Guest Blogger Lizbeth Meredith | How Turning My Book from a Baby into a Product Helped Restore My Sanity

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It’s easy to see why authors compare launching their books to birthing a baby.

The gestation period between signing my contract and publishing my memoir, Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters was precisely nine months. The sleepless nights as I tossed and turned before the book’s release were as constant as they were during both of my pregnancies. The never ending resource glut my book required mirrored the parasitic one of my developing fetuses so many years before. And my attachment to this growing creature was real, my sense of identity inextricably wrapped around both its outward appearance and its guts. I wanted my book baby to be well regarded in the world.

My editor, author Brooke Warner, discourages the comparison. In Green Light Your Book, she wrote, “The problem with seeing the book-as-baby orientation to your project is that too often it gets in the way of your doing what you need to do, which is trying to be more objective so you can do the hard work of promoting and selling it.”

I wish her book had come out sooner in my own publication process. It could have spared me some strife. Because thinking of Pieces of Me as my baby meant that one of my sister’s rejection of it cut like a knife. It meant that a wonderful Kirkus review I received a month before its birth had me considering pre-schools for the gifted. It meant there was no end to the rollercoaster of emotions I was feeling, no way for me to find a modicum of objectivity as I was propelled back and forth, ecstasy to desperation in a nanosecond as the little world around me weighed in on my book.

It wasn’t until I got a business license and started monitoring my expenditures that I saw my book as a product. I’d thrown down some serious cash to set up my business as a writer on publicists and editors and hired help for my author website. When I estimated my year’s expenses for tax purposes, it hit me; I’d actually spent my daughter’s inheritance. If I get struck by lightning or squashed in a hit and run, my kids will get nothing afterward but extra copies of my memoir. With that realization, it was time to get serious and recoup my investment.

There are many advantages to realizing that Pieces of Me is a product. Book sales have become data. The reviews of it have become feedback. The associated podcast or television interviews have become resource sharing rather than self-promotion. And I’ve become producer and director of my own business that promotes the product, my memoir.


Lizbeth Meredith is a writer based in Alaska with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in psychology. She has worked as a domestic violence advocate and a child abuse investigator, and works with at-risk teens as a juvenile probation supervisor since 2000. Her memoir, Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters, was a silver medalist in the 2017 IPPY Awards. Lizbeth also published When Push Comes to Shove: How to Help When Someone You Love is Being Abused and is a contributor to A Girl’s Guide to Travelling Alone by Gemma Thompson. She can be reached at lameredith.com or on Facebook and Twitter.

Jeremy Pataky | Louise Erdrich Coming to Tutka Bay

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Word went out via email a while back to those on our mailing list announcing the exciting news that Louise Erdrich will be our guest instructor this year at our 8th Annual Tutka Bay Writers Retreat. We’re awfully excited that she’s coming and have heard—and seen, as reflected in the high number of applications coming in—that many of you are excited, too.

Louise Erdrich is the author of fifteen novels as well as volumes of poetry, children’s books, short stories, and a memoir of early motherhood. Her novel The Round House won the National Book Award for Fiction. The Plague of Doves won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and her debut novel, Love Medicine, was the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. Erdrich has received the Library of Congress Prize in American Fiction, the prestigious PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, a National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and more.

We’ve made two changes this year to the program—the price has been adjusted upwards and we’ve switched to an application model in favor of the usual first-come, first-served model. I’d like to offer comments on both changes.

For years, the exceedingly low registration fee for our retreat has been a result of great generosity on the part of our hosts at Within the Wild and Tutka Bay Lodge. Though we haven’t emphasized it as such, every participant has effectively been granted a partial scholarship through the years. Some of our hard costs, though, (air, land, and sea transportation; insurance; instructor fees; etc.) have risen. Especially within the context of a complete roster of 49 Writers programs, it’s important not to undersell something when its great value is matched by high demand. We’ve prioritized keeping the retreat affordable all these years, and still regard it as a great deal, at $845 for members or $895 for nonmembers, inclusive of meals, round trip water taxi from Homer, lodging, instruction, and recreation opportunities. We’re looking at ways to implement a true scholarship program in the future to prevent financial need from being too much a barrier to entry.

The decision to switch to an application model has also grown out of the program’s popularity as well as feedback from attendees. Every year, we’ve had fantastic cohorts of students who experience this retreat as a highlight of their literary year. The camaraderie, inspiration, and productivity that burbles up like the tides around the lodge is indelible and real. Still, with the genre focus shifting from year to year, the introduction of a simple application into the process allows some match-making to happen, establishing a diverse cohort of students most likely to benefit from the unique talents and insights that each instructor offers. We still plan to give priority to members and alums, as first expressed by giving them the head start this year, but we also look forward to welcoming new writers, including those from out of state. Again, the goal is to serve the most people as well as possible, which is not necessarily the same as simply serving the “best”, most experienced writers. If you’re an emerging writer, please don’t let the application intimidate you away. We chose not to include an application fee as part of the process this year, and get the sense that the higher fees and the slightly-more-committing effort of entertaining a pretty simple application will not impact overall interest. It’s clear that this years’ retreat, as usual, will fill and then wait-list.

We will notify applicants no later than June 30, 2017, if not sooner, so learn more and get your application in soon. Email me with any questions or with any requests for future instructors at info@49Writers.org. Stay tuned, as well, for an exciting lineup of regular classes coming this fall, to be announced late this summer.

Thanks to all the students and instructors over the years behind so many great Tutka Bay Writers Retreat memories. Looking forward to more where those came from!

Jeremy

Literary Roundup | May 19-June 1, 2017

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Have news, events, or opportunities you’d like to see listed here? Email details to info (at) 49writers.org, preferably with “Roundup” as the subject. Items might get edited for length. Your message must be received by close of business the Wednesday before the roundup is scheduled to run at the latest. Unless your event falls in the “Opportunities and Awards” category, it should occur no more than 30 days from when we receive your email. Thanks! 49 Writers Statewide Roundup appears biweekly, on the first and third Friday of each month. If your short-notice event occurs between a missed deadline and an upcoming Roundup, email us a heads up anyway, and if we can help spread the word in other ways, we will.  

 EVENTS and ANNOUNCEMENTS

Louise Erdrich, 2017 Tutka Bay Writers Retreat Guest Instructor

We are very pleased that Louise Erdrich will lead our 8th Annual Tutka Bay Writers Retreat this September. Louise Erdrich is the author of fifteen novels as well as volumes of poetry, children’s books, short stories, and a memoir of early motherhood. Her novel The Round House won the National Book Award for Fiction. The Plague of Doves won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and her debut novel, Love Medicine, was the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. Erdrich has received the Library of Congress Prize in American Fiction, the prestigious PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, a National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and more. She lives in Minnesota with her daughters and is the owner of Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore. Applications are rolling in… learn more, and apply soon:

Tutka Bay Writers Retreat

Kachemak Bay Campus Director Carol Swartz was inducted into the Alaska Women Hall of Fame. More details. Congrats!

SOUTHCENTRAL

Anchorage | May 6-31, 2017 | A silent auction featuring large-format visual art from the pages of Cirque will be up at Great Harvest Bread Co. 

