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by Sheila deShields

We may be exiled, or considered black sheep, if we go away or astray.  Not so with Hedgebrook.  Somehow my email address was lost for ten years, and then they found me, and life hasn’t been the same since.

Last fall, Vito Zingarelli invited me, along with 24 other alumnae from around the Bay Area, to read submissions from residency candidates.  Three days later, I was heading up Highway 101 for the San Francisco event.  The high level of the writing (over 700 submissions) proved staggering.  Had my own work once met that scrutiny and passed?  I marveled.

And I also remembered my own residency – after six years of hospitalizations with a child seriously ill, how my exhausted body had fallen apart on the first night I stayed at Hedgebrook.  During my two weeks there, I drank in the nurturing from the other women, from the wild words, and from the quiet places among the trees.  Eagle feathers were dropped at my feet.  Picnic baskets were found at my doorstep at Owl Cottage.  I exchanged Reiki energy work for a much-needed massage.  There were tears, but also much solace, life-sustaining solitude, and writing.

At the SF event, two other readers and I agreed to form a writing group –  the Hedgebrook Sisters.  Meeting once a month, we are within 20 minutes of one another’s homes.  I am grateful to both Sophia Mah and Rebekah Bloyd.  Their keen minds and support, their shared writings in all phases of discovery, have yielded a much deeper level of commitment to my own writing tasks and to my career, as well as to the support of theirs.  Since our group was founded, I have finished a six-page, single-spaced narrative poem (begun when I turned 50) about the land in Oklahoma where I grew up, have revised a children’s story told to my son before I’d ever heard of Hedgebrook, and have returned to my novel –  part of a trilogy about four generations of women.  (In my own application, I submitted one chapter from that incomplete novel over a decade ago.)

Who’d have known that answering one phone call could continue to offer so much?  Three words from me for this unexpected gift:  No Longer Missing.

Lucky that Hedgebrook found me,

Sheila deShields


Sheila deShields
About Sheila deShields


  • Jackie Shannon Hollis
    8:48 PM - 5 December, 2011

    That’s a nice gift you gave back to Hedgebrook and to the new residents — reading those submissions. And then to get the gift of two fine writers in your life…well it’s all a lovely circle, isn’t it?

  • Ann Hedreen
    6:24 AM - 7 December, 2011

    Sheila, this is so lovely and so what Hedgebrook is all about.

  • Uma Krishnaswami
    7:10 PM - 16 December, 2011

    Lovely blog and a lovely post. Thank you, Sheila, for reminding me that while I’m far from Hedgebrook, I remain a part of the community and the place, and they a part of me.

  • Joan Goodreau
    11:39 AM - 15 July, 2015

    Your message has inspired me to apply as an alumni. I need that time and space.

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