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Vortext 2019

May 3 – 5

Whidbey Institute | Whidbey Island, WA


Registration for Vortext 2019 is closed. All workshops are now full.


Please explore the details of this event below, and sign up for our newsletter to be notified of future opportunities.

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

The program, now in its eighth 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.

“What happens when women get together in support of each other is so expansive and fierce.”


Dates: May 3 – 5, 2019
Location: Whidbey Institute | Whidbey Island, WA


General Registration:

  • Early Bird (by 3/5/19): $875
  • After 3/5/19: $950

Cedar Deep Members

  • Early Bird (by 3/5/19): $825
  • After 3/5/19: $900

Workshops and Teachers

BLOCK BUSTERS—Getting Unstuck when your Life, Characters, Plot, or Fatigue Get in the Way of Moving Forward

with Elmaz Abinader

Elmaz Abinader

Instructor Biography: Elmaz Abinader is an author and a performer. Her most recent poetry collection, This House, My Bones, was The Editor’s Selection for 2014 from Willow Books/Aquarius. Her books include a memoir: Children of the Roojme, A Family’s Journey from Lebanon, a book of poetry, In the Country of My Dreams… which won the Oakland PEN, Josephine Miles Award. Her plays include Ramadan Moon, 32 Mohammeds, and Country of Origin and have been performed worldwide, with a culminating performance at the Kennedy Center. She has a frequent contributor to Al-Jazeera English. She has been anthologized widely including the New Anthology of American Poetry, Radical Hope, Truth to Power and in The Colors of Nature. Most recently her fiction has appeared in Fifth Wednesday and NimrodShe is currently completing a novel called Almost a Life, about a woman living in the Lebanese Civil War. Elmaz is one of the co-founders of The Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA/Voices) a writing workshop for writers-of-color. She teaches at Mills College and is an instructor at the Oakland Y.   www.elmazabinader.com 

Class Description: Jhumpa Lahiri says that Writer’s Block is a natural part of the writing process and suggests that most writers recover after a while. But when we hit that wall in the middle of a project, or when trying to restart our writing practice, it feels like falling down a black hole that we may never climb out from. The greater the distance and time from our work, the more difficult we find it to re-enter. This workshop investigates the sources of our blocks—whether they originate from a disconnect with our project (or our characters), pressures in our lives, or losing the seed of inspiration. We strategize re-entry by sharing tools for regaining energy for our work, reconnecting with our practice and reestablishing our flow. We practice prompts and exercises that return us to the seed of our ideas and creativity. Participants receive materials to continue to resuscitate the life in their creative work. 


HOW CAN I FU*K THIS UP? The Necessity of Conflict in Story and Memoir

with Natalie Baszile and Dylan Landis
(class is filled, registration for Natalie and Dylan’s sessions has closed)


Natalie Baszile

Instructor Biography: Natalie Baszile is the author of the debut novel, Queen Sugar, which is being adapted for TV by writer/director, Ava DuVernay of “Selma” fame, and co-produced by Oprah Winfrey for OWN, Winfrey’s cable network. Queen Sugar was named one of the San Francisco Chronicles’ Best Books of 2014 and nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Natalie has a M.A. in Afro-American Studies from UCLA, and holds an MFA from Warren Wilson College’s MFA Program for Writers. Her non-fiction work has appeared in The Rumpus.net,  Lenny Letter, O, The Oprah Magazine,  The Bitter Southerner, and elsewhere. She is a member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. http://nataliebaszile.com

Dylan Landis laughing

Dylan Landis

Instructor Biography: Dylan Landis is the author of a collection of linked stories, Normal People Don’t Live Like This, and a novel, Rainey Royal, a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Her stories have appeared in the O. Henry Prize Stories, Tin House, Bomb, and Best American Nonrequired Reading. Landis has received a fellowship in fiction from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Walter E. Dakin fellowship in fiction from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She has taught fiction and memoir at the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, Catapult, the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, and privately. In a past life she wrote six books on interior design.

Class Description: “If it doesn’t concern life and death,” Cormac McCarthy said, “it’s not interesting.” That may sound extreme, but if the stakes in a story aren’t meaningful, the reader won’t be glued to the page.

In this class, Natalie & Dylan will discuss why your character or narrator needs to struggle with something on which her emotional, if not her physical, survival depends. We’ll delve into craft, peeling apart three major sources of conflict: the self, other people, and the outside world (which could be anything from the water in Flint to a culture of sexual harassment to a seemingly hopeless, but unavoidable, task: kill a blackmailer, win a custody case). Our parents may have taught us to be good, but here we’ll learn techniques to break free and make trouble on the page. Through readings and handouts in fiction, memoir and screenplay, mini-lectures on craft, and in-class writing exercises, we will examine how conflict can be enacted through dialogue, place and detail, and why “How Can I F*ck This Up” is the sign over one writer’s desk.  

