Hedgebrook LogoHedgebrook Logo


2019 Dates and Information Coming Soon!

VORTEXT is an extraordinary weekend salon at the famed Whidbey Institute, led by renowned women writers.

The program, now in its seventh year, gives writers the opportunity to connect in diverse and powerful small-group workshops. Writers also enjoy dynamic keynotes and discussions about opportunities and challenges for women who write, as well as several open mics over the course of the weekend.

Join us to share meals, conversation and community in a stunningly beautiful setting.

Dates: Friday, May 4th through Sunday, May 6th

Location: Whidbey Institute | Whidbey Island, WA



Registration includes: all keynotes and three workshops of your choice, group sessions and free time to write as well as breakfast, lunch, and daily reception.

* Accommodations must be arranged separately. See the accommodations section below.

Registration for VORTEXT is through a third-party site. Full payment is due at the time of registration. Please call 360-321-4786 for any questions or concerns, or if you need help with your registration.

Cancellation policy: For registration and accommodations a full refund less a $50 fee for each will be given until April 5th; cancellation after April 5th will forfeit the full amount.

Full and partial scholarships are available! Application deadline is February 28th


If you have questions or if you are planning to give this experience as a gift, please contact us by phone at 360-321-4786 or email our office at hedgebrook@hedgebrook.org.

Daily Schedule

9:30 – 10:30 AM: Two Keynotes (30 minutes each)

There will be two keynotes each day.

10:45 AM – 1 PM: Workshop Discussions

Break out into one of six workshop/discussions. Session includes writing exercises.

1 PM: Lunch

Afternoon:  free writing time

3:30 PM:  Panel discussion on a topic chosen by the community

5 – 6 PM: Open Mic with wine & cheese reception (Fri, Sat)

Workshops & Teachers

You will take one workshop per day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, for a total of three workshops. During registration, choose three workshops from the selection below.

In addition, each instructor will present a Keynote during the course of the weekend. Keynotes and all other activities are open to all participants.

Announcing the 2018 roster:


Digging In: Using Research to Enrich your Fiction and Non-Fiction (You might need it more than you know)

Class Description: Remember going back to a childhood place, and everything seemed smaller? That giant hill now a mere slope? The walk to school not the grueling miles you imagined it to be, but really a few blocks away? As we know, memory is inaccurate, not just factually, but often emotionally too. Research is an essential element to texturing your narrative and providing accurate details that frame the story in a specific world. Research gives the writer the tools that enlighten a process and create credibility in the details of everyday functions, in the time and place where the story takes place (even just last week). In this class we discuss when research is needed, what kind of sources are available, and when to feel satisfied with the amount of information that you’ve gathered. We examine different sources from old newspapers, data tools, to clothing, recipes, letters and photographs and experiment with various source materials to mine details and information; explore a character’s relation to place and to others. Finally: How does research get integrated? When is it used to inform the author? When is it background or essential to the story? And how do you transform it from factual to personal to your characters? We will generate writing using a new piece of information by the end of the session.

Instructor Biography: Elmaz Abinader is a poet, memoirist, playwright and novelist. Her first memoir, Children of the Roojme, a Family’s Journey from Lebanon, chronicles three generations of immigrants battling dislocation and tradition. Her new poetry collection, This House, My Bones was the Editor’s Selection, 2014 from Willow Press/Aquarius Press. Elmaz won the 2000 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Poetry award for the poetry collection, In the Country of My Dreams… . She was also awarded a Goldies Award for Literature, as well as two Drammies (Oregon’s Drama award) for her three-act one-woman show, Country of Origin. Elmaz performed Country of Origin at the Kennedy Center and has toured several countries with this play and two others: Ramadan Moon and 32 Mohammeds.  Elmaz’s work has been widely anthologized, most recently in Al Jazeera UKSukoon Magazine, Mizna, The New Anthology of American Poetry, Vol. 3 and The Colors of Nature. Elmaz has been a Fulbright Senior Fellow to Egypt, taught for the Palestine Writing Workshop and a resident at the El Gouna Writing Residency on the Red Sea, Cansarrat, Montalvo and MacDowell Colony. Elmaz is one of the founders of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation, (VONA/Voices), now in its 17th year providing workshops for writers of color. She is also a creative writing professor at Mills College and a fitness instructor at the Oakland Y.


