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by Hedgebrook Staff

For this week’s blog, we interviewed our Spring Salon teachers about writing, reading and why they are excited to teach on April 27.

 

Sue Ennis:

1) How did you come to hear about Hedgebrook?

I first read about Hedgebrook in the 90s and thought: this is a gift from the gods. Imagine acknowledging and honoring female writers! Thank you, thank you, Nancy Nordhoff! Then last year, my friend, screenwriter Heather Hughes, told me about her wonderful Hedgebrook experience in succulent detail. “My lunch was decorated in edible flowers.” Last October I became a Hedgebrookian for 3 days. I’m not sure I’ll ever recover from writing in peace, without an ear cocked to the world, and then there were those tasty flowers!

2) What are you reading right now?

“Where’d You Go, Bernadette” – Maria Semple – laughing out loud at her wicked barbs and riffs on Seattle life among the well-heeled. I never want it to end.

3) What excites you about teaching at our Spring Salon?

I believe everyone has a song (or 100!) inside of them waiting to be written. My creative background is all about female collaboration, writing over 70 songs with Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart. I adore the company of creative women and can’t wait to share stories, tips, insights into songwriting among ourselves in a safe, supportive place. I love helping women find their song.

4) What is the best piece of writing advice you have received?

Write, write, write.

5) If you were on a desert island what book and what food would you take with you?

Joni Mitchell’s collected lyrics, a guitar and Fran’s salted caramels.

 

Karen Finneyfrock

1) How did you come to hear about Hedgebrook?

Hedgebrook is a word whispered lovingly throughout the community of women writers in Seattle. I heard it talked about enough times, I had to investigate further.

2) What are you reading right now?

I’m reading the most fantastic and addictive book that I can’t believe I’m not reading right now! It’s The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater and I recommend it to anyone who loves great YA.

3) What excites you about teaching at our Spring Salon?

I’m thrilled that the workshops are taught in the cabins. So much writing has taken place inside those rooms, that it must lend itself to good work. I believe that there is a different quality to our writing when it takes place in a group. Add the magic of Hedgebrook and spring to that equation and we’re ready to write our best work.

4) What is the best piece of writing advice you have received?

A piece of advice I’ve been working with lately actually came from a film maker. Steven Schardt, who worked on mumble core films in Seattle, told me that his team watching the films and looked for “false notes.” I’ve always held onto that question, when does the writing feel false? Followed by the question, what feels true?

5) If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

So many things excite me, there’s no telling. I could be working the front desk at a gym or a magician’s assistant. I had a slew of bizarre jobs before writing, including apprentice to an art conservator and gold course drink cart operator. The problem is, I get bored easily. So I never had a job as anything other than writer for more than two years.

 

Mary Guterson:

1) How did you come to hear about Hedgebrook?

I can’t really remember. I lived on Bainbridge Island for 19 years, and I suppose someone must have told me about it. I feel like I’ve known about Hedgebrook forever.

2) What are you reading right now?

I wish I had a better answer. But i’m mid-way through the book everyone else has already read: Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. It’s pretty amazing, and a lot easier to read than Wolf Hall, which I just finished. Next on my list is Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and then Dear Life by Alice Munro, which my boyfriend gave me for Xmas and which i haven’t gotten around to yet.

3) What excites you about teaching at our Spring Salon?

Oh, I love teaching these sorts of workshops. People are excited to participate, and I always choose something that I’m currently excited about, too. Right now, it’s flash fictions–probably because they are a nice distraction from rewriting my current novel.

4) What is the best piece of writing advice you have received?

Take no advice. Write badly. Don’t stop. Actually the best piece of advice is this question that I have written in the front of each of my journals: What’s stopping you?

5) What’s your favorite word this week?

Hannah. (That’s my daughter’s name.)

6) If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

Freaking out.

 

Jennifer D. Munro:

1) How did you come to hear about Hedgebrook?

Awhile back, I took a weeklong workshop on Women’s Writing with Lisa Schlesinger at the Iowa Summer Writing Workshop, still maybe my favorite class ever because the women students bonded so closely. At my individual conference with Lisa, she said to me, “You need to go to Hedgebrook.” Here Hedgebrook was in my own backyard and it took a teacher in the Midwest to tell me about it. I was lucky enough to go the following year.

2) What are you reading right now?

Just finished Love Bomb by Lisa Zeidner; only a master writer could handle an ensemble cast that large and complex. I’m re-reading Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red in preparation to read her new Red Doc>. Re-reading The Iliad, which I’m passionate about. For lowbrow moments, I’m giving Jennifer Crusie a try, and I’m also pulling out Nora Ephron’s Heartburn.

3) What excites you about teaching at our Spring Salon?

When I teach classes on Women’s Essays, my students often wait until they can get me alone so that they can talk about what they really want to talk about: writing about sex. Their questions can be anything from “what about my mother?” to use of pseudonyms; rarely is it about the writing itself, which I gather is going just fine for these women—the questions usually have to do with the question of, “Now what?” It’s apparent to me from these conversations that we have sex on our minds but that it often doesn’t feel safe to discuss it or to put our writing about it out into the world. A small class in a Hedgebrook cottage will feel not only safe and comfortable, but will be fun (the first writing sample we will discuss involves a seven-day erection; that’s not a typo). I suspect there will be a lot of conversation and laughter. What gets said in the cottage, stays in the cottage.

4) What is the best piece of writing advice you have received?

