Charles Boyle | Active Voice: Writers Respond

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We’re excited to announce a new series at 49 Writers, Active Voice: Writers Respond, that will call on you, the Alaska writing community, to react, reflect, and respond to current events.

The opening months of 2017 have been tumultuous and unprecedented. The cultural, societal, and civic direction of our nation is being challenged under the new Presidential administration. Each day seems to contain a new “breaking news” update on cable, a new policy, a new protest, a new argument between talking heads broadcast across the country. And, thanks to social media, anyone can share their thoughts instantly with an audience of thousands. It’s hard to escape the sharp divisions that mark American society today. Citizens on both sides of the divide dismiss the perspective of those they disagree with outright. At 49 Writers, we want to know: how has this changed the way you approach your work?

As writers, we look to the world around us for inspiration. Whether it’s the short story that borrows dialogue from an overheard conversation at the grocery store, or an essay that’s rooted in an event from our childhood, our experiences inform our writing. For poets, fiction, and nonfiction writers alike, our writing can also be a response to what we see, feel, and experience happening in society around us. Writing can be a response to deep injustices—think Atticus Finch in the courtroom. (Though, maybe not the Go Set a Watchman version.) Some works, like The Diary of Anne Frank, inform how society interprets moments in history for generations.

What is our role as writers today?

In the coming weeks, we will post a series of blog posts from Alaska writers exploring how current events and issues are shaping their work and their perspective on the state of our democratic values of justice, freedom, equality, and liberty. In addition to the blog series, we will also host 49 Writers Active Voice events in Juneau and Anchorage featuring local and visiting writers.

The most important role in this new Active Voice project is yours: we want to hear from you. Do you like a post, or disagree with it? Do you see a point the author missed? Or do you want to turn one of their points on its head? Comment directly on posts, or submit your own thoughts to info at 49Writers.org with “Active Voice” entered in the subject line.

Active Voice: Writers Respond is just a starting point in a longer journey—we look forward to seeing where you take us next.

Charles Boyle is a second year student in the University of Alaska MFA program in creative writing. A legislative enthusiast, he splits his time between Anchorage and Juneau. He has also called Wasilla, Nunam Iqua, Emmonak, and Baltimore home.

Don Rearden | An Explosive Confession

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I’m not one to share in a blog, essay, or poem, those deep and intimate details of my life or even my scattered and ridiculous thoughts. The one time as a kid I had to go to confession I pretty much lied, and it wasn’t even a good lie.

I mean there was no way I was telling the bad stuff to the priest, a guy I didn’t know, so I just sort of made up some story about being mean to my sisters and lying to my parents. I wouldn’t actually dare lie to my parents or even be all that mean to my sisters, but there wasn’t anything real I dared to tell the stranger on the other side of the screen.

I guess in many ways my writing has been like that, too. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable baring my soul on the page, so much as I’ve never really felt compelled or felt like I needed to use my writing that way.

Today, however, I feel obliged to confess something right now, right here.

I tremble at the thought of divulging my deepest secret to you now, but here it goes.

I have issues. Serious issues. The kind of issues that keep me from being a productive citizen. The kind of issues that make me unreliable (at least as a narrator). Issues that play havoc on my day to day existence.

Here it goes:

I am a writer.

In writing those four words, I had hoped an enormous burden would be immediately lifted from my shoulders, but unfortunately that is not the case. The truth of the matter is that I write those four words and I am compelled to write more and need to write more, and not necessarily on this current over-the-top confessional you are reading here, but another story that I am infected with, no, afflicted by, no, afflicted and infected with and by.

Here is how this plays out: a story works its way into my bloodstream and I’m doomed, constantly and continuously doomed to think about that project to the point I am distracted and unable to think about much else. I’m sorry, what were you saying? Where was I? Right. Wait. Excuse me for a few hours.

I don’t want to compare my issue to what people who face addiction deal with, because I don’t want anyone to think I am trivializing the struggle of anyone who faces serious addiction; however, I’ve been thinking about my problem a lot lately and wondering if I could quit. Stop. Be done with writing. You know, go cold turkey, as they say.

Could I do it? Maybe after this one last story?

There is a huge new and amazing writing project on my plate. One that I want to drop everything for—I mean everything. Work. Family. Dog. Even chocolate. Yes, I would even leave chocolate! And possibly coffee. I want to take my laptop and disappear for a few weeks and focus on nothing more than this story.

I know writers who would do this. I admire and find myself jealous of them and their bravery. I am not this writer. Instead, I will stick to the work, family, and dog—relying upon chocolate and coffee to sustain me—while I dream and ruminate and try to find a few minutes and hours here and there to cobble together just enough writing time to sustain me. The project might somehow happen in this way.

I am a whale or a seal beneath the surface, rising for air every so often; the writing and stories the breath I need to keep me, well, me. It’s obnoxious at times, this compulsion, and would be incredibly freeing to feel as if I could actually even take a break. I could tell you that I wish I could wake up some morning and feel as if I no longer need to write, and that there isn’t a story that requires my attention, but I think in telling you this lie I would be that young boy back in the confessional, crafting some silly fiction for the priest.

To be honest with you? I think the truth is that I’m okay with this horrible problem of mine, now that I’ve shared my struggle with you. Maybe I ought to do a little confessional writing more often….

Don Rearden confesses to writing The Raven’s Gift, a novel where he hides his deepest darkest secrets. He also confesses to never being brave enough to write his own memoir, but he co-wrote Never Quit, Jimmy Settle’s wild tale about becoming an Alaskan Pararescueman.

Daryl Farmer | Writing the Indelible Moment

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This short piece reprises part of Daryl Farmer’s talk earlier this month in Anchorage, part of 49 Writers’ Reading & Craft Talk Series at Indigo Tea Lounge. The event was occasioned by his new book of stories, Where We Land.

Tension, I tell my students. Dramatize, give your characters conflicts for them to resolve. This is how narrative works, I tell them. I nudge them toward the edgy. I say it and I believe it: no conflict, no story.

And yet.

“The stories we read in here are all so dark,” a student complains. I defend my choices. “Stories need conflict. That’s how they work,” I tell them. “Characters need problems to solve, obstacles that lead to change.”

Still, I worry about the point they make.

