Hearing Voices: Women Versing Life presents Hedgebrook

By Patricia Caspers

As a woman, how much time do you spend thinking about food: the budget, weekly menu, grocery list, shopping, preparing, and cleaning up? Daily, I prepare meals for four people, two of whom slide half their dinner to their dad when they think I’m not watching, and while I’m no longer shocked by the amount energy cooking takes, there are times when I have to muscle myself away from the poem in progress to fire up the electric burners.

In October of 2006, though, I spent two blessed weeks at Hedgebrook, a writer’s residence for women on Whidbey Island, where my only responsibility was to show up for dinner every evening: Garden fresh dinner, shared with incredible women.

Now I am shocked at how many women writers have never heard of Hedgebrook—because it’s free. Free, I tell you. Free. This gift of uninterrupted time for a woman writer is a political act on par with the first publication of Our Bodies Ourselves or The Second Shift. As evidence, I offer testimony from three former Hedgebrook Sisters:   Read more

Women Writers Find Inspiration, Mandate to Create, at VORTEXT Retreat

By Kelsye Nelson

The first ever VORTEXT event, Hedgebrook’s weekend retreat for women writers, began with Bastard out of Carolina author Dorothy Allison growling from the keynote podium as though a preacher at a pulpit for the ladies to “Write me a book!”

Forty-five women attended the three-day retreat held June 1-3, 2012, at the Whidbey Institute on Washington’s leafy green Whidbey Island. The event was hosted by Hedgebrook, a nonprofit organization serving women writers, that will soon celebrate its 25th anniversary.

“You have the right to be here! You own your stories!” said Allison.

Fifteen minutes into the retreat, attendees were already dabbing at their eyes, some furiously scribbling in notebooks.   Read more

The Endless Baptism

By Bushra Rehman

For the last few months, I’ve been working on a series of essays on Palestine. I’ve now written and erased my words until there is nothing left but the original title of the series. It could fit on a button: “Islamophobia is not the answer to Anti-Semitism.” Eventually, this title too had to be scratched. Because although anti-Muslim sentiment is fueled by and benefits U.S. imperialism and Israel’s apartheid practices, Palestinian Christians suffer as well.

Each day I tried to work, I felt myself covered with dust. I read of the erasure of Palestinian names from Israeli maps and how each erasure was attended by a massacre of innocents. I felt myself consumed in darkness while reading stories of Al-Dawayima where an entire village of Palestinian citizens was murdered, beaten, raped, their bodies thrown down into the town well by Israeli soldiers. I tried to write of the massacre of the people of Nasir al-din, Tantura, Eilabun, but the ghosts silenced me with their hunger.   Read more

With Whom Do You Believe Your Lot Is Cast?

By Tamiko Beyer

Adrienne Rich made the space for so many to come to poetry, to bring who we are – in all our queerness and rage and love – to poetry.

Like so many others, reading her poem “Diving into the Wreck” radically changed my relationship to poetry. It was in a college course on the literature of 1960s, and my former-hippy professor walked us line by line through the poem. As I read of the speaker’s descent into the ocean and transformation, I felt my body vibrate in resonance. “The sea is not a question of power.” The next day, I checked out all of her books of poetry from the library. Her words gave me the courage to enter the realm of poetry in a way that no other poet I had encountered previously had.

In “The Spirit of Place,” she asks twice: with whom do you believe your lot is cast? As a young poet seeking to make sense of my own position as a mixed race queer person, I appreciated her willingness to interrogate herself and others, particularly her willingness struggle with race. Taking her cue, I sought to answer that question again and again: with whom do you believe your lot is cast? I came to understand the power structures of society and saw how I was complicit in, as well as harmed by, those structures. I also learned that to take a stand is to take sides.

Rich made space to call myself poet, to call myself feminist, to write what pulsed deepest in me, what was most valuable and vulnerable. She made woman steelstrong and opened the book of myths to record our own, resounding names.   Read more

Eve Ensler and Dael Orlandersmith at Berkeley Rep

By Jennifer Chen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After another amazing Hedgebrook alumnae event (Dael Orlandersmith! Eve Ensler!), it was clear to me that Hedgebrook is a lifeline for women writers, specifically me.

When I applied to Hedgebrook back in 2007, I was at a crossroads in my writing career. My play had been rejected by every theater that I had sent it to and a YA novel I was working on also got rejected for publication. At the time, I contemplated quitting writing as nuts as that sounds.

But then I got into Hedgebrook and those two weeks were my lifesaver. I fell in love with writing again. I read like I’ve never read before. I met inspiring women. I was taken care of and my cottage was a safe space.   Read more

VORTEXT: A Meandering Magical Garden of Writing

By Abigail Carter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whidbey Island seems rife with secret gardens whose long winding driveways meander into thickets of wooded groves. That day, a woman directed me to a parking lot – a gravel shoulder bordered by nothing but trees. I got out of the car, bewildered, not sure where to go to reach VORTEXT, the weekend-long writing conference hosted by Hedgebrook, the Whidbey Island writer’s retreat for women, whose board I recently joined.

Another woman parked as I was returning to the car, certain I had messed up. She got out and seemed to know where to go. We walked together, learning that we were both from Seattle, here to write, excited. I was already disappointed that I would only be attending for the morning, teenaged birthdays and events filling this particular weekend, preventing a longer stay.

We arrived at what I can only describe as a lodge-like building – a great room with soaring ceilings, a hallway lined with Hedgebrook’s resident gourmand, Denise’s delicious homemade organic food, an intimate windowed dining area filled with groups of women chatting. I ate breakfast enjoying the meadow and garden view, made enchanting by the misty rain. I recognized Elizabeth George, the Whidbey Island celebrity crime writer, but was less familiar with the other five writers who would be our workshop leaders.   Read more

After the giddy joy of publication…. It’s back to the page.

By Joanne Fedler

Books are like elephants – they take two years to gestate. Thankfully, when a book comes out, there’s no physical expulsion of anything resembling a small pachyderm from any part of my body, but I assure you, there’s pain involved.

First there’s the agony of exposure – what’s been swirling in my heart and on the page on my computer screen is now publicly visible – and now fair game for reviews, both kind and unkind, generally by people who have never written books themselves. And despite my undeniable exhibitionist tendencies, I really do have moments of internal terror that what I’ve written, rewritten and rewritten (about 5000 times or so) is such crap I have no right to inflict on any poor reader.   Read more

The Word from the Publishers

By Elaine Elinson

I don’t know about you, but I am always heartened by reading rejection letters from publishers to famous authors.

I wonder how Gertrude Stein felt when she got a letter in 1912 from Arthur C. Fifield of London, spoofing her: “Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.”  There’s a note from Alfred Knopf calling Ursula LeGuin’s prose “dry and airless, unreadable.” And stinging letters of rejection to Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath, and even Isaac Bashevis Singer who went on to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.   Read more

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