All signs point to spring!

Welcome to springtime at Storyknife. Wait, back that up, there’s still plenty of snow, ice, and chill winds. But there is definitely a lot of more light and that sun is pretty dang powerful. Preparations for the June launch of Storyknife are underway. Sure, I can’t even see the planters on the deck and in the front of Eva’s House (still under a swale of snow), but I’m ordering salad greens and flower seeds.

One of the things that I cherish about Storyknife is how much love and attention is put into each part of the experience. Maura plans menus. I plan flowers and gardening and look to dietary needs and allergies and scheduling. On the walls, art by Alaskan women artists that complements each cabin and Eva’s House. Custom quilts, beautiful handmade pottery by Homer women potters…. and now Storyknife’s new sign.

We want every woman who spends time at Storyknife to know that she and her work are valued, and we want her to feel that from the first time she comes up the drive. So, we commissioned a sign from Dave and Dan Gerard. I talked with them about what we wanted in terms of structure, but those guys have been such an integral part of building Storyknife from the very beginning (remember the AMAZING dining table they made?) that they pretty much came up with the design on their own. And now it’s a reality.

Danny and Dave Gerard with the new sign and post joined by Founder, Dana Stabenow

It really means something to us that our local community artisans and supporters are behind Storyknife’s mission to give women writers the time and space to devote to their craft. And we are so looking forward to June when we can show the inaugural group that we care deeply about them and their writing.

June will be here before we know it. Keep watching for our open application period for 2022 that will open in the summer.

take care and stay safe,
Erin
Executive Director of Storyknife

Little closer view of the sign with Dave helping showcase!

February at Storyknife

The day has been bright and very cold. At Storyknife, I shoveled, turned on the hot water, flushed toilets, and checked each cabin and Eva’s House. A couple sets of moose tracks have been punched into the crusted-over snow in front of Eva’s House and heading down the path that loops to the little pond. Evidence of other little critters abounds, ermine tracks and vole tracks, and ever-present squirrel tracks. Flocks of pine siskins move from one group of spruce trees to another. I shoveled to the deep calls of a couple ravens that were flickering in and out of the nearby valley.

And in each cabin, I warmed my hands and feet in front of the stove. Storyknife is heated with natural gas, and the little stoves make the cabins toasty and cozy.

In the past month, I’ve been communicating with the women who had been scheduled to come to Storyknife last year, but who will be arriving starting in June this year. We’re taking all precautions and hoping that everyone will be able to be vaccinated before they travel, but we don’t want to put off residencies any longer.

One of the things I’ve learned as I’ve talked with these women writers is that despite what the whole world seems to think, they’re not getting much writing done during the lock-downs. There are children to help homeschool and entertain, meals to be prepared, a thousand meetings on Zoom, and a general lack of the mental and physical space that helps writers concentrate. More than ever, they just long to focus on their own work, their incubating novels, their sketchy poems, their barely imagined screenplays and scattered essays.

And so we prepare to make Storyknife welcoming and their time here blissfully productive (though we suspect there might be some naps and time spent staring at the mountains).

June will be here before we know it. Keep watching for our open application period for 2022 that will open in the summer.

Stay safe and take care,
Erin

January’s News

Welcome to 2021 at Storyknife! We’re preparing to open for residencies in June as we watch the COVID-19 vaccine roll out into communities across the United States.

Dave Gerard in his workshop

To help welcome residents, we have commissioned local artist Dave Gerard to make a sign for Storyknife. In this picture, he is standing up a cardboard mockup of the sign that will be positioned by the drive as you enter Storyknife. And here below is a rough rough sketch of the design he’ll be making. It’s hard to get a good feel for it without knowing the materials or depth, but Dave and his brother Dan made our beautiful dining room table, so we know they “get” the Storyknife aesthetic.

Rough rough sketch

What else is happening this month? Behind the scenes, policies are being written, budgets formalized, residencies rescheduled, and long-term calendars being put together. It may look quiet (and super icy) from the outside, but at Storyknife, we’re using this time to create a stable foundation for the longevity of the organization. We’re planning on starting our 2022 residency season application period in the mid to late summer.