*

I am sitting in an airport, trying to read. A TV is on, the sound up, three faces on the screen. Two of them are talking at the same time. Then all three. The voices are rising. The host tries without success to regain control of his show. The narratives compete, no resolution in sight. Only commercial breaks. Matthew McConaughey in a Lincoln, and suddenly the world on the screen is absurdly serene. At least until we return, and the shouting resumes.

Short stories and cable news have little in common; I’m not suggesting otherwise. But I do wonder—and worry—about the reliance on conflict in our lives, the relentless competing narratives, the shouting and mean-spiritedness of reality TV. I worry over my students and their (all of our) conflict fatigue, and wonder whether my method of teaching narrative seeks resolution or perpetuates this fatigue. I hope it does the former, but am not entirely convinced.

And so I want to consider an alternative narrative arc. A rising action not toward a climax in conflict or tension, but a re-telling of experience that builds instead toward a moment of beauty that haunts: an indelible moment. I take Rick Bass as my guide, specifically a story I return to often, “The Hermit’s Story.”

On the surface, the story feels like a traditional survival story. The story begins in framing device: a dinner party. One of the guests, Ann, is a dog trainer, and she recounts for the other guests a time she trained dogs for a man named Gray Owl. One night out running the dogs, she and Gray Owl are caught in a storm, and they must survive. On the surface the story feels like a traditional “human vs. wilderness” story. But Ann and Gray Owl are both clearly so competent in this regard that their survival is never really in question. And so while the story plays on a traditional “human vs. wilderness” structure, Bass subverts the “versus” part of that tradition, relying on the beauty of the natural world rather than conflict to drive the story, specifically a haunting, surreal experience that finds Ann, Gray Owl, and their dogs beneath the ice of a lake bed where “there was no water at all, and it was warm beneath the ice.” It is this journey beneath the ice that stays with a reader after the telling, a journey that reaches its haunting peak in this passage, 13 pages into an 18 page story:

The air was damp down there, and whenever they’d get chilled, they’d stop and make a little fire out of a bundle of dry cattails. There were little pockets and puddles of swamp gas pooled in place, and sometimes a spark from the cattails would ignite one of those, and those little pockets of gas would light up like when you toss gas on a fire—explosions of brilliance, like flashbulbs, marsh pockets igniting like falling dominoes, or like children playing hopscotch—until a large enough flash-pocket was reached—sometimes thirty or forty yards away—that the puff of flame would blow a chimney-hole through the ice, venting the other pockets, and the fires would crackle out, the scent of grass smoke sweet in their lungs, and they could feel gusts of warmth from the little flickering fires, and currents of the colder, heavier air sliding down through the new vent-holes and pooling around their ankles. The moonlight would strafe down through those rents in the ice, and shards of moon-ice would be glittering and spinning like diamond-motes in those newly vented columns of moonlight; and they pushed on, still lost, but so alive.

It is this experience that haunts us as readers at the end, as it haunts Ann—it is not until the end, when we return to the dinner party, that we learn this experience was twenty years ago:

She says that even now she still sometimes has dreams about being beneath the ice—about living beneath the ice—and that it seems to her as if she was down there for much longer than a day and a night; that instead she might have been gone for years.

“Indelible” is a word that means “not able to be forgotten.” I first read “The Hermit’s Story” fifteen years ago. That moment beneath the ice stays with me, haunts me even. What more can we wish for in our own writing?

Will I stop pushing conflict and tension as elements of story? Probably not. My job is to teach them how narrative works, after all. But, I will remind them it does not have to be the only way; dark is fine, but sometimes light can work, too. A story can build to conflict and climax. But don’t forget beauty. As readers, we need that. Maybe now more than ever.

 Daryl Farmer is the author of  Where We Land, a collection of short stories and Bicycling Beyond the Divide, winner of a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award and also named as a Colorado Book Award finalist. He received a B.A. in physical education from Adams State College (Alamosa, Colorado) and an M.A. and Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has taught writing at Georgia Tech. University, Stephen F. Austin State University in east Texas and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks where he is currently an assistant professor and director of the MFA in Creative Writing program. For more blog posts and information about Daryl and his work, go to www.darylfarmer.com

Literary Roundup | March 17-30, 2017

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Have news, events, or opportunities you’d like to see listed here? Email details to info (at) 49writers.org with “Roundup” as the subject. Spread the word. 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.  

 EVENTS and ANNOUNCEMENTS

We wrapped a second year of Danger Close: Alaska, a special partnership with the Alaska Humanities Forum, whose mission is to connect Alaskans through stories, ideas, and experiences that positively change lives and empower communities. Our own mission is to support the artistic development of writers throughout Alaska, foster a writing community, and build an audience for literature. In 2016, the Alaska Humanities Forum and 49 Writers partnered to launch Danger Close: Alaska, an Anchorage-based writing workshop, public panel discussion, and small-run publication seeking to bridge the military-civilian divide by uniting veterans and civilians in the task of producing high-quality, war-themed writing. That was spearheaded by now-board member Matthew Komatsu, a writer pursuing his creative writing MFA through the fantastic low-residency University of Alaska Anchorage program.

In 2017, 49 Writers and Alaska Humanities Forum partnered again to host a reprisal of Danger Close: Alaska, which re-engaged the Anchorage community through a public Crosscurrents event and expanded to Juneau through a writing workshop and public Reading and Craft Talk at Mendenhall Valley library. All events featured Brian Castner, author of The Long Walk and All the Ways We Kill and Die. This program falls under AKHF’s Duty Bound initiative.

Authors Brian Castner and Don Rearden with moderator Matthew Komatsu in our most recent Danger Close: Alaska Crosscurrents event, last weekend in Anchorage, offered through a partnership with Alaska Humanities Forum

Registration is still open for upcoming classes in ANC (“Walking the Line” with Susanna J. Mishler) and FAI (“Minding the Minutiae” with Erica Watson). Learn more and register now!

Please consider 49 Writers when you Pick.Click.Give. and share a portion of your dividend to help support writers and readers across the state. If you’ve already filed and regret not giving while the giving was good, you can still log back in and retroactively make.it.so. If you’d like to, click here.

