Why Saying Goodbye to Writers-in-Residence Gets Me Fired Up

By Hedgebrook Staff

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Categories: General,

“I’ve been so happy here you may have to open the windows to get rid of my thrilling to make room for your own.”

“Dearest ghosts & spirits of Fir Cottage — I am greatly humbled after reading your journal stories, and feeling your gifts left around the cottage.”

“Some villages are inherited perennially in the heart. I leave a wisp of spirit behind, to combine with spirits of all who have been here, and with bird and tree and rock and leaf. For the village of Hedgebrook has many citizens and extends wider than you may know.”

What we leave behind matters. In some way, every culture looks to shape our world’s future by leaving a record of its collective wisdom.

And Hedgebrook writers know this in their bones.

Every cottage at Hedgebrook contains a set of journals, in which writers from 1989 to 2015 have transcribed grandiose epiphanies and equally grandiose struggles. They write about the writing life, about being a woman, a person of color, a caregiver. They know they will have to say goodbye to Hedgebrook in a few short weeks, so they leave a record for the next person to find.

In support of Hedgebrook’s Cottage Campaign, I pitched an idea for “virtual cottage reunions” to celebrate alumnae and the sacred role of the cottage at Hedgebrook. We launched in October with Oak Cottage, and this month is devoted to Fir Cottage. We feature one alumna every day, sharing links to their recent work and (anonymous!) excerpts from the cottage journals.

This process has been incredibly moving. Every page of every journal is a treasure — and sometimes, I discover a literal treasure, like a leaf or a sketch. Every entry reveals a deep sense of awareness of the past, present and future.

At Hedgebrook, we see a residency as the beginning of our relationship with a writer. Hedgebrook provides the gift of time and space for a woman writer, and this gift often has long-term benefits for her, both personally and professionally. But ultimately, our residency is just a small blip on the timeline of a writer’s career.

And you know what really gets me fired up? Saying goodbye to writers in residence.

Because for me, serving alumnae after their residencies is the best part of working here.

When a writer leaves Hedgebrook to return home, I imagine her sitting down at her desk for the first time, flipping open her laptop to work. She is far away from the safety of the farmhouse table, and the collective wisdom of the cottage journals — she faces a culture that is largely unfriendly toward strong, diverse female voices like hers.

Except now, she sits down armed with a community of like-minded writers and organizations who believe in her. When we say goodbye to a writer-in-residence, we are actually welcoming her into the alumnae community — “the village of Hedgebrook.”

Community is the true gift of Hedgebrook, and it’s not just for writers who have been awarded residencies. Anyone who believes in, and works toward, our mission is part of the Hedgebrook community.

Hedgebrook’s vision is to create a New Girls Network — a safe space to facilitate connections between women writers and with supportive, feminist organizations. The New Girls Network isn’t just writerly; it’s women helping women, outsiders helping outsiders. It is everything we do to make the world a more just and peaceful place.

We can achieve this goal by engaging in direct dialogue with the world yet to come. We can tell the story of our own life, and we can imagine what others may wish to know. We can remember that each person is alone, but we are alone together. The virtual cottage reunions are just one way that Hedgebrook is bringing people together. We have big plans in the works for next year, and can’t wait to share them with you.

Hedgebrook believes in the power of women to change the world, both individually and collectively.

When you support women writers, you declare your belief in the collective wisdom of women.

When you support women writers, you announce to the world that you care about what happens next.

Changing the story of our world will require that we work together. “The village of Hedgebrook has many citizens and extends wider than you may know.” If you share our commitment to a future with equal voice, you are part of this village.

Please consider a gift to Hedgebrook today. What we leave behind matters.

 

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About the Author:

Bonnie_blog-imageBonnie Stinson holds a BA in Government and Development from Smith College. A global nomad, she has recently lived in Palestine, Japan and Canada but currently calls the Pacific Northwest home. She is in the middle of several hundred projects (screenplays, children’s books, poetry collections, business ideas) at the moment, all informed by intersectional identity and storytelling. She writes and thinks at www.bonniejstinson.com, and she is actively seeking opportunities that include travel, writing, housesitting, kittens, and/or vegan cupcakes.

 

 

 


 

Support Equal Voice and Women Authoring Change by donating to Hedgebrook today!

Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.

 

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