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By Gabrielle James

Eve Ensler with Amy Wheeler

In her latest book, The Apology, author Eve Ensler revisits her past to explore how and why she became the victim of years of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse at the hands of her father. She digs deep in search of answers, which lead her to channel the apology that she never received from her father. What she uncovered was life-altering.

Hedgebrook Executive Director Amy Wheeler interviewed Eve at Hugo House on June 14, 2019. The audio was recorded by KUOW.

Please note: This recording contains themes of sexual violence and unedited language of an adult nature.

Photos by: Kate Buzard

By Pamela Yates

“Borderlands,”

A documentary film currently in production

 It was just a whisper that grew into a roar. Three hundred people gathered, the next day 2,000 then 5,000, swelling to 7,000. They are on the move, women, children, and men fleeing violence, climate change, and hunger, walking thousands of miles en masse to the United States. It is a Central American exodus.

We were accompanying them, documenting whether their strength in numbers would ease the dangerous crossing across Mesoamerica. Could being together help them avoid having to pay human smugglers, the coyotes? Were they too big a group to be extorted by the narco-cartels roaming the land? Could any border crossing or wall stop that many people banding together?

 It’s all part of my new feature-length documentary, “Borderlands” currently in production, that focuses on Americans who are willing to risk it all to stand up to U.S. government policies and welcome these refugees. It’s a set of stories about “righteous persons” motivated by moral conviction and compassion. It shows how courageous actions can lead to mobilization and the defense of human rights in the face of hate and discrimination. Who we are as a nation is at stake: will the southern U.S. border become the Ellis Island of the 21st century, welcoming new immigrants to the American dream, or become a new version of the WWII internment camps that Japanese-American citizens were forced to endure?

One of these stories is about the women of No More Deaths/No Más Muertes, a humanitarian aid group in southern Arizona made up of young volunteers who hike the migrant trails of the Sonora desert leaving water and food so that the migrants won’t die from exposure. Border Patrol agents seek out the containers and empty the water. When No More Deaths published a video of the Border Patrol’s callous acts, federal officials struck back charging volunteers Zaachila Orozco-McCormick, Oona Holcomb and two others with littering and trespassing and put them on trial in a Federal Court. So not only is the government exposing people to high risk of death by forcing them to cross through ever more perilous parts of the desert, but they are also criminalizing those who try to help the migrants survive the crossing, resulting in even more people dying.

But the women of No More Deaths managed to flip the narrative while at trial and make it about the Federal Government’s cruelty. In their testimony, they brought attention to the humanitarian crisis triggered by policies intended to deter migrants by increasing risk of death at the border, creating a public relations disaster for the government. When the women were convicted of littering and trespassing and faced six months in federal jail, the government backed down and reduced their sentences to a fine and probation. They dropped charges against other humanitarian aid workers and declared a mistrial in the case against Scott Warren, another No More Deaths volunteer. Rather than the government’s action having a chilling effect, it has now emboldened many others to volunteer from around the country and walk the desert on the border, helping those in need.

Women of No More Deaths outside the Federal courtroom in Tucson, AZ. 

This is one of the stories that we will tell about Americans who, working together and individually, are challenging the anti-immigration narrative, from one of cruelty to one of humanity and welcome. In “Borderlands” we meet the women and men who are confronting unjust laws and are taking great risks to do the right thing, even downplaying those risks as they reflect on the courage of the migrants undertaking epic life-threatening journeys to come to the U.S.

Still from “Empathy,” a short film about the caravan’s journey

You can watch the three-minute film here: http://tinyurl.com/yyuekpzl

By Sylvia Arthur

Global Impact

One of the best things that happened when I opened my personal library to the public in Accra, Ghana, in December 2017, was also one of the first. It was on my second day when a small, shy teenager cautiously stepped through the door and into the middle of the space where she stood, transfixed, surrounded by books. “If I hadn’t brought her here today, she would’ve killed me,” her mum said, with a completely straight face. The girl remained stuck in her spot, her mouth slightly agape, oblivious to her mother’s obvious frustration. Recognizing her daughter’s state of suspension, the older woman resigned herself to her fate and took up residence in one of the tub chairs. “She’s so excited,” she said, gazing at her child. Pride had replaced annoyance.

When I told the girl she could borrow two books, her eyes glistened, as if tears werethreatening to form, and she immediately reached for Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists. I was so impressed by her choices that I insisted she take another. She was torn. She searched through the shelves, and eventually settled on two, flitting between Margot Lee Shetterley’s, Hidden Figures and The Autobiography of Malcolm X. She opted for the latter. I was now the one in awe. Behind the reserved exterior and deferential demeanor was a steely young woman who wanted to change the world. At that moment, I felt there was nothing left for me to do. My work was complete.

When I left Hedgebrook in the spring of 2017, I had no idea I’d venture from the Pacific Northwest to the Gulf of Guinea and achieve a long-held dream. This cross-continental journey can, in part, be traced back to conversations I had around the fabled farmhouse kitchen table with fellow resident, Saskia, a German-Indian novelist who lived between the Two countries of her heritage. As someone who’s never been at ease in groups, I latched onto Saskia soon after I arrived and we talked for hours about the places we’d lived. I confided in her that I was thinking of leaving London, my hometown, for somewhere more livable, and she encouraged me to see Ghana, my parents’ homeland, as a viable option.

