Breaking Ground and Groundbreaking!

Dana Stabenow wields the shovel!
Scott Bauer laying a cabin foundation.

On May 4, a bright and windy day, Storyknife progressed into a new phase – the Building Phase!

Among a crowd of supporters, Dana Stabenow, Storyknife founder, put her decorated shovel into the dirt and broke ground for Storyknife. There was champagne and cupcakes. The first Storyknife fellow, Kim Steutermann Rogers, spoke about the meaning of a writer’s residency in her life and in the lives of all women writers. We were honored to hear also from Nancy Nordhoff, founder of Hedgebrook, the seminal women’s writing residency in the United States. Dana spoke about Storyknife being a dream come true, now fourteen years in the making. 

And what a wonderful dream it is, a place where women have the opportunity to write without distraction, form a supportive community, and are told at every possible opportunity that their writing is important. 

Women writers still struggle for the same representation as male writers. For example, in the last twenty years, Pulitzer Prizes in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have only been awarded to women 28% of the time. If the Pulitzer is the considered the top of the prestige ladder, it’s distressing that women are so poorly represented. 

I hope that you are as committed to elevating women’s voices as we are here at Storyknife. As we build, there will be a great number of opportunities for you to be involved. It is my hope that you will reach out to others that you know would be interested in supporting Storyknife as well as attending a residency here. As Storyknife grows, you can help us grow our community. Feel free to forward this newsletter, or share our website ( or Facebook page.

Shovels in, walls up, women writing!

Erin Coughlin Hollowell
Executive Director of Storyknife

Storyknife Groundbreaking – May 4, 2019

from Storyknife founder, Dana Stabenow

groundbreakingThank you all for coming today to help me celebrate as my dream comes true. I could say that this dream dates back 14 years, to 2005, when I bought this land and moved back to Homer. But in reality it goes back a full 30 years, to 1989, when the Anchorage Daily News ran a story about Hedgebrook, a retreat for women writers on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound, and my best friend bullied me into applying. I was accepted as a resident in the fall of that year.

For two glorious weeks I spent every day in Waterfall Cabin, writing, and each evening I gathered with my fellow residents at the farmhouse to have dinner, talk writer shop, tell publishing war stories, and as I later discovered, make friends for life.

Writers are odd people, no doubt about it. We sit alone everyday in a room with a laptop, painfully extruding one word at a time and like as not deleting it five minutes later. We are almost all of us introverts and hermits, and nobody really knows how we do what we do, least of all us. Hedgebrook? Was the first place where I met people who acted like writing is a real job. “Sit down,” Nancy said when I got up to help clear the table at my first dinner there. “You’ve already done your work for the day.”

It is not hyperbole to say that Hedgebrook’s radical hospitality changed my life. I might not have been truly a professional writer when I arrived there but I was when I left. My stay at Hedgebrook gave me identity, agency, confidence. It also gave me a sense of obligation, and the determination to find a way to give back.

So, this time next year, there will be a house here at Storyknife, Eva’s House, and six cabins, Carol, Betty, Diana, Evangeline, Katie, and a sixth cabin still to be named. Inside each of those cabins will be a writer. She will spend all day working at her novel, her short story, her play, her poem. At the end of every day, she will join her fellow residents at Eva’s House for dinner, to talk writer shop, to tell publishing war stories, and to make friends for life. When she leaves, she will have learned beyond any question that her voice has value and that her work is worthy of respect and support.

You will make this possible, you Friends of Storyknife, those of you here today as well as all of you who couldn’t attend in person. I thought Storyknife would be a much harder sell, but you all got it, instantly, that an experience like this one can be a life-changing event for women authors, who are, sadly, still underpublished, underprinted, underreviewed, and undersold compared with their male contemporaries. Your generosity, your support for Storyknife flies in the face of all of that.

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. 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.

