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Teachers

Meet Our Teachers

Hugo House teachers are at the core of our goal to help writers become better writers. Our teachers are writers; they are selected on the basis of their active engagement in the literary world as well as their love of teaching.

  • Headshot of Natalie Serianni

    Natalie Serianni

  • Headshot of Emily Sernaker

    Emily Sernaker

  • Headshot of Zain Shamoon

    Zain Shamoon

  • Headshot of Sanjukta Shams

    Sanjukta Shams

  • Headshot of Radhika Sharma

    Radhika Sharma

  • Headshot of Nisi Shawl

    Nisi Shawl

  • Headshot of Michael Shilling

    Michael Shilling

  • Headshot of Gina Siciliano

    Gina Siciliano

  • Headshot of Cedar Sigo

    Cedar Sigo

  • Headshot of Darina Sikmashvili

    Darina Sikmashvili

  • Headshot of Martha Silano

    Martha Silano

  • Headshot of Michele Simms-Burton

    Michele Simms-Burton

  • Headshot of Leonora Simonovis

    Leonora Simonovis

  • Hugo House logo

    Imani Sims

  • Hugo House logo

    Anjali Singh

  • Headshot of Elsa Sjunneson

    Elsa Sjunneson

  • Headshot of Judith Skillman

    Judith Skillman

  • Headshot of Ed Skoog

    Ed Skoog

  • Headshot of Beth Slattery

    Beth Slattery

  • Headshot of Danez Smith

    Danez Smith

  • Headshot of Rachel Sobel

    Rachel Sobel

  • Headshot of Jen Soriano

    Jen Soriano

  • Headshot of Hailey Spencer

    Hailey Spencer

  • Headshot of Katherine E. Standefer

    Katherine E. Standefer

Headshot of Natalie Serianni

Natalie Serianni

Pronouns: she/her

Natalie Serianni is a Seattle-based writer and instructor with work at HuffPost, Insider, Motherwell, MSN/SheKnows, The Manifest-Station, Seattle's ParentMap, Today's Parent, and MuthaMagazine, among others. Her essay, "Subtle Shifts," was included in the 2021 anthology, "The Pandemic Midlife Crisis: Gen X Women on the Brink." She writes about grief and parenting (sometimes together), and has taught college writing for over twenty years. Connect with her on instagram @natserianni or at natalieserianni.com

Headshot of Emily Sernaker

Emily Sernaker

Pronouns: She/her

Emily Sernaker is a writer and human-rights professional based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the Sun, New York Times, Ms. Magazine, McSweeney’s, Los Angeles Review of Books, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Rumpus, New Ohio Review and more. Over the last few years she has teamed up with Brooklyn Public Library to organize free, intergenerational, human-rights poetry programming, including Holding Space for Grief events, an Interfaith Poetry Reading, and Global Citizen poetry classes. She has worked as a staff member at the International Rescue Committee and New York Peace Institute and is currently an adjunct professor at the New School. Go to www.emilysernaker.com for more information or follow on social media @Emilysernaker.

Headshot of Zain Shamoon

Zain Shamoon

Pronouns: he/him

Zain Shamoon is a professor of couple and family therapy at Antioch University Seattle. He hold his PhD in Human Development and Family Studies. He is the host and founder of the Narratives of Pain storytelling showcase.

Headshot of Sanjukta Shams

Sanjukta Shams

Pronouns: she/her

Shama Shams (Sanjukta) (is an author who lives in Dallas and Seattle. She plans to fully relocate to Seattle in May 2022 after her daughter graduates from High School. She holds a Master’s in Religion with an emphasis on Islam from Florida State University. Excerpts of her memoir were published in Palooka, A Journal of Underdog Excellence; Transformation, A Journal of Literature, Ideas & the Arts; Fiction Fix; and Mandala Literary Journal. She was a finalist for Black Warrior Review and her book proposal, as well as four of her essays, were selected by Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference hosted by University of North Texas. In front of a live sold-out audience at the Dallas Museum of Arts and the AT&T Performing Arts Center, she read excerpts from her memoir which can be found on the YouTube channel titled: Oral Fixation (An Obsession with True Life Tales)’s Lost in Translation, Elephant in the Room, and Old School. In addition, she read excerpts from her memoir at Truth in Comedy, a show featuring nonfiction writers. Shama works as the Director of Philanthropy and Marketing for Real Escape from the Sex Trade (REST), a Seattle-based nonprofit serving victims and survivors of sex trade and sex trafficking. During her spare time, she loves to write, paint, hike, and travel.

Headshot of Radhika Sharma

Radhika Sharma

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Radhika Sharma is the author of Parikrama: A Collection of Short Stories and Mangoes for Monkeys: A Novel. Radhika received her MFA from the San Francisco State University. Her byline has appeared in several newspapers and magazines including The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Jose Mercury News, India Currents, Tri City Voice, and others. She is currently at work on a novel and a collection of essays.

