Hedgebrook, A Writers’ Retreat For Women

Imagine yourself here, writing. You can do it.

A locally-grown and produced resource here in the Puget Sound region near Seattle, Washington is Hedgebrook, an unusual writers’ retreat specifically for women.

Located on Whidbey Island, about 30 miles north of Seattle, and accessible by ferry, Hedgebrook exists to make it possible for women to write.

Founded in 1988 by philanthropist and visionary (in my opinion) Nancy Nordhoff, Hedgebrook’s writer in residency program accepts 40 writers each year (however, they’ve suspended this program until 2014; see their link for details).

Each writer stays in a cottage that was hand-crafted by Ms. Nordhoff and friends, back in the ’80s. Here’s the key that makes this place special: Room and board are provided at no cost to the writers-in-residence. Support is provided by donations. Self-sustaining, the retreat is a working farm, offering organic produce for the group, and communal dinners each night prepared by in-house chefs.

Once the writers are accepted, they then spend two to six weeks in residence working on their writing, but there are other, shorter, less time-intensive opportunities for women who want to participate for a few days in workshops.

Hedgebrook’s Master Classes offer women writers the unique opportunity to study with renowned women writers such as Jane Hamilton, Theresa Rebeck, Karen Joy FowlerVictoria Redel, Claire Dederer and Robin Swicord. The week-long writing workshops, offered in a variety of genres (fiction, memoir, playwriting, screenwriting, poetry), focus on different aspects of the writer’s craft and process.

Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come.

Hedgebrook has a global community of alumnae of more than 1,200 writers from all over the world. The Creative Advisory Council, helmed by Gloria Steinem and poet Carolyn Forché, includes playwright and creator of The Vagina Monologues Eve Ensler, novelists Nassim Assefi, Mary Gordon, Ruth Ozeki and Sarah Waters; poets Naomi Shihab Nye and Suheir Hammad; playwright Ellen McLaughlin; memoirist Honor Moore; non-fiction writers Pramila Jayapal and Holly Morris; and finally, mystery writer Elizabeth George, who lives on Whidbey Island. (I’ve read most of her Inspector Lynley series, and highly recommend them.)

Although a community like Hedgebrook seems like some kind of dream, in fact, it’s a reality, and it’s happening right now for many women writers. Take a look at their site, and see if you think you’d be interested in applying. It’s actually a dream of mine to start a collective organization like this (not on Whidbey Island, probably something more international) and therefore, Hedgebrook is an inspiration to me.

2 thoughts on “Hedgebrook, A Writers’ Retreat For Women

  1. Great post! Thanks for including me, Alison. I’ve attended two Hedgebrook writing salons (wonderful) and a master class taught by the amazing playwright Ellen McLaughlin. She is truly incredible. The experiences had major (positive) impacts on my writing life.

    Anyone interested in getting a little taste of Hedgebrook’s “radical hospitality” should definitely consider attending the December salon happening this weekend: http://www.hedgebrook.org/page.php?pageid=74

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