Open Office Hours

I hosted a reading on June 9th of people who came from the community to visit the Writer-in-Residence at Richard Hugo House. My tenure as Writer-in-Residence at Richard Hugo House was up on June 16th (Bloom�s Day).

As you may know, Hugo House offers free consultations with the Writers-in-Residence to anyone in the community.

Anyone within striking distance of Capitol Hill can schedule a time to come and talk about whatever they want to talk about. I�ve had writers visit from Tacoma, Buckley, and Darrington. Presumably they will want to discuss a writing related issue. This isn’t always the case. I’ve ended up having conversations with people about community currency, how to survive as a productive homeless artist in Seattle, and the function of scalar waves.

I saw about three writers a week. In the last two years I saw just over a hundred and fifty writers.

Typically the person who comes in is an isolated writer who eschews any kind of formal writing education, who doesn’t really associate with living writers (sometimes out of choice and more often I guess because they just don�t know any), and who has been working in relative solitude somewhere in Seattle for many years. While this can be the recipe for a really original writer, it can also be the recipe for some very volatile personality characteristics. On one occasion I misread a person on the kind of a feedback they desired. As I began to talk about their story, they began to stand until they were looming over the table. And then they began to shake. I was aware at the moment that the front desk, the telephone, safety was some distance away. The writing workshop which has always seemed a mysteriously bad way of teaching writing suddenly offered at least the function of safety in numbers.

One man had a case of writer’s block since 1983. He was working on a prospectus for a machine that would crush a person’s muscles and release painful memories. The specific task that was hanging him up was a letter to an author who had read at the UW Bookstore. This man had 900 different versions of this cover letter. Another woman with sever physical problems, dependent on her utility dog, was working on this dog’s the memoir. She had an especially deep rapport with the animal, and so could talk to the dog. She was busy translating the dog’s life. She met with me to find out how she could revise the book. However, before she could complete the project, her dog died.

By and large the people I saw were working on novel, stories, and nonfiction articles and just wanted someone who wasn’t their boyfriend or mom to talk to them about their work.

Holding open office hours ended up being the most rewarded of the functions I performed over my two years at Hugo House. I felt a deep affinity for these writers working in isolation, since this is really the only way writing actually gets done. I think Seattle is fortunate that there is a resource for skittish writers to consult when they begin to think about how to make their work more public.

In a few cases, though, I came across some really engaging and wonderful writing from writers who didn’t have readers. Doug Rudoff and Sharon Reitman are two such writers. I was pleased they agreed to read. They’ll read from their work on June 9th at 7:30 p.m. on the Cabaret Stage at Richard Hugo House.


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