We are thrilled to announce the writers selected for the Made at Hugo House fellowship, a major component of our mission to support writers at all stages of their artistic life.
The 2018-19 Made at Hugo House fellows are Courtney Bird, Emily Dhatt, Anis Gisele, Kim Kent, Katrina Otuonye, and Dujie Tahat.
Over the next year, the fellows will focus on their respective projects, exploring the writing craft in complimentary Hugo House classes, workshopping drafts, writing and revising, and meeting with writers-in-residence Kristen Millares Young and Amber Flame. Professional development, guidance, and support will also be provided by guest speakers presenting on topics such as how to find an agent, applying for grants and residencies, and other writerly concerns.
The fellows will give two public readings: one at the half-year point and another at the culmination of the fellowship.
Read more about the fellows and their projects below.
“My objective in writing is not to express myself or give voice to my demons, but to engage in a tradition of storytelling. I’ve found, however, that it is impossible to separate the two.”
Courtney Bird is a storyteller who works primarily within the context of American folklore and fairy tales to explore the body, female identity, and individuality. Born in New Jersey, Courtney holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Montana and a BA in art history from Princeton.
Courtney will be working on the second draft of a novel set in the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is the story of a woman disfigured by fire, told in a fractured narrative recalling folklore variants wherein one tale takes on many forms. The work was inspired by the death of her great-great-grandmother and is driven by the unique ecological landscape of the Pine Barrens.
“…the more I looked outward, the more I ended up writing about myself in ways that were genuine, sentimental, even humiliating. And I began to embrace that humiliation — that desire to burrow away — as part of my writing process rather than an unfortunate side effect.”
Writer and organizer Emily Dhatt studied creative writing and linguistics at the University of Washington and received her MFA in poetry from Virginia Tech. She was the recipient of a 2016 Academy of American Poets prize.
Her work explores the idea of navigating a world that is dangerous, and seeing writing as a process of humiliation and vulnerability. Emily is working on a collection of creative nonfiction essays, poems, and in-between forms of writing.
“I can’t waste any more of my life pretending to be a simpler story than I am. So I write.”
Anis Gisele is a bright light, a ferocious, self-loving Gemini femme. They write about race, gender-expansiveness, violence, and accountable love. They come from Manila, Philippines and from so many women who were told to be quiet.
bright light :: tala will be their first full-length poetry manuscript. Tala is a Tagalog word that means highest star in the sky. The bilingual title represents their dual identities as both a Filipinx and an American — a story-keeper of both histories and a change-maker within both cultures.
“Space and community are essential parts of my writing process. To me, space for writing means more than just a structure – walls, floors, ceilings, in which to write. It’s also about time and commitment to common goals.”
Kim Kent, a poet from New England who has found home in the Pacific Northwest, holds an MFA in poetry from Eastern Washington University and currently works for Chin Music Press, where she is learning how to design books.
Kim is at work on her first collection of poetry. Her poems explore – among many things – women speaking from inside the landscapes of film noir, rural New England, childhood memory, sisterhood, and other emotional states of outsiderness. She also hopes to use the fellowship time to design and produce a collaborative publishing project that focuses on writers responding to other forms of art.
“This project has been fueled by my need to find connection. To tell my story of identity, and to understand why we (women, oftentimes Black women) aren’t able to speak up for ourselves.”
Katrina Otuonye – a writer, editor, and educator – often writes about personal experiences alongside her interests in art history, health disparities, and superheroes. She is a fiction editor at Pacifica Literary Review and was recently the Guest Editor of the Black Lives Matter Special Issue of Wild Age Press. She holds a BA from the University of Tennessee and an MFA from Chatham University.
Katrina will complete a collection of personal essays centered on her jaw surgery in 2013. While her jaw was wired shut, she made connections to Black women and silence, anxiety, and the limits of strength. She is interested in the ways that people — Black women in particular — use silence to protect themselves, and how this silence can negatively impact mental health.
“Belonging is more than just an existential question for me but a lifelong pursuit. Accordingly, dispossession and displacement are often the starting point for my poetics.”
Dujie Tahat is a Filipino-Jordanian-American writer and self-proclaimed political hack who writes in search of belonging and community. His essays on poetry and politics have appeared in the Seattle Review of Books and at Civic Skunk Works, and he serves as poetry editor for Moss, the Pacific Northwest literary magazine.
Dujie will work on a poetry chapbook about the US Census — specifically, how shared grief, identity, power, and political will shape who gets counted and who remains unseen.
For more information on the fellowship program, visit the Made at Hugo House page.