Just Do It! More Application Advice for Hedgebrook

Last week I posted a short piece on some tips for writing your Hedgebrook application due September 4th. The response has been overwhelming. You might want to take a look at my post especially for the questions and answers in the comments box. I'm offering again to respond to questions you might have about the application process and I've thought of a few more key things you might want to consider.

The decision process happens in two different steps. (Or it has in past years.) In the first reading of your submission, the essay portion is what counts. Yes, even if you are applying as a poet, the essay segment is central. This is different from most other residency applications where the writing sample rules. At Hedgebrook, you need to pass the essay segment before your writing sample is judged.

Why Hedgebrook? Why now? That is what you must answer. Know that this is a question that should reveal something about yourself. Are you the mother of a young child? Are you working on the final revisions of a chapbook? Do you have a new project that is burning inside you and needs doing now? These are all legitimate answers to the question Why Hedgebrook? Why now? Know that how you say what you say is key because honestly, people's circumstances are not all that different in the end. Be honest. Be yourself. Write your best.

Also, remember there are now several ways to stay at Hedgebrook. A few times a year there are Master Classes held where six writers work closely with a "master" teacher such as Carolyn Forche, Ellen McLaughlin, and Dani Shapiro. You can find out about current master classes right here. Several years ago I took a Master Class with Carolyn Forche at Hedgebrook --- and it was absolutely wonderful. I highly recommend this as another option for a stay at Hedgebrook.

Most of all, know that you should just do it: apply. Every year the readers change so your chances begin at 100%. And once you create your writing sample and answer the essay questions for Hedgebrook, you're set to do other residency applications. The time you spend putting the application together is well spent. Filling out applications also allows you to take yourself seriously as a writer.

As I have said before, Hedgebrook changed my life. Radical hospitality is what Amy Wheeler, Hedgebrook's director, calls the treatment of love and support women find upon entering the grounds. I remember Denise, a Hedgebrook staffer, helping me bring my bags into my cottage. I remember a bowl of fruit on the window ledge and a vase of flowers set out to greet me. It seemed (and perhaps was true) that no one had ever welcomed me so warmly in my life.

Eighteen years later, I'm still in love with Hedgebrook and still involved in a volunteer capacity. This is an intensely transformative place. A place it would be very hard not to love.

If you have questions about the application process or the place, feel free to leave a message in the comment box. You can sign-in as anonymous if that feels more comfortable.


  1. Hello Susan. Thanks for you helpful tips. I have a question for you. This year's application is divided into five questions. #4 reads, "As the conversation heats up around women gaining equal voice, we are mobilizing our global community of women writers, and organizations who support them, to create opportunities for women’s stories to reach a wider audience. What excites or interests you about this idea? How would you engage with and contribute to this network? (i.e. resources, skills, connections, mentorships, professional development, etc.)*" I am having tremendous difficulty with this question. I would like to be involved in helping women's stories reach a wider audience, but I have no idea what the authors of this question have in mind in terms of specifics. I don't know anyone famous or influential, and I don't work for a powerful organization, so I honestly don't know how I could engage with and contribute to this network. I feel like the honest answer is, "I'd love to be involved, but I don't know how." I don't think that would go over too well. Do you have any advice for me?

  2. Thanks for asking the question -- it seems an exciting direction for Hedgebrook. I'm sure they don't expect you to have famous people to tap...But what about researching what is already out there. There is an international journal that brings writers together that Jordan Hartt is part of and Poetry International -- why not do some research and see what you can share?

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  4. I also wanted to say: your honest answer is absolutely fine.
    Perhaps you have skills from other parts of your life that could connect with this project. Perhaps you can imagine editing a book of women's stories from around the world? Perhaps you are open to what might occur when you meet your fellow women at Hedgebrook? I think your answer is fine -- much better than creating something that feels insincere to you. Other ideas: do you have a blog? do you teach poetry to people who might be interested in international stories? Like that.

  5. Thank you for the advice you've shared thus far, Susan. Very helpful! I was wondering if you could give a little insight into references-- what kind are the best to include? I've been debating between longterm business contacts (from the day job and/or writing groups/orgs), academic friends/acquaintances, Hedgebrook alumnae I've only known a short time.

  6. Hello, Anonymous!

    I've given my name on many Hedgebrook references but never once been called or contacted. I would suggest if you know a Hedgebrook alumna who can vouch for you that would be best. In other words, the fact that those who have come before you can vouch for you seems to make some sense. As I said, I've been a reference many times but never been contacted so this part of the application I think can be pretty fluid.

  7. This is so helpful-- thank you!

  8. You are most welcome, best of luck!

  9. Susan, thank you for posting these tips! Very helpful. My question is: how much contact do you have with the other women at the retreat? Is there conversation in the evenings or readings to participate in? Would you say being an alumna makes you a part of a community at Hedgebrook, or more of a beneficiary of it? Thank you!

