Christine Byl: Writing the Complexities of Place

spent the past few months outside Talkeetna, an area I’ve loved visiting but
always wanted to explore in more depth, especially in the winter. Throngs of
summer tourists, fishing nuts and international summit seekers are nowhere to
be found in January, and Talkeetna shows its true colors as a scrappy, artsy village
that manages to be laid-back yet welcoming, its residents both solitary and
communal. The people I know around town are dog mushers and beer brewers,
quilters and climbers, Nordic skiers and airplane mechanics. Living here even
temporarily, I’m struck by Talkeetna’s highly developed sense of itself as a
place. Daily conversations center on
recent weather, returning daylight, overflow on lakes, trail conditions, bird
sightings, phases of the moon. Like many towns in Alaska, Talkeetna’s lexicon
arises from its particular surroundings–
colder at the Y, I skied out the tracks, the chase trail is in, we live up the
river, the mountain is out, meet me at the Roadhouse, the Hangar, the Squirrel.
There are few things I love more than learning the specific and lively
language of a region or subculture, so I’m soaking up as many words and phrases
as I can. Talkeetna is such a great place in which to think about language,
imagination, writing and the physical world from which it all springs. I’ll be
a workshop to that end on February 11, and I hope some of you will join
me at the Sheldon Hangar for the first 49 Writers event in the Upper Mat-Su:

writers in Alaska say their work emerges from a sense of place. We’ll discuss
what this means across different genres. How is place similar to or different
from setting? What does a sense of place have to do with voice? How can we see
our places as entries into new territory, while avoiding clichés? Come ready to
listen, discuss and try a writing exercise designed to locate something
you want to say.
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