We recently announced a new cohort of Made at Hugo House fellows. Made at Hugo House is a yearlong fellowship in which emerging writers complete a proposed writing project with guidance and support from Hugo House. The Made fellows are selected by an anonymous advisory panel of writers, which means we here at Hugo House didn’t know one of the new fellows, Raye Stoeve, had started their writing career here as a Scribe—one of the many who has participated in our summer creative writing camps—until we saw this tweet:
— Raye Stoeve (@rayestoeve) August 13, 2016
We asked Stoeve (pronounced stove-ee) if they could share their experiences as a Scribe, and where their writing life has taken them since. Below is our exchange:
Can you tell us a little bit about your experience as a Scribe?
When I participated in Scribes, it was an after-school program at my high school. I can hardly believe that was more than ten years ago! Once a week, Roberto Ascalon would come to our school and run a writing workshop with a group of us. Each year, we had a culminating performance; once, it was in the theater at the old Hugo House. We also went to open mics at Hugo House a few times. It was probably the single biggest influence on me as a writer at that time. I went every week, no exceptions, and loved the community and confidence I found there.
I remember doing exercises that seemed to have nothing to do with writing and how they totally opened my mind: for example, lying on the floor of the classroom with all the lights turned off while we listened to music, and then writing from a prompt based on that exercise. I still have my writing notebooks from Scribes, and in my own practice as a teaching artist, I have used Roberto’s exercises for inspiration. We are still in touch on Facebook, and I got at least a couple lifelong friends out of that community. Scribes was also the venue through which I first experienced slam poetry, when we went to YouthSpeaks slams, and I am a spoken word poet today at Rain City Poetry Slam in large part because of that early experience.
Did Scribes change your trajectory as a writer or artist in any way? If so, how?
Not in the classic sense; it wasn’t a “lightbulb moment,” because I already loved to write and wanted to be a writer. At the time, I think it gave me confidence, helped me develop a writing practice, and exposed me to different kinds of writing at a formative stage of my development, which for a teenager is life-changing in a certain sense! I’ve also felt the influence of Scribes in a much longer-term sense; Scribes introduced me to slam poetry, and is part of the reason why I eventually came back to spoken word and am now slamming regularly at Rain City Poetry Slam. And, it introduced me to Hugo House. When, as an adult, I finally decided to take seriously my dream of making writing my life’s work, Hugo House was one of the first places I looked for programs that would support me, and for goals to which I could aspire. For the past couple of years, I’ve been working toward residencies and fellowships, particularly Made at Hugo House, and the Scribes-to-Rain City pipeline helped me believe in my art and reach for that goal.
During your Made at Hugo House fellowship, you’ll be working on your young adult novel about a high school senior, Dean, who’s navigating coming out as transgender. You’re a poet, performer, teacher, and have also written articles for such publications as YES! Magazine and Truthout. What led you to writing for young adults?
I knew I was queer from a young age, and I distinctly remember the first time I found a book with queer characters at the library: I was both excited to see people like me and stories like mine in a book, and terrified because what if someone saw me reading the book and figured out I was queer? Books have always been a tremendous influence on me, particularly as a teen. That first book was a young adult novel, and I looked for every other queer YA novel I could find after that. I was so hungry to see myself as real and feel connected to my community, and young adult fiction did that for me.
Now, as an adult, I am writing for teens for the same reason I work with them: I love being able to positively impact their lives through my art. And, I want to write for them the stories I wish I had had: not just novels about one gay or lesbian kid with a tragic story, but story worlds where queerness and transness are normalized, where there are different kinds of queerness and transness represented, where the experiences and characters are as complex and diverse as they are in real life. Seeing yourself represented that way is powerful and can open doors you may not have thought were there or believed you were allowed to open.
What’s one of the things you’re most looking forward to about your upcoming fellowship?
Learning and growing as a fiction writer! For most of my life, I’ve primarily been a poet, and writing fiction is an exciting new medium for me. I can’t wait to take classes at Hugo House and learn from the other writers in my cohort about their writing practice, tools, and style.
For those who’d like to connect with you and your work, where can we find you online and around town?
My entire writing life is online at my website, rayestoeve.wordpress.com! And, I am usually at Rain City Poetry Slam every single Wednesday night: 8 pm, Jai Thai on Capitol Hill, $3 cover! Come on out!
Raye Stoeve is a queer transgender poet and performer born, raised, and based in Seattle, Washington. Rain City Poetry Slam is their poet home. Their poetry and essays have appeared in YES! Magazine and Shift Queer Arts & Literary Magazine, among other publications. They most recently created a multimedia performance piece for Lion’s Main Art Collective’s Transience exhibition and are currently working on a young adult novel about a genderqueer teen. Offstage, they work with youth as a teaching artist and in an after-school program.
Molly Woolbright is Hugo House’s marketing manager. For press inquiries or to get in touch, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.