49 Writers Weekly Roundup

When the Rasmuson Foundation
announces its annual Individual Artist Awards, it’s always exciting to see
Alaska’s creative community acknowledged and supported in this way. Attendees
at the awards reception earlier this week included trustees of the Western
States Arts Federation, who were in town for a meeting. I happened to be standing
next to the WESTAF table when Diane Kaplan, President and CEO of the Rasmuson
Foundation, was describing the awards program and detailing how much the
foundation has given out in the last decade. We already appreciate how
fortunate Alaskans are to have a foundation that invests significantly in Alaskan
arts and literature but you never feel so blessed as when your peers from Outside
spontaneously express their astonishment and admiration at such bounty. For a
full listing of the awards, visit the Rasmuson Foundation
Sitka basket and textile weave Teri Rofkar was named as the 2013 Rasmuson
Distinguished Artist, and her work is amazing, so
it out

In the realm of writers, the literary
artists named as 2013 Fellows ($18,000) are Joan
, Erin Hollowell, and Arlitia Jones. Joan will
use her Fellowship to advance some current projects (poetry and fiction) through
travel, research, and time to focus on her writing. Erin will support the
release of her poetry collection, Pause,
, and create new work. Playwright and poet Arlitia will complete
her latest drama, Hellraiser, about
the life of labor organizer Mother Jones. 2013 Project Awards ($7,500) go to Christine Byl, Lucian
, Joan Nockels Wilson, and Merry Ellefson. Christine will launch a
national book tour this year following the publication of Dirt Work. Lucian plans to travel to writers’ conferences and retreats
to use the inspiration, connections, and learning to create five new stories
and curate a collection for publication. Joan will take a sabbatical from her
job as an attorney to complete the manuscript of her spiritual memoir. And
Merry will further develop a script for a play that explores the issues
surrounding homelessness in Juneau. Congratulations to everyone who was honored in this way. We look forward to seeing new creative work from Alaska’s talented writers.

Are you a published writer with a strong teaching background? Do you feel passionate about a particular aspect of your craft? Or perhaps you have expertise in a special topic relating to the writing life. If so, we are now accepting proposals for our fall courses and want to hear from you! The deadline for proposals is June 15. For more information and to submit a proposal, go to the Instruction/Teach for Us page on the 49 Writers website.
Last week you were promised nuggets from Pitfalls of the Memoir, Debra Gwartney’s evening talk on May 6. Drawing on
her 15 years of teaching memoir writing, Debra has identified three primary pitfalls
facing those who write personal narrative.
  • Pitfall #1—The “I” is underdeveloped
    as a character. The “I” or narrator is both the filter and the guide, and must
    be presented as a specific, legible character. The reader can’t enter the scene unless she knows who’s telling the story. Also, too often writers introduce an
    unspecific “we” into the story; only use “we” intentionally, as a way to get to
    know the protagonist. 
  • Pitfall #2—Scenes are not rendered in
    a way to move the story forward and/or reveal character. A good scene brings
    the reader clear inside the experience with you, so provide specific details
    that help the reader enter. A scene isn’t static, it contains action that
    reveals a dynamic between characters. Be clear what the narrator’s role is in
    this scene; something has to happen that’s internal. For more on writing scenes, read Debra’s blog post on the topic.
  • Pitfall
    —Past versus present tense. Memoir’s
    natural tense is simple past, as past tense allows for the
    reflective narrator. Memoir is not about what you remember but why
    you remember it in that way; why you are attached to this particular version of
    this slice of history. The “I” of memoir is of two strands: the character “I”
    in the action, and the narrator “I” who has lived past the event and is looking
    back on it with more insight and wisdom. Here it’s important to write about the
    dynamic rather than circumstance. Write
    self-implication: the narrator played a role in what happened.

A good example of a memoir that
delivers on all three points is
This Boy’s
by Tobias Wolff. For more insight into the memoir, read what Sven
Birkets (
The Art of Time in Memoir), Phillip Lopate, Vivian Gornick (The Situation and the Story), and Patricia
have to say on the subject.

Applications for the one-month Fall 2013 Island Institute collaborative residency in Sitka must be received by May 20. This year, they are inviting two participants who wish to collaborate on a project, or two participants who each have individual projects and who anticipate synergistic benefit from each other’s presence. At least one of the applicants must be a writer with an interest in the Island Institute’s scope of work. The second applicant may also be a writer, or he or she may work in another field (e.g. arts, science, history, philosophy). More information here. The deadline for the Winter 2014 residency is September 1, and for the Spring 2013 residency it’s December 1.

Here’s a tip from 49 Writers member Arne Bue – thanks
for passing along, Arne! “I am a Tablet user. Often I use the Flipboard app. You
may not know that with ease you can publish your own magazine on Flipboard to
promote your work. Here’s a link to Flipboard on the PC: http://editor.flipboard.com/. Magazine
creation is a breeze, even for me!”

Despite the weather, we’re moving into summer, which means conference season. The Last Frontier Theatre Conference is coming up Saturday May 18–that’s this weekend! Check their website for full details. And for once this conference doesn’t conflict with the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference in Homer (June 14-18). Registration is still open, and a lot of us are very excited to have Naomi Shihab Nye as keynote speaker–a beloved presence in the writing world, known mostly for her essays and poetry but also a fiction writer! Before that, the North Words Symposium will happen in Skagway May 29-June 1 with another exciting keynote speaker, renowned environmental writer Kathleen Dean Moore.

Tomorrow, Saturday May 18, 6-8pm, drawing near the end of her book tour, Christine Byl will be reading and signing copies of Dirt Work at Gullivers Books in Fairbanks.

A reminder: Alaska Writers Guild’s May program features editor Rebecca Goodrich in a presentation on how first lines can make or break a work. Tuesday, May 21, 7-8.30pm, Jitters Coffee House, Eagle River. Afterward, AWG members are invited to submit the first 250 words of a manuscript for critique.

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