Monday, August 31, 2009

Writers at Soapstone: Jennifer Culkin

Jennifer Culkin’s absorbing debut memoir, A Final Arc of Sky: A Memoir of Critical Care was published by Beacon in the spring of this year to much critical praise such as this, from Judith Kitchen: “I loved the stories, the language, the point of view, but what I loved most was the way this book was able to break my heartthen mend it.”

Much of the book focuses on Jennifer’s experiences aboard an emergency helicopter keeping victims of heart attacks and critically injured survivors of traffic accidents alive as they are being transported to hospital emergency rooms and the risks of being an emergency flight nurse—night flights, bad weather, human error—including dealing with the deaths of colleagues in helicopter crashes. A former neonatal and pediatric intensive-care nurse, she writes vividly of the tiny patients whose lives were in her hands.

Jennifer worked on A Final Arc of Sky during a two-week residency at Soapstone in the spring of 2006 and again for another two weeks in the winter of 2008. She wrote to us in March:

“I can't tell you how much the gift of concerted, focused, untroubled time helped metime that was completely untethered from the stressors of job and home. At Soapstone each morning I journaled purely for fun over coffee in front of the Queen, worked on the material for my book up in the cube from late morning until mid-to-late afternoon, spent the last two hours of daylight riding my bike to Nehalem or Manzanita and back, a wonderful 25-mile ride out to the sea past the woods and the farms of the area; after a quick dinner I continued to work on the book up in the cube until 1 a.m.

“I never write in the evening at homeI have MS and am exhausted by the time evening rolls aroundso this new capability surprised and delighted me. It was enlightening to discover how much I can do as a writer when the usual constraints and energy drains are removed.

“This gift of time is enhanced and heightened by the secluded beauty of the natural setting, by the house itself, and by your amazing management of the facilities. I love the houseit balances perfectly on the cusp between aesthetic and necessity. I love the natural materials, the simple comfort of the furnishings, the quirkiness of the Wind Studio. I love that it has absolutely everything one needs without any froufrou, and the same can be said of the Nehalem/Manzanita area, as well. The total environment you've created frees the writer to focus exclusively on the work and on forms of relaxation and inspiration that enhance the work.”

A 2008 recipient of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, Jennifer lives on Bainbridge Island and is the nonfiction editor for Crab Creek Review. You can find out more about Jennifer on her website.


(Photo of Jennifer courtesy of Elisha Rain)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Andrews Architects

Martha and Jim Andrews shine out among Soapstone’s angels. As Andrews Architects, Inc., they designed the major construction project of 1997 which added the Water Studio, breezeway, hallway, etc., good naturedly putting up with a large committee of representatives from Soapstone who almost always had divergent opinions. All pro bono. Most recently, they designed a smaller, but significant improvement: the replacing of the ladder to the sleeping loft with stairs, which is in the process of being built now (they will have sides and handrails).

Over the course of six months, Martha and Jim once again worked with a committee to find the best solution to adding stairs built to code in a very small space. They provided drawings at various stages as well as final construction drawings. Again, all pro bono. This project, which required a small bay extension of the main room, will make the sleeping loft more accessible and user-friendly.

We are enormously grateful to them—and will always be—for their generosity, their creativity, and their community spirit.

Martha and Jim both grew up in Eastern Oregon, and have practiced in Oregon, except for a brief period, since 1976. In addition to raising a family and designing a wide range of commercial and residential structures, they always make time to serve their communities, working on political campaigns, being architects in residence in public schools, and serving on their neighborhood community organization board as well as on numerous professional, city, and state boards, including the Portland Planning Commission, the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission, the Portland Solar Access Task Force, and the Architecture Foundation of Oregon.

We love their playfulness (see Jim’s Avian Architecture), their love of and considerable knowledge about the natural world, their lovely pen and ink drawings in Soapstone’s journals, and their example of exemplary citizenship.

For more about the Andrews, check out this article on Soapstone's website.