Ryan Boudinot's short stories are twisted, happy, unsettling things. His career as a fiction writer began in 1979, when he was 6, with a story about befriending a lion. He grew up in Conway, Washington, and got his bachelor's degree from Evergreen and his MFA through Bennington College. Boudinot's first major success came in 2002, with the publication of his creepy, captivating story "The Littlest Hitler" in Mississippi Review. "The Littlest Hitler" quickly became one of the most acclaimed stories of the year. (It begins, "Then there's the time I went as Hitler for Halloween," and ends with the 9-year-old narrator slowly reaching his arm into a wood-burning stove.) "The Littlest Hitler" appeared in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2003, edited by Dave Eggers; was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Aimee Bender; and was translated into Italian and published, bizarrely enough, in a Holocaust-themed issue of the Italian magazine Il Diario. ("I'm kind of sick of that story now," Boudinot says, understandably.) His stories have also appeared in McSweeney's (in fact, he's in the current issue), Black Book, and Monkeybicycle. He's written three novels, all unpublished, and is at work on a fourth. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE


A recent graduate of UW's creative writing MFA program, Kate Preusser is a young writer whose prose (be it in the form of fiction or nonfiction) is the product of a keen intelligence. Now, let's have a quick look at what intelligence means from the perspective of writing. As everyone knows, there are only three types of writers worth reading: aesthetes (those who have a gift with words), intellectuals (those who know a lot of difficult things), and intelligent writers (those who are very thoughtful). Elements of the first two kinds of writing can be found in Preusser's work, but it is the third that defines it. Reading one or two of the many book reviews she has contributed to this paper over the past three years makes clear that the substance of her ideas and writing is shaped by a mind that is as strong as it is sensitive. Some of you might be alarmed by the fact that a writer who regularly contributes essays to this paper was a candidate for a prize that's granted by this paper. The fact is, we've published her because she's a damn good writer. CHARLES MUDEDE


Kary Wayson moved from Portland to Seattle in 1994 to get her MFA at UW. She graduated from the program in 1997 and has been waiting tables ever since. Earlier this year, LitRag Press published a chapbook of her poems, Dog & Me, which included the standout poems "More of the Same" and "The Mean Time." ("More of the Same" begins: "Even with my mouth on your thigh/I want my mouth on your thigh.") Her poetry has appeared in the Nation, Seattle Review, Cranky, FIELD, Mass. Ave, and elsewhere. She was the recipient of an Artist Trust fellowship in 2001 and a Nation/"Discovery" award in 2004. "I have a manuscript that's definitely wanting a home," she says. The title of that manuscript is Regret Red, and its title poem (first published in Cranky) begins: "This is slow going, this paling/of what's worse than purple/into some dumb lesser version/of lavender or black:/a much less lustrous pick/of what could be called my color/if I were better bred." CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE


Early last year, Anna Maria Hong moved to Seattle from Austin, Texas. This year she is Hugo House's writer in residence, a position she shares with the winner of last year's Genius Award in the writing category, Matt Briggs. What in the context of Seattle can be described as Hong's spectacular rise (from the fringe to the center of local literature) was occasioned by her poetry, which made a strong impression on Frances McCue, Hugo House's artistic director, and Trisha Ready, Hugo House's managing director (both are writers). As I have said elsewhere on this page, the three types of writers worth reading are aesthetes (those who have a gift with words), intellectuals (those who know a lot of difficult things), and intelligent writers (those who are very thoughtful). Hong is an aesthete. A line in her poetry is arresting not for its meaning but for its look and sound. For example, "devine the whither, if not when" ("Fablesque"), or "I, so irritable. I so morphic:" ("Rolf Me Adonais"), or "lips eclipsed all reminiscences of home" ("Astral Sonnet 1"). Again and again, we get stuck in the line, which is so striking that it knocks itself out of the groove of the poem. Rereading doesn't help; to read a line again is to get stuck again. It is a weird spell she casts. CHARLES MUDEDE