Stopping Long Enough to Sit Down and Write

By Lorraine Ali

I’ve been trying to finish a memoir for a couple years now, but ever since I landed a book deal I’ve somehow become the human equivalent of a magpie. Every single task, aside from writing The Book, is now a like a shiny lure that I need to pursue with gusto.

Don’t get me wrong — I do have somewhat of an excuse.  Life is packed with must dos, (work, the kid, the bi-annual vacuuming of the living room rug) and it takes up a great deal of energy. I’m also a journalist who writes for a living, so the last thing I want to do when I get home from work is, well . . . you get the idea. But not so long ago I found myself filling up every bit of free time engrossed in some sort of entirely unimportant busy work. After all, who else is going to re-grout the bathroom or de-pill that old wool jacket I haven’t worn in three years? I’d justify these mind-numbing pursuits (it gives me intellectual free time to incubate brilliant ideas for the book!) or curse the task itself for standing between me and literary greatness. Either way, I had something to tell myself as I dodged blown book deadlines like deadly IEDs.   Read more

The Magic of my Hedgebrook Experience

By Shimi Rahim

It built slowly, the magic of my Hedgebrook experience. When I first began settling into my cottage and the daily writing routine that would define the next two weeks of my life, I felt out of sorts. Hedgebrook was legendary among women writers. Did I expect that I’d walk into my storybook cottage and, like some writer’s fairy tale, the words would pour magically from my fingers? That, with solitude and three meals a day provided for me in a gorgeous setting, I would spend every waking minute churning out chapters of my first novel?

Instead, what I experienced in my early moments was rather different: feelings of unworthiness, confusion as to how to structure my day, and not a small amount of loneliness and strangeness. My fellow residents were published authors, experienced teachers, activists with years of experience under their belts. I felt small next to them and their achievements, due in no part whatsoever to them and entirely to my own insecurities. Also, they had developed a camaraderie into which I didn’t yet belong.     Read more

My Year as a Sponge: Wringing Out at Hedgebrook

By Jen Marlowe

August, 2010. We gathered each evening around the Farmhouse Table.

“What did you work on today?” someone asked.

“A section of my memoir,” one woman answered.

“A new poem,” another offered.

Invariably, one of the women turned to me. “What did you write today, Jen?”

“I wrote…a press release.”

Vito, the residency director, warned us. Writers get the most from Hedgebrook if they break away from “real life” distractions and dive deeply into writing.

I intended to do just that. To carve out those weeks to work on my book about Martina, the sister of my friend Troy Davis, an innocent man on Georgia’s death row.

It didn’t go as planned.   Read more

Are you a Writer or a Reader?

By Upcoming Hedgebrook Master Class Teacher - Karen Joy Fowler

Many writers I know fret about how to answer the question, what do you do?  When are you entitled to say that you’re a writer?  When you write?  When you publish?  When you support yourself writing?  For what it’s worth, I believe that a writer is simply someone who writes.   Question posed and answered!  But that’s not actually what I wanted to talk about here.

Early on, I fretted about that question too, but I’ve been answering that I’m a writer for quite some time now.   Only lately I’ve been running a different answer through my head.  Lately, I’ve been thinking that I spend a lot more time reading than writing.  Lately I’ve been thinking my answer should be that I’m a reader.

I’ve always been a reader.  There was a time, early in my career, when reading was quite spoiled for me.  Instead of losing myself in a piece, I’d be frantically trying to dissect it—figure out how it worked and why.  I had to ask myself then—if the price I have to pay to be a writer is my reading, do I still want it?  And answered no; price too high.   Read more

Spring Arrives at the Retreat

By Vito Zingarelli

The sun has finally begun to grace us with more than an occasional appearance here at Hedgebrook.  The result is that beauty abounds and the blossoming of orchard, garden and forest brings forth both bounty and sustenance for all the residents of our 48 acres.

It is always around this time, end of April/early May, coinciding with the Hedgebrook

Women Playwrights FestivalTM, where we hope and expect the sun to return, allowing us the pleasure of al fresco dining and dramaturgical exchanges around the retreat grounds.  This year was no exception, although it was touch and go right up to the last minute, and we enjoyed a glorious opening weekend of play readings and community here for this year’s five playwrights and our theatre guests from around the country.

