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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! 

By Diana Reynolds Roome

Ode to a Hedgebrook Woodstove

 

Dark sturdy cradle of spark and crackle

Embossed with fishers of words

We prod, fan, blow 

For that breath of warmth

Spark of idea

Flare-up of phrase

Sap bursting with flicker, crack, hiss

Till flames engulf

Surge into life

And words scorch page.

 

Discarded phrases fuel the fire

Neglected to a glimmer

Till wood and words discreetly placed

Kindle again, set sentences sizzling

Seeking oxygen, time, new fuel –

Plank with bark or burly chunk? –

To feed a glow that sears the mind

A conflagration roaring.

 

Tongues lick through wood

Tongues singe the page

Splendor flares, flames out, and dies –

Until ferocious, hurling

One wild hot spit out into air

To start the fire next time.

 

Diana Reynolds Roome

By Abigail Carter

Design Philosophy

The best designs in the world are based on purpose and function. When a design solves a functional problem as simply and elegantly as possible, the resulting form will be honest and timeless.

Consider the umbrella, the violin, and the canoe. Their exceptionally pure and elegant forms are the result of performance-centric designs that have stood the test of time.   Read more

Design is not making beauty, beauty emerges from selection, affinities, integration, love.

Louis Kahn

 

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“Borderlands,”
Global Impact
Pollination
Hedgebrook Celebrates International Women’s Day!
HOLLOW KINGDOM
Ode to a Hedgebrook Woodstove