A Faith in Leaving: How a Week at Hedgebrook Reconnected Me With The Writer I Was

By Hedgebrook Guest

Categories: Alum Experiences, Women's Voices,

Journal Entry, December 7, 2010

As I type this I feel blessed.

I feel blessed for the opportunity to be here, for the weather, for my own cottage, for my family to be home safe for a week.

I have started my first fire in the woodstove and watch the flames thinking—I want to find my writer’s self again. Somehow I left her someplace and no longer know where to find her.

This is different than saying, I want to be writer. I know I am writer. I know writing has been with me since I can remember, but the part of me that writes, she is missing.

I am looking for the verb and not the noun.

I am looking for the writing—not ego or title—but the act of writing. Where has it been? Where is that part of myself?

Am I afraid I will fail? What other people will think if I spend all this time writing and do not produce anything important?

The older I get, the more I realize it’s not my business what other people think of me. It’s my business what I think of myself. My path is my path.

This is why I love Frida Kahlo. She was so much an artist, she had a boldness about her, a self-confidence, a this-is-who-I-am woman who wasn’t afraid. Or maybe she was. Maybe she was afraid, like many of us, but did it anyway.

Sometimes I can be that unafraid person. It’s how I ended up at Hedgebrook.

For a long time leaving my family scared me. Being away from them with the free-floating worry of: if I’m not there something bad will happen. If I’m not there, something bad will happen and it will be my fault. Because I left. Because I went off somewhere to write.

Why do I still sometimes view my writing as selfish? When I take time to go to a movie with a friend, I’m not thinking—oh, my family, how I take away from them. I don’t think that when I mountain bike or when I work in the yard.

Why should my writing be considered a luxury? It should be considered the water I need to drink daily to live.

Sadly, I’ve been dehydrated for months.

If I can leave here with even just a percentage of the writer’s self I lost, I will feel satisfied.

If I can leave here after a week of writing anything, I will be satisfied.

If I can leave here and reclaim that writer’s self, return myself to my writing life, I will be ecstatic because it’s a huge part of me. Like a ventricle of my heart, it’s a part that needs to be working because if it’s not, I don’t feel as well.

I am looking forward to what this week holds. I feel blessed. Blessed and thankful that I have this opportunity to write. And it’s what I will make of it that matters, how I respond to this gift will decide the outcome of my life.


This was what I wrote at Hedgebrook the first day of my Master Class week with Carolyn Forché.

At that time in my life, I was struggling as a poet and writer in the world. I was having trouble balancing my writing life and my family life, and I wasn’t finding time for myself to write.

For me, choosing to take a week off during a busy time of the year to go into my own cottage and focus on the act of writing was an act of faith in myself and an inner belief that this experience would help me get what I needed.

Spoiler alert: it did.

My time at Hedgebrook was an absolute gift. While I was at first nervous to work with such a well-known and highly-acclaimed poet, Carolyn was incredibly kind and generous. She has a glowing and sweet spirit that was both inspiring and uplifting. She always put us first and was a thoughtful listener and teacher.

In the morning, several of us would meet for coffee at the Farmhouse (The Breakfast Club, we called it) to discuss our writing plans for the day or discuss poems or poets, anything that inspired. Later in the day, we’d have these amazing workshop sessions with Carolyn and after that, we’d all dine together. It was beyond magical.

If there is one word that represents how I felt at the Master Class by Carolyn and everyone at Hedgebrook, that word is: nurtured.

When I now look back at the photos of myself during that time—usually in corduroys with my hair in a bun on my head and no make-up—I see how I was glowing as well. I had reconnected with that part of myself that ached to write, that woman who had kind of lost her way in a world of chores, parenting, work, and life.

Hedgebrook allowed me the space and place to reconnect with that. Carolyn offered the compassion and mentoring I needed. The other women who attended offered support and joy. And when I look back at that time, I see how life-changing it was for me as a writer. It pulled me out of the noisy world and made me settle in with myself. It reminded me how much I needed my own time to write and my own space. And for all of it, I am grateful.

 

About the Author:

KelliRusselAgodonKelli Russell Agodon is a poet, writer, editor, and book cover designer from the Northwest. Since her time at Hedgebrook, she as published two books, Hourglass Museum (Finalist for the Washington State Book Awards & shortlisted for the Julie Suk Prize in Poetry for best collection of poems published by an indie press) as well as The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice, which she coauthored with Martha Silano.

Her other books are Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room (Winner of the Foreword Book of the Year in Poetry and Finalist for the 2010 Washington State Book Prize), Small Knots, Geography, and Fire On Her Tongue: An Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry.

Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, O, The Oprah Magazine, Prairie Schooner, New England Review, as well as on “The Writer’s Almanac” with Garrison Keillor’s and in Keillor’s Good Poems for Hard Times anthology. Kelli is the Cofounder of Two Sylvias Press where she works as an editor and is the Co-Director of Poets on the Coast: A Retreat for Women Poets.

She has a fondness for fedoras, typewriters, and vinyl records.

She loves dessert, but despises cheesecake.

She blogs at Book of Kells: www.ofkells.blogspot.com

Or connect with her on—

Facebook: www.facebook.com/agodon

Twitter: www.twitter.com/kelliagodon

or learn more about her on her website: www.agodon.com

or about Two Sylvias Press: http://www.twosylviaspress.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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1 Comment

  • Rebecca Cleary
    11:26 AM - 10 December, 2015

    Delightful reflection, Kelli. You capture the magic and mystery of Hedgebrook articulately and accurately. The masterclass experience is such a generative gift, the wise and gifted authors who share themselves in that setting are gracious mentors and guides.

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