One of the things that made moving to Ghana easier was that the vast majority of my beloved book collection, over a thousand volumes gathered over 20 years, were already there. Since 2011, I’d routinely ship them to my mother’s house in Kumasi when I could no longer accommodate them in my London studio. Each time I’d visit, I’d feel an overwhelming sense of guilt that the books, primarily by writers of color, were just sitting there and not being read when there was a need for access to culturally-relevant, contemporary literature. The idea behind the library was twofold: to give Ghanaians access to books that weren’t easily obtainable and to amplify the voices of Black writers on the continent.

In the 18 months since the library opened, its objective has evolved. My focus now is as much on literacy as literature, and outreach to underserved communities is a core part of my work. In Ghana, illiteracy is high (30%), particularly among women and girls. 

During my time here, I’ve met some amazing women who are doing all they can, often at tremendous personal sacrifice, to improve the life chances of girls. Auntie Grace, a former teacher, who founded Gem Star School in the compound of her small home, is one such example. I donated about 300 books to the school and we worked together to create a library for its 500 pupils.

Every other Saturday, my colleague, Seth and I teach creative writing to a group of 6-15-year-olds there.We also organize reading and creative play sessions for the children of market women and a barbershop/hair salon program that rewards children with free hairstyles in exchange for reading. The impact is significant. I’ve seen lives transformed.

The beauty of being at Hedgebrook is that it refocused my mind, not just on my writing, but on the inequities in the world, I seek to challenge through my work. The library has allowed me to dispense the kind of radical hospitality I was privileged to receive at Hedgebrook to girls like 15-year-old, Afra, who affirmed me on that second day of opening. It’s this ethos I hope to embody in my outreach too, connecting with women and girls across Ghana and helping them feel they have a place to take up space in the world.

Please read more about Sylvia’s library by visiting libreriagh.com

Sylvia Arthur, second left, with a group of girls from her creative writing class at Gem Star School.

By Janine Kovac

Pollination

I’ll let you in on a secret.

Hedgebrook is not a place. 

Oh, sure, nestled in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, there is a place called Hedgebrook, a garden of inspiration and connection where every sensory detail feels like a metaphor: thick thorns on impenetrable blackberry bushes, the sound of kindling catching fire in a wood-burning stove. A bottomless cookie jar. Mt. Rainier glowing pink and purple in the distance.

But that’s just the location. What makes Hedgebrook Hedgebrook is not the gingerbread houses with writing desks and the Instagram-worthy banana slugs. Hedgebrook is a spirit. Specifically, the spirit of radical hospitality.

Which means that the Hedgebrook experience of inspiration and connection can happen anywhere.

My first Hedgebrook experience took place in 2016 at St. Mary’s Bridging: A One-Day Retreat in Moraga, California. I’d been to retreats before, but this was the first time someone handed me a key to a room all my own and said, “We value your voice. Here is the time, space, and nourishment, you need to write the story only you can write.”

It was like an artistic namaste. The authentic voice in me salutes the authentic voice in you.

Later that year I went to the “other” Hedgebook, the one with the gingerbread houses. The biggest difference between Moraga and the Meadow House? One day of radical hospitality planted a seed. Three weeks allowed that plant to take root and blossom.

When I returned home, a different kind of seed had been planted—the realization that if I wanted to, I could be a radical host. I could offer this experience to other women. The authentic voice in all of us flourishes with time, space, and validation.

Seed. Germinate. Grow. Pollinate. Artistic namaste.

I didn’t have access to a gingerbread house or a wood-burning stove. I didn’t even have access to space where each writer could have her own room. But I did belong to a women’s co-working space. I could hold a retreat of my own with treats, time to write, and a panel discussion on the impact of privilege on our writing. That became a 2017 Hedgebrook collaboration with the Hivery and Moxie Road Productions. Looking through my digital Rolodex, I came across a generous café owner (“Of course you can sell your book in my café!”) with a podium and a PA system. In 2018, I hosted a write-in and open mic that alternated between readings with Hedgebrook alums and audience members.

This year, my Moxie Road business partner, and I will participate in St. Mary’s annual Bridging event as part of a publishing panel. We’ll host another write-in and open mic this summer to coincide with Hedgebrook’s submission deadline.

It’s my way of sharing Hedgebrook, of showing what happens when you say, “I value your voice. I value your message. And here’s how I show it.”

Anywhere. From any of us. For all of us.

Radical hospitality. 

Hedgebrook.

“Seed. Germinate. Grow. Pollinate. Artistic Namaste”

By Kuri Jallow

Introducing 2018 Hedgebrook Alumnae ​

Chrissy Anderson-Zavala        

Academic/ Critical Writing, Poetry

Awards & Recognitions: 2012 Pushcart Prize Nominee

Chrissy has been working on a series of “unsendable” letters. These letters are an opportunity to time travel to ask the questions and point to the silences that cannot be. Each letter is necessarily a poem or a fragment of a poem, an attempt to leave a trace for the children of her family and community past and future.

