Literary Roundup | November 24-December 7, 2017

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SOUTHCENTRAL

ANCHORAGE | Thursday, November 30, 2017 at 7 PM 49 Writers Reading & Craft Talk Series presents Crazy Russian Stories Alone Don’t Make a Book with author David Ramseur | Just five years after a Soviet missile blew a civilian airliner out of the sky over the North Pacific, Russia and Alaska citizen diplomats braved Cold War tensions to join hands across the Bering Strait. Their dramatic efforts to melt the “Ice Curtain” launched a 30-year era of perilous yet prolific progress, a model in bridging the gap in superpower relations sorely needed today. Alaska journalist and political aide David Ramseur discusses his book, Melting the Ice Curtain: The Extraordinary Story of Citizen Diplomacy on the Russia-Alaska Frontier. Ramseur describes how he chronicles this important era in Alaska history through more than 130 interviews and archival research and how he is marketing his book during the 150th anniversary of the US purchase of Alaska from Russia. After just six weeks on the market, Melting the Ice Curtain sold out its first printing through University of Alaska Press. More info | Facebook eventANCHORAGE | Tuesday, November 28, 2017 from 5-7 PM | The UAA Campus bookstore is hosting Emily Madsen’s The Curious Case of Metlakatla, the Alaska Native Community Led by England’s Only Missionary to Alaska, in which she will discuss her research on the relationship between English missionary William Duncan and the Tsimshian people of Metlakatla. Madsen teaches at UAA in the Department of English. She received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Free.

ANCHORAGE | Ecodrama Playwrights Festival & Symposium is accepting new proposals, deadline November 30, 2017. The symposium, hosted by UAA Theatre Department, is searching for creative and challenging proposals for workshops, roundtables, and a variety of other events centered on the environmental crises. Topics include but are not limited to climate change, animal representation, eco-literacy, and indigenous performances. Submit proposals here. For questions, contact Dr. Brian Cooke at uaa_emosfestival@alaska.edu.

ANCHORAGE | The Anchorage Museum presents a series of readings and discussion on the diversity of languages in Alaska. The event will explore the challenges and possibilities of translation through conversation with local experts, scholars, and educators who will share their work. Next up:

  • Unbound: Present Tense Friday, December 15, 2017 from 5-7 PM | In another part of Anchorage Museum’s Unbound series, Juneau-based author Ernestine Hayes and Anchorage-based scholar Maria Williams will read and discuss their work. Free with admission which is half price on Polar Nights.

ANCHORAGE | Saturday, Dec 2, 2017 at 1 PM | Screenwriter Forum is being held in the Port View Room of the Alaska Experience Theater. Visiting producers, directors, and AIFF Screenwriter competition finalists will provide their knowledge on what makes a good script, how to refine your pitch, and what to do with a finished script. Bring your ideas and questions, this event is open to writers from beginners to professionals. Panelists include AIFF award-winning screenwriter Jason Mott, script doctor Jay Burns, and actor and industry professional Ron Holstrom. Moderated by award-winning screenwriter and writing professor Doug Bourne. For more information, click here. Free.

ANCHORAGE | Saturday, December 2, 2017 from 6-8 PM | The Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Fellowship is hosting What are The Humanities and Why Do They Matter? Gary Holthaus and Kameron Perez-Verdia, first and current directors of the Alaska Humanities forum, engage in discussion moderated by Jackie Cason and Emily Madsen. Free.

ANCHORAGE | Monday, December 4, 2017 from 5:30-7 PM at UAA Campus Bookstore | UAA students from Professor Don Rearden’s Creative Writing class will read and discuss their current work at the campus bookstore. Rearden is the author of The Raven’s Gift and co-writer of Never Quit, the memoir of Alaskan Pararescue Operator Jimmy Settle. Free.

ANCHORAGE | Saturday, December 9, 2017 from 1-3 PM at UAA Campus Bookstore | Author Leland Jones discusses his book Living a Purposeful Life, A Guide to Starting and Succeeding as an Entrepreneur. In the book, Jones shares experiences that led him to start two small businesses: .T-Quotes LLC and Multi-motivation. His life as an entrepreneur and philanthropist coupled with his global experiences and strong Christian faith are topics highlighted. Free.

ANCHORAGE | 49 Writers workshop: Fear and Loathing in Writing: How to Write Using Your Primal Emotions as Inspiration with Don Rearden | Saturday, December 9, 2017, from 2-4 PM | Waitlisting Prepare to get your blood pressure up and palms sweating in this two-hour creative writing workshop designed to get you all worked up. Learn how to tap into your primal emotions and turn that raw energy into something productive and powerful in your creative writing. Author Don Rearden will reveal an innovative way to transform your own anger, fear, sadness, happiness, and other feelings into something useful for your poetry, fiction, or memoir. Bring a laptop or notebook and come ready to write. Instructor bio: Don Rearden spent most of his childhood on the tundra of Southwestern Alaska. A professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, he is the author of the 2013 Washington Post notable novel The Raven’s Gift, a screenwriter, and co-author of the recently released memoir Never Quit. He lives in an undisclosed location somewhere on a mountain outside of Anchorage. More details and registration

ANCHORAGE | 49 Writers workshop: Disrupting Nonfiction: Adventures in Open Form Essays with Matthew Komatsu | Saturday, December 9, 2017, from 4:30-7:30 PM | In recent years, essays have taken on surprising shapes and sizes, advancing from lyric into new and surprising forms. Together, we’ll explore examples of open form essays, discuss how the varieties of structure inform the piece’s narrative, and try some things out ourselves. Writers of all experience levels should bring a laptop and a short piece of their own writing that describes a scene which they are willing to subject to some varieties of writerly experimentation. A sense of wonder is mandatory; husky poet-voice optional but always welcome. Instructor bio: Matthew Komatsu has published open form essays in BrevityThe Normal SchoolSoutheast Review, and even snuck one past a New York Times editor one time. He’s a graduate of the University of Alaska MFA in Creative Writing (Nonfiction) program, has essays forthcoming in two anthologies due out in 2018, and is a Nonfiction Editor for the literary journal War, Literature and the Arts. | More details and registration

December 15-22, 2017 | Meagan Macvie Southcentral Alaska Book Tour
49 Writers is proud to welcome Meagan Macvie back to her home state on tour with her debut book, The Ocean in My Ears, with support from the Alaska Humanities Forum. Details below. Meagan Macvie was born and raised in Soldotna, Alaska. Her debut novel, The Ocean in My Ears, is set in her hometown. The novel was published in 2017 by Portland State University’s Ooligan Press and was a finalist for the 2016 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest. In their starred review, Kirkus calls The Ocean in My Ears an “unforgettable journey to adulthood.” Meagan is a former government communications director and college composition instructor who now writes full-time and teaches writing workshops through her local schools and libraries. She earned her MFA in fiction from Pacific Lutheran University and a BA in English Literature from the University of Idaho. Her work has appeared in NarrativeBarrelhouse, and Fugue, as well as the regional library anthology, Timberland Writes Together. In 2017, her short story, “Dinosaur Guys,” was awarded second place in the Willamette Writers Kay Snow Writing Contest. Meagan now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and daughter, as well as a dog, two goats, and seven chickens. Find her online at meaganmacvie.com and on Twitter and Instagram as @meaganmacvie.