Anchorage | Monday, May 22, 4-6:00 pm, UAA Campus Bookstore presents poet Ishmael Hope, author of Rock Piles Along the Eddy, the second poetry collection by the Inupiaq and Tlingit poet, storyteller and playwright. Through his poetry, Ishmael Hope “elevates Indigenous thought and lifeways, intermingling the landscapes of personal experience, cultural knowledge, stories, and familial connections and the spirit and character of land and sea.” Ishamel Hope served as a lead writer for the award-winning video game Never Alone and he is author of the poetry collection Courtesans of Flounder Hill. He is also a board member of the Before Columbus Foundation. He attained a BLA from University of Alaska Southeast and is currently enrolled with the Institute of American Indian Arts Low Residency Creative Writing MFA Program. He lives in Juneau with his wife Lily and four children. There is free parking for this event in the South Lot, Sports Complex NW Lot, West Campus Central Lot, and Sports Campus West Lot.

Anchorage | Thursday, May 25, 2017, 4-6:00 pm, UAA Campus Bookstore presents Dr. Miklos Vassanyi: The earliest Reports of Encounters with the Inuit in the Old Icelandic Sagas, Medieval Norwegian and North-European Chronicles and Greenland Deeds. Dr Miklos Vassanyi holds a PhD in Philosophy (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) and a PhD in History (ELTE University of Budapest). He is Associate Professor at Karoli University Budapest, Department of General Humanities, currently working as a Fulbright Visiting Researcher at the University of Minnesota‒Twin Cities, Center for Austrian Studies.  In Budapest, he teaches on the MA program of Karoli University in Religious Studies. His areas of research include Inuit history and Inuit religious phenomena with a concentration on shamanism. He coedited Indigenous Perspectives of North America (Cambridge Scholars Publisher, 2014) and has published a number of articles on Native American anthropology. This presentation is conducted through the Fulbright Scholar Program’s Outreach Lecturing Fund (OLF).  It sponsored with the UAA Alaska Native Studies Department. Free, open to the public.  Free parking for this event in the South Lot, Sports Complex NW Lot, West Campus Central Lot, and Sports Campus West Lot.

Anchorage | 3rd Annual Alaska Audiobook Narrator’s Workshop, presented by Basil Sands. “This could be your ticket to making a good living as an audiobook narrator. Thousands of new audiobooks are being produced every year and the demand keeps growing. And with modern technology, narration work that was once only available if you lived in LA or NYC is now available even here in Alaska!” Friday, May 26, 2017, 9 am until 5 pm, Alaska Communications Business Technology Center, Anchorage. $150. If you are interested email to basil at basilsands dot com with your name and an indication of your experience level, if any, in the following areas: audiobooks, stage acting, on camera acting, radio work. https://www.facebook.com/alaskanarrators/ | Read his blog post about it

McCarthy | Sunday, May 28, 5 pm, McCarthy-Kennicott Historical Museum presents historian and author Katie Ringsmuth during their 2017 Season Opening Celebration. Ringsmuth is the author of At Work in the Wrangells: A Photographic History 1895-1966, which underscores the interconnected work of humans and nature that together made history in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Ringsmuth has also authored several other books on Alaska history and lives in Eagle River.

Anchorage | Tuesday, June 6, 4-6:00 pm, UAA Campus Bookstore presents Bonnye Matthews: How to Sell to Libraries and Readers in the Digital Age | How to Sell to Libraries and Readers in the Digital Age shows how to set up email systems for libraries from an online source and another for readers from emails gathered at book signing events.  The number of libraries is a large one. It is a wonderful place to market books, but for the author new to this attempt, it can be daunting. Bonnye Matthews found a way to reach librarians who would forward her email to their acquisitions people. This book cannot guarantee a library will buy your books, but it will give you a solid path through the maze and with a huge effort, you can develop an email list that you can use for book after book you write. Bonnye Matthews is the author of the award winning Winds of Change novel series on the peopling of the Americas before the last ice age glaciation. Her current research focuses on archaeological sites in the Americas before the end of the last ice age glaciation. All UAA Campus Bookstore events are free, open to the public. Free parking for this event in the South Lot, Sports Complex NW Lot, West Campus Central Lot, and Sports Campus West Lot.

Seward | June 8, 2017, 7 pm | Seward area writers will host a Writers’ Showcase at Zudy’s Cafe, 501 Railway Ave in Seward. Anyone interested in reading can contact Dan Walker dlwalker@gci.net.

Anchorage | Friday, June 9, 2017 from 12-2:00 pm, UAA Campus Bookstore | Major General Kenneth Privratsky, USA Retired, presents The Falklands Today: 35 Years After the War. For over 175 years, an archipelago, known as the Falkland Islands to the British and the Malvinas to Argentines, has been a source of tension. Some in Parliament were pushing for a shared agreement for the islands, when Argentina’s military Junta surprised the world by invading the Falklands in 1982. Under Margaret Thatcher’s leadership at the time, the British military overcame tremendous challenges to retake the islands, which led to the collapse of the Junta and restoration of democracy in Argentina.  Yet today, 35 years after the surrender, tensions over sovereignty remain. This lecture will highlight the long-standing dispute, summarize what happened during the war in 1982, and discuss the situation today. Major General Kenneth Privratsky, USA Retired, served in the infantry in Vietnam before becoming a logistician. He taught at West Point, was a National Security Affairs Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and commanded organizations supplying U.S. forces worldwide. In civilian life, he was an executive in the ocean transportation industry. He has lectured on military subjects to both national and international audiences and is the author of the book Logistics in the Falklands War, now in its third printing. He lives in Anchorage. All UAA Campus Bookstore events are free, open to the public. Free parking across UAA on Fridays.

Anchorage | Wednesday, June 14, 2017 | Reading featuring Rachel Rose and Joan Naviyuk Kane. Details to be determined and announced.

Anchorage | Monday, June 19 from 4-6:00 pm at the UAA Campus Bookstore | Author Sheila Kelly presents Treadwell Gold An Alaska Saga of Riches and Ruin. Sheila Kelly has spent decades researching her family’s history and the people of Treadwell for her book, Treadwell Gold, An Alaska Saga of Riches and Ruin. In the early 1900s, her father and four aunts were born and raised in Treadwell, Alaska, a hard rock gold mining town on Douglas Island across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau. Treadwell became the largest gold mining operation in the world–one that created much more wealth than the infamous Klondike Gold Rush. Then in 1917, catastrophe hit when the mines caved in, flooded, and closed. Today, one hundred years later, only remnants of buildings along the Treadwell Mine Historic Trail remain. Treadwell Gold, published by University of Alaska Press, includes numerous historical photos. All UAA Campus Bookstore events are free, open to the public. Free parking for this event in the South Lot, Sports Complex NW Lot, West Campus Central Lot, and Sports Campus West Lot.

Anchorage Sunday, July 9 through Tues, July 18, 2017. Public reading series from UAA’s creative writing MFA program. Public reception with Jo Ann Beard on Saturday, July 15. Details to come.

INTERIOR 

Fairbanks | The next Fairbanks Arts Association literary reading will be June 3, 7 pm in the Bear Gallery, featuring Frank Soos and Rosemary McGuire. No FAA literary reading for the month of May, in lieu of A Fairbanks Arts Gala: Golden Anniversary Fundraiser.

Fairbanks | Alaskana Raven Bookstore is looking for local authors for First Friday events. Contact James at tundradrumstoo.ebayer.alaska@gmail.com or 347-8302.

