Trickster Muses at Hedgebrook–Summer 2009

By Sara Campos

I saw it one day while walking from my cottage to the farmhouse and it startled me. It was a clear day and its snowy peaks, crags, and ridges were visible in all their magnificent glory. Mt. Rainier. It was so stunning; it hardly looked real. It was as though a magician had sketched it with fine pastels. The next day it wasn’t there. Perhaps the artist who’d put it there erased it. During my three weeks at Hedgebrook in the summer of 2009, I glimpsed it only three times.

That mountain was a fickle trickster–sometimes it showed up; sometimes it didn’t. Like my writing muse. In the middle of the night when I least wanted its company, it blared like raucous rock music, robbing me of sleep. Other times, when I pressed my temples and sat before the computer begging for a visit, it shot out of sight. Not even a whimper.

Before I went to Hedgebrook, I worried about this. Friends teased me about it; they cringed at the very idea of living alone in the woods for three weeks. Suppose I got a cottage and no ideas came. Suppose I sat alone with a blank screen before me with nothing to do.

Aha! You are a fraud after all!   Read more

It started at Hedgebrook.

By Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

After two weeks of nurture and building fires, of re-dreaming the structure of an old novel in my Waterfall cabin, I ambled down to the pumphouse where I could connect my laptop to the internet and sent an essay I had written six months earlier to an editor at Salon.com. No one had been interested in my essay when I first finished it, but Hedgebrook is magic. Sarah, the editor who accepted it, had a keen eye for cutting disclaimers and retitling.  Several days after I returned home, new novel finished and lifelong friends made, Sarah sent me a note that the essay would go up that night, with a gentle warning that comments on the site could sometimes be aggressive and I shouldn’t take them as a reflection of how the piece was being enjoyed by the larger readership.

I woke up to fifty pieces of hate email in my inbox.  By the next afternoon, the “firestorm” as one host on The View would later call it, had prompted an interview request from MSNBC-TV. Someone from the Today Show came to the green room while I was waiting for that interview, and by the time Meredith Vieira’s interview with me aired the next morning, the emails were coming every thirty seconds: I enlisted vetters since many were too vile to read. The hate was not about me, or my essay, or the very literary memoir that inspired it, about war and motherhood, which had been tapped for an award but otherwise had not attracted much attention.

It was about the essay’s title: “Why I Left My Children.”        Read more

Women Authoring Change

By Elana Lim

After attending Hedgebrook’s inaugural Master Class, I was inspired to contribute to the Board of Directors, joining others in furthering Hedgebrook’s mission.

“Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come.”

This mission has personal meaning for me. Just two generations before, 人人 (Ngin Ngin, meaning paternal grandmother) in our Toisanese dialect of Chinese, came to America as Tow Yee Moo (wife of Tow Yee). She started her American life in Seattle’s Chinatown in 1921, where she died in 1981. During her life, she never felt safe to tell her story to any of her family. However, because of her trek during uncertain times, she changed the direction of future generations, and I was now benefitting, having been granted an opportunity to sit at the Hedgebrook table and write stories of growing up in Chinatown.

During my Master Class experience, I was touched by the fairies in the circle of their mushroom rings. I was astounded by the depths of the women I met. My sanctuary became the worn wooden bench, set inside a fairy ring, where the sun rose beyond the cattails. A dancing fire snapped its fingers in the wood burning stove and kept my toes warm and my body fed. The pressure of a midnight silence was so deep and still that my head felt as if it might explode.   Read more

Reading Women

By Sarah Ladipo Manyika

There is a library at Hedgebrook, bursting with books–skinny ones, tall ones, fat ones, and colourful ones. Some of these books have just arrived, while others have lived on the shelves for years and now carry the sweet scent of wood-burning fires. What makes this library truly unique though, is that all the books are written by women who once stayed at Hedgebrook. And this is why, on my first day at Hedgebrook, I stood in awe in front of the oak beamed shelves, alternately tiptoeing then crouching while running a finger along the rows of solid spines.

I started with some short stories by Ursula Le Guin, and a novel by Sarah Waters, both writers I had heard of but never previously read. And then, because I come from Africa and Europe, I searched specifically for writers whose lives, like mine, straddle continents, and I found a slim little book, a play in fact, co-written by Danai Gurira and Nikkole Salter. In the three weeks that followed, I established an afternoon routine that always began with finding a patch of sunlight in which to sit.  I would then read for hours.   Read more

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