By Madeline Ostrander

What We Owe Adrienne Rich

The late poet was a patriot who wrestled for the soul of her country.

I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn between bitterness and hope…

I was 19 when I first read Adrienne Rich and these words from “An Atlas of the Difficult World,” which seemed to tear down the barriers between the poem and me, and let me in.

Like Rich, I grew up at a distance from true poverty: “reader reading under a summer tree in the landscape of the rural working poor,” she writes. But I knew how fractured and unstable the world around me was becoming.   Read more

By Minal Hajratwala

Our own writing time-zones

My writer friend Mary Anne posted on her blog about waking up at 4am from bad dreams and then … writing!

I am inspired at how often she does this. She wakes up with way too little sleep — crying babies, nightmares, whatever. She stresses about it for maybe a paragraph. And then? She gets right to work.   Read more

By Hedgebrook Staff

Hedgebrook Downtown

By Nan Macy, Donna Miscolta, and Allison Green

On a recent rainy Saturday, eight Hedgebrook alumnae met around the farmhouse table and shared essays they were writing about visibility and invisibility, about motorcyles, about Louisa May Alcott, about rice. Actually, this farmhouse table was not on idyllic Whidbey Island, but in a conference room at Hedgebrook’s Pioneer Square office in Seattle.   Read more

By Jen Marlowe

Kony2012, Mike Daisey and the Politics of Art, Truth and Complexity

I have a half-dozen or so of my short films on youtube and vimeo. The most “popular,” uploaded ten months ago, has been viewed 90,593 times.

The Kony2012 film, released last month, has over 84 million hits.

I spent much of the month venting in fury about the Kony2012 film/campaign and the Invisible Children organization that produced it. It oversimplified the very complex reality in Eastern and Central Africa. It offered misleading and highly sensationalized information. It proscribed militaristic policies that could potentially put thousands of civilians at severe risk. A white, male American was foregrounded as the story’s hero (along with his pre-school aged son) while the very real, very important work of reconstruction and peace-building that Ugandans themselves have been doing for years was entirely ignored. It suggested that Americans sharing videos on Facebook and purchasing bracelets was all it took to catch an indicted war criminal—and by doing so, they would also become heroes. It was self-serving and narcissistic.   Read more

By Ellen McLaughlin

What My Woodstove Has Taught Me About Writing

When you’re starting from a cold stove, lay the fire according to the principles that have lasted over the centuries, namely:

Clear the way for the new

It helps to start clean when you’re dealing with cold ashes rather than live embers. The knowledge that you’ve made fires in the past is comforting, but that doesn’t mean you have to lay new ideas on top of the cold residue of old ones. The memories of finished work, whether it was successful or not, just aren’t particularly helpful. That work is behind you, it has already served its purpose and you may be grateful to it but often the memory of that past writing keeps you from trying something new and challenging yourself, just as those dead ashes only muffle and obscure what you need to do right now, which is to start. Transcend your fear of the unknown. Let the past go. Shovel it out and clear it away before you begin.   Read more

By Madeline Ostrander

To Tell the Truth

I find it hard to tell the truth. Which is not to say that I am in the habit of lying. I am a nonfiction writer and a journalist. It’s my job to tell the truth. But each time I set words down, I realize I am wrestling with more than one truth.

It is partly a trouble of writing about activists and underdogs and do-gooders, my specialty. These are people who have so often had their stories stolen from them— mangled, distorted, or transformed by media or politicians or Hollywood. They are trying to change the story that other people know about them. And you have to hold both their truth and the other truths—the truths of their adversaries, detractors, and peers—in your mind as you write.   Read more

By Sarita Sarvate

The Berkeley Circle

Writers are solitary people. Their work, by definition, requires long hours of uncertain toil. A writer can sit at her desk, pondering words and sentences forever, guessing at the results, wondering if the newest draft is better or worse than the one before, sometimes tossing out version 6.7 and reverting back to version 1.1.

Unlike science or engineering or finance, writing is amorphous, with infinite possibilities, with no clear rules as to what makes a great book, although people have tried.

So how do writers produce great works in total isolation?   Read more

By Judy Branfman

“Free speech, rights, and writing…”

On Bill of Rights Day (December 15th – who knew!) the local Fox station did a story on my great-aunt Yetta’s precendent-setting free speech case – and my documentary about it. I’m not quite done with the film but this milestone of a huge TV viewership for my work took me back to the beginning of the filmmaking journey: my trip to Hedgebrook.

Hedgebrook accepted me, having published only a couple journalistic essays about art and politics in New England. But I had a passionate dream of turning my aunt’s story into a documentary film. Her activism evolved into the US Supreme Court’s first affirmation of free speech rights and helped lay the groundwork for our right to protest and dissent, but my potential “star,” aunt Yetta, had been telling me “no” for years and even questioning if I had the “right” to tell her story. Even so, I had been driving around Southern California doing research in courthouses and small-town archives – and even started getting grants for the project. And I had also started doing interviews for a somewhat related book.   Read more

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