Headshot of Nisi Shawl

Nisi Shawl

Pronouns: they/them

Nisi Shawl (they/them) is the multiple award-winning author and editor of over a dozen books of speculative fiction and related nonfiction, including the Nebula Award finalist novel Everfair; the standard text on inclusive representation, Writing the Other; and the first two volumes of the New Suns anthology series. Their most recent publication is the middle grade historical fantasy novel Speculation, which Lee & Low published in January 2023. They’ve taught and spoken at Duke University, Spelman College, Stanford University, Sarah Lawrence College, and many other institutions. Once upon a time, they conducted a filmed, onstage interview with Octavia E. Butler.

Headshot of Michael Shilling

Michael Shilling

Pronouns: he/him/his

Michael Shilling is the author of Rock Bottom, a novel published by Little, Brown. The musical adaptation of the book was staged in 2014 by the Landless Theater Company. His stories have appeared in The Sun, Fugue, and Other Voices. He has taught at Seattle University, University of Puget Sound, and Cornish College of the Arts.

Headshot of Gina Siciliano

Gina Siciliano

Gina Siciliano is an artist, writer, historian, and bookseller living in Seattle, WA. Her award-winning graphic novel I Know What I Am: The Life and Times of Artemisia Gentileschi was published by Fantagraphics in 2019.

Headshot of Cedar Sigo

Cedar Sigo

Cedar Sigo was raised on the Suquamish Reservation in the Pacific Northwest and studied at The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute. He is the author of eight books and pamphlets of poetry, including All This Time (Wave Books, 2021), Stranger in Town (City Lights, 2010), Expensive Magic (House Press, 2008), two editions of Selected Writings (Ugly Duckling Press, 2003 and 2005) and most recently the Bagley Wright Lecture Series book Guard the Mysteries (Wave Books, 2021). He has taught workshops at St. Mary’s College, Naropa University and University Press Books. He is currently a mentor in the low residency MFA program at The Institute of American Indian Arts. He lives in Lofall, Washington.

Headshot of Darina Sikmashvili

Darina Sikmashvili

Pronouns: she/her

Darina (Dasha) Sikmashvili was born in Lubny, Ukraine, and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She received her MFA in fiction from the University of Michigan and has been working in film production for over a decade.

Headshot of Martha Silano

Martha Silano

Pronouns: she/her

Martha Silano is the author of five poetry books, including Gravity Assist, Reckless Lovely, and The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, all from Saturnalia Books. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, New England Review, American Poetry Review, and Paris Review, among others, and in four dozen print anthologies, including American Poetry: The Next Generation and ?Best American Poetry 2009. She also co-authored, with Kelli Russell Agodon, The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice. Martha received Yaddo's 2017 Martha Walsh Pulver Residency. She teaches at Bellevue College.

Headshot of Michele Simms-Burton

Michele Simms-Burton

Pronouns: She/her

Michele L. Simms-Burton is a writer and a retired university professor living in metro DC. Her recent writings appear in DownBeat, DCMTA, Auburn Avenue, and the Crisis Magazine.

Headshot of Leonora Simonovis

Leonora Simonovis

Pronouns: she/her/ella

Leonora Simonovis is the author of Study of the Raft, winner of the 2021 Colorado Prize for Poetry. Her work has appeared in Gargoyle, Kweli Journal, Diode Poetry Journal, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and The Rumpus, among others. Her poems have also been featured in Verse Daily, Sims Library of Poetry, and CIACLA (Contemporary Irish Center, Los Angeles). She has been the recipient of fellowships from Women Who Submit (WWS), VONA, and the Poetry Foundation. A Venezuelan American poet, Leonora grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, and currently lives in San Diego, CA, where she teaches Latin American literature and creative writing in Spanish at the University of San Diego. Website: leonorasimonovis.com Instagram: @leosimonovis Twitter: @lsimonovis

Hugo House logo

Imani Sims

Hugo House logo

Anjali Singh

Headshot of Elsa Sjunneson

Elsa Sjunneson

Elsa Sjunneson is a Deafblind author and editor living in Seattle, Washington. Her fiction and nonfiction writing has been praised as "eloquence and activism in lockstep" and has been published in dozens of venues around the world. She has been a Hugo Award finalist seven times and has won Hugo, Aurora, and BFA awards for her editorial work. When she isn't writing, Sjunneson works to dismantle structural ableism and rebuild community support for disabled people everywhere. Her debut memoir, Being Seen: One Deafblind Woman's Fight to End Ableism, released in October of 2021 from Tiller Press.

Headshot of Judith Skillman

Judith Skillman

Pronouns: she/her

Judith Skillman’s Oscar the Misanthropist, won the Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award, 2021. Her work has appeared in Cimarron Review, Threepenny Review, Zyzzyva, and other literary journals. She is the recipient of awards from Academy of American Poets and Artist Trust, and lead editor of When Home Is Not Safe, Writings on Domestic Verbal, Emotional, and Physical Abuse, McFarland. Skillman’s new book is Subterranean Address, New & Selected Poems 2014-2022, Deerbrook Editions. Visit www.judithskillman.com for more information.

