Here is our inaugural entry for our Regional Resource Spotlight. Willamette Writers is featured this time because 1) it is a great organization that contributes to local and regional media production in a variety of ways, and 2) it became our 100th follower on Twitter!
WW: Willamette Writers is the largest writers’ organization in Oregon and one of the largest in the United States. Founded in Portland in 1965, it has grown to over 1,800 members with branches in Southern Oregon, Mid-Valley, Salem and the Oregon Coast. Our newest branch, Willamette Writers on the River (Corvallis) joined us in 2014. We also offer a Young Willamette Writer group for future writers in grades 5-10.Annual Membership ($45) provides members with access to the Willamette Writers community, monthly branch membership meetings with a guest speaker, monthly newsletter, writing workshops, the Willamette Writers Cynthia Whitcomb Writing House in West Linn, and a special rate to the Annual Conference.
Willamette Writer’s founder, playwright and screenwriter Cynthia Whitcomb, offers an introduction to the group on YouTube.
PNW-MRC: What are some of your marquee programs or initiatives?
WW: Our marquee programs seek to encourage a creative environment and support system for current and aspiring writers. These include:
Willamette Writers Annual Conference
Writers from around the country (and as far away as Europe, Canada and Mexico, too!) eagerly anticipate our annual conference, which gathers writers, editors, managers, producers and consultants primarily from film and literary centers in LA and New York for three activity-filled days in Portland. Attendees have the unique opportunity to attend craft and business of writing workshops by top professionals, network, listen to speakers and pitch their books or screenplays. The results speak for themselves: usually about 15 people acquire an agent to represent them, and three to six get published or have a script optioned at each conference. (See “Success Stories”) for some recent tales of Conference success.
Books for Kids
Willamette Writers’ Books for Kids program collects and distributes books to underprivileged youth in over 75 agencies and organizations throughout Oregon and SW Washington. Through grants, donations, and partnering with local companies to raise funds for book purchases (thank you Barnes & Noble Bookstores) we are able to purchase new books. In recent years our primary sources of these new books has been Scholastic and First Book Marketplace. Through judicious purchasing, coupled with donated new books, our average cost of new books is kept between $2 and $3 each. We also collect both new and like new children’s books as donations from a variety of sources, including book drives and other donation programs. We are incredibly proud to bring the gift of reading to underprivileged youth and distribute books through partnerships with Albertina Kerr, Community Transition School, Christie School, Experience Corps, Legacy Emanuel Children’s Hospital and the Boost Reading Program.
Additionally, Willamette Writers offers awards that recognize strong writing across the Northwest.
Kay Snow Writing Contest
This annual writing contest awards one first prize of $300, one second place prize of $150, and a third place prize of $50 per winning entry in each of the six categories; fiction, nonfiction, juvenile, poetry, student writer and screenwriting. Student writers are awarded $50 for first place in three grade divisions, $20 for second place, and $10 for third place.
Kate Herzog Scholarship
The Barnes and Noble Kate Herzog Scholarship is for high school seniors and college freshman and sophomores interesting in pursuing careers in writing. Four scholarship awards within the range of $100-$250 are awarded each year, and awardees are invited to attend the Willamette Writers Annual Conference.
The Up and Coming Award (est. 2014) is Willamette Writers’ newest award. It recognizes emerging writers who, in their initial work, have already demonstrated mastery in their craft. This award was established partly in the hopes of acknowledging talented authors at every stage of their career.
2014 Award Winner: Kelly Williams Brown
The Distinguished Northwest Writer Award (est. 1988) recognizes noteworthy Northwest authors who have distinguished him or her self with exceptional literary or other writing.
2014 Award Winner: Ivan Doig
The Humanitarian Award (est. 1996) honors a person and/or organization in the writing or publishing fields who have demonstrated exceptional philanthropy in their work.
2014 Award Winner: Justin Hocking
PNW-MRC: Tell me more about FilmLaB. It sounds like a great program!
WW: FilmLaB is a fantastic program, and is a great example of our organizations’ ability to promote and expand our writers’ in the growing film industry in Portland. FilmLaB provides a unique opportunity for talented screenwriters to see their scripts produced and translated to the screen. Young screenwriters learn the business of film production and the process of artistic collaboration by working with industry professionals (in 2013 and 2014, the winning scripts have been directed by Ampersand Productions). Winners of the “Script to Screen Competition” end up with a legitimized IMDB credit, a complete short piece to share with interested professionals, and a foot in the door when it comes to recognition at film festivals. FilmLaB, as its name implies, will continue to grow and evolve to promote local script writers in Portland’s burgeoning film scene.
PNW-MRC: What media industries are your members working in?
WW: Willamette Writers’ members use all sort of mediums to communicate their individual work, which covers the gamut from literary, culture/arts, travel, the stage, health, education, politics and science writing. From more traditional formats (film, tv, books, newspapers and magazine bylines) to new emerging mediums (blogs, podcasts, webcasts, e-publishing and social media, they are making their mark. You can view specific member profiles here.
PNW-MRC: How are your members contributing to media produced in the Pacific Northwest?
WW: The breadth and depth of Willamette Writers member talents influence all aspects of media in the Pacific Northwest. They are talented journalists, speakers, editors and educators who use a variety of platforms to communicate their expertise. The support they get from Willamette Writers’ community, including regular networking opportunities, workshops and lectures, inspires their work, which you will find in local, regional and national newspapers and magazines, literary journals, song festivals, on stage, in the classroom and leading discussions about the craft of writing and the future of the publishing industry.
PNW-MRC: Anything else you’d like to add?
WW: Thank you for the opportunity to share a bit about our organization with your audience! If you’re so inclined, I encourage you to follow up with one of our regional (branch) leaders and/or area members to get a personalized perspective of what it means to be a “Willamette Writer” in communities outside the Portland Metro area. They are passionate ambassadors that I’m sure would be happy to put the work we do in context of their communities across Oregon – you can get more information on our branch locations here.