Question: I used to get every blog post emailed to me and now I don’t. What happened?
Answer: We migrated our blog from one platform to another this summer. To still get each post in your inbox (or to start that up for the first time), you must opt in by entering your email address in the Subscribe field in the sidebar to the right. That generates an email soliciting your confirmation, which activates your renewed subscription. Magic.

Congrats to Alaska Native writer Ishmael Hope on the pending release of his second poetry collection, Rock Piles Along the Eddy, to be released on March 21, 2017 from Ishmael Reed Publishing Company. More info

Storyknife Writers Retreat in Homer announced their 2017 residency fellows.

The anthology Building Fires in the Snow (University of Alaska Press 2016), edited by Martha Amore and Lucian Childs, is a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award.

Palmer’s Colony High School freshman Isabella Weiss won this year’s statewide Poetry Outloud competition and will compete next month in Washington, DC at the national level. Congrats!

Capital City Weekly covered Roger Reeves’s Reading & Craft Talk at the Mendenhall Valley Library. That event was part of a three-city Alaska tour 49 Writers organized with partners and the support of the Alaska Humanities Forum.

Bjørn Olson made a book trailer for Nancy Lord‘s upcoming debut novel, pH:
https://vimeo.com/207836391

Ernestine Hayes and Elizabeth Bradfield will both join the faculty of Northwoods Writers Conference this June at Bemidji State University.

SOUTHCENTRAL

ANCHORAGE | March 18, 2017, 5-9 pm | Book launch for Never Quit by Jimmy Settle with Don ReardenAnchorage Brewing Company, 148 West 91st Ave. Facebook event.

ANCHORAGE | March 24, 2017, 6 pm | AdriAnne Strickland and Michael Miller discuss, read, and sign Shadow Run at Barnes & Noble.

PALMER | March 25, 2017, 6 pm | Fireside Books presents an author dinner with Jeff Fair at Turkey Red | Jeff Fair wrote In Wild Trust: Larry Aumiller’s Thirty Years Among the McNeil River Brown Bears. Info and tickets.

ANCHORAGE | March 25, 2017, 6 pm at International Gallery of Contemporary Art (427 D Street)Latin Verbs, a performance by S. Hollis Mickey, is a 40 minute densely layered piece that unfolds a series of images that compose something that is at once exquisite and delicate, strange and grotesque. Situated in Root Cellar, an exhibition of embroideries by S Hollis Mickey, the performance realizes portions of the narrative told through thread in lived time. Tapes and chapbooks will be for sale (as well as embroideries) so that you can take the experience home with you. Facebook event 

ANCHORAGE | Monday, March 27, 5 pm at the UAA Campus Bookstore | J. Pennelope Goforth presents the 150th Year Anniversary of the Alaska Commercial Company. Alaska Commercial Company (ACC) is Alaska’s largest and oldest rural retailer. Its roots trace back to 1776 when Catherine the Great granted trading rights to the Russian-American Trading Company. In 1867, when the United States bought Alaska from Russia, the new American corporation was formed out of the old and became the Alaska Commercial Company. Still vibrant today, the ACC’s role in Alaska and its mark on Alaska history will be the focus of this event. Pennelope Goforth is founder of SeaCat Explorations: Adventures in Alaska’s Maritime History. She is currently writing a book about the Alaska Commercial Co. business ledgers and logbooks from villages in the Aleutians that she discovered in Seattle. In addition, she is author of Sailing the Mail in Alaska, The Maritime Years of Alaska Photographer John E. Thwaite. Free parking for this event in the South Lot, Sports Complex NW Lot, West Campus Central Lot, and Sports Campus West Lot.

ANCHORAGE | Wednesday, March 29, 2017 , 7 pm at International Gallery of Contemporary Art (427 D Street) | Artist talk by S. Hollis Mickey, whose solo show Root Cellar is installed for the month of March. More: http://www.hollismickey.com/

ANCHORAGE | March 31-April 1, 2017 | Organized by the graduate students within the University of Alaska Anchorage English department, the Pacific Rim Conference on English Studies invites submissions in literature, rhetoric and composition, linguistics, anthropology, history, journalism, gender studies and other related fields.

ANCHORAGE | Saturday, April 1, 2017, 1 pm at the UAA Campus Bookstore | Poet Anne Caston discusses Writing Deep Dixie, A Memoir and  Sea Change, her forthcoming poetry collection. A former nurse, a writer, and an educator, Anne Caston is a founding faculty member of the Low-Residency M.F.A Program in Creative Writing at UAA . Her poetry collections include Flying Out With The Wounded, Judah’s Lion, and Prodigal. She is currently working on a new collection of poems called Sea Change. Her forthcoming memoir, Deep Dixie: A Southerner’s Take on Life, Love, Friendship, Romance, Faith, and Coming-of-Age Among Southern Baptists is the focus of this event. Free parking at UAA on Saturdays. FREE

ANCHORAGE | Monday, April 3, 2017, 5:30 pm at the UAA Campus Bookstore | Spanish Poet Jorge Manrique, 1440-1479 | UAA professors Dr. Rebeca Maseda Garcia (Dept. of Languages) Dr. Ray Ball (Dept. of History), and Dr. Patricia Fagan (Dept. of Languages) introduce Jorge Manrique’s classic poem “Coplas a la muerte de su padre” (Coplas on the Death of his Father) with historical background  and bilingual readings. Alaska Poet Laureate John Haines (1924-2010) recited and referred to this poem throughout his life.  Wherever and whenever he could, he would recite stanzas–even to his dying day. This event, held in memory of John Haines, will explain the meaning and significance of this timeless masterpiece in world literature. Poets everywhere are encouraged to attend. A command of Spanish is not necessary. Free parking for this event in the South Lot, Sports Complex NW Lot, West Campus Central Lot, and Sports Campus West Lot.

EAGLE RIVER | The Living Room Reading Series is held every 2nd Wednesday 7-9 pm at Jitters, features writers and book lovers. Sign up to read, or come listen. Jitters Coffee House 11401 Old Glenn Highway

ANCHORAGE | Thursday, April 6 5 pm at the UAA Campus Bookstore | Sheila Watt-Cloutier presents her memoir, The Right to Be Cold, which argues that climate change is a human rights issue that inextricably links all of us on the planet. Sheila Watt-Cloutier is one of the most recognized environmental and human rights advocates in the world. In 2002, under her leadership as the international chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, the world’s first international legal action on climate change was launched with a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In 2007, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work illustrating the connection and impact global climate change has on human rights. Her numerous awards include the Aboriginal Achievement Award, the UN Champion of the Earth Award, and the Norwegian Sophie Prize. Free parking for this event in the South Lot, Sports Complex NW Lot, West Campus Central Lot, and Sports Campus West Lot.

