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     The blogging world has NaBloPoMo or National Blog Post Month.  According to this site, it started as a joke.  It is now every month with November being the big month in conjunction with NaNoWriMo.  Sponsored by BlogHer and WordPress, bloggers have until 11/5/13 to sign up and commit to a post a day.  There are almost 1800signed up at this time.

     Are you wondering what this has to do with you? Well, I apologize for the 30 emails you will get telling you I have a new post and for the fact that writing one a day will probably mean that the moments I talk about are going to be all over the place.

     If you have any particular moments you want to share, pass them on and I will post them, well maybe I will.




Annie, Mieko, Claire, me, Elin and Olumide (in front) on a break from our literary mission, after watching one of the presidential debates

Do you have an interest in writers you may not know?  if you want to support women writers, take a few moments and read about these women, and buy and support their work.

Each of them was at Hedgebrook for at least a week overlapping with me in the Fall of 2012.  They are brilliant, funny, insightful and very able to put all of that to paper in poetry, drama, essay, fiction, memoir, and science writing.  Humbled in the presence of their talent and enriched by their generosity, I hope my work is informed by their wisdom.

Olumide Poopola (poetry, drama, fiction)

Annie Holmes (political history, memoir, fiction)

Donna Hemans (fiction)

 Simha Evan Stubblefield

Claire Dederer  (essay and memoir)

Mieko  Ouchi (drama)

Karen Joy Fowler (fiction)

Elin Kelsey (environmental science)

And another plug for Hedgebrook Cookbook: celebrating radical hospitality

heading home

Three residents heading home to their cottages after dinner, their baskets full with breakfast, lunch, and treats for the next day


Radical Hospitality

What would epitomize “radical hospitality” to you?Image

Some people asked about the trees in the header.  They are at the corner of Double Bluff Road and Milliman on Whidbey Island in Washington State and these trees take me back to last year, taking the picture on a bike ride during a 3-week residency at Hedgebrook, a woman’s writers’ retreat. Picture 6 cottages spread out on a 40-acre property of old growth forest, meadows, gardens, and a farmhouse and barn.  Each of the six cabins houses one woman writer who was offered a residency of two to six weeks. Fir, which was mine is the pictured one. The women who come to Hedgebrook are from all over the world and the founders wanted women from dense urban areas to not feel too alone or frightened in the woods. Designed with exquisite intentionality, each handcrafted cottage is in view of one other cottage.

Each has a work area, a cozy chair with blanket and light for reading, a wood stove (and unlimited wood and kindling cut to size for the residents), a small kitchen and implements for one.  Each has a half bath and a sleeping loft up a ladder with an arched window that opens to all the night sounds of the forest.  The bathhouse, in a central clearing, has two shower rooms, a claw foot tub room, and a washer and dryer.  The founder, Nancy Nordoff believed in the power of nature to inspire, in the importance of women having a room of their own, and of the need for more women’s voices to come forward in print.

Imagine getting up each morning, building a fire, fixing breakfast from the food foraged in the farm house kitchen, making a pot of French press coffee or putting the kettle on the wood stove for tea and settling in to write, undisturbed by anything other than your own thoughts.  The night before you brought up your foraged food and a lunch, specially prepared by last night’s chef, ready to heat and eat when you are ready.  More time to write fills the afternoon, or maybe you will include a walk, bike ride, or reading and researching.  Then it is dinner, at the farmhouse with the other 5 residents and the chef.  And oh the food: most often local, beautifully prepared, and delicious.  Check out (and buy) Hedgebrook Cookbook; Celebrating Radical Hospitality.  Conversations over dinner are far-reaching and rich with reading suggestions, thoughts about writing, and life.  After dinner you might go back to your cabin to work more, read, spend the evening in continued solitude, or reconvene with the other five residents at one person’s cabin to share readings from everyone’s work.

The place, the women, the nurturing by the staff…what an idyllic and protracted moment.   Can you imagine radical hospitality now?

Shifting Perspective

At any given moment we stand somewhere.  We live, work, and play connected (or disconnected) from where we stand.  And we create the narratives about our lives.  I often wonder how often we stop in a moment and look around to actually see where we are, to understand the stories, connections, and shared stories being created in that moment.

I have been thinking about margins with personal lens shift.  What are the ways that being in the margins or of the margins or working in the margins impacts you?

In much of my adult work life I have tried to keep an eye on social justice, ways to be involved in initiatives that increase access and equity. My work started in the Jim Crow era, in Virginia in college in a town where the schools were not yet integrated.  We formed a student group to work with the NAACP and the town housing authority to begin discussing strategies to approach the housing discrimination. We worked with the African American schools to tutor kids in preparation for integration. Later as a social policy planner in California, working with the mayors within a county to forecast further employment growth, we defined fields where training programs could be intelligently planned and implemented. Subsequently as a physician I worked first in a community health center and then on a medical school faculty with programs to nurture students to make career choices serving the underserved.

Last fall I went to a conference called Grace in the Margins.  It was put on by the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center (, a group formed by a number of Roman Catholic religious communities with a mission to work for “justice in the church and world.”  I know individuals within these communities and of their peace work and their work for equity and justice in many areas:  housing, immigration, and health care.  My assumption was the conference would be about work we could do for people marginalized in our society to bring about more social justice.

This was definitely a focus.  However, and this blog is not about the Catholic Church, there were many subthemes that day. The several thousand of us were seated at round tables of about ten participants, mostly women.  At my table when we shared why we were there and our hopes for the conference, it became clear to me that all but a couple of us felt marginalized as women in their church.

This moment in history  coincided with a recent history where the roles of women within congregations were being restrained from expanding.   Most recently the Vatican sought to exert more control over and to modify the statements and activities of a number of women’s religious communities, including those of the IPJC. (  Hmm, that marginalization seems to me to true, just one with which I did not strongly identify as a personal issue and one I figured would not change.

My little table also had a friend who is African American who spoke to racial inequity. A keynote speaker, Valarie Kaur (, talked of a key moment in her life when a Sikh man was murdered in a hate crime in the aftermath of 9-11-01.  She left college to talk with and film Americans and what happened in their lives, who was “us” and who was “them,” producing Divided We Fall (

Those moments at that conference did not shift my views about my social responsibility, yet they did enlarge my understanding of margins.  When have I been in a margin?  What has it meant?  Does it matter whether I perceived those times as marginalized or not? Have I spoken from within the margin and to whom?  The center or the margins or both?  Which is more effective (that is if I am not just speaking into a non listening void for the sake of hearing my own voice).  What does it mean if I see  myself standing not in the margins, yet I speak to the margins?

What about you?