My Willamette Writers Story: Holly Manno

Prepared by Kathleen Ruby

“I’m a writer.”  We all covet these words, and daily call them into being.

But how do we wind our way through the labyrinthine steps to become all we yearn to be?  Write, we’re told.  And write we do.  With long days at the keyboard, or with pen and paper in hand, we find our solitary way.  We hone our craft.  We create.  We give characters and stories, life.  It can be a lonely pursuit.  What do we do when we need an infusion of community and inspiration?  That’s where Willamette Writers (WW) comes in.

We recently asked members to share how WW made a difference in their careers.   Portland author Holly Manno, with five books and a poetry collection to her credit, recalls a transformational encounter.

"A cozy place..."

“It was 2018 when I first attended a Willamette Writers chapter meeting.  The Old Church is where the meetings were held then.  It was a cozy place with burgundy rugs and fine wooden pews.  I ducked into the space and felt the hush of faith mesh with my heart’s desire, something only a writer would be corny enough to say.”

Manno remembers surveying the group of writers and recognizing the extroverts gathered at the front “rising together in clusters”, and the introverts seated alone in the back pews “studying their phones and taking notes”.  Voicing the hope and trepidation we all feel as we step into a new experience, she described her thoughts as she sat in a front pew.

Waiting for Connection

“There was nothing to do now but wait.  What I was beginning to glean was I was waiting.  Waiting for what would come next and I knew the meeting was an important step toward my dreams.”

What came next for Manno was a potent mixture of community, connection, and expertise.  In Willamette Writers, she connected with writers across a spectrum of interests and experience.  Some published.  Some not.  Some were hobby writers, and some wrote to channel grief.  She found a place with a sense of belonging and an opportunity to grow as a writer.  She discovered that elusive oasis, a good fit.

The advantages she found with her WW membership were numerous.  She joined a “read and critique” group as she crafted her novels.  She was encouraged to expand into screenwriting and poetry and broadened her skill and her audience.  And when she was ready to publish, she found a mentor who is still her go-to contact for publishing questions.

Why Here?

“Experience, professional education, and love of word is why I adore being a part of the Willamette Writers group,” she said.  “Without them my writing might be still sitting in the virtual file,”

Writing, as with most art, incubates in an author’s fruitful mind until it is birthed onto paper.  But just as a village can aid in the raising of a child, a community can inspire and support a writer throughout their journey of creation and publishing.  Willamette Writers served in that role for Holly Manno.  How might we assist you in achieving your writing dreams?  Take that first step and see.


Thank you, Holly, for sharing your story! This article was prepared and edited by Kathleen Ruby. Kathleen recently moved to the Oregon Coast from Moscow, Idaho, where she’d lived and worked for 35 years.  Ruby is a mental health counselor and life coach who was on the faculty of the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine and served as the Director of Counseling and Wellbeing.  She was also the Editor in Chief at two professional journals, the Exceptional Veterinary Team, and the Veterinary Team Brief, where she wrote and edited articles on medical team well-being. Ruby is now hard at work on a novel incorporating her lifetime of experience in the psychology and medical fields.  She and her husband fulfilled a lifelong dream by moving close enough to the ocean to walk the beach every day with their two pups, Roxy and Frodo.