Vortext-weekend salon


May 20-22, 2016

VORTEXT is an extraordinary weekend salon at the famed Whidbey Institute, led by renowned women writers.

The program, now in its fifth year, gives writers the opportunity to connect in diverse and powerful small-group workshops. Writers also enjoy dynamic keynotes and discussions about opportunities and challenges for women who write, as well as several open mics over the course of the weekend.

Dates: May 20-22, 2016       Location: Whidbey Institute | Whidbey Island, WA



I first heard about Hedgebrook back in 1999.

I was about to move to Seattle and call myself writer for the first time.

A woman who worked at the Seattle Rep told me about this place for women writers.

She said the name was Hedgebrook.  So I went back to South Carolina

And told my accountability writing partner about this place I’d heard about.

We decided to apply together.  (Just cause I had problems sending stuff out.)

And the way the world works, don’t you know, they chose her and did not choose me.

I was devastated.  (Even tho I was really happy for my friend.)

What “my angel” told me was, “It’s cause you’re not good enough.

You know you’re not a writer.  Quit playing.  Get a job.”


When Ruth Ozeki talked about killing your angel, I understood what she was saying.

Your angel pretends to be your only honest friend.  Just a voice to keep you grounded.

And so I did.  I got a job.  But I would not stop writing.

But it took me another five long years before I had the courage

To try again.  But I kept hearing my mama say, “If you don’t try, you sho’ won’t fail.”

And so I tried again.  And again I was rejected.

When I got the rejection letter, I sat with my head in both my hands.

“Why try?” my angel told me.  “You’re not as good as those Hedgebrook women.”

And I believed her more than I wanted to.  Maybe I was crazy.  Cause who was I

To think I could sit at the same table as those gifted Hedgebrook writers?


And then I took a playwriting class taught by the amazing Amy Wheeler.

She didn’t work at Hedgebrook at the time.  But she was their biggest cheerleader.

And she encouraged me to submit the play that I had worked on in her class.

And the third time was the charm.  I was finally accepted.

It was then I realized I wanted heaven to be Hedgebrook.  I want to spend eternity there.

Experiencing the radical hospitality that permeates the very air

And everything else, from the food to the cottages.  It was like I finally exhaled

For the first time during that glorious week back in June 2007.


Since then, I knew I needed Hedgebrook, but my angel would tell me,

“You never even got a full production of the play you worked on there.

Everybody else ends up being famous.”  I couldn’t shut her voice up in my head.

But this year I made a decision.  I was going back to Hedgebrook again.

And like Reiko said in her amazing insightful tarot reading,

There is a place in your unconscious that holds everything you’re needing

To be the writer / the creative / that you are meant to be.

I let the angel talk (since she must).  But the yearning was still inside me.

And so when the email came about the Vortext workshop this year,

I emailed back to see if I could get some kind of scholarship.

And, thanks to the generous efforts of the wonderful Rebecca Cleary,

When I applied, I was offered a place at the Vortext weekend.


That Friday morning when I arrived and sat at the breakfast table,

I met Agatha.  And I learned about the diverse group of VONA women.

It felt like a connection that I want to hold onto forever.

And I loved how everybody talked about the things that we were writing.

Cause where else in the world can I have those kinds of conversations?

Where else where women are treated like we are the ones who really matter?

Where else where everybody is holding so fast onto their dreams?

Where else that silences my angel so completely when she screams?


And then the keynote speakers rose.  And told us all about their problems.

And all of a sudden, I didn’t feel so much like I was such a failure.

They helped me understand that failure is a part of the process.

Ruth helped me look my angel in the eye.  And I told her BANG!  YOU’RE DEAD!

On the second day, I was blessed to hear Natalie Brazille speak.

I sat in my seat and I cried like a baby as she told her story

Of her failure and rejections.  And it was my story.  Every syllable.

All the ways being a writer hurt.  (All except for her happy ending.)

Hannah said something that made me think.  Truer words were never spoken.

There were always better writers in all of her classes. But they couldn’t take rejection.

They let their angel talk them out of it.  Or they couldn’t see it thru.

That made me even more determined.  I said, “That writer won’t be you.”


A week has passed since I left Hedgebrook and the Whidby Institute.

I’ve written something every day.  And this I want to share with you,

The wonderful writers I met during Vortext and the spirit women who were there.

Thank you for everything.  And I hope to see you all again next year.

And I hope to see you in that place in heaven especially reserved for Hedgebrook writers.

Where we can read and talk, play ukelele and sing, and write together for all eternity.

Kathya Alexander

May, 2016


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