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By Gabrielle James

Reflections From Summer Camp

In the summer of 2014, approximately 40 youth converged at the Whidbey Institue for the inaugural Y-We Write summer camp, a partnership with Young Women Empowered. Since then, over 200 young people have participated in the program. Writing workshops are led by Hegdebrook alumnae in fiction, spoken word, songwriting, and more.

Two of Hedgebrook’s teaching artists look back on this past summer’s Y-We Write summer camp and the transformative impact it has for all who participated.

Shannon Humphrey

Y-WE was an amazing experience, and I get as much experience as the students. They are invigorating with their curiosity, vulnerability, and passion. It is inspiring for me to watch them channel all of that into purposeful creatively. Their questions, suggestions, and support of one another do not cease to amaze me. I’m thrilled to have done it for two years in a row. Before I arrive, it feels challenging to set aside the business of life and put everything on hold, but once I get to Y-WE and the students’ hugs and anticipation, I’m so grateful. You know, it’s that part about needing a break from life but not knowing it until it happens. Their energy and love feed me too, and I come home rejuvenated. Thank you, Hedgebrook family, for helping make that a reality for them and us, the writers!

Amber Flame

Y-WE is a magical experience. It makes sense that the land holding the camp gains magical properties as well. There is such serenity among the trees, such peace in the hearts of those who service Whidbey Institute, that a sense of true safety descends and every individual has the opportunity to explore their creativity to the fullest. Songwriting workshops led to a chorus of voices for collaborative pieces, the energy of the other workshops mingled over lunch discussions and fed our inspiration. The youth experimented above and beyond any expectations. My time with the other Hedgebrook teaching artists was soul-filling and deeply connective; we gazed at stars and bonded in that short week with the same intensity a residency at Hedgebrook fosters! And I filled my little cabin with joyful noise, recommitted to my own creative drive to practice what I preach.

By Hedgebrook Staff

Women Championing Each Other

Women Championing Each Other

By uplifting the voices of women and non-binary writers, we are fueling a revolution!

Hedgebrook is pleased to recognize two celebrated, New York Times bestselling authors – Elizabeth George (known for her Inspector Lynley crime novel series), and the late novelist Rona Jaffe (who penned the bestselling classic novel The Best of Everything) – and the five Hedgebrook writers being supported through their foundations as an example of the spirited alchemy of women authoring change.

Both Foundations hold a mission to support emerging women writers of exceptional talent through awards and grants. They support Hedgebrook by establishing fellowships that underwrite the writer’s residencies, with a stipend to help cover their travel.

ELIZABETH GEORGE FOUNDATION AWARDEES

Lily Padilla: a playwright receiving acclaim for their play How To Defend Yourself, winner of the Yale Drama Series Prize that took the 2019 Humana New Play Festival by storm. They teach playwriting and devised theatre at University of California-San Diego. 

Elaine Kim: a fiction writer, Fulbright Foundation Research Fellowship Grantee and NYFA Fellow, working on a novel about how we live after war and loss; how we make sense of the forces of history that squeeze and shape us; and how we embrace or shy away from being agents of change in our lives and in the world around us.

Margarita Ramirez Loya: a fiction writer and ESL instructor working on a YA novel set against the backdrop of the US-Mexico border during the Trump administration. Margarita’s story will be a bold testimony giving voice to young people currently being silenced and locked in cages.

Ama Codjoe: a poet working on her first full-length collection of poems, Iterations of Being, that investigate the identity of an African-American woman whose personal and familial stories stretch across both sides of the Atlantic, and the ideas of iteration, repetition, and transformation through subjects such as memory, girlhood, nature, and fertility. 

RONA JAFFE FOUNDATION AWARDEE

Leslie Blanco: an American writer with Cuban and French ascendants who often refers to her colorful cultural heritage in her writings and puts the characters of her fictions into a Cuban context. Leslie’s essays and fiction have appeared The Huffington Post, The Kenyon Review, PANK, and numerous others.

By SassyBlack

Ancient Mahogany Gold

With the release of her new album Ancient Mahogany Gold, Hedgebrook Alum Relations Maven Kuri Jallow caught up with SassyBalck.

