Joan Braddock of University of Alaska Press, Interviewed by Cheryl Lovegreen

What do you do as Director of the University of Alaska Press?
As director of UA Press, I am responsible for overseeing the
overall process of acquisition through production, hiring staff, and managing
the budget. Finally, I am in charge of advocating for the Press both within and
outside the UA system. We have a terrific staff who are very capable of
managing all of the day to day activities of the Press, which makes my job easy.
What is the best part of your job?
Working with a terrific staff and seeing the book projects
in print. I have also enjoyed meeting new talented people from across the state.
The University of Alaska
 has made changes recently – for
example, adding the Alaska Literary Series. How does University of Alaska
 respond to the current publishing
climate while staying true to their mission? 
We realized that any healthy organization has to be able to
change direction to stay vibrant and relevant. We had many long discussions
with our advisory board about ways we could serve our university audience, but
also K-12 education and the reading population of Alaska.
We had already begun to publish some literature when we were approached by
Peggy Shumaker about the idea of partnering to launch a literary series. Her
extensive experience in the literary world made her the ideal person to serve
as editor for the series. We have been very excited about the products from the
Alaska Literary Series. 
Are there more plans for changes or additions in the future?
While we are excited about the recent changes at the Press,
we also do not want to let the disciplines we have more traditionally published
in fall by the wayside. We are very dedicated to our roots in anthropology and
history. Our books in these areas are critical to preserving the knowledge of Alaska‘s
rich cultures and history. We will likely not be launching a major new
direction in the next few years but rather focus on publishing the highest
quality works that fit within our broad mission to serve Alaska and
the North. We would like to see some additional science titles, including
natural history, and books for young adult readers. 
I would like to let authors know that with the literary
series, we have quite a bit of latitude with the contents of the work. While
not exclusive to supporting Alaska authors,
there is some intent that that be a goal of the series even if the writing
isn’t necessarily about Alaska or
the North. We also have a little latitude to publish books in any discipline of
exceptional quality that are not necessarily focused on Alaska or
the North. This modest change, agreed upon by our advisory board last fall,
allows us to consider manuscripts that we would have not been able to consider
in the past. We love having people approach us with good ideas and can
generally let an author know fairly quickly whether or not a project has
potential at the Press.
What are you excited about in this year’s catalog? What kinds of submissions are you especially looking for right now? 
We had a nice diversity of titles in fall season including
Vic Fischer’s biography, To Russia With Love; a charming children’s book
by Monica Devine, Kayak Girl; an important translation of a Russian catalog of
Alutiit/Sugpiat artifacts (The Alutiit/Sugpiat: a Catalog of the Collections of the Kunstkamera); and a natural history of the north slope of Alaska (Land of Extremes).
This spring we had the three new Alaska Literary Series titles, Gaining Daylight by Sara Loewen; Oil and Water by Mei Mei Evans; and Upriver by
Carolyn Kremers. We just released a new children’s book by Deb
Vanasse, Black Wolf of the Glacier: Alaska’s Romeo, and this summer will be releasing a collection of articles and
photos by Jon Waterman (Northern Exposures: an Adventure Career in Stories and Images). 
I asked our acquisitions editor to answer this question. He
responded with the following, which I completely agree with.
“The predictable short answer is that we’re always
looking for good writing. The longer answer gets a bit more detailed, of
course. Broadly, we are looking to extend the reading age of our children’s
books. We’d like to see more early readers, chapter books, and even older.
Another area that’s hard to fill is science and medicine. We have a lot of
active researchers and doctors in the state, and we would love to hear from
We’ve begun to get more submissions from other geographical
parts of the state, and that’s exciting for us. In the broadest sense, we’re
looking for books that help us learn about and understand the lives and stories
that get overlooked in the wider, Outside media. We’re not as interested in the
world’s deadliest catch as we are in the Japanese, Filipino, and other cannery
workers who processed that catch, the health of the fisheries where the catch
is made, and how a reality TV show affects places and people. 
We continue to look for books by and about Alaska Native
peoples and cultures. That’s a story—a vast collection of stories—that still
needs to be told. The current generation of Elders stands on a historic bridge
between worlds, and it’s imperative that their knowledge be preserved. And then
there are the stories of the next generations, too, and we could be here all
day talking about the many new narratives being generated by young people
across the state. 
What else? To return to a short answer: whatever excites
writers and readers. A passionate writer will stay with their topic, and their
enthusiasm will be infectious. We have an immense state, and it’s full of
ideas, knowledge, stories, and poetry—most of which none of us know. We’re
looking for submissions that reveal Alaska,
that will help us understand our history and our present, so we can inform
others and move together into the future.”
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