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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 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 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

Fireweed Storyknife
Snow Storyknife
Storyknife Neighbor
Alpenglow on Ilimna

By Jan D'Arcy

Hedgebrook’s First Writer in Residence Jan D’Arcy

It was August 1988. My son Tyler had been diagnosed with a chiasmic glioma. The brain tumor was not cancerous, but it had done horrific damage. Tyler was completely blind in his left eye and had very little sight left in his right eye. We went through multiple doctor’s appointments, tests, 6 weeks of radiation and still the tumor seemed to be growing. I was a single Mom, completely immersed in his care, taking care of my four other children and running a communications consulting business. I had published a small book and an audio cassette album. I was writing another book, but it definitely was not getting any attention. I heard about Hedgebrook but was reluctant to apply. I didn’t have anyone to stay with Tyler 24/7. I also thought there must be some catch about the offer of a free writing “vacation.”

When I heard that Children’s Hospital Camp Goodtimes had doctors, nurses and trained volunteers to oversee the children, I signed Tyler up for a week. I sent in my application to Hedgebrook and was amazed to receive notice that I was selected to go for the same week.

After waving goodbye to my son, I drove to a ferry and followed Nancy’s explicit directions to Whidbey Island. There was no one I could talk to about their experience and what to expect.

I’m embarrassed to say that I brought along a sleeping bag, a pillow and primitive camping gear. When I drove up to the gate at Hedgebrook, Nancy was waiting for me. She told me to keep going up the road and she’d follow me.

I came to a magical fairyland cottage in the middle of the woods. I waited for her to open the door, but she insisted on staying at a distance and watched while I carefully turned the knob and stepped inside. At once, I knew I didn’t need the sleeping bag or the camping equipment. It was very luxurious, down to the leather carrier for the wood – whose material I’d have coveted for a purse. I set up my stubby Mac computer and carried in two boxes of research. The first night I was so exhausted, I sunk into the comfy bed, covered myself with the down duvet and slept for 10 hours.

Nancy explained that I ‘d have my lunch delivered and then come to the farmhouse for dinner. What would I like to eat? I mentioned I liked veggies- beets, carrots, tomatoes- anything would be fine. The next day I saw her digging in the garden and realized she was digging the beets

I’d be eating an hour later for dinner. Chef Nancy definitely started the authentic Farm to Table restaurant. We had some wonderful conversations over dinner when she told me what led up to her creating a place for women writers. She was very concerned that my accommodations were acceptable, that I was comfortable, that I had everything I needed to work on my book. My mother was always supportive of anything I did. But in my current situation I wasn’t used to that much attention and professional regard for my creative ventures. I still was reluctant to call myself a writer. But I was determined to produce something worthy of this opportunity.

When I mentioned something about shrimp, Nancy drove to town and bought some. I was almost afraid to casually mention I liked something in fear she’d produce it. I soon realized we two were the only residents on the large property and she was the one dropping off my lunch and flowers. The workers came during the day and left. One day Nancy asked me if the gardener watering my flowers around my cottage was distracting. As a mother of 5 children, I had to stifle a laugh. At night, it was really silent in the woods. Since the woods are my favorite place to be, I was in 7th heaven. No responsibilities, no phone calls, no grocery shopping or anything to interrupt my writing. What a fantastic idea Nancy had imagined and brought to fruition!

Twenty years later, I returned to Hedgebrook for another week. This time there were four other writers. It was a very different experience as we had dinner together and then talked about the various projects we were working on. Nancy had given up her culinary duties and there was a cook and other workers around the property.  5 more cottages had been built. It was now a revolving community of women writers from all over the world.

My book had been published to good reviews. My communications business had taken off as well as my acting career. Writing was on the back burner again. My son had more medical challenges and lost all his sight. We had to deal with scary seizures from his epilepsy. Although he had a part-time job, he still needed daily help with most everything.  I had started another book and was grateful for this second time at Hedgebrook to solidify my objective.  Once again, the freedom that Nancy created took me out of my responsibilities in my everyday world. The nature and calmness of Hedgebrook surrounded me and helped me to believe in myself as a writer.

 

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Storyknife
Hedgebrook’s First Writer in Residence Jan D’Arcy