PALMER | December 15, 2017 | YA debut novelist Meagan Macvie will sign copies of The Ocean in My Ears at Fireside Books at 4 pm. A ticketed Dinner and Discussion with Meagan will occur at Turkey Red at 6:45, with tickets available at Fireside or online soon here.

ANCHORAGE | 49 Writers workshop: I’m Just Being Myselfie: How Young Narrators Come Alive on the Page (Without Seeming Like Posers), a workshop with Meagan Macvie, Satuday, December 16, 2017 from 3-5 PM | Good stories bring readers close in and make us care about—even feel—what is happening to the characters. Workshop participants will investigate how writers use Immediacy, Voice, and Transformation to accomplish this great feat of sensory and emotional osmosis. This workshop focuses on young adult first-person narrators. Meagan Macvie will share short excerpts from classic and contemporary young adult literature (including Sherman Alexie, Laurie Halse Anderson, Gayle Forman, John Green, Karen Hesse, and J.D. Salinger) to demonstrate techniques writers can use to compel readers to feel along with a story’s teenage main character. Participants will then have the opportunity to write their own compelling paragraphs during guided writing exercises. More details and registration.

ANCHORAGE | 49 Writers Reading & Craft Talk Series presents Meagan Macvie, “Writing from a Big, Small Place” at 7 pm, Indigo Tea Lounge. Being from a small community is wonderful in so many ways, but it can also be difficult and scary for those born and raised in rural areas to find their way outside that community. In her new novel, The Ocean in My Ears, Alaska-born writer Meagan Macvie explores the beauty and heartache of growing up in Soldotna during the 1990s. Her main character, Meri Miller, wants to make her way out into the big world but is terrified of the unknown. Plus, being a teen girl in Alaska isn’t easy. Meri grapples with emerging conflicts between herself and her faith community, family, and friends, all while dealing with her own guilt, profound grief and blooming sexuality. Macvie will discuss the challenges of writing young protagonists, setting a novel in your hometown, and interrogating your own experiences through fiction. In their starred review, Kirkus calls The Ocean in My Ears an “unforgettable journey to adulthood.”

COOPER LANDING | Meagan Macvie appears at the public library. Reading, Q&A, and book signing. 2 pm, Sunday, December 17, 2017. 

SEWARD | Meagan Macvie appears at Resurrect Art Coffee House Gallery… details TBA

SOLDOTNA | Meagan Macvie appears at the public library for a reading, Q&A, and book signing. 4 pm 

ANCHORAGE | January 3-31, 2018 | Author Lynn Lovegreen is leading an online workshop on Writing Young Adult/New Adult Historical Romance. The course will practice writing romance grounded in historical fact considering setting, character, and plot points, and ensure the language is appropriate for the story. Lynn will provide lectures and short homework assignments, and participants will be encouraged to add to the conversation with their own ideas and knowledge. Learn more at https://www.heartsthroughhistory.com. Fee: $15 members / $25 nonmembers.

ANCHORAGE | Wednesday, January 17, 2018 from 7-8:30 PM | The Alaska Writers Guild presents “Speaking Volumes; Audiobooks & Narration.” Alaska-based audiobook narrators Basil Sands and Suzie Althens will discuss their roles as narrators, and how to turn your own published works into audiobooks available to the public. Located at Barnes and Noble. Free.

 

INTERIOR

FAIRBANKS | DATE CHANGED TO Saturday, December 2, 2017, 10 AM-5 PM | Fairbanks Arts is hosting the workshop Writing in the Dark: Worldbuilding for Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors, led by award-winning science fiction author David Marusek of Counting Heads and The Wedding Album. Building an absorbing world is the underpinning of strong fantasy and science fiction. This two-day workshop will explore the issues and techniques of worldbuilding for science fiction and fantasy short stories, novels, and screenplays through lecture, discussion, exercises, individual writing time, sharing work, and one-on-one consulting with the host. New and experienced authors both welcome. Fee: $125 for Fairbanks Arts members; Non-members $150. Located at the Bear Gallery of the Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts. For more information contact 9078-456-6485 ext. 226 or literary@fairbanksarts.org

 

SOUTHEAST

WRANGELL | Flying Island Writers & Artists group meets every other Monday 6:30-8 PM. Contact Vivian Faith Prescott for more information doctorviv@yahoo.com.

WRANGELL | Monday, November 27, 2017 | Author & poet Vivian Faith Prescott is celebrating the release of her books, The Dead Go to Seattle and Traveling With the Underground People. Food, signing, & reading. Held at the Nolan Center.

KETCHIKAN | Ketchikan Writes literary magazine seeks submissions for their first issue. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and short plays welcome. Submission deadline is November 15, 2017 at 8 PM. Email to ketchikanwrites@firstcityplayers.org.

SKAGWAY | May 30 – June 2, 2018 | North Words Writers Symposium in Skagway is now taking registrations for 2018. Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief, is the keynote writer. Other faculty include Juneau Writer Laureate Ernestine Hayes, Portland novelist Willy Vlautin, Juneau poet Emily Wall, Ketchikan writer-artist Ray Troll, Washington writer Colleen Mondor, and Fairbanks writer Frank Soos. Features include author panels, writing workshops, and outdoor activities. Limited to 40 participants. Organizers include Buckwheat Donahue, Jeff Brady, Daniel Henry, and John Straley. For more information, see http://nwwriterss.com.

 

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CONFERENCES, RETREATS, and RESIDENCIES

SKAGWAY | November 15, 2017 – February 15, 2018 | Alderworks Alaska Writers and Artists Retreat is taking applications for next summer’s residencies. Three cabins along West Creek in Dyea will be available during two summer residency sessions: mid-May to late June, and mid-July to late August. Take a tour, view residency requirements, and apply at http://alderworksalaska.com.

HOMER | Storyknife Writers Retreat is currently being developed on ten acres of land outside of Homer, Alaska. They just can’t wait for all six proposed cabin and main house to be built, so the Board of Directors of Storyknife is beginning with a single Storyknife resident who will live in the beautifully appointed cabin on the property. Women writers can apply for a two or four week residency during the months of June, July, and August 2018. Successful candidates will receive a $250 per week stipend at the end of their residency. This money can be used to cover the costs of travel, food, and a rental car if the resident is from out of the drivable area. The resident will need to purchase and prepare their own meals, with the exception of a welcome dinner and a farewell dinner, at the beginning and end of their stay. Application period active until December 31, 2017. Notifications will be sent by the end of February 2018 at the very latest. Learn more at www.storyknife.org. Submit at https://storyknifewritersretreat.submittable.com/submit.

HOMER | Registration is open for the seventeenth annual Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference, June 8-12, 2018. Held in Homer, Alaska, this nationally recognized writing conference features workshops, readings and panel presentations in fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and the business of writing. Keynote presenter Anthony Doerr, Pulitzer Prize winner and National Book Award finalist, will be joined by fifteen other writers, poets, and publishing industry professionals. Optional manuscript reviews, agent/editor meetings, post-conference workshop and boat cruise. Scholarships available. All information and faculty bios at our website: http://sites.kpc.alaska.edu/writersconf/.

