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By Sharon Magliano

Back-to-school season self-care for your inner writer

The days are getting shorter, the air is getting crisp, and yellow school buses are once again dotting the morning commute. While back-to-school time as an adult may not mean getting a brand new backpack or lunch box, it can be a good reminder that we should take the time to recommit to intentional learning and self-nurturing.

Back-to-school is a great time to deepen a practice of life-long learning, and Hedgebrook’s online writing series gives you the opportunity to experience a transformative writing program on a schedule that works for you. We know that it’s not feasible for everyone to join us as Writer in Residence, or to attend one of our Master Classes – each of which requires a commitment of time away from day-to-day responsibilities. With our online writing series, we’ve made Hedgebrook’s radical hospitality available in the comfort of your own home and at a pace that fits with your busy life. We offer classes in a diversity of genres designed to ground your writing practice and hone your craft. Classes are taped at the retreat, with the teacher and a small group of writers in the room together, so you’ll experience the alchemy of solitude and community that makes a Hedgebrook residency unique. Online classes are open to all genders and all levels of experience. You can sign up at any time during the class offering period.

As a bonus, we also share elements of Hedgebrook’s retreat experience to inspire your writing, such as recipes from our farmhouse kitchen and chefs (like this one for a fall favorite, Hedgebrook Curry Carrot Soup), images from our land to print or use as a screensaver, and messages to energize your process. 

Learn about Hedgebrook’s current online writing class offerings here.

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 Hedgebrook Guest

Active Body, Active Mind

When I showed my kids pictures of the ridiculously adorable cottages at Hedgebrook, one of which would be my home for an August 2015 residency, my son bet that I’d love the cottage so much I’d never leave it and hoped, for my sake, that it had a bathroom.

He was both correct and not (though thankfully, the cottages do have bathrooms). Each day: coffee, editing of the previous day’s writing, writing toward a new poem. I’d make up an excuse to walk the grounds once or twice, like hey, I’ve run out of fresh figs / flowers / blackberries and should go get some. Breakfast and lunch from my fridge: sheep’s milk yogurt, local honey, a container brimming with something wonderful that a Hedgebrook chef had prepared.   Read more

By Hedgebrook Guest

Sonora Jha Interviews Donna Miscolta

We asked Summer Salon teachers Sonora Jha and Donna Miscolta to interview each other for the Hedgebrook Farmhouse Table Blog. Look for Donna’s interview with Sonora next week!

Sonora: You came to writing later in life, after an education and career in everything BUT writing. What part of this do you regret, if at all? And what part do you love?

Donna: Part of the reason why I came to writing late was I had long believed that it wasn’t possible for people like me to write books, and even if I had thought it possible, I didn’t believe that I myself was capable of such a thing. I regret that it took so long for me to believe. If I had come to writing earlier, it would’ve meant more years in which to learn to write and more years to produce work. My first book was published when I was 58. I turn 63 this year when my second book comes out. I’ve just finished a new novel manuscript and am two-thirds of the way through another one. My kids are grown and retirement from my day job is on the horizon. And though I feel some momentum in writing, I also feel the pressure of time. So, is there a part that I love about coming to writing later in life? I guess I just love that I came to it at all.

  Read more

By Hedgebrook Guest

Juxtapositions at Hedgebrook

Because I’m a fine-arts photographer as well as a poet, I frequently get asked if my photography somehow illustrates my poems. Do the images and the words come from the same place? For years now, I have known my “photographic” and “poetic” minds to run parallel and close, related but different in a way I can’t quite articulate. My latest chapbook, “Abraham’s Voices,” was my first attempt at marrying the two impulses–but the kudos go to my wonderful editor, friend, and fellow Hedgebrook alumna Lana Ayers, who saw the way for some scant pages of poetry to become a chapbook with the addition of photographs. Still, people tell me how “poetic” my photographs are, and how strikingly visual most of my poetry. Surely there is some connection?