Denali National Park | July 21 – 23 – My Wilderness: Storytelling Workshop, a field course offered by Alaska Geographic through the Murie Science and Learning Center. Do you have a story to share about an experience in Denali or another wild land? Join expert story coaches from Anchorage storytelling program ARCTIC ENTRIES as they reveal the secrets to capturing and keeping an audience’s attention just by talking about yourself! Your story can be funny, inspiring, humbling, or something else entirely. Immersed in the wilderness of Denali, we will explore storytelling principles, share our own stories, and learn how to make our story the best it can be. The workshop will culminate with a group storytelling performance — starring you — on the final evening of the course, on the theme of “In the wilderness: stories of being outside, finding yourself, and the trail less traveled.” Course will stay at a field camp located 29 miles inside Denali National Park along the Teklanika River. The Field Camp includes rustic tent cabins and a common dining tent. All meals, accommodations, transportation, and instruction are included in the $400 course fee ($360 for Alaska Geographic members). Professional development credit is available through UAA. For more information or to register, go to http://akgeo.org/field-courses/, email courses@alaskageographic.org or call 907-683-6432.

SOUTHEAST

Juneau | May 21, 2017, Sunday 1-4 pm | The poetry nonprofit Woosh Kinaadeiyi will teach a performance workshop for spoken word poetry, taught by Erika Bergren and Naaweiyaa Tagaban, at Beast Flow Studio at 215 Ferry Way. All abilities and ages are welcome to come and hone their performance skills. Tickets are $20, or $35 with our Season 7 t-shirt, but if time are tight, send us an email at juneaupoetryslam@gmail.com.

Juneau | May 26, 2017, 6-9 pm, Hearthside Books Annual Authors at Sea Whale Watching Cruise featuring Bob Fagen, Ishmael Hope, Eowyn Ivey, Mark Kelley, and Kate Troll. $65.

Juneau | Sealaska Heritage will sponsor a new workshop on digital storytelling this summer for Alaska Native students in grades 8-11. It will cover film production techniques including interviewing and stop-motion animation. All supplies will be provided and there is no charge. The Voices on the Land Digital Storytelling Workshop is scheduled 9 am-4 pm, June 26-30, at the Vocational Training Resource Center in Juneau. Apply: goo.gl/forms/0R97lbfGmp6TYDCR2 Flyer: https://goo.gl/Ap7orp

 

                                                                   SOUTHWEST

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CONFERENCES, RETREATS, and RESIDENCIES

North Words Writers Symposium will be May 31-June 3, 2017 in Skagway, Alaska. This year’s keynote speaker is world world travel and fiction writer Paul Theroux. After writing nearly fifty books of nonfiction and fiction set in the most exotic of locales, America’s greatest travel writer is finally headed for one of Alaska’s most notorious: Skagway. Paul Theroux will lead a faculty of seven acclaimed authors at the 8th annual North Words Writers Symposium. A maximum of 50 registrants at the 2017 North Words Symposium will also engage with a faculty of Alaskan writers that includes John Straley, Sherry Simpson, Deb Vanasse, Tom Kizzia, Andy Hall, and Lenora Bell. Learn more and sign up soon; 50 participants max. northwordsinfo@gmail.com

2017 Kachemak Bay Writers Conference will occur June 9-13, 2017 in Homer, Alaska. Keynote speaker will be Jane Smiley. Details and more.

Food writing retreat with Julia O’Malley and NYT’s Kim Severson at Tutka Bay LodgeJuly 21-23, 2017. $875 inclusive. Details.

The Wrangell Mountains Center presents Writing on the River: RiverSong from July 26-31, 2017, a six-day, five-night adventure in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. This year’s workshop will feature river sprite and musical poet David Grimes, songwriter and journalist Brad Warren, and workshop director Nancy Cook. Together we will explore the ways wilderness can help inspire songs, stories, poems, and essays. Activities include an opening reading/performance and craft sessions in the comfort of the Wrangell Mountains Center’s facility in McCarthy, followed by three nights and four days of creative inquiry along the Kennicott, Nizina, Chitina, and Copper Rivers. Space is limited to nine student writers/ songwriters. More info

2017 Writers Tutka Bay Writers Retreat with Louise Erdrich will occur September 10-12, 2017. More.


OPPORTUNITIES and AWARDS for WRITERS

Alaska Women Speak is accepting submissions for Fall 2017: Berry Picking/Cherry Picking. Deadline for Submission: August 15, 2017. Guidelines: http://alaskawomenspeak.org

Anyone in Alaska is eligible to enter Fireside Books’ essay contest, which offers a prize of $500 dollars and $500 worth of books for the best “thoughtful, well-researched, forward-thinking essays that map out a new citizen-based ethic of communication, mapping the porous boundaries between weaponized propaganda and honest, authentic persuasion.” Your essay should be publication ready, about 1000 words, plus a bibliography and notes. Deadline: May 31, 2017. Click here for full details.

The Northern Review seeks submissions for their third literary issue (as opposed to scholarly issues), to be published in Fall 2017. Details below. Submission accepted through May 31, 2017Alaska Book Week will be October 1-7, 2017. Authors interested in participating are encouraged to contact Elizabeth Waetjen at akbookweek@gmail.com.

September 30, 2017 is the deadline to apply for a 2018 artist residency at Denali National Park. Visual artists, writers, and composers are eligible.

What’s missing? Submit your event or announcement by May 30 to appear in the next Roundup, scheduled to post June 1. Send an email with “Roundup” as the subject to info@49Writers.org. 


Thank You for Your Support! 49 Writers members and donors make this blog, our workshops, Crosscurrents events, Readings and Craft Talk series, and other special programs and activities possible. Not a member yet? Join Us 

Guest Blogger Lizbeth Meredith | Three Things I Wish I’d Known as an Expectant Author

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Lizbeth Meredith presents “Pieces of Me” in 49 Writers’ Reading & Craft Talk Series, January 2017, Anchorage

“Please keep in mind; this is just my first book.”

This is what I began telling friends and family several months ago when I was still up to my eyeballs in anxiety and final edits of my memoir, Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters. I followed the announcement with a bunch of reasons why my book would suck and the ways I would do things differently when publishing my next book.

This was my version of a pre-sales campaign.

I wasn’t being self-deprecating.  I was sleepless and certain that this book that I’d spent more than 20 years writing would turn out to be a steaming pile of poo.

Since then, I’ve learned that that this period is normal among expectant authors.  In Green Light Your Book, author Brooke Warner calls it the Author Freak-Out Zone, a very common occurrence in the months before publication.

But I didn’t know that then.

What I did know was that I had a story that needed to be told. That, and I kept bumping in to walls trying to tell it.

There are a few things I wish I’d known about the publication process and my book:

It is not personal.
I wish I had repeated this to myself over and over. The it is the myriad of things I got my feelings hurt over. From authors who agreed early on to blurb my book but never did, to the brisk emails I received from different people in my team during deadlines, not one bit of it was about me or my writing. It was about a busy, bustling world around me, with many other authors also about to publish their books, and with everyone involved simply trying to get through their days without missing a deadline.

It is not unique.
Everyone wants to think their book is special. With estimates that 400,000 books or more are published each year, it makes sense that there were books with similar themes and exact same titles published around the same time as mine. There are even several books titled Pieces of Me in print, differentiated by the subtitles. Similarly, there are a lot of memoirs about domestic violence and several about parental child abductions, too. I tried not to let myself wonder if the market was already saturated.

