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by Corinne Cavanaugh

I arrived to my Hedgebrook residency in February 2015 with a pile of grocery bag paper, fabric scraps, pens and glue sticks, and a few finished pages for my second book, Death Is Stupid. I was there to illustrate the story I’d written about a child facing his grandmother’s death while adults say stupid things to him, like “she’s in a better place.”

Though my books are for children, I sure can’t get my work done when they’re around.

I remember nightmares in Fir Cabin that first week. In one, my cabin was also being used by a local pre-school. Children sprawled across my floor on their bellies, painting, drawing, chatting. “Isn’t this charming?” their teacher asked me. “Get these children out of here!!!” I screamed. The next night, I dreamed a younger version of my son sprang out from beneath the bed covers. “Surprise!” he shouted, “I didn’t want you to be lonely!”

But lonely was exactly what I wanted to be, and that’s the gift of Hedgebrook.

I make my books in collage on grocery bags because it is the prettiest, toughest paper, more like a tool or a toy than something you toss into the recycling bin. Plus, just seeing a grocery bag, a person is inclined to think: There’s something good in there for me. I’m about to be fed. That’s what my Ordinary Terrible Things series, published by the Feminist Press, is meant to be.

The books are an expression of my activism, a way for me to use my writing and artwork to center kids in the truth of their own lives. It’s less about inspiring kids to cheer up or toughen up through hard times, and more about kids using common childhood crises to wake up.

Each book aims for the troubled places—wherever there’s been loss, upheaval, destructive messages, and trauma. The series has so far covered divorce and death, and the sex book is at the printer now. I’ve started writing the one about whiteness and racism as white people’s problem, and will follow that with a book about coping with illness and hospitalization.

Clearing a space in my life so that I could spend two weeks at Hedgebrook took a ridiculous amount of effort—not just from me but family and friends who patched the gap. I had no idea that, in return, Hedgebrook would clear a space within me where it could live on, long after I left.

The point of my residency was not for me to work as though I may never have that chance again. Like a mighty Titaness with an impossible task, I needed to swallow that place whole. The wood I hauled, the fires I built and watched burn, the silence, the shadows—I had to take them in completely, and I did.

Now, whether I have two whole days to write or only until the light turns green, the essence of Hedgebrook, its warmth and spaciousness, are mine for keeps.

Learn more about the Writers in Residence program: www.hedgebrook.org/writers-in-residence/


About the Author:

AnastasiaHigginbothamAnastasia Higginbotham is a writer and illustrator, and the creator of the children’s series Ordinary Terrible Things. Her first book of the series, Divorce Is the Worst, published in 2015 by the Feminist Press, was instantly embraced by children and adults for its willingness to trust kids as the authority on their own lives. Therapists and divorce mediators alike praised the book for its child-centered approach. “As families reconfigure through divorce, the best interest of a child should be front and center,” said Abby Rosmarin, Esq., LMHC Mediation Counsel, McCarthy Fingar, LLP and Executive Director of the New York Association of Collaborative Professionals. “Sharing Divorce is the Worst can help parents focus on their child’s needs as distinct from their own, encourage supportive communication, and nourish resilience for future well being.”  Death Is Stupid, the second book of the Ordinary Terrible Things series is now available.

Higginbotham’s series is informed by more than 20 years as a speechwriter for New York City nonprofits that combat injustice by empowering those it harms. Her gift for drawing out a person’s authentic voice and bravest storytelling about the ordinary, terrible challenges they faced as children and as adults (discrimination, poverty, incarceration, sexual abuse, war) helps to attract major funding and long term personal investment to organizations that are doing outstanding social justice work. To learn more about Anastasia view her website at http://anastasiahigginbotham.com


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Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.

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Corinne Cavanaugh (contractor - inactive)
About Corinne Cavanaugh (contractor - inactive)
former contractor. owner/operator at donorswell.com

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