Deb: 2011 Retrospective

Hats off to whoever came up with the idea of celebrating the transition from one year to the next.  Without this annual rite of passage, we’d barrel ahead without taking time to look back and see all we’ve accomplished together at 49 Writers/49Alaska Writing Center.
Instruction, events, and outreach are our primary focus as we embrace our mission of supporting creative writers from throughout Alaska at all stages of their development while building an audience for Alaska literature.  In 2011, we offered fifteen affordable, high-quality writing courses, several of which were sold out, and we began recording select courses for podcast statewide.    In addition to outstanding local instructors, several visiting authors taught courses for us, including Brett Dillingham, Bruce Hale, Mattox Roesch, Dave Hunsaker, Kim Rich, Leslie Hsu Oh, Melinda Moustakis, and David Vann.  In addition, fifteen lucky retreat participants got to study with Dani Shapiro at our Tutka Bay Writers Retreat, expanded this year to four days and three nights.
We launched a new youth outreach effort this year, thanks to an amazing slate of volunteers and a teen advisory council.  Through WYAK (Write Young Alaska), we offered four free workshops for young writers at the new Teen Underground center at Loussac Libraray.  We also sponsored two contests and started two young writers groups that meet monthly at Teen Underground.  Thanks to the volunteer efforts of visiting travel writer Jenna Schnuer, we also launched an online zine for Alaska’s teens, Alaska Out Loud.
In 2011, we also launched a full event series for Alaska’s literary community, beginning with Resolve to Write gatherings in Juneau, Homer, and Anchorage last January.  Our Crosscurrents series of onstage conversations featured authors Nancy Lord, Marybeth Holleman, Charles Wohlforth, Susan Orlean, Julia O’Malley, Dani Shapiro, and Sherry Simpson.  Mark Weber and his crew at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Bookstore have been fabulous partners for these events.  We also hosted a Synergies event featuring poets John Morgan and Kelsea Habecker as well as two Open Mic events at our 49 Writers Café at Out North Contemporary Art House, where we also hosted open studio Sundays for writers.
Another successful effort was our first annual Alaska Book Week, where we invited readers and writers across the state to join us in celebrating books by Alaskans and about Alaska.  Panels, seminars, book clubs, displays, posters, book marks, and giveaways were all part of the tremendous statewide outpouring of support and participation.
The 49 Writers blog – our birthplace, so to speak – keeps on growing.  Guest posts, interviews, featured authors, our annual Ode to a Dead Salmon Contest, plus musing by co-founders Andromeda Romano-Lax and Deb Vanasse – all these continue to make our little blog one of the most-trafficked literary sites in the state.
We gained our 501c3 status this year, an important milestone as we grow from a labor of love to an established and respected member of the nonprofit community.  We are humbled by the thanks we’ve received from so many of you throughout the year, including an official thank-you from the Alaska Center for the Book, which honored us with a CLIA (Contribution to Literacy in Alaska) award.
None of this could have happened without your support.  As volunteers, you logged over 1500 hours this year to help us bring programs to writers.  As individuals, you’ve contributed over one-fourth of our small but growing budget.  Several businesses have offered substantial support, including Within the Wild Adventure Company, Evergreen Films, Great Harvest Bread Company, Raven’s Brew Coffee, Epicenter Press, and the University of Alaska Press. We are also profoundly appreciative for foundation and grant funding from the Usibelli Foundation, the Rasmuson Foundation, and the Alaska State Council on the Arts.
Thanks to your support, 2012 promises even more in the way of instruction, events, and outreach to Alaska’s literary community.  Under the direction of new Executive Director Linda Ketchum, visiting authors Katey Schultz and Steve Almond will be teaching this spring, and we’ll be offering several workshops with local authors, including a new Publish and Promote series.  Our Synergies series is expanding to included events with acclaimed poets Peggy Shumaker, G.C. Waldrep, and Linda Gregerson.  We’ll be offering our first online apprenticeship opportunity, workshops in Palmer, workshops in several Anchorage schools, the expansion of the WYAK Alaska Out Loud project to include a print anthology, and outreach to McLaughlin Youth Facility and Covenant House. 
2011 has been a great year for Alaska’s writers, and we’re looking for 2012 to be even better.  If by chance you’re doing some year-end giving, check out our new stewardship page and donation links. Thanks for joining us in making Alaska a great place to write!  

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