When I arrived in town, I was broke and living on couches. I eventually found work as a waitress part-time for a wine bar, and soon noticed there were many others, like myself, who led double lives. There was the bartender/letterpress artist, the retail worker/punk singer, the barista/painter. More people introduced themselves as their passion -- rather than their job -- and I found this charming. I admitted that I wanted to be a writer to only a few people, shrouded by this unwarranted shame that they might be thinking "This loser thinks she can be a writer?" To see people inviting friends to shows, making their art, and actively pursuing creative careers made me wonder why I felt so embarrassed to try it myself. Seattle was still pretty cheap then (five years ago), so a lot of people I knew worked three days a week at making money and spent the rest of the time making art. Some of the lucky ones got by on their craft alone.
My boyfriend told about this writing center that happened to be a mere six blocks from his apartment. I had sent him my writing, sheepishly, and his voice sounded encouraging. “I think this place will be really good for you,” he said.
It turned out to be called Hugo House, named for a local poet, and it offered classes, readings, and open mic nights. It was like a writing camp, except no cabins to sleep in and no capture the flag. I decided to investigate. I attended my first reading, slinking with my back against the wall, watching actual, published writers say decidedly writerly things, throwing about semi-bureaucratic words I'd never thought I'd hear, like “agent” and “book launch.” Later, a poet named Nicole got on stage and delivered her lines, backed by a jazz band, tapping a tambourine on her hip, and conjuring waves of laughter with poetry, a feat I’d never before seen.
Just what the hell was all this? Hilarious poetry accompanied by rigorous tambourine shaking was an option? How would a person like me, in the back, in the dark, make the kind of work people wanted to shine a light on? And did I mention I was still broke? Oh, I was. So like Oliver holding out my bowl, pandering for a second helping of the feeling I felt that night, I gave Hugo House a call. I had nothing to lose.