Guest Blog by Debbie Clarke Moderow: On Being a Writer

I’m sitting in
window seat 15 E. My elbows are tucked tight against my side—my feet propped up
on my carry-on bag crammed beneath the seat in front of me. After two weeks in
the lower 48 on a book tour, you would think I’d be sleeping—or finishing
Brendan Jones’ wonderful novel,
Alaskan Laundry
. (Watch for it in April; I promise you will not be
disappointed.) Whenever I fly home from a momentous excursion, I lose myself in
someone else’s words, or scribble notes in my own journal. That flying time
between one landscape and the next always pulls me into a private contemplative
space. But with the launch of my first book, a few things have changed.
  I have a responsibility now to someone other
than myself. Now, at last, I have readers.
This development
is impossible to comprehend. Back in 2005, after finishing Iditarod, I attended
my first writing workshop:  Aspen Summer
Words. As a friend and I ate chicken caesar salad in the historic Rocky Mountain
ski town, the waiter asked if we were writers. “Yes,” my friend Jean pronounced,
exactly as I said, “No.” She explained to me that of course I should call
myself a writer—after all, I was committing to that art form with all that I
had. “You’d better believe it,” she advised.
Of course, Jean
was right, but I could never quite get there.  During the ensuing ten years, I worked on my
memoir—as a musher and mom, MFA student, wife, volunteer, and fundraising
consultant. Lover of dogs. But never did I dare claim the title, writer.
Two years ago,
when an agent told me she’d like to represent me, I had to admit, things were
moving in a good direction. Then an editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt voiced
interest in my book, and a contract followed. For the last two years, I
prioritized publishing Fast Into the
ahead of everything else. Through multiple revisions, choosing
photos, copy edits, and more, my husband has cheered me on, accommodating what
we’ve come to call “FITN’s” boisterous arrival into our busy household.
The completion
of my memoir was intense, but most challenging were the three months leading up
to publication. By then, FITN had gone to press; there was nothing more to do
on the manuscript.
“Relax, Debbie,”
my agent told me. “Now you need to promote. Work on your website, social media
outlets. Twitter. Instagram. An email newsletter. It’s all part of being a
writer,” she said.
A writer.
I needed to
admit I’d been a writer all along.  So I
did my best to act like one. My website went up, as
well as my author page on Facebook. I announced my upcoming book launch,
including photos of the book cover and the galley—and a few of my lead dog
Sharp Cheddar. But it all felt self-indulgent. Presumptuous. Like I was blowing
my own horn about something that had no substance. It felt awkward and
Then, on
February 2, when my “pub date” arrived, everything changed. At a launch party
at Anchorage’s Blue Hollomon Gallery, I was introduced as the author of Fast Into the Night. Standing in front
of dedicated friends, I held my book and read a few paragraphs from my memoir.
It was something like setting an eagle free after months of captivity.  Reading to that first audience felt like a
game changer. Within a half hour several dozen books sold. That night I
received a few emails, asking me questions about the story. People wanted me to
sign their books. I interacted with my audience. For the first time, I let
myself feel like a writer.
As a memoirist,
I’m called to write about events after they happen—to make sense of experiences
lived, by looking through the long lens of time. Really, it might be too soon
to write about my published life. After all, this has been going on for three
short weeks. This afternoon, crammed into seat 15E, I’m on my way home to
Alaska after speaking at book events in Seattle, Bellingham, Portland,
Minneapolis, Boston, and Manchester, Vermont. In the upcoming week, I’ll
address audiences in Anchorage who have gathered for the Iditarod celebration.
I’ll work on radio interviews, blog posts, readings, and slide shows.
author-stuff is all new to me. There’s no telling what it might look like a few
years down the road, but I do know one thing: Fast Into the Night has found its way from my head and heart into
those of my readers.  I’m enjoying this
dialogue with readers—the unique conversation initiated by lines from my book. Lines
about traveling the long trail in the company of sled dogs, and the challenges
we shared.
Now I realize my
friend was right: I have been a writer all along. I’m just stubborn, and it
took the long haul to publication to accept this new persona. Now, when I shake
someone’s hand after signing their copy of Fast
Into the Night
, I welcome this new conversation.
Thank you, dear
readers. I’m humbled and inspired to meet you. 

Debbie Clarke Moderow is the author of Fast
Into the Night: A Woman, Her Dogs, and their Journey North on the Iidtarod
. The memoir recounts her experience running Alaska’s Iditarod Trail
Sled Dog Race and explores her deepening and inextricable bond with her team of
Alaskan huskies. The memoir is her first book, and has been published by
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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