ANCHORAGE | “Walking the Line” poetry workshop with Susanna J. Mishler. April 8, 2017, 2-6 pm |”What exactly is a poetic line made of? What difference does it make where the line “breaks?” In this workshop participants will examine lines by contemporary English-language poets which are used to achieve very different effects. We will also experiment with lineation strategies and types with in-class exercises. Our exercises and guided discussion will help illuminate what makes a strong poetic line, and how an understanding of poetic lines can enhance our own writing and reading. Suitable for poets and prose writers, as well as readers who would like to broaden their knowledge of poetic craft.” | Susanna J. Mishler’s poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, The Iowa Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Mid-American Review, Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere. Her first collection of poems, Termination Dust, was published by Red Hen Press/Boreal Books in 2014. Susanna holds an MFA in Poetry from The University of Arizona in Tucson, where she served as a poetry editor for Sonora Review. She’s the recipient of a Peter Taylor Fellowship in Poetry from the Kenyon Review Writer’s Workshop, and the Bill Waller Writing Award from the University of Arizona. $55 members, $65 nonmembers. All experience levels welcome. Click here and scroll down to register.

ANCHORAGE | April 20, 2017, 7 pm (come early for tea or snacks) at Indigo Tea Lounge (530 East Benson). 49 Writers Reading and Craft Talk Series presents Julie MeMay, “An Alchemy of Words: Mystery and Clarity in a Poem”. The best poems create a sense of mystery without being obscure or unfathomable; they provide a sense of discovery for both the writer and the reader. As a writer what can we do to foster this in our own work? This lecture will discuss the use of imagery, metaphor, and other poetic techniques that can help balance the abstract and concrete. Julie will also discuss methods for generating new poems and honing one’s writing strengths. Brief reading, craft talk, Q&A, and signing. FREE. More info about this series

ANCHORAGE | April 27, 2017 at 7 pm, at Great Harvest Bread Co. (570 E. Benson) | National Poetry Month reading featuring poets participating in the 3rd Annual Savor the Rising Words Poetry Broadside Invitational Exhibit. Broadside entries from poets across Alaska (or with ties to Alaska) will be accepted until April 4, 2017. More info about the exhibit and reading.

The 2017 Mat-Su Young Writers Conference, April 29, sponsored by Publication Consultants and the Mat-Su School District, seeks speakers to present on a number of writerly topics. To apply as an author speaker, contact Evan Swensen at evan@Publication Consultants.com.

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/

INTERIOR 

FAIRBANKS | Permafrost literary magazine issue 39.1 release party, March 31, 2017, 8 pm at The Pub in UAF’s Wood Center.  More info

FAIRBANKS | April 1, 2017, 5 pm at Dog Mushers Hall, elegy honoring Derick Burleson. “Bring poems, anecdotes, and a dish you would like to share. Wear tie dye if you are willing.” Questions: nmsprague@alaska.edu

FAIRBANKS | Prose writing workshop with Erica Watson, three consecutive Saturdays, 2-5 PM, April 8, 15, 22, 2017 / 3 hour sessions (9 total) / all experience levels welcome.  | “Minding the Minutiae: For many of us, the drive to write comes not from a need to tell a particular story, but rather to explore an idea, a fragmented memory, or an obsession. There is often a great distance between what interests the writer and what compels a reader. In this course, students will focus on techniques for identifying and relaying meaning to readers. We will study writers who produce dynamic and thoughtful nonfiction books and essays using their own lives as starting points rather than primary subjects. We will examine how research, metaphor, and syntax can propel narratives of discovery, even if, as many of us fear about our own lives, nothing much actually happens. Students will produce new work in class, provide each other with feedback, and leave with tools to move their work forward.” Erica Watson is an essayist living on the boundary of Denali National Park. She is a 2014 graduate of the University of Alaska Anchorage MFA program, where she was awarded the Wenger Award for Excellence. Her work has appeared recently in Edible Alaska, Pilgrimage, the Denali National Park Climate Change Anthology, and she has forthcoming pieces in Terrain.org and High Desert Journal. $125 members / $145 nonmembers. Click here (and scroll down) to register online.   

SOUTHEAST

JUNEAU | Woosh Kinaadeiyí Open Mic and Poetry Slam occurs every third Friday. The next event is Friday, March 17, 2017, the second competitive poetry slam of their seventh season. This event will be held on the 3rd Floor of the Senate building in downtown Juneau (175 South Franklin Street). Community members of all ages and experience levels are encouraged to attend. Signups to perform start at 6:30 pm. Woosh Kinaadeiyí is a nonprofit organization committed to diversity, inclusive community, and empowering voice and organizes these free to low cost monthly events for the community. Learn more at www.facebook.com/wooshpoetry. For questions, contact Christy NaMee Eriksen, Woosh Kinaadeiyi President, christynamee@gmail.com.FREE; donations welcome.

                                                                   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.

2017 Writers Tutka Bay Writers Retreat will occur September 10-12, 2017. Faculty to be announced very soon. Details.

OPPORTUNITIES and AWARDS for WRITERS

The 3rd Annual Savor the Rising Words Broadside Invitational Exhibit, a partnership between 49 Writers and Great Harvest Bread Co. in Anchorage, is presently accepting broadsides. Deadline is April 4, 2017. The poetry broadside exhibition will be displayed during National Poetry Month. Learn more and download and entry form: http://49writers.org/special-events-and-salons

Cirque is now accepting prose, poetry, and visual art submissions. Send to cirque.submits@gmail.com by March 21, 2017

Permafrost literary magazine wants your experimental, weird, and best writing for its New Alchemy Contest. Deadline April 15, 2017, fee: $15. Also, issue release party on March 31, 2017, 8 pm at the Pub. More info
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, 2017

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 

Also, please include 49 Writers in your Pick.Click.Give. choices when filing for your 2017 Permanent Fund Dividend. 

