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By Florencia Milito

Imagination

Some time ago I read an exquisite little essay by the Italian postwar writer Natalia Ginzburg in which, in her razor-sharp, self-deprecating manner, she refers to her own imagination as “paltry.” Her piece struck a chord: I had never heard a writer speak so candidly about her own limitations. And I could identify only too well, and too painfully. My own relationship to imagination is a complicated one. I, too, have often wished for a copious, fecund imagination, one as wide as an ocean, as lush as the densest tropical jungle. And yet when I think of my own imagination, the images that come to mind are something altogether different. A tundra perhaps. Some expansive, but icy, landscape. A swath of blue-gray. The color of a wolverine’s eyes. Or, perhaps, the recurrent image that my mind conjures whenever it’s trying to break out of a period of writing blocks: a thin red line, almost like a clothesline, but infinitely thin and red like bright blood. The line is at once present (indicated by the boldness of the color) and elusive (suggested by the thinness of the line). In my fantasy, my mind needs to follow that line in order to break out of periods of aphasia, periods where I am convinced I will never be able to write a poem again. Another image comes to mind when thinking about Imagination. (I find myself unconsciously capitalizing the word, as if writing about a goddess.) The image is that of a porcelain doll, a doll that is a bit disheveled, that has a pirate’s wooden leg. My imagination then is something broken, like bird’s wings, something fragile, a miniature glass city, perfect and elusive. It is a place inside me that has been buried deeply the way a little girl fleeing war might bury a silver bell, hiding it from soldiers who will ransack everything.   Read more

By Angie Chau

The Lives Lived Beneath the Surface

As many of you know, Quiet As They Come took me back for a homecoming in Vietnam at the start of 2012. I was invited to give talks at the U.S. Embassy in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. I don’t use the word homecoming lightly. We left the fallen city of Saigon (now called Ho Chi Minh) in 1978 when I was 3. My parents and I escaped by boat in the middle of the night. We had tried twice before, once in 1975 and again in 1976 when we failed. There was a Malaysian refugee camp in between when we were countryless. But that is a whole other narrative. This story is about connection. This is about the gift of writing, about how we create reshaping us, about the brilliant unknowns in life akin to the writer’s journey that can be so unexpectedly delicious.   Read more

By Wendy Ortiz

The Many Pulsating Hearts

In July 2007, I stepped off a ferry onto Whidbey Island on what felt like the hottest day of the year. I arrived at Hedgebrook and was told that Gloria Steinem was on the land, in the house, for the period of time I too would be on the land and in the farmhouse.  I was stunned. Already, this experience was becoming bigger, more surreal and amazing than I could have imagined.

I was a newly married woman wearing a handmade ring. I was wondering, constantly, what this ring meant about me, how people might see me, but mostly, what it meant for the queerness I knew was in my blood.

I recently published an essay in The New York Times describing the experience of coming out to my husband and going on to fashion a life incredibly different from the one I’d planned when we’d gotten hitched in the California desert. In less than 1600 words I managed to describe one heart of the experience, which is to say that this was, and continues to be, an experience with many pulsating hearts.    Read more

By Patricia Caspers

Hearing Voices: Women Versing Life presents Hedgebrook

As a woman, how much time do you spend thinking about food: the budget, weekly menu, grocery list, shopping, preparing, and cleaning up? Daily, I prepare meals for four people, two of whom slide half their dinner to their dad when they think I’m not watching, and while I’m no longer shocked by the amount energy cooking takes, there are times when I have to muscle myself away from the poem in progress to fire up the electric burners.

In October of 2006, though, I spent two blessed weeks at Hedgebrook, a writer’s residence for women on Whidbey Island, where my only responsibility was to show up for dinner every evening: Garden fresh dinner, shared with incredible women.

Now I am shocked at how many women writers have never heard of Hedgebrook—because it’s free. Free, I tell you. Free. This gift of uninterrupted time for a woman writer is a political act on par with the first publication of Our Bodies Ourselves or The Second Shift. As evidence, I offer testimony from three former Hedgebrook Sisters:   Read more

By Sally Charette

Full House – The Country in the City 1-Day Writer’s Retreat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember the first time you went to the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland? It looked like a big house from the outside, but inside it was mind-bogglingly larger with seemingly infinite images and passages. That’s kind of how I felt looking back at the historic building that housed Hedgebrook’s The Country in the City 1-Day Writer’s Retreat after spending the day inside and on the grounds.

