Sci-Fi Author Ursula Le Guin’s Portland Home Is Becoming a Writers Residency

Le Guin had a clear vision for her home to become a creative space for writers and a beacon for the literary community, according to Literary Arts director Andrew Proctor.

Woman with short grey hair stands in front of plants
The Portland-based author’s home will be transformed into the Ursula K. Le Guin Writers Residency. Beth Gwinn/Getty Images

A cozy second-floor studio in a three-story Portland home is where Ursula Le Guin, the late author renowned for her achievements in science fiction and fantasy, created seminal works like The Books of EarthseaThe Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness. Le Guin’s longtime home is now set to host other promising authors as it transforms into a new writers residency overseen by local nonprofit Literary Arts.

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The family of Le Guin, who died in 2018 at age 88, donated the property to Literary Arts with the goal of celebrating and supporting historically underrepresented writers. “Although Ursula’s reputation is international, she focused much of energy on the local community of writers, libraries and literary organizations,” said the author’s son Theo Downes-Le Guin in a statement. “So it’s fitting that this residency, ambitious in the breadth of writers it will reach, will be rooted in the house and city she loved and lived in for more than a half-century.”

Small corner office with windows and wooden desks and bookshelves.
Ursula Le Guin’s writing studio, where she created works like The Books of Earthsea. Courtesy and copyright Ursula K. Le Guin Foundation

Le Guin, originally from Berkeley, California, acquired the Portland home with her husband Charles in the early 1960s. It was built in 1899 from a Sears & Roebuck catalog and contains a garden complete with a towering redwood tree planted some sixty years ago.

Many of Le Guin’s literary accomplishments, spanning twenty-three novels, twelve short story volumes and eleven books of poetry, began in the house’s corner office. Previously used by the family as a nursery, it was eventually filled with Le Guin’s collection of books, artwork, rocks and the typewriter the author used for her final manuscripts.

The Ursula K. Le Guin Writers Residency

Le Guin began discussing plans to turn the house into a writers residency back in 2017, according to Literary Arts director Andrew Proctor. “She had a clear vision for her home to become a creative space for writers and a beacon for the broader literary community,” he said in a statement.

Known as the Ursula K. Le Guin Writers Residency, the initiative will invite applicants from different nations, genders, races, ages, economic statuses, education and literary genres with an emphasis on those living in the Western U.S.  Selected authors, who will be chosen by an advisory panel of one Le Guin family member and literary experts, will also be urged to engage in community-focused literary activities and events. While a date hasn’t yet been set for the residency’s opening, Literary Arts this month entered the public phase of a fundraising campaign that will allow the nonprofit to launch the residency and renovate Le Guin’s home for improved accessibility.

This isn’t the first time a writer’s former home has been transformed into a residency site. In 2020, the estate of the late Oregon poet Carolyn Moore gifted her 2,500-square-foot log cabin and nine-acre property to Portland Community College, alongside a fund to support its operation as a writers residency for two decades. In 2023, a coalition that included the heirs of novelist John Steinbeck’s estate, the University of Texas at Austin, the nonprofit Sag Harbor Partnership, the Township of Southampton and the New York State Assembly announced plans to turn Steinbeck’s property in Sag Harbor, New York into a writer’s retreat. It will host Ayad Akhtar, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, as its first resident.

Living writers, too, have transformed their homes into havens for fellow authors. Horror writer Stephen King is currently converting his house in Bangor, Maine, into an archival museum and a nearby guesthouse into a residency that will host several writers simultaneously.

Sci-Fi Author Ursula Le Guin’s Portland Home Is Becoming a Writers Residency