New Girl’s Network, One Story at a Time.

By Abigail Carter

Our mission, as we sat in the rustic long house at Hedgebrook, was to determine our organization’s BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). A BHAG is one of those statements you hear from those non-profit organizations during NPR broadcasts, statements like “Eradicating Childhood Disease” or “Equal Education for All.” BHAGs are almost impossible to achieve, but the thinking goes that if you don’t set such goals, you have no hope of ever achieving one. Since Hedgebrook is a writing retreat specifically for women, our main goal is to support women writers. But really, Hedgebrook is bigger than that.

As it turns out, Gloria Steinem is one of Hedgebrook’s biggest supporters and cheerleaders. And on this day, excitement was in the air because Gloria was joining us in our discussion. Years earlier, Gloria had mentioned to our executive director the need for a “New Girl’s Network,” an idea borrowed from the 80s corporate world. A network of women that could compete with the mostly exclusionary “Old Boy’s Network.” Where an Old Boy’s Network might be seen by men as a necessary means of furthering their own careers, The New Girl’s Network is seen as furthering the cause of all women, albeit, one woman at a time.   Read more

VORTEXT: A Meandering Magical Garden of Writing

By Abigail Carter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whidbey Island seems rife with secret gardens whose long winding driveways meander into thickets of wooded groves. That day, a woman directed me to a parking lot – a gravel shoulder bordered by nothing but trees. I got out of the car, bewildered, not sure where to go to reach VORTEXT, the weekend-long writing conference hosted by Hedgebrook, the Whidbey Island writer’s retreat for women, whose board I recently joined.

Another woman parked as I was returning to the car, certain I had messed up. She got out and seemed to know where to go. We walked together, learning that we were both from Seattle, here to write, excited. I was already disappointed that I would only be attending for the morning, teenaged birthdays and events filling this particular weekend, preventing a longer stay.

We arrived at what I can only describe as a lodge-like building – a great room with soaring ceilings, a hallway lined with Hedgebrook’s resident gourmand, Denise’s delicious homemade organic food, an intimate windowed dining area filled with groups of women chatting. I ate breakfast enjoying the meadow and garden view, made enchanting by the misty rain. I recognized Elizabeth George, the Whidbey Island celebrity crime writer, but was less familiar with the other five writers who would be our workshop leaders.   Read more

Watching Gloria Steinem: A small and powerful gathering

By Christine O'Connor

On the evening of August 15, two women who had served on the board of Hedgebrook some years ago joined me to watch the HBO documentary “Gloria: In Her Own Words.” Amy’s wife Kate Buzard had invented a cocktail for the occasion, the “Bra Burner.” As I prepared some appetizers for the cocktail party, I told my teen daughters about Gloria and the cocktail, getting blank looks both times.

The two women who joined me were professional women in the workforce during the height of Gloria’s career, while I was still in college; they whooped in recognition of the news footage in the documentary and recounted their own stories of unequal pay, exclusion and other encounters with ‘60’s-era misogyny.   Read more

Radical Hospitality: The Leap of Faith

By Christine O'Connor

“When you are served with so much love and nurturing, from the garden to the table to the cottages—someone believes that what we have to say is important.”

– Suheir Hammad, poet

At the core of our writers in residence program here at Hedgebrook is the ethos we refer to as “radical hospitality”: each writer who comes to the retreat is offered her own comfortable cottage, delicious food and complete control over how she spends her time, with the only requirement being that she gather for dinner in the evening with the other women in residence. Women are selected for our residency program from all over the world and from all over the career spectrum: published authors and beginners alike. All who have competed for and won a residency are offered the chance to explore their own creativity at their own pace.

Gloria Steinem serves on our Creative Advisory Council, lucky for us! She describes Hedgebrook this way: “It’s as if women have taken their 5,000 years of nurturing experience and turned it on each other.”

Women are often in roles in which they are expected to offer hospitality, where the gifts of nurturing and support have in a way been robbed from them, demanded rather than honored as gifts. Whether it be the woman who works in the “hospitality industry” cleaning motel rooms at one end of the economic spectrum or the trophy wife who must open her home to guests who will criticize her taste behind her back on the other: both are robbed of what should be theirs to give.

At Hedgebrook, we reclaim this work as gift and offer it to women. We are confident that this honoring inspires the amazing experiences that our alumnae often share with us.   Read more

A Valuable Lesson

By Austin Walters

I’ve always loved to read. Cracking open a book is one of the greatest joys in my life, and talking to others about books comes in a very close second. But somewhere around the time when I started taking literature classes in college, I became a snob about books. I didn’t  really realize it was happening, and I wasn’t extremely open about it. I didn’t scoff or chide people about their choices or recommendations, I just developed a strong opposition to the most talked about bestsellers, popular book club picks, and any book printed with a movie poster cover. I thought that these books were a waste of my precious reading time.

Then a small, misfit British boy came along and changed everything.   Read more

The Power of Women Telling their Stories

By Christine O'Connor

I serve on the Hedgebrook board. And it all started with a book.

The book, in this case, was a slim volume of essays called “After Patriarchy.” The editors, one woman and two men, organized a volume of eight essays written by women from different religious backgrounds. Each writer made the case for the idea that their tradition was robbed of its full potential by how it treated women. Misogyny was equated with self-sabotage: if humanity’s spiritual traditions could overcome their own misogyny, their expression would be true to their own teachings.

If books are the ignition, stories are the fuel. The headliner of the New York Times online edition on Saturday, March 26, was an example of what Hedgebrook means to me: a place that makes sure that women get to tell their stories.

The photograph was stunning: a woman, disheveled and clearly upset, had broken into a hotel meeting room where Libyan government officials were debriefing a group of international journalists. She refused to leave: she had a story to tell.   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