The Fir Acres Writing Workshop Program: 36 Years and Going!

Students writing around Lewis & Clark's campus Students writing around Lewis & Clark's campus


The Fir Acres Writing Workshop Program

Fir Acres Writing Workshop is a premier, established summer writing program open to rising 10th, 11th, and 12th graders who are eager to practice writing in its many forms.

  • Writing every day has been productive and a good experience for me. Now that I’ve begun to do this, I won’t stop.

  • I have learned that my heart is deeper and fuller and richer than I thought it to be.

  • My writing has changed and improved after being exposed to other types of writing. I am thinking deeper, and I know my friends will see a change when I get back home. I have discovered how to learn more, how to gain more from my experiences.

  • I never knew how to really begin to write a creative essay. The strategies we used will become very beneficial to me in my future school and out-of-school work.

For two weeks, students join approximately sixty peers, accomplished faculty, Resident Advisors, and distinguished visiting writers to write and study fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction among a lively community of artists. What binds our community is the quest to find our voices as writers, to experiment as often as possible, and to practice and promote the habits of reading, writing, and daily artistic observation.

At the closing of each week, faculty and students gather for a community reading, where every participant, including faculty, reads aloud from their work. On three separate evenings, Fir Acres welcomes Distinguished In Workshop In Workshop Visiting Writers to discuss their work and meet with students. Past Distinguished Visiting Writers include, among others: National Book Award recipient Mary Szybist, novelist and essayist Pauls Toutonghi, Carson Ellis (author and illustrator), Kaui Hart Hemmings (novelist), Zulema Renee Summerfield (novelist), and Willy Vlautin (novelist).

Students at the Fir Acres Writing Workshop come from a range of backgrounds. In the past, Fir Acres welcomed writers from throughout the United States and international students from countries including Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Portugal, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand and the United Kingdom.

As a member of our community, each student writer gets a preview of college life in an on-campus residential setting and gains writing experience in and around the city of Portland.

Acclaimed short story writer Alexia Arthurs leads a Workshop Acclaimed short story writer Alexia Arthurs leads a Workshop
The Workshop Sessions

We understand the importance of a small, focused classroom setting. Workshop classes are intimate—twelve or fewer students.

Workshops are led by experienced faculty and informally assisted by Resident Advisors. Inside and outside the Workshop, students receive meaningful feedback on their work from their instructors and from one another. Through careful reading, sustained experiments with style and form, and robust discussion, writers hone their craft and develop their own voices.

During the two weeks, participants assemble portfolios containing informal writing, works in progress, and finished pieces. After compiling each portfolio, students meet with their assigned class and Workshop faculty leaders and to receive comments and suggestions. Midway through the first week, students receive their elective class assignment to explore during the second week. Participants also contribute their work in a final anthology.

These portfolios, readings, and anthology provide opportunities for students to share what they have discovered about their voice and writing during the Workshop.

Students exploring nearby Tryon Creek Students exploring nearby Tryon Creek

The Fir Acres Creative Community 

At Fir Acres, we aim to model excellence, creative experimentation, and fun inside the classroom and on the page. 

Our local and national faculty, all authors, with graduate creative writing degrees, recognize the value of mentoring young students and the importance of encouraging each student’s creative energies. The program’s Director, an author and Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate, also understands how the experience of working with generous faculty mentors has the power to change young lives. We aim to do just that.

For the 2024 summer session, our faculty—poets, novelists, essayists—share a commitment to investigating and teaching the many ways the creative process can challenge us and transform us. Each faculty member is excited to instruct and explore and write alongside students this summer!

Students reading in their Workshop Students reading in their Workshop

Writing and Exploring Portland (and Beyond)

Along with daily Workshop Sessions, classes venture “off the hill” with faculty and Resident Advisors to write and practice “the habit of art” in the city of Portland. In the past, class visits included trips to the Portland Art Museum, Powell’s City of Books, Taylor Electric Portland Street Art, Alberta Arts Mural Tour, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Sauvie Island, the International Rose Test Garden, Tryon Life Community Farm, and the neighborhoods of Mississippi Avenue, Division Street, Sellwood, and Hawthorne Avenue. The favorite trip, among the students, is the day they explore, as a community, the beautiful Oregon Coast.

A Fir Acres Writing Workshop class in the gardens A Fir Acres Writing Workshop class in the gardens