A Letter From Ruth
March 8, 2021
It’s been an extraordinary last two weeks at SAL, hearing from Bill Gates, Bill Bryson, and Toi Derricotte. Each event was delightful in its own way, and I’ve been thinking about how each spoke to the power of curiosity and learning—Gates talked about scheduling half-days for diving into topics, and Bryson spoke of cultivating an “infinite capacity for amazement.” Toward the end of an incredible conversation between Toi Derricotte and Anastacia-Reneé about creativity and writing, after talking about how “a poem changes you,” Derricotte offered us grace:“It’s alright to be human. As a poet, there’s room for all of you.” What a wonderful gift, as poets and thinkers and humans, to be reminded of the importance of learning, of our curiosity, and of appreciating the fullness of our human experience. We are changed by learning and listening, conversations and poems.
Speaking of changes, I’ve also been working hard to prepare for my transition away from SAL at the end of April. While I’m beginning to understand I may not finish everything on my long lists (though I’m determined to try!), I feel a great sense of joy that I’ll be handing the baton of SAL leadership to Rebecca Hoogs. Many of you know Rebecca, but you may not know that she has worked at SAL for over 17 years—as a WITS Writer-in-Residence where she taught at Eckstein Middle School and Foster High School, running all of our education programs, curating and hosting the Poetry Series, and then for the eight years I’ve been at SAL, serving as our Associate Director and the curator of all our public programs. The authors and experiences you’ve loved at SAL have been Rebecca’s work, and she’s been a thought-partner and brilliant leader, dreaming up ways to make SAL more vibrant and welcoming, more just, and more delightful. We are all so lucky that she will be leading SAL’s next chapter as our Interim Executive Director. We’ll have an update from the SAL Board in our next newsletter, and in the meantime, if you have questions or thoughts about our transitions, Rebecca or I would love to hear from you.
But before that takes place, we have a lot of exciting events: we’re looking forward to an evening with celebrated artist and writer Maira Kalman, who will talk with beloved Portland artist Lisa Congdon about creativity, walking, dogs, art, and even cake—a conversation not to be missed! We’re also busily preparing for Words Matter, building special boxes full of delights that you can add to your Words Matter experience and coordinating appearances by some very special literary guests. More will be revealed in the next few weeks!
Here’s to the listening, the learning, and the changes ahead,