It is not enough.
I like to think I’m an energetic person, but during the path to publication, there wasn’t enough to go around. Both professional and beta readers who recommended needed changes. After I made them, it created a need for more changes. And the same can be said for social media. If I spent time enhancing my Facebook author page, I was neglecting growing my Twitter followers. And if I worked on both in equal measure, I was ignoring writing content essays that my PR team could pitch that would draw attention to my book.

Then my book was released. And I learned a few more things.

It is personal.
The week Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters was launched, I never felt more vulnerable.  Not simply because it was my life’s story. I would not have felt differently if I’d written a novel. It was my work. My best efforts, my time, and my resources, all poured in to this 12.8-ounce paperback as my offering to the world.

It is unique.
Though my book brings up all-too common topics like healing intergenerational traumas and domestic violence, only I could write about my experiences. Each of us has a unique voice. And the fact that mine has shared themes as other recently released books has only served to create a well-rounded conversation. Similar books enhance the reader’s experience and can improve the writer’s chance to increase interest.

It is enough.
My book isn’t perfect. And I never did learn how to tag others on Twitter or to have a live event on Facebook like I meant to. I intended to write more content pieces for magazines to help with publicity. But in the end, Pieces of Me was released to a small yet welcoming community of readers that have shared with me and with others how the book has impacted them. Some have even shared that impact on Goodreads and on Amazon.

Every day since the release, I exhale at least once, deeply and intentionally, grateful for the things I’ve learned as a budding author. And now I mention with pride to friends and strangers alike, “This is just my first book.”


Lizbeth Meredith is a writer based in Alaska with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in psychology. She has worked as a domestic violence advocate and a child abuse investigator, and works with at-risk teens as a juvenile probation supervisor since 2000. Her memoir, Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters, was a silver medalist in the 2017 IPPY Awards. Lizbeth also published When Push Comes to Shove: How to Help When Someone You Love is Being Abused and is a contributor to A Girl’s Guide to Travelling Alone by Gemma Thompson. She can be reached at lameredith.com or on Facebook and Twitter.

2017 Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist Awards

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Anchorage, AKRasmuson Foundation has named artist Gertrude Svarny of Unalaska its 2017 Distinguished Artist. The award recognizes one Alaska artist annually for a lifetime of creative excellence and contributions to arts and culture in the State. It is accompanied by a $40,000 award that she can use to further immerse herself in the exploration and development of her artistry.

To learn more about Gertrude Svarny and her work, visit the new, Individual Artists Awards web page at http://www.rasmuson.org/enjoy/2017-artists/. The website includes videos, artists’ work, and statements. You can also read the complete announcement about the 2017 Individual Artist Awards on the Rasmuson Foundation website at http://www.rasmuson.org/news/rasmuson-foundation-announces-2017-individual-artist-awards/.

Rasmuson Foundation also awarded nine fellowships ($18,000 each) and 25 project awards ($7,500 each) to 34 artists as part of its Individual Artists Awards program. A Fellowship is an unrestricted award for mid-career and mature artists to focus their energy and attention for a  one-year period on developing their creative work.

The Project Award is designed for emerging, mid-career and mature artists to be used on a specific, short-term project that has clear benefits to the artist’s growth and development. Awardees, who include poets, choreographers, writers, multi-disciplinary artists, carvers, composers, folk and traditional artists and performance artists, were chosen from 450 applicants, and represent 14 Alaskan communities. You can see samples of each artists work and videos that showcase their accomplishments on the Individual Artists Awards web page.

We encourage you to learn more about the accomplishments, work and plans of 2017 Distinguished Artist, Gerturde Svarny, and about the following 2017 Fellowship and Project Awardees.


Note: Literary artists in bold
2017 Fellowship Awardees
  • Earl F. Atchak of Chevak
  • Breezy Berryman of Homer
  • Beth Blankenship of Anchorage
  • Olena Kalytiak Davis of Anchorage
  • Erin Coughlin Hollowell of Homer
  • Tom Kizzia of Homer
  • Enzina Marrari of Anchorage
  • Maria Shell of Anchorage
  • Agnes Thompson of Anchorage
2017 Project Awardees
  • Carmel Anderson of Ketchikan
  • Everett Athorp of Klawock
  • Marian Call of Juneau
  • Alanna DeRocchi of Anchorage
  • Christy Tengs Fowler of Haines
  • Ellen Frankenstein of Sitka
  • Patt Garrett of McCarthy
  • Erin Gingrich of Anchorage
  • Lily Hope of Juneau
  • Gail Jackson of Anchorage
  • Wendy Langton of Fairbanks
  • Mary Loewen of Kodiak
  • Mangyepsa Gyipaayg (Kandi McGilton) of Metlakatla
  • Amy Meissner of Anchorage
  • Evan Phillips of Anchorage
  • Jessica Meadowlark Plachta of Haines
  • Sandy Stolle of Seward
  • Karen Stomberg of Fairbanks
  • Vanessa “Vee” Sweet of Shishmaref
  • Lily H. Tuzroyluke of Anchorage
  • Miranda Weiss of Homer
  • Merna Wharton of Fairbanks
  • Nathaniel Wilder of Anchorage
  • Hannah Yoter of Anchorage
  • Itzel Yarger-Zagal of Anchorage
About the Individual Artist Awards

In December 2003, the Rasmuson Foundation Board of Directors launched a multi-year initiative to  invest in Alaska‘s cultural and artistic community. The program awards grants to Alaskan artists to ensure the continuation of the state‘s vibrant and diverse arts and culture community.

In 14 years, the Individual Artist Awards program has made 444 grants totaling $4 million directly to Alaskan artists. The grants allow recipients to pursue a variety of creative avenues, and give them time to focus on their work, explore educational opportunities, and upgrade and purchase equipment to help them grow as artists.

About the Foundation
Jenny Rasmuson with her son, Elmer, created the Rasmuson Foundation in May 1955 to honor her late husband E.A. Rasmuson. The Foundation is a catalyst to promote a better life for all Alaskans.

Guest Blogger Lizbeth Meredith | Grants: Beyond the Cash Benefit

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A few months before publishing my memoir, I was drowning in book-related expenses. And while some of them were discretionary—contests, book marks and cards, shipping of the paperbacks I wanted to sell directly during events, and website upgrades, to name a few—they seemed important to my book’s success. I considered a second job, but didn’t know when I’d have time to ever promote my book or write. It had been years since I felt that broke.

Bestselling author Patrick Wensink once said, “There’s a reason many authors drive dented cars… It’s not because we’ve chosen a life of poverty. It’s that poverty has chosen our profession.”

Indeed it has. While it’s difficult to say for sure how much indie authors average on their first book, it’s clear that the majority of authors don’t earn enough to pay their expenses by relying solely on their writing. I myself have not been able to fund my coffee habit with past freelance efforts.

Enter the important role of grants. Grants for writers provide an opportunity for free money. Money that doesn’t need to be repaid. Yipee! And while grants aren’t designed to provide a living, they cushion writers as they move through their creative process.

I’ve applied for grants for the past three years. I’ve been rejected twice and accepted twice. But I’ve benefited from the application process every single time.

During the application process, I was forced to take a look at my current body of work and defend its worthiness. I’m no Hemingway, but I lived a compelling story and told it pretty well. Twinges of pride replaced some pangs of insecurity. A much needed confidence boost.