Dismantling Fear

Class Description: Hunter S. Thompson said, “Never turn your back on Fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed.” Do we kill fear or keep it alive? How do we counter fear? Do we go around it, or do we go through it? In this workshop, we will focus on the many ways writers are tethered by fear and the many tools we have inside us to untether ourselves. It is too simple to say, ‘Be courageous.’ What does that mean? What are the particles of which courage is made? Using writing prompts, deep discussion and exercises, we will dismantle our fear, and mobilize its ever-patient and waiting twin, courage.

Instructor Biography: Shobha Rao moved to the United States from India at the age of seven. She is the winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Fiction, and her story “Kavitha and Mustafa” was chosen by T.C. Boyle for inclusion in Best American Short Stories 2015. She is the author of the short story collection, AN UNRESTORED WOMAN, and the novel, GIRLS BURN BRIGHTER. She lives in San Francisco.


Mystery and Necessity

Class Description: In Diving Into the Wreck Adrienne Rich writes: “I came to explore the wreck./The words are purposes./The words are maps./I came to see the damage that was done/and the treasures that prevail.” How can we as writers transform the layered material of our lives and begin mapping a unique voice as a writer? How did it sound in our kitchens? How did it feel to hold that blue bowl you were forbidden to touch? How did it sound on the streets and in the woods of our childhoods? What are the stories we have half-heard? Or turned away from hearing? Can we use all our senses to bring forth memory? Pulling from our sensory and remembered landscapes of provides us opportunities as writers. The mood will be as playful as it is serious and the workshop is open to writing in any genre. Just come prepared to take chances and leave with beginnings and ideas for new and necessary stories.

Instructor Biography: Victoria Redel is the author of five books of fiction and three books of poetry, most recently the novel Before Everything. Redel’s fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in numerous magazines and journals including Granta.com. Harvard Review, One Story, The Quarterly, The Literarian, The New York Times, The L.A. Times, Salmagundi, O the Oprah magazine, Elle, Bomb, and NOON. Redel is on the faculty of Sarah Lawrence College. He work has been widely anthologized and translated into 10 languages. She has taught in the Graduate Writing Programs of Columbia University, Vermont College and was the 2013 McGee Professor at Davidson College. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim foundation, The National Endowment For The Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center.


Are You Allowed to Joke About That? Using Humor to Tackle Tricky Subjects

Class Description: Illness, death, divorce, money—these are all loaded subjects to talk about, much less commit to the page. And if you make a joke about your mother’s Alzheimer’s or how Ikea facilitated your divorce, is it even more inappropriate? Not necessarily. Humor can be used to navigate tricky subjects, give your readers some breathing room, and make a lasting point without sounding like you’re on a soapbox. In this class, we’ll look at how several writers actually make us laugh about the dark, then work from some prompts that edge us into taboo topics with a laugh rather than the hammer of gloom.

Instructor Biography: Kate Carroll de Gutes lives in Portland, Oregon in a house with lots of light, wood floors, and a view of the best bridge in the city.  In the evenings, she sits at her great-grandparents’ quarter-sawn oak table and writes long-hand about grief, the drama of perimenopause and dating, riding bikes, and the joys and challenges of authentic living.  Also, she apparently uses a lot of compound nouns. Kate’s first book, “Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear,” won the 2016 Oregon Book Award for Creative Nonfiction and a 2016 Lambda Literary Award in Memoir.  Her second book, “The Authenticity Experiment: Lessons From the Best & Worst Year of My Life” was released in September, 2017.  You can learn more about Kate at www.katecarrolldegutes.com.


The Image as a Feminist Act 

Class Description: Recent neuroscience on our human attraction to stories, on experiencing written stories versus real life, and on the impact of reading literary fiction have supported some key principles of literary craft: to engage readers, “showing” tends to be more effective than “telling,” and concrete, sensory details are what allow us to do that showing. That’s because our brains think in mental images rather than in abstractions. In literary terms, the image is our most valuable currency: more than just a concrete, sensory detail, images carry within them unconscious, subjective meanings that move readers forward through a story, scene or poem. This workshop will not only illuminate how images work and how to use them in your own writing, but why images are both artistically and neuroscientifically tethered at a biological level to what we think of as the traditionally feminine: “a holistic, simultaneous, synthetic, and concrete view of the world,” to quote neurosurgeon Leonard Shlain – and to which I would add the adjectives collaborative, intuitive, creative, and emotionally sophisticated. Just as images work on two levels at once – as real sensory things in the world, and as paths into a story’s emotional core – we’ll experiment with using images to further our intentions as writers, and as feminist women living through a pivotal moment in history.

