Kick Up Your Heels at VORTEXT!

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Whidbey Life Magazine Guest Contributor
May 26, 2014

Imagine this…renowned mystery writer Elizabeth George is offering you insider tips on how to wrestle your story idea onto the page. Or New York Times bestselling author and Zen Buddhist Priest Ruth Ozeki is helping you incorporate daily meditation into your writing process. And instead of traveling to San Francisco, New York, or even Seattle, these classes are happening in your own back yard!

This is the third year of VORTEXT, Hedgebrook’s three-day workshop for women writers. Next Friday, May 30 through Sunday, June 1, Hedgebrook moves to Whidbey Institute for our third annual VORTEXT Weekend Salon for women writers, when 50 women writers will be treated to our radical hospitality. Will you be one of them?

Laughing Writers (photo by Abi Tschetter)

Laughing Writers (photo by Abi Tschetter)

You may know of Hedgebrook through our retreat space near Double Bluff Beach or as an audience member at one of our public programs, such as readings and performances at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. What you may not know is that over the past four years, we have developed a robust series of professional development programs for women writers. These programs include week-long Master Classes and day-long Salons at our retreat and VORTEXT at Whidbey Institute.

VORTEXT brings together two groups of people in my life for which I am extremely grateful: the incredible writers I meet at Hedgebrook and the supportive South Whidbey artistic community that welcomed me to the island seven years ago. This unique blend of access to high-caliber Hedgebrook alumnae, mixed with the stunning setting of Whidbey Institute, makes this an event that you won’t want to miss!

In the words of one VORTEXT participant: “I took four years of undergraduate creative writing studies and workshops, and these past three days were more beneficial to me (and touched me deeper) than most of my time at my alma mater. I am still walking on air!”

Let me give you a taste of what this weekend will be like. First, our head chef, Denise Barr, sets up camp in the kitchen and gets to work preparing delicious organic meals. Next, the writers start to arrive. Last year, we had writers come from as far away as Australia. This year, one woman is flying in from Istanbul!

Impromptu Can-can (photo by Abi Tschetter)

Impromptu Can-can (photo by Abi Tschetter)

The line up of teachers is impressive. Elizabeth George and Ruth Ozeki are joined again this year by award-winning best-selling authors and alumnae Karen Joy Fowler (2014 PEN/Faulkner winner), Jane Hamilton and Gail Tsukiyama. Carole DeSanti, an author and Vice President, Editor at Large at Penguin Random House joins to teach, “Trust the Process,” a workshop exploring the relationship between creative process and bringing your work into the public sphere. A longtime champion of women writers in the publishing industry, Carole will cover how to weather rejection and criticism, untangle our own judgments and turn challenges into opportunities.

Each day starts with a delicious breakfast. As I write this in the Farmhouse kitchen, Denise tells me that she’s trying a new sausage and cheese strata recipe for this year. Denise made the sausage herself with guest chef Julie Rosten. There will be mushroom and artichoke strata for the vegetarians.

After breakfast, everyone moves into Thomas Berry Hall for keynote speeches. Each morning there are two speeches about the writing process and craft. Writers take notes voraciously, get choked up at the advice that hits close to home and laugh raucously. You may find it hard to believe, but this group of teachers is hilarious!

Lunch comes next—I’m very excited for Denise’s chicken tortilla soup from the Hedgebrook Cookbook. When everyone has had their fill, the writers break out into the afternoon workshops. Some of my favorite titles this year are “Your Imaginary Friends,” taught by Karen Joy Fowler and “Flab Reduction Workshop,” taught by Jane Hamilton. Elizabeth George will teach “The Status Quo, the Primary Event, and What Then?” Ruth Ozeki will teach “Re-Occupy Your Mind: Meditation and Writing” and Gail Tsukiyama will teach “The Lesser Angel: Fictional Time and Place.”

(photo by Abi Tschetter)

Hedgebrook (photo by Abi Tschetter)

Aside from their wonderful senses of humor, what strikes me most about this group of teachers is how closely bonded they are to one another. They have known each other and taught together for years, first at the Maui Writers Conference, and now on Whidbey Island. They truly enjoy being on Whidbey Island and becoming a part of the writing community!

The first year of VORTEXT, they made sure that everyone had a copy of the lyrics to Sister Sledge’s song “We Are Family.” Everyone fell into a kickline and we sang the song at the top of our lungs as a tribute to the community we had created.

There are a few spots still open. If you have a work in progress, a finished manuscript or are just looking for other women writers to hold you and inspire your writing, I hope you’ll join us this year at VORTEXT. You will leave empowered and a part of our international community of thousands of women authoring change.

For more information and to register, please visit:

Katie Woodzick is a local actor, director and writer. She works at Hedgebrook as an External Relations Manager.

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