Jamaica Baldwin                                                 

Poetry

Awards & Recognitions: 2017 Jack Straw Writer’s Fellow

Publications: Poetry in Rattle; the Seattle Review of Books

Jamaica is a graduate of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Pacific University Oregon. 

Clarisse Baleja Saidi

Political/ Activist Writing

Publications: The Professional Mourners, novel

Clarisse Baleja is an Ivoirian-born writer, of Rwandan and Congolese origins who holds Ugandan and Canadian nationalities. The daughter of refugees, most of her work explores interethnic and inter-sectional points of view. The Professional Mourners is primarily based in Cote d’Ivoire and reveals how women’s issues in the region were exacerbated by conflict: access to health care and education, marital abuse, the rise in homophobia, and other prejudices.

Jessica Rae Bergamino

Hybrid Poetry Memoir

Awards & Recognitions: Academy of American Poets Award, University of Washington in 2014

Publications: Unmanned (2018); The Desiring Object(2016); The MermaidSinging(2015); and Blue in All Things: a Ghost Story(2015)

Jessica Rae utilizes dialogic and textual tropes from the Nancy Drew franchise to create a landscape where Nancy investigates the mystery of her girlhood. 

Piyali Bhattacharya

Fiction

Awards & Recognitions: gold medals in the Independent Book Publisher Award and the Next Generation Indie Book Award

Publications: Good Girls Marry Doctors: South Asian American Daughters on Obedience and Rebellion (2016), book 

Piyali has published short fiction and nonfiction essays and is currently working on a novel, An Inventory of Errors.

Eiren Caffall

Creative Non-fiction

She is currently working on an environmental nonfiction book, THE MOURNER’S BESTIARY: Finding Hope at the Edge of Extinction, a story of extinction and personal loss, recovery, and hope. Eiren has published several essays, as well as recorded three albums, which she has performed nationwide. 

Claire Calderón

Fiction

Awards & Recognitions: Fellowships with VONA/Voices; a Graduate English “Place for Writers;”  Gender and Women’s Studies Award for Commitment to the Advancement of Feminist Ideals from Scripps College

Claire’s current project is a hybrid of memoir and historical fiction, based in Chile, where she is trying to juxtapose noise, prestige, and presence with the hidden and to use the stark contrast to draw out the truth. 

Lan Samantha Chang

Fiction

Awards & Recognitions: Diversity Catalyst Award, University of Iowa; PEN Open Book Award; John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in Fiction; and the National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship

Publications: All is Forgotten, Nothing is LostInheritance: A Novel

She is currently working on a  Chinese American novel, an homage to The Brothers Karamazov, wherein she deals with issues of masculine domination, racism and self-hatred, hard work, and spiritual enlightenment.

Susan Choi

Fiction

Awards & Recognitions: finalist for Pulitzer Prize; PEN/Faulkner Award; NYPL Young Lions Award; PEN/W.G. Sebald Award; Asian-American Literary Award; Lambda Literary Award

Publications: Trust Exercise: A Novel; she haspublished with HarperCollins Publishers and Viking; The New Yorker; The New York Times Book Review; All Things Considered; Washington Post Book World

Her current novel is based on the life of her grandfather, a prominent public intellectual in Japanese-occupied Korea during the 1930s and 1940s.

Teri Cross Davis

Poetry

Awards & Recognitions: 2017 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry; Cave Canem fellow

Publications: Haint

She currently works as the poetry coordinator for the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

Chekwube Danladi                                               

Fiction

Awards & Recognitions: Brunel University African Poetry Prize;  Josephine M. Bresee Memorial Fiction Award 

Publications: Black Warrior Review; New Generation African Poets; Tangerine Review

Chekwube’s current work, a novel, follows a genderqueer Muslim youth coming of age in the gentrifying Washington, D.C. of the late 1990s/early 2000s.

Diana Delgado                                                      

Poetry

Awards & Recognitions: 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellow

At Hedgebrook, she worked on a poetry manuscript currently titled, Late-Night Talks with Men I Think I Trust

Carina del Valle Schorske                                     

Non-fiction

Awards & Recognitions: Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Waiter Scholarship in Poetry; CantoMundo Poetry Fellowship; Academy of American Poets Prize

Publications: New York Magazine; Los Angeles Review of Books; Gulf Coast Journal; The Point Magazine

She is working on a collection of closely linked essays that hybridize memoir and criticism.

Elisabeth Finch           

Creative Non-fiction

Awards & Recognitions: 

Publications: Elle Magazine; Cosmopolitan

television writer, playwright, and essayist. She currently serves as a writer/Co-Executive Producer on Grey’s Anatomy. At Hedgebrook, she will continue working on her book, Done Behaving. It tackles years of groundbreaking clinical trials and inevitable minefields thirty-something women face in male-dominated medicine. It’s an irreverent, moving call to arms for anyone who has lost their voice in the face of illness.

