Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Application Advice for Hedgebrook. Just Do It!





I had no book when I was accepted to Hedgebrook in 1995. I'd published poems in a few journals but that was all. In fact, I don't remember how I first heard about this new place on an island off of Washington State. Once I was accepted, I started asking around. The word on the poetry street was that lunch was delivered in a basket and there was a garden entirely of flowers meant for the residents to pick. A bathhouse with heated floors and a lion clawed tub.


Fast forward 18 years. The stay at Hedgebrook changed my life in several important ways. The cottages served as a formidable reminder of what can happen in a designated writing space no matter where it is --- my House of Sky used to be a basic one-car garage --- and that the gift of time cannot be overestimated. More on all of this soon.


I've also been a reader for these submissions a few times. The packet you send and the essay you write --- these are the mainstay of your application. My advice would be to create a cohesive theme throughout your poems and your essay. Let the readers get to know one aspect of you well. If you have any other questions on the process, I'll be happy to try and answer them -- just leave them in the comments section -- you can sign in as anonymous if that's more comfortable for you.

35 comments:

  1. Hello, there. Thank you for being so generous in your time and insight. How much content do you suggest an applicant submit?

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  2. Thank you for the information! Would you recommend a non-published poet apply?

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  3. If Hedgebrook asks for 10 pages of creative work, I would send 10 pages. No more and no less. SHow them you have 10 pages of great work but never send more than asked for.

    And yes, you should apply. Publication is not what Hedgebrook is looking for IF the work is strong. Always an "if."

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  4. I am currently in an MFA program. Would that disqualify me? I desperately need the dedicated time and space to write!

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  5. I will submit fiction in my manuscript, and that is what I'll be working on, My publications have been essays. Is that okay? Many of the themes in the essays appear in my fiction.

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  6. I was accepted as a graduate student, no worries there. I don't think that's something you need to even address on the application -- but I am not up on the most recent app. And I would submit your strongest, most cohesive work. If you want to work on fiction at Hedgebrook then probably makes sense to send fiction. The one caveat would be if your essays are far more polished. I'll say again, the strength of the writing is most important. Many writers move between genres so this should not be an issue. Good luck!

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  7. How long did you stay at Hedgebrook? How long do you recommend? I am a teacher, so I have summers off, but I have a family too, so I'm trying to decide how long to be away--two weeks? Three? Four? The application asks how long you want to stay there and which weeks are best for you, so I am trying to make up my mind. I was going to do three weeks, but I am wondering if it will be enough. I have no idea what the flow of time will feel like there. I need to finish the novel I started. Thanks.

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  8. I stayed six glorious weeks at Hedgebrook when I was in my more nomadic stage. In more recent years I've tended to do writing residencies for much less time. I would suggest that if you are not local, you ask for a month. The area around Hedgebrook is gorgeous. My residency was my first time in Washington State (where I now live) and I took a day to visit Orcas Island and another afternoon to hike around Deception Pass. I had no problem filling my time with writing, dreaming, and walking the beach. All of these activities feed each other, as I'm sure you know.

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    1. Let me amend that. If you are local, you should also ask for a month. Hedgebrook rarely offers folks a second residency (though this might be changing) so you want to take all the time you can. If all things were equal in my life I would go for a full four weeks!

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  9. Thanks so much for this, Susan!

    After you read about 20 Artists' statements, what did you start to look for in them, besides good writing and sincere, serious intent?

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  10. Whatever you do, don't mention Virginia Wolf's "A Room of Her Own" it is the cliche of the artist statement at Hedgebrook! What I would look for is excellent writing (this seems obvious but sadly it is not) and a strong sense that the writer knows what her project is and how the time at Hedgebrook will fit with it. I have a small preference for projects closer to completion so that there will be something tangible for the writer. Beyond all this I'd say a sense of humor, an interesting life story, a voice that compels me. This is a lot to ask, I know. What's most important is what the writer doesn't parrot back (beautiful space, great community, needs it so bad). Let me be clear: I am not on the committee this year --- so my preferences may or may not be useful. Great question!

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    1. Thank you, Susan! So helpful!