Allow me please to call out just a few of you by name. Nancy Nordhoff, for building Hedgebrook, for showing me why, and how. Katherine Gottlieb, for making me apply. Attorney Dee Ford, for writing our bylaws and getting us incorporated pro bono. Charlaine Harris and Sandy Nolfi and so many others for supporting Storyknife financially even before we had nonprofit status. Pati Crofut, for getting us our 501c3 status. My amazing board, Pati Crofut, Nora Elliott, Rhonda Sleighter, Jeannie Penney, Paula Martin, Katherine Gottlieb, and Pearl Brower, for cheerfully volunteering their skills and experience in support of what was once only a crazy idea. Scott Bauer, our builder, who while he was finishing my house in August 2005 was the first person I told about Storyknife, and he didn’t laugh. Erin Hollowell, the Wonder Woman of executive directors, who built our first capital campaign and is in large part responsible for why we’re standing here today. The foundations who believed enough to write the necessary infrastructure checks, Rasmuson, Atwood, Southcentral Foundation, Old Harbor Native Corporation, and one we hope to be named later this month. The individual donors who gave large and small, Patrice Krant, Peggy Shumaker and Joe Usibelli, Rika and John Mouw, Katherine and Kevin Gottlieb, Carl Marrs, Tony Kinderknecht, Jenny and Sue and Lee at the Homer Bookstore, Nancy Nordhoff, again, still, always. As of this morning, there are 237 of you, and over half of you have given more than once and many of you more than twice.

On behalf of the hundreds of women writers who will reside and work and flourish here at Storyknife, thank you for helping make their dreams come true.

Several ways to support Storyknife going onward. Your donations of any kind will go directly to support writing residencies for women writers. 

Donate via AmazonSmile

Sign up for our newsletter

Follow us on Facebook



We’d like you to join us in celebrating YOUR GENEROSITY! Yes, all of you, who have been so bountiful with your attention and your donations. $94,276.00 was donated to Storyknife’s year-end fundraising campaign between Halloween and midnight on New Year’s Eve!

Our hearts are overflowing. Your support is greater than financial; it’s positively fundamental. It means that you believe that women writers are worthy of the space and time to devote to their craft. It means that women’s voices, women’s poems, novels, short stories, essays, plays, memoirs, and more, are crucial and significant.

Thank you for being part of Storyknife. We hope that 2019 will be filled with inspiration and joy!

Storyknife Awarded Tier II Grant by the Rasmuson Foundation


We are pleased to announce that Storyknife Writers Retreat has been awarded a $400,000.00 Tier II Grant by the Rasmuson Foundation. Storyknife has been fundraising for the past two years to build a women writers’ retreat in Homer, Alaska, and the generosity of the Rasmuson Foundation will allow us to go forward with construction in the spring of 2019. The entire facility will consist of six cabins and a main house that is slated to open for residencies in April of 2020.

Storyknife seeks to create an environment of caring and hospitality that will provide the bedrock upon which women writers can feel secure in exploring difficult, experimental, and engaging work. By providing women writers with a place that is beautiful, thoughtfully constructed, and nurturing, Storyknife fosters a level or respect (cultural and personal) for each woman and her creative process. When completed, Storyknife will host six women each month for seven months each year, expanding to year-around operation by the year 2028.

The vision of author Dana Stabenow, Storyknife seeks to support women writers by providing uninterrupted time for development of their craft. In 1989, Stabenow received 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 a similar opportunity for women writers.

The Rasmuson Foundation was created in May 1955 by Jenny Rasmuson to honor her late husband “E.A.” Rasmuson. Through grantmaking and initiatives, the Foundation aims to promote a better life for all Alaskans. At its biannual meeting this November, the Rasmuson Foundation board of directors approved more than $6.5 million in awards. The investments are aimed at communities from Unalakleet to Sitka.

Please join us in expressing our gratitude to the Rasmuson Foundation for their support of women’s stories and women writers.

