The Capitol Hill writers center can move into its new space in 2017. Meanwhile, some nice Christmas surprises for local booksellers from author James Patterson.

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Lit Life

The movement to secure a new home for Hugo House, Seattle’s center for writers, is about to reach some milestones.

Hugo House, located in a much-loved but dilapidated mansion (and former funeral home) at 1634 11th Ave., in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, has had an “angel” of sorts since it opened in 1998. The owners of the house have given it a space, rent-free, in which to conduct writing classes, author events and other staples of Seattle’s literary life.

With the relentless escalation of real estate values on Capitol Hill, the owners, Hugo Properties, decided it was time to redevelop the property. It’s in a prime location — across from Cal Anderson Park and within walking distance to the new Capitol Hill light-rail station. But the owners have stipulated that the new building would continue to provide a home for Hugo House. The principals in Hugo Properties, Linda Breneman and Ted and Linda Johnson, are long-term supporters of the organization.

The development project is in its design-review stage with the city. Hugo House’s home and an adjacent building would be demolished and replaced with a six-story, 124,000-square-foot, market-rate apartment building with 80-90 residential units, plus two levels of below-grade parking.

The writing center and some retail space would occupy the ground floor — 10,300 square feet for the writing center, and 1,500 square feet of retail space. Tree Swenson, executive director of Hugo House, said the space would include six classrooms (up from four in the current building), office space, a performance space and a bar.

Swenson says that if the city permitting process goes smoothly, the next step would be for the center to move into temporary facilities in June. Those facilities will belong to an as-yet-unnamed nonprofit organization. Swenson said it’s estimated that the project will take 14 months to complete — the center would move back into the building in the fall of 2017.

Hugo House’s rent-free status has been a major subsidy to the organization’s fiscal health. Will that arrangement continue? Swenson says the center will be given the opportunity to buy its new space, which will require a fundraising campaign, but would ensure the perpetuity of the center. “We have a lot of work to do,” said Swenson.

Local indie booksellers get holiday bonuses:James Patterson is an author who has made a lot of money selling books, and he’s grateful. This past year Patterson, one of the world’s most popular and prolific authors, has donated $2 million to school libraries and independent-bookstore employees — $1.75 million to the libraries, $250,000 in “holiday bonuses” to bookstore workers.

Out of 2,848 nominations received by the American Booksellers Association, Patterson personally selected 87 grant recipients. Winners will receive bonuses ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. Several are from Seattle and Washington state:

Karen Maeda Allman of Seattle’s Elliott Bay Book Co.

Rich and Patti Harriman of Third Place Books (Lake Forest Park, Ravenna and a soon-to-be-opened store in Seattle’s Seward Park neighborhood).

sweet pea Flaherty of King’s Books in Tacoma.

Joan Terselich of Village Books in Bellingham.

Independent booksellers use their extensive knowledge of books to take the time to match a book to a customer. They have launched the careers of thousands of authors through their recommendations.

In the library category, Blue Heron School of Port Townsend and Camas Elementary School in Wapato, Yakima County, won grants.

This just in: Village Books of Bellingham has opened a bookstore in Lynden, Whatcom County. It’s in the remodeled Waples Mercantile Building on Front Street in downtown Lynden. Sounds like a road trip to me — for more information go to