On December 16th,  Literary Arts and the Portland Arts & Lectures community welcomed Barbara Kingsolver to speak at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in the second installment of the 2012-2013 lecture series. The evening opened with Lauren Steele, pictured above, a sophomore at Jefferson High School Middle College for Advanced Studies and winner of the 2012 slam poetry competition, Verselandia, who recited her poem “Your Result”. It has become a tradition at Literary Arts to open one of our lectures with a reading by a student who has participated in one of our programs such as Writers in the Schools or Verselandia.

Another way in which we aim to bring students into contact with influential authors and texts is through a new program called Students to the Schnitz. When we began the program last year, we were able to provide 50 tickets to each event for students at a particular school, as well as transportation to and from the event. The program was so popular last year, that this year we sought funding to provide 100 student tickets (50 each to two different schools) to each event, as well as transportation and, in addition, books by the author to prepare students for the lecture. This funding has come primarily from our patrons, who have made generous donations so that students at Portland’s public high schools can have this opportunity.

So far this year, 50 students from Franklin High School and 50 students from Lincoln High Schools attended a lecture by writer and political analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and students from both Madison and Cleveland High Schools attended the Barbara Kingsolver lecture. In the student feedback we received following both events,  students reported being excited and inspired by the prestige of the authors, their candid discussions of the truly arduous process of writing, and by the chance to hear a lecture by someone who has made a successful career out of their artistic passion. Below are several of the student comments we received following the Kingsolver event:

Dear Literary Arts,                                                                                                              Thank you so much for letting us have this wonderful opportunity to see Barbara Kingsolver. I absolutely LOVED The Bean Trees, and the chance to experience a talk with her is amazing. Thank you Literary Arts.                                                                                                                                                      

 Dear Literary Arts,                                                                                                              Thank you so much for this great opportunity. This is my first time at an author’s lecture and I am so excited.  Again, thank you and I hope you’ll continue to support us. P.S. Thank you for taking the time to make an impact on our lives.

Dear Literary Arts,                                                                                                                Thank you so much for this opportunity! My mom has read The Poisonwood Bible and is a big fan and I am reading it now and finding it very fascinating. Thank you again! I have always wanted to see an author in person and you have given me that chance! Thanks again!

 We value the opportunity for students to engage with important contemporary authors and literary works, and we are hoping to continue to expand this program in the future.