One of our most-cherished goals is that a woman writer would be able to say, “I went to a residency at Storyknife, and my whole life changed.” We want time at Storyknife to be transformational, and we’re putting everything we can in place to make sure that it is.

I’d like to take this moment as we enter a new year, to thank all of the 2020 donors whose generosity helps us keep the lights on, the driveway plowed, heat flowing, and so many other necessities. We are humbled by your continued support, and we promise that with your donation you are giving women writers a time and place to pursue their craft. We can’t wait to show you the results of your vision.

Looking toward 2021

Table set in front of a window with forests and sea.
The table is set for the community of Storyknife!

We’ll remember 2020, won’t we?

January and February were a fever of preparation at Storyknife. Furniture, art, linens, table-settings. Preparation to make sure that every writer knew immediately after stepping across the threshold of Eva’s House that she is respected and that her work is valuable.

Then, the world veered in a different direction. Storyknife chose to value the lives of our community members in the small town of Homer, as well as the lives of the 42 writers chosen for residencies, their families, and their communities. We postponed our first year of residencies.

As the world reaches the balance point, Winter Solstice just around the corner, at Storyknife we are planning for the light to return. We are contacting this year’s fellows and planning for residencies in 2021. Sure, there is no way to know exactly how the new year will proceed, but with a vaccine and care for each other, we believe that residencies will be possible.

Possible because of all of you, the community that creates Storyknife. We are grateful for every person who applies for a residency, donates no matter how much, gives handmade pottery or books for Dana’s Library, offers encouragement and stories of your own mentors and writing life, and more. Even though we have had to be “separate together” this year, next year, we hope to be able to share stories of the writers who cross the threshold of Storyknife and are enveloped by the generosity of our community.

Thank you.

May this holiday season be filled with light and grace for you and yours.

take care and stay safe,
Erin and Dana

PS. We are very close to meeting our 2020 fundraising goal. Please support Storyknife in your year-end giving. To the many people who have already given, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

A closer look at those incredible place settings.

Gathering Stories

2020, a whirlwind that just won’t stop. In keeping others safe, we’ve had to sacrifice rambling dinner conversations, public readings, writing workshops, and most importantly being close, gathering, hugs. It’s a lot to carry, and I hope that you all know that you are part of a community here at Storyknife.

Storyknife lost an advisory committee member, the world lost an amazing writer, and I, and so many others, lost a good friend last week. Sherry Simpson passed away unexpectedly, and the outpouring on social media and over phone lines showed how much one person can mean to so many. Sherry was an incredible teacher, writer, and friend. There will never be another like her, and here at Storyknife, we will miss how her advice was always to do what was kindest and most supportive for women writers.

A loss like this emphasizes our interconnectedness as people and writers. We are a community of voices when it can feel like all the world is trying to tell us that we are alone. In November, in order to celebrate this interconnection I’m gathering together stories to share with you through newsletters and social media. There’s still time to send one in…

Will you send me one lovely paragraph that:

  • recommends a really good book by a woman writer, or
  • tells us about a woman writer that has made a difference in your writing or reading life, or
  • contains an inspiring quote by a woman writer, or
  • tells us about what your writing means to you.

If you’re a writer, include your website or social media account details.
Send it to ehollowell@storyknife.org.

We are so grateful to all of you for being part of the Storyknife community. Truly, remember that your story matters, your writing matters, your voice matters.

(And while we’re on that subject, YOUR VOTE MATTERS. Make sure you get to the polls either through the mail or in person.)

Be safe, be well, take care of yourselves,
Erin
Storyknife Executive Director

Share Your Story

A cup of tea and a book on an autumn picnic table with the heading "What's Your Story?"

