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By Wendy C. Ortiz

It Only Takes One

After an essay I wrote appeared in the New York Times last summer (and the immediate responses to the essay which I wrote about for the Hedgebrook Blog), a flurry of activity occurred—over email, phone, and over my big dining room table where I write.

The flurry came in the form of agents. Agents who were interested in me, who wanted to see what else I was working on, who inquired about the book that would be coming from the essay.

I began seeing that essay as a seed to grow from.

Months went by, months in which I was in touch with a number of agents, agents who told me they had read my essay on the subway the day after it was published, agents who said they were interested in reading my other book—the one I started trying to push forward, since I didn’t have the book based on the essay that they were looking for yet.

I was administering a graft from another plant—the book that was already written, that a handful of agents had already said no to before—onto the seed of the published essay.

While emailing with another handful of agents, the graft took hold on the seed that was already splitting and transforming. Over the course of several months, I emailed copies of the manuscript—the graft I was trying to propagate—and finally found myself, happily, with an agent who is encouraging and sees a future with me and my work.

The shoots have been slow-growing—one piece has appeared since the NYT essay, other pieces have received encouraging rejections, and a different, shorter book has been accepted for publication by an independent press. Meanwhile, the book I grafted to the seed of that essay is currently in the hands of editors at publishing houses. When I received the list of publishers my agent was sending my book to, I almost cried. These are houses I’ve dreamed of. At the moment I write this, three have “passed” (the nicer word for ‘rejected.’) I’ve agreed to see the comments they made, and in all cases, the comments have been positive—one pass using adjectives about my writing that I want to nail to a wall near my writing space, they’re so good.

The ongoing mantra I keep repeating to get me through this waiting period has been It only takes one. It’s a mantra I repeated when my partner and I were trying to conceive: two women, one needleless syringe, and the donation from a very fine friend to complete the propagation, as it were.

Our two year old sleeps in the next room as I write this. I wait in suspense, my heart fluttering when an email lands in my inbox, when I see the name of my agent in the “From” field.

A seed took hold and I established a graft that I hope will take, and not just take, but flourish into something abundant, hardy, productive.

It’s nearly spring. And it only takes one.



Wendy C. Ortiz is the author of Hollywood Notebook, forthcoming from Writ Large Press (2014). Recent work has appeared in The Coachella Review, the Modern Love column of The New York Times, Specter Magazine, and PANK. Wendy curates the Rhapsodomancy Reading Series (www.rhapsodomancy.org) in Hollywood, California. www.wendyortiz.com.



Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.

By Susan Jensen

The Shame Game

There is no shame in being incested, molested, raped, or beaten.

The shame belongs with the perpetrator, not the victim.


If we are too young or weak or scared or damaged or battered or seduced into complicity to defend ourselves, where is the shame in that?

The symbiotic dynamic of the shame game conspires to protect the abusers who hide in and behind our shame, protected by it, reveling in it.

As victims, we’re too ashamed to bring charges, too ashamed to tell the truth, too ashamed to confront.   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 Jackie Shannon Hollis

Writers as Witness









I write on Mondays and Tuesdays, and on Wednesday afternoons, I take those pages (five, ten, fifteen) to my critique group. Each of us in turn hand out copies of our work and read it out loud. What I can’t hear or see when I read to myself is revealed around the table, with these witnesses. Awkward bumps in language, over-reaching, missing details. We talk about the story, anything from where a sentence break or comma should be, to deleting or moving or reworking paragraphs. We write notes on the pages. Sometimes the notes applaud the grace of the words, the humor, the courage. A note that says, “Damn, this is so beautiful, I kind of hate you.” Or, “The dishes can wait, the email can wait. You’ve got work to do. Keep going.” I learn as much from listening to others’ work as I do from reading my own. I take my pages with those notes and go home. Alone to revise, and to write another section.   Read more

By Susan Rich

We Did It! What I Learned Doing The Improbable Places Poetry Tour










Wow. The inaugural event of The Improbable Places Poetry Tour + 1 surpassed my wildest dreams. We read poems (+ one short story) in our pajamas, read poems (and one short essay) bouncing on the Author Suite’s bed at the Alexis Hotel, and celebrated in style. The quote of the night belonged to one attendee, “I never expected to have so much fun at a poetry reading.”

So what made this a different kind of poetry event? Well, what didn’t make it different?   Read more

By Brooke Warner

What Women Writers Want—and How to Get It



















Women who write tend to know they’re looking for something, but oftentimes they don’t know what. They understand that there’s a deeper and greater force than they can even begin to wrap their minds around that pushes them, drives them, and some of the time, yes, messes with their heads.

Last weekend I had the privilege to attend a Hedgebrook-sponsored event in San Francisco—a conversation between Dorothy Allison and Karen Joy Fowler. I spent much of the evening nodding my head along with the forty-plus other women (and two men!) in the crowd. The wisdom of these two long-time writers and teachers in the presence of so many students was palpable. During the Q&A, a question was posed: What do you want from writing?   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.


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

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