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by Hedgebrook ED

In a couple of weeks, Hedgebrook’s second Vortext Salon for women writers will take place on Whidbey Island: three extraordinary days of workshops and conversation, in a beautiful setting, led by six renowned writers and teachers: Dorothy Allison, Karen Joy Fowler, Elizabeth George, Jane Hamilton, Ruth Ozeki and Gail Tsukiyama.


Vortext was just a gleam in Karen Joy Fowler’s eye a year ago, when she came to us with the idea of convening her compadres at Hedgebrook for a reunion and Salon. They taught together many moons ago (in the now defunct Maui Writer’s Conference), where they were the renegade literary women. Over the years, their friendships have deepened through raucous reunions in their homes: wine, good food and laughter flow abundantly as they share fresh work, critique early drafts of each other’s novels, commiserate about the business of being a woman writer, and cheer each other on.

They are a mighty literary circle, and their reunions are the stuff of legends.

Vortext is a rare occasion, when these writers open their circle, inviting other women writers to join them to write, share work and ideas, gain knowledge about craft and the industry, enjoy organic meals prepared by Hedgebrook’s chefs, and be in community with other women writers from all over.

As we gear up for this year’s Salon, I’m reflecting on the gems of wisdom shared by the writers in last year’s gathering:



On getting published:

• Find your path. Don’t assume there’s a ‘right path’ to publication. There are many, and there is yours. Trust your instincts and go with your gut.

• Do your research. Be strategic about who you approach with your work, make sure it’s a good fit for you and your book.

• Learn to handle rejection.

• Be persistent. If you get a “no,” from one agent or publisher, send it out to another one.


On the importance of community:

• Create or find a community of writers you trust to write and share work with, and support each other as you send your work out. As Dorothy says: “We want to be writers together…to be with our tribe.”

• Seek mentors. Think about what you can offer a mentor; it’s an exchange. As Elizabeth said, “It’s a thrill for me when someone I’ve supported gets published.”

• Be mentors. Offer your support, encouragement, experience, connections and advice to emerging and aspiring writers who seek it.

• Cultivate a counsel of trusted readers, or one reader (who may or may not a writer) you can share early drafts with.

• Channel your “inner Dorothy” (ie Dorothy Allison): give yourself permission to speak your mind and ‘be a bad girl.’



We asked the writers to share their highlights from last year:

What’s an exciting piece of news about you and your work in 2013?

Elizabeth: My new novel Just One Evil Act will be out in October and my second YA novel will be out January 2014. The first YA was nominated for an Edgar and an Agatha.

Gail: The paperback edition of my novel, A Hundred Flowers, will be out in late August.

[Interviewer note: Gail’s novel was chosen as one of O Magazine’s “15 Must Read Books for September 2012.” Ruth Ozeki is on a whirlwind book tour promoting her stunning new novel: A Tale for the Time Being, and Karen Joy Fowler’s new novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves will be released immediately following Vortext.]

Tell us something we might not know about one of your VORTEXT compadres.

Elizabeth: Gail Tsukiyama can—with ease—name the children of nearly all Hollywood Celebrities.

What was your favorite moment from last year’s VORTEXT?

Jane: Can there be any doubt? Singing “We are Family” in a chorus line with everybody on the last day. Gail echoes: The love and solidarity of everyone singing and dancing to “We Are Family.”

[Interviewer note: the teachers chose Sister Sledge’s song to close the weekend, which erupted into a spontaneous kick-dancing circle by all 40 Vortext attendees!]

Elizabeth: I loved the keynotes, although it was incredibly intimidating to give one!

What are you most looking forward to this year?

Elizabeth: Really taking a good strong look at how the writers are creating character.



VORTEXT is May 31-June 2. Click here to find out more and register.


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.

Hedgebrook ED
About Hedgebrook ED

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