I’ve been given the gift of 10 days at Hedgebrook. Ten days to be one thing: a writer, writing.
Hedgebrook was created in the late 1980s by Nancy Nordhoff, a visionary and generous woman who wanted to create a place to support and encourage women writers. It’s on 40+ gorgeous acres on Whidbey Island, a short walk from Useless Bay. Six women are in residence at a time, women from all of the world, working in all genres. We meet for dinner in the farmhouse at the end of the day, for a meal prepared largely from Hedgebrook’s organic garden.
If this sounds like writer heaven, it is. I’ve been lucky enough to be in residence at Hedgebrook twice before, and I tell you there is something transformative about the place. The first time I went, in 2001, I was still in grad school, hadn’t published a thing, and didn’t consider myself a “real” writer (whatever that means). Being invited to a place where the whole staff is devoted to making it possible for you to work can be a little overwhelming. I wrote and wrote, poems that departed in important ways from everything I’d written up until then. The other writers’ life stories and projects moved and inspired me, kept me pushing myself to risk, to reach further.
The next residency, in 2008, was equally powerful but in a very different way. Again, I wrote and wrote, but almost nothing that seemed like a poem. I entered into a different kind of conversation with myself, asking questions like why do I write? What am I not yet saying? Who am I writing for? In the months and years following, as I would occasionally revisit what I’d drafted at Hedgebrook (I think of it as turning the compost heap), I kept finding poems that I hadn’t seen at the time. Images from the landscape around Hedgebrook permeate my collection, Every Dress a Decision–the detritus left by the outgoing tide at Useless Bay, stacks of kindling, stones.
I have no idea how Hedgebrook will change me this time. I’m a different person, a different writer now. But I know I need the deep receptivity that Hedgebrook provokes. I’ll let you know what happens.
In the meantime, Hedgebrook applications for the coming year are due by Sept. 8, 2011.
Read the Hedgebrook blog.