By the time I was ten years old, my mother finally accepted that I was—for whatever reason—a writer. Poor ma. Neither side of my family had ever produced a writer, so she was understandably nervous. There was no blueprint here. For her, writing was something you did to pass the time while you were starving to death. Yet, here I was “writing seriously” (I’d tell people this), carrying around a thesaurus, and reading enough books for the March of Dimes to bury a small city in hard coinage.
My mother found a place for these energies, enrolling me in my first summer workshop for kids. It was called the Young Writer’s Workshop at the University of Washington, held in one of those classrooms that must’ve seemed so achingly modern when it was built seven hundred years prior. So, I’m in there on the first day with a bunch of other kids—and I was terrified of other children—when the teacher asks, “Okay, honestly. How many of you are here because your parents forced you to come?” Every hand went up, save mine. Surely you remember that brutal silence you get when you’re the only kid with his hand down. So help me, I raised my hand. I’m not proud of it even now. And it pretty much set the scene for what that summer would bring; I was the uncool one who wanted to be there, in a sea of kids who abjectly did not.
In the Young Writers Cohort at Hugo House, no one would’ve raised their hands. Granted, the cohort members are older, wiser, more driven, more passionate, and more resigned to our horrible, horrible fate as writers and readers. They know full well that this is a place to be with other like-minded maniacs, a place to experiment, to learn more about who we are as artists, to practice, to listen, to speak, and to hear. It’s a place to go where your inherent weirdness is your best asset, where it’s actually necessary. It’s a place young people can go to be writers. And I’m honored to be a part of it.
Ramon Isao is a recipient of the Tim McGinnis Award for fiction, and his work has appeared in the Iowa Review, American Reader, Ninth Letter, and Hobart. His screenplays include ZMD, Junk, and Dead Body. He teaches adult classes at Hugo House, mentors prose writers in the Young Writers Cohort, and has taught in the Scribes summer writing camp program.