On Saturday, May 4, we broke ground on Storyknife. Here’s what I said.

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A panorama of the Storyknife site. Those white signs show where the buildings will be.  I’m standing in the garage of Eva’s House as I take this photo.

Thank 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 at Hedgebrook. “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.

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Where Betty’s Cabin will be, with Mt. Iliamna in the background. I’d call that an inspirational view, wouldn’t you?

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.

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The Katie’s Cabin site. Read more about Katie here.

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.

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The sixth cabin is yet to be named. Contact us here to find out how.

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.


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13 Comments Leave a comment

    • Nancy and Lynn were both here. Amy has a promised a visit at some future date. And your ears should be burning because Nancy, Lynn and I were talking about you, lady.

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  1. Dana, I just found your site here. I loved reading the talk you gave at the Storyknife groundbreaking. I could say most of the same things—with different names, except for Nancy. Wonderful, nurturing Nancy.

    My story is so close to yours. I probably read the same article about Hedgebrook that you did, and applied immediately. I was accepted, too, but for a month the following January. Like you, my time in Fir Cottage was a life-changing experience, nurtured by Nancy and the other writers who shared their time, their talent, their lives, and their humor.

    I went there for two reasons: to write and to experience how a writers retreat worked.
    I was serving o the Utah Humanities Council at the time. The Council decided they wanted to develop a program to create in the humanities—someplace that would nurture writers. I was asked by the Council to chair the committee that conceptualized what it would actually be, how it would work, and find a place in Utah’s inspiring Red Rock Landscape build it.

    I won’t bore you you with all the history between Hedgebrook and today, but we have broken ground for the Zion Canyon Mesa and are the foundations are poured and ready for the first four housing units. We hope to have our first writers this next fall. Take a look at our web site http://www.themesaretreatcenter.com.

    I would love to connect with you. Our experiences may well inform each other. Is that something you would consider?

    Hoping to hear from you.
    With warm regards,
    Linda

    Linda K. Newell
    Chair of the Zion Canyon Mesa board of Directors

    P.S. I am a long-time fan and have read almost all of your books.

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    • Thanks so much for the compliments on the books, Linda, music to any writer’s ears as you yourself know. At Storyknife we are in flat-out construction mode–all I have to do is turn my head to see it through my office window, which does not do wonders for my concentration at work. It’s taken 14 years to get here and it all feels a little surreal. I wish you the very best of luck on your project!

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  2. I am so thrilled to follow the progress on this!

    I have an unrelated question, though – I was wondering about a Kindle edition of No Fixed Line, due out next month. Preorders for the hardcover are available on Amazon but I prefer to carry all my Kate with me at once on my tablet. Is there no e-reader version? If so, I will happily order a hardback, but it isn’t my preference. Thanks for any answer you can give me!

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      • That’s great to know! I was afraid I was just missing something. My husband and I are a week off from our first trip to Alaska, based mostly on how much I love your books! Can’t wait for the next one. Best wishes.

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