Photo: Micky Ryan

Photo: Micky Ryan



In this class we will focus on incorporating into essay or memoir the research that gives ballast and significance to our personal narratives. With special attention to consistency of voice and tone, we will analyze essays by James Salter, John McPhee, Eula Biss and Roxane Gay, noting how history, geography, spirituality or political event is seamlessly woven into the stories these writers tell.  Our goal is to use research gracefully, enriching the work and avoiding clunky, blundering invasions of Wikipedia.

Class includes guided discussions on technique; written exercises; assigned nonfiction for study; informal in-class critique of student work; and mutual support and encouragement. Students receive workshop critiques on two submissions and one revision.

Class meets at instructor’s apartment near east end of the Broadway Bridge. Ten Monday nights over 11 weeks: February 26-May 7, 2018 (no class April 2).  Workshop format, limited to 8 students. $365 includes packet of stories.  

To register: send $65 deposit to Martha Gies, 2109 NE Rodney Avenue, Portland 97212.  Questions: marthagies {at}; phone: 503-287-4394.


This workshop is designed to capture that combination of alertness and curiosity that is  the traveler's special state of mind, and use it to heighten the classroom experience. We began Traveler's Mind in the state of Veracruz, where tropical coastal lowlands curve around the Gulf of Mexico and rise quickly to jungled forests of the Sierra Madre Oriental. Since that first workshop in 2000, we have taken writers to the colorful, raucous and historic port of Veracruz; to the lazy river town of Tlacotalpan, with its brightly painted houses and Arabic-style arcades; and to Papantla, the center of Totonac culture, where we held workshops during the Day of the Dead and the Fiesta de Guadalupe.

We have since ranged beyond the borders of Mexico: to Fort Cochin, Kerala, to the old Colonial capital of Sucre, Bolivia, and to the ramshackle hills of Valparaíso, on Chile's central coast. We traced the life of Federico García Lorca in Granada, traveled to Jodhpur in desert Rajasthan, and worked in the luminous white city of Cádiz, off Spain’s southwest coast. We have found that by traveling beyond the familiar surroundings of home, students can devote their undivided energy to cultivating the habits of close observation and a disciplined writing life.

Always limited to 10 students.  See

February 7-17, 2018 - Kolkata, India (full)

June 2019 - TBA

SEATTLE WORKSHOP: Characterization

Martha will be in Seattle October 20-22, 2017, to give a weekend writing workshop on how to make characters on the page vivid and memorable. Using exercises, hand-outs for study, and discussion, the class will work toward bringing written portraits to life. Appropriate for both fiction and nonfiction, the workshop is limited to 9 writers.  

Time: Friday evening 6-9pm, introductory session and potluck dinner; Saturday, 9am-3pm and Sunday, 10am-1pm at Folio: The Seattle Athenaeum, 314 Marion Street.

Information & Registration:   Mary Kay Feather 206-226-2450


AT THE BLACK HAT: Three Nights of Poetry and Prose. Organized by Martha Gies by way of introducing writers to the intimate Northeast Portland shop, Black Hat Books, at 2831 NE Martin Luther King Boulevard, and its remarkable collections curated over decades -- African American literature, culture, and history; feminism and women's literature; fiction and poetry in translation; and literary crime and science fiction. Readings by poets Harold Johnson, Doug Marx and Clem Starck, and by prose writers Jane Salisbury, Robin Schauffler and Gies; September 29, October 13 and October 27, 2017.

Copyright Martha Gies, 2017. No portion of this site may be used without written permission.