Then I created a writer’s resume, inventorying the workshops, retreats, and writing communities I’ve been involved in throughout the years. The places where I’ve volunteered my time to support other writers. And it was an awakening. Writing is much more than a hobby as I’d previously claimed. It is both a passion and a priority. I’ve spent my time and money on it, and have every intention of continuing to do so for the foreseeable future.

Crafting a budget and creating a wish list helped me clarify further what my goals are. I didn’t apply for much. I wanted a new laptop, the chance to attend a writer’s retreat, and an updated author website.

I applied for a mini-grant at the Alaska Humanities Forum last summer. I did it quickly and neglected to ask for help from their staff when I didn’t understand the forms.

My application was rejected just as quickly. It stung. But eventually I realized that if a grant for under $5,000 would have rocked my world, surely there were other ways to find the resources and achieve my now-clearer goals. Like buying a laptop on an installment plan, or applying for a scholarship directly from the writer’s retreat I’d hoped to attend. And by selecting a group of local teens at the Alaska Teen Media to pretty-up my website for a reasonable cost, my needs would be met and they in turn would get high school credit and job experience for their time.

The second time I applied, I reached out and grabbed the hand Humanities Forum staff extended. Their process forced me to solidify community partnerships and to create a plan of how to reach my audience with a dialogue about intergenerational patterns of domestic violence my memoir addressed. When I got the mini-grant, it increased my accountability to achieve my stated goals, and to be intentional along the way. My audience needed an opportunity to be heard.

Emboldened by receiving the mini-grant, I applied for and received the Lin Halterman Memorial Grant through the Alaska Writers Guild. Again, it was not simply a financial lift, but it gave me incentive to expand my audience of readers, and provided even more accountability buddies. Because when an organization funds your writing in ways great or small, they’re investing in you, the writer, and your vision for your work.

Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters was released eight months ago, and I’ve done nearly 50 events to promote it thus far. I’ve traveled around Alaska first and was later welcomed by audiences in Seattle, Ohio, and Michigan. I’ll be in Portland soon, and will eventually come full circle to my birth place of Kentucky in June for a book event. Without the less than $4,000 total I’ve received in grants, I believe my book would have done alright, but I can say for a fact that with them, I’ve enjoyed expanded reach and a sense of partnership during my journey to becoming an author. And for all of that, I’m incredibly grateful.

To find out more about grants available to you, put Grants for Writers in your computer search engine and find a match for your work. In Alaska, the Alaska Humanities Forum, the Rasmuson Foundation, the Alaska State Council on the Arts, and the Lin Halterman Memorial Grant are just some of the options worth pursuing.


Lizbeth Meredith is a writer based in Alaska with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in psychology. She has worked as a domestic violence advocate and a child abuse investigator, and works with at-risk teens as a juvenile probation supervisor since 2000. Her memoir, Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters, was a silver medalist in the 2017 IPPY Awards. Lizbeth also published When Push Comes to Shove: How to Help When Someone You Love is Being Abused and is a contributor to A Girl’s Guide to Travelling Alone by Gemma Thompson. She can be reached at lameredith.com or on Facebook and Twitter.

Roundup Redux: Lizbeth will join Carmen Davis, David Onofrychuck, and Carmen Davis for the Alaska Writers Guild’s May program at Barnes & Noble on Wednesday, May 17, 2017 at Barnes & Noble in Anchorage. The panel discussion and Q&A will focus on grants for writers. 

Deb Vanasse | In These Times

Deb VanasseActive Voice1 Comment

Just when I think I’ve achieved equilibrium, there’s a jolt.

Such is life. That’s the Zen way of thinking.

But I’m a writer, and writing demands focus. Under certain circumstances—death, illness, tragedy, the potential demise of democracy—focus is hard.

It won’t help with all circumstances, but one source of wisdom I’ve returned to time and again in recent weeks is Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. This slim volume of small trim size delightfully illustrates the writerly precept that less is more. It also reiterates the importance of language, writing, and books, especially in times of trouble.

Snyder opens a chapter titled “Be Kind to Our Language” with this admonition:

Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying.

He goes on to point out the ruinous effect of language used by Adolf Hitler to reject legitimate opposition—the people meant only some people, encounters were always struggles (framed in more modern circumstances by winning), attempts to understand the world in ways that different from the spin of the leader were defamation (cue fake news).

These effects are magnified in the modern era by our addiction to television and the internet, Snyder contends.

The effort to define the shape and significance of events requires words and concepts that elude us when we are entranced by visual stimuli…When we repeat the same words and phrases that appear in the daily media, we accept the absence of a larger framework.

To alleviate this effect, Snyder suggests we surround ourselves with books. Such sacrifice!

We writers stand well-equipped for these times. In the midst of trouble, we’re kind to language. We read. In the genres of our choice, we illuminate the larger framework.

In the midst of trouble, we stand strong.

Co-founder of 49 Writers and founder of the independent authors cooperative Running Fox Books, Deb Vanasse has authored seventeen books. Among the most recent are Write Your Best Book, a practical guide to writing books that rise above the rest; Cold Spell, a novel that “captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds; and the “deeply researched and richly imagined” biography  Wealth Woman. After thirty-six years in Alaska, she now lives on the north coast of Oregon. She’s looking forward to reconnecting with Alaska writers later this month at the North Words Writers Symposium in Skagway. The views expressed here are her own.

Active Voice by Jeremy Pataky | 100,000 Pennies for your Thoughts

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Books can change minds, shape policy, and, according to at least one of Alaska’s former senators, alter “the course of human history.” In his new Anchorage Press column, “Yeah Write”, 49 Writers Executive Director Jeremy Pataky explores the societal impact of books like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the seminal environmental science book that made the American public aware of the dangers of pesticides for the first time. 

At a time when “fake news” and “alternate facts” are being countered by marches for science and new forms of activism, what is the role that writers are playing in this latest, pivotal moment in the American Experiment?  On that topic, as Jeremy mentions in his column, Fireside Books in Palmer is looking for writers willing to roll up their sleeves and take on the questions surrounding the “ethics of persuasion in the digital age.” A cash prize and store credit worth $1,000 in total is available for the winning essay. Submissions are due by May 31, 2017. Visit Fireside’s website for details. Let us know if you submit an essay—and check back here for more updates about the contest, the winning essay, and more!

~ Charles Boyle
Active Voice Blog Editor 

Humans aren’t the only ones making noise in Anchorage this spring. PC: Barbara Hood

100,000 Pennies for Your Thoughts: A Bookseller’s Bounty Hunt

The book title Silent Spring has been taken now for almost 55 years. Were it still available, that phrase could aptly name a book about some muzzled, alternate present moment that many seem eager to foist on us. Rachel Carson’s seminal environmental science book dropped with anything but silence in 1962. It sparked outrage and threats from the chemical industry, who she accused of spreading disinformation, and anger from politicians she outed for swallowing lies they were fed without question.

No book had impacted our environmental consciousness like Carson’s did since Thoreau’s Walden over a century earlier. Alaska’s own Senator Ernest Gruening said to Carson at the time: “Every once in a while in the history of mankind, a book has appeared which has substantially altered the course of history.” Indeed, Silent Spring spurred a revolution that brought ecology to the masses and led to the founding of the EPA. Once pesticides (which she called biocides, since they kill more than pests) enter the biosphere, they kill bugs and then make their way up the food chain, harming birds, fish, and children. The book’s insights were nothing new to scientists, but it certainly was news to the public. She painted a clear, facts-based picture: to poison nature is to poison ourselves.