SETTING - Where Are We Now and When Did We Get Here?

with Karen Joy Fowler

KarenJoyFowler (1)

Instructor Biography: Karen Joy Fowler is the author of six novels and three short story collections. She’s written literary, contemporary, historical, and science fiction. Her most recent novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, won the 2013 PEN/Faulkner, the California Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker in 2014. She lives in Santa Cruz, California where she is currently pretending to write a new book. karenjoyfowler.com

Class Description: You have undoubtedly already been told, and probably many times, to evoke all five senses when you write, but you always forget.  By you, of course, I mean me.

Sometimes we’re so deeply inside our characters that the physical world doesn’t exist in our stories in any consequential way.  In this workshop we’ll talk about the magical powers, the importance, possibilities, and pleasures of setting – the vivid particular somewhere as opposed to the vague I’ll-get-to-that-later anywhere.  Comes complete with exercises.

Tarot for Writers

with Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

Reiko headshot smile

Instructor Biography: Rahna Reiko Rizzuto is the author of the recently-released novel Shadow Child, as well as the memoir, Hiroshima in the Morning, and her debut novel, Why She Left Us. Her awards and recognitions include the American Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Finalist, U.S./Japan Creative Artist Fellow, Asian American Book Award Finalist and the Grub Street National Book Prize, among others. She is also the Associate Editor of The NuyorAsian Anthology: Asian American Writings About New York City. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Salon, CNN.com, The Crab Creek Review, The Huffington Post, Mothers Who Think, Because I Said So, Topography of War, and Alchemy of the Word, among others. She is a Hedgebrook alumna, a mentor and writing coach, the founder of the Pele’s Fire Writing Retreat, and is on the faculty of the Goddard College MFA in Creative Writing program.

Class Description: Are you looking for some inspiration?  Some way to tap into your all-knowing self to tell you how to begin? Or maybe you want to know how to go forward. What’s next?  If you have come to a fork in the road, maybe you can’t decide how to choose your direction?  Or perhaps your problem is writer’s block, or a lack of connection to your writing? Want to know why you can’t focus, or what you should be focusing on?  Welcome to my writing process!  When I have questions like these, I pull a Tarot card. It’s been an incredibly helpful way to get myself started, or going again, to get around my blocks and habits, to take some risks and find some epiphanies. I use The Shining Tribe Tarot, created by the world-renown master of tarot, Rachel Pollack, who says tarot is a channel for reminding yourself of what you already know.  So if you are looking to shake things up or get some insight, come join me.  We’ll combine a group reading and some individual pulls. What better way to explore the origins of your stories than to consult the oracle that is you?

THE CONTEMPLATIVE "I": Zen and the Art of Autobiographical Fiction

with Ruth Ozeki
(class is filled, registration for Ruth’s sessions has closed)


Instructor Biography: Ruth Ozeki is a novelist, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest. She’s published three novels: My Year of Meats (Penguin Random House, 1998),  All Over Creation (Penguin Random House, 2003), and  A Tale for the Time-Being (Penguin Random House, 2013). Her work of personal non-fiction, The Face: A Time Code (2016), was published by Restless Books as part of their series called The Face. A longtime Buddhist practitioner, Ruth was ordained in 2010 and is affiliated with the Everyday Zen Foundation. She currently teaches creative writing at Smith College, where she is the Grace Jarcho Ross 1933 Professor of Humanities in the Department of English Language and Literature.

Class Description: The 13th century Zen master DogenZenji once wrote: “To study the Buddha Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by the myriad things of the world.” Dogen was writing about Zen practice, but his words apply to the practice of creative writing, as well. Whether we are writing fact-based memoir or the wildest speculative or fantastical fiction, the key to rich, evocative, fully-embodied writing is the close observation of the self. Then, having observed, we need to forget the self, get out of our own way, and let the world speak through us. In this workshop, we will approach writing from a contemplative perspective. We will experiment with writing techniques and genre, exploring the edges of our fictional selves and the choices we make about how best to tell our stories. 



with Shobha Rao

(class is filled, registration for Shobha’s sessions has closed)

shobha_rao cropped

Instructor Biography: Shobha Rao is the author of the short story collection, An Unrestored Woman, and the novel, Girls Burn Brighter. Shobha 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 lives in San Francisco, and is currently the 2018 Grace Paley Teaching Fellow at The New School in New York City.

