Arts and Entertainment

A getaway for productivity of purpose

Owner Petra Martin indulges herself with some quiet time on the porch of the refuge.    - Patricia Duff / The Record
Owner Petra Martin indulges herself with some quiet time on the porch of the refuge.
— image credit: Patricia Duff / The Record

The famous solitary writers Henry David Thoreau and Emily Dickinson would have loved it here.

Down a winding drive to the tidy cabin beyond the main house, beyond the chicken and goat pens, they could wile away the hours writing with only the occasional soft murmur of a kid’s whinny or a hen’s croon to infiltrate their writerly thoughts.

Here at the Whidbey Island Writer’s Refuge, there’s everything writers need and none of what they don’t.

Owner Petra Martin, a writer herself, intended the 15½-by-15½-foot cabin as a place where work gets done.

That’s why Martin advertises the Freeland getaway as a place to “get away for work, not play.”

“I really have a sense of mission about helping people to achieve goals,” Martin said.

“It’s not a romantic getaway or a vacation cabin,” she said.

Indeed, the tiny, ship-shape cabin was designed by the Langley architectural firm Flatrock Productions with a nod toward simplicity, to which Thoreau would have written essays of praise.

Though the modern plumbing and eat-in kitchen with a well-hidden fridge and microwave would probably have blown the “Walden” author’s mind.

And though Dickinson would have been right at home in the cozy recliner next to the wood-burning fireplace, it would be interesting to see how the high-tech printer and WiFi hookup at the small pull- down desk affected her razor-sharp imagination.

The one-room retreat with a small bathroom and an alcoved full-size bed is trimmed beautifully in wood both inside and out and features a screened-in porch where writers can sit, eat or even choose to sleep in the warmer months, surrounded by the calming verdancy of the thick island woods.

Martin gives her tenants as much or as little as they like in terms of communication with and interruptions from her and the outside world, and because she designed the cabin for a solitary purpose, Martin accommodates only a single occupant at one time.

“One writer gave me her SIM card from her iPhone and her laptop so she couldn’t connect to the outside at all,” Martin said.

Guests can stay for

$375 per week and can choose to have their meals prepared and delivered daily by personal chef Kate Poss. Poss will accommodate the diets of diabetics, vegetarians and people who are gluten- or lactose-intolerant. Residents who want Poss to cook for them work out a menu and agree on a price directly with the chef.

Some writers fend for themselves and make their own meals or dine out, with the occasional treat of homemade bread from Martin’s oven or fresh eggs from the friendly chickens delivered by Martin’s soft-spoken son Adrian, 10.

It’s a balancing act for the Martin family.

“We need to stay out of their hair but also support them and make sure they have everything they need,” Martin said.

Seattle writer David Buckner came away satisfied by the experience and what it allowed him to accomplish.

“The Whidbey Island Writer’s Refuge is a phenomenal opportunity to get away and focus completely on a writing project,” Buckner said.

“I got a month and a half’s worth of work done in the six days I was there. It is a perfect mix of solitude coupled with walking trails and isolated country lanes to clear your head.”

Having been in business for only one year, Martin is pleased with the response and noted that anyone with any kind of project to be done is welcome.

So far the Writer’s Refuge has had a variety of visitors, including a police sergeant preparing a presentation; a nun on sabbatical who stayed for six weeks; a father working on a memoir to give to his son; and a textile artist who came to get some weaving done and explore the island’s rich population of craftspeople.

Eric Lock came to the Writer’s Refuge to work on his dissertation and was pleased to find the hospitality different from a touristic bed-and-breakfast.

“You’ll never feel obliged to buy a ceramic Hummel; nor will you be required to sample the latest baked confection and pretend to like it. None of that. They pretty much leave you to your writing, but are happy to help should you ask for anything,” Lock said.

They’ve come from states far and near — Oregon, Illinois, Delaware, California and Washington — some having found the link to the Writer’s Refuge Web site through www.VRBO.com, for “vacation rentals by owner.”

But, though they come from far and wide, Martin said her guests are not simply strangers to her.

“I’m invested in helping them to achieve what they’ve come to do,” she said.

“There’s no escaping yourself in a small space, so you might as well just sit down and write.”

For information about the Whidbey Island Writer’s Refuge visit www.writersrefuge.com or call Petra Martin at 321-4733.

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