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by Elise Miller

4.27.2020 UPDATE

Though most of us share a sense of anxiety, fear, and overwhelm while we shelter in place, it’s important to remember that some of us are significantly more impacted than others. As Judy Belk, a Hedgebrook Board member and alum and CEO of the California Wellness Foundation, underscored in her op-ed in the Los Angeles Times over the weekend, race and socioeconomic status are key factors as to whether you’re going to get the coronavirus and whether you’ll survive it.

On average 75% of the Writers in Residence at Hedgebrook are women of color. This means that many in our extended community are likely experiencing more economic worries, sickness and fatalities during this pandemic than their white counterparts. Postponing residencies and cancelling programs can also have disproportionate impacts on these women since carving out time to write is such a rare opportunity in the best of times, made even more so by lay-offs and the increased need to care for family members now.

As we consider how to support all the visionary women writers who have been planning to come to Hedgebrook this year, these issues are at the top of our minds. Our program team is in touch with each writer while we think through when can we safely open our doors again and whether or not future dates might work. We are offering new ‘pay as you will’ options on line to nourish connections and reach those who wouldn’t be able to afford a course otherwise.  

As part of our online series classes, for example, Theo Nestor and Natalie Serber hosted lively and highly interactive chat sessions for students this past Saturday. This upcoming weekend, on May 5 from 11:00AM -12PM PDT, Claire Dederer will join the chat room with students, answering questions, sharing resources, and helping to solidify this online class community.  Please join us!

More than ever we need to lift women’s voices up, particularly those who have been marginalized for far too long – particularly those who are most at risk during this highly disturbing and disorienting time. Please help us continue to support women authoring change for the future we not only want, but we very much need.

Here are our latest program updates due to COVID-19:

  1. Four online series classes relaunched: Available now thru June 15, 2020 at multiple price points open to anyone. Teachers include: Jourdan Keith, Claire Dederer, Theo Nestor, and Natalie Serber.
  2. Master Classes:
  3. Carolina DeRobertis at Hedgebrook (April 21-28, 2020) is canceled for this year with the plan to hold it early next year in person.
  4. Hope Edelman in Tuscany (April 29 – May 9, 2020) is now rescheduled for November 14-23, 2020.
  5. Vortext (May 1–3, 2020) on Whidbey Island is canceled, though a series of live webinars with Vortext teachers will launch in May.
  6. Women’s Playwrights Festival (May 13 – June 2, 2020) is canceled, though our Dramaturgs have offered to host intimate Zoom calls to check-in with and support this year’s playwrights. Thought is being given to possibly offering live webinars with dramaturgs, theater partners, and playwrights.
  7. Documentary Film Lab (June 2-11, 2020) is canceled, though all three Lab leaders are offering each finalist pro bono, one-on-one consulting sessions.  The program team is supporting two Doc Lab fellows to develop a virtual space for filmmakers to discuss how COVID-19 is impacting their craft, to support each other and to share resources. Stay tuned.

We will be deciding soon whether to cancel our programs for the rest of June. If so, our hope would be to reopen in early July for our next group of Writers in Residence. Of course, that too remains uncertain as we continue to monitor health and safety concerns.

In the meanwhile, please take good care, and even in the midst of so much chaos, try to savor the small beauties and wonders in everyday life – maybe a spark of an idea for your next piece of writing or simply a clean load of laundry.

Update: 3/31/20

As you are no doubt aware, circumstances regarding COVID-19 continue to change dramatically by the day, reshaping our lives and restricting our choices in an effort to slow the contagion and protect individual and public health.

Given the current state of affairs, the elderly, caregivers, and those most economically vulnerable will be hardest hit which means that women will be disproportionately affected. How do we empower women to document these stories, and how do we continue to capture these narratives after the immediate crisis has subsided? Women authoring change globally is what we do and have always done at Hedgebrook and as such we have a vital role to play. Over the coming months Hedgebrook will be focusing on ways in which we can best foster, capture, and document these stories. We look forward to sharing our plans with you.