Ellen Forney

Graphic Novel

Awards & Recognitions: Stranger “Genius” Award in Literature; “Best Graphic Novel of 2012” by Washington Post, Time, Publishers Weekly, and more

Publications: Marbles: Mania, Depression, MichelangeloMe: A Graphic Memoir; featured in The Guardian; Huffington Post; Morning Edition;  NPR; Ms. Magazine 

While at Hedgebrook, she worked on a self-help book/graphic memoir for teens with mood disorders. 

Tracy Fuad

Poetry

Awards & Recognitions: 2016 Montana Prize in Nonfiction

Tracy is working on a manuscript currently titled Dictate Herthat explores the personal as political and the political as personal through the lens of her family history in Kurdistan, an imagined country that has been the site of violence, war, revolution, and re-imagining of the state.  

Gabrielle Fuentes                                          

Fiction

Awards & Recognitions: “Best Fiction Books of 2016” by Entropy Magazine

Publications: The Sleeping World; several published short stories

She is currently working on Settler’s Point, a novel which reimagines Wuthering Heights as a Latina novel of passing. Her novel explores the great American myths of pioneering, racial purity, and independence.

Elizabeth Greenwood                                           

Non-fiction

Publications: Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraudfeatured in O, the Oprah Magazine; VICE

In her current nonfiction Love Lockdown,Elizabeth explores the “MWI” (met while incarcerated) experience and offers a new lens into the prison industrial complex. Each relationship profile opens up a window into an aspect of prison. 

Vero Gonzàlez

PoetryAutobiographical Fiction

Awards & Recognitions: A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Touching Lives Fellow; an Iowa Writer’s Workshop Dean’s Graduate Fellow; Pratt Institute Thesis Prize in Fiction

At Hedgebrook, she will be working on finishing and revising her hybrid autobiographical novel, Or, which explores and recreates the messy and spiraling nature of healing from trauma. Oris a story about decolonization and healing from patriarchal and sexual violence.  

Shannon Humphrey                                              

Screenwriting

Publications: Skin Trials series,Hope Defined

While at Hedgebrook, Shannon will be working on a screenplay entitled, Glories of the Snow. The Glories are a secret society of powerful women who prevent global catastrophe, even if whole groups or tribes suffer fatally or brutally to advance the human race. 

Sandra Jackson-Opoku

Fiction        

Awards & Recognitions: Black Excellence Award in Literature, African American Arts Alliance; Gwendolyn Brooks, Henry Blakely Literary Award; American Library Association Black Caucus Award

Publications: Curbside Splendor Publishing; Obsidian Journal; Ballantine/One World

Sandra is currently working on a novel exploring Sino-African ancestral lineage inspired by an image she found while in Shanghai, of an African woman and Cantonese man in Guangzhou.  

Mira Jacob

Graphic Novel

Awards & Recognitions: Barnes & Noble Discover New Writer’s pick; named best book of 2014, The Boston Globe, Kirkus, Bustle, Goodreads and The Millions

Publications: The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing; The New York Times; Guernica; Electric Literature; Vogue; The Telegraph

Mira is working on a graphic memoir Good Talk, and a novel, Dear Femina, about the toll white American feminism takes on one Indian-American family.

Ashley Jones

Poetry

Awards & Recognitions: Furious Flower Gwendolyn Brooks Centennial Prize; the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award; Academy of American Poets College Prize

In her second full-length collection of poetry, Ashley is boldly exploring issues of race, class, and gender through a variety of forms. She feels a fiery desire to write the truth of what it means to exist in the world as a Black person today. 

Perri Klass                                                             

Creative Non-fiction

Awards & Recognitions: Numerous awards and two honorary degrees

Publications: The Mercy Rule: A Novel,The New York Times; The New England Journal of Medicine; Harvard Review

Perry is currently working on a series of thematically linked short stories and personal essays about writing and illness and the medical world, from her perspectives — as a physician, writer, medical journalist, patient, and caregiver. 

Michelle LaPena

Fiction

Awards & Recognitions: 2015 Truman Capote Creative Writing Fellowship at IAIA American Indian College Fund

Publications: The Rumpus.net; News from Native California; Los Angeles Lawyer Magazine

Michelle is working on a novel called, The Fantasy Spring, which takes place on several Indian reservations and features siblings whose lives and experiences ultimately place them on a collision course that will change their family forever. 

Tsering Lama

Fiction

Awards & Recognitions: two-time Columbia University Fellow (University Writing Program Teaching Fellowship, and Writing Fellowship)

Tsering’s current novel, In the Age of Constant Moving, spans over sixty years and follows a Tibetan family’s movement through exile and experiences of displacement and enduring connection to one another and the past. 

Amanda Leduc

Fiction

Publications: New Quarterly; littlefiction.com; thetoast.net; therumpus.net.

While at Hedgebrook, Amanda will be working on a collection of fabulist stories currently titled, The Resurrectionist and Other Stories. In each story, the appearance of otherworldly events operates as a force for the characters to grow and move beyond their current lives, asking “what does it take for a life to be different, to be extraordinary?” 

