Alaska Writers Guild: Interview with Jim Misko

What motivated you to start the Guild?

Three things. I belong to the Palm Springs Writers Guild in Palm Springs, California. They have been through startup, turmoil and then success with 200 members. I attended Kachemak Bay Writing Conference in 2007 to see what it was about and realized many of the 165 people they attracted had come from Anchorage. Finally, I judged that out of 265,000 people in Anchorage, we must have enough writers to form a Guild. And we could attract state wide members if we put honest effort into producing meetings, programs, workshops, and conferences that promoted the art and business of writing. Most importantly—I wanted to talk to writers, know writers, and help writers.

What kind of interaction and support will writers find when they join?

First and foremost is comradeship. They get to sit, talk, and listen to authors, editors, publishers, marketing people, agents and others who bring expertise to the meetings that relate to writing in different ways.

They get an organization that is vibrant and growing. We have over 120 members today with a goal to reach 200 by the end of this year.There are programs that produce book signings, workshops on specific subjects and skills, help with publishing or meeting with those who can help with publishing.

The Guild sponsors a bi-monthly writing contest that allows members to vie for a $50 prize for their fiction or non-fiction.
We have a website that has our history, present information, and future plans on it at

How does the Guild interface with other organizations for writers?

We’d like them all to join the Guild and be a part of it. If they have their own group that meets their needs, such as Sisters in Crime, Children’s Books and Illustrators, Romance Writers, then we’d like to hear about their programs, boost their efforts through our membership, and have them spread the word about the Guild.
Our intent is to be inclusive of anyone who puts pen to paper and strive to produce varied programs that speak to their wants and needs as a writer.

Where there are writers we’d like to have an affiliate Guild chapter. Seward, Homer, Juneau, Sitka, Soldovia/Kenai, Fairbanks—anywhere you can gather 4 people who want to talk about writing and do something about it, we’d like to touch that group.
One of our plans in the works is to produce DVDs of our programs with speakers and send a copy to each group. They can play them at their meetings and get the same information without coming to Anchorage for it.

We’d really like to have more interaction with the UAA MFA program and its instructors, Alaska Pacific University, and the public schools. We have the beginnings of a young writers group and a prison group and are forming committees to reach into other community endeavors of writing and literacy.

How would you describe your membership?

I could research this but generally it is 70% women and 30% men. We have members from 16 to 87 years of age but the largest group is in their 50’s and 60’s. I believe we could count over 100 published books in the current membership and many of the members have multiple titles. If you included trade journals, newspapers, and anthologies as being published, then approximately 50% of our members have been published. We have a Pulitzer Prize winner, a contributing editor for Alaska Magazine, an MFA graduate and MFA students in our membership and a number of traditionally published authors with large (10,000 to 20,000) book sales nationwide.

There is a current slant toward self or assisted publishing due to a number of factors in the book business over the last two years. Two authors I know of have gone to self publishing after having had several books sold through traditional publishing houses because of greater profits to be realized. When the publishing houses moved away from giving marketing and sales assistance to other than their top ten authors, it spurred successful authors to print, publish, distribute, market and sell their own books.

It has been said that 80% of Americans believe they have a book in them. If they have the persistence and can hone their talent they can produce a book in this present climate of digital printing.

What do you think are the greatest challenges for writers in Alaska?

Distance. Distance from agents, editors, publishers, distributors, and the general mind set in the lower 48 that things Alaskan don’t sell well on the continent. They sell well in Alaska. Another is getting a national distributor to get active in distributing Alaskan books. Ingram and Baker and Taylor do some. Regional distributors, especially in the Northwest, have a few Alaska authors.

The other challenge is meeting frequently with other published authors. In California I can have coffee once a week with various authors who have each published 20 to 100 novels. And younger authors working hard on books or plays or screenplays for Hollywood are at every meeting. Reminds me of France in the 1920’s when Hemingway and other writers met in cafés and discussed authors and writing.

What are the greatest benefits of being a writer here?

The environment; the energy; the stamina of Alaskans. We also have very supportive book sellers. Barnes & Noble, Borders, Title Wave, Pandemonium, Fireside Books, Annabelles—all support local authors and open their businesses and hearts to book signings.

And the stories abound. There are so many untold tales in Alaska which only a hundred years ago was a wild frontier with gold mining, town building, and career building just emerging.. The plot for Edna Ferber’s book The Ice Palace was wrapped around many of the Alaskan characters we’ve known, some of whom are still walking the sidewalks of Alaska—at least in the summer.

Anything else readers should know about the Guild?

The Guild is inclusive — not exclusive. We search out and empower writers of all genres and intensity. Our Charter states: “THE PURPOSE OF THIS GUILD shall be to inspire and nurture the creative process of writing among its members; to further the writing abilities of its members; to uphold the dignity of writers and promulgate the importance of their craft in society; to support and continue the camaraderie of writers.” We always seek members who can contribute in any way that meets their needs and the goals of the Guild.

1 thought on “Alaska Writers Guild: Interview with Jim Misko”

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top