Zen and the Art of Llamaturgy

By Hedgebrook Guest

For several years now, I’ve been on a joy kick. I’ve wanted to really understand the nature of it, to get inside it, to unpack it. Last summer at the LMDA conference (Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas), at an open-session conference, we were adding topics onto a big board with a list of offered sessions. These topics ranged from “How to build and diversify your audience” in room 3D to “Recent adaptations of classics” in 4F to, well, everything from A-Z. All very interesting and worthwhile topics, but not what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about J.O.Y. and I needed to talk about it outside. We were in BANFF, for Pete’s sake! You don’t talk about joy in a windowless room when a view of mountains bathed in sunlight was just on the other side, waiting to be embraced. So I posted my three-letter word, said it was taking place outside, and set up a couple of chairs on the patio, hoping that I’d have at least a few attendees at my party, if not quite enough for a minivan. (Can you guess where this is going? I didn’t…)   Read more

Poses: Writing as Gesture

By Genine Lentine

In the weekly Sunday Writing Studio I lead at the San Francisco Zen Center, we begin with a round of generative writing modeled on the quick gesture drawings that often begin a life drawing class. Invoking the immediacy of these gesture drawings, I call these quick prompts “Poses.”

I adapted this strategy from my own practice of writing from the model in life-drawing sessions, a process I’d discovered in a drawing group I went to regularly when I first moved to New York in 2000. Sitting there trying to focus on drawing the model, I was very preoccupied with the gothically difficult triple breakup I’d just been through, and in an attempt to deal with this, I decided to write, as if I could sweep my thoughts and clear the way so I could just draw. And so I started writing, using the timed poses and the physical experience of writing on drawing paper with a pencil. I wanted to come in under the habit of deliberation and deferral and respond to what was there in the room with me.  What began as a kind of maintenance actually became a very regular process and a series of poems called Poses.   Read more

The Art of Play

By Michelle Dicinoski

A little over a year ago, I made the long journey from Brisbane, Australia, to Whidbey Island. The days before my arrival at Hedgebrook were days of excitement and uncertainty. What would Hedgebrook really be like? What would the other residents be like? And, most worrying to me, what if I didn’t write furiously the whole time I was there?

In 2008, I saw the writer Helen Garner give a keynote address at a conference on the subject of ‘Creativity and Uncertainty’. The entire speech was fascinating—to hear a famous writer talk about all the not writing involved in writing was so reassuring that you could almost hear the assembled crowd’s sighs of relief—but what I will remember most is Garner’s discussion of the importance of play. She talked about what it was like to play in the yard with her two-year-old grandson. At first, Garner is distracted, and can’t connect with the aimlessness of the play. But if she can embrace that very aimlessness, something wonderful happens:   Read more

Radical Hospitality: The Leap of Faith

By Christine O'Connor

“When you are served with so much love and nurturing, from the garden to the table to the cottages—someone believes that what we have to say is important.”

– Suheir Hammad, poet

At the core of our writers in residence program here at Hedgebrook is the ethos we refer to as “radical hospitality”: each writer who comes to the retreat is offered her own comfortable cottage, delicious food and complete control over how she spends her time, with the only requirement being that she gather for dinner in the evening with the other women in residence. Women are selected for our residency program from all over the world and from all over the career spectrum: published authors and beginners alike. All who have competed for and won a residency are offered the chance to explore their own creativity at their own pace.

Gloria Steinem serves on our Creative Advisory Council, lucky for us! She describes Hedgebrook this way: “It’s as if women have taken their 5,000 years of nurturing experience and turned it on each other.”

Women are often in roles in which they are expected to offer hospitality, where the gifts of nurturing and support have in a way been robbed from them, demanded rather than honored as gifts. Whether it be the woman who works in the “hospitality industry” cleaning motel rooms at one end of the economic spectrum or the trophy wife who must open her home to guests who will criticize her taste behind her back on the other: both are robbed of what should be theirs to give.

