General registration for summer quarter classes is OPEN! Find your perfect writing class here☀️

Loading Events

Programs & Events


  • This event has passed.
  • Date: May 5
  • Time: 7:00pm - 9:00pm PT

Word Works: Karen Russell [Offsite]

General admission: $12 | Hugo House member: $10 | Student: $5

Word Works WebBanner

Engineering Impossible Architectures

Pulitzer Prize finalist and MacArthur Genius Karen Russell’s fiction—including her first book of stories, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, and her wave-making debut novel, Swamplandia!—is the stuff of enchantment: gator-wrestling theme parks, magical swamps, wolf-like girls, and other fantastically rendered phenomena. But writing fiction set in an alternate reality doesn’t mean you get a free pass to do any crazy thing you want. If you’re going to radically rearrange nature, you have some additional responsibilities to the reader. Namely, that you don’t get tripped out on your godlike power (or more likely just exhausted and forgetful) and violate the parameters of the world that you’ve created.

As difficult as it is to get a reader to suspend disbelief, it’s even harder to keep their disbelief lofted over the course of a story or novel as it progresses. In the same way that you can break a reader’s heart by playing fast and loose with the rules of your Oz, you can also fail a reader by getting sloppy on the Kansas details.

In her Word Works talk, Karen Russell will discuss the importance of precise details—both concrete and emotional—and a consistent, rule-governed world.

Following the talk, Seattle-based writer Diana Xin will join Russell onstage for a Q&A.

Note: This event takes place at Washington Hall.

About Word Works events and the 2016–2017 Season.

Karen_Russell_11494Karen Russell is the author of the short story collections St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and Vampires in the Lemon Grove, as well as the novel Swamplandia!, which was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Her work has been featured in The New Yorker’s debut fiction issue and on The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 list, and was chosen as one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists.



photo2Diana Xin is a graduate of Northwestern University and holds an MFA from the University of Montana. Her fiction has appeared in Gulf Coast, PANK, Alaska Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. Her essays have been named Narrative Magazine’s Top 5 Stories of 2015-2016, winner of Beecher’s Magazine 2016 creative nonfiction contest, and is forthcoming in pamphlet form from Red Bird Chapbooks. She is a contributing editor to Moss Lit and a recipient of the Made at Hugo House fellowship.