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by Hedgebrook Guest

Another year, another Hedgebrook application. Okay, so actually this was just my second time to apply, but it’s already feeling like a periodic exercise in futility, kind of like cleaning the dog-hair off the sofa, or casting my vote as a democrat living in East Texas. And yet, just like cleaning and voting, it’s important to remember that the prize is in the process, not the outcome. The truth is, I’ve already reaped a benefit from Hedgebrook and all I did was answer a few questions and pay them $30.

It’s funny what a difference just writing something down makes. It seems like as a writer I wouldn’t need to keep learning this lesson, but I guess I do. On last year’s application, I went for breezy and clever when answering the questions, because…well, let’s face it: the application and guidelines are a little intimidating. I’m not award-winning or ground-breaking, and I have serious doubts as to whether my commercial women’s fiction will “shape our culture now and for generations to come.” Add to that my demographics—a white middle-aged woman living in the suburbs—and you’ll understand why Hedgebrook feels so very out of my league. I mean, come on, the only way you’d consider my voice marginalized is if you watched me trying talk to my husband while he’s engrossed in some youtube video on how give his road-bike a tune-up.

But this year, even though the questions were the same, the application process felt different. I figured that since I almost certainly wasn’t going to get in anyway, I might as well go for honest, not urbane. What is my hot topic? Why Hedgebrook? Why now? Sigh. Why indeed. I answered as best I could, trying to explain to the judges, and myself, what exactly I write and why I want to write it at Hedgebrook.

And then I got to that tough question, the one that feels like a mashup between Mahatma Be the change you want to see in the world Gandhi and Mary What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life Oliver. How, they ask, would I use a Hedgebrook experience to make a difference in the world? Last year I put down a vague, hand-wavy “I’ll help in whatever way I can…” non-response, but this year I just answered the damn question. I listed a little relevant past experience, and then admitted that what I really wanted to do was participate in a prison writing program.

My brother, who’d always wanted to be a writer, came home from Vietnam a heroin addict and went on to spend the rest of his life in and out of prison on drug-related charges. Ever since I heard about prison writing programs, I’ve wondered if participating in one of those could have altered the sad and steady downward trajectory of his life. But interacting with random prisoners has always sounded a little scary, and besides, I’m not a teacher. What would I have offer anyway? What, indeed.

I finished the Hedgebrook application, and before I had time to come to my senses, I paid my $30, hit submit, and then turned my attention to other, more pressing things. But that last question chewed on me like a dog with a bone. It reminded me that an indeterminate aspiration to do a future good-work looks a whole hell of a lot like sitting at my desk not doing anything to help anybody. So I got online and did some research, and although there’s no local program, I did find the PEN Prison Writing Mentor Program.

I’ve applied to be a mentor and we’ll see what happens. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll find something else, because honestly, what am I waiting for? There’s always going to be dog hair on the furniture, and East Texas isn’t turning blue anytime soon, and I probably won’t be making a trip to Whidbey Island in 2016. (Especially considering the typo of the crazy-spell-check-substitution variety I just noticed on the copy of my application. Sheesh! Sigh.)

Oh well, what’s done is done. I can’t go back and correct that mistake any more than can I go back and fix all the other mistakes I’ve ever made. Instead, I think I’ll keep my attention on what’s still left to do in this life, and that’s plenty. Besides, there’s always next year’s application.



About the Author:

MelissaDeCarlo_webMelissa DeCarlo has worked as an artist, graphic designer, grant writer and at one time (that time being when computers were the size of a refrigerator) a computer programmer. Born and raised in Oklahoma, she now lives in East Texas with her husband and a motley crew of rescue animals. The Art of Crash Landing is her first novel. Learn more: www.melissadecarlo.com






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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.


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