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by Hedgebrook Staff

By Nan Macy, Donna Miscolta, and Allison Green

On a recent rainy Saturday, eight Hedgebrook alumnae met around the farmhouse table and shared essays they were writing about visibility and invisibility, about motorcyles, about Louisa May Alcott, about rice. Actually, this farmhouse table was not on idyllic Whidbey Island, but in a conference room at Hedgebrook’s Pioneer Square office in Seattle.

  • Jean Bryant, whose first visit to Hedgebrook was so early in the organization’s history that there were only two cottages, shared her recurring journey to visibility and voice. Not without its risks, choosing voice over voicelessness has sometimes meant losing people she loves.
  • Jennifer Munro humorously compared motorcycling to literature (riding to writing), while exploring how the standards for both are often set by men.
  • Ann Hedreen wrote about the expectations she grew up with to be “good” — and how they don’t always serve her as a writer. She contrasted the experience of her grandmother, who attended one semester as a journalism student at the University of Washington before dropping out to marry, and her daughter, who is now a journalist.
  • Nan talked about the familial and creative risks in writing her current project, to which Jean replied, “Without risk, it isn’t worth a book.”

Getting together with Hedgebrook alumnae for any purpose is a delight, but meeting to read and talk about each other’s writing is especially pleasurable. The pieces we brought were limited to 750 words; we were crafting essays for Brevity‘s upcoming issue in response to the VIDA counts, which document gender disparities in publishing. As a result, we were treated to work that was sharply drawn and often poetic.

  • Loreen Lee meditated on the ritual of cooking rice in Chinese Hawaiian families.
  • Mitsu Sundvall adapted a section from her memoir-in-progress that addressed the issues of sexism and racism through tightly written, robust prose.
  • Allison Green wrote about losing her muse in a graduate program seemingly oblivious to the contributions to literature of women and people of color. Allison offered a retort to a professor’s dismissal of women’s stories as “diaper dramas.”
  • Donna Miscolta used an incident from her fifth-grade class to illustrate the absurd but apparently accepted notion that books about girls and women are literature for girls and women, unless they are written by men.

As we parted ways, stepping out of the brick-lined walls of the Grand Central Building and into the rainy streets, we saw no alpacas, no rabbits, no owls, and no deer. But as we navigated cars and busses, we took with us the warmth of good conversation and the stimulation of good writing.

This workshop was part of an ongoing series called Hedgebrook Downtown: Conversations about Writing. Several more events are scheduled for 2012 and will be publicized through the Hedgebrook Google Group list serv. The next event is “Getting Your Book in Bookstores—Some Things to Consider on the Road to Publication,” featuring independent marketing/publishing specialist Alice Acheson, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., May 19th, more details to be announced.

 

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