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LitWatch July: Rockstars, Love Stories, and Open Mics

Oregon's literary scene sails through the heat with open mics, workshops, and virtual author readings.


We all have records that we’ve fallen in love with at the very first listen of the very first song. Joni Mitchell’s Blue, which recently celebrated 50 years since its release on June 22, 1971, is one of mine. Whether you’re a fan of Joni’s high-pitched crooning, a pop music fanatic, a lover of Björk, or a metalhead at heart, odds are that American music critic Jessica Hopper has reviewed or chatted with your musician of choice.

Jessica Hopper by David Sampson

At only 44, Chicago-based author and music critic Jessica Hopper has interviewed and written about countless infamous and beloved musicians. Having started writing at the age of 15 in response to a Babes in Toyland review she disagreed with, Hopper has been a writer for Spin Magazine and The Guardian as well as being senior editor for Pitchfork. Author of The Girls’ Guide to Rocking: How to Start a Band, Book Gigs, and Get Rolling to Rock Stardom and Night Moves, Hopper has been described as “influential” by The New York Times and “one of the most distinctive voices in the world of music criticism” by Paste Magazine’s Mack Hayden.

It’s no surprise that Hopper is both fearless in her critique of rockstars and prolific in her published reviews, interviews, essays, and oral histories. Her upcoming nonfiction collection, The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic (MCD x FSG), is a stirring compilation documenting the last 20 years of popular American music, from the rebellion of Riot Grrrl and the death of Michael Jackson to the mythologies and fan theories surrounding Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, and the legacy of Nirvana. Striving to uproot the audience from comfortable opinions on music and pop culture, Hopper encourages readers to reexamine the value of art and sound through her critical feminist lens. 

Presented by Powell’s Books on Wednesday, July 14th, Hopper will be in conversation with Ann Friedman, co-host of the Call Your Girlfriend podcast and co-author of Big Friendship, discussing her recorded histories and interviews of prominent bands including Sleater-Kinney and female editors of 1970s Rolling Stone. Chronicling contemporary female artists including Fiona Apple, M.I.A., Miley Cyrus, and Lana Del Rey, Hopper argues that it is necessary for “the continual presence of radicalized women … being encouraged and given reasons to stay, rather than diminished by the music that glues our communities together.” 

Week 1: July 1-7

Michelle Ruiz Keil in Conversation With Laini Taylor
Presented by Powell’s Books
Tuesday, July 6
5 pm via ZOOM

Michelle Ruiz Keil’s newest book, Summer in the City of Roses, is a youth-oriented coming-of-age tale set in Portland during the early 1990s. Taking inspiration from the Brothers Grimm fairytale Brother and Sister and the Greek myth of Iphigenia, this book follows the journey of two teenagers trying to reunite after being split apart by their father. Keil will be in conversation with author Laini Taylor, writer of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy.


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Week 2: July 8-14

Andrea Hollander courtesy of Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic Facebook Event

Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic Featuring Andrea Hollander
Presented by Christopher Luna, Morgan Paige, Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic
Thursday, July 8
7 pm via ZOOM
$5 suggested donation

Join Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic as it features American Book Fest poetry finalist and Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize winner Andrea Hollander. Hollander was a writer in residence at Lyon College for 22 years, has been featured in The New York Times Magazine, and has two Pushcart Prizes in poetry and literary nonfiction. To read as part of the open mic section of the evening and register for the event, email Christopher Luna at with “reading” or “just listening.”

Six Love Stories in Six Weeks
Presented by Literary Arts
July 8-August 12
6-8 pm via ZOOM

Join author and instructor Natalie Serber as she hosts the upcoming Summer of Love writing class that will feature one story each week for a six-week-long session. Participants will dive into the great love stories and take part in generative prompts culminating in six flash-fiction pieces to share with the virtual class. For those who qualify for the Literary Arts Access program, 60 percent of the course tuition may be covered.

Dana Spiotta courtesy of Annie Blooms Books

Livestream Reading: Dana Spiotta
Presented by Annie Blooms Books
Monday, July 12
6-7 pm via ZOOM

Author of Stone Arabia and Eat the Document, Dana Spiotta will read from her new novel, Wayward, joined by Christine Schutt, author of Pure Hollywood. A charming and captivating story about mother-daughter relationships, midlife, and mortality, Wayward chronicles the story of a woman who leaves her suburban life for a decrepit property in Syracuse as America is on the brink of the 2016 election. 


