Under sunny skies and in a crisp westerly breeze, supporters of the Storyknife Writers Retreat last Saturday attended groundbreaking ceremonies for a main house and cabins that will house visiting women authors. Homer writer and Storyknife founder Dana Stabenow turned the first bit of earth at the property just north of Homer.
Stabenow, the best selling author of the Kate Shugak mystery series, spoke of being inspired to start a residency program just for women after attending the only other such facility in the United States, Hedgebrook on Whidbey Island, Washington.
“It is not hyperbole to say that Hedgebrook’s radical hospitality changed my life,” she said. “I might not have been truly a professional writer when I arrived there, but I was when I left.”
Like Hedgebrook, Storyknife will give women literary artists the opportunity to concentrate on their work in a quiet, scenic natural setting. When finished, there will be six cabins and a main house, Eva, named after poet Eva Saulitis, where writers will congregate after a day’s work “to talk writer shop, to tell publishing stories and to make friends for life,” Stabenow said. Five of the cabins have been named by benefactors who donated $50,000 toward construction. Stabenow has set up a nonprofit to support Storyknife, with a goal of having an endowment to fund the program.
The cabins are being built by Scott Bauer’s construction company. The complex is expected to be finished by next spring, when the first group of writers attend.
Hedgebrook founder Nancy Nordoff also attended and spoke at the groundbreaking.
“All the things Dana said are going to happen here,” she said. “You can feel it.”
Stabenow said women writers need a retreat of their own because they’re “sadly, still underpublished, underprinted, underreviewed and undersold compared with their male contemporaries.”
“Your voice is the one you have to concentrate on,” Nordoff added. “You don’t have to compete.”
The first Storyknife fellow, Kim Steutermann Rogers, of Kauai, Hawaii, also spoke. She stayed in Stabenow’s guest cabin, Frederica, in the fall of 2016.
“Storyknife gave me a place to write and write and write,” she said. “Storyknife also gave me confidence.”
Stabenow thanked the supporters who attended the groundbreaking ceremonies.
“You friends of Storyknife will provide a second space where women’s voices will be nourished and validated, and where they will build a community of other writers so they don’t feel quite so isolated and alone,” Stabenow said. “When they leave, they will carry with them identity, agency and the confidence they need to raise their voices in print and to succeed at this most improbable of professions.”
For more information on Storyknife, visit www.storyknife.org.