A Brief Introduction to Hedgebrook

To view our full half hour documentary on Hedgebrook, click here.

Our Impact

Recently through non-fiction writing works, plays, and screenplays, women at Hedgebrook have been a voice for helping raise awareness in a vast range of issues, including: women’s rights in the middle East, the spread of AIDS in Africa, inner city violence in America, rights of incarcerated women prisoners, political strife in Cambodia, radioactive fallout in the Ukraine, highway construction dividing a Latino community, the ethical responsibilities of the pharmaceutical industry, and environmental stress on bees.

Our Founder's Story: Nancy Nordhoff’s Legacy

In 1985, at a transformative time in her life, Seattle philanthropist Nancy Nordhoff bought a working farm on Whidbey Island overlooking Useless Bay, with a sweeping view across Puget Sound to Mount Rainier. Nancy was seeking “home,” and her intention was to live on the property. But as she walked the land, she felt it telling her it wanted to be something else: a home for more than one woman, a place for women to come and be in solitude and community. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Nancy carries a deep personal commitment to nurturing women, supporting their vision and raising their voices. She wants women to experience their independence, learn to trust their instincts and rely on their own resourcefulness. Living in a natural environment, close to the land, surrounded by forest, meadows and ponds teeming with wildlife, is an increasingly rare opportunity, especially for writers in an urban setting. It is important to Nancy that a woman knows how to build a fire to keep herself warm, so each cottage has a small wood-burning stove. The first fire is laid for the writer. After that, she’s on her own! These values have imbued Hedgebrook’s mission from the very beginning, and are carried on to this day.

Nancy established Hedgebrook with an original founding gift, as well as the property, cottages and other buildings. From 2003-06, Hedgebrook transitioned to its current status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit literary arts organization. Hedgebrook has continued to subsist on the generosity of Nancy’s founding gift, supplemented by a fundraising program that began in earnest in 2006, and is growing each year.

Winner of the 2016 Mayor’s Arts Award for Arts & Innovation

Pictured left to right: Board President & alumna Sonora Jha; supporter and founder’s son Chuck Nordhoff; founder Nancy Nordhoff; Mayor Ed Murray; Executive Director Amy Wheeler; Former Director of Development & Outreach Catherine Willis Cleveland

The Seattle Mayor’s Arts Awards recognize the contributions of artists, creative industries, and cultural organizations who contribute to Seattle’s reputation as a hub of creativity and innovation.

These awards are extremely competitive. The Seattle Arts Commission reviews over 350 public nominations and selects 11 finalists, and then only 4 winners are awarded – one from each category. We are proud to announce that Hedgebrook has won the Arts & Innovation category – securing the 2016 Mayor’s Arts Award! We hope you share in our excitement knowing that your participation and support makes what we do possible.

 Transforming the Land

“People still laugh at me for putting in stumps and snags, but I found through the years that this helps to bring past tense into the garden… you have to bring in something of what it was before.” ~ Gene McJunkin, landscaper

Working with her friend and writer Sheryl Feldman, and a group of architects, artisans, advisors and passionate supporters, Nancy transformed the farm into a 48-acre haven for women writers. The retreat was designed with a great deal of intentionality, putting the writer’s needs and comforts at the center of the process. Seven cottages were crafted in the Amish “post-and-beam” style, designed by architect Chuck Doherty (Sheryl’s son) to feature writing and reading areas, a wood-burning stove for warmth, a small kitchen and a sleeping loft, with thoughtful touches such a stained glass window to catch and prism the light, and fixtures designed by local artisans.

Nancy worked alongside the builders and craftspeople, siting the cottages herself to ensure that the writer can see the lights of another cottage through the trees at night, so she’d be in solitude, but not alone. The workers cleared paths in the woods for walking and contemplation, and installed a heated floor in the shared Bathhouse. She worked with Sheryl to develop mission and vision statements, enlist a Board, hire a staff, and develop a selection process and outreach materials.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Ripple Effect

“Hedgebrook is like a stone, sending out ripples into the gigantic pond of the world.” ~ Anjalee Banerjee, alumna

Community_v2In August 1988, Hedgebrook opened to its first session of writers. Over time, nearly 2000 writers have lived and worked in Hedgebrook’s cottages, generating thousands of novels, poems, plays, screenplays, memoirs, works of non-fiction. Literally millions of people have experienced the work that has been generated in our cottages. Our Farmhouse library is full of their books, and we happily promote every new release to our community of avid readers.

We call the care and nurturing writers receive in residence “radical hospitality,” since it enables a woman writer to go to the places she needs to go, however dark or challenging, to tell her story. The impact of this gift is manifold: everyone who encounters this writer and her work is a recipient of her experience—of being recognized and valued for her work.

Global Community

Nancy’s vision has evolved into a global community of writers enriched by diversity: of culture, nationality, voice, genre, generation, perspective, religious beliefs and political affiliations. Nearly two thirds of Hedgebrook’s alumnae are women of color, and they come from all over the world, and all walks of life. They are emerging and published, ranging in age from 18-85, and writing in all genres. And their writing is exemplary: out of our rigorous two-round selection process, and a growing international pool of more than 1,800 applicants, 40 writers are awarded a residency each year.

Hedgebrook’s commitment to our alumnae extends beyond their residency. Our public programs connect them and their work with agents, publishers, editors, producers, readers and audiences. Working with our alumnae, we produce reading series’ and professional development workshops across the country, and will be expanding these offerings globally via the internet.

Our community is also open to women writers who have not yet come to Hedgebrook for a residency, through Salons, Master Classes, Vortext at the retreat, and the workshops offered by alumnae in other cities. We are launching a New Girls Network with other like-minded organizations, to expand our offerings to an even wider community of women writers, and to join the movement for equal voice for women writers to achieve a just and peaceful world.