Alaska Writes

Amazing writers live in Alaska. That is not hyperbole. Alaska is a long way from the nation’s pub hub, but maybe that’s a plus. We know what’s bigger than us, what’s meaner than us, and most of all, what really matters.

We’ve got our flaws, like everyone else. We’re embarrassed that our state’s entire congressional delegation made the Citizens for Ethics list of the 22 most corrupt politicians. As a state, we’ve let ourselves get far too cozy with the oil industry.

Then again, it’s PFD time. $1654 is a nice splash in the bank account for the proverbial starving artist.

Politics and economics aside, Alaskans produce some stunningly beautiful poetry and prose. No doubt we are inspired by mountains, sea and sky that beg for description, then cunningly defy it. Nature as a force looms large in our lives. Isolation taunts and beckons. Place is more than backdrop, more than character. It inhabits who we are and who we will become.

Today the wind blows in from the Inlet, jarring leaves from the golden birch. Winter is just around the proverbial corner. The drizzle falling now will soon be snow. I meant to climb up Flattop Mountain before the rocks turned icy. Already it’s too late.

I’ve seen 27 winters here. Some blew across the tundra from the Bering Sea. Some tumbled into the Tanana River valley. Some began with termination dust creeping down the Chugach Mountains. But each has brought its own adventures, and each its humbling reminder that I am small and this place looms large.

Anchorage hosted the 2007 Bouchercon this year. Though I hated staying inside on two of fall’s more flamboyant days, I loved the synergy of our Alaskan writers mingling with authors from across the continent. Dana Stabenow, Sue Henry, John Straley, Michael Armstrong, Elyse Guttenberg – all were there. If you haven’t read them, you should.

Deb Vanasse

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