Former Alaskan authors Deb Vanasse and Andromeda Romano-Lax founded the blog 49 Writers in January 2009, merging their own independent literary blogs into a collaborative effort that soon attracted guest posts from a growing online community.
By January 2010, Deb and Andromeda were offering creative writing workshops and researching the possibility of forming a statewide nonprofit devoted to Alaskan writers. In April 2010, with fellow Alaskan writer Jeremy Pataky, they founded 49 Alaska Writing Center in a little house in downtown Anchorage that they named “Raven Place.” Classes and workshops were held in the downstairs classroom, and upstairs accommodations were rented to visitors to raise funds for the organization’s work.
Noted Alaskan author and chef Kirsten Dixon soon joined the board, and in the Fall of 2010 hosted the first 49 Writers Tutka Bay Writers Retreat at Tutka Bay Lodge, a world-renowned facility near Homer that she co-owns with her husband. Author David Vann served as the first retreat instructor, and many other acclaimed authors followed in what became an annual event now in its 11th year.
In November 2010, the center moved to a classroom in a historic 1917 downtown home shared with Anchorage Historic Properties, where classes and workshops continued to be held for several years. Eventually, 49 Writers classes and events took place in a variety of venues and expanded beyond Anchorage, to communities including Barrow, Bethel, Craig, Juneau, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Seward, Sitka, Soldotna, and Talkeetna. Two enduring public programs – Crosscurrents discussions and Reading & Craft Talks – also took shape during these early years.
49 Writers celebrated its 10th Anniversary in 2020 – a year of extraordinary challenges, but also of opportunities. For the first year in our history, we began to operate without paid staff, restructuring to ensure continued sustainability as a largely volunteer organization. We developed online writing opportunities and shifted to virtual programming, allowing members statewide to participate fully – many for the first time.
We look forward to continuing to serve Alaska’s writers during unprecedented times, and approach the next ten years with renewed commitment to fostering the creative lives of the many Alaskans who find hope and joy in the written word.