by Ann Hedreen
I remember poring over my first Goddard MFA residency schedule and the way my eyes skidded to a stop at the word “salon.” We would have such things as salons? À la Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas? I felt a little frisson, a cocktail of thrill mixed with dread.
My instincts were right. The student-generated evening salons, a tradition at the Port Townsend, WA residencies, were indeed scary. But they were also exhilarating: both as a reader and a listener and then, in my third residency, as an emcee. I remember that night, 30 or more people crowded into our living room, when I realized that my most important task was to make sure that the readers, especially the brand-new G-1s, could see in my eyes how hard I was listening. How much their voice, their words, mattered.
And that is what the Goddard salons taught me: what it feels like to have people respond, first-hand, to the words you’ve written: as if your voice matters, because it does. The salons also taught me how to listen and respond. How to read a room. What works and what doesn’t. How to introduce myself and my work with a mixture of confidence and self-deprecating humor.
These were all skills I put to use when my memoir, Her Beautiful Brain, (which was also my Goddard thesis) was published in Fall 2014 and I began what I like to call the un-Book tour. Here’s what I wrote about it recently for my publisher, She Writes Press.
…And since then, the un-tour continues in its slowly unfolding, DIY manner. Upcoming readings include April 1 at St. James Cathedral Parish Hall in Seattle (thanks to a connection made through Goddard alumna Jan Vallone) and April 30 at the Regulator Bookshop in Durham, North Carolina (a connection I initiated through a program for Alzheimer’s caregivers at Duke University that I thought might take an interest in my book. Lo and behold, they did!) I’m scouting around for an opportunity in New York in May. And one of those Fall un-book-tour stops has turned into an invitation to read in Salida, Colorado in September.
Writers write. But we are also ambassadors for writing, and that’s what salons are about: it’s the diplomatic part of our MFA training. We practice on each other, and then we take our words out into the world. Scary. Exhilarating. Wonderful.
Ann is reading at:
- April 1, 7pm: Her Beautiful Brain reading and discussion, St. James Cathedral Pastoral Outreach Center, 907 Columbia Street.
- April 30, 7pm: Her Beautiful Brain reading, The Regulator Bookshop, Durham, North Carolina
Ann Hedreen is an author (Her Beautiful Brain), filmmaker, teacher and voice of the radio podcast and blog, The Restless Nest. Together, she and her husband Rustin Thompson have made more than 100 films, including Quick Brown Fox: an Alzheimer’s Story and several other full-length documentaries. Their latest, set in Peru, is now in production. Ann’s writing has also appeared in Seattle Metropolitan Magazine, the Pitkin Review, Minerva Rising, The Seattle Times and other publications. She has an MFA from Goddard College and a BA from Wellesley College. Ann and Rustin live in Seattle. They have two grown-up children. You can find Ann at: annhedreen.com, and @.