This week saw the departure of our playwrights and dramaturgs-in-residence and we have once again welcomed a new roster of writers of poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, memoir and screenwriting.  The writers-in-residence program is once again back in full swing and the cottages are filled with the diverse creative energies fueled by brisk sun-filled late spring days that are elongating towards the solstice when the last light of day here in the pacific northwest lingers until 11pm.  Perhaps a month away but the inevitability is apparent.

We have long awaited the ‘great drying-out’ from this year’s record rains and will now bid farewell to the overflowing ponds and running brook that came alive this year as Nancy, our founder, had envisioned 24 years ago.  It seems these wet days are now ending and we welcome the lush aftermath of such intense moisture now encouraged by the returning sun.

Hedgebrook is in a full court press to summer………….

The Power of Women Telling their Stories

By Christine O'Connor

I serve on the Hedgebrook board. And it all started with a book.

The book, in this case, was a slim volume of essays called “After Patriarchy.” The editors, one woman and two men, organized a volume of eight essays written by women from different religious backgrounds. Each writer made the case for the idea that their tradition was robbed of its full potential by how it treated women. Misogyny was equated with self-sabotage: if humanity’s spiritual traditions could overcome their own misogyny, their expression would be true to their own teachings.

If books are the ignition, stories are the fuel. The headliner of the New York Times online edition on Saturday, March 26, was an example of what Hedgebrook means to me: a place that makes sure that women get to tell their stories.

The photograph was stunning: a woman, disheveled and clearly upset, had broken into a hotel meeting room where Libyan government officials were debriefing a group of international journalists. She refused to leave: she had a story to tell.   Read more

Trickster Muses at Hedgebrook–Summer 2009

By Sara Campos

I saw it one day while walking from my cottage to the farmhouse and it startled me. It was a clear day and its snowy peaks, crags, and ridges were visible in all their magnificent glory. Mt. Rainier. It was so stunning; it hardly looked real. It was as though a magician had sketched it with fine pastels. The next day it wasn’t there. Perhaps the artist who’d put it there erased it. During my three weeks at Hedgebrook in the summer of 2009, I glimpsed it only three times.

That mountain was a fickle trickster–sometimes it showed up; sometimes it didn’t. Like my writing muse. In the middle of the night when I least wanted its company, it blared like raucous rock music, robbing me of sleep. Other times, when I pressed my temples and sat before the computer begging for a visit, it shot out of sight. Not even a whimper.

Before I went to Hedgebrook, I worried about this. Friends teased me about it; they cringed at the very idea of living alone in the woods for three weeks. Suppose I got a cottage and no ideas came. Suppose I sat alone with a blank screen before me with nothing to do.

Aha! You are a fraud after all!   Read more

Slow Spring

By Cathy Bruemmer

Seattle Tilth’s Maritime Northwest Garden Guide refers to April as the month of the slug. If you’re at Hedgebrook it’s the month of the snail. They are everywhere. I hunt in the mornings, watching for their slime tracks and looking under leaves. The rhubarb is an especially popular hangout. Sorry to those of you who are squeamish, but I’m merciless with my boot stomping. I feel a bit like the momma bear out there protecting my young. Given the cold weather and slow growth, the seedlings need all the help they can get. Fortunately, there’s Sluggo, an organic slug and snail bait that I buy in the giant 10-pound jug. Between the boots and the bait I think the garden has a chance.

There’s not much to harvest yet. This past fall I decided to put the garden to rest and cover crop every bed that wasn’t planted in garlic. I dug the cover crop into about half the beds in late February. Those have been planted in peas, salad and cooking greens, herbs, beets, spinach, carrots, fennel… Today I hope to finish the second round of bed prep. I grow starts at home on my sunporch, and it’s about time to move some flats out.

Two years ago I discovered a new pest in the garden: root weevils. They are tiny, the color of dry dirt and they devour new seedlings. I’ve always preferred direct seeding. It’s a labor-saving choice, and I find transplanting tedious. Twice I’ve added parasitic nematodes to the garden beds hoping they’ll eventually win out over the weevils.

Between the cold and the pests it’s been a slow start this year. My usual springtime optimism seemed to finally return, along with the swallows, last week. A little sunshine and a few degree increase on the thermometer makes for a happy gardener.

 

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