If I thought I knew what 'radical hospitality' meant...

...I had another thought coming.

My very own cottage this weekend...Waterfall.

My very own cottage this weekend...Waterfall.

Ah, Hedgebrook. The very name gets me feeling like I am heading into the proverbial 'mother's home.' And how. I have just returned, not 30 minutes ago, from Hedgebrook Writers' Retreat on Whidbey Island. I am on the Board of Directors of Hedgebrook. This weekend was our annual board retreat. Apart from all those decisions about finances and annual events and strategic plans on the day's agenda, there was the biggest promise of all - staying all alone in one of those six spectacular, fairytale cottages that Hedgebrook awards to 40 women writers picked from thousands across the globe.

I was one of those 40 chosen writers, in 2009. I was awarded a month-long residency, which nourished me and nurtured me and nudged me to finish the first draft of my novel, Foreign. Hedgebrook gives you this beautiful cottage, and they feed you lavish meals with ingredients from their organic garden, and you meet these lovely writers, and you sleep whenever you like, and you put your post-it notes all over the cottage because it's your own and no one will ask you to explain what "kill that character or have them marry?" means, and you go for long walks in the 40-acre woods, and you read and you're glad that you don't have access to the Internet, and you build your own fire, and you feel like a Writer, and it's all free.

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That's what they mean by 'radical hospitality' at Hedgebrook. Yes. So that women's voices and women's stories and women's work can go out into the world. Because, as we know beyond doubt, the world is a better place for it.

But it was today, in the post-lunch stupor of a delicious meal, when I was settling in to some eyes-wide-open sort of slumber, you know the kind you're an expert at during afternoon meetings, that I realized the true meaning of radical hospitality. It is a hospitality of ideas. I can't reveal too much now, but we had a workshop and an education and a discussion that split everyone's thoughts wide open. A roomful of feminists, dedicated progressives, took on a brave conversation and wrestled with it and disagreed, and pushed and pulled, and at the end of it all, it struck us that some sort of history was being made and we were all part of it.

I had gone to Hedgebrook yesterday just to enjoy the view from that window bench and a good night's sleep on the loft bed and the fire that I would make in my cottage and the work I would do on the board. But now I know why I was there, why I had been invited to join the board, why I had gone to Hedgebrook all those years ago. 

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Because, if Hedgebrook's mission is 'Women Authoring Change,' which I think I did just a wee bit by writing my book there, it was time, now, as a member of the board, to be a woman who, along with others, is authorizing change. And if nothing changes, it would still be a change, a radical, deep one, because we simply spoke of change.

Stay tuned. We have much to celebrate.

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The Hindu Prize 2013: May The Best Book Win

In a few hours from now, I will get on a plane and head to India for the third time in six months. My fortune leaves me dazed (and jetlagged). This time, I am headed to Chennai on the invitation of The Hindu Lit For Life literary festival. My book - Foreign - has been shortlisted for The Hindu Prize 2013, along with four other books of literary fiction.