A foundation of generosity…


Summer is slipping past us. At Storyknife, we’ve been hosting a new writer in residence each month. In June, Mairéad Byrne stayed in the Frederica cabin and drafted new poetry. July found Megan Donnelly there writing up a storm. Bea Chang drove up the Al-Can from Seattle for her residency in August. We have one more residency in September with Ruby Hansen Murray.

Needless to say, Dana and I have been busy. In addition to residents, we’ve been working with the folks who surveyed and staked out the building pads for the main house and the six cabins. Today, they are starting to put the driveway in and the infrastructure so that we can build next year. We’ve been writing grants and raising funds.

We are still glowing about the generosity of all people who donated to make Eva’s House a reality. After the fundraiser closed, we received a check in the mail from Thomas Clarke, a childhood friend of Eva’s. He understood that the donation-matching was over, but wanted to add his contribution to help in any way. We were so touched that we reached out to Thomas and his mother Sylvia to find out more about their connection with Eva.

Thomas wrote, “Eva and I attended school together, from kindergarten through graduating from Silver Creek Central High in 1981 together.  I cannot remember not knowing her!” He recounted that she was independent, thoughtful, unconventional, intelligent, nonconformist. This certainly sounds like the Eva we knew as an adult. He concluded, “Eva valued the old European values of family, honesty, loyalty and respect for others taught by her parents through the way they lived.”

Sylvia Clarke, Thomas’s mother, was good friends with Eva’s mother, Asja. She recalled, “Eva came back to Silver Creek to do a reading in our local library from one of her books.  I contacted the high school librarian who arranged for Eva to lecture to the creative writing classes while she was here.  We made a beautiful display of her works in the school library. The students loved her.  The evening reading in the public library was well attended.” Eva’s friends know of her enjoyment of making traditional Latvian bread. Sylvia wrote, “I learned to make their Latvian black bread with them (Eva and her sister, Mara) in their Mom’s kitchen.  Asja would always say ‘knead it harder, longer’ to Eva, Mara & me.  Their father said, ‘No one will need braces;  the black bread will make strong, straight teeth.’”

We hope that Eva’s spirit of generosity and respect for others will live on in the main house dedicated to her memory. Thank you Thomas for donating towards building it and to the one-hundred and ten other people who donated as well. And a most sincere thank you, again, to Peggy Shumaker and Joe Usibelli for donating $2 for every $1 raised in that campaign. Because of the vision and benevolence of all you, Storyknife is moving forward.

We still have a ways to go, so if you want to join the amazing people listed on our “Support” page, please feel free to donate through Paypal or send a check. Even though summer is slipping through our hands, the foundation we’re building for Storyknife is solid, and we need your help!

PS. YES! That is earth-moving equipment on the Storyknife lot!!!!

Storyknife in the Washington Post

“When you’re ready to move from summer reading to summer writing”–Washington Post, June 8, 2017

writer retreats-1-final.jpeg


For women only

Men need not apply for Storyknife Writers Retreat, a program in Homer, Alaska, founded by mystery-novel powerhouse Dana Stabenow. For her, Storyknife is a way to repay a creative debt. Early in her career, she attended Hedgebrook Farm, a women-only writing retreat on Whidbey Island in Washington State.

Why women-only? “It’s still true that women are underrepresented in publishing,” Stabenow says. “It’s different when you’re just concentrating on women writers. There’s more of a focus. It’s a total removal from their ordinary, everyday life.”

Stabenow’s Storyknife, which is nonprofit, has raised money for three cabins so far, with a main house and three more cabins planned. Sixty-five people applied this year for four slots, one of which will be taken by a not-yet-published writer. Stabenow expects to host four writers again in 2018.

Cost/duration: Free (includes small stipend to defray transportation costs); one month.

To read in full, click here.

Eva’s House

Last year Peggy Shumaker and Joe Usibelli came to us and said they wanted to name Storyknife’s main house for Eva Saulitis, teacher, poet and their friend, who died earlier that year. For every dollar donated toward the main house they would match it with two of theirs.

This month we received a donation from Nancy Nordhoff that completed our third of that amount. Last week Peggy and Joe sent us their matching check. Eva’s House is now fully funded.

Many, many Friends of Storyknife made this possible in many donations at many different levels. Here is the story of one.

“I’ve been following you and this creation of yours, and when you put Pam Houston on your advisory board, that was my first donation,” Macrina Fazio says.

