What a week it has been! Multiple literary events to launch our spring season and a multitude of literary friends turning out for classes and author readings. It feels so good to reconnect with our community. First thanks go to the warm and wonderful Camille Dungy for her excellent poetry class, “How to Write a Poem: Make a List.” We studied a variety of inventory poems with her and talked about the many benefits of writing in this way that include opening access to our own imagination, moving fluidly through our ideas, and helping us to hold on to things we can return to later. Camille will teach the class again tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 8, 1-4pm in Barrow at the Tuzzy Consortium Library. Our thanks go to the Alaska State Council on the Arts for making both these classes possible with a workshop grant.
We were also honored by a visit from Sean Hill, currently a professor on the creative writing faculty at UAF, who partnered with Camille for a stimulating on-stage conversation about Writing the Whole Environment in our first Crosscurrents of the year at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. Thank you to everyone who attended and snapped up all the books of poetry on sale (and to Mark Weber for making such a good choice available, including Sean’s latest collection, Dangerous Goods). Thanks also go to the Alaska Center for the Book for supporting this event, and to the Copper Whale Inn. Sean will accompany Camille to Barrow for another evening of conversation there at Tuzzy Consortium Library, Saturday, Feb. 8, 7-8:30pm.
Meanwhile, you can catch Camille in Fairbanks, where she is the latest Midnight Sun Visiting Writer brought to Alaska by the UAF English Department. She will read tonight, Friday, Feb. 7, 7pm, at the Murie Auditorium on the UAF campus West Ridge.
Last night it was standing room only at Great Harvest Bread for the Reading & Craft Talk by John Straley, whose latest novel, Cold Storage, Alaska, was published this week by Soho Press. Look for coverage on Channel 2 news today! The front cover quote describes the book as “Wise, wayward, wonderfully unhinged”—who wouldn’t want their story described thus? When asked how he starts a book, John revealed it all comes down to poetry, place, and people. Since he hates wallowing in unfinished projects, his maxim is to “have one small victory a day.” In John’s case, he writes Monday to Friday with the goal of 1,000 words a day when working his day job and 2,500 when he isn’t. That soon adds up to 80,000 words and, although the revision process (“smoothing out the wrinkles”) takes three times as long, those small victories at least add up to a manuscript. Not only is John a delightful speaker, he’s also an engaging teacher and we learned quite a few lessons from his life of crime in his class of the same name yesterday afternoon. We were impressed by the amount of expertise from the criminal justice field in the room and writers who participated were able to connect to some good local resources for their mystery and crime writing.
We are most grateful to UAF Professor Emeritus Frank Soos, who this week provided individual consultations to six students from the very popular Art of the Essay classes he taught for 49 Writers in November and December. Frank read their essay drafts and provided feedback, so we hope to see some of this work in print soon! As a side note, Frank has been in Anchorage for the opening of Proximity, the new exhibition of box and book forms by his wife, Margo Klass, at the Anchorage Museum. Don’t miss it, her work is exquisite.
On Tuesday the inaugural meeting of the 49 Writers Juneau Writing Group was held! Sarah Isto hosted and our members came together to share and comment on each other’s work. The group is going to meet every other month on the first Thursday of the month. The next meeting will take place on Thursday, April 3, 7-9pm. If you’re a Juneau writer who would like to join and is not yet a member of 49 Writers, click here to join and email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming up next week at 49 Writers: Christine Byl (Dirt Work) will teach classes in both Talkeetna and Anchorage. “The Good, the Bad, and the Buggy: Writing the Complexities of Place” takes place at the Sheldon Community Arts Hangar in Talkeetna on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 6-8:30pm. Then on Saturday, Feb. 15, 9am-1pm, Christine will be at our Anchorage classroom to teach “Lyric Tinkering: The Poem as a Tool for Prose Writers,” which is proving to be a popular topic. Our first two classes last week sold out, so if you’re interested in either of these do register soon to avoid disappointment.
This week also saw the conclusion of two of our Anchorage Remembers workshop series: at the Pioneer School House, 16 memoirists finished their last session with instructor Judith Conte (with assistance from Becky Saleeby) and we hear that they generated some great stories. On Tuesday, the writing group at the Anchorage Senior Activity Center (left) also had their last meeting with instructors Louise Freeman and Cheryl Lovegreen (replacing Sue Pope who is traveling at the moment). We look forward to future submissions from them too. If you are interested in volunteering to be a mentor to help some of these new writers to polish their stories for submission, please email Cheryl Lovegreen, Anchorage Remembers coordinator, at AnchorageRemembers@gmail.com. For information on upcoming workshops for this project, visit the 49 Writers website.
There’s still time to register for the Ali McCart nonfiction intensive hosted by the Alaska Writers Guild at APU on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 6-9pm. The fiction intensive is already full. Click here for more information about Nonfiction Platforms, Proposals, and Pitches that Turn Heads, and to register. 49 Writers members will receive the AWG member discount.
Monday, Feb. 10, 5-7:00pm, UAA Campus Bookstore: The past comes to life with music, food and frolic! The story of Fools Gold is presented by local author Lynn Lovegreen, featuring live music with High Lonesome Sound. “Alaska’s gold rush is no place for a lady, but that doesn’t scare Ellie Webster.” Join in the fun and learn more about Ellie’s gold rush adventures and romance.
Poems in Place, a unique collaboration between Alaska Center for the Book, Alaska State Parks, a steering committee of poets and writers, and residents of Alaska, will place a poem written by an Alaskan writer in each of the seven regions of the Alaska State Park’s system in the coming years. From January 15 to March 15, 2014, Poems in Place will be accepting poems, both original work and nominated poems written by Alaskan writers and submitted by appreciative readers, for Independence Mine State Historical Park, near Palmer, and Aleknagik State Recreation Site/ Wood Tikchik State Park, near Dillingham. No submission fees. An honorarium will be paid to the winning poets. For more information, contest rules and entry form please visit Poems in Place at: http://www.alaskacenterforthebook.org. To see examples of current Poems in Place signs visit the Alaska State Parks website.
Congratulations to 49 Writers board member Jeremy Pataky, who has three poems featured in the Fall/Winter 2013 issue of Colorado Review. They are “Then to Now,” “Inroad,” and “From Here You Seem a Braided River.”