SEX, POWER AND SPEAKING TRUTH

By Amy Wheeler

“I will not stand by silently and allow him, in his anger, to reinvent me.”

~ Anita Hill, in response to Clarence Thomas’ 2007 autobiography

Two decades ago, a young female attorney with humble Oklahoma roots held America spellbound as she “spoke truth to power” on national television.

The year was 1991 and Anita Hill’s courageous testimony, delivered during the nominations process for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, raised the country’s awareness about sexual harassment in the workplace.

I remember being riveted to the television for the duration of the hearings, being shocked by the lewd comments and come-ons Hill reported Thomas making while she worked with him. But my outrage flared when the panel of all-white, all-male Senators began interrogating Hill, as if she were on trial.   Read more

Add Kids and Stir

By Claudia Rowe

When I was last at Hedgebrook, two writers-in-residence were pregnant, and I – single, childless, about to turn 41 – could not hide my envy. It was not that I desperately loved children. I didn’t even know any children. But I wondered about missing out on the experience of family. I wondered if it would limit me, as a person and as a writer.

Years before, a friend had urged that I take full advantage of my solitary life: “It won’t be this way forever,” he said. “Do your work now.” Yet I was antsy, wandering around my tiny mountain home. Jumpy. The silence clogged my brain and I could not commit to the voice on the page.   Read more

Finding Pomegranates

By Christine Johnson-Duell

I have always loved the Persephone/Demeter myth and as an MFA student, I discovered Eavan Boland’s poem, “The Pomegranate.” I loved its wistfulness, its wisdom, and its fierce ambivalence (simultaneous wanting: to protect a daughter from, and propel her into, life), especially because I’d always related to this myth as Persephone. The speaker says “…the best thing about the legend is/I can enter it anywhere.”

In the decade that followed grad school, I came across numerous Persephone/Demeter poems. In that decade, I had a daughter, but I never wanted to write a version of the myth. Other poets, better than I, had already done it; the world didn’t need another. And, unlike Boland’s speaker, I was uncertain where to enter it.

I did (and do) however, have a few opinions.   Read more

An Open Letter to First Lady Michelle Obama

By Yvette Heyliger

Dear Farmhouse Table:  I am a Hedgebrook alumnae (Oak 2008) and member of the Dramatists Guild.  I attended a meeting earlier this year with the president, Stephen Schwartz, distinguished council members, and members of the Women’s Initiative to discuss parity issues.  In that meeting I shared that there was a letter that I have been writing for some time now to Michelle Obama about the plight of women playwrights in America.  I decided to make it an “open letter” and share it with “all who have ears to hear.”  Many have found it inspiring, and so I thought I would share it with the Hedgebrook community here at the Farmhouse Table.  Enjoy!

– Yvette Heyliger (yvetteheyliger@aol.com)

An Open Letter to Michelle Obama discusses a precedent set by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, one that paved the way for women journalists, ensuring and protecting their jobs as members of the White House Press Corps.  I thought her methods might inspire the same action by First Lady Michelle Obama as a way to achieve parity for women artists in the American Theatre.   Read more

Time and Katy

By Ann Hedreen

 

This one’s about Time. And Katy.

Katy: you wrote so eloquently about your cancer I thought your words would banish those cells from your body forever. But no. A few cells lurked.  Multiplied. Finally, they left your words and took your body. And I am grieving. Me and a whole lot of other people.

I knew you first as a writer, a fiftyish mom like me who left the teenagers at home while we honed our craft in an MFA program.  Then when I read what you wrote, I knew you as a writer who had faced down death at an age when most of us are debating whether to stop coloring our hair.

A few nights ago I went to a phenomenal reading sponsored by Hedgebrook.      Read more

Watching Gloria Steinem: A small and powerful gathering

By Christine O'Connor

On the evening of August 15, two women who had served on the board of Hedgebrook some years ago joined me to watch the HBO documentary “Gloria: In Her Own Words.” Amy’s wife Kate Buzard had invented a cocktail for the occasion, the “Bra Burner.” As I prepared some appetizers for the cocktail party, I told my teen daughters about Gloria and the cocktail, getting blank looks both times.

The two women who joined me were professional women in the workforce during the height of Gloria’s career, while I was still in college; they whooped in recognition of the news footage in the documentary and recounted their own stories of unequal pay, exclusion and other encounters with ‘60’s-era misogyny.   Read more

Masterclass

By Hedgebrook Guest

The car turns in at the drive. You can’t help but feel as if you’re home. It’s been a long journey, and I don’t mean your flight or the ferry. You get out of the car full of hope, your bags crammed full of expectations.

That first day’s memories are a blur: the staff, the other writers, the land, the teacher, the cottage—your cottage—unpacking, settling in. Even the memory of that first dinner that you didn’t think you could ever forget has been burned off like fog by the brightness of what came after.   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

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