Macrina served the state of Alaska in the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation for 33 years. “To say that Macrina has had a large impact on the lives of all of her staff at this office would be an understatement,” says co-worker Angela Gray. “There was no send off we could do for her that would do her justice. “

Macrina announced her retirement in March. “I didn’t want a retirement party and they told me to get over it,” she says. When they asked her what she wanted for a gift, she said a donation to Storyknife.

“I started asking for donations and sharing information about your project with co-workers on April 18th,” says Angela.  “After Macrina shared her wish, she was no longer included in the planning process.  She did not know how much had been raised in her name until the day of her retirement party on April 27th.”


Macrina’s retirement party. That’s her in the middle in the glasses and the blue shirt.

Macrina’s co-workers collected a total of $700. With a wave of the Shumaker-Usibelli magic wand that $700 became a $2100 donation toward the construction of Eva’s House.

“We need to hear women’s voices,” Macrina says. “If there was ever a time that mattered, it’s now. And I’m a believer that we can all do something.”

She did, and so did Angela and the rest of her co-workers, and so did Peggy Shumaker and Joe Usibelli, and so did Nancy Nordhoff, and so did everyone who donated to Eva’s House.

My heart is too full to say more. Thank you all so much.

By Leaps and Bounds


We are delighted to announce that Storyknife Writers Retreat has raised enough funds that with a 2-to-1 matching donation from Peggy Shumaker and Joe Usibelli, the main house can be built and dedicated to Homer writer Eva Saulitis!

Starting in November last year, donations were solicited via a crowd-funding campaign to build Eva’s House, the main house where the chef/site manager will provide meals for residents throughout their stay. Eva’s House will also contain a dining/living area, office, and library/classroom for public presentations.

Last month, we reached our goal with a donation made by Nancy Nordhoff, the founder of Hedgebrook. If you remember, in 1989, Dana Stabenow won a residency at Hedgebrook, a retreat for women writers on Whidbey Island in Washington. The profound impact of that residency, and the fact that Hedgebrook receives many more applications than they have spots to host writers, inspired her to develop such an opportunity for women writers at Storyknife. Joe, Peggy, and Nancy’s generous spirits are touchstones for us as we grow.

We continue to concentrate on raising the rest of the funds needed for building the remaining three cabins as well as the infrastructure, furnishings, and landscape development. Your donations will still go directly into the capital campaign account. All donations over $1000 will assure your place in the Mount Iliamna Founders Circle, but any donation helps bring Storyknife one step closer to completion.

Also in April, Erin attended the Emerging Programs Conference held by the Alliance of Artist Communities. She learned so much about promoting equity, board development, funding, messaging, and the business of running a writer’s residency. We can’t wait to put some of what she learned into action as we gear up for our 2017 residency season which opens with Maireád Byrne in June. Please join us in celebrating women’s voices!

If there’s anything you want to learn more about, please feel free to reach out to Erin at storyknifewritersretreat@gmail.com.

PS. The photo is American Brianna Rollins cruising to victory in a semifinal heat of the women’s 100-meter hurdles in August 2016. We like to imagine ourselves crushing our fundraising campaign like that.

Welcome 2017 Storyknife Fellows

The multi-level decision process to winnow the large number of FABULOUS submissions that we received for the 2017 Storyknife residency season was arduous but necessary. We could have easily awarded 42 residencies; which is the number of residencies we will offer each year when all the cabins and main house are built. Our selection committee read and reread the submissions, and finally selected the following four women, each chosen based on the strength of her writing sample.

Behind the scenes at Storyknife, we’re strengthening our business plan, our fundraising plan, and most of all, we’re working towards the vision of building a place where women’s writing is nurtured and celebrated.

Please join us in congratulating these amazing women writers. We look forward to hosting them.

In June
Mairéad Byrne’s most recent book is Famosa na sua cabeça (Famous in Your Head), selected and translated by Brazilian poet Dirceu Villa (São Paulo: Dobra Editorial 2015). She is also the author of two plays, five collaborative books with visual artists, and five poetry collections, published in Ireland, the United States, and on the Internet. She’s wildly excited about coming to Alaska, to make poems in collaboration with the land and sea and skyscape of lower Cook Inlet.

In July
Megan Donnelly is a writer and teacher living in rural Alaska. She graduated from McGill University in Montreal with a degree in English Literature and credits her father with teaching her how to write an essay. Since moving to Alaska, she has involuntarily landed a plane, eaten whale from the Chukchi Sea, and witnessed polar bears dumpster diving. Her first published essay is forthcoming in The Rumpus.

