Remote Mineral School Residency Program Continues to See Diverse Talent


It’s a spa for your brain. A summer camp for adults. A breath of fresh air.

That’s how a diverse group of guests described the Mineral School writing residency fellowship program Thursday night at a “Show & Tell” meeting over Zoom.

Tucked away off state Route 7 on indigo Mineral Lake, the program was intended to meet precisely those descriptions; it is a place for artists to set aside the stress of everyday life for a two-week opportunity to focus on their work.

Founded in 2014 by Jane Hodges, a former Seattle Times business reporter who holds an extensive background in creative and informative writing, the residency is run out of the school, which was built in 1947. The Mineral community now lies in the Morton School District.

As one attendee Thursday night said, it takes guts to share your work through a verbal presentation and even greater courage to share work while it’s in progress. But the fellows bravely went ahead anyway.

The first, Olivia Stephens, presented her debut graphic novel, “Artie and the Wolf Moon,” which is fully written and illustrated by her. The story shows a young girl who sneaks out late one night to discover her mother is a werewolf. Stephens has illustrated for a number of publications including The New York Times, The Guardian and FIYAH Literary Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction.

“Mineral School mostly hosts writers but we do host visual artists. We don’t have configured visual arts studios so there’s a somewhat narrow range of folks who come as visual artists,” Hodges said. “(Stephens) not only wrote what you heard but she illustrated everything too, and it’s beautiful work.”

Next, resident John Whittier Treat read the first chapter of a novel he is working on.

In 2015, Big Table Publishing issued his novel “The Rise and Fall of the Yellow House” about the early years of the HIV epidemic in the Pacific Northwest. It was a finalist for the 2016 Lambda Literary Foundation Prize for Best Gay Fiction. He has published short stories in Jonathan and the QDA: Queer Disability Anthology.

Camille Wanliss, a New York-based fiction writer presented work next, a historical novel set in 1960s Jamaica. She is of Caribbean descent and runs the website Galleyway, which shares creative opportunities and uplifts the voices of writers who are Black, Indigenous and people of color.

Lastly, Seattle-based poet and writer Julene Tripp Weaver presented a nonfiction, personal powerpoint covering many aspects of her life, including her HIV-positive diagnosis. She has published several books, including “Truth Be Bold: Serenading Life & Death in the Age of AIDS.”

Though the writers all presented highly unique pieces of work, each said the Mineral School environment was conducive to their artistic process. As its website proclaims, the “school but cool” takes care of fellows’ basic needs and allows them to connect with nature in the remote community.

The school also offers a week-long program for parents, with the reasoning that it’s harder for them to get away for a full two weeks.

“I'm very grateful for this time and space I've been given, and for all the lovely people I've met. And how meeting and melding minds with other artists feeds your own creativity,” Stephens said. “I've missed that in the pandemic so much. I'm very grateful that I was able to return to that feeling of collective, creative energy and sharing.”