Few remember that Carson’s title was inspired by a John Keats poem called “La Belle Dame sans Merci” (French for The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy), which contains the lines “The sedge is wither’d from the lake, And no birds sing.” Her title captures both the literal possibility of future birdless springtimes and also implies more metaphorically dark days ahead for the natural world and ourselves.

Lately in America, Carsonesque silences resound, produced by the kinds of hubris she condemned. (Think mass casualty events among birds, fish, and marine invertebrates and accelerating species and language extinctions.) Now, Trump’s proposed budget would silence the EPA, doling it death by way of “a thousand cuts,” effectively, since axing it outright isn’t possible.

The runup to spring has been marked with other kinds of silences, too: the Trump administration removed the EPA webpage about climate change and forbade the National Park Service from tweeting anything after it posted photos showing the relative sizes of Trump and Obama’s inauguration crowds. Kids have been shot at schools and the President issues no comment. Trump withholds his tax returns. The White House withholds visitor lists (not to mention lists of visitors to the surrogate oval offices of his Tower and Mar-a-Lago). The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Politico, BuzzFeed, the BBC, and the Guardian get barred from press meetings at the White House, punishment for reporting facts the administration would prefer to muzzle. One of Trumps tweets said that people who burn the American flag should be stripped of their citizenship and jailed. Et cetera. Basic ingredients for a healthy democracy—freedom of the press, freedom of information, and freedom of speech—appear in the crosshairs. Instead of regarding them as his charge, Trump deems them enemies.

The country’s diminishing willingness—or ability, even?—to discuss and consider differing viewpoints blows fresh air on hot coals. Debate, empathy, and civil discourse seem slated for a new kind of endangered species list. We’ve entered the “post-truth” fake news era of “weaponized propaganda” where people are manipulated using AI technology to advance specific political agendas. The atmosphere across the country and around the world is exceptionally fraught.

The literary world, like so many other forums, has exploded with commentary, analysis, foreboding, and action. It’s always interesting to see who puts their money where their mouth is. Perhaps more interestingly, Palmer’s Fireside Books is putting their money up to encourage Alaskans to open their own mouths and speak. They’ve staked a cash bounty for the best thousand-or-so-word answer(s) to questions about the “ethics of persuasion in the digital age.” $500 cash plus $500 worth of books is on the table, reward for “thoughtful, well-researched, forward-thinking essays that map out a new citizen-based ethic of communication, mapping the porous boundaries between weaponized propaganda and honest, authentic persuasion.” The deadline is May 31. The prize could go to one best entry, or end up divvied out to a pile of worthy winners selected by a panel of three judges.

The call for essays asks: “What is the line between persuasion and propaganda? What ethical issues apply to the act of persuasion? How do traditional lists of faulty reasoning (e.g. ad hominem attacks) apply to contemporary communication? What strategies can citizens use to neutralize harassment (such as hate speech) on social media platforms?”

When I talked to Fireside owner and poet David Cheezem about his contest, he said “I’m asking questions that I don’t know the answers to. These are essays that I don’t think I’m ready to write. I don’t have the answers. But there is definitely a problem with the way we communicate. We are dividing off into tribes and there’s a lot of confusion about what the line is between being persuasive and being part of some kind of psy-ops disinformation campaign.” He sounded open to a wide range of approaches.

The contest idea came out of a conversation between David and Dr. Herb Bischoff, not long after the bookstore’s 15th anniversary. “For me to donate fifteen years of my life to something, it’s got to be more than just a business,” said David. “There are certain things that it’s the job of a bookstore to do—one is to promote free speech and one is to promote intelligent speech, so [this contest] just seemed to fit into the job of bookselling.”

Between the nationwide Writers Resist movement, the Earth Day March for Science marches across the country this Saturday (cue the Science Not Silence signs), Terrain.org’s Letters to America series (which includes several Alaskans), and even our nascent Active Voice series at 49 Writers and projects like Fireside’s contest, this spring is not silent. Hopefully the din sounds more and more like a debate than a choir rehearsal. Even if doublethink fuels a whole new forever war, I’m glad one independent Alaska bookseller’s trying to parry shouting contests with an essay contest.

Get more info and an entry form at www.goodbooksbadcoffee.com.

Jeremy Pataky is the executive director of 49 Writers and the author of Overwinter (University of Alaska Press / Alaska Literary Series 2015). 

Originally published in the Anchorage Press and cross-posted here with permission.


To learn more about our Active Voice series and to submit your own work, visit http://49writers.org/active-voice.

Literary Roundup | May 5-18, 2017

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Have news, events, or opportunities you’d like to see listed here? Email details to info (at) 49writers.org, preferably with “Roundup” as the subject. Items might get edited for length. Your message must be received by close of business the Wednesday before the roundup is scheduled to run at the latest. Unless your event falls in the “Opportunities and Awards” category, it should occur no more than 30 days from when we receive your email. Thanks! 49 Writers Statewide Roundup appears biweekly, on the first and third Friday of each month. If your short-notice event occurs between a missed deadline and an upcoming Roundup, email us a heads up anyway, and if we can help spread the word in other ways, we will.  

 EVENTS and ANNOUNCEMENTS

Fairbanks author Nicole Stellon O’Donnell‘s next book, You Are No Longer in Trouble, a memoir built around her experience as a public school teacher in the US, has been selected by the Marie Alexander Poetry Series and will be published in March 2019.

Congrats to Erin Hollowell who joins the UAA MFA creative writing program faculty!

Storyknife Writers Retreat in Homer has raised enough funds that with a 2-to-1 matching donation from Peggy Shumaker and Joe Usibelli, the main house can be built and dedicated to Homer writer Eva Saulitis. Starting in November last year, donations were solicited via a crowd-funding campaign to build Eva’s House, the main house where the chef/site manager will provide meals for residents throughout their stay. Eva’s House will also contain a dining/living area, office, and library/classroom for public presentations. When complete Storyknife Writers Retreat will have six cabins and host multiple residencies throughout the year. Storyknife is seeking funding for the remaining three cabins as well as the infrastructure, furnishings, and landscape development. The vision of author Dana Stabenow, Storyknife seeks to support women writers by providing uninterrupted time for development of their craft. https://storyknife.org/

SOUTHCENTRAL

Seward | May 5, 2017, 6 pm | Contributors to Volume 2 of Seward Unleashed will have a book launch event at the Seward Senior Center as part of Seward’s First Friday Art Walk. Contributors will read at 6:30. In this new collection of local stories eleven contributors wrote on a range of personal subjects. If interested in purchasing a copy for $10 please email Sean Ulman, seanulman@gmail.com

ANC | May 6-31, 2017 | A silent auction featuring large-format visual art from the pages of Cirque will be up at Great Harvest Bread Co. 

