Do you want to be a writer? Write! - Kathleen Celmins
write around portland kathleencelmins

Do you want to be a writer? Write!

All this talk about pens has made me realize something major: pens are just decoration. Writers write.

A few months ago, I read about this ten-week writing program called Prompt, and I couldn’t get it out of my head.

I thought about the last time I took a writing class (and no, college doesn’t count). It was through a group in Olympia called Young Writers or something, and it was fabulous. All my friends took it. I can’t remember if it was a summer school thing (probably) or something we did on random weekends throughout the year (also likely).

I talked with Brent about it (because although I am a grown-ass woman, I have issues doing something on the weeknights just for myself, it’s a parent thing, not a controlling husband thing, I assure you), and he was encouraging, as always.

So I signed up.

Now, maybe I wouldn’t have signed up if I’d known I would miss the last three weeks of the workshop. The instructor makes sure to tell us it’s not a class (no homework, no assignments, you don’t have to follow the prompts, and you definitely don’t have to read anything you’ve written), so it’s not like I’m going to fail or anything, but I paid for ten weeks and am going to six.

That’s fine, because let me tell you about Write Around Portland.

It’s a nonprofit that empowers people who have always been told they can’t write, don’t have anything worth telling, etc. that they do have something to tell. They go into these underserved communities and give writers the chance to tell their stories. They self publish anthologies. Powell’s books sells those anthologies.

They’re funded by donation, and also by these public-facing workshops.

It has been one of the best things I’ve done for myself in a really long time.

Our group is small, and coincidentally, all women.

It’s called “Prompt,” which should have indicated to me that it was about writing to prompts, but somehow I missed that and was delighted when we first sat down.

The instructor, Michelle, is a teacher who retired early (millionaire next door, maybe?) and she’s amazing. She creates this space where she sets us all up, gives us a prompt and a time limit, and then we all write.

Six people, six very different stories from the same prompt.

Oh, and half the appeal, at least in the listing?

The workshop is held in a secret room at Powell’s, the book lover’s heaven, and a place where I will miss dearly once we leave.

So to get to go there, weekly, to be surrounded by millions of books, and a handful of other writers, has been such a salve. Such an indulgence. Such a treat.

“It’s like therapy,” said one of the other attendees.

And I had to agree.

Because right now, when everything in my world is changing (still married, though, thankfully!), the last thing I “should” be doing is leaving home, heading downtown, and writing, freehand, with my fancy pen (which is soon to be my less-fancy pen), and getting feedback on a hobby.

But you know what?

Sometimes the last thing I should be doing is the thing that recharges my battery in a way that gives me enough energy to more than offset the two hours on Tuesdays I’m gone.

This 100 day project certainly wouldn’t be happening if I hadn’t let myself go do something to charge my creativity.

Plus, come on. Powell’s is a Portland treasure. If you’ve never been to Portland, it’s one of those often-discussed tourist stops that absolutely lives up to the hype. It’s a full square block of a bookstore, including a coffee shop that you can’t enter from the outside. Meaning the coffee shop exists for book lovers who are shopping or browsing at Powell’s, not a place that exists to somehow entice people into the bookstore.

Because it’s a magical place, where you can sell your books back (always go for the gift card instead of the cash, because the only thing better than books is free books), where used copies of books sit next to new ones, leaving the choice of whether to go for previously read or freshly printed up to the buyer.

A place to browse.

A place to wander among the stacks.

A place, where, lately, I’ve been able to take snapshots of my friends’ books. When they’re on the staff-recommended endcap (oh hey Cait!), it gives me a thrill beyond words.

A place that shows that no matter which book is in you, there’s a shelf for it.

It’s inspiring and daunting.

“Look at all these people who have books already, what are you waiting for?” the shelves ask.

Anyway, if you’re a local Portlander who’d like a ten-week hit of inspiration to your veins, check out Prompt:

As for me?

I’ll be looking for new outlets once I land.

The old me (the way back February version of me) would have said, “hey, I’ll carve out a couple hours a week for creative writing,” but the wiser, April version of me knows that that’s wishful thinking at best, and bullshit at worst.

Powell’s photo by Cacophony [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons \ Write Around logo from their website,, layering by me and Illustrator

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