I heart Hedgebrook

Posted in Duff 'n Stuff

Duff ’n Stuff, April 29, 2013

I already knew what to expect.

I knew it would be cool and inspiring. I knew it would be challenging and fun and delicious. I had spent time at the Hedgebrook Writers Retreat years ago, having been invited for a weekend after covering an event there for the Record. I knew about it being a beautiful respite for women writers with its enchanting one-person cottages in the woods, where writers are able to focus solely on their work. I remembered its beautiful kitchen garden nurtured by a staff who knows how to feed people well, and how women gathered after writing sessions to feast, talk and stimulate the work. I knew, also, about the natural solidarity, the artistic force in numbers, which emerges among the writers who are lucky to have a Hedgebrook experience.

I knew it was going to rock.

Mary Guterson, Sue Ennis, Jennifer Munro, Karen Finneyfrock and Amy Wheeler lead a discussion in the Longhouse at Hedgebrook at the Spring Salon on April 27. (Patricia Duff photo)

Mary Guterson, Sue Ennis, Jennifer Munro, Karen Finneyfrock and Amy Wheeler lead a discussion in the Longhouse at Hedgebrook at the Spring Salon on April 27. (Patricia Duff photo)

On Saturday, about 25 writers and six instructors arrived to a breakfast feast in the Longhouse at Hedgebrook’s wooded acreage that faces the farmlands that sweep toward Double Bluff. We were there for the Spring Salon, an annual, all-day event that included one morning and one afternoon writing workshop for each of us. The choices were juicy:

  • “Song Architecture: Constructing Beautiful Songs” with rock ‘n roller Sue Ennis, best known for co-writing 70-plus songs for the band HEART.
  • “The Writer’s Spring Cleaning: Let the Fresh Air In” with poet, novelist and poetry slam rock star Karen Finneyfrock.
  • “Getting Right to the Heart of It: Writing the Short-Short” with award-winning novelist Mary Guterson.
  • “The Funny Bone is an Erogenous Zone” with creative, non-fiction and erotica writer, Jennifer D. Munro.
  • “Revving Your Play’s Engine: Creating Action-Driven Characters” with playwright and the executive director of Hedgebrook Amy Wheeler.

It was a hard choice, but I chose the erotica workshop with Munro in the morning and writing short-shorts with Guterson in the afternoon.

The workshops lasted about two and half hours and took place in the comfortable setting of the cottage where the instructor was staying. There were four of us for Munro’s session on approaching erotica with an edge of humor. I won’t go into all the details of each workshop, but let’s just say that when I arrived I in no way saw myself as having the ability to write erotic fiction. But after a delightful, informative, encouraging session with the down-to-earth Munro, the idea became not so far-fetched. We also had a delightful time hearing about her process, the ins and outs of publishing in that genre and reading some examples of her funny, well-written work, as well as those of other writers.

Anastasia Brencick, Katie Woodzick and Sue Ennis perform at the open mic at the end of Hedgebrook's Spring Salon. (Photo by Amy Wheeler)

Anastasia Brencick, Katie Woodzick and Sue Ennis perform at the open mic at the end of Hedgebrook’s Spring Salon. (Photo by Amy Wheeler)

After an exquisite lunch in the Longhouse, which included a Hedgebrook garden fresh salad with organic carrot soup, fresh bread and an orgasmic rhubarb cake that I thought would itself make an excellent subject for an erotic piece of fiction, a lively discussion ensued among the group. The question was something about a statistic that claims women are writing only 13 percent of what gets published. We were dangerously close to turning toward a heated brouhaha that smacked of a women’s liberation rap session, but then somebody turned it back to the practice of writing and publishing and we averted the dangerous succubus of a feminist rant gone wild. It was the take-no-shit Guterson who said something like, “If you don’t like the stats, get off your ass and write something to change it!” Right on, sister.

We returned to the cottages for our second session, where five of us were treated to Guterson’s witty, rebellious personality. I haven’t read her novels yet, “We Are All Fine Here” and “Gone to the Dogs,” but I will now.  I fell in love with feisty Mary. She’s the kind of person you feel as if you’ve known for a long time after about five minutes. She’s warm and charmingly self-effacing and I know she’s probably funny on the page, too.  She hands out practical information about the rules of writing short fiction with her right hand, while all the time shooting “break the rules” advice from her left hip. I learned a lot again in a little more than two hours.

Back at the Longhouse, there was wine and another awesome spread of delicious food on which we nibbled, while listening to fellow writers read or sing some of their work.

In the end, I was right. It was cool and inspiring, challenging, fun and delicious.

The next workshop event at Hedgebrook is VORTEXT, which happens May 31 to  June 2 and welcomes six renowned authors for a weekend salon. The authors are Dorothy Allison, Elizabeth George, Jane Hamilton, Gail Tsukiyama, Karen Joy Fowler and Ruth Ozeki. Find out more about it here. Also, women writers can apply to Hedgebrook for a two to six-week residency.  Check out the application here.

From a heart that belongs to Hedgebrook this week,
Patricia Duff

Patricia Duff is an award-winning journalist, freelance writer and the editor of this magaizine.



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