  10. Dear Anonymous,

    Yes, there is a good deal of contact between women at the retreat over dinner and in the evenings. Some groups share work at night while other groups keep more to themselves or go on outings into town. It all depends on the group you're with. I think it's the norm to form connections with your other fellow writers. It's been true of all the groups I know of although if you're more of a loner, that is accepted too.

    As to your second question: absolutely! The Hedgebrook alumna network is lively and a wonderful way to meet other writers. Some major cities like Seattle, New York, and LA have active networks. The connection stays well beyond your stay at Hedgebrook.

  11. I would like to start by echoing the others in saying thank you for offering tips and advice for completing the Hedgebrook application. With that said, I have a couple of questions:

    1. I understand that Hedgebrook offers a fully-funded residency. Does this mean that the cost of travel to and from Hedgebrook is included, or does fully-funded specifically refer to housing and meals?

    2. Any thoughts on what could/should be included in the optional "Anything else you'd like us to know about you" section? Is it okay to leave it blank?

    1. Hello there,

      The full funding refers to the housing and food but I believe there is a scholarship or fellowship for at least one or two residents per year that covers transportation. You may want to look around the website to see if there is a spot for requesting that kind of funding. I will ask the H. folks as well. However, the residency that 98% of the writers get does not include transport.

      In terms of the "anything else" section, it's fine to leave blank. I was up at Hedgebrook for the 25th Anniversary Celebration yesterday and fell in love with the land and the people all over again. Best of luck with your application!

    2. Update! I just talked with Hedgebrook and there are no scholarships for travel funds at this time. However, former residents have had success raising transportation money through Kickstarter. I know that there are costs involved with a residency -- even if the stay is paid for. It's good to know other women have been successful at raising funds.

  12. You are amazing for offering this advice. I am writing an account of a recent wilderness experience and am seriously considering making a companion book for children aged around 10 (an idea that emerged when a little girl came to hear me speak and chided me for only writing for the grown-ups!). I noticed that the application does not list children's writing as one of its genre categories. I will actually still be finishing the manuscript for grown-ups while at Hedgebrook, but the two projects are obviously not inseparable. Do you think it would be frowned upon to mention the companion book? Or would it be a positive?

  13. Thanks for checking with Hedgebrook about funding for travel and for your other thoughts. I submitted my application today! Thanks again.

  14. Hello again!

    I know that there have been children's book authors in residence in Hedgebrook before. My advice, however, is to just focus on ONE project for your time in residence. Remember that you want your committee member to remember your application out of the perhaps 150 that she will read. (There may be 1200 applications but no one person reads all of them until they are reduced down to finalists.) For you to be remembered, you want to have a straightforward application. Here's an example: for a grant I applied to (not Hedgebrook) I sent in only my poems that had to do with my human rights work in Bosnia. I write about many more subjects but I wanted to create an application that had a focus. I found out later that the committee shorthanded my application name to "Bosnia" thus making it evident that people remembered my work. One genre, one focus would be my advice. And I will remind folks again, I am not a Hedgebrook staff member so you can also write to the staff there as well. They are all wonderful!

  15. hi Susan, thank you so much for this helpful advice!
    I got my application in barely on time - - and the nudge of your "just do it" was the thing that kept me going when the doubting voices set in.

    I have a few questions:
    I'm seeing a lot about scholarships to fund the residency--if one doesn't get those, how much does a full residency cost?

    also, around how long does it take to find out if you got in? (and do they let people know if they weren't accepted?)

    thank you ---

  16. Hi there,
    EVERY residency is fully funded. If you are accepted for a residency, you don't pay -- except for your traveling expenses. As to your second question, I would suggest calling Hedgebrook and asking them directly. It would be great if you reported back on what you discovered. Thanks!

  17. Dear Susan,

    Thanks so much for this information and encouraging perspective on Hedgebrook. Here and elsewhere, there's an emphasis on anonymity of the applications, but what does this mean for the writing sample? For example, I would propose work on my next novel project (underway but very rough). If I'm not at a stage to submit the first pages of that project, I had thought to submit the first 10 pages of my previous novel. But if it's published work and a rather distinctive topic, does that affect the anonymous character of the application? Ditto re. talking about a novel project that has been announced in the rights report for Publishers Weekly. I get that it's not THAT likely that the reviewers will have read these, but... Or if they have is that no big deal?

    Any thoughts are welcome. Thank you again for all the insight.

  18. Hi Susan,
    Love your info on Hedgebrook. I was wondering the same thing as Ashley above - is it OK to use a writing sample from a published work, if your WIP is not ready for prime time, and does that affect your anonymity? Thanks for your help with this.

  19. Hi there,

    100% okay to send Hedgebrook published work. All they ask is that you send a word document as opposed to a copy of your terrific story reprint. I read someone's application who had done just that. It wasn't impressive that she sent pages from the Atlantic, it was inappropriate. Hope that helps!


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