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Literary Arts News

Literary Arts Announces Virtual Fall Season for 2020

Literary Arts has made the decision that we will not host any in-person events or classes through the end of 2020. Our youth programming will be designed in tandem with the schools we serve. 

In the video below, our Executive Director, Andrew Proctor, outlines how this decision effects the programs you love.

When we closed the office and began working from home in March, Literary Arts quickly adjusted our programming, not knowing how long these safety measures would be in place. We moved our writing classes and seminars online, created an emergency fund for writers, pivoted to distance learning for our work in high schools, and created an additional podcast Long Distance. We continue to make adjustments as more information about the virus and recommended safety guidelines become available; however, we now feel it’s important to shift our strategy from being reactive to being proactive. With that in mind, Literary Arts has made the decision that we will not host any in-person events or classes through the end of 2020. Our youth programming will be designed in tandem with the schools we serve. 

This decision does not mean that any of our programs will stop serving you. We are determined to be here for the community in this moment because we believe passionately that books, reading, storytelling and literature in all forms play a vital role, always, but especially right now, as sources of comfort and solace, of information and connection, and important ways we process and understand the world around us.  

So, what does this mean for the programs you love?


In April we announced our intention was to reschedule our lectures first, and then when that was not possible we would host them online. We re-scheduled the last lecture of the 2019-20 series, with Colson Whitehead for May of 2021.  Since then, circumstances have shifted many times and Colson Whitehead will not be traveling to Portland this season. We feel this is too long to wait to hear from him, especially given the relevance of his work to the ongoing fight for racial justice.

Rather than push his event even further out, we have scheduled Colson Whitehead for this fall for a virtual event premiering on September 24, 2020.

I want to reassure you that this presentation will be a high-quality production, and will deliver a unique evening with one of our greatest writers at work today. This event will still be exclusive to Portland Arts & Lectures subscribers to the 2019-20 season, which is sold out.

For the opening night of the 2020-21 season of Portland Arts & Lectures, an evening with Helen Macdonald, we will be presenting a virtual event on October 13, 2020 . 

Given that Macdonald lives in England, and the uncertain timing of when we can gather again in the Schnitzer Concert Hall, there was not a reasonable way to reschedule. Again, this event will be highly produced and re-imagined to give our subscribers a special and exclusive evening.

Details about how to access these digital presentations will be sent via email to subscribers.

Our second event of the PA&L season, an evening with Yaa Gyasi has been re-scheduled to and in-person event on May 18, 2021.

Since Gyasi lives here in the US we were able to reschedule her with more certainty than for Helen Macdonald.

We will be including our youth in all our planning for Portland Arts & Lectures. If an author is unable to travel to Portland, they will meet with students virtually, and students will have free access to events, and copies of visiting authors books.

Currently, there are no planned changes to the remaining Portland Arts & Lectures events of the 2020/21 season,  however we are closely following public health guidelines and will let our subscribers know if there will be any update. Our Students the Schnitz program and author visits will adapt to the virtual model.

The only way to attend the Helen Macdonald, Yaa Gyasi, and other Portland Arts & Lectures events is to subscribe to the series. A limited number of subscriptions for the 2020–21 season still remain.

Thank you to the more than 2,400 people who have already subscribed for your patience and understanding as we adapt to a challenging situation. Your subscriptions have allowed us to continue our work.

Typically, Portland Arts & Lectures season tickets are non-refundable; however, we understand that these are unique and challenging times for all of us. While we certainly hope you stay with us during these times of great experimentation, we also understand if your circumstances have changed due to the current health crisis. We will be honoring refund requests for the 2020–21 season. Click here for more information.


Our next significant change this fall is the Portland Book Festival, presented by Bank of America. This year, the Portland Book Festival will also be moving to an entirely digital event, with festival events live streamed and even radio broadcast directly to you. 

It will occur, not on a single day, but from November 5 to 21 – and it will be free to all.  While we will miss the bustle and energy on the Park Blocks, there are some truly exciting opportunities in presenting the festival this way. We are planning for most events to not be scheduled simultaneously, and many will be available for replay, which means you will not have to choose between events;  if you want, you can attend all of them on your own schedule. The shift to digital also means that we can be more inclusive of more people both here in Portland, and from around the whole region and country—and world. Plus, it won’t matter if it rains, and no one will have to stand in line!

