This week I am ceding my column to my wife Martha.

As a writer, craftsperson and artist, Martha has lived this firsthand and seen many of her friends, all through their lives, fight to find a path that honors their artistic passions. Many of them “work to paint” or “work to write” and there is honor in their struggle.

At some point, many of us, no matter what passion or field of study chosen, need a break and a helping hand up. As a new board member at “Feathered Ink,” Martha has begun a journey that honors and supports artists on their artistic ability and desire, rather than their ability to pay.

Martha’s story below is typical of a lot of writers, photographers, craft people, and artists trying to find their way in a world where creating their place is difficult. Many in the arts world are asked routinely to donate their services and artwork; perhaps it is time for us (the community) to donate back to them in a collective way that honors their mission and their passion, while serving our society in a way that is rich and wonderful.

Her letter to prospective donors follows.

“If I had but two loaves of bread, I would sell one and buy hyacinths, for they would feed my soul.” ― Mohammad


'Feathered Ink'

By Martha McSweeney Brower

Dear Reader,

Thirty-nine years ago, I moved to Maine as a public school art teacher. I was writing and painting but spending most of my energy and waking hours teaching and working odd jobs to make ends meet. I’d sometimes have two or three part-time jobs at the same time.

During the summers I rented a room in my apartment as a bed and breakfast (washing the linens at a laundromat), taught children’s art lessons in St. George, and mowed lawns (driving around with a lawnmower in the back of my VW Rabbit). And of course, the standard job of many artists and writers, I waitressed. There was little time and energy left to focus on writing and making my own art.

At the end of that first year of teaching, all of the public school art teachers in Maine were invited to attend Haystack Mountain School of Arts and Crafts on Deer Isle for four days, free of charge. It was wonderful to be able to work on my own artistic development without having to worry how I was going to pay for it — because I never could have done so at that time.

Circumstances have changed for me and I am now in a position to attend art and writing workshops without worrying about how to afford them. This always makes me acutely aware of the many talented artists and writers who are in the position that I was many years ago, through no fault of my own.

Some of the following writers took breaks from their jobs of sweeping floors, waiting tables, and selling cars, etc., to attend writers' retreats so they could have time to write their novels: J.D. Salinger, Ayn Rand, Franz Kafka, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, Amy Tan, Cheryl Strayed, Chuck Palahniuk, Jennifer Egan and Frank McCourt (the last two won Pulitzer Prizes).

I am on the board now of a new writers' retreat in Winter Harbor that is specifically for women, called “Feathered Ink” ( This is the brainchild and thesis of one my fellow graduates of the University of Southern Maine’s writing program, Stonecoast. We recently earned our Master of Fine Arts degrees in creative writing.

Although this retreat is for women only, in order to maintain an intimate atmosphere of living together in a small cottage, men are invited to attend the seminars and workshops that will be offered.

A fee of $30 is required to apply for the retreat. If awarded a residency, it will be free.

I hope you’ll join Reade and me in stepping up to become supporters of this new women’s writing retreat, “Feather Ink,” in Winter Harbor, Maine, by making a donation to give a creative woman an opportunity to write without the distraction of everyday tasks.

To apply for admission or to check out the website for more detail, go to:

To donate, checks payable to Feathered Ink may be sent to Feathered Ink, c/o Martha Brower, 77 Union St., Camden, ME 04843.

Gift levels:

Quills: $475 supports one writer for one week (food and lodging)

Fountain Pens: $280 supports one writer for a four-day retreat (food and lodging)

Ball Points: $100

Mechanical pencils: $50

Blackwing pencils: $25 (big fans of these pencils were E.B.White, John Steinbeck, Eugene O’Neil, Archibald MacLeish)

Sharpies: $10

All donations are welcomed and appreciated. Thank you for your consideration!