Here we are, almost half-way through October. At Storyknife, that means first frost and lots of curious moose. 2020 hasn’t been the year any of us thought it would be. I thought that I’d be telling you of about all of the amazing writers who have been sitting at the desk in the Peggy Cabin or the Carol Cabin. The writers out by the pond watching the sandhill cranes and writing in their notebooks. The incredible meals at that beautiful dining room table, filled with talk of storylines and poems and new scripts.

That hasn’t happened. Yet. It will. Stay tuned, I’ll keep you in the loop.

Meanwhile, I figure that if you are reading this website, you are either a writer interested in a writing residency or you’re the kind of person who reads a lot and wants to support women writers. So, I have a favor.

As the light slips away and the cold buckles in, I want to gather together stories to share with you, through newsletters and social media. Will you send me one lovely paragraph that:

  • recommends a really good book by a woman writer, or
  • tells us about a woman writer that has made a difference in your writing or reading life, or
  • contains an inspiring quote by a woman writer, or
  • tells us about what your writing means to you.

 If you’re a writer, include your website or social media account details.

During November, I’ll share some of what that you’ve sent. We’ll gather together around our own virtual campfire and talk about writing and reading.

So, what’s your story?

Send it to ehollowell@storyknife.org.

Take good care of yourselves. Your stories are important. You are important.

Be safe,
Erin

Storyknife Construction 2019

Reflecting on Storyknife’s construction and how far we’ve come.

Thank you, Scott and Kelsey Gere for making this amazing video!

Highlight reel of 2019 Construction

Hunkering Down at Storyknife

Autumn sunset at Storyknife

Autumn has rolled into Storyknife, complete with rain, fog, and brilliant fields of fireweed. If you’re in Alaska, fall and winter can mean a respite from the manic seasons of spring and summer. We’re done with the endless light, the fishing and gardening and berry picking, and starting to move into the preserving, freezing, and storing portion of the year.

For a lot of us, this is the time when we catch up with our reading. Because most of us are staying safe by “hunkering down,” keeping to ourselves, and wearing our masks in public, there seems to be a lot more time to read this autumn. So, I’m going to take a moment this newsletter to remind you that you can support some of the writers who’ve already had an opportunity to stay at Storyknife, albeit in the Frederica Cabin before the rest of the cabins were built.

  • Start with Sharbari Zohra Ahmed’s short story “The Length in Six Strokes” in the New England Review. Then if you’re looking for a longer read, check out her debut novel Dust Under Her Feet, an historical novel about Calcutta in the 1940s under colonial rule. 
  • Check out Ching-in Chen’s beautiful poem “Spell for Safe Passage” on the Poetry Foundation website. Their book of poetry recombinant is a work of material critique, philosophically jarring in its use of syntax, sound, the erasures held in the stillness of its whitespace that again and again mimic a historical registry.
  • You can read one of Casandra Lopez‘s poems “Hottest June” at the Academy of American Poets website and another one, “When I Was a Young Girl” in the About Place Journal. The poems in her full-length collection Brother Bullet confront her relationships with violence, grief, guilt, and ultimately, endurance.
  • Ruby Hansen Murray’s creative nonfiction piece “Coyote Hunters” in World Literature Today is about how animals make their way in the modern world and where they live in memory. Also wonderful is her hybrid work about the environment, culture, and history in About Place Journal.
  • Bea Chang has a compelling essay about sports and the pandemic, “Everything’s Fine” in Broad Street Online. 
  • Megan Donnelly worked at Storyknife on this harrowing essay published in The Columbia Journal while she was still a teacher in Bush Alaska.
  • You can read a showcase of Mairéad Byrne’s work in her collected poems, You Have to Laugh. Start with this lovely poem in Dusie, “Early Morning, Dublin.”
  • Or enjoy an essay about albatross in The Statesider by Storyknife’s very first resident Kim Steutermann Rogers. Into volcanoes? She has a great article “How Volcanoes Reshape Ecosystems” in The Smithsonian.

Just as each one of these amazing writers had their time at Storyknife, so too, will others. We know it has been hard to wait. It’s hard for us, too.

Please know that our thoughts are with all of the people who make up the Storyknife community. We hope that you, your family, and those close to you are well and safe.

