Our Reading & Craft Talk Series connects authors and informal audiences on topics related to the craft of writing. Usually held on Thursdays, 7-8:30 pm in Anchorage, (with exceptions occurring on other weekdays and in other cities) these free talks generally begin with a short reading followed by a 20-30 minute craft talk. The event concludes with a question and answer session and book signing. (Authors are usually responsible for providing their own books.)
49 Writers typically schedules three Reading & Craft Talks in fall and three in spring. We prefer to confirm presenters at least four weeks in advance but are always open to additional opportunities as they present themselves.
In 2017, we began to expand this series to serve Juneau, Fairbanks, and beyond.
On the Literary Road with Thomas Merton: Writing As a Pilgrimage
Writers must often dance in the “clarity of perfect contradiction,” as the famous Trappist monk and bestselling writer,Thomas Merton observed. Writers work in quiet isolation, and yet confront and answer the impulse to hit the road, turning themselves into wanderers and explorers. Whether physically or metaphorically, writers become pilgrims. In this 49 Writers Reading & Craft Talk Series event, author Kathleen Witkowska Tarr discusses her newly-released book, part-memoir, part-biography, We Are All Poets Here (VPD House, January 2018), a shared story about spiritual seeking, and a surprising literary pilgrimage. Facebook event
Kathleen W. Tarr is the author of We Are All Poets Here (VP&D House), a blend of memoir and biography, a story about the struggle for spiritual clarity in confusing, chaotic times that involves Alaska, Russia, and Thomas Merton. In 2016, Kathleen was named a William Shannon Fellow by the International Thomas Merton Society (ITMS) and was a Mullin Scholar at USC’s Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies (2011-2013). She is a contributor to the international anthology honoring Merton’s legacy and centenary, We Are Already One, (1915-2015) Thomas Merton’s Message of Hope (Fons Vitae Press). Her work has also appeared in the Sewanee Review, Cirque, Creative Nonfiction, and Tri-Quarterly, and will soon be anthologized in Merton and World Indigenous Wisdom (2018). For five years, Kathleen served as the program coordinator for the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Low-Residency MFA Program in creative writing. She lives and writes in Anchorage and occasionally teaches for 49 Writers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and found at kathleenwtarr.com.
Marilyn Sigman | author of Entangled: People and Ecological Change in Alaska’s Kachemak Bay (University of Alaska Press 2018)
April 12, 2018, 7 pm | Murie Auditorium, University of Alaska Fairbanks
March 2, 2018, 6 pm | Resurrect Art Coffee House and Gallery, Seward, Alaska
The Ecology of Desire: A Reading and Talk
According to archaeologists, people have lived in Kachemak Bay and the traditional territories of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq and Dena’ina peoples for around 9,000-10,000 years. According to oral histories, they have been here since time immemorial. The ocean, too, has a history, which serves as the “memory of the climate system.” Marilyn Sigman will describe the insights she gained while researching and writing her book Entangled. The book explores the interactions and entanglements of people as they have fulfilled their needs and desires, and what we might learn about possible human responses to times of rapid climate change.
A long-time Alaskan, Marilyn Sigman has more than 35 years of experience as a wildlife and habitat biologist, environmental educator, and science communication specialist throughout the state, including more than a decade as a naturalist and director of the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies based in Homer. She has a Master’s degree in wildlife management from UAF and is a recent graduate of the UAA Creative Writing and Literary Arts MFA program. Her essays have been published in the Alaska Quarterly Review and We Alaskans.
Vivian Faith Prescott | author of The Dead Go To Seattle, Traveling with the Underground People, and more…
March 5, 2018, 7 pm | APK Building, Juneau, Alaska
Texture and Mixtures: Layering & Combining in Writing
Presented by 49 Writers and Alaska State Libraries, Archives and Museums at the APK Building in honor of the Poetry Out Loud State Competition in Juneau
Writers are often taught to write within a narrow, singular structure, yet Sámi storytellers often to tell several stories simultaneously. Similarly, hybrid, nonlinear written works are increasingly published. In this reading and talk, Vivian Faith Prescott will consider literary hybrid textures and layering and how writers mix elements. She’ll share examples from contemporary literature, including her own work.
Vivian Faith Prescott was born and raised in Wrangell, Alaska and lives at her fishcamp in Wrangell. Vivian is Sami-American, Irish, Norwegian, and other heritages. Her children are Raven of the T’akdeintaan clan/Snail House and she’s adopted into that same clan. She holds an MFA from the University of Alaska Anchorage, an MA in Cross Cultural Studies with an emphasis in Indigenous Knowledge Systems, and a PhD in Cross Cultural Studies from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She is the author of a full-length poetry collection, The Hide of My Tongue, four poetry chapbooks, plus a linked story collection, The Dead Go to Seattle. Her awards and fellowships include the Alaska Literary Award, a Rasmuson Foundation Fellowship, the Jason Wenger Award for Literary Excellence, a research fellowship from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the Cortland Auser Award from the American Association of Ethnic Studies. Vivian’s poetry and prose are anthologized in collections such as Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology and Building Fires in the Snow: A Collection of Alaska LGBTQ Short Fiction, a Lambda Award finalist, and Cold Flashes: Literary Snapshots of Alaska. Her poems and short stories have appeared in Prairie Schooner, North American Review, Yellow Medicine Review, Tidal Echoes, and elsewhere.
