Alaska Book Festival Highlights

UAF’s third annual Alaska Book Festival got off to a great start with an authors reception, complete with wine, tasty appetizers, and live music in a section of the Rasmuson Library. Plenty of authors, both local and festival invitees, were in attendance. I caught up with Jane Haigh, Elyse Guttenberg, Yelena Matusevich, and Nicole Stellon O’Donnell, plus had the pleasure of meeting David Marusek, Tricia Brown, and Linda Schandelmeier. Above, from left to right: Authors Yelena Matusevich, Elyse Guttenberg, and Jane Haigh. Kenai Peninsula, you’re in luck – Jane just accept a position teaching history at KPC.) Of course, I handed out lots of 49 Writers pencils.

(Above, author Dermot Cole (left) talks with author/photographer James Barker (right) as author Tricia Brown looks on.)

From the reception we migrated to the Davis Concert Hall for the keynote address by Willie Hensley. “In my wildest imagination, I never thought I could write or be a writer,” Hensley said. He also explained that because of the value placed on humility in Alaska native cultures, “A memoir is something of a tainted medium for us.” And he admitted, “To me, even now, the word ‘author’ has an alien ring to it, as if it applies to someone else.”

From the audience came a question I’d never heard asked of an author before: “There are rising hopes that we might have the chance to vote for you for governor. Is that a possibility?”

Answer: a polite no thanks.

But perhaps the best tidbit from Hensley’s address was his recollection of attending the Centennial Ball while attending college in Fairbanks. His date? Lael Morgan. He claims she went costumed as a “goodtime girl.”

After Hensley’s address, several authors reconvened for a 49 writers gathering at the Pump House. It was great hearing about what everyone is working on. I promised not to discuss specific projects online, but do expect some exciting and innovative work to be coming from Alaskan authors over the next few years.

I had to leave after my second presentation to make the connection for my Guest Lecturer stint with Cruise West. I’ll be back at the end of the month, checking in with 49 writers whenever I can enroute. In the meantime, be sure to email Andromeda ( with your own mid- and post-conference observations so she can post them on Wednesdays this month.

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