WASHINGTON | Friday and Saturday, March 2-3, 2018 | Artsmith is presenting Writer Island: Generosity and Joy with Peggy Shumaker. The workshop will focus on language that opposes hatred and fear, using curiosity and pleasure as a way to heal trauma and pain. Held on Orcas Island, Washington. Visit www.orcasartsmith.org for more information and to register.

HOMER | Applications are open now through December 31, 2017, for the 2018 Storyknife Writers Retreat. Fee: $250 / week. For info and questions, visit www.storyknife.org Submissions to at: https://storyknifewritersretreat.submittable.com/submit.

OPPORTUNITIES and AWARDS for WRITERS

Bona Fide Books seeks literary essays about national parks for Volume 2 of Permanent Vacation: Twenty Writers on Work and Life in Our National Parks. Volume 1 included Alaskan writers Christine Byl, Jeremy Pataky, and Tom Walker. Now, Bona Fide Books seeks more work for Volume 2, covering any national park (no regional focus this time). Each writer whose work is selected will receive $100 for their essay and one copy of the collection, which will publish in spring 2018. Deadline: December 1, 2017. E-mail submissions@bonafidebooks.com. Full details.

ANCHORAGE | Tuesday, December 5, 2017 | Deadline for the Alaska Writers Guild Bi-Monthly Writing Contest; “Rhyming Poetry.” For details and guidelines, visit the writing contest page.

What’s missing? Submit your event or announcement to appear in the next Roundup. Send an email with “Roundup” as the subject to info@49Writers.org. Deadline Wednesday prior at the latest.

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 

49 Writers, Inc. is supported, in part, by a grant from the Alaska State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Gratitude

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Heartfelt thanks to our members, volunteers, supporters, students, and instructors.
We’re grateful to live in an amazing, authentic place peopled by caring, creative communities. 

 

Guest Blogger Christine Byl | Thanks & Giving for the Arts

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Christine Byl at the 8th Annual Tutka Bay Writers Retreat. Photo by Jeremy Pataky

On a recent road trip to visit family in the Southeast, a rural church billboard caught my eye: “Grateful people are happy people.” I don’t generally look to church yard proclamations for advice, but this quote stayed with me. It’s far from a novel idea—myriad scientific studies support the correlative relationship between articulated gratitude and happiness, and further, between philanthropic giving and deep satisfaction. In a week of thankfulness rituals, I appreciated the reminder.

As a child raised in a devout Protestant household, my early lessons on giving were brought home by stacking piles of dimes from my (sporadic) weekly allowance. The Christian notion of tithing originates in the Old Testament (the current word from the old English teogoþa, meaning “a tenth”), and though it was originally a way of funding the church, tithing is now more broadly interpreted as charitable giving in all forms.

Many cultures and religions practice some form of suggested or compulsory giving, from the Buddhist dana (the Pali word for “gratitude”)—the alms to support dharma teachers, who were generally unpaid; to one of the pillars of Islam, zakat (from Arabic, meaning purification and denoting the obligation to give); to the indigenous potlatch (from the Nootka p’alshit’, for ”give”), a ceremony of mutual gift-sharing practiced widely and diversely among North American tribes and nations, including Tlingit, Salish, and Athabascan.

Generosity need not arise from religion or spiritual practice, either—atheists and agnostics have historically been great philanthropists (see Bill & Melinda Gates); a common atheist refrain is “We don’t need God to be good.”

Whether you’re Baptist, Buddhist, Blackfeet, or none of the above, if you’re reading this, you’re probably a writer, or a reader. Which brings me to my pre-Thanksgiving point: we are all literary citizens. A writing community needs nurturing. Free speech requires protecting. Arts funding begs for advocates. Kids crave diverse books. Imprisoned journalists yearn for fair representation. Public libraries welcome donations. The possibilities are endless. #Giving Tuesday is coming up next week, when non-profits often run matching fund campaigns that give them more bang for your buck. Below are some of the places I turn to when making an offering to arts & culture:

  1. PEN America. One of the oldest and most vaunted of the nationwide literary organizations, PEN’s mission is both wide and deep: “PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.” PEN campaigns range from the political—resisting “fake news,” advocating on behalf of detained or imprisoned writers, and pushing for diversity in publishing—to the celebratory—hosting literary readings, awards, and festivals. One of my favorites among their offerings is the PEN Ten, a weekly Q & A with a wide array of writers.
  2. Local public library branches (or Friends of the Library organizations): Public libraries rely on a blend of public and private funding, and consistent donors help provide insurance against changing federal and state winds. Alaska Library Association is one place to start.
  3. Orion Magazine. A gorgeous quarterly journal publishing at the convergence of arts, culture and the natural world. Non-profit, ad-free, and getting better every year. A donation can include a subscription, for you or someone else. Terrain.org/A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments, is a web-based venue in the same vein, but with its own stamp, and daily/weekly content. Their “Letter to America” feature has been a welcome antidote to post-Trump despair.
  4. Broadsided Press: Putting Literature & Arts on the Streets. This non-profit web-based press is near and dear to my heart. Poet Elizabeth Bradfield founded it when we were in graduate school together in Anchorage, and now, 13 years later, she still runs it (pro bono) from Cape Cod. Broadsided has archived years of fine art collaborations, publishing poets from Danez Smith to Jane Hirshfield, who wrote, “I am thrilled by the samizdat nature of… this project.” Reliant entirely on donations and tiny submission fees to augment hours of unpaid editorial pro bono editorial labor, Broadsided will put a single of your dollars to great use.
  5. VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. This organization became famous for its annual count tallying the gender disparity in literary publishing, and has grown to encompass a larger mission for tracking inequalities in publishing on many fronts. Their annual pie chart alone is data worth paying for, let alone all the other conversation-driving work they do.
  6. American Indian College Fund. Unencumbered and fair access to higher education is critical to a thriving arts culture. I choose to donate to funds that extend educational offerings to people who have been historically (and presently) prevented from accessing them. This scholarship organization is a long-standing one with a great track record for student success.
  7. We Need Diverse Books. I love this project’s mission: “Putting more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children,” and their vision: “A world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book.” How better to shape literary culture than to invest in young readers?
  8. Americans for the Arts. This nationwide group has done more to mobilize against cuts to government funding of arts than any other I know. Their mission: “to serve, advance, and lead the network of organizations and individuals who cultivate, promote, sustain, and support the arts in America. Connecting your best ideas and leaders from the arts, communities, and business, together we can work to ensure that every American has access to the transformative power of the arts.” A for A works across party lines to lobby for arts funding (and this group is one of the few that counts both me and Lisa Murkowski as devoted supporters!).

I can’t end without a shout-out to a few of the many deserving organizations in Alaska. If you want to “buy local,” I highly recommend Storyknife Writers Retreat (donate to build Eva’s House, in honor of Eva Saulitis); Kachemak Bay Writers Conference (fund a scholarship for an attendee who can’t afford it); Alaska Quarterly Review (buy a subscription for a small-town library); and of course, 49 Writers, which has become a clearing house and a gathering place and a springboard for the writing community in Alaska. They do so much with so little. Consider becoming a member.

