By Kim Todd

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (to Write)

Heading into the Hedgebrook dining room, I stopped to give a poet a hug. She pulled back with raised eyebrows, having felt what hid under that chunky sweater, knit by my mother-in-law: I was five months pregnant with twins. Later, as we sat down to bowls of pumpkin ginger soup, and the warmth and vitamins flooded in, I sensed their tiny presence more clearly than I had so far. “More of this,” my body, their bodies, demanded. I took another spoonful.

As an expectant mother, you have no end of resources telling you how to gestate, What to Expect When You’re Expecting being the most famous. Advice floods in from relatives and well-meaning strangers. An embarrassed man offers you a seat on the bus, a friend buys gallons of milk in preparation for your overnight stay. The body also lets you know what it needs, a quiet companion become suddenly bossy, rebelling if you are not eating enough food or the right kind or not getting enough rest or too much.   Read more

By Nassim Assefi

Connecting My Newborn Daughter to a Place that Birthed Me as a Writer

In 1980, at the age of 7, I moved to Seattle. Almost immediately, I started plotting my escape.  This had to do with my inner landscape more than my outer one, but I only saw that in retrospect. I was an awkward kid who skipped grades and started university in my early teens.  It was no surprise that I never fit in. After going to college on the East Coast, I returned to the Emerald City for medical school, but that did not improve my sense of belonging. I vowed to leave again for specialty training and did.  But during my last year of med school, something changed the way I started feeling about my home town, and that was a 2-month residency at Hedgebrook.   Read more

By Madeline Ostrander

What We Owe Adrienne Rich

The late poet was a patriot who wrestled for the soul of her country.

I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn between bitterness and hope…

I was 19 when I first read Adrienne Rich and these words from “An Atlas of the Difficult World,” which seemed to tear down the barriers between the poem and me, and let me in.

Like Rich, I grew up at a distance from true poverty: “reader reading under a summer tree in the landscape of the rural working poor,” she writes. But I knew how fractured and unstable the world around me was becoming.   Read more

By Hedgebrook Staff

Hedgebrook Downtown

By Nan Macy, Donna Miscolta, and Allison Green

On a recent rainy Saturday, eight Hedgebrook alumnae met around the farmhouse table and shared essays they were writing about visibility and invisibility, about motorcyles, about Louisa May Alcott, about rice. Actually, this farmhouse table was not on idyllic Whidbey Island, but in a conference room at Hedgebrook’s Pioneer Square office in Seattle.   Read more

By Ellen McLaughlin

What My Woodstove Has Taught Me About Writing

When you’re starting from a cold stove, lay the fire according to the principles that have lasted over the centuries, namely:

Clear the way for the new

It helps to start clean when you’re dealing with cold ashes rather than live embers. The knowledge that you’ve made fires in the past is comforting, but that doesn’t mean you have to lay new ideas on top of the cold residue of old ones. The memories of finished work, whether it was successful or not, just aren’t particularly helpful. That work is behind you, it has already served its purpose and you may be grateful to it but often the memory of that past writing keeps you from trying something new and challenging yourself, just as those dead ashes only muffle and obscure what you need to do right now, which is to start. Transcend your fear of the unknown. Let the past go. Shovel it out and clear it away before you begin.   Read more

By Sarita Sarvate

The Berkeley Circle

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

By Judy Branfman

“Free speech, rights, and writing…”

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

By Brenda Miller

The Yoga of Writing

The first time I went on a writing retreat, I had no idea what I was doing. And get this: I went for two months! I arrived at Hedgebrook on Whidbey Island, in the winter of ’94, with my clunky Mac Classic in tow, a box of books, a sack full of travel journals, and lots of big ideas about writing.

I soon found out, rather painfully, that big ideas about writing often lead you nowhere. Those big ideas sit in the middle of the room, daring you to write something good. Something good and something long. They glower at you. They grumble and complain. They make you hungry just an hour after breakfast. They give you a whopping headache. They make you look at the clock and wonder if anyone would notice if you just headed home, say, 7 weeks early.   Read more

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