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by Amy Wheeler

The six cottages in the woods at Hedgebrook are situated in pairs, so that at night, when a writer is burning the midnight oil, she can see the lights from another cottage glowing through the trees and know that she’s not alone.

Writing is a solitary act. But for me, just knowing that someone is nearby when I’m floating in that creative space gives me a sense of being tethered. I can relax and focus. I always get more writing done when my wife is in the next room!

This balance – of being in solitude and in community with a small group of other women writers – is one of the unexpected gifts of a Hedgebrook residency. Alumnae often talk about how to recapture and recreate that experience in their life-after-Hedgebrook.

So we tried an experiment over Memorial Day weekend: we invited our alumnae all over the world to take part in a virtual writing retreat called “Hedgebrook Writes.” For 3 days, participants committed to clearing their calendars, setting an intention and writing. Hedgebrook’s Communications team created a special blog for the weekend that became our hub: a place to connect, celebrate, commiserate, share writing prompts, recipes and photos, and talk about how the writing went that day.

We kicked off the weekend with parties in several cities, and anticipation grew as participants began posting on the blog to describe where they’d be writing:

…a small log cabin in Jackson Hole, a tiny hotel room in New York, a cabin at Centrum in Port Townsend, a bungalow in Sydney “eating winter soup,” a writing studio on Whidbey facing Puget Sound, an apartment in Mumbai…

I envisioned each of us at our desks, in these nooks and crannies spread out over the globe, and already, I felt less lonely.

Throughout the weekend, writers posted photos of their writing spaces, and of spontaneous meet-ups at places like Grumpy D’s Coffee Shop in West Seattle, and Café Minerva in lower Manhattan. Thoughtful blog posts described the challenges of sticking to the intention, of staying at the desk while the sounds of a boisterous holiday barbeque float through the window. Writers encouraged each other, not just to stay with it and cross the finish line, but to be compassionate and patient with your writer self.

For me personally, the weekend was a revelation. I love my work. Helming the good ship ‘Lady Hedgebrook’ is a dream job that feeds my soul and taps into my creativity in ways other jobs haven’t come close to doing. But it’s still not easy carving out time to write. I confess to getting sucked into the email vortex, or falling down the Google rabbit hole, and my playwright self takes a rain check.

But that weekend, something shifted. I turned off the Internet, sat down at my desk and got comfortable with silence. When my playwright self showed up, I “Hedgebrook’d” her: fed her really well and gave her my full attention. Reading the blog posts, I felt happy knowing others were doing the same.

At the end of the weekend, we heard about gatherings and celebration parties that went on for hours with food, drink and the reading of fresh work.

We’re going to share some of the blog posts from “Hedgebrook Writes” on this Farmhouse Table blog, beginning with one from Ruth Ozeki – mastermind and instigator of this brilliant idea. (Thank you, Ruth!)

And stay tuned for an invitation to join our future “Hedgebrook Writes” weekends.


Amy Wheeler
About Amy Wheeler


  • H.
    8:52 PM - 27 June, 2011

    I love this post. Something about the solidarity of a number of writers writing, where ever they were, is very appealing. I imagine procrastination is less attractive when multiple and peers, possibly friends, know you have set aside time to write and expect some kind of output. Accountability may often equal pages. Fabulous~*

  • jacob
    5:03 PM - 8 September, 2011

    amy i miss you and i like the website!!!


  • yogipoco
    5:59 PM - 14 May, 2012

    Fantastic post however I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this topic? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Appreciate it!

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