Two final thoughts. First, donations needn’t be monetary. If you have more time or skills than cash, consider volunteering for an organization that needs you. Petitions and phone campaigns are widely-touted, low-effort places to lend a hand, but there’s so much more to do: make a flyer for an event; tutor a kid; build and stock a Little Free Library in your yard; join a Board of Directors. Second, don’t forget that subscriptions, memberships, or donations in people’s names make thoughtful and waste-less gifts. Your aunt or boss or child’s teacher will likely appreciate knowing that you linked them with a cause you both believe in. That mutual happiness will outlast anything you can buy.

I know I’ve left out countless deserving organizations; please add your favorites in the comments. My deep gratitude to all who work on behalf of the arts!

This month’s guest blogger Christine Byl is a professional trail-builder and the author of Dirt Work: An Education In the Woods. Her prose has appeared in Glimmer Train StoriesCrazyhorse & Brevity, among other journals & anthologies. A recipient of grants from the Rasmuson Foundation & Alaska State Council on the Arts, she teaches classes on subjects from haibun to chainsaw mechanics. Christine lives in Interior Alaska where she is at work on a novel.

Jeremy Pataky | Steam Ahead, Writers

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Thanksgiving’s just two days away. The calendar will flick that domino into the year’s remaining days, triggering the ol’ chain reaction. It would be easy to let time slip right by till the New Year ball drops. Don’t let it. On the cusp of the holidaze, I’m chiming in with a friendly reminder to take care of the writer in you.

Make/find/sequester/demand/beg/borrow/steal/squirrel/conjure/carve/3D print yourself some time for writing and reading… and get a boost by taking one of our remaining 2017 writing workshops coming up in Anchorage, and/or attend an event or three.

Our next Reading & Craft Talk Series event is coming up on Thursday, November 30 at Indigo Tea Lounge, 7 pm, with David Ramseur, author of Melting the Ice Curtain: The Extraordinary Story of Citizen Diplomacy on the Russia-Alaska Frontier (University of Alaska Press 2017… um, note the ad to your right). This presentation, Crazy Russian Stories Alone Don’t Make a Book, will give you a look under the book’s hood… and behind the [ice] curtain. He’s been busy promoting his hot new book from Nome to Washington, DC and points between, and copies have been selling like hotcakes. He’s an engaging and interesting presenter and writer, and we’re looking forward to this one. Learn more on our website, and signal your plan to go/invite your friends on the Facebook event page.

Matthew Komatsu moderates a 49 Writers Danger Close event, March ’17. (Photo: Jeremy Pataky)

Next, writer, editor, and board member Matthew Komatsu will teach a short nonfiction intro class to open forms essays on Saturday, December 9th, 4:30-7:30 PM, and seats remain. (Don Rearden’s class scheduled earlier that day is full and waitlisting.) Learn more about Matt’s class, called Disrupting Nonfiction: Adventures in Open Form Essays, in his blog post from a while back and check it out and register on our website (scroll down). Gonna be a good one, folks, so don’t be shy, and don’t delay.

A week later and also in Anchorage, former Soldotnan and debuting YA novelist Meagan Macvie will 1) teach a two hour workshop and 2) give a Reading & Craft Talk Series event. She recently taught this class, called “I’m Just Being Myselfie: How Young Narrators Come Alive on the Page (Without Coming Off Like Posers)”, down in Washington to sold out groups of very pleased students. Reports were resoundingly positive. This will a fun and worthwhile class for anyone interested in writing fiction for young adults; sign up soon on our website. Meagan lives in the Pacific Northwest now, so don’t miss this chance to connect with a fantastic writer and teacher while she’s here. Her book is set in Soldotna in the Nineties.

Later that night, Meagan will present a Reading & Craft Talk Series event at Indigo Tea Lounge. That Writing from a Big, Small Place” presentation will twist our usual format a little, including optional cameos from willing students who took her class earlier that day and falling on a Saturday. These ANC events are just two stops on her 49 Writers Southcentral Alaska book tour, supported through a minigrant from the Alaska Humanities Forum and our annual grant from the Alaska State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Big thanks to them! More details to come on some of Meagan’s tour stops in Palmer, Seward, Cooper Landing, and Soldotna (and Anchorage, obviously)… including tickets for an author dinner with Meagan at Turkey Red via Fireside Books. Stay tuned. And sign up for her class in Anchorage if you’re even vaguely tempted. You’ll be glad.

We’ve had a hell of a year at 49 Writers and it ain’t over yet, folks. Sharpen your pencils, don your Yaktrax, and see ya soon.

Thanks,
Jeremy Pataky
49 Writers, Inc.

 

Guest Blogger Christine Byl | What Shall I Read Next?

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Christine Byl

In graduate school, I began annotating the books I read. Unlike lots of things from graduate school that I should still be doing, this habit stuck. I do it to this day. I love making that short entry in my tiny notebook when I finish reading something—an intentional assessment of resonance, failings, delights—and I find it very useful to track my reading this way. Although I read voraciously, I have trouble recalling book titles, and have been known to draw a Palin-esque blank when put on the spot to name favorites. (At one event with a Q&A period, someone asked me for books I’d recommend and I seriously considered responding, “All of them?”) Even when I do remember what I’ve read and loved, context often eludes me. The process of annotating helps lodge titles more deeply in my gray matter, and when I thumb back through my notebooks (organized by year) I can map changes in my reading landscape and note connections to the wider world.

We all have different ways of moving from one book to another. Some course-plotters I know keep disciplined “to-read” lists and rarely deviate for a spontaneous impulse. I encountered a person who reads books solely from Little Free Libraries, exchanging a finished book for whatever someone else decided to part with. There are devoted book review readers, and those who choose titles only from trusted recommenders. My reading list is typically driven about half by a “to-read” list (itself partly driven by research or work-in-progress) and half by whim (book reviews, friends’ tips, library and bookstore displays).

Two years ago, though, I made a conscious change to my literary way-finding. A slow niggle had been building for a few years—that my book choices were too similar, that I relied heavily on limited sources for new reading, and subsequently, I wasn’t stretching far enough beyond my default choices. Aided by the VIDA count (originally highlighting the gender disparities in literary publishing, and more recently broadened to analyze a range of intersectional markers) and efforts like #We Need Diverse Books (a movement devoted to pushing for and championing diversity in kids’ and young adult literature), literary culture has been talking more openly about the sad fact that most white Americans read predominantly white Americans. I have long considered myself a wide-ranging reader, but when I turned to my own lists the data was undeniable: my reading was about 75-80% weighted in the white direction. (I tend to read pretty evenly gender-wise.)

This bothered me, because it’s not how I want to be. Many of the lifetime favorites comprising my personal canon are writers of diverse backgrounds: James Welch, Toni Morrison, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Louise Erdrich, Vladimir Nabokov, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston and Shusako Endo, to name a few. In recent reading as well, books by writers of color have packed the biggest wallop. When I think of authors that have left a lasting impression in the past three years, Justin Torres’ We the Animals, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, Ernestine Hayes’ Tao of Raven, and poems by Terrance Hayes and Vievee Francis come immediately to mind. Yet despite these highlights, a look at my annotations overall told me that percentage-wise, I could be doing a lot better.

