by Ann Hedreen

When the gift of a Hedgebrook residency changed my life in 2008, I had no idea that it was just the beginning of a long relationship. As Gloria Steinem put it so perfectly, Hedgebrook is indeed an advance, not a retreat. First, we move forward in our writing lives by spending a precious week or two or ten in a cottage, doing the work. But then, like a good mother, Hedgebrook keeps nudging us on.

Just when we’re gasping for a little encouragement, just when we’re tempted to retreat from our writing selves, a reading or a workshop or a brown-bag lunch comes along. For me, the much-needed nudge was “Get Your Book in Bookstores: Publication Considerations,” the May 19 seminar at Richard Hugo House, organized by the Hedgebrook Alumnae Leadership Council/Pacific Northwest and featuring publicity and marketing specialist Alice Acheson and alumna Nan Macy, former events coordinator at Bellingham’s Village Books.

I don’t have a book. I have a manuscript—Her Beautiful Brain, a memoir of my remarkable mother and her untimely descent into younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease—and I have an agent. And I have a half dozen rejection letters. This has been going on for a while. We’ve moved from big to medium presses and I’m sure we’ll move from medium to small. At some point I’ll consider self-publishing.

I almost didn’t go to the brown-bag lunch because I was afraid I’d be immediately sniffed out as the One Who’s Still Unpublished. But reader, I was not alone. And here’s the good news: thanks to Alice and Nan and the blizzard of incredibly useful information they showered on us, those of us at the seminar who are still pre-publication will be vastly more prepared when the blessed day comes that we are negotiating a contract.

We’ll know about frontlisting, consignment, returns and freight charges. We’ll know what to say and what NOT to say in our pitch letters to bookstores and reviewers. We’ll understand what a publicist can do that publishers can’t or won’t. We’ll be able to weigh the pros and cons of self-publishing. It’s intimidating, it’s a lot of business-ese, but if we take our careers seriously, we have to know this stuff.

And lucky for us, Hedgebrook takes us seriously. And gives us access not just to those unforgettable hours in a cottage but to the information and support we need as writers.

It moved me greatly to look around the Hugo House cabaret space and see so many good women writers taking control of their lives: doing the “work” part of our work. Doing it together. That’s what Hedgebrook is about: long-term commitment, to each other and to our writing.

 

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.

Ann Hedreen
About Ann Hedreen

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