In August
Bea Chang received her BA from Haverford College and her MFA in fiction from the University of Washington, Seattle. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Awesome Sports Project, an online journal dedicated to inspiring girls’ and women’s voices in sports. In addition, her stories and essays have appeared in Colere: A Journal of Cultural Exploration, Toasted Cheese, Memoir Journal, and Broad Street. In 2017, she was nominated for the PushCart Prize for her essay, “The River My Father Promised.” Since 2007, she has lived in and backpacked through 53 countries. Bea stayed in Seattle for a while, but is probably somewhere else now with her blue alien muse.

In September
Ruby Hansen Murray is a writer and photographer living in the lower Columbia River estuary. Her work appears or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, Yellow Medicine Review, Apogee, World Literature Today, About Place Journal and American Ghost: Poets on Life after Industry. She is an Island Institute, Hedgebrook, and Jack Straw fellow, who studied at Warren Wilson College and the Institute of American Indian Arts.

Spring is coming… March update

thrushFebruary was a busy month for Storyknife.

We were parsing out all of the submissions to our wonderful team of reviewers. Each submission was to be read by three people. We also needed to create a grid so we could figure out which applicants wanted a two-week retreat, which wanted a four-week retreat, and which month each was available. It looked a little like a complicated game of Tetris.

But it was completely worth it. This application period, we received almost seventy applications, each and every one like a gift sent to us by a woman who hoped to have some time to devote to her craft. It’s sad that we don’t have room for everyone. Next Monday, we’ll be posting biographies of the four writers chosen, but know that it was a really difficult decision.

I’d like to update you on the fund-raising efforts for Eva’s House. We didn’t quite make our goal of raising $83,333 before February 14. Recently Patrice Krant donated $10,000 which will be matched by her former employer Coca-Cola, and that has considerably helped us towards our goal. We’re at $47,200, meaning we’re over half, but not there yet. Luckily for us, Peggy Shumaker and Joe Usibelli have agreed to extend the deadline on their $2 for every $1 match on funds donated. If we can reach $83,333 by August 30, Peggy and Joe will contribute the remaining funds to reach the $250,000 needed to build the main house.

In other words, we have six months to raise $36,133. We can do that, right? And by we, I don’t mean Dana and I, I mean all of us who want to see Storyknife built so that we can offer more opportunities for women writers to devote uninterrupted time to their craft.

There is snow on the grounds of Storyknife right now. But underneath the snow, grass is waiting to spring up. The Frederica cabin is waiting for her summer writers. I am waiting for the day when I hear a varied thrush call out from the alders.

In her beautiful book Becoming Earth, Eva Saulitis wrote:

If the coastal spruce forest has a voice, this is it, varied thrush calls sketching an acoustic self-portrait of the landscape, pitched variably to reflect dark spaces, thicknesses, the heights of trees. How did I even grasp time and home without these markers? Varied thrushes are nothing like the birds of my youth. These raspy voices don’t recall the tender swirlings and whistlings of northeastern species like the red-eyed vireo or the shy veery, high in the budding canopy. No, varied thrush songs describe a plainer face: snowmelt rivulets sluicing through brown meadows, mud to the shins, to the axles, ice jams and overflow, spindly spruce trees swaying in a frigid south wind.

Dana and I are asking once again, if you might pitch in and donate toward’s Eva’s House. Let’s get this thing done. Let’s make sure that women’s stories are afforded the respect and unfettered time to unfold that they deserve.

January Update

Iliamna on a winter day.

It’s been a cold and icy winter here in the Homer, but we’ve been working hard behind the scenes to bring Storyknife together. More than ever, women’s stories matter! Our writing can change the world.

A reminder of IMPORTANT DATES:


January 27 is the deadline for applications for the 2017 residency period of June, July, August, and September. The link is: https://storyknifewritersretreat.submittable.com/submit. The application process is straight-forward and your writing sample is the most important part. Please apply and pass this information along to any women writers you know that could use a month to concentrate on their work. Let Storyknife give you the time and space to craft your words.


February 14 is approaching, and we’re still trying to raise the funds to build the main house of Storyknife to be named after Eva Saulitis. Peggy Shumaker and Joe Usibelli have been so generous to match your donations two dollars for ever one you donate! We’ve made great strides toward raising the money for Storyknife, but we won’t get there without your help. We’re in a new year, and all of your donations will be tax deductible. Please consider donating either by sending a check to Storyknife at our PO Box 75, Homer, AK 99603 (be sure to write “Eva’s House” on the comment line) or through our digital portal on generosity.com.