So, I changed things up. Sometimes you need rules to make a game more interesting (witness: tennis, sonnets.) You could say I invented a reading-list form for myself. It goes like this:

As I move from one book to another, two things have to change from the previous selection–the genre, and the gender, nationality or ethnicity of the writer. For example, say I read a novel by a white woman (which I often do). The next book could be poems, essays, book-length non-fiction, or short stories written by a woman of a race/ethnicity other than white, or by any kind of man (or gender minority). I am not a particularly systematic person, so I do not rigidly prescribe the switches. But I do try to vary which factor I change from book to book so I don’t end up toggling back and forth between White-Female-Novelist and Black-Male-Poet, for example.

This simple rule has revolutionized my reading. It has introduced me to new authors, kept me out of tonal, formal and thematic ruts, and provided some fascinating juxtapositions. Moving from Annie Proulx’s most recent novel set in seventeenth-century forests (Barkskins) to Edward P. Jones’ first short story collection set in 20th century Washington DC (Lost in the City) was a revelation—about the varieties of experience that comprise “American,” and about how dialect can define fiction, for good or ill. Willie Hensley’s Inupiaq memoir of a far-northern childhood (Fifty Miles from Tomorrow) led to Nickole Brown’s biography-in-poems of her southern grandmother (Fanny Says), each nodding to intergenerational trauma in a different way. Ross Gay’s effusive and loving poems of black male Americanness (Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude) glowed in colors as vivid as its cover art while Joan Naviyuk Kane’s opaque and shimmering poems of Inupiaq-woman-self (Hyperboreal) limned subarctic monochrome. Some books, their proximity rather random, blew my mind together in ways they might not have on their own.

Of course, exceptions arose. On work hitches this summer, I reached for multiple white-guy mysteries (Henning Mankell, Michael Connelly, Giles Blunt), because when I’m exhausted after 12-hour days of labor and am reading for seven minutes before I pass out, sometimes only a familiar, depressive detective will do. On the other hand, a triple-whammy black female novelist binge (Zadie Smith, two by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) was worth bending the rules for. After all, the point is not dogmatism, but its opposite—to be open.

Important questions loom beneath the surface of this fairly nuts-and-bolts post. How does reading shape self, if it does? What’s the relationship between taste and comfort? Is a focus on identity markers good for literature overall? What about reading across age, disability, gender/orientation spectrum, class? All questions worthy of further thought and discussion. But for now, I can say this: I changed the way I choose books, and it changed the way I read. It changed me.

I think often about a quote I heard from Eric Deggans, a TV critic for NPR. He was talking about the first black contestant on The Bachelorette but his point is equally relevant to a reading list: “True diversity isn’t just about expecting black people to assimilate into a mostly white world; it’s about widening that world to reflect the experiences of everyone in it.” And for me, a truly inclusive reading list isn’t just a bunch of white authors with a few tokens folded in. It’s a catalog of possibilities as multi-vocal, contradictory and vibrant as the world we live in.

Christine Byl is a professional trail-builder and the author of Dirt Work: An Education In the Woods. Her prose has appeared in Glimmer Train Stories, Crazyhorse & Brevity, among other journals & anthologies. A recipient of grants from the Rasmuson Foundation & Alaska State Council on the Arts, she teaches classes on subjects from haibun to chainsaw mechanics. Christine lives in Interior Alaska where she is at work on a novel.

Matthew Komatsu | Anything But Normal

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Matthew Komatsu on stage during a 49 Writers Danger Close Crosscurrents event, March 2017.

I’m not sure what the hell I was thinking when I applied to begin the MFA program at UAA in 2013, but I seemed to ignore the “creative” half of the “creative nonfiction” box when I indicated a genre focus. My idea of nonfiction was that one began at the chronological beginning, and concluded at the end of the events under examination. A-to-Z, easy day. Journalism plus an occasional literary flourish to keep things interesting. Shoot, maybe even use the word “I” once in a while.

That first semester of reading blew my damn mind with essays like Eula Biss’s “Pain Scale” and Janet Burroway’s “Embalming Mom.” If our reading assignments amounted to a literary drive, Biss and Burroway put my sense of the familiar a few exits in arrears.  They didn’t look, smell, feel, or taste anything like what I’d expected. And yet there they were, anthologized as if solely for the purpose of disrupting the expectations of students like myself.

More importantly, those essays encouraged me to pursue my own sense of structural adventurism. And I have to tell you: It was liberating. For me, abandoning the strictly journalistic approach to nonfiction meant that I could find a way to wrestle, right there on the page, with emotion, meaning, and all those squishy things I thought we were supposed to avoid as the willing minions of truth.

Open form essays – the umbrella which we might throw over braided, segmented, fragmented, mosaic, and all the other varieties of unexpected essay structures – offer a lot of ways in which we might seek unexpected truths. They can shatter post-trauma reality into pieces; effectively replicate the associative nature of memory; resist power structures and traditional hierarchies; they can even make 1 + 1 somehow equal 3. Luckily, the editors of literary journals have come to recognize this, and it’s no longer uncommon to open one and find an open form essay. Creative Nonfiction dedicates a section of each issue called “Exploring the Boundaries” to open forms, and I’d argue that Diagram is essentially an open form essay journal.

Next month, I’ll be teaching an introductory class on open form essays, and I hope you can tell that I’m excited. We’ll do a little reading, a little writing, and a little listening. All of which will be in the name of disrupting the expected and getting outside our literary comfort zones. Join me on 9 December and let’s see where it takes us.

***

Matthew Komatsu has published open form essays in BrevityThe Normal SchoolSoutheast Review, and even snuck one past a New York Times editor one time. He’s a graduate of the University of Alaska MFA in Creative Writing (Nonfiction) program, has essays forthcoming in two anthologies due out in 2018, and is a Nonfiction Editor for the literary journal War, Literature and the Arts. As a serviceman, he’s obliged to remind you that none of his literary endeavors reflect official policy or position. You can follow him at www.matthewkomatsu.

Literary Roundup | November 10-23, 2017

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Thanks to everyone who turned out last night to Jonathan White’s Reading & Craft Talk Series event in Anchorage, and to Indigo Tea Lounge for staying open after hours to host this series! Folks, don’t miss Jonathan’s appearances tonight (11/10/17) in Homer, and Saturday the 11th at UAA Campus Bookstore (details below).

SOUTHCENTRAL

HOMER | Friday, November 10, 2017 at 7 pm, KPC Kachemak Bay Campus | Jonathan White, author of Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean. After nearly losing his 65’ wooden schooner in a large Alaskan tide, writer, sailor, and surfer Jonathan White vowed to understand the tide. He knew the moon had something to do with it, but what exactly? He read a book, then two. Ten years later, he had read three hundred books and criss-crossed the seven seas to see the largest, fastest, scariest, and most amazing tides in the world. With photographs, stories, and short readings, Jonathan takes his audiences on an enthralling journey into the surprising and poetic workings of the tide. Free.

ANCHORAGE | Saturday, November 11, 2017 at 1 PM, UAA Campus Bookstore | Jonathan White, author of Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean. After nearly losing his 65’ wooden schooner in a large Alaskan tide, writer, sailor, and surfer Jonathan White vowed to understand the tide. He knew the moon had something to do with it, but what exactly? He read a book, then two. Ten years later, he had read three hundred books and criss-crossed the seven seas to see the largest, fastest, scariest, and most amazing tides in the world. With photographs, stories, and short readings, Jonathan takes his audiences on an enthralling journey into the surprising and poetic workings of the tide. Free.