ANC | Thursday, May 11, 9:30—11:30 AM, UAA Campus Bookstore presents Seldovia-based outdoor adventure author Erin McKittrick, author of Mudflats and Fish Camps: 800 Miles around Alaska’s Cook Inlet (Mountaineers Books). McKittrick, the acclaimed author of A Long Trek Home, paddled and hiked the 800 miles around the Cook Inlet with her husband Hig and their two young children. In Mudflats and Fish Camps, she writes about their adventures, the history of the inlet, the culture of the area, and their observation and experiences with wildlife. McKittrick has a master’s degree in molecular and cellular biology and writes regularly for Alaska Dispatch News. In 2007, she and Hig founded Ground Truth Trekking, a nonprofit organization that combines “ground truth” with “researched truth,” using science and adventure to further the conversation about Alaska’s environmental issues. This event is held in conjunction with UAA Appreciation Day and UAA Staff Council. There’s free parking for this event in the South Lot, Sports Complex NW Lot, West Campus Central Lot, and Sports Campus West Lot

ANC | Saturday, May 13, 1-3:00 PM, UAA Campus Bookstore presents Putting Mom back in Mother’s Day: A Mother’s Day Author Event with Lael Morgan, Lizzie Newell , LaVon Bridges and Alice Wright | Celebrate an early Mother’s Day with local Alaskan authors as they read and discuss their books and writing. Topics include “Cookbooks Versus Those in Plain Brown Paper Wrappers for Mom” and “Matriarchy: Putting Mothers First”. Guest authors include Lael Morgan, co-founder of Epicenter Press, and author of Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush whose new book is Kitchen Stories Cookbook: Comfort Cookin’ Made Fascinating and Easy (coauthored with Linda Altoonian); LaVon Bridges and Alice Wright (M.A. Special Education), retired teacher and author of Alaska Animals, We Love You 2, a children’s book of songs and poems; and science fiction author Lizzie Newell (B.F.A. Studio Art) whose newest book is The Tristan Bay Accord. There is free parking at UAA on Saturdays.

ANC | Monday, May 15, 4:30-6 PM, UAA Campus Bookstore presents philosopher Alexis Shotwell, author of Against Purity, Living Ethically in Compromised Times | According to Alexis Shotwell, “The world is in a terrible mess. It is toxic, irradiated, and full of injustice. Aiming to stand aside from the mess can produce a seemingly satisfying self-righteousness in the scant moments we achieve it, but since it is ultimately impossible, individual purity will always disappoint. Might it be better to understand complexity and, indeed, our own complicity in much of what we think of as bad, as fundamental to our lives?” Alexis Shotwell is Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, and the Department of Philosophy, at Carleton University. She is the author of Knowing Otherwise: Race, Gender, and Implicit Understanding. There is free parking for this event in the South Lot, Sports Complex NW Lot, West Campus Central Lot, and Sports Campus West Lot.

ANC | Wednesday, May 17, 7 PM, Poetry Parley will occur at the Alaska Humanities Forum office. Featured poet: Justin Wetch. Marquee poet: Walt Whitman.

ANC Wednesday, May 17, 7 PM at Barnes and Noble Alaska Writers Guild presents Lizbeth Meredith, Carmen Davis, David Onofrychuck, and Brooke Hartman in a panel discussion and Q&A focused on grants for writers.

ANC | Monday, May 22, 4-6:00 pm, UAA Campus Bookstore presents poet Ishmael Hope, author of Rock Piles Along the Eddy, the second poetry collection by the Inupiaq and Tlingit poet, storyteller and playwright. Through his poetry, Ishmael Hope “elevates Indigenous thought and lifeways, intermingling the landscapes of personal experience, cultural knowledge, stories, and familial connections and the spirit and character of land and sea.” Ishamel Hope served as a lead writer for the award-winning video game Never Alone and he is author of the poetry collection Courtesans of Flounder Hill. He is also a board member of the Before Columbus Foundation. He attained a BLA from University of Alaska Southeast and is currently enrolled with the Institute of American Indian Arts Low Residency Creative Writing MFA Program. He lives in Juneau with his wife Lily and four children. There is free parking for this event in the South Lot, Sports Complex NW Lot, West Campus Central Lot, and Sports Campus West Lot.

ANC | 3rd Annual Alaska Audiobook Narrator’s Workshop, presented by Basil Sands. “This could be your ticket to making a good living as an audiobook narrator. Thousands of new audiobooks are being produced every year and the demand keeps growing. And with modern technology, narration work that was once only available if you lived in LA or NYC is now available even here in Alaska!” Friday, May 26, 2017, 9 am until 5 pm, Alaska Communications Business Technology Center, Anchorage. $150. If you are interested email to basil at basilsands dot com with your name and an indication of your experience level, if any, in the following areas: audiobooks, stage acting, on camera acting, radio work. https://www.facebook.com/alaskanarrators/ | Read his blog post about it

McCarthy | Sunday, May 28, 5 pm, McCarthy-Kennicott Historical Museum presents historian and author Katie Ringsmuth during their 2017 Season Opening Celebration. Ringsmuth is the author of At Work in the Wrangells: A Photographic History 1895-1966, which underscores the interconnected work of humans and nature that together made history in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Ringsmuth has also authored several other books on Alaska history and lives in Eagle River.

Seward | June 8, 2017, 7 pm | Seward area writers will host a Writers’ Showcase at Zudy’s Cafe, 501 Railway Ave in Seward. Anyone interested in reading can contact Dan Walker dlwalker@gci.net.

INTERIOR 

Fairbanks | The next Fairbanks Arts Association literary reading will be June 3, 7 pm in the Bear Gallery, featuring Frank Soos and Rosemary McGuire. No FAA literary reading for the month of May, in lieu of A Fairbanks Arts Gala: Golden Anniversary Fundraiser.

Fairbanks | Alaskana Raven Bookstore is looking for local authors for First Friday events. Contact James at tundradrumstoo.ebayer.alaska@gmail.com or 347-8302.

SOUTHEAST

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                                                                   SOUTHWEST

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ARCTIC 

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CONFERENCES, RETREATS, and RESIDENCIES

North Words Writers Symposium will be May 31-June 3, 2017 in Skagway, Alaska. This year’s keynote speaker is world world travel and fiction writer Paul Theroux. After writing nearly fifty books of nonfiction and fiction set in the most exotic of locales, America’s greatest travel writer is finally headed for one of Alaska’s most notorious: Skagway. Paul Theroux will lead a faculty of seven acclaimed authors at the 8th annual North Words Writers Symposium. A maximum of 50 registrants at the 2017 North Words Symposium will also engage with a faculty of Alaskan writers that includes John Straley, Sherry Simpson, Deb Vanasse, Tom Kizzia, Andy Hall, and Lenora Bell. Learn more and sign up soon; 50 participants max. northwordsinfo@gmail.com

2017 Kachemak Bay Writers Conference will occur June 9-13, 2017 in Homer, Alaska. Keynote speaker will be Jane Smiley. Details and more. SCHOLARSHIP DEADLINE: May 1st.

The Wrangell Mountains Center presentes Writing on the River: RiverSong from July 26-31, 2017, a six-day, five-night adventure in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. This year’s workshop will feature river sprite and musical poet David Grimes, songwriter and journalist Brad Warren, and workshop director Nancy Cook. Together we will explore the ways wilderness can help inspire songs, stories, poems, and essays. Activities include an opening reading/performance and craft sessions in the comfort of the Wrangell Mountains Center’s facility in McCarthy, followed by three nights and four days of creative inquiry along the Kennicott, Nizina, Chitina, and Copper Rivers. Space is limited to nine student writers/ songwriters. More info

2017 Writers Tutka Bay Writers Retreat will occur September 10-12, 2017. Faculty to be announced soon, with application details. More.


