When I was twenty-one years old and just beginning to really identify myself as a writer, I remember becoming aware of a new literary organization setting up shop in a funny purple-colored house just down the street from where I was finishing college at Seattle University. That place, of course, was the Richard Hugo House—and, although I could not have guessed it at the time, it would have a huge impact on my writing career.
First, as a newly minted college student, I still ached for writing instruction and community, so I took a class at Hugo House with the wonderful Rebecca Brown. Although I had been an English major, that class at Hugo House was the first time that I was in a room with writers of all different ages and backgrounds. It shifted my thinking about writing significantly. As we workshopped together, wrote together, and traded ideas, I learned that there are many, many ways both to mentor and be mentored, and likewise many ways to make one’s life as a writer.
Second, having been deeply impacted by that class, I followed up by becoming a volunteer at Hugo House to work with youth for the remaining months of that year before I left Seattle, my hometown, to go to graduate school. Indeed, it was in large part due to the mentorship and cross-pollination of ideas that I’d found at Hugo House that I decided to pursue an MFA, and later a PhD. Moreover, that experience of mentoring young writers as part of Hugo House’s volunteer program was the first time that I had ever really taught creative writing to others or thought of myself as a teacher in that way.
Now, nearly twenty years later, I have come back to Hugo House, this time as a teacher. Having published books, earned tenure in my university teaching job, and created a life devoted to the creative, literary arts, I could not be more thrilled to be back where I started—but this time, offering what I hope will be transformative mentorship for other new writers. And, while my desire to come back to Hugo House to teach was motivated by an interest in “giving back,” I’m startled to see how much I gain by being there, meeting its students, and deepening my connections once again with its community. Hugo House is a magical place. It takes what is good within each of us—and among us—and quite simply makes it better.
Susan Meyers earned an MFA from the University of Minnesota and a PhD from the University of Arizona, and she currently directs the Creative Writing Program at Seattle University. Her fiction and nonfiction have been supported by grants from the Fulbright foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, 4Culture, Artist Trust, and the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, as well as several artists residencies. Her novel, Failing the Trapeze, won the Nilsen Award for a First Novel and the Fiction Attic Press Award for a First Novel, and it was a finalist for the New American Fiction Award.