ANCHORAGE | Wednesday, November 15, 2017 from 7-8:30 PM | The Alaska Writers Guild presents “Book Distribution through Alaska and Beyond” with Flip Todd of Todd Communications, which offers manuscript editing, book design and packaging, distribution, and more. Free at Barnes and Noble.

ANCHORAGE | Thursday, November 16, 2017 at the Anchorage Museum, 6:30-8 PM | Lifelong Alaskan Hannah Moderow presents her debut novel, “Lily’s Mountain,” in the museum’s fourth floor Chugach Gallery. She will read from her book, talk about her process, and sign copies of the book. Free; use the museum’s 7th Avenue entrance. Find out more about the book at www.hannahmoderow.com. “Lily’s Mountain” is recommended for ages 10+.

ANCHORAGE | Saturday, November 18, 2017 | Liz O’Connell will present The Adventures of Apun the Arctic Fox at the Cook Inlet Literary Council Mini-Conference at the University of Alaska Anchorage. For more information, contact O’Connell at liz@FrontierScientists.com, 907-550-8413.

ANCHORAGE | Saturday, November 18, 2017 from 1-3:00 pm at the UAA Campus Bookstore | Ann Fienup Riordan and Alice ReardenQanemcit Amllertut/Many Stories to Tell: Tales of Humans and Animals from Southwest Alaska. This bilingual collection shares new translations of old stories recorded over the past four decades through interviews with Yup’ik elders from throughout southwest Alaska. Some are true qulirat (traditional tales), while others are recent. Some are well known, like the adventures of the wily raven, while others are rarely told. All are part of a great narrative tradition, shared and treasured by Yup’ik people into the present day. This is the first region-wide collection of traditional Yup’ik tales and stories from southwest Alaska. The elders and translators who contributed to this collection embrace the great irony of oral traditions: that the best way to keep these stories is to give them away. By retelling these stories, they hope to create a future in which the Yup’ik view of the world will be both recognized and valued. Qanemcit Amllertut/Many Stories to Tell is published by University of Alaska Press. Ann Fienup Riordan and Alice Rearden have worked on numerous publications together.  Their book, Anguyiiim Nalliini, A Time of Warring, The History of Bow-and-Arrow Warfare on Southwest Alaska, was published in 2016 by University of Alaska Press in 2016. This event is sponsored with Alaska Center for the Book and held in celebration of Alaska Native/American Indian Heritage Month. Free. Free parking at UAA on Saturdays.

ANCHORAGE | Thursday, November 30, 2017 at 7 PM 49 Writers Reading & Craft Talk Series presents Crazy Russian Stories Alone Don’t Make a Book with author David Ramseur | Just five years after a Soviet missile blew a civilian airliner out of the sky over the North Pacific, Russia and Alaska citizen diplomats braved Cold War tensions to join hands across the Bering Strait. Their dramatic efforts to melt the “Ice Curtain” launched a 30-year era of perilous yet prolific progress, a model in bridging the gap in superpower relations sorely needed today. Alaska journalist and political aide David Ramseur discusses his book, Melting the Ice Curtain: The Extraordinary Story of Citizen Diplomacy on the Russia-Alaska Frontier. Ramseur describes how he chronicles this important era in Alaska history through more than 130 interviews and archival research and how he is marketing his book during the 150th anniversary of the US purchase of Alaska from Russia. After just six weeks on the market, Melting the Ice Curtain sold out its first printing through University of Alaska Press. More info

ANCHORAGE | 49 Writers workshop: Cutting the River: Poems from Draft Through Radical Revision with Joan Naviyuk Kane. Four two-hour weekly sessions: Nov 25, Dec 2, Dec 9, Dec 16, 2017 | This workshop will create space for writers of all genres to move in and out of the lyric mode. Participants will generate drafts, revise new work, and investigate form (prosody, lyric subgenres, speech acts). We will consider how participants’ poems or lyric moments within narrative pieces work in conversation with each other both on and off the page. Instructor bio: Joan Naviyuk Kane is the author of The Cormorant Hunter’s WifeHyperborealThe Straits, and Milk Black Carbon for which she has received a Whiting Writers Award, the Donald Hall Prize, an American Book Award, and fellowships from the Rasmuson Foundation, Native Arts and Culture Foundation, and the Aninstantia Foundation. She is Inupiaq with family from King Island and Mary’s Igloo and teaches in the low-residency graduate program in creative writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Details and registration

ANCHORAGE | Ecodrama Playwrights Festival & Symposium is accepting new proposals, deadline November 30, 2017. The symposium, hosted by UAA Theatre Department, is searching for creative and challenging proposals for workshops, roundtables, and a variety of other events centered on the environmental crises. Topics include but are not limited to climate change, animal representation, eco-literacy, and indigenous performances. Submit proposals here. For questions, contact Dr. Brian Cooke at uaa_emosfestival@alaska.edu.

ANCHORAGE | The Anchorage Museum presents a series of readings and discussion on the diversity of languages in Alaska. The event will explore the challenges and possibilities of translation through conversation with local experts, scholars, and educators who will share their work. Presentations include:

  • Unbound: RecollectionsFriday, November 17, 2017 from 6-7 PM | Part of Anchorage Museum’s Unbound series, Recollections will be an open mic night with a goal of remembering through words. Writers, poets, readers, and word lovers are invited to share important texts in a lively event of recollecting memories together. Bring a short story, poem or other text of your own creation, or recite a passage you have memorized. Artist Jimmy Riordan will MC the evening. Readings and recitations may be in any language, all ages welcome. Sign up by emailing hmickey@anchoragemuseum.org with your name, the title of your text, and approximate duration needed for reading; space is limited. Free with admission which is half price on Polar Nights.
  • Unbound: Present TenseFriday, December 15, 2017 from 5-7 PM | In another part of Anchorage Museum’s Unbound series, Juneau-based author Ernestine Hayes and Anchorage-based scholar Maria Williams will read and discuss their work. Free with admission which is half price on Polar Nights.

ANCHORAGE | 49 Writers workshop: Fear and Loathing in Writing: How to Write Using Your Primal Emotions as Inspiration with Don Rearden | Saturday, December 9, 2017, from 2-4 PM | Prepare to get your blood pressure up and palms sweating in this two hour creative writing workshop designed to get you all worked up. Learn how to tap into your primal emotions and turn that raw energy into something productive and powerful in your creative writing. Author Don Rearden will reveal an innovative way to transform your own anger, fear, sadness, happiness, and other feelings into something useful for your poetry, fiction, or memoir. Bring a laptop or notebook and come ready to write. Instructor bio: Don Rearden spent most of his childhood on the tundra of Southwestern Alaska. A professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, he is the author of the 2013 Washington Post notable novel The Raven’s Gift, a screenwriter, and co-author of the recently released memoir Never Quit. He lives in an undisclosed location somewhere on a mountain outside of Anchorage. | More details and registration

