The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

April 16, 2013

Alaska author wants to build writers' retreat

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A best-selling mystery writer from Alaska wants to establish a residency retreat for female writers, hoping to offer women the same help she received more than two decades ago.

"It was Dana Stabenow 25 years ago, that's who I want here," said Stabenow, the author of 29 novels, including her best-known works, the Kate Shugak mystery series featuring an Aleut private investigator.

Stabenow, 61, has started a fundraising campaign to build a main house and six cabins for the Storyknife Writers' Retreat near her home in scenic Homer, Alaska, and its stunning view of Cook Inlet. The goal is $1 million for construction and then a $20 million endowment for the operations.

"If I actually pull this off," Stabenow says, "this will be the writers' retreat that Kate Shugak built."

Long before she became famous, Stabenow worked in the rugged Alaska oil fields on the North Slope. She quit the job in 1982, went to graduate school and set a goal to publish something before her savings from the oil patch job ran out.

"The first thing my writing ever earned me wasn't an advance on a book, it wasn't a fee for an article or anything like that. It was, in fact, a residency at Hedgebrook Farm," she said.

Hedgebrook was established on Whidbey Island, Wash., as a retreat for female writers in 1989 by Nancy Nordhoff, a Seattle philanthropist.

"I did some really good writing there, but I'll tell you what the epiphany was," Stabenow said. "It was the first time that anyone acted like writing was a real job."

As her career progressed with mystery, suspense and science fiction novels, Stabenow bought land in Homer with the possible idea of selling it at a profit later in life.

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