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  11. Is it a cliche to talk about working (dayjob), being a mother, spouse, etc and desperately needing private space with no distractions. Also wondering, what is internet/phone service like there? I would actually love to be slightly off the grid!

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    1. These are real concerns for many, many women. If this is true for you just know that you are not alone. Why Hedgebrook? Why now? Are two questions that you need to answer. Any residency or time away would take care of the business of everyday life. Why is Hedgebrook the right place and why is now the right time. These are things the committee will want to know.

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  12. To follow up, I would be submitting fiction in the 10-pg manuscript, working on fiction there, specifically wrapping up a short story collection (which would be my MFA thesis, but I won't go that detail.) But my publications (a section on the application) has only essays. I wanted to make sure that wasn't too weird. Thanks!

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    1. Not weird at all. Perhaps you can note somewhere that both the essays and the fiction cover similar material. As I said before, many writers cross genre; this is not unusual. Best of luck with your application!

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  13. Thank you for sharing your insights on the application process! I am working on the artistic statement - I know you referred to it as an essay. As long as the essay addresses all four questions asked, do you think it would be okay to format it as an essay rather than a numbered list of answers? Also, what length should we keep in mind for an artistic statement? Thank you again!

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  14. Hello Anonymous,
    I did learn that Hedgebrook recently changed the essay to a series of questions. I believe they felt it would be easier for applicants to respond directly to their concerns. I think it would be okay to do an essay that addresses those questions but you would probably be better off to contact Hedgebrook on that one. If they say yes, I would keep the statement to a page. At some point in your career you will need to do an artist's statement so your idea to do one now is great. However, you might try writing it as an essay and then take the sections out for their questions.

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    1. Thanks so much! I appreciate that feedback.

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  15. Greetings Susan,

    Thank you for taking time to address our questions, as a few our my concerns have been answered above. However, I am still slightly confused in regards to the artist statement and questions.

    I am to understand that they are not looking for an artist statement that we have already customized to fit our work, but one which includes the questions only. Can these be separated?

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    1. Right. They only want answers to those specific questions...

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    2. Great. Thanks again!

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  16. You are most welcome. Good luck with the application; just do it!

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  17. Hi! Thanks for the info! What about the nearest airport? Does someone pick you up? Is a car rental necessary?

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    1. Seattle International Airport also known as SeaTac. There are mini buses that will take you to the island.

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  18. Thanks so much for generously sharing your advice. What about references? Who should they be? Are editors and agents acceptable? Should they both be women?

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    1. References just need to be people who know your work and you. If you know a Hedgebrook alumna, that would be appropriate. Honestly, this is a small part of the application process.

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  19. Nothing like procrastination ... I'm finishing up my essay for Hedgebrook. I know the requirements say not to include your name. Is it OK or a no-no to include the working title of your Ms.? Thank you for your great energy here!

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    1. Thanks for your thank you!
      Including the title of your manuscript is fine! Best of luck to you!

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  20. For a personal reference, I am considering asking my husband to write. He knows me and my work habits better than anyone, is also a writer and has long been my first line editor. Would this be looked upon as too self serving?

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  21. Hi, thank you for taking your time to answer all the questions. I recently found out about Hedgebrook residence and it really appealed to me. I thought it could be something really great to try in my current situation. However, I stumbled over the references requirement and it really puzzles me. To be honest I don't think I will be able to ask anyone this. Would you say that there is no point applying if you are not going provide any references?

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  22. References are not a key part of the application process. You can ask a good friend who knows you well, a co-worker, a teacher, a boss, a good neighbor. I might be wrong but I don't think Hedgebrook contacts these references. All you need to offer is a name and contact information. This doesn't have to be a famous writer or a Hedgebrook alumna --- although that would be fine, too. I would say this is perhaps the least important part of the whole process but you do need to write in names and contact information!

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    1. Thank you for the reply.
      Though it doesn't really resolve the issue for me. You write 'you can ask a good friend, a co-worker, etc' like it such a natural and easy thing to do, but the problem is that I (and maybe some people) can't actually ask or don't have anyone to ask.

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  23. hi! i'm applying to the residency this year and wondering: much of my writing relies on images to complete the story, does the application allow for image upload? i can find a clever work-around, but just checking. ok, thx!

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