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by Hedgebrook Staff

Our Winter Salon teachers share what they are reading, writing and what excites them about teaching for our Winter Salon.

Anna Bálint

 What are you reading?

I always seem to have several books on the go at once. I’ve just finished “Nervous Conditions” a wonderful coming of age novel by Zimbabwe’s Tsitsi Dandarembga, and have started on “Bloodroot” by Amy Greene, another novel, this time an intergenerational family story set in Appalachia and told in multiple voices, (something I love…) I’ve also been dipping into “One World: a global anthology of short stories” which I was happy to come across and is introducing me to some fantastic writers I’ve never heard of before from various parts of the world. Lastly, but no means least I’m reading “Making Peace With the Earth” by environmental activist and feminist Vandana Shiva.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?

“Pay close attention to the people and world around you.” This was advice I received as a drama student in London, (long before I ever considered writing), the idea being that in order to portray different characters and bring them to life, it was essential to observe people, their mannerisms, body language, gesture, tone of voice, and how the external revealed the internal, etc etc. I didn’t start writing until years later, in my mid to late thirties, when my husband died suddenly and I found myself alone with two small children. That was it for theatre, and I took to writing to keep from going crazy. And there was again, that same piece of advice, resurfacing, this time in the service writing stories.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m happy to say I’m now very close to completing my novel “The Invention of Mária Horváth”, a story rooted in the Roma (Gypsy) experience of the Holocaust. This is an intergenerational pivoting around a mother/daughter relationship in which the Romani mother needs to forget her past is at odds with her daugther’s need to know her history and claim her heritage. The initial spark was the shadowy stories and secrets within my own family, which had haunted me for years. I decided to imagine and write my way into a history that could have been mine, and oh, boy, what an amazing journey it’s been! (including four different trips to Hungary…) I’m now revising the last section before sending it out to agents. Hurrah!

What excites you about teaching this workshop?

The topic, and that it’s at Hedgebrook. The ways in which different lives and stories intersect and inform one another, both in real life and in fiction, continually excites me, and is a driving force behind all my writing. So while I love teaching, period, this exploration of Whose Story?, with its overlap of different characters perspective and point of view choices is my absolute favorite thing to share and explore with others. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue this exploration at a Hedgebrook Salon.

Kit Bakke

What are you reading?

Just finished Hilary Mantel’s BRING UP THE BODIES. Incredible! That woman is a genius. Also reading Terry Pratchett’s SNUFF (one of his delightful Discworld fantasies) which is totally different. I’m a big fan of Pratchett—he’s funny in a Jonathan Swift-biting social satire sort of way.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?

Sit in the damn chair and don’t get up.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

A nonfiction book We are the Conspiracy about the 1970 Seattle7 Federal conspiracy trial, the Seattle Liberation Front and the associated anti-Vietnam war movement; a play (with Elizabeth Heffron) titled The Weatherman Project; and I want to get back to my novel about a woman orchestra conductor.

What excites you about teaching this workshop?

The chance to talk with other writers about this whole business of fiction vs. nonfiction—it’s so interesting to imagine new ways of communicating the nuances of truth that we writers are always knocking our heads against the wall to get better at.

 

Anjali Banerjee

What are you reading?

I have too many books on my To-Be-Read pile. I just started reading a novel, HELP FOR THE HAUNTED by John Searles, highly recommended by a librarian friend. I’m also reading THE INHERITOR’S POWDER by Sandra Hempel, nonfiction about the history of arsenic poisoning as a murder method and the coinciding evolution of forensic science. I’m also reading a classic horror novel in time for Halloween, THE OTHER by Thomas Tryon.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?

I can’t point to only one piece of advice. A few tidbits stand out. A New York editor once told me, “Don’t be afraid of conflict, and don’t be afraid to surprise the reader.” Instead of “write what you know,” I prefer “Write what you can imagine.” Also, simply, “A writer is someone who writes.”

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I just finished writing a novel of general fiction with a thread of suspense. My agent is reading it now. While I wait for her response, I’m working on a realistic middle grade novel with touches of humor.

