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By Robin Swicord

Five Essential Elements of a Great Beginning

When I watch a movie, the story hooks me within minutes – roughly the first 10 to 15 pages of the screenplay – or not at all. When I’m not hooked, I may not always walk out (or turn off the TV), but as I continue to watch I remain aware of myself residing outside the movie in a disengaged way, waiting for the movie to end.

Believe me, that’s not the experience a filmmaker wants the viewer to have.

In those first critical minutes of a good movie, the storyteller seduces the viewer with an irresistible invitation: Come inside and play. I think there are five essential elements that contribute to a great start:   Read more

By Joan Moritz

Helen and Aldo

This is the story of a Hedgebrook alumna who was conned by a marmalade cat. Or maybe this is the story of a woman searching for family who recognized a feline soul mate. It is definitely the story of a poet of witness who died before her work was done.

Helen Eisen was born in a displaced persons camp in 1946 to Polish survivors of the Holocaust. She grew up in New York City, and spent most of her adult life in St. Louis. As a poet, her work was deeply influenced by the Holocaust — both as experienced by her parents and as transmitted to her as a child of survivors — and by the immigrant experience. Issues of family, loss, survival and belonging were central to her writing.   Read more

By Kate Thompson

Who Cooks for You

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He flew on silent wings; one swoop and his talons grazed the top of her head. She didn’t see him coming. She was walking down the forest path to her cabin after a hearty meal at the farmhouse. It was twilight, drizzly and she was alone. Before she thought to run, he went in for a second swipe. This time, she left sprinting and even though her cabin was closer, she ran back to the farmhouse to warn us.

This was my first night as a writer-in-residence at Hedgebrook, a retreat for women writers located on Whidbey Island, WA. The writers’ cottages are tucked away in the forest amongst cedars and furs, pines and hemlocks and vine maples. In owl territory, it seemed. Funny, the packet I received when I was awarded the Hedgebrook residency, mentioned deer and bunnies, not crazed owls.   Read more

By Susan Rich

Thank you to the wonderful women, to Hedgebrook and to SAM

Thank you to the wonderful women who came out yesterday to my ekphrastic poetry workshop at the Hedgebrook.

I’m always utterly amazed and humbled by women who put themselves in my hands; who allow me to share what I know about poetry and art. Writing is often a solitary experience and we writers tend toward the shy side. But here were 23 women, most whom I had never met before. They came out to learn about the history of visual art and poetry and finally to share their work. We had women that were in their first poetry workshop and women who are well published. There were photographers, journalists, gallery owners and even a gospel singer!   Read more

By Caren Gussoff

The Monster in the Laundry Basket: Professional Jealousy in the Open

Part I

I knew I’d found a keeper when my boyfriend-at-the-time barely flinched the first time he saw one of our fights, word-for-word, in print. “You writers,” he said. “You air your dirty laundry. That’s how it is.”

We not only air our dirty laundry, we turn each piece inside out, study the seams, stinks and stains, so we can proudly, faithfully reproduce it onto garments of our own design.

And it was this same man — now husband — who pointed out the quixotic duplicity of my reaction to hearing award nominees (I wasn’t one, but I knew many of them) made public one February afternoon. He pounded me on my back (as I choked on my own dirty laundry), and asked, “Family, friends, lovers, illnesses and personal catastrophes — big or small — are all fair game — why not this?”

“What?” I asked in response, hoping the answer wasn’t obvious.

It was. “Jealousy,” he said. “Professional jealousy.”   Read more

By Donna Miscolta

The Beauty of a Hedgebrook Salon

Last month, I had the pleasure of being one of six workshop leaders at Hedgebrook’s December Salon, a day-long event at this writers retreat for women located on Whidbey Island, WA. The salon was an opportunity for women writers to partake in workshops, conversation, the famous Hedgebrook food and the capstone – a lively open mic.