Denise Long

Fiction

Publications: Smokelong Quarterly; Blue Monday Review; The Tishman Review; Evansville Review; Burrow Press Review

At Hedgebrook, Denise will be working on her first novel. Having grown up in a small, rural town in Illinois, Denise is interested in exploring and better understanding the nuance and complexity of Middle America, and the stereotypes and assumptions that run rampant there. 

Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Creative Non-fiction

Awards & Recognitions: National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship; the Rona Jaffe Award

Publications: The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir(Flatiron Books/MacMillan)

Alexandria is a trained, though non-practicing, lawyer who teaches creative writing in a public policy school. Her current work is based on the struggle over the narrative of the genocide in Cambodia.

Susan Meyer

Children’s

Awards & Recognitions: Jane Addams Peace Association Book Award; Sydney Taylor Honor Award; Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year;   NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor Award

Publications: Penguin Random House; Holiday House; Cornell University PressSusan is a creative writing college professor who plans to complete her novel, Who By Fire while at Hedgebrook. Racial identity, racism, and social injustice are issues that Susan keeps returning to in her writing. 

Lisa Nikolidakis          

MemoirShort Story

Publications: Esquire; Cosmopolitan; Good Housekeeping; Woman’s Day; Redbook; Elle

While at Hedgebrook, she will be working on a memoir, We Run to Crush the Grass, exploring trauma, how we deal with it, and how we heal from it.

Ukamaka Olisakwe

Fiction

Awards & Recognitions: named one of Africa’s most promising writers under the age of 40 in 2014; named in 2016 as one of the 100 Most Influential Nigerian Writers Under 40; Fellow at the University of Iowa. 

Publications: Eyes of A Goddess (Piraeus Books); The New York Times; and her novel, Eyes of a Goddess, was published by Piraeus Books.

Ukamaka is a novelist, short story author and screenplay writer currently working on a historical novel.  

Zhayra Palma                                                       

Creative Essay

Awards & Recognitions: Poets 11 Award from the San Francisco Public Library

Publications: Forum Magazine; LIES Vol IIZhayra is currently working on a collection of essays that challenges assumptions and blends memoir and poetry titled, A Disgraced Place of Eclipse. Written from the perspective of a Peruvian-Ecuadorian American woman reconciling her involvement in the sex trade, her spiritual childhood, and her past. 

Syeda Rad Rahman

Fiction

Awards & Recognitions: Winner of the 2006 Bard College Undergraduate Fiction Prize; Open Society Foundation Fellow; International Women’s Media Foundation Fellow; PEN America Fellow; Harvard Kennedy School Emerging Leader program

Publications: The New York Times; The Paris Review; The Guardian; Guernica Magazine

She’s working on the novel, Privilege, exploring justice, love, desire, regret, and extremism.

Andrea Ritchie                                                     

Non-fiction

Awards & Recognitions: Senior Soros Justice Fellow

Publications: New York Times Sunday Review; Beacon Press

Andrea is an attorney, researcher, writer, and advocate for women of color and their experiences of racial profiling, police violence, and criminalization. While at Hedgebrook, her project will examine the broader process of criminalization of women of color, and the ways it is being deployed in the current political climate.  

Yaccaira Salvatierra

Poetry

Awards & Recognitions: Puerto del Sol Poetry Prize; Dorrit Sibley Award for Poetry

Yaccaira is a poet and elementary school teacher. She will be working on A Home for the Dead, a manuscript in five sections, which are inspired by stories about her family and friends, mostly immigrants, all border-related. She grapples with the question of which country to bury the dead of immigrants. 

Natalie Serber                                                      

Short Story

Awards & Recognitions: John Steinbeck Award for Fiction; the Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction; the James R. Carlson Fellowship; Walter E. Dakin Fellowship

Publications: Shout Her Lovely Name(2012); O, the Oprah Magazine; The Rumpus

Natalie’s current project explores socio-economic pressures in the lives of women who belong to a cooking group.

Anna Stull      

Memoir

A medically retired Captain in the Army Nurse Corps, Anna is writing a memoir of her experiences deployed to Abu Ghraib Prison in 2006 and as Saddam Hussein’s nurse while detailed to the Iraqi High Tribunal Court during the Al-Anfal Trial.

Jasmin Iolani Hakes

Creative non-fiction

Publications: The Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee

Jasmin ‘Iolani is a writer from the Big Island of Hawaii. Much of her work focuses on the connection between cultural inheritance and personal identity. At Hedgebrook she will be working on Hula, a book based on Hawaiian Homelands that provides a contemporary perspective on the complex social makeup of the islands and the repercussions of America’s occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

By Jill McCabe Johnson

How I Didn’t Give Up on Hedgebrook Which is to Say, How Hedgebrook Didn’t Give Up on Me

The first time I applied to the Hedgebrook artist residency, my writing sample draggled all over the place with poems about eagles’ nests and walking the dog and my mother’s death. If memory serves me, that year Hedgebrook received something like 911 applications and awarded residencies to 50+ women writers. At the time, I probably told myself I was not one of the lucky writers. Now I know better.