Spotlight on Alaska Books | Homestead Girl: The View From Here by Chantelle Pence

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I stood with my family on the land that they homesteaded. Our land. I was about fourteen and I felt proud as my dad began to talk about the property and how he had developed it. My feelings and views began to broaden over the next few minutes, years, and decades, as I began to understand the complexities of our relationships to each other, and to place. Our guests that day were native folks, friends from a neighboring community. Dad was talking about the cabins and trails he had built on the land that was given to him by the government.

My father exercised his rights as a United States citizen and claimed some of the last acres of land made available under the original Homestead Act of 1862. He proved his ability to live on the land and develop a business, earning title to a portion of raw, rural Alaska, not realizing or thinking too much about who had been there before. My father’s rights afforded him freedom, but he was only allowed to exercise his rights because others’ rights had been taken away. Homesteaders were granted land because the United States claimed something that had previously belonged to another. I grew up knowing that I was the beneficiary of stolen goods.

“There are old trails here…” our guest spoke up suddenly. He was talking about the traditional trail systems that connected the Ahtna people of the Copper River area. There were already trails in place, and they each had their own name, protocol and history. They were like a network of veins, carrying lifeblood through the region. “There are already trails here…” he said again.

Misunderstanding hung in the air.

I knew what my Ahtna friend was saying, for I had sat with him and his girlfriend one time, at the end of a long night. He cried. His heart was broken over the recent past. So many things seemed wrong. “We were strong!” He had shouted. He told a story of how his people used to run alongside caribou, hunting with only a knife. He grieved the many losses in his life. The hurt in his eyes was easy to see. I understood my father’s position as well, for I had walked this land with him and seen his eyes light with the vision he had inside. It appeared as if one’s loss was the other’s gain; one’s pride was another’s pain.

I saw two good men, each with a different story, a different vantage point and way of being. Each thought the other a guest on the place they were standing. Years later my dad came upon an old Ahtna trail while out exploring. Though ancient and overgrown, he knew it was a path the original inhabitants had walked. He saw slashes on trees where people marked their passing. There is an unwritten story of every place, no matter where we stake our claim. There were already trails here. ~

Homestead Girl is a patchwork quilt of poetic essays that covers the human condition, from the perspective of a woman who came of age in rural Alaska. The short prose pieces are stitched together with a thread of love for our ancestral heritage, and a prayer that the people of Alaska, and beyond, will pay attention to the earth based cultures that are rapidly changing. The author believes that “Alaska is the last chance (in America) we have to get it right, in terms of our relationship to the land and her people.” The book is less memoir, and more a collection of stories that speak to the matters of life and death that we all deal with, but each perceive differently according to where we are standing. Homestead Girl invites the reader to examine the human experience from her vantage point.

Homestead Girl has been warmly received by those who have experienced the dynamics of the native/non-native interface in rural Alaska. Fred John Jr., an Athabascan elder and writer, offers the following: “Pence writes about things that we sometimes feel but don’t always know how to express.” The author’s style of writing emerged from listening to the words of traditional elders, like Fred, who spoke sparingly, but with depth and meaning. To be fair, not everyone appreciates that style of communication. Addley Fannin, book reviewer for the Fairbanks Daily News Miner, found the work to be “schmaltzy”. But, as another reviewer (Mary Odden, author of upcoming book Mostly Water) noted, Homestead Girl reads like “a love letter to her past.”

“A trailblazer. Willing to be brave…this is the voice to watch.” —Ron Stodghill, author of Where Everybody Looks Like Me

“Her poetic prose offers rest and honesty. You will find solace in her company. Take a walk with this courageous woman… you will be better for it.” —Judy Ferguson, author of Windows To The Land, An Alaska Native Story

“Her words come alive in many of us.” —Fred John Jr., Ahtna Athabascan Activist and Storyteller

“I love this book. Thoughtful, poetic and quietly powerful, Chantelle’s memoir gave me a soulful glimpse into life in the Alaskan wilderness — both the beauty and the pain of a life lived on the edge of colliding cultures and blending values. Chantelle’s honest portrayal of her life as a white woman and daughter of homesteaders is a deep, personal exploration of ancestral inheritance and the personal price of collective conditioning and remote political decisions that are carried on for generations, for good and for ill. Compelling and deeply felt, I read it in one sitting.” —Jane Brunette, author and mentor at Writing From The Soul

Chantelle has been a voice from rural Alaska for over a decade. A frequent contributor to the Alaska Dispatch News, her work has also appeared in the Copper River Record, Zetetic Record, and Alaska Wellness. In 2015 she received an Individual Artist Award from the Rasmuson Foundation. Her first book, Homestead Girl: The View From Here, was published by Copper River Press (2016).

http://www.chantellepence.com/ | Facebook page

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Blogger Don Rearden | Book Launch? Why Bother?

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You’ve somehow beaten incredible odds. You weren’t killed by an errant golf ball, struck by lightning, or mauled by a bear. No. Not you! Your book is on the cusp of publication. Congratulations. Now, if you’ve been paying attention to any of the recent trends in publishing, you know that the real work is only beginning. While you avoid golf balls, bears, and lightning, you’ll need to become your own publicist, marketing guru, and social media whiz. Sure, all that stuff is part of the new publishing paradigm; however, you need to do something very important. You’re thinking to yourself, “book launch, right?” Wrong.

You need to party.

Back in 2011 I wrote a blog post for 49 Writers about how to throw an Alaskan Style Book Launch. Of course I was being my jackass self, and cracking jokes and attempting to be funny while also attempting to sound like I knew something about book launches. I knew nothing.

My novel had just been published in Canada and I was nervous about the book’s reception. Mostly because I’d been dreaming my whole life about having a novel published and I really did have a book being published—in Canada! Oh, Canada….

I knew nothing about hosting a book launch, but I did know a little about putting on events and concerts. I decided I would go with what I knew. I’d book a cool venue, invite some talented artists, poets, and musicians to perform and just throw a big party. Books would be available, but I wasn’t going to care if I didn’t sell any. I didn’t want to stress about not selling enough books to cover my expenses.

The party was a blast and I learned something important about publishing that I never anticipated or expected. You can call something a book launch, and yes, you might be launching your book (like an errant golf ball), but you need to make sure the focus of the event is not about the book or about launching, and certainly not you beating the odds.

