FROM LEFT TO RIGHT Eric McMillan, Irene Keliher, Katharine Ogle, Anca Szilagyi, Bill Carty, Elissa Washuta.
(All six writers from the Made at Hugo House program will read tonight at the Hugo House starting at 7:30 pm. The reading is free.)
Writers get grants and gifts and fellowships all the time. Most of what these programs provide is space, either of the spiritual or mental varieties. If you fill out enough forms, for instance, you can possibly earn enough money to not have to worry about a "real job" for a while, or some college could grant you a writer-in-residence position that takes care of room and board, granting solitude and peace of mind.
But space and comfort are not always conducive to good writing. Some of the best books ever written were composed under the constraints of day jobs—Jorge Luis Borges was an assistant at the Buenos Aires Municipal Library, Franz Kafka was a legal secretary—and a rule of thumb in the publishing industry is that the larger the advance an author gets, the longer it takes for that author to finish the goddamned book.
Of all the grants I've encountered in my time at The Stranger, I've never heard of anything quite like the Made at Hugo House fellowship program. It's like a more pragmatic version of the classic writer-in-residency: Last year, Hugo House put out a call for writers age 35 or younger, living in King County, to describe a project they'd like to complete. From more than 50 applicants, House program director Brian McGuigan and an anonymous panel of poets and novelists chose six writers. Those writers get access to office space in the House, they have monthly progress meetings and contribute to a private blog on which they can share work, and they can attend any of the Hugo House classes, featuring teachers like Eileen Myles, Peter Mountford, and Sam Lipsyte, for free.
Assembled around a table, they're a broad range of writing talent...