Discouraged by the numbers, I didn’t apply again for another couple of years. That year, Hedgebrook received fewer applications. I still did not get in. My poetry, it seemed to me, was better than it had ever been. Was it not good enough? Was I not good enough?

In two years, I applied for a third time, now with nonfiction that addressed women’s issues. Maybe this was what the Hedgebrook judges wanted? Then again, perhaps not. Yet again, I was not accepted. It’s not that I thought I deserved a Hedgebrook residency. If anything, I started to look at my application as a donation. After all, the women who did get in were amazing — under-represented voices whose important works deserved the boost of Hedgebrook’s support. If I didn’t get in, at least I knew my application fee went toward supporting other women writers. Plus, Hedgebrook’s application fee had remained $30 while other residencies’ fees crept up to $35, $40, $50, and more. So I made my application/donation an annual event, then waited for their kindly worded rejection.

Hedgebrook poses a question to help applicants focus their proposals: Why Hedgebrook, Why Now? With each application cycle, I did my best to answer this question, but in retrospect, I see that I continued to explain what I thought the judges wanted to hear. In 2018, I responded in earnest. I’d been working on a poetry manuscript, The Disruption Regime, that contends with potentially catastrophic events in nature, politics, and history that have served as a stimulus for new growth. I had attended a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Scholar program on the Native American West and also amassed a vast range of research. I sought time “to work uninterrupted and un-selfconsciously,” to “grapple with these issues and do the strange, undefinable dance of lifting and shaping them into poetry.” It was the most thorough and honest application, and therefore the best application, I’d ever submitted anywhere. I told my husband, if Hedgebrook doesn’t take me now, I’ll probably never get in.

In late fall, the notice arrived. Hedgebrook was granting me an artist residency. I spent three glorious weeks writing in Owl Cottage. A Hedgebrook volunteer helped me do more research, and each evening I was inspired by the remarkable women writers who gathered around the farmhouse table. After dinner, I perused the Hedgebrook library of alumnae works to read in my cottage for more inspiration. 

Equally inspiring were the voices of frogs, owls, and other nocturnal beasts who serenaded us through the night. Hedgebrook helped me revisit my work-in-progress in fresher yet more profound ways.

Bolstered by Hedgebrook’s belief in my work, a few nights before I departed, I sent query letters to a handful of agents for another work in progress: my memoir, Learning to Spar. By noon the next day, two of the agents expressed interest, and by Monday morning, there was a contract in my inbox. Sure, I might have found an agent without Hedgebrook, but I credit Hedgebrook all the same. They gave me the courage to send out that query.

Now, I think, what if I had given up discouraged after that first application? What if I had not taken the attitude that my application fee would do good in the world, regardless of whether I got a residency? I am grateful to Hedgebrook. I’m just as thankful to the other women writers who have applied, not necessarily expecting a residency so much as supporting a sisterhood of women writers. In that way, we are all supporting each other and all part of the magic that is Hedgebrook.

By Gabrielle James

Does your writing need a spring reboot? Here are three ways to create your own DIY writing retreat:

  • Take up space. At Hedgebrook, we have individual cottages, but you may want to rent an Airbnb for the weekend, pitch a tent in the woods, or go to a friend’s place.
  • Gather your community. Taking time to focus on your writing doesn’t have to be a completely solo endeavor. Inviting a few friends to come along can be helpful and motivating. Bounce ideas off each other, vent, nurture one another—but above all else, write!

  • Embrace the idea of “radical hospitality.” Whether you decide to retreat alone or with friends, treat yourself with care. Nourish your body with good food; make your space cozy and inviting with flowers, scented candles or music.

Need even more inspiration? Alumna Melanie Bishop speaks to the importance of writing retreats in this blog post. Your writing retreat really can be anything you want.

Don’t forget to share your DIY writing retreat with us! Many of Hedgebrook’s of over 2,000 alums love to stay in touch with us and regularly share their writing and lifestyle inspirations. Here’s a photo from Natalie Serber, one of our online class instructors:

Caption from Natalie Serber: Self-made writing retreat with my pal @jennieshortridge. We’re trying our best to capture the @hedgebrook zeitgeist of  #radicalhospitality by cooking great meals to nourish our writer minds!
 

By Gabrielle James

Hedgebrook Celebrates International Women’s Day!

The impact of Hedgebrook has a ripple effect as alumnae go out into the world and tell their stories. Their work has made it onto stage and screen, concert halls, lecture halls, classrooms, stadiums, poetry slams, bookstores, libraries and even Congress! 

For International Women’s Day we celebrate our Hedgebrook sisters around the globe. Here are a few updates on how our alumnae are authoring change in their part of the world.

Shasta Grant – Singapore

In Singapore, I’ve been meeting up with a group of diverse women writers for “submission parties.” We get together and submit our work to journals/contests/residencies/etc. It’s a great way to make the business end of writing more fun and social (and of course, it’s wonderful to cheer each other on!). I’m working on revising a novel and — fingers crossed — will send it to my agent next month. My website is www.shastagrant.com

Edna Manlapaz– Philippines

Currently I am Executive Director of Sacred Springs: Dialogue Institute on Spirituality and Sustainability at the Loyola School of Theology here in the Philippines. This coming school year, we are introducing into our Certificate Program in Integral Ecology a theological course grounded in eco-feminism. Yes! 

