Vivian Demuth

These stories—published between 1926 and 2009—come from a range of cultures, vantage points and storytelling traditions. We’ll examine and respond to all of that, as well as to each story’s language, rhythm, themes, structure, point of view, references to real events and other texts. We’ll consider parallels and differences in female authorship. We’ll ask: What do we expect from a short story? And what happens when writers flout those expectations.

Participants will receive audio files of each story, read by the instructor; during class, we’ll revisit key portions aloud—tuning our ears to dialogue, cadence, silences and echoes—as we engage in discussion. In the tradition of Soapstone study groups, our conversations will welcome participants’ thoughts, questions, wild ideas, thoughtful challenges and respectful dissents as we learn from and with each other.

The required text will be Pow Wow: Charting the Fault Lines in the American Experience, which includes “Sweat,” “Goodbye and Good Luck” and “Night of the FEMA Trailers.” The other three stories are either available online or will be sent to participants in pdf form, along with some poems and other material.

Anndee Hochman is a journalist, essayist, storyteller and teaching artist who lived in Portland for ten years and is now based in Philadelphia. For more than 20 years, she has facilitated community-based literature discussions through People & Stories/Gente y Cuentos. She also guides writers of all ages and experience levels in crafting poetry, memoir and creative nonfiction. Her books include Everyday Acts & Small Subversions: Women Reinventing Family, Community and Home (The Eighth Mountain Press) and Anatomies: A Novella and Stories (Picador USA). She’s currently at work on a young adult novel titled My Plural Is People.


Reading Deborah Levy’s memoir trilogy: Things I Don’t Want to Know, The Cost of Living, and Real Estate
Led by Natalie Serber
Six Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. PST, April 2, 9, 23, 30, May 7, 14 , 2022 
via Zoom 
$75, scholarships available
Limited to 16 participants

When happiness is happening it feels as if nothing else happened before it, it is a sensation that happens only in the present tense.”

“It is hard to write and be open and let things in when life is tough, but to keep everything out means there is nothing to work with.”

“I guessed that no woman around that table had ruthlessly pursued her own dreams and desires at the expense of everyone else. In fact I knew we felt guilty every time we absented ourselves from the wishes and desires of those who depend on us for their well-being and for cashflow.”

In this study group, we will explore the ‘living autobiographies’ of Deborah Levy. Through reading about Levy’s childhood in Apartheid South Africa, enduring with her the bitter end of her marriage and the death of her mother, celebrating with her the launch of her daughters into their own adult lives, and the growth of a keen-eyed thinker and writer, this trilogy opens a door to a deep dialog with the self. What have we internalized from the world, taken on as a burden that has inhibited our growth? What gem-hard truth has pushed us forward toward our dreams and a more satisfying. life? Because it is both isn’t it? If the point of life is “to think and feel and live and love more freely” does that not require curiosity and tenderness toward our past selves, as well as thoughtful examination of our current desires, and making steps toward the future we hope for?

Combining personal history, philosophy and gender politics, Levy explores what it takes to make a woman a major character in her own life rather than a minor character in world arranged to take advantage. 

It is my goal that in our discussions not only will we touch upon Levy’s creation of an amazing narrator who maintains a conversation between her past and present self, but that we will also begin a conversation with our many layered selves. The trilogy is incisive, funny, moving and a bit like having a middle of the night conversation with your best friend.

In the tradition of Soapstone study groups, our conversations will welcome participants’ thoughts, questions, wild ideas, thoughtful challenges and respectful dissents as we learn from and with each other. 
The required texts will be:

Things I Don’t Want to Know, Deborah Levy. 2014 Bloomsbury (111 pages)
The Cost of Living, Deborah Levy. 2018 Bloomsbury (133 pages)
Real Estate, Deborah Levy. 2021 Bloomsbury (208 pages)

Deborah Levy writes fiction, plays, and poetry. Her work has been staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company, broadcast on the BBC, and widely translated. The author of highly praised novels, including The Man Who Saw Everything (longlisted for the Booker Prize), Hot Milk and Swimming Home (both Man Booker Prize finalists), The Unloved, and Billy and Girl, the acclaimed story collection Black Vodka, and two parts of her working autobiography, Things I Don't Want to Know and The Cost of Living, she lives in London. Levy is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Literature.

Natalie Serber writes fiction and memoir. She is the author of three books, Shout Her Lovely Name, a New York Times Notable Book of 2012, and a summer reading selection from O, the Oprah Magazine. Community Chest, a memoir about her breast cancer experience, and her novel-in-stories, Must Be Nice, currently shopping for a home. Her fiction has appeared in One Story Magazine, Zyzzyva Magazine, The Bellingham Review, and others.  Essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Rumpus, Salon, andothers.Natalie also writes a popular newsletter, which you can find on her website  She lives in Portland with her husband and Stanley, a tiny dog with a winning smile!


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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.