When we look out over the rolling snow-covered hillside that faces Cook Inlet, with the mountains and the volcanoes in the background, we believe in the power of this place. We believe in the power of women’s voices. Do you believe in that as well? Would you be willing to be a real part of this place? We hope so.

Join us!

Rise Up!


We are excited and honored to report that three of Storyknife’s six cabins have been named by the following generous donors:

  • Arliss Sturgulewski, who will be naming her cabin for her daughter-in-law, Carol.
  • Jeannie Penney, who will be naming her cabin for her mother, Betty Rice.
  • Cathy Rasmuson, who will be naming her cabin for Halibut Cove artist Diana Tillion.

Each cabin will have a photograph and biography of the woman whose name it bears. Dana Stabenow says, “Cathy Rasmuson is threatening to decorate her cabin with art by its namesake so we’re expecting competition among writers for Diana Cabin to be fierce.” We are so proud to have the support of these amazing donors, exemplars of how large-hearted and visionary Alaskan women can be.

There are an additional three cabins still available for sponsorship as well as other opportunities to honor an important woman in your life.

In equally exciting news, on November 14 we started a fundraiser to build the main house of Storyknife and dedicate it to Eva Saulitis. That fundraiser will continue until February 14, 2017, and during that time each dollar donated will be matched 2-for-1 by Peggy Shumaker and Joe Usibelli. Right now, $18,510 has been donated in Eva’s name. Our matching donors will turn that into $55,530. That’s right, in one month, we’re a fifth of the way there. To all of you who have donated thus far, thank you for your vision and your generosity.

Remember we only have until February 14th to meet Joe and Peggy’s most generous matching grant, so we need to reach out to everyone who knew Eva and wants memorialize her giving spirit. Please consider donating either through the Generosity site or by check (Storyknife, PO Box 75, Homer, Alaska, 99603).

Finally, we have just opened the application period for the four Storyknife Writers Retreat residencies available in 2017. From now until January 27, we are taking submissions. I know that people are excited, because in fewer than twelve hours, we already have two submitted applications. And considering that most of those twelve hours started at midnight on December 15, that’s pretty amazing!

Here at Storyknife, we believe that women’s stories matter. The opportunity to devote her unbroken time and attention will not only enrich the writer, but add to the wisdom of the whole world. Rise up, women writers and write the stories and poetry that are inside you! 

More writers at Storyknife in 2017

In 2016 Storyknife hosted its inaugural Fellow, Kim Steutermann Rogers, for the month of September.

photo by Michael Armstrong, Homer News

Kim arrived on September 1st and departed on September 30th. While she was here she wrote 249 pages, which was better than I did that month. She integrated so fully into the Homer community that total strangers came up to me in Safeway to ask, “How’s the writer doing?” She wrote that on her first day in Frederica I told her, “You’re a dream come true.” She was, in just about every imaginable way.

In short, she set the bar pretty high for the writers who will follow her at Storyknife. That doesn’t scare me. It inspires me to reach even higher.

So in 2017, Frederica Cabin at Storyknife will host four women writers, one each in the months of June, July, August and September. The application period begins today, December 15th and runs through January 27th.

Introducing Pam Houston

photo credit: Adam Karsten
photo credit: Adam Karsten

I’m excited to introduce you to our newest Advisory Council member, Pam Houston.

The incredible Paula Martin has become Storyknife’s newest Board of Directors member, so we had a spot open on the Advisory Council. Lucky for us, Pam Houston was agreeable to joining on. Pam is an outspoken advocate for women writers, an incredible teacher, and a great writer. We feel very lucky to have her pitching in to make Storyknife a reality.

houston_contentsPam Houston is the author of two novels, Contents May Have Shifted and Sight Hound, two collections of short stories, Cowboys Are My Weakness and Waltzing the Cat, and a collection of essays, A Little More About Me, all published by W.W. Norton. Her stories have been selected for volumes of The O. Henry Awards, The 2013 Pushcart Prize, and Best American Short Stories of the Century. She teaches in the Low Rez MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, is Professor of English at UC Davis, and directs the literary nonprofit Writing By Writers. She lives at 9,000 feet above sea level near the headwaters of the Rio Grande and is at work on a book about that place.