Four people smile and stand around a gray banner that says "respect. writing. community." in orange.

About Us

Write Around Portland amplifies voices and builds community through our writing workshops, literary programming, books, and readings.

We partner with agencies and organizations (including hospitals, schools, prisons, treatment centers, senior centers, low-income housing buildings, homeless shelters, and other healthcare and social service settings) to provide creative writing workshops for the adults and youth they serve.

We recruit and train volunteers who facilitate the workshops. Workshops are provided for free to participants and include guided playtime, transit tickets, journals, pens, and snacks, as well as other services and accommodations to ensure that everyone has access to writing in community — and the sense of creativity and security that comes with it.

Workshops culminate in free community readings where participants from each group share their work with each other and with members of the public. (We also hold readings in correctional facilities and other locations where participants aren’t able to attend the public readings.)

Because we are committed to finding the widest possible audience for our writers, we also publish books of participants’ writing, which we make available in local bookstores, online, and at the reading.

Our History

Write Around Portland was founded in 1999 by Liza Halley and Ben Moorad. Since then, we have held more than 600 writing workshops for more than 5,000 adults and young people, more than 75% of whom live below the federal poverty level. We have published more than 60 books, partnered with more than 200 organizations, and trained more than 300 volunteer workshop facilitators.

Write Around Portland has:

  • served as a model for writing programs in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington
  • inspired workshop participants to complete their GEDs, attend college, stick with treatment programs, transition back to our community after incarceration, and break cycles of abuse.

Mission

Write Around Portland changes lives through the power of writing.

We believe:

  • Everyone can be a writer and benefit from and contribute to their community through the literary arts.
  • Writing is a powerful tool for individual and societal change, self-expression, healing, and the realization of the dignity of one’s self and others.
  • Writing and sharing stories helps us access our common humanity and connects individuals and groups who may be separated by age, race, income level, gender, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, health status, education level, and the geographic and social boundaries of neighborhoods.
  • In any life, especially one lived in poverty or isolation, there is a vital need for art, community, and joy.

“The only problem with Write Around Portland is knowing how good it is, how necessary it is, and how unfortunate it is that it doesn’t exist in every city and town in the country.”

Dave Eggers

“Write Around Portland is an organization that makes me proud to be a Portlander.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

“We are surrounded by poems not written, by songs felt but not heard, by those few saving words we lack courage to say. Write Around Portland helps bring forth the most important literature of our time: the unwritten.” 

Kim Stafford

“If you haven’t been to a Write Around Portland reading, you’re missing out on one of the most engaging, amazing literary events in this city.”

Willamette Week

Staff

Chris McDonald (he/him)
Executive Director

Sarah Weller (she/her)
Program Director

Lilly Do (she/her)
Program & Administrative Coordinator

Elisabeth Geier (she/her)
Volunteer Coordinator

Leah Middleton (she/they)
Development & Engagement Coordinator

Board

Chenoa Philabaum (she/her)
Co-Chair
City of Portland

Reggie Wideman (he/him)
Co-Chair
Live Ramp

Sara Guest (she/her)
Secretary
Multnomah County

Michael Montoya (he/him)
Treasurer
Skeo Solutions

Kelsey Allen (she/her)
Meals on Wheels People

Precious Bugarin (she/her)
Mercy Corps

Alex Larralde (she/her)
Betterworks

Marisol Tawadros (she/her)
Nike

Amanda Walsh (she/her)
PagerDuty

Resource Council

Liza Halley
Co-Founder, Write Around Portland

Ben Moorad
Co-Founder, Write Around Portland

Robyn Steely
Write Around Portland Executive Director 2005 – 2015

Miriam Sontz
Former CEO, Powell’s Books

Dave Eggers
Author, Editor of McSweeney’s, Founder, 826 Valencia

Jeana Edelman
Owner, HOTLIPS Pizza + Soda

Holly MacArthur
Founding Director, Tin House

Paul Lipscomb
Principal, Options Consulting

Jennifer Allen
Program Officer, James F & Marion L Miller Foundation; Former Write Around Portland Board Chair

Scroll to Top