Let me make sure you understand this part about the party not being about you. Imagine that not so long ago you held a golf ball club high, during a raging thunderstorm, wearing a suit of bacon on a golf course on Kodiak Island. And then you wrote a book about how the golf ball hit you in the head, killing you, and then lightning struck a fraction of a second later at the same moment a Kodiak Brown Bear mauled you—the lightning shocking you back to life and killing the bear.

Clearly people would be excited to hear your story. Or at least you think they should be, and those exact people are who this party is for. Not just the people who nursed you back to health after the golf-lightening-bear attack, but for everyone who puts up with you being a writer. The party is for them. If anything, you’re throwing a party to launch the book out of their lives. For years they have endured you talking about the story, and working on the story, and fretting about this, that, and every stupid little thing related to a book being published. They’ve suffered through hearing about agents, and editors, and computer failures, and character development, readings, talks, panels. You name it, they have heard you talk about it.  Your friends, family, neighbors, and often random strangers have pretended to give a shit about you and your silly writer dreams for far too long.

Face it. You have put your non-writer, and possibly even writer, friends through hell for a long time to make this publishing thing happen. Now your book is done and these fine folks deserve to celebrate, and you will for once, put the book aside, and party with them.

Congratulations. You beat the odds. Enjoy your good fortune. The luck is not that you’ve published a book. You’re lucky that you have friends and family who were willing to help you get there.

Don Rearden is author of The Raven’s Gift, and co-author of Never Quit. He has published two books and is about to have his third book party (Oh, Canada!). This party is for the citizens of Alaska putting up with him and his writing shenanigans. Join him for the party March 18th, 5-8pm, at Anchorage Brewing Company.

 

Click here for the Facebook event

Barbara Hood | An Invitation: Savor the Rising Words Poetry Broadside Exhibit

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A broadside made by Jim Cokas featuring Mike Burwell’s poem “Your Land” from his book Cartography of Water 

When I was a little girl, my mother remembered me carrying around little notebooks for my “pomes” and pictures, filling them with words and pencil drawings. Most have now gone missing. During college, I kept occasional journals filled with sketches and poems of longing and love, much of it unrequited. Most of these, embarrassingly, survive.  Then for decades, almost no poems or images found their way to paper as life and career took me in other directions. But I think they were only lying dormant, because when I needed them, they came back.

First after losing my father, when poetry helped me sort through the emotional storm and save the good memories. Then after losing a friend to cancer, when recounting our last time together in a poem brought comfort. Then after losing my mother, when the ground shifted and tiny poems helped keep me moored. Whenever grief came to my door, it brought poetry.

But slowly poems tagged along at other times as well, however clumsily. Little wisps of paper collected on my desk attempting to describe the beauty of leaves caught in ice, the tracks of a bear in winter, why woodpeckers seem so much hungrier at the bird feeder than chickadees. I’ve never studied poetry seriously, and know little about it from a literary perspective except what I’ve gleaned recently from 49 Writers workshops and sessions at the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference. So I have much to learn about craft, and volumes to read. I try to stand by the fire each morning and speak a few poems out loud, three times each. Many I don’t understand, but when one resonates – when I think I “get it” – it feels like a long deep breath.

It was Christmas time several years ago when I was about to write our traditional letter to family and friends. It had been a good year – a great year in fact – and the letter I wrote gushed accordingly. Only after finalizing it and feeling a warm glow of pride in everything we had done did I realize that I’d written one of those Christmas letters. The kind that subtly looks down its nose at all who receive it, asking “how could your year/family/children/achievements possibly be as wonderful as mine?” I sunk a bit, realizing this. All my life, we had joked about the families who sent us those letters, the ones to which we could never measure up. I put my letter aside. Maybe I could try writing a poem instead. Something that could share a joy of the season, something more like a gift. So I wrote a poem about walking around our neighborhood in new-fallen snow, and took a snowy photo to go with it. A new tradition was born, and I haven’t written a Christmas letter since.

Which is perhaps why I felt the thrill of possibilities when I attended the session on poetry broadsides at the 2013 Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference. The presenter, an artist-poet, displayed a collection of poems printed deeply into beautiful, thick papers on a letterpress. Each was accompanied by an image, often in color and embossed also into the paper. The effect was subtle and lovely. A group of us gathered afterwards to page through the collection as if studying a medieval illuminated manuscript, whispering admiration as each new work of art was revealed.

To honor the power of poems and images together, 49 Writers and Great Harvest Bread Co. Anchorage are co-sponsoring the third Savor the Rising Words: A Poetry Broadside Invitational, an exhibit to commemorate National Poetry Month in April. The exhibit welcomes anyone who is a member of 49 Writers or has ever taken a 49 Writers class. Any two-dimensional format will be accepted – whether photography, painting, printmaking, drawing, etc. You don’t have to use a letterpress! Submissions are due by April 4, 2017, and you can click here for details and a downloadable entry form. You have exactly three weeks to let the creativity flow and share your work, and I hope you will do so. Because poetry is a gift, any time of year.

Barbara Hood is a retired attorney, board member of 49 Writers, and co-owner of Great Harvest Bread Co. in Anchorage.

Note: If you live outside of the Anchorage area and can’t deliver a hard copy broadside, digital submissions will be considered for possible printing and display. Inquire by email at the address shown on the entry form.

Jeremy Pataky | Juneau Out Loud

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Lots of good reasons could justify short wintertime trips to Juneau, but I felt lucky that poetry was the reason behind last week’s trip. Julie Hungiville LeMay and I were invited by Alaska State Council on the Arts (ASCA) to serve as judges for this year’s Alaska Statewide Poetry Out Loud Competition there, a fun opportunity I enjoyed once several years ago. Julie and I were able to head south early enough to offer a 49 Writers reading, too, occasioned by the publication of Julie’s beautiful new book of poems, The Echo of Ice Letting Go (University of Alaska Press).

The reading was hosted by the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center (JACC). When I invited Julie to read the night before judging, she asked if I would join her to read, too. I hesitated, but agreed to read a few unpublished poems, appetizer-style, stuff I’ve written since I last read in Juneau two years ago when Overwinter came out. It was a great pleasure to listen to her—first on the radio that afternoon, briefly, and then at the JACC—and to finally get my own hardcopy of her book.

