An Enchanted Summer at Hedgebrook

By Guest Author

Categories: Alum Experiences, Women's Voices,

In the solitude at Hedgebrook I was pulled from the deepest darkest parts of myself, showing up as a writer each day. My daily routine that summer was a part of the process, waking up before sunrise, wandering through the silence of trees to the bathhouse, picking flowers in the garden for my cottage at Oak, making myself coffee and two boiled eggs from my basket—which was stocked each night in the main house with goodies for the next writing day—and returning to my desk to work until late afternoon.

The rest of the day, leading up to dinner, was spent lounging by the fireplace, reading books by other Hedgebrook alums taken from the library, or flipping through the journals with thoughtful handwritten notes and images, documenting their experiences during their residency. I realized in those moments that I had become a part of a legacy of women writers.

Prior to Hedgebrook, I’d never been to an all-female writing residency. I hadn’t really given much thought about what it means to be a woman and a writer like I had given thought to my other identities as immigrant, black, and lesbian. However, what I realized upon arrival was that Hedgebrook embraces all those identities, making sure that we have a safe space to create and commune with each other. When I think of all the ways we’ve been silenced as women, regardless of our background, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of a residency like Hedgebrook.

During my residency, I was at a turning point in my writing career, crossing over from emerging writer status to author. I had just sold my first novel, Here Comes the Sun, that spring, and needed solitude to work on my second novel. Hedgebrook provided that space and much more. I was fortunate enough to be in residency with a diverse, dynamic group of five women. We varied in age, race, ethnicity, and culture. I was one of the youngest.

I learned a lot from these women. Because of them, my transition from emerging writer to author felt easier. They were forthcoming with their own experiences and shared the most intimate details about what it means to be a writer and a mother, a writer and a wife, a writer and a caretaker, a writer and a teaching artist, a writer and a business woman; and most importantly, what it means to be a writer devoted to nothing but our craft during our residency. We celebrated and cried. We debated and reasoned. We mused about owl sightings. We shared meals, bottles of wine, and our works with each other around the communal dinner table. And speaking of dinner, the meals were spectacular. It was the one event we looked forward to each day. I walked away from my Hedgebrook experience full in every sense of the word.

Learn more about the Writers in Residence program: www.hedgebrook.org/writers-in-residence/

 

About the Author:

Nicole Dennis-BennNicole Dennis-Benn is the author of the highly acclaimed debut novel, HERE COMES THE SUN (Norton/Liveright, July 2016), a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, which has received a starred Kirkus Review and is deemed one of the best books to read this summer and beyond by New York Times, NPR, BBC, BuzzFeed, Book Riot, Bookish, Miami Herald, Elle, O Magazine, Marie Claire, Entertainment Weekly, Flavorwire, After Ellen, BookPage, Cosmopolitan, Brooklyn Magazine, among others. New York Times Book reviewer, Jennifer Senior describes HERE COMES THE SUN as a “lithe, artfully-plotted debut”; Pulitzer Prize finalist, Laila Lalami, as well as Booklist have deemed it a “fantastic debut”; and Man Booker Prize winner, Marlon James says “[Here Comes the Sun] is a story waiting to be told”. Dennis-Benn is also a finalist for the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, ELLE MagazineElectric LiteratureLenny LetterCatapult, Kweli Journal and others. Nicole Dennis-Benn has an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and has been awarded fellowships from MacDowell Colony, Hedgebrook, Lambda, Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Hurston/Wright, and Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Dennis-Benn was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. She lives with her wife in Brooklyn, New York. You can follow her on twitter at @ndennis_benn and view her website at www.nicoledennisbenn.com .

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Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.

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