Kaylene Johnson-Sullivan | A New Publishing Venue

“Discover the Story” is the theme of the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm (KMTA) National Heritage Area, and what better way is there to tell a story than by publishing quality books? This new publishing venue is publishing at least one title each year through Ember Press.

I’m Kaylene Johnson-Sullivan and I wear a number of hats. I’m an author, the executive director of the KMTA National Heritage Area, and the creator of Ember Press, a small press that works with KMTA to bring heritage area books to readers far and wide. Now that Ember Press has six titles under its belt, it seems a good time to get the word out.

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Let me first explain a little about KMTA: National Heritage Areas are designated by Congress as geographic locations that are significant to the history of the nation. There are forty-nine National Heritage Areas and KMTA is Alaska’s first and – to date – only NHA. The grassroots program is run by a local non-profit and receives funding through the National Park Service. These funds are offered, in turn, to communities and organization for projects that promote and protect the cultural, natural, historical, scenic and recreational resources of the area. (That casts a pretty wide net.) Geographically, the KMTA is located on the eastern Kenai Peninsula, north-south between Indian and Seward and east-west between Whittier and Cooper Landing.

The first book KMTA published was called Trails Across Time: History of an Alaska Mountain Corridor (2005), a book that I was commissioned to write.

In 2012,  Ember Press was created as a result of a collaboration between myself and Dick Griffith when I wrote his biography, Canyons and Ice: The Wilderness Travels of Dick Griffith. From work with his vintage slides and photos to selecting quality paper, we learned so much about excellence in crafting a fine publication. I also received a major education in distribution and the work it takes to get the word out. After baptism by fire, it seemed a shame to let all that newly acquired knowledge go to waste.

The suggestion was made that KMTA republish an out-of-print title, Memories of Old Sunrise, by Albert Morgan. Edited by Alaska historian Rolfe Buzzell, we took the book and with the help of designer, Nanette Stevenson, brought the story of the Turnagain Arm gold rush of 1896 back to life.

Meanwhile, historian Doug Capra approached KMTA about publishing his book The Spaces Between: Stories from the Kenai Mountains to the Kenai Fjords. So we rolled up our sleeves, and Ember Press went to work publishing an original title with great photos from a bygone era. Within a year, we launched Doug’s book with a glowing endorsement from Nancy Lord, Alaska’s former State Writer Laureate.

Hot on its heels was the republication of the classic History of Mining on the Kenai Peninsula by Mary Barry. This year, in 2016, we launched another original title, edited from a one-hundred-year-old manuscript Gold Rush Wife by Dorothy Frost (edited by Rolfe Buzzell). This book is the feminine perspective on the same story told by Memories of Old Sunrise. The two books together provide a fascinating contrast between male and female experiences of the same era.

This brings me to the reason for this blog. KMTA is interested in branching out and publishing a children’s book about some aspect of the National Heritage Area. As noted earlier, the topics could be broad. The book could be fiction or nonfiction but should reflect in some way about life in Alaska’s KMTA area. Some topics might include (but are not limited to):

  • Native legends
  • Flora and fauna of the Kenai Mountains or Turnagain Arm
  • Iditarod history (the mail route beginning in Seward – not the race)
  • Railroad history
  • Transportation
  • Turnagain Arm Gold Rush

At some point KMTA is also interested in publishing a coffee table book, with quality photos and narrative of the National Heritage Area. This could be a collaboration or a singular endeavor by a photographer/author.

For more information about the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area, please visit the website: www.kmtacorricor.org. To submit a query or manuscript for publication, please send to: emberpress@gmail.com or send to Ember Press, PO Box 771054, Eagle River, AK 99577.

Happy writing to all my 49 Writers friends and colleagues!

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