Willamette Writers creates West Linn haven for local wordsmiths
by: vern uyetake Willamette Writers President Cynthia Whitcomb takes advantage of the living room’s tranquil atmosphere. Her club recently purchased this historic home in West Linn near the public library.

Below: The house’s living room features stained-glass windows, a carved-wood fireplace and widespread views of the surrounding Bolton Neighborhood. The group plans to hold nightly critique groups in this space.

Providing a space for inspiration, reflection, productivity or merely just organization of jumbled thoughts, Willamette Writers has set up camp at its new writers' house in West Linn.

The nonprofit group, the largest writers' organization in Oregon, moved to West Linn in February from its previous office location on Barbur Boulevard in Southwest Portland.

The new digs hold six rooms that its members can rent, from which they can work and come and go as they please.

'This is a whole new thing for us,' said Cynthia Whitcomb, president of Willamette Writers. 'It's sort of the only one of its kind in Oregon.'

The house, built in 1928, sits high on Buck Street near West Linn's Central Village and the West Linn Public Library.

'We're thrilled,' Whitcomb said. 'It's a fantastic value. It's been completely redone; we didn't do a thing to it (before) moving in.'

The office of the organization is now housed in the home's basement along with the apartment of its office manager, Bill Johnson, and rooms housing donations for its Books for Kids program, which distributes titles to underprivileged youth.

The group will also host critique groups for different genres on different nights of the week, during which members - whether they be novelists, essayists, journalists or poets - can share their work aloud. The meetings will be hosted in the house's living room, which features stained-glass windows, a carved-wood fireplace and a texture-patterned ceiling.

Through the living room is the home's newly remodeled kitchen, which leads to 'Scotland Yard' - a themed writing space inspired by mystery writers.

A raven watches over writers who use the room's 'atmospheric' antique wooden desk

Scotland Yard leads to the house's back patio and garden, which features an outdoor stone fireplace marked with the initial 'z,' the name of the original owners who lived in the house for 65 years.

The main floor also houses 'The Back lot,' a room for screenwriters decked with movie posters and a director's chair, and 'The Algonquin,' a Manhattan-themed space for nonfiction writers and essayists.

Rounding out the ground floor, the 'Bloomsbury' room, named for the famous London-based writers' group and meant for writers who are fans of the English canon.

Whitcomb said Willamette Writers is in the process of finding an antique desk for the room, which is decorated with a tea set, settee and portraits of Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, Oscar Wilde and more.

Upstairs, writers are greeted by an electric fireplace and shelves of both research materials and books by other Willamette Writers authors. The group, founded in 1965, boasts more than 1,700 members and has chapters in Eugune, Medford, Newport and Salem as well.

Two rooms bookend the vaulted attic space; on one end, 'Narnia' has been named in honor of children's literature writers, and Whitcomb is looking for an armoire to recreate wardrobe from C.S. Lewis' beloved 'Chronicles of Narnia' series.

On the other end, 'Middle Earth' has been split between science fiction and fantasy themes. If writers face one way, they will find Star Wars posters and a futuristic-style desk; if they face the other, they'll find a map of JRR Tolkien's Middle Earth.

The house has been furnished entirely by pieces that have been donated or purchased from Goodwill, and Whitcomb said the group is still looking for additional desks and desk chairs to fill the writing rooms.

Whitcomb said that, for a $10 donation, writers can reserve a room for 24 hours. They can even pay $30 if they're in need of a three-day writing binge.

'This isn't a hotel,' she said. 'There's no beds or linens, but if want to write all night they can.'

She said this is perfect for those who can't writer all night at home because their spouses or significant others won't let them.

Whitcomb said she hopes the space, which will be available to rent starting April 25, will allow people to break through to a new level, clear their writers' block and take their writing seriously.

'There's a thing that happens with writers in the same space,' she said. 'An energy builds and there's a feeling of writing happening - a writers' vibe; you're in the writers' space.'

She said she hopes the house will help writers to get their professional careers rolling.

Willamette Writers holds its official meetings monthly at Old Church at 11th and Clay in downtown Portland featuring presentations by successful writers in a variety of genres and hosts an annual conference each August as well.

Writers can join the group by paying a $36 annual membership fee or can pay a one-time $10 fee to attend one of the group's speaker events.

The Willamette Writers house is located at 2108 Buck St. in West Linn. For more information, call Office Manager Bill Johnson at 503-305-6729 or visit

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