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By Sharon Magliano

Hedgebrook Writers for the Win

Hedgebrook Writers For The Win!
These Hedgebrook Alumnae Have Been Recognized with Some of This Year’s Top Honors in Literature!
Carolyn Forche’ – Nonfiction
Laila Lalami – Fiction
Kali Farjado-Anstine – Fiction
Susan Choi – Fiction
Laura Da’ – Poetry
Ijeoma Oluo – Nonfiction
We are so proud to be a part of each writer’s journey. Hedgebrook relies on supporters like you to keep our programs thriving. Our Writers in Residence, Songwriters in Residence, Playwrights Festival, Screenwriters and Documentary Filmmakers Labs, Y-WE Write camp for youth, and Convenings are some of the ways we create safe spaces for women and non-binary writers to create.

Brava & Encore!

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 Sharon Magliano

Fall into Writing With Women-Focused Writing Events

For writers, autumn can be a great time of inspiration. Days get shorter, the nights get cooler, and everything slows down. There is more time to nestle in with a favorite sweater, warm mug, and explore our creativity. It’s a wonderful time to come together with other women writers and revel in the gifts of the season.

While we are, of course, partial to our fall Master Class offerings, there are several women’s writing retreats, conferences, and festivals happening around the country for you to explore.

Festival of Women Writers

https://www.hobartfestivalofwomenwriters.com/

September 6-8, 2019

Hobart, New York

This Festival takes place in “the reading capital of New York State” and offers writing intensives, workshops, readings, and receptions.

Women’s Fiction Writers Association

https://www.womensfictionwriters.org/annual-retreat

September 25-29, 2019

Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Women’s Fiction Writers Annual Retreat will feature talks and interactive lessons from novelist, speaker, and journalist Nicole Blades.

A Workshop for Women Writers of Color

October 6-10, 2019

Pendle Hill

Wallingford, PA

Pendle Hill is a Quaker retreat that welcomes all for spirit-led learning and community. Led by Melchor Hall, a black feminist scholar-activist, this workshop offers strategies for writing alternative epistemologies into, against, and through the canon.

Women Writing the West Conference

https://www.womenwritingthewest.org/currentWWWConference.html

October 10 – 13, 2019
San Antonio, Texas

Women Writing the West is celebrating its 25th year with the theme “Writing to Remember – Remembering Why We Write”. The conference features workshops, pitch meetings, editorial reviews, tours, and a reading from 2018 Texas Poet Laureate Carol Coffee Reposa.

C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference

http://www.cdwrightconference.org/conference.html

November 8-9, 2019

University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Arkansas

The mission of the C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference is to recognize, promote, and encourage women-identifying writers with special emphasis given to writing inspired by or written in the south.

The conference includes writing workshops, panels, talks, and an editorial review of works in progress.

Fall 2019 Hedgebrook Master Classes

Master Classes combine Hedgebrook’s retreat experience with the unique opportunity to be in residence and study with a celebrated teacher on beautiful Whidbey Island.

We are offering several Master Classes for Fall 2019. Participation in each class is limited to 6-8 writers to ensure individual attention and create an intimate, supportive writing community.

Writing/Righting our lives:  releasing the fear and activating the fierce 

October 11-18

Led by: Amy Ferris

CLASS DESCRIPTION:

This is for all writers, all genres, all levels. This is for non-writers, or folks who don’t believe they are writers. This is for anyone. This class is not about the craft of writing, it is about the craft of living and telling our truth. Writing/Righting our lives: releasing the fear and activating the fierce. The stories we keep hidden, out of view, tucked away. The stories in diaries and journals scribbled on post-its and napkins that are in the back of a drawer hidden; the ones we are afraid to share. Those are the very stories we will bring to life and write about.

Apply here.

Beginners Mind: A Master Class to Turn Your Yearning to Write into Words

October 21-28

Led by: Heidi W. Durrow

CLASS DESCRIPTION:

This class is tailored for the person who has always wanted to write for a living and wants to grow their craft as a writer (focusing on character, voice, description, and scene) in addition to exploring how one develops their writing resume even before one publishes their first word. This class will emphasize generating new work through the use of writing prompts, guided in-class writing exercises and reading and discussion of literary models.

Apply here.

Take it to the Next Level

November 8-15

Led by: Erica Bauermeister

CLASS DESCRIPTION:

So, you have a first draft of your manuscript — now, what’s the next step?  This class will focus on the tricks and joys of editing, from the global (story arc and character development) to the lyrical (making those scenes/images/sentences sing) to the completely granular (commas and grammar and repetition, oh my). We’ll dig in, get messy, and find and polish the story waiting inside your manuscript.  Upon acceptance, students should arrive with a completed first draft along with an open mind, ready to receive and give constructive feedback.  Included will be a one-on-one session review of 30 pages of your manuscript.

Apply here.

Next Level Writing

November 18-25

Led by: Hannah Tinti

CLASS DESCRIPTION:

The solution to a piece of writing is always hidden just beneath the surface. In this editorial-focused workshop, we will dig deep, giving close reads to a piece of your writing (10-25 pages, max 6,000 words) and exploring each layer, from the seed of the idea that first inspired you to the places where you’re feeling lost or stuck. Together we’ll identify the strengths and weaknesses, shore up the structure, identify patterns and find ways to bring your work to the next level. 

Apply here.

Hedgebrook offers a variety of opportunities for writers to hone their craft year-round at our retreat on Whidbey Island, Washington. Click here to learn more. To learn about our online offerings, which brings our famous radical hospitality to you wherever you write, visit this link.

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 Gabrielle James

Hedgebrook Celebrates International Women’s Day!

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

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

Shasta Grant – Singapore

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

Edna Manlapaz– Philippines

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

Minal Harjatwala – India

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

Monica Macansantos– New Zealand

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

Githa Hariharan –India

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

Tania De Rozario – Singapore

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

Mary Teng – Australia

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

By Kira Jane Buxton

HOLLOW KINGDOM

Q and A with Kira

1.)What inspired you to start writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hedgebrook Writers for the Win
Reflections From Summer Camp
Women Championing Each Other
Ancient Mahogany Gold
Fall into Writing With Women-Focused Writing Events
“Borderlands,”
Global Impact
Pollination
Hedgebrook Celebrates International Women’s Day!
HOLLOW KINGDOM