Announcing Katie’s cabin

Katie with her great-great grandson Scotty

Storyknife is delighted to announce that thanks to a successful fund-raising campaign by Katherine Gottlieb, Southcentral Foundation, Carl Marrs, and the Old Harbor Native Corporation, Storyknife’s fifth cabin will be named for Katherine “Katie” Fox Vinberg Kashevarof, late of Seldovia, Alaska.

Katie was born in 1906 and raised in Unga and Unalaska, the eldest of five siblings. She survived the 1920 influenza pandemic which wiped out entire villages in Alaska, the 1942 bombing of Unalaska by the Japanese which destroyed her family home, and the resettlement of the Aluutiq peoples during and following the war, going on to become the mother of ten by birth and double that number by marriage. Her family estimates that “At last count, the descendants including grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren totaled more than seventy-four.”

During 1948 through 1950, Katie owned and operated a restaurant and bakery at Unalaska called “Kate’s Kozy Kitchen.” She had some great recipes for bakery goods. Her grandaughter Crystal writes, “I put her doughnut recipe in the Chamberʼs Seldovia cookbook – try it sometime. It makes ninety doughnuts, and is delicious.”

Katie moved to Seldovia in 1951, where the children grew up and attended school. She worked for many years for Mr. Morris and then Dick Inglima in Morris General Store. She worked also for the Sutterlin & Wendt shrimp plant, the salmon cannery, and Wakefield Seafoods crab processor in Seldovia. She enjoyed cooking, knitting and crocheting, and caring for family and grand children.

In 1975, local fishermen Jack Parks and Bob Ringstad named a 108-foot crab vessel for Katie, the Katie K, and Katie went to Seattle to christen it. The boatʼs owners said they hoped the “boat will be as prolific in producing crab as its namesake has been in producing children and grandchildren.”

Her family writes, “Family was very important to her, and she loved to visit and be visited by family and grandchildren. Her mind ever sharp, she could remember events from the past with ease, and loved to pass on the tales of days gone by. She is remembered with love, and will be missed.”

Storyknife’s founder, Dana Stabenow, says, “I speak for the board when I say we are beyond thrilled and honored to have our fifth cabin named for Katie. With her as one of our guiding spirits, we can’t go wrong.”

What Will You Give? #GivingTuesday

dinner table
From the dinner table…

Oh this time of year with its Black Friday, its Cyber Monday. All the ways that holidays have been co-opted to be about consumption, buying and buying more. And yet, sometimes it feels as if even when we’re surrounded by stuff, we’re empty.

And now Giving Tuesday. About five years ago, my family decided that our holiday tradition of gift-giving wasn’t very satisfying. Instead, we decided we’d donate in each other’s names to charities that mean something to each of us. For my sister who volunteers in a soup kitchen, a donation to the organization that runs it. For my brother, a donation to Michael J. Fox’s Foundation. And for me, a donation to Storyknife.

I’ve noticed that Storyknife isn’t the only nonprofit vying for your #GivingTuesday dollars. In fact, when I opened my email this Monday, there were no fewer than a dozen other good causes asking for my support.

Here’s the deal – I hope you’ll donate to Storyknife, either on Giving Tuesday or any other day until the end of this year. Our incredible matching donor, Nancy Nordhoff, founder and benefactor of Hedgebrook, isn’t limiting her largesse to one day.

I hope that you’ll give, not because we pestered you into it, but because you really believe in the vision that women writers deserve to have their work fostered, respected, elevated. And believe that Storyknife intends to do just that – has already done so with the eight amazing fellows we’ve hosted already. I think of the writing by women that has lifted me up when I felt like no one understood, Virgina Woolf, Annie Dillard, Toni Morrison, Jane Hirshfield, Barbara Kingsolver, Octavia Butler, Alice Hoffman, Ursula Le Guin, Mary Oliver, Terry Tempest Williams… I could keep listing for a long time.

So if a woman writer ever lifted you up, if your mother or auntie gave you a little faith in your story, if you are one of those women writers who cram your writing in between small children, errands, laundry, and sleep, consider donating to Storyknife as an investment.

I sometimes stand on the Storyknife property and look out at the mountains, imagining lighting the candles at dinner for six women writers who will change the world, month after month after month. Your donation is the match that lights that fire.

Take a look around

Let me take you on a little tour of Storyknife.
On the right hand side of the above photo, you can see the road leading to Storyknife. On the left hand side, you can see where the road will end and Eva’s House, the main house of Storyknife, will be built. And yeah, in the background, some seriously charismatic mountains just over Cook Inlet. That’s what the women writers at Storyknife will be looking at from their cabins, from the dinner table, from their desks.


This will be the view from the three cabins on the left side of the main house as you face the inlet. Nice, huh? It’ll be a little greener in the spring and summer.


This will be the view from the cabins on the right-hand side of Eva’s House. It wasn’t even a perfectly clear day, but I want you to envision it.

If you follow us on Facebook, you might have seen posts about all the people for whom we are grateful – supporters, fellows, our founder Dana Stabenow, and now, the land itself that will provide a place for women writers to pursue their craft and build a community that will continue to branch outward. We’d like to take this moment to thank you, individuals who are interested in Storyknife, who are interested in writing, in supporting women’s voices. We’re grateful to be building Storyknife with you.

Remember, donations until the end of the year are being matched by Nancy Nordhoff, founder and benefactor of Hedgebrook. Every donation puts us that much closer to providing a place to honor and nurture women writers. We really want to break ground in April 2019, and with your help, we can.

Storyknife’s Wellspring

Spring-waterA few weeks ago, I wrote to tell you how board member Katherine Gottlieb inspired Storyknife founder Dana Stabenow to apply to Hedgebrook and gifted her with the Storyknife that inspired our name. In so many ways, Katherine has been a wellspring for Storyknife. When Deborah McNeil offered to donate $25,000 for the well and water distribution system for Storyknife and dedicate it to Katherine, we could think of nothing more appropriate.

plumblevelsquare_smDeborah is the manager of the Plumb, Level, and Square fund that was created to honor her husband Tim McNeil and his mother Dorothy. As Deborah passed along to us: Plumb, level, square. Three words describing carpentry, and three words describing both the character and lives of Dorothy McNeil and her son, Tim McNeil. Plumb, because they were upright and experienced life fully; Level, because they lived truthful lives; and Square, because they were fair, honest, and direct people.

gottlieb_smStoryknife is beyond grateful for the support of Deborah and the Plumb, Level, and Square fund. The opportunity to honor Katherine Gottlieb in this way is incredibly special. Katherine has not just inspired and supported Dana’s dreams, but so many people in the state of Alaska through her role as President and CEO of Southcentral Foundation, the non-profit health arm of Cook Inlet Region, Inc., not to mention her participation as a CIRI shareholder, Old Harbor tribal member, and Seldovia tribal member.

We are now two weeks into our eight week end-of-year fundraising campaign. Plumb, Level, and Square’s donation has certainly put some gas in our tank, as well as the generosity of other folks who have wanted to take advantage of Nancy Nordhoff’s offer to match all donations to Storyknife until the end of the year. Remember, in your year-end giving, if you donate before 1/1/19, your donation will go twice as far. There are also still opportunities to memorialize an important person with your donation.

Every donation puts us that much closer to providing a place to honor and nurture women writers. We really want to break ground in April 2019, and with your help, we can. We are grateful, so very grateful, for all of you generous people. Thank you!

Unfurling Again, by Ching-In Chen

June’s Storyknife fellow, Ching-In Chen sent us this beautiful zuihitsu* in response to their time in residence. We are so pleased to share it with you.


Unfurling Again: revisiting a zuihitsu

          Arriving again three plane rides and time zones away at a practice I return to – patience when there is no one else but me to wait for. In another landscape of air, horizon of blue, I unpeel my wintertime selves, cram myself full of light.


         From another time and place, Arthur Sze on a collaboration with Susan York, The Unfolding Center:  “Yes, there’s a lot of what I consider breathing tides; inhaling, exhaling, the physicality of breath and the turning points …”

         I didn’t know it, but my earlier self had planned a pause – a breath from my post-hurricane headaches, ever-advancing tension.


The writer’s conference, greedy with words, watching myself turn in another life.

         Build fragments, small migrations of pen. Watching window, adapting through forest, an ear out as I learn about plants.

A new friend calls and says walk, so I walk on stones and listen for seepage. In the wind, we talk and secret, make private adventures. I cultivate a habit of visiting.

         Listen for sun through the windowpane of a not-present woman’s house. Search anyway for her imprint, her breath recorded in condensed walls.

I am looking to make a routine ritual, even if only temporary, even to say, I have a home, a small temporary one, space for expansive dreaming, for measuring my own breath.


         Leap. But I am not doing it. This is where the fight begins – a familiar dance visits whenever I gain access to a small sleeve of time. All my wintertime selves rush in from their corners and duties, turn their backs to me, shut their mouths down at the corner. I leave them their space, escape to the library, waiting for crosshatch escape words to stack into a route.

         There is one behind the library, hatched with a short bit of story. I follow until it rains, and turn down a new path, looking for the next page to turn.


Visiting ocean, I walk to sand, touch a starfish, memorize texture. I lift myself high and lose a field. As an afterthought, I send someone beloved my location in case. I cannot say it is not a pleasurable time, a churn into deep excavation. A layer of muscle and letting go.

         I stretch my own day, my own body. Climb to see a field of ice, intimate array when it starts to dusky rain. Behind me, a man – pilot – carries song like a passport, protection against large creatures, lantern spiraling down through stone.


         In another time and place, I chastise myself: Sitting with myself, the practice of it, and nowhere to hide. Contending with my own creatures. Inviting old friends, those daily mutants, granting them tiny gifts to battle on page.


These same writing questions from the corner. And the daily process, practice of answer.


*If you are unfamiliar with the form, zuihitsu is a genre of Japanese literature consisting of loosely connected personal essays and fragmented ideas that typically respond to the author’s surroundings. The name is derived from two Kanji meaning “at will” and “pen.”


We are proud to announce a new board member, Pearl Kiyawn Brower

brower_webIt is with great pleasure that we introduce you to Dr. Pearl Brower, our newest board member at Storyknife. We are growing! Dr. Brower is currently the President of Iḷisaġvik College, Alaska’s only Tribal College.  She has been with the College since 2007 working in External Relations, Institutional Advancement, Student Services, and Marketing. She has served as President since 2012. Prior to working for the College Dr. Brower managed an education and culture grant for the North Slope Borough for three years and worked as the Museum Curator of the Iñupiat Heritage Center.

Dr. Brower grew up in both Barrow, Alaska and in northern California practicing a subsistence lifestyle in both areas.  She has a daughter, Isla, who is 6 and along with her husband, Jesse Darling, lives in Barrow, Alaska where she loves to be close to her culture and community. Brower was named one of Alaska’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2015.

Dr. Brower is active in her community in Barrow, on the North Slope and statewide.  She is Board Member of the Friends of Tuzzy Library and is a co-founder of Leadership:Barrow.  She serves on the Wells Fargo Community Advisory Board, serves as the Vocational/Tribal representative on the Alaska Postsecondary Access and Completion Network, serves on the Alaska Airlines Community Advisory Board, on the Foraker Group’s Operations Board, as a Commissioner for the State of Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, and is the Chair of the Advisory Board for the Tribal College Journal.

She holds a B.A. Anthropology and B.A. Alaska Native Studies from University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2004, a Masters in Alaska Native and Rural Development from University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2010, and a  Ph.D. in Indigenous Studies, with an emphasis in Indigenous Leadership from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, of May 2016.

Welcome, Dr. Brower!