It was also a great pleasure to have dinner with Stephen Young, a Poetry Foundation Program Director who works on the nationwide Poetry Out Loud program out of Chicago. His visit to Alaska meant especially much to him in light of the season he lived in a tent in Valdez while working in the fishing industry early in the 80s; later, he proposed to his wife in Seward.

Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. The Alaska program is coordinated by ASCA and JAHC together with support from The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.

Two years ago, Maeva Ordaz of Anchorage’s West High School won the national contest in Washington, DC, taking top honors over 365,000 other students who participated at school, regional, and statewide levels across the country leading up to the national contest. Maeva actually won our statewide competition and represented Alaska twice at nationals before her well-deserved win, there.

This year’s Alaska champion is Isabella Weiss, a freshman from Colony High School in Palmer. Junior Elisa Larson of Petersburg High School was runner up. Isabella will move on to nationals next month in DC. Since she’s a freshman, she’ll have three more chances to potentially compete at the national level again after this year, unless she earns another win for Alaska right out of the gate—I hope she does! Isabella recited “Cartoon Physics, part 1” by Nick Flynn, “Requests for Toy Piano” by Tony Hoagland, and “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” – (314) by Emily Dickinson. You can watch the entire 2017 state finals event here.

The nine other competitors offered very stiff competition. They included the aforementioned Elisa Larson, Madeline Andriesen of Haines High School, Amanda Davison of Elim Aniguiin School, Elissa Koyuk of Juneau-Douglas High School, Moriyah Lorentzen of Tanalian School in Port Alsworth, Sarah Price of North Pole High School, Ashelyn Rude of Glennallen School, Juan Sarmiento of Homer High School, and Jania Tumey of West Anchorage High School.

Over 3,700 Alaska students in grades 9-12 participated in Poetry Out Loud across Alaska this year. Since poet and then-NEA chair Dana Gioia created Poetry Out Loud in 2005, over 3.5 million students have participated from 10,000 schools spanning every state, plus Washington, DC, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

Another great aspect of this year’s competition was Alaska State Representative Sam Kito III and Senator John Coghill’s presentation of a legislative citation to Ernestine Hayes, our current State Writer Laureate. The citation honors her work in the arts and accomplishments as a writer for the state of Alaska. She is, indeed, amazing, and it was a nice surprise to get to lend some heartfelt applause as she was acknowledged.

Emily Wall and Lisa Mariotti of Juneau joined Julie and I as judges, as well as Accuracy Judge Bridget Lujan. All of us were very inspired and impressed by each finalist in this year’s statewide POL competition.

Despite the funny slip of the tongue from actress, comedienne, and Master of Ceremonies Allison Holtkamp, who said “resuscitation” a few times instead of “recitation” before gracefully—and humorously—correcting herself, the POL competition demonstrated that poetry does not need to be brought back from the dead anytime soon. That poetry’s habitat includes the minds and voices of these ten Alaskan high school students who truly enlivened the poems and themselves through their recitations felt deeply inspiring and hopeful. I was glad to be in the @360 studio with them, and glad to be in Juneau among some of the many hard working people who made it happen, like Amanda Filori, Laura Forbes, and Nancy DeCherney. Hearty congrats to Elisa, Madeline, Amanda, Elissa, Moriyah, Sarah, Ashelyn, Juan, Jania, and Isabella. Join us in cheering on Alaska and Isabella next month (National Poetry Month!) at the nation-wide competition, and stay tuned next year for Poetry Out Loud events in schools across the state.

Deb Vanasse | Know Your Reader

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“You’re a person who can handle shades of gray, aren’t you?”

Judy had her hands in my mouth, probing and scraping, so I could only nod in response.

“I thought so. Me, I can’t stand gray. Black or white. That’s how I like it.”

A self-professed voracious reader, Judy knows I’m an author. She launched this teeth-cleaning session by telling me about the latest book she’s reading, a novel in a survivalist series self-published by an author who calls himself “A. American.” The novel opens with the protagonist stuck in a traffic jam of apocalyptic proportions caused by, well, an apocalypse. He has to get to his family—but as Judy assured me, he knew they’d be okay because they were prepared.

Did this sound like the kind of book I liked to read? Judy took her hands out of my mouth when she asked this, apparently expecting more than a gestured response.

Never keen on antagonizing a person who wields sharp dental instruments, I framed my answer politely. Driving to my appointment, I’d heard a radio report about the apocalyptic potential of cyber-attacks, and it scared the bejeebies out of me. So no to A. American, thanks anyhow.

Judy seemed puzzled that I couldn’t connect with her on this book. If I wasn’t interested in survivalist tomes, what did I like to read?

Again she removed her hands from my mouth. I rattled off a couple of titles I’d recently finished—Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, Masha Gessen’s The Man Without a Face. The latter was about Vladimir Putin, I explained, thinking this might resonate in a black-and-white sort of way.

Nope. It only set her off on a defense of Putin’s partner in bromance, the current occupant of the White House.

My teeth clean, I had much to ponder, not the least of which was whether I should be actively seeking different dental care. But Judy also helped me think about the audience for books, and about why I write what I do.

More than once, I’ve wished I could write more to formula. Formula sells, especially for readers like Judy who are hard-wired for moral absolutism, for certainty, for the concrete. Psychological and sociological research has proven, again and again, that this hard-wiring is especially evident in those who self-identify as politically conservative. A key motivation, per the research, is fear.

Which is not to say we should pigeon-hole readers by political affiliation or anything else. Rather, we writers need to understand that readers experience books in different ways, and that their preferences are likely not terrifically malleable. We also need to understand ourselves – where we can flex with our own preferences and where we can’t.

A fellow writer, whose initial work has been gutsy, funny, in-your-face feminist rants, tells me she’s going to take up writing romance novels. Plenty of strong women there, she notes, plus there are avid readers. I’ll be following her venture. Maybe there are clever ways to push at the edges of formula, to expand one’s readership. There’s something – and someone – for everyone, as they say – books and readers alike.

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. The opinions expressed here are solely her own.

 

Guest Blogger Don Rearden | Swallowing a Wolverine and Other Clever Tricks to Publish an Amazon Best-Seller

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A crazy thing happened the other day.

