• Best selling author fundraising quest.
By Naomi Klouda
Women writers will soon get a free retreat all their own under plans by prolific author, Dana Stabenow to set up a six-cabin campus in Homer called the Storyknife Writers Retreat.
The author of the Kate Shugak series of mystery novels launched a campaign to raise $1 million between now and next spring. The money will go to build Alaska’s only retreat for female writers.
“We have googled our little hearts out looking for women’s writing retreats all over the world,” Stabenow said Friday. “We tried to find retreats specifically for women. Hedgebrook Farm (on Whidbey Island) is the only one. Storyknife will be second in the world.”
Women writers continue to get second class treatment in the publishing world, Stabenow said. Women still need help in becoming published authors and to get their books reviewed. Reviewers are still more likely to look at books by male authors than by women, she said.
To kick off the campaign Stabenow is launching a crowd-sourced funding round on Storyknife’s website, www.storyknife.org, and on her fan sites. The organization is accepting donations of all denominations but a list of specific funding levels and benefits is also available on the site.
The $1 million fundraising campaign is the first phase in a much larger effort to raise a total of $21 million to cover the costs of developing the property and ensuring its continuing legacy through a $20 million endowment.
The first thing that Stabenow’s writing ever earned her was not the sale of an article or a book. It was a residency at the Hedgebrook Farm retreat for women writers on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound. That was the turning point of Stabenow’s writing career.
“It was the first time anyone ever acted like writing was a real job,” she says. “That’s the value of the retreat right there. I heard a horrific story from a friend about a woman who woke at 4 a.m. in the morning to write. That’s the only times she could do it – before she got herself off to work, her husband off to work and kids off to school. That’s the kind of woman I want at the retreat.”
Like Virginia Woolf who said women writers require “A room of one’s own – and a little money,” Stabenow believes that’s what it takes. “They won’t be paid but they will get room and board. While they are here they won’t be required to wash so much as a teaspoon.”
The retreat takes its name from the English translation for the Yupik word yaaruin or “storyknife.” Traditionally, Yupik girls would use yaaruin made from wood, bone, antler or ivory, to carve stories in snow and in riverbanks to amuse and instruct their younger siblings.
“I came across mention of storyknives in one of the early explorer diaries and I couldn’t rest until I knew more. As a traditional Alaska Native vehicle for storytelling, it is the perfect metaphor for what we hope to accomplish at Storyknife. I’m hoping we get a lot of Alaska Native women writers applying for residencies at Storyknife, too,” she said.
Writers will undergo a rigorous application process, including statements of need and samples of work. Successful applicants will come to Storyknife for two-to-eight-week residencies to focus on projects in uninterrupted peace, an atmosphere made possible by the Storyknife endowment.
With the exception of travel to and from Anchorage, all expenses for writers in residence will be covered. They also will be able to chose activities such as halibut fishing, ocean kayaking, bear viewing, and flight-seeing with an eye toward supplying them an Alaska adventure they can write about.
Stabenow envisions six private cabins and a main house dotted around a six-acre property overlooking 180-degree views of lower Cook Inlet. Meals will feature produce from the property’s own garden, with locally supplied moose and salmon as other culinary mainstays.
While operating her writers’ retreat, Stabenow will no doubt be writing herself. She is now on her 30th book, a novel that departs from her Kate Shugak stories. She has written 29 novels, numerous short stories, several anthologies, and contributed the Alaska Traveler column to Alaska magazine for five years.
Throughout her career she has amassed critical, public and civic acclaim, most notably the Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original for A Cold Day for Murder in 1993 and being named Alaska’s Artist of the Year in the 2007 Governor’s Awards for the Arts and Humanities. She won a 2012 Nero Award for literary excellence in the mystery genre for Though Not Dead.
To find out more, go to www.storyknife.org.
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