KJ: You’ve been doing this for a while, haven’t you? What inspired you to start writing and performing? 

SB: I have wanted to perform for as long as I can remember. Every time I saw a stage or a mic, I just wanted to get on it and share something. I wanted to get everyone’s attention and share myself. I started writing pretty early, but the first song I wrote was in 1997 when I first moved to Seattle from Hawaii. It was about love, and I can still sing it to this day. 

KJ: Why Ancient Mahogany Gold for this Album? 

SB: Those words just floated to me. I was working on a song, and the words came to me in the form of lyrics but stuck with me as the title of an album. The combination of these terms feel rich and hearty and strong and are an excellent representation of self-value and self-worth. 

“Ancient” – representing the age of our souls and spirits that we still struggle to understand. “Mahogany” – like the tree that stands firm and tall. Also, that word just rolls out of the mouth into the universe. And “Gold” – because it is the color of the sun and stars as we see them and holds value in our society. Also reference jazz, funk & soul classic “Golden Lady” by Stevie Wonder & “Sun Goddess” by Ramsey Lewis. There is so much more to it, but this is how I see it right now in this moment. 

KJ: You mention your experience at Hedgebrook helped in developing a song from this album. Can you tell us a bit more about that (and the name of the song)? 

SB: The song “Depression” was a work in progress when I went to stay at Hedgebrook in 2018. I was finally able to really release my outside world and give in to my music. I needed this break from reality like never before, so I dived into myself. In my sweet, serene cabin, I set up all my equipment and let my emotions flow. At that point “Depression” was still a skeleton of itself, a sketch. I was able to flesh out the song with lyrics and some harmonies, recorded in Ableton, my music production software, and with my SM58 mic. It was freeing. I worked on a lot of music and writing while there, but this is the song that made it out. 

KJ: Can you please share with our community how our Singer/Songwriter program impacted your music? 

SB: I didn’t quite understand Hedgebrook at first. It seemed too good to be true, but it’s not. It’s just what it says it is and it’s been a joy getting to learn more about the community and watch Hedgebrook continue to grow in all the ways an organization should and does over the years. I was lucky enough to be apart of the first class for the Singer/Songwriter program, and I can honestly say that it has strengthened my voice and my creativity as well as my community. It has been a blessing. 

KJ: What is next for SassyBlack? 

SB: I am working on a few things, including some short films I am writing and my first poetry book to come out spring 2020. Also music. Music will always be on the horizon for me.

Photo credit:  Texas Isaiah

By Grace Prasad

2001: A Writer’s Odyssey

Late last year, I sent a Facebook friend request to a writer I knew but had lost touch with years ago – a Chinese writer based in Oslo, Norway. I met He-Dong in the summer of 2001. 

She had sent an email to a mailing list of Hedgebrook alumnae in the Bay Area saying she was coming to visit and wanted to meet some people here. At the time, I was working as a freelance writer and had just started exploring my creative writing more deeply. My schedule was flexible, so I wrote back and offered to show her around when she arrived in San Francisco. I didn’t know anything about her other than she was a Chinese writer based in Europe, and we had both recently completed residencies at Hedgebrook.

We met a few days later and immediately hit it off. She was tall and slender, a few years older than me but with a girlish, playful personality. I took her to the Golden Gate Bridge, and we took pictures in the fog and complained about how cold it was (a rite of passage for all visitors to San Francisco). We explored the area around Fisherman’s Wharf and walked around with no set agenda except buying a few souvenirs. We met again the next day, and the next, and by the time she left, she was like a big sister to me.

Dong and I talked about writing and life. She gave me a copy of her book, Ask the Sun, which had been published in the U.S. by the Seattle-based press Women in Translation. She reassured me that age 32 was not too late for me to find love and that she’d been around the same age when she settled down with her partner. She showed me photo after photo of her sweet-faced baby girl, Yinni. Although she was enjoying her time in the States, she missed her daughter very much as this was the longest they’d ever been apart.