The workshops were held in the beautiful Hedgebrook cottages, each of which normally houses a single writer during a residency. A Hedgebrook residency in a cottage in the woods is writing bliss as the over 1,200 alumnae can attest. Occupants of these cottages have written poems, plays, and books in pleasurable solitude. For the workshops, a half dozen or more women writers in a single cottage made for a cozy union of ideas and an inviting place for sharing work.   Read more

By Jenny Neill

Writer Residencies: Oh the Places You’ll Go

The Hedgebrook Alumnae Leadership hosted a panel discussion about writer residencies and conferences at Hugo House on Wednesday, October 24. Many Seattle Writergrrls were among those who packed the room that night to hear advice from Susan Rich, Donna Miscolta, and Claudia Rowe. While much of the discussion covered retreats, the speakers also touched on finding grants to help offset costs for programs that don’t offer a full ride.

Hedgebrook.

Each panelist spoke about how to find residency programs and how to prepare for the experience once accepted. Rich encouraged us to reach for our dreams while treating the search for the right placement like trying to get into grad school. She stressed staying organized, creating a cohesive narrative, and conducting research because no two writer or artist communities have the same mission or culture. Talking to past residents is a great way to decide whether and when to apply.   Read more

By Humanities Washington

5 Questions for Amy Wheeler on Hedgebrook and the LGBTQ Themes in Her Plays

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amy Wheeler came looking for a place to write … and stayed.

Since 2006 the playwright has held a “day job” as executive director of Hedgebrook, a 24-year-old retreat for women writers on Whidbey Island, where she first came seeking a place to craft her stage plays.

While Hedgebrook has granted creators including author-activist Gloria Steinem, erotic novelist Megan Clark, and poets Carolyn Forché and Suheir Hammad a relaxed space to fulfill their work, it’s also given Wheeler a fulcrum on which to balance the demands of steering a major nonprofit and concocting drama that rewards an audience.

“I’m writing more than ever now,” Wheeler says, “and I’m very, very excited about the new work I’m generating.”

Wheeler earned her master’s from the Iowa Playwrights’ Workshop and proceeded to create eight produced plays – some of them gestated at Hedgebrook, where she first came after winning a residency in 2002. That year, she wrote her first draft of a three-act play during five days in a Hedgebrook cottage … and the production went into rehearsal two months later. Her gratitude to Hedgebrook led her to join the board the following year, and finally throw her hat in for the directorship.   Read more

By Yvette Heyliger

Bridge to Baraka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yours truly, Yvette Heyliger (Willow 2011 & Oak 2008), was selected to present an excerpt from my first one woman show, Bridge to Baraka, in We Are Theatre, the women theatre artist advocacy event conceived and produced by Guerrilla Girls On Tour! at the Cherry Lane Theatre on September 24, 2012. Since 2001, Guerrilla Girls On Tour! has annually protested against sexism in the American Theatre. These protests purposely occur around the time of the Tony Awards to highlight the fact that women are not nominated for Tony’s because they are seldom hired to work on Broadway. Even in the 2011-2012 theatre season where an unprecedented four plays by women were produced, none of these women dramatists received a Tony award nomination for “Best Play.” We Are Theatre was also produced by 50/50 in 2020 and Women’s Initiative (made up of members of the Dramatists Guild). It was made possible through the generosity of founder and artistic director of the Cherry Lane Theatre, Angelina Fiordellisi, and a host of sponsors including Hedgebrook.   Read more

By Jennifer Munro

Mistaking My Face for an Ashtray

In a strange twist of synchronicity, I started working on a short piece about Frankenstein’s monster a month ago; the next morning my face began to erupt in shingles, a mess of painful blisters and scabs. At first I had no idea what was going on and blamed spiders at the vacation home where I was staying.

As I shaped words about the ugly monster whom no one loved and who never had a name, did I bring to life the scarred face that I would soon have, in which it looked—and agonizingly felt—like cigarettes had been extinguished across my forehead and temple? One eye swelled shut, and the eye socket bloated into a prominent, ballooned, circular frame around it. A crusty rash bloomed on my eyelid.   Read more

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