Minal Harjatwala – India

My travel guidebook to Fiji is about to launch, with an emphasis on local artists/artisans including women landowners, business owners, artists, entrepreneurs, and eco-friendly tour operators. I met an indigenous Fijian divemaster who was part of the original group of divers who mapped the Rainbow Reef, now considered one of the world’s top dive destinations for soft corals (she has a dive site named after her). And I profiled a trekking company run by another woman, where indigenous Fijian guides co-own the company and lead hikers through their own mountain highlands. In Fiji–where indigenous communities own 87% of the land–travelers have plenty of choices that strike a good balance of having a great time while also learning and respecting the gorgeous land and sea. Women and LGBTQ people are creating change in Fiji, which is also taking on a leadership role in battling the climate crisis and taking in climate refugees from other island nations in the South Pacific. It was my honor to meet some of the folks doing this important work and help draw attention to it. The book (with 100+ color photos, so perfect for armchair travelers!) is in pre-orders now. My own website is www.minalhajratwala.com.

Monica Macansantos– New Zealand

I recently earned my PhD in Creative Writing from Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters in New Zealand, and I am currently finishing the novel I worked on as my dissertation, which centers women’s experiences during the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. I am also about to attend another residency in the US, the KHN Center for the Arts in Nebraska, where I hope to finalize edits on my novel. I also work as a freelance journalist, and have written about topics such as a mining disaster in the Philippines, Filipino food in the diaspora, Filipina sexuality, and mourning my father’s death for anthologies and outlets such as The New Filipino Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Around the Globe, VICE New Zealand, New Naratif, SBS Life, andAotearotica, among other places. You can learn more about my recent projects on my website, monicamacansantos.com. Here is a picture of my workspace in New Zealand, where I lived until very recently. 

Githa Hariharan –India

My new novel, I Have Become the Tide, was just published by Simon & Schuster in India; and an edited volume called Battling for India: A Citizen’s Reader will be out later this month.

Tania De Rozario – Singapore

In January 2019, my new book, “Somewhere Else, Another You”, was released by Math Paper Press. On 15 March, I will be speaking on a panel about “Writing Across Intersection: Asia Diaspora”as part of Growing Room, a festival organized by Room Magazine, Canada’s oldest feminist literary journal. On 28 March, I will be on an AWP panel called “Assimilate This!: Queer Literary Community as Sites of Mobilizing & Resistance”, where I will be talking about Queer Lit communities in Singapore.

Mary Teng – Australia

My translation of 60 Chinese classical poems, ‘Not Perfect’ is in its second imprint; I am writing a memoir that includes my poetry and running a bilingual poetry workshop as a volunteer at MOSAIC, a multicultural center.  Most members are migrants. They bring their favorite poems in their native tongue and read them to the group; I help some of them translate those poems into English.  More on our website: bilingualpoetry.wordpress.com. photo by William Yang.

By Kira Jane Buxton

HOLLOW KINGDOM

Q and A with Kira

1.)What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always loved writing. The first story I ever wrote was about an overweight dragon (it’s possible I peaked too soon?). I ended up attempting a career in acting, but failed spectacularly and ultimately came back to writing when my husband bought me a short story class at Santa Monica College. I was so petrified to attend that I deferred for a year, but was then fortunate enough to be taught be Monona Wali who is a wonderful writer and a Hedgebrook alum! Once the spark had been rekindled in that class, I couldn’t stop. I’ve written almost every day since. 

2.)How did the idea of Hollow Kingdom come to you?

I am fascinated by crows and the corvid family and wanted to write about them for years without knowing how. I read about crows voraciously and ended up befriending two American crows who still visit me daily. They’re incredibly intelligent birds who leave me gifts and accompany me on walks around the neighborhood. Finally, one morning an idea hit me—what if I wrote from the perspective of a crow who was talking about us, about humans and ourextinction? What if, instead of being dark and depressing, it is filled with hope and heart? I combined my love for humor writing, conservation and reverence for nature to write a funny dystopian novel. I wrote it in a joyous fever. I call it my love letter to the natural world and my hope is that it reminds us of how gorgeous and diverse our home planet is, and how it deserves our protection. My two crows have informed a lot of the behavior of S.T. (my crowtagonist). Honestly, it’s the most fun I’ve had writing and I’m so excited to share it!

3.)One question I think our community would like to know is how has the Vortext experience impacted your writing?

Ah, Vortext. I often refer to it as my secret weapon! The very first time I called myself a writer was in the farmhouse of the Whidbey Institute at the first Vortext in 2012. I’m lucky enough to be a repeat offender who has gone back every year since. The Hedgebrook staff bend over backwards to make these weekends absolutely magical. I go back every year because of the camaraderie (my husband jokes that I “collect friends” there, what can I say, I meet the most incredible women through Hedgebrook!), the generosity of the mentor authors, the so-good-you’ll-slap-your-mother-food, and to be surrounded by inspiration in one of the most beautiful places on earth. One of my favorite parts of Vortext is the open mic nights—I am consistently inspired and blown away by the caliber of the writing that’s shared. I’ve had the good fortune to attend several writer retreats and conferences, but Vortext remains my favorite. I really do coast on the glorious inspiration of a Vortext weekend for a whole year.