As a photographer who persists in shooting film (and old-fashioned medium-format film at that), I have been dragged to the digital age grudgingly. It was through the film-like images I could get with my smartphone that I came around to digital photography. I now carry my cell phone at all times, not as a communications device but as an ubiquitous camera. So I had it with me every second at Hedgebrook this past October. As I walked through the grounds I took pictures of the trees, the mosses, wheelbarrows by the outbuildings. I took photos of the beach at Double Bluff, the white fences and the changing colors of the neighboring farms’ deciduous trees. I have lived 5 miles away from Hedgebrook for almost 20 years, but that didn’t stop me from photographing everything anew.   Read more

By Hedgebrook Guest

A Footbridge from Cedar Cottage

The truth is, I resisted writing this blog. Not because I don’t love Hedgebrook — in fact I do, with every bone in my body. Not because the experience isn’t transformative — I cherish it as life-changing. Not because I don’t carry the feeling of writing in Cedar cottage with me— it’s in the blood pumping from my heart, braided into my double-helix, the DNA of who I am becoming.

Lying on a couch made of nine cows, home sick under a blue blanket, at high noon I realized I’ve resisted this. I can feign shock and pretend I don’t know why. I can make excuses about being swamped with preparing to go abroad, long hours selling fruits at the farmers market, the strain of reading statutes, the stress of moving across the country. But we are all too smart for that.   Read more

By Hedgebrook Staff

Five Questions for Julie O’Brien

If you’ve ever called the Whidbey retreat or sent an email asking about one of our programs, you’ve probably talked to our Program Associate, Julie O’Brien. Julie started working at the retreat this year, making sure our programs run smoothly, orienting writers, and baking vegan cookies in the Farmhouse kitchen.

We recently sat down with Julie to ask her a few questions.


1) You’ve been working at the Whidbey retreat since January. What have been some of the most memorable moments so far?

So many!!! Here are just a few:

• Playwrights’ Festival – where magic unfolds daily. Seeing works in their infancy change, grow, rebirth. Scripts flying around, pages tossed, new pieces penciled in. Edits on the fly as readers try out the words and authors hear them out loud for the first time.   Read more

By Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende

On Facing my Creative Self, Cushioned by Love


Mid December I got the news that I had been accepted for the 2014 Hedgebrook Writers’ Residency. I was over-the-moon ecstatic. For a mother of 4 energetic daughters and a wife, this was a precious gift and as the months rolled on I lived for those two precious weeks in July. After a 6 hour flight from Detroit on July 3, a shuttle ride from Seattle, and a ferry ride onto Whidbey Island, I was met in the town of Freeland by warm hearted Julie, who drove me to Hedgebrook farm. More warm and open hearts welcomed me. I met Laurel, a writer from the Philippines sitting contentedly on a swing with her computer enjoying the outdoors. I later learned that this was her favorite spot. I was given a tour of the property, through the farm house which housed a library in a cozy family room, a kitchen and the revered farm house table.   Read more

By Shobha Rao

The Alder Tree

It was yellow, shaped like a balloon, and at the far edge of the meadow.  I sat at the window seat in Oak Cabin, all day and most of the night, watching it.  It was not more or less beautiful than the rest of the grounds at Hedgebrook:  the cattail pond, the cedar grove, the farmhouse with its warm kitchen, the silent trees that stood so still and majestic, but this tree drew my attention.  It was at the very end of my line of vision, and though I didn’t know the names of any of the trees, I really only wanted to know the name of this one.  I realized I could’ve asked anyone – anyone at all – and learned the name.  But I never did.  I didn’t have to.  It would reveal itself to me, as I revealed myself to it.  Through the long, hushed nights, when the crackle of the fire was the only sound, I would stare at the tree and wonder.  All those empty roads, all those aching years, writing and writing and writing.  Wondering if they would ever come to anything.  Wondering if I was good enough, talented enough, lucky enough.  Hedgebrook was the greatest gift I had ever received in my writing life, yet what if it was the last of my share?   Read more

By Rita Gardner

Hedgebrook Writing and Eating Blackberries

I knew nothing about Hedgebrook until a work associate at U.C. Berkeley encouraged me to apply over a decade ago. When I read the application I thought: “Well, I sure won’t get in.” Though I’d published essays and poetry before, at that time I didn’t take myself seriously as a writer. But get in I did, so on an early September morning I unpacked my new laptop, printer, a couple of reams of paper and binders full of stories I’d written about my childhood in the Dominican Republic. I didn’t know what to expect from myself or from the magical place I’d entered.   Read more

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Back-to-school season self-care for your inner writer
Does your writing need a spring reboot? Here are three ways to create your own DIY writing retreat: