Storyknife’s History

A place where women’s stories
are valued and nurtured….

Storyknife Writers Retreat, located in Homer, Alaska, hosts residencies for women from Alaska, across the United States, and internationally, to give women writers the time and space to explore their craft without distraction. Women’s voices are powerful and necessary. Storyknife Writers Retreat has been established to foster those voices, to provide women a supportive community and the time and space to devote to writing, and to lend cultural weight to women’s writing.

Author Dana Stabenow decided in 2005 to create a women’s writing retreat based on Hedgebrook, a retreat on Whidbey Island that she credits with igniting her writing career. She purchased ten acres in Homer, Alaska that would be perfect to create such a place.

Storyknife pin as presented to Dana
by Katherine Gottlieb

In 1993, Dana Stabenow received an Edgar Award presented by the Mystery Writers of America. Her childhood friend Katherine Gottlieb presented her with an ivory carved Storyknife pin made by Rick Lonsdale just before Stabenow went onstage to receive her award. Storyknives are used in the Central Yu’pik tradition of storyknifing. The Storyknife (yaaruin) is a traditional tool used only by girls for sketching pictures on the ground or in the snow. Katherine Gottleib is the former President and CEO of Southcentral Foundation, the nonprofit health arm of Cook Inlet Region, Inc., a MacArthur Award recipient, CIRI shareholder, Old Harbor tribal member, and Seldovia tribal member. It is fitting that her gift of a traditional storytelling tool used only by girls has gone on to be the name of a writers retreat that will foster women’s stories.

Storyknife Writers Retreat became a 501(c)(3) in 2014 with a board of six women. The board has grown to eight women in 2018. In 2016, Erin Hollowell joined the organization to help create a strong platform on which Storyknife could be built. Dana and Erin connected with twelve women who volunteered to serve on the Storyknife Advisory Council. In 2016, Storyknife began to offer two-to-four week individual residencies in Dana’s guest cabin which was christened the Frederica Cabin after Frederica de Laguna.

The Storyknife board and staff developed a strategic plan and budget, and began raising funds for the capital project in earnest in 2016. In 2019, with the help of many individuals, the Atwood Foundation, the Southcentral Foundation, Old Harbor Native Corporation, The Rasmuson Foundation, and the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, the funds were secured to construct the entire facility.

The following individuals and organizations donated specifically to name structures at Storyknife:

  • Peggy Shumaker and Joe Usibelli, doubled all individual donations to name the main house for Eva Saulitis.
  • Arliss Sturgulewski  named a cabin for her daughter-in-law, Carol Sturgulewski.
  • Jeannie Penney named a cabin for her mother, Betty Rice.
  • Cathy Rasmuson named a cabin for Halibut Cove artist Diana Tillion.
  • The Atwood Foundation named their cabin for Alaskan author Evangeline Atwood.
  • Over 200 individual friends donated to name a cabin for Alaskan author and former Alaska Writer Laureate, Peggy Shumaker.
  • Katherine Gottleib, Southcentral Foundation, Carl Marrs, and Old Harbor Native Corporation named a cabin for Katie Kashevarof.
  • Deborah McNeil of the Plumb, Level, and Square Fund named the wellspring (well head) for Katherine Gottlieb and the Library in Eva’s House for Dana Stabenow.

On May 4, 2019, construction began with a ground-breaking ceremony. Construction is slated to complete in early 2020. The first full Storyknife residency of six women began in June of 2021.

Aerial view of Storyknife taken on 8/25/19, construction in process, view obscured by wildfire smoke.
Picture taken on 8/25/19 by Ben Harness, construction in process,
view obscured by wildfire smoke

Storyknife Writers Retreat
PO Box 75
Homer, AK 99603

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