The Storyknife Writers Retreat in the summer of 2021 in Homer, Alaska. (Photo provided)

Point of View: Storyknife: Invest in women writers, read the rewards

Storyknife is committed to providing opportunities to a diversity of writers

By Gwen Florio

For the Homer News

There’s a reason artists, writers and musicians joke that their parents wanted them to be doctors. Or lawyers. Even and perhaps accountants.

For the parents in question, probably fearful their wonderfully creative children might never be able to afford to leave home, it’s no laughing matter. They know, even if their starry-eyed offspring have yet to learn, the hard truth behind the phrase “starving artist.”

As a debut novelist, I was that wildly unrealistic writer, awaiting Oprah’s phone call, the New York Times book review, the spot on the bestseller list that would let me quit my day job and focus full-time on the next bestseller.

I wrote my next books as I’d written the first, in the margins of my life, sandwiching half-hour slices of writing time between my work schedule and my children’s activities. When they grew up, I gained the “luxury” of a three-hour block — 6-9 a.m. — before I headed into my 50-60-hour-a-week job as a newspaper editor. Forget writing at night. By then, I was comatose. Everything I wrote felt piecemeal, scattershot.

Where were the patrons of yesteryear? I sometimes wondered during deep dives of self-pity, who supported the likes of Mozart and Michelangelo?

Turns out they’re all around us.

It goes without saying that I’m no Mozart or Michelangelo. But I felt equally elevated when I received an email letting me know that I’d been awarded a residency at Storyknife Writers Retreat outside Homer.

Much as those art-loving monarchs of old, Storyknife bestows the invaluable gift of time and space upon writers, granting six women at a time residencies of two weeks to one month from April to November to just … write.

Each woman gets her own cabin. Wonderful meals are provided. No one is allowed to knock on a cabin door without explicit invitation or in case of emergency.

It’s impossible to overstate the value of this. Writing is more than just putting words on paper. It involves a lot of hard thinking — about structure, plot, word choice, characters; so many balls in the air at all times. Each time a writer stops to prepare a meal, pick up a child from school, listen to a partner grouse about their day, the balls crash to the ground.

But sit and gaze out the window, take a stroll, hold your breath while the mama moose and her teenager saunter past the deck, and ideas come from all sides — with the time to test them on the page in hopes of producing the best book possible, something that’s come to mean far more to me than those early dreams of fame and fortune.

, making for a vibrant, enriching mix of personalities and experience.

During my time at Storyknife, all of us talked of the new insights we had about our own work, the new directions it was taking. The sense of excitement was palpable.

And we all spoke of our profound gratitude to the donors who make Storyknife possible. Think of the pleasure gained from losing yourself in a novel, a poem, an essay, a film whose script crackles. Donors to Storyknife and nonprofit arts organizations like it help those works come into being. Turns out we don’t need kings and queen showering their riches upon a select few artists. We just need people who appreciate art and are willing to help nurture those who create it. To those people we say thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Gwen Florio is a novelist living in Missoula, Montana.

More in Opinion

Sticky notes filled out in response to the question “Why does Democracy and voting matter?” are photographed on Saturday, June 25, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Alex Koplin)
6 words to define democracy

What words would you use?

Opinion: The latest gun regulation bill is nothing to cheer about

The legislation resembles the timid movements of a couple of 6-month old children…

The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, D.C. in this file photo. (File)
Opinion: The Alaskans with the power to defend America’s democracy

It’s well past time to publicly refute Trump’s lie

Opinion: Here’s what I expect of lawmakers in a post-Roe America

I urge lawmakers to codify abortion rights at the state and federal levels.

Opinion: Confusion over ranked choice voting persists

Voter confusion over ballot procedures will continue

Former Gov. Bill Walker, right, and his running mate former commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development Heidi Drygas, speak to Juneauites gathered for a fundraiser at a private home in Juneau on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Voices of the Peninsula: A vote for Walker/Drygas is a vote for Alaskans

It’s easy to forget some of the many lost lawsuits, devastating budget cuts and general incompetence that defines Mike Dunleavy’s term as governor

This photo shows a return envelop for 2022 special primary. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Voices of the Peninsula: Learn how to access your ballot

The recent special primary election was the first time the state conducted an all mail-in ballot election

The Storyknife Writers Retreat in the summer of 2021 in Homer, Alaska. (Photo provided)
Point of View: Storyknife: Invest in women writers, read the rewards

Storyknife is committed to providing opportunities to a diversity of writers

Most Read