Just as in the in-person event, the festival will bring some of your favorite best-selling authors alongside exciting new voices. We are working on building the lineup for the virtual festival and plan to announce more details later this fall. Sign up for our newsletter to be the first to hear which authors will be a part of the 2020 event.


Since April our Delve Readers Seminars and creative writing classes have been held online via Zoom. 

Delve Readers Seminars dive deep into great works of classic and contemporary literature with a group of dedicated readers, led by an experienced guide. And we offer writing classes for writers at all levels looking to develop as artists and join a community of writers who are serious about their craft.

Students and teachers tell us that the conversations that took place online were the same quality as in-person classes, and that the online format, we saw participants from all over the county, and even a few from outside the US, enriching the conversations with their unique perspectives.

So through the end of the year our Delve Readers Seminars, and our creative writing classes and our @Literary Arts events, including Incite, Slamlandia, and One Page Wednesday, will continue online.

We are also finding new ways to support Oregon writers during this challenging time.

By the end of August, through our Booth Emergency Fund for Writers, we will have awarded $150,000 to writers to support them through the pandemic’s financial challenges. We prioritized funding to writers who identified as Black, Indigenous, or people of color, many of whom are the hardest hit by the pandemic and its consequences.

And thanks to our partners at OPB Radio we were able to broadcast a re-imagined Oregon Book Award ceremony on June 22, giving this event the largest state-wide audience it has ever had, and crucial exposure for all our finalists and winners. 

The 2021 Oregon Book Awards & Fellowships will be given next year, just as they have been for the last 33 years.  We will begin accepting digital submissions in August. More information will be arriving in your inboxes soon.


The next generation are an essential part of our mission and we will continue to serve them this fall as well. Equity and trauma-informed lenses are integral pillars in our redesigned programming for youth.

In March, we successfully pivoted to a distance-learning model for our Writers in the Schools (WITS) residences, favoring pre-recorded video lessons with closed captions and handouts. This allowed students to access lessons when they were able, and move at their own pace.

We also introduced our first online “live” workshops for teens via Zoom.  In addition to students in Oregon, we served students in many Western states and Texas. We will continue to offer online workshops for the rest of the year.

For fall 2020 we have designed an adaptable WITS model, centered in equitable access, for our classroom residences that will work whether schools are in-person or students are distance learning. Students the Schnitz, author visits, and our slam programming including Verselandia! and East Side Slam! will similarly remain adaptable and responsive.

Our College Essay Mentoring Project went virtual for the first time this spring, too, with great success. We will continue with the virtual model for fall, serving public high schools and are excited to have greater capacity to serve. We invite you to volunteer for this rewarding program, which pairs adults with high school students for sessions designed to offer encouragement and support with college and scholarship essay writing.  

Finally, we also invite you all to check out and be inspired by the growing resources on our YouTube channel and Youth Programs blog which includes #Virtualandia and WITS lessons, excerpts from student work, and a mailing list to stay informed with our Youth Programs.


This is an outline of our plans for this fall and our decision to not hold any in-person events through the end of the calendar year.  We will let you know about our plans for the first part of  2021 later this year. Please know we are as eager as you are to throw back open our doors when it is safe to do so and welcome you into our space downtown, to the concert hall, and other venues across the state. We cannot wait to see you again.


Strong and early generosity from individual supporters, foundations, and the loyalty of many in the corporate sector have put us in a position of strength and given us the gift of time to adapt. We will need your continued support to sustain us through the crisis, and we would ask all of you to consider increasing your donation, if you are able, through this difficult period. If all our donors double their gift from last year—whether you gave $10, $100, $1,000 or more—Literary Arts will continue to thrive.

To help us through this strange and turbulent time and celebrate the work of Literary Arts , please plan to join us for our virtual fundraiser, Bookmark: A Benefit for Literary Arts on Thursday, October 1, 2020.  We will showcase this important work and celebrate the community of readers, writers and youth. 

Thank you.  Take good care, stay safe, keep reading and writing, and find your story here.


Please reach out to us at la@literary-arts.org, or join our Executive Director, Andrew Proctor in a Community Town Hall Zoom Meeting on Tuesday, August 11 at 4 pm PST. Click here to sign up.

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