As I mentioned earlier, last night at Town Hall, Hugo House executive director Tree Swenson started a conversation about creating a literary arts center in Seattle that could place the Hugo House, publishers, book-makers, and other literary programs under one huge roof. I spoke with Swenson to get a more specific idea of what she's talking about.
The closest model to the literary center that Hugo House would like to help create is Minnesota's Loft Literary Center, a collection of literary organizations (a bookstore, a publisher, a bookmaker, and an educational nonprofit) that work together to provide a place for writers to take classes, attend readings, and walk their projects through every step of the publication process, from inspiration to workshopping to editing to printing. Swenson asks, "is there anyone who cares about books who thinks this isn't a cool thing?"
At the moment, Seattle has an amazing mix of organizations, Swenson explains, but it's almost so sprawling that it's hard to get an idea of how large the landscape is. "It's hard to realize how impressive this all is," she says, "unless you start to get your arms around it, and then you see it's this huge, roiling, rowdy, cool, diverse set of people and organizations that go into making this a city of literature." Having a larger literary center that's home to writing organizations, housing for visiting writers, and office space for writers to do their work would create an opportunity for people who don't usually interact to come together and bounce their ideas off of each other, in the hope of creating something new.
So what happens next? First up, it's time to see if the interest is there. Any person or organization who finds the concept of a literary center in Seattle to be intriguing should get in touch with the Hugo House. If enough people are interested, there might be a gathering to publicly come together and discuss what that center could look like. Swenson says the Hugo House doesn't want to own this concept, but they want to be involved with the conversation, to "see where the interest and the energy lives." In just a few months, Seattle came together to help build a proposal for the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. This is another great idea that we could and should transform into a reality.