Take good care of yourselves. Your stories are important. You are important.

Take care,
Erin
Storyknife ED

Introducing Storyknife’s New Board Members

At the August board meeting, the Storyknife Board gained two new board members and said thank you to two board members that are leaving the board. The Storyknife Board and staff are incredibly grateful to founding Board members Pati Crofut and Jeannie Penney. Starting a nonprofit and raising funds to build six cabins and a main house of a writing retreat is not easy. Pati and Jeannie have been invaluable supporters since Dana began to consider the idea of Storyknife. We know that they’ll always be part of the story of Storyknife and they continue to be cherished members of our community.

Joining the Storyknife Board at this time are two new members who bring a myriad of valuable experience and enthusiasm. Take a moment to learn a little bit about them.

Patrice Krant

Patrice Krant and her husband sold their house in Atlanta upon her retirement from The Coca-Cola Company, and became full-time RVers with plans to tour America. Their first destination was Alaska, arriving in April of 2012. They are still here. (If you live in Alaska, you understand.)

Patrice was raised largely in New England, and has a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Maine, as well as an MBA from Georgia State University. Her career path was haphazard at best. As examples, she was the first female full-time firefighter/EMT in Maine, the sales director for a trucking software company, and The Coca-Cola Company’s global procurement executive for all ingredients.

An avid quilter (delighted to have two of her quilts hanging at Storyknife), incessant traveler (pre COVID-19), and nascent gardener, Patrice also enjoys philanthropy, and is a founding member of the Homer chapter of 100 Women Who Care. Her board experience includes the president’s Board of Visitors at the University of Maine, the University of Maine Foundation, and the Pratt Museum.

Amy Tannahill

Amy Tannahill is a lifelong Alaskan with ten years’ experience in marketing and communications and program and project management. Currently working for the Alaska Forum, an environmental education-based nonprofit in Alaska, Amy serves as the Communications and Events Director. Prior to joining the Alaska Forum, Amy spent 7 years working in the Marketing Department of First National Bank Alaska.In her free time, Amy enjoys spending time in the great Alaska outdoors and enjoying a good book by a campfire, lake or river.  

How are you doing?

No really. How are you doing? If you are reading these newsletters, I am assuming that you are either a woman writer or someone who supports the work of women writers. In other words, I assume you are the kind of person who cares and pays attention to the world. A person who may in this time be suffering the sadness and anxiety of a worldwide pandemic. A person who cares about the freedom and safety of Black lives. A person who looks toward our shared stories to find compassion and empathy.

So, you might be, as the kids say, “all in your feelings.” I am, too. I spend time at Storyknife and am sad that it is not filled with the sounds of keyboard tapping, pen scratching, story-telling  and community. I was looking forward to identifying the sandhill cranes that have been mustering overhead and the spruce grouse family ducking into the weeds along the trail. To explaining that now that the fireweed is reaching the top of its blossoms that someday soon, Storyknife will be adrift with the snow of its seeds. And then later in October, perhaps rejoicing with the women writers that frost has come and set the whole field to shining.

It’s my job to make sure that Storyknife is ready for the very moment that we can open safely. Part of that job is to take care of the physical manifestation of Storyknife – see that the yard is mown, check the buildings, water system, label the artwork. Part of that job is building selection, outreach, and operation procedures that are equitable and actually support the often marginalized voices of women, especially women of color, Alaska Native and Indigenous women. Part of that job is making sure that everyone who supports Storyknife knows that they (YOU!) are an important part of the community of Storyknife. And part of that job is securing the funds that keep the electricity flowing, the heat on, the gardeners (and wasp nest exterminators) working.

So I’m going to ask a couple of questions:

Please know that our thoughts are with all of the people who make up the Storyknife community. We hope that you, your family, and those close to you are well and safe.

Take good care of yourselves. Your stories are important. You are important.

take care,
Erin
Executive Director of Storyknife

Storyknife Writers Retreat on a sunny day in early August