For years, writer and educator Kathryn Balteff had to hunt out a quiet nook where she could craft her words into poetry and prose. The constant demands and distractions of the everyday world and the reality of a large boisterous family in a small house often overrode any time or space she could carve out to write. But, over time, her children grew up and circumstances changed. A career move in 2006 sent Kathryn and her husband Brian back home to Maine. One afternoon, while searching for a new place to call home, they came upon an acre of land in Winter Harbor, Maine, a five-minute walk from the sea, where an elderly, tired, little cape-cod gem kept loving watch over an overgrown orchard and neglected gardens. They felt it was a magical place, one that needed them as much as they needed it. Kathryn and Brian bought the property that same afternoon and got right to work on their new home. Over the next ten years, they gently restored the cottage and the grounds around the 178 year-old beauty they named Moonshadow Cottage, until all was shiny and proud once again.
Here, in this cozy, calm, inspiring place, Kathryn was able to have a writing studio and quiet time to work. The ability to focus on writing also led her to pursue one of her life goals, an MFA in Creative Writing from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. About the same time as she began her studies, an opportunity presented itself for the acquisition of twenty-three acres of former farmland minutes away from their home. The couple’s long ago dream to have a small hobby farm resurfaced. Plans for a farmhouse were made and construction began. There was just one issue. They both loved Moonshadow Cottage, as did their children and grandchildren. It was inconceivable to any of them to let her go. Everyone in the family had their own homes, and houses need people to keep them happy and whole. What to do?
One late fall day in 2017, Kathryn was sitting in the window seat in her writing studio overlooking the back meadow, contemplating an article on gender disparity in the publishing world that she had just finished reading. She was thinking about what could be further done to increase the visibility and publication of marginalized female voices. What support and promotion systems were needed? How would one go about becoming involved with programs already in place that were making strides for women authors? Specifically, she knew she wanted personally to become involved, to do something to help diverse women authors raise their voices and be heard. Kathryn knew she did her best work in quiet and solitude, and many of her peers had indicated the same. What if she could share this with others? What if she could create a non-profit retreat where women could come and work on their craft?
A few calls and emails later, one to her friend and mentor, author Breena Clarke, (co-founder of The Hobart Festival of Women Writers), others to peers and faculty at Stonecoast, and Kathryn was convinced she had a great idea. She began research and planning, later encompassing all her groundwork into a paper and presentation as part of her degree program at Stonecoast. Within eight months all was in place and Feathered Ink Women’s Writing Retreats at Moonshadow Cottage was a reality.
Why the name Feathered Ink?
Kathryn chose to call the retreat Feathered Ink because of the myriad symbolic meanings that feathers historically encompass: dreams, inspiration, freedom, enlightenment, evolution to a higher plane, and so much more. Each feather is unique, diverse in colorations, size, and makeup. The shape of every individual feather will be slightly different. One may have more down, and another more barbs or emargination in its blade. Yet each has a strong core in its hollow quill.
The strongest of all quills are in flight feathers. These are the feathers that were used beginning in the sixth century as primary writing instruments. A lone flight feather in solitude may not leave the ground, but many together can lift even the largest of birds to great heights. So it is with strength in voices.
It is Kathryn’s hope that by supporting and working to promote many diverse women writers with residencies at Feathered Ink, they will benefit from a gift of time and space to create so they can send their stories and verses out into the world where they may soar and be heard.
You can find sidney woods among the small fruit trees and numerous rescued animals she and her partner tend at Fools Gold Farm in western Wyoming. She also works as an environmental analyst for the U.S. Forest Service, and has served many non-profits, from the Wyoming Humanities Council to small start-ups such as a tri-state queer youth network and the local no-kill animal shelter. All of these disparate threads tangle together in her fiction.
Darcy Duda is a member of the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, The Author's Guild, and AWP. She has an MFA from the University of Southern Maine, Stonecoast, and is currently working on her first novel and on becoming a certified yoga teacher. Her work has been published in 34thParallel, River River, and others. When not writing, she teaches creative writing workshops throughout central Maine, drinks far too much coffee, and goes running with her dogs.
Molly Krause is the author of the memoir Float On, the novel Joy Again, and the cookbook The Cook’s Book of Intense Flavors. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications including Brain, Child, Ragazine, and Manifest-Station. Her next book, a young adult novel, Queens of New York, will be released by Flint Hills Publishing in 2019. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with her husband and two daughters.
Jean graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine's Stonecoast program. She also holds an M.Ed. in Special Education and Graduate Certificates in both Conflict Resolution and Management/Mediation. She assists in teaching at Harvard University in classes that involve exploring social class through memoir as well as storytelling as it pertains to local and global justice. She works with Michael Patrick MacDonald, author of All Souls: A Family Story from Southie, in delivering an expressive writing program for survivors of homicide victims and in bringing students from Northeastern University to Northern Ireland for a month-long study abroad program.
Joanne is a scientist, artist and writer, and loves time spent in the field, finding inspiration in the wild places with her travels and wildlife research throughout her home state of Michigan. She holds a BS in Geology with a minor in Biology from Central Michigan University. She has worked for over twenty years with Threatened and Endangered Species, specifically Michigan’s Common Loons, as State Coordinator of MLPA-MI Loonwatch, and with Birds of Prey as Research and Education Director at Wildlife Recovery Association. Her home office and studio in her very old Victorian home in mid-Michigan is where she gathers together her research and writings that are published statewide. She is presently working on her first book of essays and field experiences: Loon Summer: a Season on Michigan’s Northern Lakes. She enjoys being out in nature year-round, especially when exploring and observing in remote wild and challenging places.
These accomplished, remarkable women will be furnishing bios and photos to be posted soon!