What was your favorite meal at Hedgebrook?

I’m vegetarian and have loved just about everything I’ve tasted at Hedgebrook.

What excites you about teaching this workshop?

I love to get together with other writers to celebrate and discuss writing. I’m eager to delve into the ways in which we use sensory detail to express a combination of the emotional and the intellectual in fiction. I’m excited about sharing a fascinating handout I found on this concept, about the use of sensory detail in poetry, which I believe will be extremely useful for novelists as well.

 

Randy Sue Coburn

How did you first hear about Hedgebrook?

I first heard about Hedgebrook in 1988, when I was living in New York, and a friend sent me a Seattle Times article about Nancy Nordhoff and her new retreat for women writers. I applied right away with a sample from what I hoped would be my first novel. At the time, I was supporting myself as a journalist and had never published a lick of fiction. To have a month at Hedgebrook sounded to me like a dream. I had to pinch myself when Nancy herself called to tell me I’d been accepted.

What are you reading?

Because I am in the throes of starting novel #5, my focus is very specific these days. I’m either reading for research, to turn the wheels of invention, or to fuel my December Salon workshop at Hedgebrook about the importance of place in fiction. Here’s a sampling: a biography of the actor Alla Nazimova, Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, and Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News (again).

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?

When I was a reporter for The Washington Star, a D.C. newspaper, the best part of my job was interviewing authors about their work—Margaret Atwood, John Irving, Mary Gordon, and E.L Doctorow among them. I received the same stellar advice from everyone—not directly, but by implication. And that was persevere, persevere, persevere.

What excites you about teaching this workshop?

I love that I’m teaching about the importance of place in writing at Hedgebrook. I find it so poetic, since Hedgebrook has taught me so much about what makes a place not only important, but soulful and resonant.

Stephanie Kallos

What are you reading?

It’s October, the month of scares, so I’m (re)reading the brilliant, terrifying, gorgeous, complex novels of Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived In The Castle. Also, an anthology I’ve loved since finding it on my parents’ bookshelf in the early 1960s: Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories for Late at Night. John B. L. Goodwin’s The Cocoon scared the hell out of me when I was eight years old; it scares the hell out of me still. Aside from being terrifically written, it’s one of the creepiest, most disturbing short stories I’ve ever read. (First published in STORY magazine, I recently learned that it appeared in Houghton Mifflin’s BEST SHORT STORIES anthology in 1947.)

What are you currently working on?

In August, I completed another draft of my third novel; my editor has now joined the process. (Typically we work together for 5-6 months before signing off and relinquishing the book into the hands of the printers and marketing folks, which in this case would mean a spring 2015 publication date.) Our relationship is a rare and much-cherished one in that she is a true, hands-on collaborator.

 What excites you about teaching this workshop?

Whenever I’m asked to teach, I try to come up with a topic/issue that I’m in the process of grappling with myself. In my current novel-in-progress, I’ve rediscovered the tremendous significance of point-of-view, the propfound way in which the writer’s POV choice affects story, and am eager to explore that topic with Salon participants.

 

Jennie Shortridge

What are you reading?

Lucky me, I get to read an advance copy of Matthew Quick’s The Good Luck of Right Now.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?
“Write with your own voice.” At the very beginning, I thought I had to sound like a “writer.”

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on a screenplay for my fourth novel, When She Flew, as well as launching into a new book. I’ve written only a handful of pages but I think I know where to go with it.

What was your favorite meal at Hedgebrook?

That is nearly impossible to answer. Was it the Asian noodle bowl? Or Julie’s moussaka? Or the delectably moist grilled chicken ? Sigh. Now I’m hungry.

What excites you about teaching this workshop?

The chance to sit with a small group of writers and dig deeper into crafting good dialogue than you can in a large classroom. The sharing is so much a part of the experience, for all of us.

 

 

There are still spots available for our Winter Salon! Early-bird registration closes November 1st. Register today!

 

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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