Instructor Biography: Kate Moses is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning novelist, journalist, and writer of memoir as well as a revered teacher and literary editor with over thirty years of experience working with writers. She is the author of Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath, published in sixteen languages, and Cakewalk, A Memoir, as well as the co-editor of two bestselling anthologies of essays on motherhood, Mothers Who Think and Because I Said So — the offspring of Salon’s popular, pioneering Mothers Who Think, of which she was a founding editor during the internet’s infancy. She has received a Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, an American Book Award, a Prix des Lectrices de Elle, selection by Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers and Poets & Writers’ First Fiction, and residencies from the Djerassi Foundation, Karuna, The Lighthouse Works, and MacDowell Colony. Kate began her career at North Point Press and was later the Literary Director of Intersection for the Arts. She has been a visiting writer at over two dozen universities in the U.S. and England and on the faculties of San Francisco State, University of San Francisco, Gotham Writers Workshop, the Key West Literary Seminar, and now Birds & Muses (www.birdsandmuses.com).


Work+Magic: Strategies for Gettin’ It Done

Class Description: Maybe you have great ideas but spin your wheels when you sit to write. Or you’ve written pages and pages, but they won’t come together. Or you’ve done plenty of research/brainstorming/outlining but can’t move on to the writing phase. Or you have a solid draft but get stuck on the edits. Or you’ve sent it out but gotten only nibbles in reply. Congratulations! You’re in the thick of it. Most people never make it that far. But you want to go further. This class will help you do it. Via prompts, journaling, troubleshooting, and strategizing, we’ll combine magic and hard work to write, play with, and explore both creative and practical approaches to gettin’ it done.

Instructor Biography: Laurie Frankel is the bestselling, award-winning writer of three novels, most recently This Is How It Always Is. Her writing has also appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Publisher’s Weekly, People Magazine, The Sydney Morning Herald, and other publications. She has taught writing as well as gender studies at literary centers, conferences, colleges, and universities across the country. She lives in Seattle where she was recently named one of the fifty most influential women in the city by Seattle Met Magazine.


The Whidbey Institute at Chinook has a limited number of rooms available on a first come-first served basis. Accommodations range from cabins, to private rooms with shared bath, to dorm-like rooms with single beds, to tent camping, and are priced accordingly.

All rooms/cabins at The Whidbey Institute are available for a minimum of 3 nights and up to 4 nights.

To arrange accommodations at Whidbey Institute, please email vortext@hedgebrook.org or call (360) 321-4786.

Cancellation policy: For all accommodations a full refund less a $50 fee with be given until April 5th; cancellation after April 5th will forfeit the full amount.

Off-site Accommodations: Participants may choose to stay at an Inn, Bed & Breakfast or Hotel on Whidbey. The link below will take you to information on local accommodations. In addition there are several local listings on airbnb and vrbo.

Download a list of off-site accommodations.

Whidbey Institute Rooms and Rates:

The Farmhouse is a fully restored, charming, late 19th century home set amongst lush woodlands. The first floor has a relaxed and casual living room featuring a hearth and large woodstove, comfortable chairs and couches. Other features include a large country kitchen, covered porch, and an expansive outside deck. The second floor offers seven quaint bedrooms and two shared full bathrooms. Room rates vary from $80 – $140/night.


Granny’s House, another beautifully restored home, offers a full kitchen, comfortable living room and a wood-burning stove. On the first floor, there are two bedrooms and a “dorm” room that comfortably sleeps 5, all sharing a 3/4 bath. There are two bedrooms sharing a full bath on the second floor. Room rates vary from $50 – $120/night.


Meadow Row Cabins are located along the Madrone Meadow and consist of four cabins, each containing two separate bedrooms and one attached bathroom. They are one and two bed units furnished with Long Twin beds. The one bed units are $100 a night, the two bed units are $140/night.

Live Edge Cabins are located along Sanctuary Meadow. Each cabin has two long twin beds. Bathrooms are located in the Sanctuary Meadow. The cabins are shared, each bed is $60/night.

Each of the Heritage Cabins located near the Madrone Meadow are unique. Bathrooms and showers are located a short walk away, in the Sanctuary Meadow.

Bagend is the largest cabin at the Whidbey Institute. This cabin offers two single beds, a small wood stove and a meditation loft for $100/night.

Hermitage, a quaint, small, but comfortably rustic cabin, is furnished with a double bed, bedside table and a rocker, with a beautiful view of the meadow for $100/night. booked

Heron, a small but comfortably rustic cabin, is furnished with a single bed, bedside table and a rattan chair for $70/night.