Master Classes

Master Classes combine Hedgebrook’s retreat experience with the unique opportunity to be in residence and study with a celebrated teacher on beautiful Whidbey Island.

Creative writing workshops in a diversity of formats and genres are offered to women writers at all levels of experience. Participation in each class is limited to 6-8 writers, to ensure individual attention, and create an intimate, supportive writing community.

2017 Master Classes

We offer a variety of classes to suit writers at different levels of experience and phases in the writing process. Some are generative, designed to inspire new projects or breakthroughs in your process, while others focus on craft or developing a project already underway. Over the course of the week, teachers give generously of their time: leading a series of writing workshops, talks on craft and constructive group feedback sessions, meeting one-on-one with each writer, and sharing evening meals with the group. Writers also enjoy time in retreat to write and rejuvenate.

We offer a variety of classes over the course of the year.

Aminatta Forna – The Writers Toolbox

In this course you will learn how to think like a writer, you will immerse yourself in the imaginative and technical disciplines of story telling. Every writer at the outset of a new work must make find the most effective means of telling their particular story. The course will introduce you to specific element of the craft of writing, what I call the writer’s toolbox: tense, structure, perspective, person, voice, dialogue, character. We will read selected prose to see how narrative is formed and to read like a writer. Lastly you will, of course, write. Be prepared to bring your work to the class and to give and receive feedback in classroom workshops. For the purposes of the course we shall concentrate mainly on short form fiction, but we’ll talk about novels too.

Please note: Come prepared to apply any & all of these tools to your writing, either a new work or an existing work-in-progress, but this class will not focus on workshopping your project during the course of the week.

Priority application deadline: August 17, 2017
Class Dates: November 10 to November 17, 2017


Aminatta Forna is a novelist, memoirist and essayist. She was born in Scotland and raised between Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom. Her novels are The Hired Man, The Memory of Love and Ancestor Stone. In 2002 she published a memoir of her dissident father and Sierra Leone, The Devil that Danced on the Water. All her books have won or been nominated for awards. Aminatta held the post of Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and was Sterling Brown Distinguished Visiting Professor at Williams College, MA, in 2011 and 2013.

Aminatta has acted as judge for several major literary awards including the International Man Booker 2013, the Sunday Times Short Story Award 2014 and the Bailey Prize 2017. She is the winner of a Windham Campbell award from Yale University, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Hurston Wright Prize and Aidoo Snyder Award and has been a finalist for the Neustadt Prize, the Orange Prize, the IMPAC Award among others.

Aminatta is currently Lannan Visiting Chair of Poetics at Georgetown University and Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Her new novel Happiness will be published by Grove Press in 2018 and she is currently working on a book of essays. Aminatta was made an OBE in the Queen’s 2017 New Year’s Honours list.

Please note: The application is accessible via SlideRoom. Each Master Class has a priority deadline listed below, and classes often fill with a wait list. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis by Hedgebrook staff and teachers, so we strongly recommend interested writers apply as soon as possible. We anticipate decisions will be finalized within two weeks of the priority deadline.

Fee: $3000 (Covers lodging, meals and workshops; all taxes included. A portion is tax-deductible. Please note that we are unable to offer financial aid or scholarships for this program, since it provides a vitally needed earned income stream for Hedgebrook.)

Retreat Experience

Each writer is housed in her own handcrafted cottage in the woods. Delicious meals are prepared by Hedgebrook’s chefs, featuring produce harvested from our organic garden. Our land features beautiful wooded walking trails, ponds and meadows teeming with wildlife, nearby Double Bluff beach, and breathtaking views across Puget Sound, with Mount Rainier in the distance. While the setting is rural, nearby towns offer shops and amenities.


Our six hand-crafted cottages–Oak, Fir, Owl, Cedar, Willow and Waterfall–were designed by architect Chuck Dougherty, who worked with the Amish in Pennsylvania. While all the cottages have a similar design, they are built of a variety of woods and have unique color schemes and furnishings. Stained glass windows, pottery sinks, and other features were designed and crafted by local artisans.

Cottage_interior_smEach cottage has an upstairs sleeping loft with a hand built double bed, lamps, rocking chair, chest of drawers, and a small closet. With advance notice, it is possible to accommodate a bed downstairs for those who don’t feel they can climb the ship ladder to the loft. The main floor has a work area with ample desk space, a sitting area with window seat looking out into the woods, and a comfortable, overstuffed armchair. Bookshelves have space for the writer’s personal library, as well as a cottage journal in which each resident is invited to make entries during her stay. With entries dating from Hedgebrook’s genesis in 1988, the journals are the cottage’s living legacy–and a way for writers to connect with those who have come before, and those will come after her stay.

A small half-bathroom and a fully equipped efficiency kitchen finish out the main floor. All cottages have electricity and are heated primarily by wood stoves. Writers share a centrally located bathhouse equipped with two showers, old-fashioned bathtub, two sinks, drawers for each cottage, heated floors and a washer/dryer.

The historic Farmhouse is the center of the Hedgebrook community, where residents gather for dinner at a table overlooking Deer Lagoon and Puget Sound. All meals are prepared by Hedgebrook’s chefs, using organic food from our garden and local farmers. The Farmhouse living room, with a library full of Hedgebrook writers books, serves as a gathering place for residents to converse and share their work.

Selection Process

The application is accessible via SlideRoom. Each Master Class has a priority deadline listed below, and classes often fill with a wait list. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis by Hedgebrook staff and teachers, so we strongly recommend interested writers apply as soon as possible. We anticipate decisions will be finalized within two weeks of the priority deadline.

The Writers Toolbox
Priority deadline: August 17th, 2017
Class Dates: November 10 to November 17, 2017

If you have questions about whether a specific Master Class is appropriate for you or your project, or any other question about the Series, please be in touch with us at 360-321-4786.

Refund Policy

Upon acceptance into the class, participant pays a $1,000 non-refundable deposit to hold a space in the class. Should payment not be received by this date, the slot will be released to a wait-listed participant. The balance is due on or before Tuesday September 12, 2017, at which time the full fee is non-refundable. If Hedgebrook, the teacher or student are unable to complete the class due to unforeseen circumstances, we will consider a partial refund on a case-by-case basis.