Headshot of Ed Skoog

Ed Skoog

Pronouns: He/him

Ed Skoog is the author of four books of poems, most recently Travelers Leaving for the City (Copper Canyon Press, 2020). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Paris Review, The New Republic, American Poetry Review, Poetry Northwest and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from The Lannan Foundation and George Washington University, and has served as writer-in-residence at the Richard Hugo House. He lives in Portland, Oregon. 

Headshot of Beth Slattery

Beth Slattery

Pronouns: she/her

Beth Slattery moved to Seattle after eighteen years of teaching creative writing and literature at Indiana University East. Since her relocation, she has been writing and editing. Beth is currently working on a collection of personal essays about her mid-life marriage to a Zimbabwean, a move from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest, and a reluctant acceptance of the call to adventure. Her most recent publications appear in Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies and Southern Women’s Review. Beth’s recent editing work includes being a “beta” reader for an author with a multi-book publishing contract, content and copy editing of a personal essay collection, and providing comprehensive editing services on an edited academic volume that was later published by Oxford University Press. She has an M.A. in fiction writing from Miami University and an M.F.A. in creative nonfiction from the University of Southern Maine—Stonecoast.

Describe your teaching style.

I'm a firm believer that we learn best when we discuss subjects, ask big questions (that sometimes don't have answers), and then apply that new knowledge (or questions) to our writing. In other words: we talk a lot; we write a lot. Added bonus: we have fun.

Headshot of Danez Smith

Danez Smith

Danez Smith is a Black, Queer, Poz writer & performer from St. Paul, MN. Danez is the author of Homie, (Graywolf Press, 2020), winner of the Minnesota Book Award, the Heartland Bookseller Award, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017), winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection, the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award, and a finalist for the National Book Award; and [insert] boy (YesYes Books, 2014), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. Danez is a member of the Dark Noise Collective and is the co-host of VS with Franny Choi, a podcast sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and Postloudness.

Headshot of Rachel Sobel

Rachel Sobel

Rachel Sobel is a writer of speculative and literary fiction about dykes and other queer people. A graduate of the Hunter MFA in Fiction, she has lived in NYC and Seattle.

Describe your teaching style.

My classes are expansive and specific, aimed at giving concrete tools to address the writing pitfalls students face. I'm big on asking questions, interrogating your own process, and recognizing that what works for someone else might not work for you. I endorse reading absolutely everything, from silly fluff to pretentious works of enormous philosophical seriousness, and from poetry to nonfiction.

Headshot of Jen Soriano

Jen Soriano

Pronouns: she/they

Jen Soriano (she~they) is a Filipinx writer and movement builder who has long worked at the intersection of grassroots organizing, narrative strategy, and art-driven social change. Jen has won the International Literary Award for Creative Nonfiction, the Fugue Prose Prize, and fellowships from Hugo House, Vermont Studio Center, Artist Trust, and the Jack Jones Literary Arts Retreat. Jen is also an independent scholar and performer, and has served as poet in residence with Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility. Jen is author of the chapbook “Making the Tongue Dry,” and co-editor of Closer to Liberation: A Pina/xy Activist Anthology. She received a BA in History and Science from Harvard and an MFA in fiction and nonfiction from the Rainier Writing Workshop. Originally from a landlocked part of the Chicago area, Jen now lives with her family in Seattle, near the Duwamish River and the Salish Sea. Her debut book, Nervous: Essays on Heritage and Healing, is now available from Amistad/HarperCollins.

Headshot of Hailey Spencer

Hailey Spencer

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Hailey Spencer is, in the words of her wife Elizabeth, an absolute cloud of a girl. She is the author of the poetry collection Stories for When the Wolves Arrive. She lives and writes in Seattle, Washington.

Headshot of Katherine E. Standefer

Katherine E. Standefer

Pronouns: she/her

Katherine E. Standefer is the author of Lightning Flowers: My Journey to Uncover the Cost of Saving a Life (Little, Brown Spark 2020), which was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction, an NYT Book Review Editor’s Choice, and shortlisted for the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Prize from Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Lightning Flowers was featured on NPR’s Fresh Air, on the goop podcast, and in O, The Oprah Magazine, and People Magazine. Standefer earned her MFA at the University of Arizona. Her writing appeared in The Best American Essays 2016 and won the 2015 Iowa Review Award in Nonfiction. Standefer was a 2018 Logan Nonfiction Fellow at the Carey Institute for Global Good and a 2017 Marion Weber Healing Arts Fellow at the Mesa Refuge. She currently lives in the Tetons. 

Website: www.KatherineStandefer.com

Social Media: @girlmakesfire