Uncommon Women

At Hedgebrook’s recent annual fundraiser called Equivox—equal voice—to support women’s stories as vehicles for change, I was again much moved by the sheer energy, goodwill, and, yes, love that this very special writing retreat inspires among alumnae and community supporters. This year I got to meet Hollis Wong-Wear, alumna of the Hedgebrook Songwriter’s Retreat, and hear her perform her poetry and songs. She’s dynamite on stage and off. Deborah Harkness, alumna as well as a master class teacher, recounted with warmth and humor how her stay at Hedgebrook helped her break out a period of self-doubt and low productivity. It was a story that many of us lived ourselves.

Meeting uncommon women (a favorite Wendy Wasserstein phrase) is part of the Hedgebrook experience. In fact, meeting other writers is one of the best aspects of a residency anywhere. Here are a few whose work you might want to get your eyes or hands on.

I met Angie Chuang at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts the spring of 2011. The residency hosts about twenty-five artists—writers, visual artists, and composers—at a time. Angie was a magnet with her energy and her smile. Adventurous, curious, and an engaging conversationalist, everyone seemed to gravitate toward her. Her book The Four Words for Home, based on her travels to Afghanistan, won the Willow Books prize and was published last year. She’s on the journalism faculty of the American University School of Communication. Her academic work focuses on American Otherness, constructions of immigrant and minority identity in the news media. Angie is also a Hedgebrook alumna.

I met visual artist Tamara Cedre at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in 2009. There were eight writers, eight visual artists, and eight composers, each group working with a master artist. On one of the first nights, we all gathered to introduce ourselves and our work. Once I saw Tammy’s photography I was an immediate fan. The colors and composition starkly evoke something deeply human even when people are absent from the photo. Tammy is funny, smart, and compassionate, attributes she’s applied to Critical Eyes: Navigating the Politics of Image, a blogging collective that reflects on media culture. I was honored to have been invited to submit one of the first articles.

I met well-traveled and well-read Stacy Perman during a return stay at Hedgebrook in 2005. Though I haven’t seen her since, I recall quite vividly the breadth of her knowledge on a multitude of topics. She’s the author of three books, each of which has earned acclaim. One is about the ultra-secret high-tech intelligence unit of the Israeli military and the groundbreaking information technologies that resulted from it. Her second book told the story of In-N-Out Burgers, the renegade burger chain and its unique fervent following. Her most recent concerns the passion, money, and obsession around a famous watch, considered the Mona Lisa of timepieces that contained twenty-four “complications,” including a celestial chart over Manhattan. How’s that for range?

Go. Read and view the work of these talented women.