ANCHORAGE | 49 Writers workshop: Disrupting Nonfiction: Adventures in Open Form Essays with Matthew Komatsu | Saturday, December 9, 2017, from 4:30-7:30 PM | In recent years, essays have taken on surprising shapes and sizes, advancing from lyric into new and surprising forms. Together, we’ll explore examples of open form essays, discuss how the varieties of structure inform the piece’s narrative, and try some things out ourselves. Writers of all experience levels should bring a laptop and a short piece of their own writing that describes a scene which they are willing to subject to some varieties of writerly experimentation. A sense of wonder is mandatory; husky poet-voice optional but always welcome. Instructor bio: Matthew Komatsu has published open form essays in BrevityThe Normal SchoolSoutheast Review, and even snuck one past a New York Times editor one time. He’s a graduate of the University of Alaska MFA in Creative Writing (Nonfiction) program, has essays forthcoming in two anthologies due out in 2018, and is a Nonfiction Editor for the literary journal War, Literature and the Arts. | More details and registration

ANCHORAGE | 49 Writers workshop: I’m Just Being Myselfie: How Young Narrators Come Alive on the Page (Without Seeming Like Posers), a workshop with Meagan Macvie, Satuday, December 16, 2017 from 3-5 PM | Good stories bring readers close in and make us care about—even feel—what is happening to the characters. Workshop participants will investigate how writers use Immediacy, Voice, and Transformation to accomplish this great feat of sensory and emotional osmosis. This workshop focuses on young adult first-person narrators. Meagan Macvie will share short excerpts from classic and contemporary young adult literature (including Sherman Alexie, Laurie Halse Anderson, Gayle Forman, John Green, Karen Hesse, and J.D. Salinger) to demonstrate techniques writers can use to compel readers to feel along with a story’s teenage main character. Participants will then have the opportunity to write their own compelling paragraphs during guided writing exercises. Instructor Bio: Meagan Macvie was born and raised in Soldotna, Alaska. Her debut novel, The Ocean in My Ears, is set in her hometown. The novel was published in 2017 by Portland State University’s Ooligan Press and was a finalist for the 2016 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest. In their starred review, Kirkus calls The Ocean in My Ears an “unforgettable journey to adulthood.” Meagan is a former government communications director and college composition instructor who now writes full-time and teaches writing workshops through her local schools and libraries. She earned her MFA in fiction from Pacific Lutheran University and a BA in English Literature from the University of Idaho. Her work has appeared in NarrativeBarrelhouse, and Fugue, as well as the regional library anthology, Timberland Writes Together. In 2017, her short story, “Dinosaur Guys,” was awarded second place in the Willamette Writers Kay Snow Writing Contest. Meagan now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and daughter, as well as a dog, two goats, and seven chickens. Find her online at meaganmacvie.com and on Twitter and Instagram as @meaganmacvie. | More details and registration, and stay tuned for announcements about book appearances in Palmer, Soldotna, Seward, and Cooper Landing, too.

ANCHORAGE | Wednesday, January 17, 2018 from 7-8:30 PM | The Alaska Writers Guild presents “Speaking Volumes; Audiobooks & Narration.” Alaska-based audiobook narrators Basil Sands and Suzie Althens will discuss their roles as narrators, and how to turn your own published works into audiobooks available to the public. Located at Barnes and Noble. Free.

 

INTERIOR

FAIRBANKS | November 11, 2017

FAIRBANKS | DATE CHANGED TO Saturday, December 2, 2017, 10 AM-5 PM | Fairbanks Arts is hosting the workshop Writing in the Dark: Worldbuilding for Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors, led by award-winning science fiction author David Marusek of Counting Heads and The Wedding Album. Building an absorbing world is the underpinning of strong fantasy and science fiction. This two-day workshop will explore the issues and techniques of worldbuilding for science fiction and fantasy short stories, novels, and screenplays through lecture, discussion, exercises, individual writing time, sharing work, and one-on-one consulting with the host. New and experienced authors both welcome. Fee: $125 for Fairbanks Arts members; Non-members $150. Located at the Bear Gallery of the Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts. For more information contact 9078-456-6485 ext. 226 or literary@fairbanksarts.org

 

SOUTHEAST

WRANGELL | Flying Island Writers & Artists group meets every other Monday 6:30-8 PM. Contact Vivian Faith Prescott for more information doctorviv@yahoo.com.

KETCHIKAN | Ketchikan Writes literary magazine seeks submissions for their first issue. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and short plays welcome. Submission deadline is November 15, 2017 at 8 PM. Email to ketchikanwrites@firstcityplayers.org.

SITKA | Thursday-Saturday November 16-19, 2017 | the Island Institute presents: Wild Language Festival. Visit www.iialaska.org for more information. Events will include:

  • Our Alaska Stories, Season 2: Premiere of films by Mt. Edgecumbe High School students
  • Sitka Tells Tales: stories of chance and learning
  • Alaska Quarterly Review, 35th Anniversary Celebration: readings by Carolyn Servid, Robert Hoffmann, and John Straley
  • Ernestine Hayes: Alaska Laureate and author of Blonde Indian
  • Kristian Cordero: National Book Award winner, poet, filmmaker, translator

SKAGWAY | May 30 – June 2, 2018 | North Words Writers Symposium in Skagway is now taking registrations for its 2018. Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief, is the keynote writer. Other faculty include Juneau Writer Laureate Ernestine Hayes, Portland novelist Willy Vlautin, Juneau poet Emily Wall, Ketchikan writer-artist Ray Troll, Washington writer Colleen Mondor, and Fairbanks writer Frank Soos. Features include author panels, writing workshops, and outdoor activities. Limited to 40 participants. Organizers include Buckwheat Donahue, Jeff Brady, Daniel Henry, and John Straley. For more information, see http://nwwriterss.com.

SOUTHWEST

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ARCTIC 

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CONFERENCES, RETREATS, and RESIDENCIES

SKAGWAY | November 15, 2017 – February 15, 2018 | Alderworks Alaska Writers and Artists Retreat is taking applications for next summer’s residencies. Three cabins along West Creek in Dyea will be available during two summer residency sessions: mid-May to late June, and mid-July to late August. Take a tour, view residency requirements, and apply at http://alderworksalaska.com.

WASHINGTON | Friday and Saturday, March 2-3, 2018 | Artsmith is presenting Writer Island: Generosity and Joy with Peggy Shumaker. The workshop will focus on language that opposes hatred and fear, using curiosity and pleasure as a way to heal trauma and pain. Held on Orcas Island, Washington. Visit www.orcasartsmith.org for more information and to register.

OPPORTUNITIES and AWARDS for WRITERS

Alaska Women Speak is currently accepting prose and poetry submissions, along with ideas for possible cover art. The winter issue’s theme is “Social/Social Media.” Deadline November 15, 2017. Please see the website for additional information:  http://alaskawomenspeak.org

Bona Fide Books seeks literary essays about national parks for Volume 2 of Permanent Vacation: Twenty Writers on Work and Life in Our National Parks. Volume 1 included Alaskan writers Christine Byl, Jeremy Pataky, and Tom Walker. Now, Bona Fide Books seeks more work for Volume 2, covering any national park (no regional focus this time). Each writer whose work is selected will receive $100 for their essay and one copy of the collection, which will publish in spring 2018. Deadline: December 1, 2017. E-mail submissions@bonafidebooks.com. Full details.

ANCHORAGE | Tuesday, December 5, 2017 | Deadline for the Alaska Writers Guild Bi-Monthly Writing Contest; “Rhyming Poetry.” For details and guidelines, visit the writing contest page.

