Friday, March 4, 2016

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Terroir Creative Writing Festival

One November night in 2011, I drove three towns south on 99W to McMinnville, Oregon, to attend a committee meeting for a local writing festival. The meeting was nuts. So noisy and disorganized. Someone passed around wine glasses and a bottle of pinot noir, everyone talking over and under each other. I couldn't get a word in edgewise. This is ridiculous, I thought to myself. I am definitely not coming back.

You can guess where this story leads. I went back for just one more meeting in 2011 and then another in 2012, until I started to have fun. Nearly four years (and many bottles of wine) later, I adore these strong, noisy, creative writers and artists. And every spring we put on a slamming creative writing festival right here in the heart of Willamette Valley wine country. 

The Terroir Creative Writing Festival takes its strange name from the French vinicultural word for all the environmental factors that go into producing a particular wine's flavor—the soil, topography, and climate. The Festival exists to cultivate writing formed of Yamhill County's terroir, though we welcome writers from all over. 

Our keynote speakers this year are Shawn Levy and David Mason. Brian Tibbets from MacGregor Literary will be joining us, and we have a special workshop led by Oregon Shakespearean Festival actor JP Phillips for those who want to learn from an actor how to read their work aloud like a professional at the end-of-day open mic reading. I'll be teaching a two-hour memoir workshop in the afternoon. If you're in the area, please join us

Thursday, April 23, 2015

John D'Agata Says This About The Fifth Season

My second book meant my second chance at the Oregon Book Award—but the honor went not to me but to another fine writer, Justin Hocking, for his memoir, The Great Floodgates of the Underworld (congratulations, Justin!). 

I have to be honest here. When Justin's name was announced instead of mine at the awards ceremony, I breathed a sigh of relief and all my nervous anticipation faded before the applause did. From that moment on, I was able to really listen, to relax, to enjoy the remainder of the ceremony. 

And I remembered, even as Justin was giving his speech, that sometime in the next week I would receive an email with the judge's comments on my book. 

John D'Agata was the judge for this year's creative nonfiction award, and here's what he had to say about The Fifth Season: A Daughter-in-Law's Memoir of Caregiving. (Thank you, thank you John.)

As I read Lisa Ohlen Harris’s phenomenally understated and yet exquisitely crafted memoir The Fifth Season, I started thinking that any lesser writer would have leapt upon this genuinely hearbreaking story and wrung it dry for every last drop of transfused misery. And then I started loving The Fifth Season even more.

Because what I have only now started to learn as a writer—embarrassingly late in the game, I’ll admit—is that it takes a lot more skill to hold back as it does to go for low-hanging and lurid details. What we learn in The Fifth Season, therefore, we learn through experience, through quietly developed anecdotes and impeccably pitch-perfect pacing, through watching Harris navigate the complexities of a relationship with her mother-in-law that neither of them seems to have voluntarily signed up for, and yet which intensifies gradually over seven long years until that relationship becomes something that beautifully transforms them both.  Through genuinely heroic compassion, as well as agonizingly petty bickering, through fear and humor and unconditional patience, Harris creates a portrait of a relationship that’s about as real as it can get, and thus as strong as they come. I often caught myself envying even the worst of the moments that these two women shared.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

McMinnville Reading and Open Mic

Join me at the Velvet Monkey tearoom on April 2 for a reading (by me) and open mic for prose writers (that means you)!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Jill Kandel, author of So Many Africas

I "met" Jill Kandel in 2006 when she submitted a wonderful essay to Relief Journal, where I was the editor for creative nonfiction. We published that essay, and over the next few years I was not surprised to see Jill publish work in impressive journals, including The Missouri Review, Gettysburg Review, River Teeth, Image, Pinch, and Brevity. The road from writing essays to crafting a memoir is a long one, and last summer Jill learned that her years of writing and compiling and revising and then writing some more had finally resulted in a book contract: her book was selected for the 2014 Autumn House Nonfiction Prize. So Many Africas: Six Years in a Zambian Village is lyric and surprising—a gorgeous first book. I asked Jill to tell me a little about her process, and you can read the resulting interview over at  Brevity

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Oregon Book Award Finalist

I'm pleased to share that I'm a 2015 Oregon Book Award finalist for The Fifth Season! Winners in each category will be announced in April 2015. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Advanced Memoir & Personal Essay Class

It's not too late to register for my ten-week Advanced Memoir & Personal Essay class, offered online via Creative Nonfiction Foundation. The course begins January 12 and is quickly filling, so don't wait to register!