The Berkeley Circle

By Sarita Sarvate

Writers are solitary people. Their work, by definition, requires long hours of uncertain toil. A writer can sit at her desk, pondering words and sentences forever, guessing at the results, wondering if the newest draft is better or worse than the one before, sometimes tossing out version 6.7 and reverting back to version 1.1.

Unlike science or engineering or finance, writing is amorphous, with infinite possibilities, with no clear rules as to what makes a great book, although people have tried.

So how do writers produce great works in total isolation?   Read more

“Free speech, rights, and writing…”

By Judy Branfman

On Bill of Rights Day (December 15th – who knew!) the local Fox station did a story on my great-aunt Yetta’s precendent-setting free speech case – and my documentary about it. I’m not quite done with the film but this milestone of a huge TV viewership for my work took me back to the beginning of the filmmaking journey: my trip to Hedgebrook.

Hedgebrook accepted me, having published only a couple journalistic essays about art and politics in New England. But I had a passionate dream of turning my aunt’s story into a documentary film. Her activism evolved into the US Supreme Court’s first affirmation of free speech rights and helped lay the groundwork for our right to protest and dissent, but my potential “star,” aunt Yetta, had been telling me “no” for years and even questioning if I had the “right” to tell her story. Even so, I had been driving around Southern California doing research in courthouses and small-town archives – and even started getting grants for the project. And I had also started doing interviews for a somewhat related book.   Read more

Please Don’t Wait!

By Anastacia Tolbert

And so it begins this New Year like a new tune I haven’t heard before. Like a book whose pages outnumber my minds capacity, whose pages make me want to skip ahead and see what’s next. (Perhaps a chapter about coming back to the states for the summer??)

Be mindful. This is what I keep telling myself. Mindful of what I am thinking. Mindful of what I am doing. For instance: I am trying to focus on the fact that I am typing this blog, not what’s for dinner, not who has what extracurricular activities this afternoon and what CNN.com says is going on in the world—and entertainment section. Be mindful that I am typing my heart out to whoever will read it. Be mindful. And I am… my mind is full of countless thoughts. Focus. I tell myself to focus on the purpose of this month’s blog. Pre-funeral expressions of love.   Read more

Turning 55…

By Ann Hedreen

I’m about to turn 55.  What a great opportunity to flagellate myself for all that I’ve not done or done wrong.  For all the ways I’ve fallen short!

This is how the habitually self-bashing person thinks.  Maybe I’m not alone: Maybe it’s how a lot of us think.

A wise man about a decade older than I am once said to me, when I made some routinely self-deprecating remark at a church meeting: “Hey Ann, you know that stuff we hear every Sunday about forgiveness?  That’s supposed to start with yourself.  That famous line about loving your neighbor?  It’s ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ remember?”   Read more

Hegebrook Sisterhood

By Allison Green

I don’t believe in sisterhood.

I came out into a lesbian-feminist community in the mid-1980s that was split between women who thought us purer, lovelier, and in all ways superior to men and those who wanted to claim a fuller humanity, including the potato-bug undersides of our psyches, like our racism, our capacity for violence, our complicity. Enumerate the seven deadly sins, and I’ve sinned them, even against my sisters.   Read more

When Your Family Thinks They’re in Your Fiction

By Donna Miscolta

“Why did you kill me off in that story?”

Some years ago my younger daughter confronted me with this question after she had read a story I had recently completed. The story is about two sisters. I have two daughters. My older daughter insists that she is the narrator in that story.

“It’s not about you,” I said to each of them.   Read more

The Woods That Now Grow: A Reflection on Hedgebrook

By Tania De Rozario

It is rainy season here in Singapore, and as flashfloods assault small pockets of urbanity, a tree pushes itself insistently out from the strip of soil that flanks my house. Two years ago, this tree did not exist. Today, it towers above the roof. My landlord keeps pressing me to cut it down. I resist.  Here, people or plants growing wild, unnerve the general populace.

I love this tree. I have watched it grow, flower and fruit. Having finally taken a break from a history of house-moving, I have now been in one place long enough to see something grow. When time permits, I sit and watch species of birds I did not know existed, come for its fruit. When I write, I listen to the avian politics from inside my house. I am nonsensically proud that somehow, this tree picked this tiny spot in my yard, and from it, decided to sprout.   Read more

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