At Hedgebrook, we reclaim this work as gift and offer it to women. We are confident that this honoring inspires the amazing experiences that our alumnae often share with us.   Read more

Nondualism: Writing/Not Writing

By Minal Hajratwala

Editor’s note: The following post is being republished from Hedgebrook Writes!

 

Regret

Mid-Monday.  I feel bad that I haven’t written more, haven’t written much this weekend.

Luckily, I’m now intimate with the voices in my head. So I suspect this is a lie.  Time to take inventory. Since Friday morning, I’ve written:

• several thousand meandering journal-y words on gender, armor, rootedness, displacement, travel, destabilization & its gifts

• a draft of a film/culture commentary that I may or may not publish

• a long dialogue with a writer friend, more about gender, hair, transitions of various sorts

• a piece of flash fiction that emerged from Genine’s prompts (“poses”)

• and, oh yes, this and my previous blog post

Actually that’s quite a bit.  And this is my regular pace these days; I didn’t do much special for the Hedgebrook weekend.

I am working steadily, yet I realize (again) how constant this feeling is:  not working/writing/doing/being enough.

How good I am at saying to myself, “but that doesn’t count. That’s not real writing.”   Read more

Dreaming Into Writing

By Tamiko Beyer

Editor’s note: The following post is being republished from Hedgebrook Writes!

Hello dear writers, fellow Hedgebrook women, and dreamers. And so it begins!

I’m thinking today about what comes before writing, about what must come before writing. The dreaming, the meditating, the napping, as Minal writes in her post.

I’ve just come back from a few days in Cape Cod. It’s become a tradition for my partner and I to head to that sandy, windy landscape in the spring. Our generous friends let us stay in their guest house before the summer season starts and the paying renters come.

There’s a kind of quiet that permeates the land and the small coastal towns when we go. The deep freeze of winter is over, the sun is out and shining, but the wind still blows cold and the tourists haven’t yet arrived en masse. It feels as if we – the land and the animals and the people – are stirring in half-dreams, half-waking.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Manifesto

By Christine Johnson-Duell

As a teenager in the 1970s, amid psychedelic posters and doorway beads and a great deal of gauzy fabric, I pinned this quote to my bedroom wall:

A witch lives and laughs in every woman. She is the free part of each of us. There is no joining WITCH. If you are a woman and dare to look within yourself, you are a witch. You are a witch by being female, untamed, angry, joyous, and immortal. You are a witch by saying aloud ‘I am a witch’ and thinking about that.
From The W.I.T.C.H. Manifesto:
Women’s
International
Terrorist
Conspiracy from
Hell
New York, 1968

I loved the irreverence, daring, and humor in this provocative quote and adopted it as my personal manifesto. It felt very grown up to have it on my wall.   Read more

The Possible’s Slow Fuse

By Genine Lentine

Editor’s note: The following post is being republished from Hedgebrook Writes!

Perhaps one condition of a capacity to imagine abundant possibilities is to then feel bereft at the intractability of executing even a small percentage of them.  I sometimes have the wherewithal, within that bereavement, to entertain the theory that perhaps all those possibilities can funnel into whatever it is that I manage to do.   Still, I feel a lag and then slow things down further by thinking everything takes me way too long.

Sometimes when this happens I try to steer into the spin by exaggerating the (perceived) torpor.  If it’s taking me forever to finish an essay, well, what if I decide to work on it twice as slowly?  The first  time I tried this strategy, as is probably not a surprise, I finished the thing (in that case, an application) with startling alacrity.  I short-circuited all the labor it was taking to have the constant stream of assessment of pace and then when that energy was freed up to do the actual work, everything came together readily.

The gleam of an heroic Act
Such strange illumination

 

The Possible’s slow fuse is lit
By the imagination.
Emily Dickinson, #1687

image: p. 14 of Slug or Snail: An Assay on Velocity and Viscosity. (unpublished ms.) You can see more of this book, slowly, one page at a time here

 

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