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? Added to this, given our recent political happenings, is rage. Rage can be our master, or we can harness it for our own ends. In this workshop, we will focus on the many ways writers are tethered by fear and rage and the many tools we have inside us to untether ourselves. It is too simple to say, “Be courageous” or “Let it go.” What do they mean? What are the particles of which courage and calm are made? Using writing prompts, deep discussion and exercises, we will dismantle our fear, our rage, and mobilize their ever-patient and waiting twins, courage and calm. 


The Whidbey Institute is set amidst a 106-acre conservation forest campus on South Whidbey Island featuring integrated gardens, a four-mile public trail network, and comfortable lodging, dining, and gathering facilities.

The Whidbey Institute at Chinook has a limited number of rooms available on a first come-first served basis. As of February 2019, all rooms and cabins at the Whidbey Institute have been reserved. Please see below for suggestions on lodging offsite.  

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 South Whidbey. The link below will take you to information on local accommodations. With advance notice, we can provide a shuttle to pick you up and return you to your offsite accommodations daily.  If you would like to request the daily shuttle pickup, please look for accommodations in either the City of Langley, Freeland near Highway 525, or Clinton within 10 miles of the Whidbey Institute (6449 Old Pietila Road, Clinton WA 98236). In addition, there are several local listings on Airbnb and VRBO.

Download a list of off-site accommodations (PDF):



For questions about accommodations at the Whidbey Institute or offsite, please email us at vortext@hedgebrook.org or call (360) 321-4786.

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

Daily Schedule  –  May 3 – May 5, 2019

8:30 AM: Breakfast

9:30 – 10:30 AM:  Keynotes by Teachers

There will be two or three keynotes each day.

10:45 AM – 1 PM: Daily Workshops

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

1 PM: Lunch

Afternoon:  free writing time

3:30 PM:  Panel discussions with Teachers organized around each day’s Keynotes

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

Registration Details

* 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.

See the accommodations details in the Accommodations tab.

* 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.


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.

Planning for VORTEXT:

Thursday, May 2nd – You can pick up your Registration Packets from 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM in the lobby of Thomas Berry Hall at the Whidbey Institute. Hedgebrook staff will welcome you with your registration packet and if you are staying at the Whidbey Institute, they will check you in.

For those flying in: we will pick you up from the Whidbey SeaTac Shuttle (Langley/Clinton stop) at the times listed in the following section and take you to your lodging.

Friday, May 3rd – Registration will open at 7:30 AM in the lobby of Thomas Berry Hall at the Whidbey Institute. If you are already registered, you can go directly to breakfast, which will be served from 8:30-9: 15 AM.

All breakfasts, lunches, snacks during the day and our evening Wine Receptions are included in the registration fee. Dinners are on your own. In previous years, women made reservations for an outing on the town (we offer discounts at some restaurants), shared potluck dinners in the kitchens of the various lodgings or brought in pizza.

Books by all the teachers will be on sale Friday and Saturday in the lobby of Thomas Berry Hall. There will be a book signing during one of the receptions.

We encourage you to bring a book for the VORTEXT Book Exchange. This can be a work of your own which has been published or something by a favorite author. Exchange this book for a new title, ie, leave one and take one. The book you bring can be either paperback or hardcover. We hope you will find that this is yet another way to experience exposure to the work women writers are doing in the world.

10:00 PM quiet time – We request quiet time after 10:00 PM in all shared housing facilities. We ask that you be respectful of fellow residents’ differing needs for sleep and quiet time. There are areas available for those who like to visit into the wee hours. There is a beautiful outdoor pavilion and also the courtyard outside Thomas Berry Hall.

Once you know your travel details, send your information to vortext@hedgebrook.org, including:
• Arrival Day/Time
• Mode of Transportation (Airport shuttle, Ferry walk-on, Car).
• Lodging – Whidbey Institute, Hawk’s Perch, Other/specify
With advance notice, we can arrange to pick you up at the Langley/Clinton shuttle stop or the ferry landing in Clinton on the day of your arrival and drop you off on the day of your departure.

By Plane/ Whidbey SeaTac Shuttle –
Arrivals – arrange to fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Thursday, May 2nd and take the Whidbey-SeaTac Shuttle service to the Langley/Clinton stop where we will pick you up and take you to the Whidbey Institute, Aldermarsh or Langley. Schedule a ride on the 12:45 PM, 1:45 PM, 2:45 PM or 4:45 PM shuttle from the airport, which will arrive at the Langley stop at 2:20 PM, 3:20 PM, 4:20 PM or 6:20 PM respectively.