The women who made this retreat happen infused it with the spirit of Hedgebrook, which has at its core a sense of infinite time and possibility. What I took away from my three-week stay in Oak Cottage in 2000 was an understanding that it is good and necessary for the creative spirit to allow itself some time. I followed my nose around the grounds of Hedgebrook like a little kid. It was the first time I’d had so much time off work since high school.

From the moment the organizers and workshop leaders introduced themselves and told us how the day would go, I released any lingering trepidation about having a day in which to do whatever I wanted, and time began to expand beneath my fingertips.   Read more

By Bushra Rehman

The Endless Baptism

For the last few months, I’ve been working on a series of essays on Palestine. I’ve now written and erased my words until there is nothing left but the original title of the series. It could fit on a button: “Islamophobia is not the answer to Anti-Semitism.” Eventually, this title too had to be scratched. Because although anti-Muslim sentiment is fueled by and benefits U.S. imperialism and Israel’s apartheid practices, Palestinian Christians suffer as well.

Each day I tried to work, I felt myself covered with dust. I read of the erasure of Palestinian names from Israeli maps and how each erasure was attended by a massacre of innocents. I felt myself consumed in darkness while reading stories of Al-Dawayima where an entire village of Palestinian citizens was murdered, beaten, raped, their bodies thrown down into the town well by Israeli soldiers. I tried to write of the massacre of the people of Nasir al-din, Tantura, Eilabun, but the ghosts silenced me with their hunger.   Read more

By Tamiko Beyer

With Whom Do You Believe Your Lot Is Cast?

Adrienne Rich made the space for so many to come to poetry, to bring who we are – in all our queerness and rage and love – to poetry.

Like so many others, reading her poem “Diving into the Wreck” radically changed my relationship to poetry. It was in a college course on the literature of 1960s, and my former-hippy professor walked us line by line through the poem. As I read of the speaker’s descent into the ocean and transformation, I felt my body vibrate in resonance. “The sea is not a question of power.” The next day, I checked out all of her books of poetry from the library. Her words gave me the courage to enter the realm of poetry in a way that no other poet I had encountered previously had.

In “The Spirit of Place,” she asks twice: with whom do you believe your lot is cast? As a young poet seeking to make sense of my own position as a mixed race queer person, I appreciated her willingness to interrogate herself and others, particularly her willingness struggle with race. Taking her cue, I sought to answer that question again and again: with whom do you believe your lot is cast? I came to understand the power structures of society and saw how I was complicit in, as well as harmed by, those structures. I also learned that to take a stand is to take sides.

Rich made space to call myself poet, to call myself feminist, to write what pulsed deepest in me, what was most valuable and vulnerable. She made woman steelstrong and opened the book of myths to record our own, resounding names.   Read more

By Jennifer Chen

Eve Ensler and Dael Orlandersmith at Berkeley Rep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After another amazing Hedgebrook alumnae event (Dael Orlandersmith! Eve Ensler!), it was clear to me that Hedgebrook is a lifeline for women writers, specifically me.

When I applied to Hedgebrook back in 2007, I was at a crossroads in my writing career. My play had been rejected by every theater that I had sent it to and a YA novel I was working on also got rejected for publication. At the time, I contemplated quitting writing as nuts as that sounds.

But then I got into Hedgebrook and those two weeks were my lifesaver. I fell in love with writing again. I read like I’ve never read before. I met inspiring women. I was taken care of and my cottage was a safe space.   Read more

By Joanne Fedler

After the giddy joy of publication…. It’s back to the page.

Books are like elephants – they take two years to gestate. Thankfully, when a book comes out, there’s no physical expulsion of anything resembling a small pachyderm from any part of my body, but I assure you, there’s pain involved.

First there’s the agony of exposure – what’s been swirling in my heart and on the page on my computer screen is now publicly visible – and now fair game for reviews, both kind and unkind, generally by people who have never written books themselves. And despite my undeniable exhibitionist tendencies, I really do have moments of internal terror that what I’ve written, rewritten and rewritten (about 5000 times or so) is such crap I have no right to inflict on any poor reader.   Read more

By Ann Hedreen

Get Your Book in Bookstores: Publication Considerations, a Hedgebrook brown bag event that took place at Richard Hugo House on May 19, 2012

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.   Read more

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