4.)You thanked several Hedgebrook community members in your book, what is about this community that you find important?

Writing is, for the most part, a solitary endeavor. The community that Hedgebrook has built, through their residencies and their intensive workshops and the Vortext weekends is transformative and groundbreaking. I get so excited to think of the ripple effects this sort of radical hospitality and empowerment will have. Year after year, I jump on a ferry to Whidbey Island and am greeted by the Hedgebrook family with hugs and genuine enthusiasm and encouragement. They have supported and encouraged me from when I was barely confident enough to call myself a writer to when I first emailed them about landing an agent. They are the real deal. To be part of the Hedgebrook family means to be lifted and empowered by a network with the deep and curling roots of a Douglas fir. It means you are never alone. What a thrill to imagine all the women writers currently wading through their words in the cocoon of a Whidbey Island cabin. What a thrill to cheer each other on and see the bright spine of a brand new novel and to know that it was written by a Hedgebrook author. What a thrill to think of how many lives Hedgebrook will have touched and inspired even in just five years from now. This is just the beginning. 

5.)We hear you’re coming to Equivox in March! Are you excited for that gathering of amazing women and ideas?

I’m tremendously excited to be going to Equivox! Equivox is a delicious dose of Hedgebrook’s magic—a gathering of women to raise each other up, a day of good food, incredible company and essential storytelling. It is a celebration of the strength and stories of women. I’m reminded of a Malala quote—“There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a third power stronger than both, that of women.” I’ll just be humbled to be around brilliant women and genius trailblazers. And hello, Janet Mock is the featured speaker and I can’t wait to hear her! I hope to see you there! 

By Dana Stabenow

Storyknife

1989 I was busily engaged in sending novels to New York agents and watching them return like little homing pigeons. That spring a story appeared in the local paper about a retreat for women writers on Whidbey Island in Washington state. It was calledHedgebrook. I thought, “What a wonderful opportunity for some lucky writer, but they’d never take me.” My best friend, Katherine Gottlieb, read the same storyand called me to say, “You should apply.” It took her a week of nagging until Ifinally did, and in the fall of that year I flew to Seattle, took the bus up tothe Mukilteo ferry, and was met on the other side by Holly Gault, the thenchef/manager in residence who drove me the rest of the way.

It was an old farm with five (we watched the sixth cottage go up while I was there) beautiful new post-and-beam cottages with stained glass windows and hand-woven throws, in a quiet, iconically Pacific Northwest setting where every morning I’d look up to see wild rabbits carousing out front or Nancy marching by with a rifle to scareoff the deer. On a clear day, the Seattle skyline was only a distant reminderof the madding world. I rode the farm bike to the library in Freeland and tothe beach to dig for clams and Holly took us up to Coupeville for mussels and beer.

And I wrote. I worked on anovel, I wrote a short story inspired by something I saw on the beach, I even wrote a sonnet, my one and only, and left it behind in the cottage journal.It’s pretty bad.

 Dana’s  original piece from Waterfall Cottage journals shared with her permission.



I was there for two weeks. I had all day in Waterfall Cottage to work without interruption, and every evening over dinner I could talk shop and tell war stories with my fellow residents, author Kathleen Alcala, poet Amy Pence, and author Susan Brown. It was a seminal, no, it was the seminal moment of my career. It was the first time anyone had ever acted around me like writing was a real job (“Sit down,”Nancy said when I got up to help clear the dinner dishes, “you’ve already doneyour work for the day.”) and it was the first time I’d ever been in the companyof other women writers. It turned out I wasn’t the only person who thoughtadjectives were important.

I sold my first book the following year. So when I unexpectedly found myself with four acres of view property in Homer, Alaska, it wasn’t much of a stretch to imagine what to do with it. When Hedgebrook invited me back for their 25th anniversary they toldme they could have as many as 1,400 applications for 40 spaces in a singlesemester. Unquestionably there is a need. I started a nonprofit corporation andbegan a capital campaign fund which has to date raised $500,000 of the $1million it will cost to build a main house and six cabins. We have two grant applicationspending and if they come through we will begin construction in April 2019, andwe hope to be in operation in 2020.

There is a direct line from my residency at Hedgebrook to the subsequent publication of the first of my thirty-four novels, to my appearance on the New York Times bestseller list, to my winning an Edgar award, to being named Individual Artist for the Governor’s Arts Awards in 2007.

And there is a direct line from Hedgebrook to Storyknife. It is my hope that, like Hedgebrook, Storyknife will build a sustainable community where women writers will find the support and encouragement they need to succeed.

Hedgebrook led the way. We are only following them.

Storyknife

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Hedgebrook Celebrates International Women’s Day!
HOLLOW KINGDOM
Storyknife