Extraordinary Executive Director: Andrew Proctor of Literary Arts

Broadening the diversity and scope of Portland’s literary empire

By Zach Dundas October 23, 2014

Get your tickets to Portland Monthly's 11th annual Light a Fire Awards to join the celebration of the incredible nonprofit community at the Portland Art Museum on October 20.

When Andrew Proctor joined Literary Arts in 2009, the Canadian-born publishing vet jolted Portland’s flagship writing nonprofit with a dose of extroverted moxie. Over the last five years, the organization has doubled its budget and broadened its reach with initiatives intimate (seminars at its new downtown headquarters) and grand (a raucous high school slam-poetry competition). “We’re unique nationally,” the 41-year-old says, “in the array of programs we run and the multigenerational audiences they serve.”

This fall, Literary Arts marked its 30th anniversary in style, with a $2 million endowment campaign to expand its fellowships, and by announcing that the organization would take over the high-profile Wordstock literary festival. “I take great pride in being an administrator,” Proctor says. “I studied music, but always ended up being the band manager.” We explore this born leader’s reading rainbow.


Portland Arts & Lectures: Literary Arts packs the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall for some of the literary world’s biggest names (this season: Michael Chabon, Elizabeth Kolbert, and Katherine Boo). Snazzy venue aside, Proctor touts PAL’s accessibility: “There’s always a $15 ticket—always.”

Wordstock: Proctor plans to amp the city’s best-known lit fest into a one-day extravaganza showcasing the nation’s best authors and the local writing scene’s grassroots energy.

Verselandia: High school poets from across Portland battle to determine the city’s champion rhyme-slingers. “I challenge anyone who goes to keep a dry eye,” Proctor says. “Who knew that you could get hundreds of kids screaming for poetry?”

Oregon Book Awards: The annual awards enthrone the best long works written by Oregonians—fiction, nonfiction, poetry collections, literature for children and young adults, and drama. 

Writers in the Schools: Writing workshops matching established local scribes to high school classrooms reach well over 3,000 students a year, complete with print anthologies and digital chapbooks.

Fellowships: Proctor hopes the new $2 million stockpile will turn the organization’s existing grants to writers and publishers into a national draw. “Beyond $2 million,” he says, “you can attract more significant donations and bequests. Long term, we want to lure writers to Oregon.”

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