One of my family’s best friends was part of the Beat Generation. Like Kesey, he traveled around in a bus, but, he said, “It was a plain bus that didn’t get written about.” He still talks to his trees. When I was struggling with a negative response I received from a close family member about something I’d written, he said, sweeping his hands outwards to encompass the universe, “When you put something out into the world, you have to be okay with whatever comes back.” Then he offered me some whiskey. I think about what he said almost every day. It gives me the courage to shrug off negative responses that are inevitable. He recently gave me a copy of The New Yorker that featured an Alice Munro story. He is a great reader but he’d never heard of her. He said, “I like your stuff better.” My advice to other writers is to gratefully accept such acknowledgement; don’t wave it off. Keep such positive friends around you (buy them whiskey) and ignore the negative voices in your life.

5) What’s your favorite word this week?

Troglodyte. Which I keep spelling incorrectly (I don’t even know if I got it right here). So I’ve written the misspelling into the novel I’m working on.

6) If you could have dinner with any writer, past or present, who would it be, and why?

One and only one? That’s tough. I’d choose Shirley Jackson, because she wrote horror and humor equally well. She said a lot of funny, truthful things about being a mother and didn’t worry that the world would condemn her as a “bad mom.” She understood the human condition, which is equally horrific and humorous. And who wouldn’t want to have dinner with a writer who was smoking in the back of a taxicab while in labor, on her way to give birth to her fourth child? That’s a gal who rolls with it.

 

Naseem Rakha: 

 thecryingtree.com     grandcanyonwriter.com

1) How did you hear about Hedgebrook?

I think Heidi Durrow was the first person who got Hedgebrook to pierce my consciousness. Before that it existed in my mind only as some mythical dream. A Shangri-La for women writers. Only misty and moss covered.

2) What are you reading right now?

I am reading Jennie Shortridge’s Love Water Memory.

3) What excites you about teaching at our Spring Salon?

Being with writers, talking about story—it’s purpose, its power, its ability to heal and interpret and teach. I am excited about hearing story, and watching it grow and transform itself and its author. And, I am excited to meet new people and touch the raw excitement of honest expression.

4) What is the best piece of writing advice you have received?

Notice everything. (Harriet the Spy)

5) What’s your favorite word this week?

Bauxite.

6) If you could have dinner with any writer, past or present, who would it be?

Mary Anne Evans – re: George Eliot.

7) Who is your favorite character from literature, and why?

Severus Snape – because he is wholly unlikeable, yet in the end breaks people’s hearts. He had lived his arc, and we could not see it. He was the constant antagonist, but not really. He confuses people, he is reviled, hated, but in end, honored and even loved.

8) If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

Preventative Search and Rescue at the Grand Canyon. OR, running a mule train up and down the Kaibab to deliver mail and food to Phantom Ranch.

9) If you were on a desert island what book and what food would you take with you?

I would bring a book about surviving and escaping a deserted island. As for food, I would bring a whole shit load of nuts and dried fruit.

 

Amy Wheeler:

1) How did you come to hear about Hedgebrook?

I first heard of Hedgebrook when I was in the Iowa Playwrights Workshop getting my MFA in playwriting, back in the late 90’s. A playwright who was on faculty, Kate Aspengren, had just come back from Hedgebrook. The way she described it, it sounded like Brigadoon…this idyllic place on this beautiful, glittering island that appears for one day every hundred years. Then I got absorbed in grad school and “Hedgedoon” faded into a distant memory. Cut to three years later: I’d just moved to Seattle from Iowa City, and my friends Jenny Kurzweil and Andrea Roth were about to go for their Hedgebrook residencies. I was reminded of the “Brigadoon” conversation…and realized, “Hey…that glittery Island is right over there.” Jenny and Andrea went and came back to Hedgebrook, glowing and on fire, and I realized it was my time! I applied the next year and got in.

2) What are you reading right now?

Oh my…I’m always reading several things at once! Right now: Ruth Ozeki’s A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING, Karen Joy Fowler’s SARAH CANARY and Sherri Smith’s ORLEANS – all exciting Hedgebrook alumnae books. (Ruth’s and Sherri’s just out, Karen has a new release right around the corner.)

3) What excites you about teaching at our Spring Salon?

Very excited about returning to teaching! I was teaching all over the place before becoming ED of Hedgebrook: at Cornish College, Hugo House, Freehold Studio Theatre Lab, in ACT Theatre’s Young Playwrights Program – and I started my own workshop just for women playwrights called Kick Ass Women Playwrights. We had a lot of fun. I led a playwriting workshop in Hedgebrook’s Salon at SAM in February and had such a blast I decided it’s time to jump in again!

4) What is the best piece of writing advice you have received?

Get out of your own way. Hush the little doubting devil on your shoulder that’s causing you to question yourself, your ability, your talent, your voice…and just write.

5) What’s your favorite word this week?

Splendiferous!

6) If you could have dinner with any writer, past or present, who would it be, and why?

I’d love to hang out with Aphra Behn (17th century British playwright), the first professional female playwright; or Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim, a 10th century German playwright who is thought to be the first person (male or female) to write dramas in the Latin West. (I love that her name is Old Saxon for “strong voice”.) How many people know about these two women? I’ll bet they’d give me an earful about how hard it was to get produced when they were alive! They’d be all about the 50/50 in 2020 movement (to bring the % of women playwrights being produced in the US each year from 20% to 50% by the year 2020.) Of living playwrights – dinner with British playwright Caryl Churchill would rock my world.

 

The early-bird rate for our Spring Salon ends on Monday. Register now!

 

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.

Hedgebrook Staff
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