LitWatch Monthly: A Bright and Merry December

The December literary scene is shining bright this holiday season with workshops, intensives, open mics, and more

December. Frost cracking
Beneath my steps, my breath
Before me, then gone,
As I walked toward
Her house, the one whose
Porchlight burned yellow
Night and day, in any weather.

December is now upon us and with the coming winter my thoughts turn to the poem above titled Oranges. Written by Mexican-American poet and young adult author Gary Soto, Oranges is a gentle and sincere story of a young boy who walks to the home of a girl he admires on a cold and bittersweet December day. The imagery of the poem is crisp and frosted, broken only by the warmth and color of the illuminated porchlight and the oranges he describes carrying in each pocket.

In the Portland literary arts world, the ability for online platform hosting has proven to be our beacon of light on a cold day.  Though many workshops, readings, and festivals throughout this year have been canceled or postponed due to Covid-19 protocols, it feels as though just as many have figured out a new way to survive the uncertainty, burning brightly in the face of any obstacles that greet them.

Ongoing events are finding a steady and stable home online for the coming winter season and many are drawing virtual audiences by offering suggested donation tickets or free events. Readings and meet-ups that are choosing to stay in-person are abiding by rigorous sanitation rules, mandatory mask-wearing, and social distancing guidelines. Though the fears of covid-19 are ever-present, I can’t help but sigh with relief at the hopeful glimmer that is the perseverance of Oregon’s rich and immersive literary scene.

One event in particular that seeks to liven up the winter season is Slamlandia: December on Thursday, December 17 at 7 pm, where poets are encouraged to read their work, participate in community, and witness others in a safe and welcoming space. Presented in partnership with Literary Arts and often hosted by Slammaster Julia Gaskill, Slamlandia’s mission is to provide “an open mic and poetry slam that is creative, fun, and welcoming to all literary communities in Portland”. Whether you have a few new pages you’d like to try out on an eager audience, or are in the mood to hear a line-up of spirited poems, this free virtual event is bound to spice up your Thursday night.

And with that, I wish you all a merry December full of poetry, lectures, workshops, inspiring conversations, and page-turners you won’t want to put down. May you find your own ‘porch light burning bright’ in the cold of the coming winter. Until next year, Oregonians!

Week 1: December 1-7

A Virtual Conversation with Ernest Cline
Presented by Powell’s City of Books
Monday, December 7
5 pm via ZOOM
$28.99 includes event ticket and book

Powell’s City of Books presents Ernest Cline in a virtual conversation about his newest book, Ready Player Two. Cline is a #1 New York Times bestselling author with published work in over 50 countries, and his Ready Player Two is the highly anticipated sequel to his celebrated Ready Player One, which inspired the popular 2018 Steven Spielberg film. Along with entry to the live conversation, attendees who purchase a ticket/book will be able to submit their author questions to events@powells.com for a chance to be answered during the event.

An Appointment with Emily and Your Chair: Free Writing Session
Presented by Literary Arts
Monday, December 7
7-8 pm via ZOOM
Free Event

Make an appointment with Oregon Book Award finalist Emily Chenoweth and join a group of fellow writers for an evening of prompts “designed to help writers learn about characters they’ve already imagined and flesh out stories they’re in the midst of writing.” Writers of all genres are welcome and though it is suggested, having a pre-prepared character and story are not required. Meant to inspire by means of blocking out time, this free writing session includes a 45-minute silent writing spree with mics and cameras turned off followed by a short verbal video check-in.

Emily Chenoweth leads a free writing session.

Week 2: December 8-14

Book Pub Second Sundays with Lark & Raven and Friends
Presented by Rose City Book Pub
Sunday, December 13
4-6 pm
1329 NE Fremont Street, Portland, OR

For a family-friendly event featuring music, theatre, and book, head over to Book Pub Second Sundays presented by Rose City Book Pub. This month’s exciting line up features International Folk, Americana, and Afro-Cuban artist Lark & Raven, captivating Celtic singer Riona, and a group of “delightful queer, trans, and disabled people with a genre-blurring theatrical folk pop sound” called Sasha & The Children and promises to make for an enjoyable evening out.

Week 3: December 15-21

WITS Writer Winter Reading
Presented by Literary Arts
Thursday, December 17
5:30-7 pm via ZOOM

Literary Arts invites you to “listen to literary excellence” from the comfort of your own home as they celebrate this year’s Writers in the Schools program, which aims to inspire students by hosting working writers in high school classrooms. This year’s WITS event features writers Brian Benson, CJ Wiggan, Dey Rivers, Matt Smith, Meg E. Griffitts, Valarie Pearce, and more.

Slamlandia: December
Presented by Literary Arts
Thursday, December 17
7 pm

If attending a poetry slam is your favorite way to ring in the holiday season, look no further. Slamlandia returns for its December edition, offering a lively open mic where poets are encouraged to read their work, participate in community, and witness others in a safe and welcoming space.

Friday Night Writes
Presented by Wordcrafters In Eugene
Friday, December 18
6-9 pm via ZOOM
$5 members, $10 non-members

Wordcrafters In Eugene presents a recurring Friday night online group for writers. This fun and productive session is open to writers of all genres and offers a 45 minute writing time block followed by 15 minutes of chatting, repeated throughout the evening. With plenty of word games and writing prompts, Friday Night Writes is sure to help you get plenty of writing done on your Friday night in.

Women Who Submit PDX
Sunday, December 20
4-6 pm
Free Virtual Event, RSVP to emma@emmapattee.com

Host Emma Pattee has one big goal in mind — to get more women authors published. Women Who Submit is hosting a submission soiree for women and non-binary writers in order to empower them through encouragement and community. Along with the friendly faces, you’ll find snacks, a small library of literary journals, and even champagne for toasting completed submission.

Week 4: December 22-31

The Work Poetry Workshop with Christopher Luna
Presented by Printed Matte Vancouver and Angst Gallery
Monday, December 28
6-8:30 pm via ZOOM
$20 suggested donation

Need some post-Christmas inspiration? The Work is a monthly drop-in poetry workshop for writers of all levels. Encouraging empathy and compassion, this workshop seeks to inspire writers in “sparking the shifts in consciousness which can lead to healing, personal growth, and an interest in fighting for progressive social change.” The Work is hosted by Christopher Luna in association with Niche Wine Bar and Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic, and recommends bringing a pre-written poem to share with the group.

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