OPPORTUNITIES and AWARDS for WRITERS

Anyone in Alaska is eligible to enter Fireside Books’ essay contest, which offers a prize of $500 dollars and $500 worth of books for the best “thoughtful, well-researched, forward-thinking essays that map out a new citizen-based ethic of communication, mapping the porous boundaries between weaponized propaganda and honest, authentic persuasion.” Your essay should be publication ready, about 1000 words, plus a bibliography and notes. Deadline: May 31, 2017. Click here for full details.

Alaska Women Speak is now accepting submissions till May 15, 2017 for their next issue. Also, check out the Anchorage Press write up of their The Living Room Reading Series event.

The Northern Review seeks submissions for their third literary issue (as opposed to scholarly issues), to be published in Fall 2017. Details below. Submission accepted through May 31, 2017Alaska Book Week will be October 1-7, 2017. Authors interested in participating are encouraged to contact Elizabeth Waetjen at akbookweek@gmail.com.

September 30, 2017 is the deadline to apply for a 2018 artist residency at Denali National Park. Visual artists, writers, and composers are eligible.

What’s missing? Submit your event or announcement by May 16 to appear in the next Roundup, scheduled to post May 18. Send an email with “Roundup” as the subject to info@49Writers.org. 


Thank You for Your Support! 49 Writers members and donors make this blog, our workshops, Crosscurrents events, Readings and Craft Talk series, and other special programs and activities possible. Not a member yet? Join Us 

Thank you to those who included 49 Writers in your Pick.Click.Give. choices this year! 

Andromeda | Writing Lessons from a Thousand Mile Run

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“So you’re here to run,” said the Boise physical therapist who was taking a look at my uneven calves—bulky gastrocnemius on the left, more developed soleus muscle on the right—while listening to the story of why my husband and I were in his state, our forty-first in ten months, for just long enough to get a few days’ rest.

“Yep,” I winced as he squeezed a spot above my ankle, or more precisely, cankle. (No amount of exercise, this year had taught me, would ever make me willowy.)

I’d decided to visit this doctor just in case my right leg, sore for the last several weeks, was on the point of doing something inconvenient, like suddenly failing to bear my weight. The right soleus—that long muscle that runs down and alongside the shin—had become more pronounced over the last several months, a fact which gave me the creeps.

Here’s the thing: your body is always changing. Usually you can’t see it. Even when you can—as in the case of weight loss—you don’t have the “before” and “after” images directly in front of you at all times. But in this case, with two calves, only one of which had changed shape, the evidence was clear. A little change in my gait multiplied times many footsteps—at least 1 million on the right leg alone during the last ten months, in which we had run about a thousand miles—had sculpted a strange new calf I barely recognized.

Again: kinda creepy.

But also:  kind of cool, in a way I’ll connect to writing.

The doctor assured me: my oddball right calf wasn’t really a problem. “That’s your stability right there,” he said, kneading the slow-twitch, fatigue-resistant soleus. “One of the most powerful muscles in your body. And yeah, it’s gotten pretty well developed. But there’s nothing wrong with it.”

After a treadmill test, the PT made some recommendations for how to balance my gait better, including reaching out just a touch farther on each stride with my right toe. Could such a small change really re-shape my leg? Yes, possibly, given that tiny motions had been the cause of the muscle change in the first place.

Reckoning with my reshaped soleus prompted me, that very week, to think about how small changes add up to big, noticeable, undeniable changes over time.

I’ve always used running as a metaphor for writing, usually in relation to single events, like training for the marathon. This year-long running trip was different from single event-training in almost every way. And so, my metaphors and “lessons learned” have expanded. These are the new (and not-so-new) ideas I can’t wait to apply to my writing life when I resettle in my next hometown following four years of travel.

To know thyself, keep more stats

If you’d asked me, before this year, how much I ran weekly, I would have said “maybe 15 miles” and more on the run-ups to long-distance races. But then I pored over some old records and found that on average, adding in the many days or weeks when I barely ran at all, my weekly average was only 10 miles. This worried me, since our plan was to accelerate up to the point where we’d run 50 miles in a single week. Which leads me to wonder: do I overestimate how much writing I do, by looking at the happy, productive weeks and not factoring in the off-task weeks and months? No more. Long ago, I kept better track of hours and wordcount. This summer, I’ll be downloading some new apps and getting back on the analytics train. (I’m also going to return to the habit of using focus apps and the Pomodoro method, involving scheduled work and break periods, to keep the hounds of distraction at bay.)

Make it non-negotiable

Brian and I still can’t believe all the running we did this year, in every condition, from heat to rain and snow, from blissful moods to really crappy ones (everyday marital arguments and running are not necessarily incompatible), in beautiful places but also gritty locales, in the dark if need be, and nearly always in conflict with other items on our to-do lists. The key was we had a plan and extremely clear parameters: run at least two good trails in every state, run X miles per state and X miles per week, finish in less than a year. An injury: I walked through it. A surgery: I recovered from it. A death in the family: I ran, purposefully, as a way to cope with it. Maybe it’s just getting older, but at some point you learn to see setbacks and obstacles as commonplace rather than unconquerable. The most important thing is to end the negotiation process in your own head. Write up your contract: So many words per year? A new book every two years or five? Or maybe you just want to finish something you’ve been revising and polishing forever. Decide and commit.

You can do way more than you think

When we developed our plan to run increasing mileages, ultimately ramping up to weeks of 40-plus and then 50 miles, we really weren’t sure we could do it. I am not a natural runner and I wondered if it would simply be physically impossible. I’d never tried these kinds of mileages and certainly not on rocky trails, at high altitudes, and so on. I feared the prospects of injuries. But the trick with running is simple: build slowly. Occasionally take some breaks in order to heal, and then build to the next level. You can add other strategies, like learning to fuel better (which we did). I still don’t think we hit the upper limit. In terms of writing, I don’t know what my maximum writing wordcount might be. What I do know finally, for the first time in my life, is that yes, you really can do more than you think, as long as you break it down to small steps, have a plan, and take care of yourself along the way.

It never gets easy, you just learn to ignore the voices in your head

In a year of dedicated running, my fitness level changed. But one thing didn’t. I never got to the point where any run felt easy from the start. Nor did I get over my nearly daily anxiety that I wouldn’t be able to finish long runs. Chronic self-doubt is illogical and just plain annoying. But you know what? The voices in your head don’t matter as long as you don’t obey them. As a writer, after more than two decades of publishing, I am still haunted by the “I can’ts” and “I shouldn’ts,” the “This won’t work” and the “Here comes criticism.” But as long as my behavior doesn’t change in the face of doubt, who cares what the voices say. In the case of running, I now know that no run feels really good for the first two miles. In the case of writing, I now know that every new book is as hard or harder to write than the last, especially if you are venturing into challenging new creative terrain. The only thing wrong with things being hard is the idea that they shouldn’t be hard.

Ease is overrated. Challenges, on the other hand, transform us—in small but considerable ways. That’s as it should be.

Andromeda Romano-Lax is a co-founder of 49 Writers and the author of Behave. Her next novel, set in Asia in the years 1934 and 2029, will be published in 2018. Meanwhile she is writing two nonfiction books, including a memoir about running public lands in all 50 US states during a year in which she grappled with mid-life health and aging issues.