After I graduated from the University of Washington’s MFA program, classmates were moving away, rejection letters from magazines and literary agents were rolling in, and I was starting to feel isolated. The Made at Hugo House fellowship showed up in the nick of time. Designed for emerging writers not enrolled in a degree program, it was the perfect opportunity to be involved in something again. Brian McGuigan, then Program Director, asked the fellows what we wanted out of the program in its first year, shaping it to our needs. We met with debut and established authors: Nicole Hardy, Peter Mountford, Karen Finneyfrock, Rebecca Brown, Stacey Levine, Ryan Boudinot, and Garth Stein. We met with literary agent Elizabeth Wales and learned about applying for grants from Rebecca Brinbury, the Development Director at the time. And we took free classes—a boon. I studied with Chris Abani, Sam Lipsyte, Shin Yu Pai, Jennie Goode, and Peter Mountford, learning about voice, style, structure, the creative possibility of maps, and the nuts and bolts of the business of writing.
With these resources, I finished a handful of short stories, developed a plan for rewriting my second novel, and began to treat my fiction writing as a business, tracking income and expenses and becoming more ambitious in my submissions.
Our mid-year reading, which I thought would be small compared to the final readings, was surprisingly packed. The only crowd I’d read to that large was when Heather McHugh read at [UW MFA program’s monthly reading series] Castalia. But here we were, all relative unknowns given the chance to share our work beyond our little bubbles. After that I didn’t quite feel as isolated as I had before. Hugo House became, then, that literary home I’d craved, one to which I return to teach, connect with others, and learn. It is an essential part of my life in Seattle.
Anca Szilágyi grew up in Brooklyn. She is the author of Daughters of the Air (Lanternfish Press) and her writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Electric Literature, Gastronomica, and Fairy Tale Review, among other publications. She is the recipient of the inaugural Artist Trust / Gar LaSalle Storyteller Award, a Made at Hugo House fellowship, and awards from the Vermont Studio Center, 4Culture, the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, and the Jack Straw Cultural Center. The Stranger hailed Anca as one of the “fresh new faces in Seattle fiction.” She lives in Seattle with her husband.