What’s missing? Submit your event or announcement to appear in the next Roundup. Send an email with “Roundup” as the subject to info@49Writers.org. Deadline Wednesday prior at the latest.

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 

49 Writers, Inc. is supported, in part, by a grant from the Alaska State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

 

Deb Vanasse | Hazards in the High Beams

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Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.  E. L. Doctorow

I hate driving at night. Give me daylight, sunshine. Let me see where I’m headed. But that’s not the province of a writer.

Whenever I’m in the final throes of drafting a novel, as I am now, I’m struck again by the truth of Doctorow’s metaphor. These many months, I’ve been inching along, feeling my way from one landmark to the next, never seeing my way clear. Then all at once, the end’s in sight.

Relief. Home’s right down the road. It feels like a straight shot. You want to speed up, drive right at the edge of those lights.

Don’t do it.

Covet the fog, how it slows the wheels, shifts shapes till you can’t make them out, makes you question what’s real and what’s not. Your book benefits from that tension, that uncertainty. From that need to trust.

No high beams here. They’ll blind you.

Your reader creeps along with you. Patient. Attentive. Aware, knowing you can’t go faster, not here.

At last, beyond the low places where fog confounds the journey, you flick on the high beams. With acute awareness, a heightened sense of vision, you see the sharp edges of everything.

It all comes clear.

You’re almost home. And when you get there, it will feel all the more exquisite, all the more satisfying, for having felt your way through the fog, for having trusted, for having let the lights show the way.

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, where there’s plenty of fog.

Statewide Alaska Reads Program 2017-18

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Fairbanks Arts Association (Fairbanks, AK), in partnership with Alaska Center for the Book (Anchorage, AK), have announced that the featured selection for the 2017-2018 statewide Alaska Reads program is Steam Laundry, by Fairbanks poet Nicole Stellon O’Donnell.

Alaska Reads is a biennial statewide reading program that features a selected publication by a living Alaskan author. The initiative began in 2015 through the efforts of 2015-17 State Writer Laureate, Frank Soos, and aims to build excitement around contemporary Alaskan authors and the stories they tell. This includes engaging libraries across the state, author visits to communities, and online events with the author to reach wider audiences.

“This is truly a statewide effort, with participation from community librarians and bookstores to statewide organizations,” said Jessica Peña, Executive Director, of Fairbanks Arts Association. Already, nearly 400 copies of Steam Laundry have been distributed to more than 40 libraries across the state thanks to a generous grant from the Alaska State Library.

Steam Laundry is Fairbanks poet Nicole Stellon O’Donnell’s history of a Gold Rush family, based on the true story of Sarah Ellen Gibson. This novel in poem form weaves together the voices of Sarah Ellen Gibson and other characters with historical photos and documents to breathe life into Gibson’s odyssey from Dawson City to Fairbanks.

As the inaugural Alaska Reads author, Ernestine Hayes traveled through Alaska from Ketchikan to Utqiagvik (formerly known as Barrow) leading discussions and reading from her book, Blonde Indian, In 2016.  Hayes’ visits were uniformly well-received, proving a wonderful debut for this exciting new literary program. “Reading events and discussions of Steam Laundry are being organized now. We hope to have Nicole Stellon O’Donnell visit as many communities as she is able in February and March 2018,” said  Peña. “With her background as a teacher, Nicole is a dynamic reader and a wonderfully engaging speaker. ”

Nicole Stellon-O’Donnell

“It’s an honor to have Steam Laundry selected as the Alaska Reads book. I’m looking forward to meeting readers across the state,” said Nicole Stellon O’Donnell. “Writing requires so much time alone at the desk, so it’s exciting to follow the book out into the world and talk to readers.”

ABOUT ALASKA READS
www.alaskareads.org
www.facebook.com/alaskareads
www.twitter.com/alaska_reads

Alaska Reads is a program of Fairbanks Arts Association in partnership with Alaska Center for the Book and is funded in part by the Stroecker Foundation, the Alaska State Library, and the Alaska State Council on the Arts.

AQR @35 | Chutzpah and Energy, by Heather Lende

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Louise Erdrich told a small group of Alaskan writers gathered at Tutka Bay Lodge outside of Homer a month ago that poetry is lightning and prose is rain. She also said that our survival as a species may just depend on telling stories. It’s in our DNA.

I read the other day that literature is being taught in prisons because reading stories offers isolated inmates a non-threatening way to gain critical thinking skills, develop compassion, and learn about matters of the heart and soul.

Lately, it seems, we are all in a bit of a prison, ethically and morally, and even artistically. I know I have been. It’s a struggle to write a good story when I’m reading so much bad news. Which may be why I’m craving prose like rain and poetry that flashes yet insists that I take the time to breathe deeply, and count the silent miles before it speaks.

A month in an isolated cabin with no Wi-Fi or cell service would be great. Since that’s not possible, or responsible, I’ve been reading the Alaska Quarterly Review for solace and inspiration. I have stacks of them, saved in some cases for this rainy day, or— truthfully?—kept on the shelf by my desk so that some the wisdom and sensibility between its covers will transfer to my brain and thus my work through a kind of literary osmosis.

Editor Ron Spatz is more than a little proud of the magazine’s eclectic content. For 35 years he’s railed against commercialism and held fast to AQR’s mission of publishing “consequential literary art.”

Where else would Mary Odden’s beautiful essay “March” be published? It’s too long for a newspaper, and too Alaskan for a lot of literary journals and too literary for Alaska Magazine. Or Emily Wall and Lance Twitchell’s Tlingit-English birth poem? (Both Winter/Spring 2017.) Once you’ve read Joan Kane’s poem “Another Inlet” you will never see a winter walk on the beach with the dogs in the same light. (Spring/Summer 2014). And what would be a better journal to publish them all? Isn’t being of Alaska but not Alaskan as AQR is, what Alaska writers aspire to? In other words moving beyond that regional label, while at the same time being true to our home?

Have you seen, or do you recall that photo mosaic “Liberty and Justice (For All)”? Back in the 30th Anniversary Edition? (Spring/Summer 2012.) As the New York Review of Books said, it’s the kind of piece that makes a reader marvel at the wonder of AQR.

The chutzpah and energy and even the unpredictability of AQR is completely Alaskan. If it were a person it could be one of my neighbors. The photo essay on contemporary artists in Papua New Guinea in the 35th Anniversary Edition seems an odd choice, at first glance. Spatz published the glossy art exhibit catalog between the prose and poetry sections. But then I read it, and looked at the pictures, so full of joy and foreboding, and I heard the distant thunder in the story they told.

I’ll leave you with a verse from “What is the Source,” by Gary Holthaus (Spring/Summer 2015). May it inspire you to write as if our world depends on it, because it does.

What is the source
that shows us
how we can
learn
what we need to know
to walk among the
ten thousand beings,
keep our balance,
create harmony,
discern the saved,
find our way
to love it all?

Oct. 4, 2017
Heather Lende

Heather Lende lives in Haines, Alaska, where she has written over 400 obituaries for the local paper. She is the author of three bestselling books about life (and death) in Haines, and her essays and columns have been widely published. She has an MFA in fiction writing from UAA, and a BA in History from Middlebury College.

This post is fourth in a series of four posts celebrating the 35th anniversary edition of AQR.