by Ann Hedreen


This one’s about Time. And Katy.

Katy: you wrote so eloquently about your cancer I thought your words would banish those cells from your body forever. But no. A few cells lurked.  Multiplied. Finally, they left your words and took your body. And I am grieving. Me and a whole lot of other people.

I knew you first as a writer, a fiftyish mom like me who left the teenagers at home while we honed our craft in an MFA program.  Then when I read what you wrote, I knew you as a writer who had faced down death at an age when most of us are debating whether to stop coloring our hair.

A few nights ago I went to a phenomenal reading sponsored by Hedgebrook.   On the program were a former writing teacher of mine, Rebecca Brown, two poets—Ruth Forman and Lenelle Moise—and a songwriter, Thao Nguyen.  I was so inspired.  So proud to be a fellow Hedgebrook alumna, so flooded with that warm, farmhouse table feeling of creative community.

But then a little cancer of a thought started through my brain.  It went like this: I wish I had been brave enough to pour my whole life into writing, like these writers.  I wish I were up on that stage with them.  Rebecca Brown’s a year older than I am, and she’s written and published a dozen books.  And she teaches and does readings and writing is her life!  And it’s the life I want!  Damn it, I’ve blown it: I’ve lived the wrong life!

And then I thought of Katy.  A writer, like me.  An un-famous writer, like me.  Who raised two kids.  And had lots of different jobs.  And then started writing like crazy in mid-life, like me.  With the knowledge that it might take an awfully long time to get published.  Except there’s one difference.  I can still pretend this is the middle of my life, even though I really have no idea and it’s not likely I’ll live to be 108.  But Katy couldn’t pretend any such thing.  And she knew it.  And I bet she’d be shocked to hear that I sat there at the Broadway Performance Hall and allowed that diseased worm of regret into my whiny old brain when I should have just been reveling full-tilt in the moment.  Reveling in the inspiration of women who have committed their lives to creativity.  Who wrote, wrote and wrote some more long before they got published or invited to readings.

The title poem in Ruth Forman’s book begins, “I wear prayers like shoes.  Pull em on quiet each morning.  Take me through the uncertain day.  Don’t know what might knock me off course.”

In this summer of uncertain days about the economy, whether our house will sell, how the next few months of our lives will go, nothing calms me like putting on my running shoes.  As I lace them up, I know that soon I’ll be walking or running, which means I’ll also be praying.  About whatever’s knocking me off course. Katy’s death.  Or pointless regret about my life so far, a life that has been rich, though you wouldn’t know it by our bank balance or by my lack of an Amazon author page.

I wish Katy had more time.  I’m sure she does too.  But I also know she lived a rich life.  She was loved.  And she loved herself.  Enough to give herself time—what time she had—to do what she loved, which was writing.

May Katy inspire me to banish from my brain the cancer of regret.  To put on my praying shoes, or pick up my pen, or both, whenever I’m tempted to succumb.



Ann Hedreen
About Ann Hedreen


  • Aileen Reilly
    9:37 PM - 31 August, 2011

    Lovely post. And as an almost 43 year old coming new to writing publicly and having just let my hair grow out gray, I can relate on many levels. I too pray when I run. I’m sorry about the loss of your friend.

  • Priya
    9:57 PM - 31 August, 2011

    Thank you, Ann. A lovely tribute to Katy, and inspiration to those of us grieving her, and tempted to grieve what we have not yet done in life.

  • dulcie witman
    11:42 PM - 31 August, 2011


    just lovely.

  • Karen Barnett
    2:55 PM - 1 September, 2011

    Wow Ann – that was beautiful. Thank you.

  • Meryl Peters
    8:51 PM - 2 September, 2011


    As I struggle with my application for 2012, reading your post is like a mirror reflecting my life back at me. I have run in your shoes and know the pain. But women like us finish the marathon, regardless how long it takes, even if the sun is down and no one greets us at the finish line. I am sorry for your loss, and will pray for Katy when I run too.

  • Amy Wheeler
    4:00 AM - 3 September, 2011

    beautiful, ann. thank you for being so honest.

  • Shannon
    11:48 PM - 8 September, 2011

    I’ve been receiving the Hedgebrook alumnae emails and thinking so often about my time there. I went with my mother. We were both diagnosed with breast cancer at the same time. She didn’t make it, and on the 23rd of this month she will have been gone for eight years. Her ashes are buried at Hedgebrook under a beautiful karpek red maple, which is probably quite big by now. Since the day she died, I’ve barely written, but something is pulling at me to finish the novel I started about her death, about end-of-life issues, and choice, and lack of choice. Reading your tribute to Katy moved me. I miss my mother, but she threw herself into living every moment of her too-short life. Her writing was a part of that living. May you and all the other Hedgebrook writers — known and unknown — continue to inspire me and others to keep the words flowing. Thank you.

  • Susan Fox Rogers
    1:55 AM - 13 September, 2011

    This is my first visit to the Hedgebrook blog and I am so moved by the words here. Such beauty rising from loss and sadness.

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