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.