What a difference…

Five cozy throws knit by Dana Stabenow and one given by wonderful benefactor Cathy Rasmuson.

….a month makes. Just last month at this time, we were planning the April residencies and hearing a little about a virus that was spreading overseas. Now, we find ourselves postponing the April residency and our planned Grand Opening ceremony. We are still preparing Storyknife for the residents that we’ve scheduled this year. We’re watching things very closely and as soon as it is safe to travel, we’ll start the residency season.

One of the March festivities that was called off in Homer was the Celebration of Lifelong Learning, an event held each year by the Friends of the Homer Public Library. This year would have seen the first time the Sue Gibson Award was bestowed to the inaugural recipient, Dana Stabenow! So instead of a fancy shindig, the award was presented on Homer’s wonderful public radio station, KBBI 890AM. We’d like to take this opportunity to share the remarks that were made with all of you. When the link for the actual recording is posted, we’ll be sure to add it to this post and share it on social media.

Erin’s Introduction:
I’m Erin Hollowell, the executive director of Storyknife Writers Retreat. It’s my pleasure and privilege to introduce Dana Stabenow, extraordinary novelist, founder and board president of Storyknife Writers Retreat, and winner of the first Sue Gibson Community Achievement Award which recognizes individuals who have invested in and created an institution that empowers learning, reflection and creativity.

I’ve been working with Dana for close to four years now on her vision of Storyknife Writers Retreat – a writers residency that provides women the time and space to focus on their own work. Dana’s vision of fostering women writers in the way that a residency at Hedgebrook fostered her close to thirty years ago has never wavered in all that time (and indeed long before I came on board). Storyknife will stand as a lasting example of her dedication to creating the kid of community that doesn’t end when the writers return home after the two to four week residency. They will form bonds that will hold throughout their lifetimes and they will open the doors of opportunity for each other.

Dana has been steadfast in aiming for diversity in background, age, genre, and experience, so that each month at Storyknife will bring together a variety of individuals that is rich and sustaining. She has emulated Hedgebrook’s “radical hospitality” so that every writer at Storyknife will understand that she and her work matter. Storyknife will not just enrich the community of Homer, not just enrich the women who attend residencies, but continue to enrich readers as important work from women writers comes into the world and finds its readers.

Dana’s Remarks:
My very first memory is of my mother’s forefinger slowly skimming beneath the words, “Once upon a time, in a faraway land, lived a beautiful princess named Snow White.  She had skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony.” The truth is, I don’t ever remember learning to read. I can only remember always knowing how.

David Owen, from his book The First National Bank of Dad, writes,
“Children who are read to regularly from early ages develop lifelong skills that can’t be acquired from a VCR or the Disney Channel.  They become better listeners and find it easier to pay attention in school.  Their vocabularies grow rapidly, and grammar seems less mysterious to them.  They don’t immediately lose interest in any idea that is harder to grasp than a television commercial.  They  develop the patience to follow a complex problem to its solution.  They become better writers all by themselves, through their ample powers of imitation.
            …Good readers do better in school, score higher on standardized tests…attend better colleges, hold more interesting jobs, write more persuasive legal briefs, make better conversation, and become less and less likely to gripe about being bored…
            Most of all, children who grow up immersed in books develop the ability to answer their own questions….Gradually, they acquire a skill shared by the greatest scholars in the world:  the ability to educate themselves…”

So, I learned to read pretty much by osmosis sitting on my mom’s lap. And then, when I was about 8 my mom took me down to the Seldovia Public Library, at that pre-earthquake time one room in the basement of city hall. The founder and eternal flame of the library was Susan Bloch English. She looked at me over the tops of her glasses and said to my mom, “Well, Joan, let’s start her on some Nancy Drew.” I never looked back.

I can’t conceive of a world without books. Enough of them can’t be written. Storyknife is a place where more will be.

Among other authors I was once solicited for a tag line for a T-shirt that was made to celebrate libraries. This is what I came up with: “Libraries are what keep us a step ahead of the apes.”

It makes people laugh when I say it now, but it also has the virtue of being the absolute truth. I still have the T-shirt and I plan on being cremated in it.

To be honored in this fashion by my very own local public library is the highest honor I could ever achieve. Thank you so much.

Please everyone stay safe. Maintaining social distance will be the best way to fight this thing. Do we dare suggest that this would be an excellent time to catch up on your reading and writing? Hang in there. Be kind to everyone, including yourself! 

take care,
Erin Hollowell
Executive Director, Storyknife

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