When I catch my students writing language similar to the previous sentence, I often ask them to think of the word “thing” as a great opportunity to replace a word with little meaning and instead insert words that reveal specific details, clarity, passion and power. Sometimes, however, either in the case of a monster or the inexplicable, “thing” does the trick.

“Happened” also is one of those words that says little, but there it is, and I wrote the sentence and apparently either my delete key no longer functions or I’m really at a loss for exactly what took place, how it took place, or any of what allegedly happened means.

Let me explain. And — I promise I shall try to quit speaking in such vague and useless terms.

Two weeks ago a juvenile sized wolverine of anxiety seemed to be trapped inside me. The wiry little beast appeared to be trying his best to claw his way out. I was worried about the eight million freshman compositions I needed to grade, the near impossible deadline for a new book I’m working on, and my first work of non-fiction’s publicity rollout in early March.

Anyone who has dealt with a trapped wolverine knows the end results won’t be pretty. I needed to be methodical about my approach if I was going to emerge unscathed and recognizable.

The eight million essays had to be graded. There was no way around that. I seriously considered outsourcing. If students can buy their essays online, couldn’t I have the same companies who wrote the essays, also just grade them? No. I had to grade the essays, just like I had to find the time to work on the new manuscript.

A big source of that concern eating at me was the new book deadline looming. Unless you’ve been actually living like a wolverine, completely isolated from the publishing industry, you know that publicity is now part of the author’s obligatory duties. A large part, if not all, of the publicity for a book can now fall on your hunched writer’s shoulders when a book comes out. I knew this from experience. For my first novel, The Raven’s Gift, I tried everything under the midnight sun to get the public to take notice. Despite the fact that I had a major publisher, and supposedly a PR person, I had little to no help whatsoever in promoting the book. Outside of printing and distributing the book, and getting one cool blurb from Craig Johnson, the big house did next to nothing. The reviews, the blurbs, the signings, the awards – all related to my efforts. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many books I sent out and gave away in hopes that some how I could reach that magic threshold of sales where publishers would consider a second novel from me.

For that first novel I tried everything to get the attention of readers in the Lower 48. Alaskans did their best to help me, too. Alaskan rock stars tweeted about the book. Alaskan television stars gave copies of the book to non-Alaskan television stars. I even went so far as to have my friend Pete Kaiser, an Iditarod musher, deliver the novel to the Nome library via dogsled!

With the new book I felt a renewed sense of obligation to try again, but this time, not for myself. I’m the co-author, and the book is about my friend Jimmy Settle. This is a story from his life, and a story of getting injured in service to our country. I couldn’t just sit back and do nothing, but at the same time, I also knew there was little to spread the news far and wide about a story that I think is pretty wild and inspirational.

Fortunately, we have a publicist who is working to help us, and St. Martins has been an incredible publisher. I wasn’t worried that they wouldn’t do their part, not at all. They seemed confident in their methods, and they had already placed an excerpt in a national magazine, and had an incredible distribution plan.

The publisher mails you a few advanced copies and I’d already given mine away with huge hopes and dreams behind each copy. I was hoping for blurbs or that “thing” that might help propel the book to a place it might get attention.

What was eating at me really boiled down to what would I do for this book? What could I do? Of course I would thrown a cool party (March 18th, 5pm Anchorage Brewing Company!) but that wouldn’t be enough. Jimmy deserved more. He deserved me putting my best foot forward. All my brain power needed to come up with the one idea that would capture lightening in a bottle, or at least a spark in a vial. Again, what was that “thing” that would propel our book to a best-seller?

I had no idea.

Then it hit me.

I had no idea.

Damn.

The clock was ticking. This was the week of Feb 20th. The book would come out in two weeks. I was working behind the scenes. Doing what I did with my first book. Contacting my alma mater, and his high school, and dropping emails to my media contacts – but that was all Alaska, again, and the Lower 48 and all those readers seemed so far away and out of reach.

Then on Feb 22, Jimmy sent me a message. Short and sweet. His style. He wrote, “Just got done w/filmed Facetime with Casey… hopes to post the video this week.”

He was talking about Casey Neistat. A gifted and wildly famous filmmaker and tech and social media entrepreneur. Jimmy met Casey in Afghanistan. Jimmy was an Alaskan Pararescueman saving lives there, and Casey was there to film a documentary. The rest is a part of the story Casey would release the next day on YouTube to his six million followers and the rest of the world.

Now, I have to admit, I was really excited about this news, but I also tried to temper that excitement with my own healthy dose of skepticism. How many people would watch the video? And then how many of those people would actually buy the book? I mean, come on, they watch YouTube. Right? Those people don’t buy books. Do they?

Jimmy sent me a text at 8:32am the next morning and wrote, “Casey posted this today, and already has 15k views.”

By the time I checked my message and watched the video, at 8:48am we had over 125 thousand views.

At the end of the day the video was pushing one million, and I was eating an entire slice of humble pie. So it turns out those YouTubers were buying the book. The Amazon ranking, which any author knows is actually something you can’t really know or understand, was moving in reverse of the viewer stats. Rocketing up the charts, into the top 100 overall and #1 in several categories.

A week later and I still don’t know anything, but I can tell you that anxious wolverine is gone. We’ve gotten some amazing press coverage in the Seattle area where Jimmy lives and here in Alaska. For a few days a funny little Best-Seller flag appeared beside the book on Amazon. But I don’t know any actual sales numbers, or even what to expect that first week when the book is actually available. I guess I could be nervous that all those people who bought the book won’t actually like it, but I’m not likely to swallow another wolverine over those concerns. If they don’t like it, that’s Jimmy’s fault! I’ve got another book to write and now 7.9 million essays left to grade.

I’m late turning a few of essays back, but my students can really blame me right? After all, a crazy thing happened the other day.

Don Rearden is the co-author of Never Quit. Here is the video he mentioned in the blog post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFRGQGN8u1E&spfreload=5
(The video had 1,802,068 views when this was written….)

Don Rearden will join Brian Castner and Matthew Komatsu this Sunday, March 12, 2017, for our next Crosscurrents event, door 6:30pm, 7:00 start at 49th State Brewing Co., Barrel Room East, Anchorage.

Don and Jimmy will appear together at Fireside Books in Palmer on March 18, 2017.