A few months after she left San Francisco, I remember emailing Dong to tell her that I’d met someone special and felt optimistic about the relationship. He turned out to be my future husband. Now, looking back on that time, I am filled with awe at what a transformative year 2001 was for me. Meeting Dong was just one of the chapters.

2001 began with a three-week residency at Hedgebrook. Even though I picked the coldest time of year, I loved everything about the landscape—the ferry ride to Whidbey Island, the gentle hills of the island, the crunching leaves as I walked around the property, the vegetable garden, resident llamas, and the pitch darkness each evening that allowed an unfiltered view of the stars.

I was incredibly content in Cedar Cottage. Here I was, a die-hard city girl, living in a cabin without phone or internet access, learning how to tend a fire in the wood-burning stove. How many hours did I spend staring at it, mesmerized by the glow and the heat and the relentless, untamed beauty of fire? I still remember the smell of wet leaves every time I left the cottage — the luxury of taking a long bath in the Bath House emerging in a cloud of scented steam.  And – of course – the homemade lunches delivered in a wicker basket.

But even more powerful than the feeling of being cradled by nature and cared for by the staff was the sense that I was there to do something important. That someone specifically created that space for me. It was my first ever experience of having a room of one’s own, in which to think and create without pressure or interruption. In which my only priority was to follow my artistic impulses. Being at Hedgebrook in such a peaceful, nurturing environment and in community with other women writers, was the first time I ever felt like my writing mattered. My words might find an audience one day.

At Hedgebrook, I wrote the rough draft of what would become my first published essay, “Projections,” about my experiences at an Asian American film festival in San Francisco during a period of heightened cross-strait tensions between China and Taiwan, coinciding with the hotly contested 2000 presidential election in Taiwan. The essay is nonlinear and experimental, yet is probably my most direct statement about Taiwanese nationhood and what it means to be Taiwanese. 

After I left Hedgebrook, I went to another writing residency for two months. Based on the strength of “Projections,” I was admitted to a private workshop with Japanese American poet and professor Garrett Hongo. It was in this class of about 15 writers that I first connected with Seventeen Syllables, an Asian American writing collective that’s been my most enduring literary home and source of lifelong friendships. Over the years we’ve read each other’s work and cheered each other on through book deals, fellowships, academic tenure, cross-country moves, weddings and the births of our children.

The summer of 2001, I met my now-husband, who is also a writer. My essay “Projections” was published in the Hedgebrook Journal, guest-edited by Kathleen Alcala. Then in the fall, I began my MFA program at Mills College and became part of another literary community.

So you can see why I look back fondly on 2001, a year in which my writing really took me places and gave me access to experiences and communities that contributed immensely to my growth as a writer. It all started at Hedgebrook; Hedgebrook was the first time someone said “yes” to my writing. Without that early encouragement, I don’t think I would have had the same trajectory.

And now we come full circle. A few weeks ago, I woke up one Saturday morning and was delighted when I saw that Dong accepted my Facebook friend request, after many years of being out of touch. She sent me a direct message and some photos, I responded with the same, each of us attempting to catch the other one up on the 15 or so years since we last communicated.

I’m still in awe of Dong. Sure we’ve both aged a bit, but her face is still youthful, her playfulness is now expressed through a purple streak in her hair. She now writes full-time after retiring from her job at the University of Oslo. Her adorable daughter is all grown up and studying abroad at Oxford. And she was equally delighted to see photos of my 11-year-old son.

I can’t wait to tell her that through some cosmic act of synchronicity, my husband has been invited to attend two music festivals in Oslo this summer. This time it will be her turn to show me around her city. I look forward to our reunion, 18 years after Hedgebrook first connected us.

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.

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Reflections From Summer Camp
Women Championing Each Other
Ancient Mahogany Gold
2001: A Writer’s Odyssey
Eve Ensler with Amy Wheeler
“Borderlands,”
Global Impact
Pollination
Introducing 2018 Hedgebrook Alumnae ​
How I Didn’t Give Up on Hedgebrook Which is to Say, How Hedgebrook Didn’t Give Up on Me