Departures – Sunday, May 5th or Monday, May 6th – If you are leaving Sunday after the final reception, reserve the 5:55 shuttle from the Freeland stop, which is scheduled to arrive at the airport at 7:30 PM. If you are leaving Monday morning, we can get you to the Langley/Clinton stop for the 8:10 AM, 9:10 AM or 10:10 AM (which will arrive at the airport at 9:30 AM, 10:30 AM or 11:30 AM respectively).

Shuttle Reservations are required for the shuttle service. It runs throughout the day, but sometimes sells out in advance. Check the shuttle schedule BEFORE booking your flight to coordinate arrival time with shuttle departure times, and book your shuttle passage as soon as you book your flight. It is best to arrive in Seattle no later than noon to connect with the 12:45 PM shuttle.

From the airport, the shuttle will drive onto a ferry in Mukilteo, pass over to Clinton on Whidbey Island, and deliver you to Langley, the shuttle stop closest to the Whidbey Institute. You may make your Whidbey-SeaTac Shuttle reservation online at www.seatacshuttle.com, or by calling toll-free (877) 679-4003.

By Walking across on the Ferry –
Arrivals – You will need to be dropped off in the boarding area for the Mukilteo/Clinton Ferry. The ferries run every half hour on the hour and half hour. You can find the details of ferry schedules and fares online at www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries. We will provide a shuttle from the ferry to the Whidbey Institute and Langley on Thursday from the 3:00 PM, 4:00 PM and 5:00 PM boats and on Friday morning from the 7:30 AM boat.

Once you disembark in Clinton, walk to the end of the dock and past the tollbooth to the ferry passenger loading sign. This is next to a telephone booth at the first traffic light up the hill. If you have pre-arranged for a ride, we will meet you there.

Departures – We will provide a shuttle to the 6:30PM ferry on Sunday night and on Monday for the boats leaving at 9:30AM, 10:30AM.

By Car –
From Seattle, take I-5 north and exit on WA SR 525/Mukilteo Clinton. Drive 9.3 miles to the Mukilteo/Clinton ferry terminal.

From Vancouver BC or Bellingham, take I-5 south and take exit #189 for the Mukilteo/Clinton ferry. Drive past the Boeing plant, straight through the first traffic signal, and turn RIGHT at the second traffic signal at Mukilteo Speedway. Stay in the right hand lane following signs to Mukilteo/Clinton ferry, there is one more right turn at the light at the bottom of the hill (gas station on right). Follow this route 2 more miles to the ferry terminal.

From Bellevue/Eastside take I-405 North, crossing over I-5 and continue west on SR 525. Follow this route 9 miles to the Mukilteo/Clinton ferry terminal.

Mukilteo/Clinton Ferry Info
The ferry departs from Mukilteo on the hour and half-hour. In order to arrive at the Whidbey Institute during registration on Thursday, you’ll want to be on a boat between 1:30 and 5:00PM. Plan to be in the ferry line at least an hour beforehand to compensate for ferry lines, which are common this time of year. If you are arriving of Friday, you’ll need to be on a boat no later than 7:30 if you want to join us in time for registration and breakfast.

Once you arrive in Clinton follow the main road, which is still SR 525, for about two miles until you reach the stoplight at Cultus Bay Road. Turn LEFT onto Cultus Bay and travel approximately .7 of a mile to Campbell Road. Turn RIGHT onto Campbell Road and travel approximately .5 of a mile. On the LEFT you will see signs for Whidbey Institute and Chinook. Turn LEFT at these signs onto Old Pietila Road, which is a gravel road.

Follow Old Pietila Road downhill through the forest about a half a mile. You will see a parking lot at the bottom of a hill. Please park here unless for mobility reasons it is important to be closer. Walk up the hill, following the curved roadside fence, until you see Thomas Berry Hall and the main office on your left.

• WRITING: Bring the writing instrument of your choice (journal, laptop, notebook). We will have blank pads of paper and pens available for your use.
• ATTIRE: VORTEXT is casual with an accent on comfort. Depending on the weather, dressing in layers may be helpful to stay comfortable at the Institute. You may also want to throw in a comfy pair of slippers – when it’s muddy outside, slippers keep your socks dry, not to mention cozier! Rain gear/umbrellas are always a good idea.
• HAIRDRYER: If you stay at the Institute, you may want to bring a hairdryer.
• PETS: We love animals but please leave your dog at home.

Feel free to contact us if you have other questions by calling the Hedgebrook office at 360.321.4786 or email vortext@hedgebrook.org.

Our scholarship application closed on January 31, 2019.  Stay tuned for Vortext scholarship opportunities in 2020.  


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.