Nancy Lord | author of pH: A Novel (Alaska Northwest Books 2017)
Seward, April 9, 2018, 6 pm | Resurrect Art, Seward, Alaska
Anchorage, October 25, 2017, 7 pm | Indigo Tea Lounge, Anchorage, Alaska.
Science in Fiction: It’s Not Only Science Fiction
In recent years we’ve seen a new emphasis in both mainstream and literary fiction, embracing scientists as characters and scientific concepts and practices in storytelling. What opportunities does this trend provide both readers and writers to build interest in science and environmental health? What can realistic fiction do that science (or speculative) fiction or any kind of nonfiction cannot? This craft talk will examine specific examples of science in fiction and help us think about the pleasures and benefits of science-based storytelling.
Nancy, who makes her home in Homer, Alaska, is passionate about place, history, and the natural environment. From her many years of commercial salmon fishing and, later, work as a naturalist and historian on adventure cruise ships, she’s explored in both fiction and nonfiction the myths and realities of life in the north. Among her published books are three collections of short stories and five works of literary nonfiction, including the memoir Fishcamp, the cautionary Beluga Days, and the front-lines story of climate change, Early Warming. She most recently (2016) edited the anthology Made of Salmon: Alaska Stories From The Salmon Project. Her first novel, pH, was just released by Graphic Arts/Alaska Northwest Books. Nancy was honored as Alaska Writer Laureate for 2008-10, a term during which she traveled throughout the state to promote Alaska writers, writing, and libraries. Nancy is originally from New Hampshire and holds degrees from Hampshire College (BA in liberal arts) and Vermont College of Fine Arts (MFA in fiction writing.) She teaches at the Kachemak Bay Campus of the University of Alaska, in the low-residency MFA program at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and in the on-line Johns Hopkins University graduate science writing program. She’s also part of the core faculty at the annual Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference. Her awards include fellowships from the Alaska State Council on the Arts and the Rasmuson Foundation, a Pushcart Prize, and a number of artist residencies. Her work has appeared in many magazines, journals, and anthologies, including Best Spiritual Writing. Nancy is also actively engaged in conservation and community-building causes. She recently completed ten years as a trustee of the Alaska Conservation Foundation and, before that, she chaired Homer’s successful New Library campaign.
Nancy Lord is also teaching a three hour 49 Writers class in Fairbanks and Anchorage on Oct. 28 + 29, 2017 respectively.
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 crisscrossed the seven seas to see the largest, fastest, scariest, and most amazing tides in the world. With photographs, stories, and short readings, Jonathan will share the enthralling journey of coming to understand–and write about–the surprising and poetic workings of the tide.
Jonathan White has written for the Christian Science Monitor, Sierra, The Sun, Surfer’s Journal, Orion, and other publications. His first book, Talking on the Water (Sierra Club Books), is a collection of interviews exploring our relationship with nature. White is an active marine conservationist, holds an MFA in creative nonfiction, and lives with his wife and son on a small island in Washington State.
David Ramseur | author of Melting the Ice Curtain: The Extraordinary Story of Citizen Diplomacy on the Russia-Alaska Frontier (University of Alaska Press 2017).
November 30, 2017, 7 pm | Indigo Tea Lounge, Anchorage, Alaska
Crazy Russian Stories Alone Don’t Make a Book
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.
A nearly 40-year Alaskan, David Ramseur reported on politics and government in the state and national capitals for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and Anchorage Times. Beginning in 1986 for nearly 30 years he served as press secretary, communications director, chief of staff, and foreign policy advisor to Alaska Governors Steve Cowper and Tony Knowles and to Anchorage Mayor and U.S. Senator Mark Begich. Ramseur has visited the Soviet Union and Russia more than a dozen times starting with the Alaska Airlines’ “Friendship Flight” in 1988 and lived and worked in Russia in 1993. He holds a bachelor’s in political science from the University of North Carolina Asheville and a master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri and is board chair of the Alaska World Affairs Council.
Meagan Macvie | author of The Ocean in My Ears (Ooligan Press, 2017).
December 16, 2017, 7 pm | Indigo Tea Lounge, Anchorage, Alaska
Writing from a Big, Small Place
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.”
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. 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 Narrative, Barrelhouse, 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
Meagan is also teaching a 49 Writers class on Saturday, December 16, 2017 in Anchorage (learn more and register), part of her Southcentral Alaska tour sponsored by 49 Writers, with events in Palmer, Anchorage, Cooper Landing, Seward, and Soldotna.
Julie LeMay | An Alchemy of Words: Mystery and Clarity in a Poem
April 20, 2017, 7 pm at Indigo Tea Lounge, 530 East Benson, Anchorage
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.