All Classical Radio James Depreist

Livestream Reading: Kelly Williams Brown
Presented by Annie Blooms Books
Tuesday, July 13
7-8 pm via ZOOM

Author of Adulting, Kelly Williams Brown, will read from her new book Easy Crafts for the Insane: A Mostly Funny Memoir of Mental Illness and Making Things, joined by Amy Dresner, journalist, comedian, and author of My Fair Junkie. Brown’s book is a tale about the healing power of accessible crafting and the ways that small art projects can be remarkable coping mechanisms for those dealing with depression, imposter syndrome, and difficult days.

Jessica Hopper in Conversation With Ann Friedman
Presented by Powell’s Books
Wednesday, July 14
5 pm via ZOOM

Music critic Jessica Hopper will read from her collection The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic and speak with co-host of the Call Your Girlfriend podcast, Ann Friedman. Hopper has recorded the histories and interviews of prominent bands such as Sleater-Kinney and female editors of 1970s Rolling Stone. Her music reviews have included Fiona Apple, M.I.A., Miley Cyrus, and Lana Del Rey, writing that “the continual presence of radicalized women” is necessary within our current society.

Week 3: July 15-21

Presented by Literary Arts
Thursday, July 15
7-9 pm
Held Virtually
Free; register in advance

If you’re in the mood for a little summer competition or want to share your slam poetry with others, register for July’s Slamlandia. Presented by Literary Arts, this recurring monthly open mic and slam encourages “poets new and old” to join in and present their work in a safe and welcoming space. For questions or registration information for this virtual event, email


All Classical Radio James Depreist

Carrot Quinn in Conversation With Torrey Peters
Presented by Powell’s Books
Wednesday, July 21
5 pm via ZOOM

Torrey Peters joins author Carrot Quinn in conversation about her new book The Sunset Route. A memoir about a difficult childhood saturated in poverty and homelessness with “a mother who believed herself to be the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary,” The Sunset Route chronicles Quinn’s travels through the United States in her search for healing and self-discovery.

Emilly Prado: Funeral for Flaca
Presented by Literary Arts
Friday, July 16
6 pm via ZOOM

Writer and deejay Emily Prado will be in conversation with editorial photographer Celeste Noche about her new book Funeral for Flaca. A memoir about growing up Chicana in the Bay Area, surviving sexual assault, and her experience with bipolar disorder, Funeral for Flaca draws on personal memories in chronological form to create a layered experience for the reader. Funeral for Flaca is available beginning July 1 from Future Tense Books.

Week 4: July 22-31

Karolina Waclawiak’s and Life Events, courtesy of the author’s website

Karolina Waclawiak in Conversation With Vanessa Veselka
Presented by Powell’s Books
Wednesday, July 28
5 pm via ZOOM
Free Event

Winner of EN/Robert W. Bingham Prize and author of The Great Offshore Grounds, Vanessa Veselka will join Buzzfeed News Executive Director Karolina Waclawiak in conversation about her forthcoming novel Life Events. A stirring novel about mortality and the complexity of the human condition, the story follows its 37-year-old protagonist Evelyn as she drives the American Southwest finding love, loss, loneliness, and meaning. 


All Classical Radio James Depreist

Submit your literary events, workshops, readings, and book releases to the Oregon ArtsWatch LitWatch Monthly calendar. Send your event information, press materials, and book review inquiries to Amy Leona Havin at

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Amy Leona Havin is a poet, essayist, and arts journalist based in Portland, Oregon. She writes about language arts, dance, and film for Oregon ArtsWatch and is a staff writer with The Oregonian/OregonLive. Her work has been published in San Diego Poetry Annual, HereIn Arts Journal, Humana Obscura, The Chronicle, and others. She has been an artist-in-residence at Disjecta Contemporary Art Center, Archipelago Gallery, and Art/Lab, and was shortlisted for the Bridport International Creative Writing Prize in poetry. Havin holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cornish College of the Arts and is the Artistic Director of Portland-based dance performance company, The Holding Project.


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