In the meanwhile, we want you to know about some additional changes to our program schedule:

  • We are currently working with our Vortext teachers to bring their classes to the wider Hedgebrook community online. 
  • Our upcoming Spring Master Class at Hedgebrook with Carolina de Robertis will likely be postponed until 2021, but we are still moving forward with Mira Jacob’s Master Class in June at this time.
  • We are in conversation with those involved in our Women Playwrights’ Festival the second half of May as to whether we need to postpone this or create some kind of alternative.
  • We are rescheduling our Tuscany Master Class with Hope Edelman, originally planned for April/May, to November 14-23, 2020.
  • We are ramping up our Online Writing Series, taught by Hedgebrook alumnae.  Look for some of your favorite online classes to re-launch in early April.
  • Our Fall Master Classes at Hedgebrook with Molly Wizenberg and Vanessa Hua are still open and accepting applications.

As disheartening as it is to not have writers at the retreat right now, we have decided to plant our full Hedgebrook garden this Spring. We want to be prepared to feed and host writers whenever restrictions are lifted, and whatever we harvest prior to that time will go to HB staff who are in need and our local Food Bank.

We continue to send our heartfelt wishes to you and yours. Please stay healthy and strong — and please keep writing!

Update: 3/17/20

Hedgebrook has made the difficult decision to pause all in-person programming until April 20 in light of rapidly evolving news about the spread of novel coronavirus. As we learn more about projected course of this virus, it’s clear that our highest priority has to be to the health and wellbeing of our program participants, staff, and community as well as the health of those who live far beyond the borders of Whidbey Island. The data shows that a bold approach to social distancing (what we prefer to call “social spacing”) is the most effective way to flatten the curve and keep COVID-19 from overwhelming our healthcare system and taking more lives.

We will of course continue to monitor the situation and see if we will have to extend our “pause” beyond April 20. For those of you who are signed up for programs, please know you will be contacted directly about any changes. Also know we are working with our teachers to creatively develop alternative ways of gathering virtually, including offering more online programs.

This moment in history invites each of us to become adaptive leaders and take compassionate, wise action. We are grateful to all of you for your support of Hedgebrook’s mission. Please take good care of yourselves, your loved ones, and your communities as we walk together through these unchartered times. 

Update: 3/11/20

As of today, we have not canceled any Whidbey based programs but are keeping a vigilant eye on the emerging information and will alert people who are planning to come to programs individually as soon as anything changes. Everyone will need to make their own decision in terms of their level of comfort with any potential risks traveling here.  Please contact us at programs@hedgebrook.org with questions.  

We are reimagining Equivox, our annual fundraising brunch, as a virtual event this year. Please click here to learn how you can support Hedgebrook.


Dear Hedgebrook Friends,  

With news of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak changing by the hour, we want you to know how Hedgebrook is responding.   

1. As of today, we have not canceled any programs but are keeping a vigilant eye on the emerging information and will alert people who are planning to come to programs individually as soon as anything changes. There have been no confirmed cases on Whidbey Island, but everyone will need to make their own decision in terms of their level of comfort with any potential risks traveling here.   

2. We have put in place practices at our retreat to reduce risks such as using only paper towels rather than cloth towels in bathrooms and doing vigilant sanitizing. As always, we ask staff who feel sick to stay home.   

3. Our colleagues at the Alliance for Artists Communities have gathered some excellent resources about protecting yourself and others, so instead of reinventing the wheel, we are forwarding their suggestions (thank you, ACC!).

  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has posted an overview of the current situation as well as basic steps to reduce risk
  • CDC is urging businesses to prepare an Infectious Disease Outbreak Response plan (and will soon post guides for community organizations)
  • CDC recommends staying in contact with state and local health agencies for location-specific guidance
  • ArtsReady has also shared a post on how to prepare your facility and to communicate with program participants and your broader community 
  • In the event of a site-wide evacuation, this checklist guides you on what to bring
  • While putting safety measures into place, we encourage thoughtful consideration of the stigma associated with COVID-19. As advocates for all artists, we must also take care that the steps we take are equitable in their treatment of Asian and Asian-American constituents.
  • While the number of US cases remains small, we are an international service organization, and the World Health Organization has posted advice for the public on basic protective measures against the new coronavirus

4. We will be updating the post if/as our situation changes. Please send an email to programs@hedgebrook.org if you have any questions and stay healthy!

Elise Miller
About Elise Miller
“With so much disruption and despair in the daily news, Hedgebrook serves as a powerful force for the common good. By supporting exceptional women and trans writers, Hedgebrook is on the leading edge of those demanding a more just and healthy society for generations to come.”

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