Daryl Farmer | Surprise and Delight: Capturing the Indelible Moment
Thursday, March 2, 2017, 7 pm at Indigo Tea Lounge, 530 East Benson, Anchorage
Human cognition and perception is shaped by a balanced and reciprocal relationship with the natural world. Yet, too often, technology and lifestyle keep many 21st century people disconnected from this relationship. What role can our writing play in re-connecting us—and our readers—to the natural world? This craft talk will examine how re-creating and re-telling those moments in the natural world that haunt and awe us can help our readers to re-connect with this timeless relationship. Specific examples of how such moments function in stories and poems will be shared and examined. 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 was born in Colorado Springs, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains where he developed a taste for the open road at an early age, and has spent a life roaming the country and writing about its landscapes and people. He has lived in New Mexico, Oregon, New Hampshire, Mississippi and Alaska, among other places. 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.
Brian Castner | Who Owns the Story?
JUNEAU Friday, March 10, 2017, 6 pm, Mendenhall Valley Library, FREE
Joan Didion said that a writer is always selling somebody out. Brian Castner will talk about his new book, “All the Ways We Kill and Die,” the story of the death of a fellow soldier and search for the Afghan bomb-maker who killed him, and what nonfiction authors owe their subjects when writing about their innermost lives.
Roger Reeves | Parrhesia in a Post-Fact Regime
JUNEAU Tuesday, February 14, 2017, 6 pm at Mendenhall Valley Library Large Meeting Room.
What is truth, and how does one speak truth in a post-fact, post-truth era? How should poetry, an art form firmly invested in fiction, artifice, as well as multiple types of truth, embrace or look askance at a contemporary moment and modality that no longer adheres to logic? In this craft talk and reading, using the rhetorical figure of parrhesia, which means to speak candidly and boldly in the face of authority even under the threat of death, I will investigate how poetry and poets might utilize parrhesia as both resistance and potential engine for the creation of poems and poetry. Through consideration of texts that range from the *Iliad* to Solmaz Sharif’s *LOOK,* we will examine how these texts engage and participate in both truth, parrhesia, and invention. FREE in partnership with Juneau Public Libraries. [Roger Reeves will also teach and appear in a Crosscurrents event in Anchorage, and teach and read in Fairbanks through UAF’s Midnight Sun Reading Series]
FAIRBANKS Friday, February 17, 2017, in partnership with Midnight Sun Reading Series
Bryan Allen Fierro | Place and Images: Writing Home
Thursday, November 10, 2016, doors at 6:30, program at 7 sharp, Indigo Tea Lounge | Bryan Allen Fierro, author of Dodger Blue Will Fill Your Soul (The University of Arizona Press), received his MFA in fiction from Pacific University in Oregon in 2013. He won the Poets and Writers 2013 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award in Fiction, and placed in both the 2013 Hemingway International Short Story Contest and Masters Workshop at the Tucson Book Festival. His stories have appeared in the literary journals Copper Nickel and Quarterly West. Originally from Los Angeles, California, he has lived in Alaska for thirteen years, and currently works as a firefighter/paramedic for the Anchorage Fire Department. Dodger Blue is his debut book of stories.
Lizbeth Meredith | Balancing Now and Then: How Much Backstory Makes Memoirs Shine?
Thursday, January 19, 2017, 7 pm at Indigo Tea Lounge, 530 East Benson, Anchorage
In Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters, Lizbeth Meredith writes about her two year struggle to recover her daughters from a foreign country after they were kidnapped and taken there by her ex husband. These events echoed family violence and kidnapping incidents in her own childhood. Managing to write her story with ample detail and satisfying pacing proved to be a challenging task. After a short reading from the book, Meredith’s talk about her own process will explore important questions pertinent to all memoir writers. Lizbeth Meredith is an Anchorage-based writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in psychology. She has worked as a domestic violence advocate, a child abuse investigator, and a juvenile probation supervisor with at-risk teens. Her memoir, Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters, was published recently and is a USA Best Book Award Finalist for 2016.
Kathleen Dean Moore with Libby Roderick | PIANO TIDE: The Work of a Writer in a Reeling World
Monday, February 6, 2017, 49th State Brewing Co. Barrel Room East, 7 pm, doors at 6:30 pm.
Piano Tide, Kathleen Dean Moore’s debut novel, has been called a “savagely funny and deeply thoughtful book,” an “eco-thriller,” a “rare beauty,” an “action adventure,” and a “natural history of SE Alaska.” It is all these and more, the story of Nora Montgomery, who arrives with her upright piano in a tiny tidewater village. With the most affable and odd accomplices at the last stop on the ferry, she decides to block a plan to export the water from a salmon stream. They pull off a splendid, splashing act of resistance, but at what cost? With readings and music, Kathleen and Libby will introduce readers to Piano Tide. Then they will lead an informal conversation about what the planetary emergencies–global warming, extinction, social and environmental injustice, extractive industries run amok – ask of us a writers and artists.
A big thank you to our long-time Reading & Craft Talk Series host, Great Harvest Bread Company, which continues to host special literary events in Anchorage for 49 Writers and our partners.