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By Suzanne Ushie

Suzanne Ushie

After I applied for a Hedgebrook residency, I dreamed of walking on a beach with a small group of strangers. Acres of water on the left, sleek boats bobbing on the blue; a place without a name. But I could tell, in that unshowy way dreams have of making things known, that I was somewhere in the United States. I am prone to the most bizarre dreams, so I put this tame one down to submission fatigue, then dismissed it as fluff.

And yet I walked on that beach with my fellow residents a day after I arrived in Hedgebrook. I walked barefoot on ivory sand covered with thick logs and purple seashells. I laughed at the name—Double Bluff Beach?—and the curved shoreline—Useless Bay?—as the heat strained into my feet. Here, on this lush island blooming with heart, I would do little more than write for a month. To be given such a gift.

Every morning, I awoke to the shrieking of owls and sat at my desk. I bent to the page and struggled with my sentences. When my writing took its time, often the case, I stared out the window and into the woods, hoping to spot a deer. I had since made peace with being a slow writer. Without the usual distractions though, my process soon became suspect.

I mourned in the library, slouched in my favourite couch, a book on my lap. Surrounded by silence and stone, I read women who were in Hedgebrook before me, and rapture came over me. I again believed that I would write as well as I could whenever I could. Above all else, the incredible women in residence with me made me feel once more like myself.

We often lingered at the table after dinner, sated by the spectacular meal, bonding over everything from writing to midnight baths. They taught me to trust my process, to make room for magic. They teased me, too, about my refusal to discuss my ongoing project. Someone called me “No-nonsense,” which filled me with wicked glee.

One night we sat around a bonfire, wrote down our fears, and flung them into the flames. High on warm company, an improbable plan emerged: we’d hide in the garlic storeroom so we’d never have to leave. Weeks into our stay, we fed apples to the two llamas and agreed on names: Thelma for the brown, Louise for the white. I remember wishing it were that easy to come up with a book title.

Mornings turned into a truce of sorts. Sometimes my writing went well. Other times, not so much. On “good writing days,” as I began to call them, I would work far into afternoon, neglecting tea and food, until I looked up to see the sun lowering behind the trees. On less productive days, I curled up on the window seat and read. Or wandered through the woods. Once, I walked to a nearby lavender farm, struck by the stillness of the sprawling homes—a rarity in Lagos where I live.

In the hallowed tradition of residences, writers come and go. On the eve of the first departure, I gathered with the others in a cottage, where we read our work and got a mostly accurate Tarot reading. While we mused over the journal entries, I recalled women whose conversations swung between men and marriage alone, women who I’d cut out of my life for my well-being. And then this unexpected sisterhood. This glorious tribe.

On my last day in Hedgebrook, only two of us from the original cohort remained. I got through the breathless goodbyes and settled in for the drive to the port, trying not to sulk. As I boarded the ferry, I thought of a longing I’d shared in my Artist Statement: Hedgebrook as my very own backbone, guiding me across the murky waters of writing safely. And it did.

 

By Hedgebrook Guest

The Fabric of Time

Now that the Hedgebrook Women Playwrights Festival is in its 19th year, I find that I’m in the past and in the present all at the same time. As I walk up the road from the Farmhouse toward the cottages, I hear echoes of laughter and snippets of conversations past, the deep reverberations of the playwrights who’ve been here before. Even as I greet the 2016 Hedgebrook playwrights for the first time—and they’re an astonishing group of women: Kristiana Rae Colón, Virginia Grise, Dawn Renee Jones, Madhuri Shekar, and Regina Taylor—I simultaneously recall the sound of Dael Orlandersmith telling rock ‘n’ roll stories, the image of Danai Gurira hunched over her laptop, and a walk to Double Bluff beach with Sarah Treem. I remember laughing till we cried and crying till we laughed with Kathleen Tolan. I remember the “whoosh” of Theresa Rebeck slipping new pages under my door at 7:00 a.m. I remember playing poker with Tory Stewart, collecting rocks on the beach with Lydia Stryk, and attending mass with Julia Cho. I think of hanging out in the farmhouse after dinner and hearing Tanya Barfield read the first scenes of what would become Blue Door, Lynn Nottage sharing the exquisite beginnings of what would become Intimate Apparel, and Caridad Svich reading an early draft of Magnificent Waste (“B-b-b-boy in a box.”). Each memory conjures up ten more. Alice Tuan, Lenelle Moïse, Tanya Saracho, Karen Hartman, Rosanna Staffa, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Karen Zacarías . . . so many extraordinary women who’ve gathered here over time to dig deep into their writing, share generously of their lives, and create the plays that, one by one, are transforming the American theatre.

  Read more

By Hedgebrook Guest

The Art of Falling in Love

One year ago I boarded a ferry headed for Whidbey Island, for the beginning of a two-week stay at Hedgebrook, for their annual Hedgebrook Women Playwrights Festival. I was invited by the Goodman Theatre, which had commissioned me to write a new play KING OF THE YEES for them. Today, one year later, I have a co-production of the play scheduled for 2017 at the Goodman and Center Theatre Group, a Canadian premiere of the same play, and two additional commissions that are almost certainly connected to my time on Whidbey Island. Hedgebrook has certainly been one of the most helpful vehicles for creating momentum around my work, and since Hedgebrook, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering how this exactly happened and how to replicate this in everyday life.   Read more

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Suzanne Ushie