We are grateful for this blog post by July’s fellow, Sharbari Ahmed:
“Sometimes having no expectations is the best way to approach the unknown. That is how I traveled to Homer, and the Storyknife Residency; an overpacked suitcase (I wore the same pants every day for two weeks, fancy skinny jeans were left untouched) and light on expectation. As a result, I experienced an abundance of riches. I didn’t even think about Homer’s inevitable beauty before I got there. I wanted to be awed, surprised even, and I was. The three volcanoes outside my window put things into perspective very quickly. If I needed any more reminding of my personal insignificance it was ready and waiting for me the moment I saw the mountains and the water. I had to shed the notion that I was somehow indulging myself by getting lost in Alaska for 14 days to focus on me and the story I wanted to write. That lingered a bit too long, three days to be exact, and is a by product of being a mother and a woman. The center was not going to collapse because I was in my cabin writing and minding my own business. This understanding was just as important as the 21,000 words I wrote in two weeks. The cabin, the water, mountains, wildflowers I bought at the Farmer’s Market, Erin and Dana all gave me permission to be. Yes, I needed that permission, even though I have been writing for half my life and producing work that sees publication. Everything is slower in Homer and people smile at you, make eye contact. Dana introduced me to locals and people were naturally warm. Even though I was alone most of the time, I didn’t feel alone. But I felt space, I felt my chest expand.
Back to my smallness in the face of natural beauty and the wildness of things: it’s good, it’s necessary for me to be reminded of it, so I can create. I kayaked on the bay and was exhausted by the end of it, but my lungs were filled with fresh salt air and the next day I sat down and wrote a chapter that I am proud of. I was the straggler in the kayak group. It was rainy and cold, and the currents were strong, and I couldn’t get a good picture of a cheeky baby otter, and once again, my smallness hit me in the face, along with the salt water and how short my arms were. And then I felt it, something I had not felt in decades, peace. Everything around me was saying, it’s going to be ok. Whatever “it” was. It didn’t last. I came back to reality, however I achieved clarity on a few things because of all the silence I was surrounded by and produced 21,000 words. Had I stayed another two weeks I would have finished the first draft of my new novel. Of that I am sure. I must come back. It’s healing. And necessary.”
We hope to be able to offer this experience to many more women in the future. But even if you’re not at Storyknife today, women writers, we want you to know that your words are important, your stories matter. Keep writing.