Linda: Gearing up for AWP

More Alaskans than ever are descending on this humongous national writers’ conference in Seattle, February 27 through March 1, and we’re also represented on more panels than usual (this year’s event being in our own back yard, so to speak). To save you the effort of combing through the hundreds of panels and readings on offer, this post offers you a quick and easy reference to where to show up to support the home team! As always, however, we’re faced with some difficult choices, when two great workshops are scheduled for the same time slot. Decisions, decisions.

One cool feature of the AWP website this year is the ability to generate your personal conference schedule: just check the boxes of the panels and events that interest you and voilà! A handy pdf is just a click away.

Robert HassEva SaulitisGary Snyder

Keep abreast of what Alaskans are up to at the conference by liking Alaskans at AWP on Facebook. As always, David Stevenson, director of the UAA MFA program, is graciously hosting a gathering of Alaskans and honorary Alaskans on Friday evening, February 28. But know that two stars in the Alaskan literary firmament
Peggy Shumaker and Eva Saulitisare appearing on the Big Stage (Ballroom E) at 8:30pm on Friday with none other than Robert Hass and Gary Snyder for a reading and conversation sponsored by Red Hen Press. Don’t worry, we can fit it all in and live to fight another day at AWP.

At the Book Fair, University of Alaska Press will be at C34 in the South Hall, sharing space with Permafrost. Look for the UAA MFA Program at booth 725, sharing with Cirque and VP&D House.

This year, we’ll have live blogging from the conference! February guest author Lynn DeFilippo has volunteered to keep those of you at home up to date with conference happenings, as well as attendees who simply can’t get to everything they want to. January guest author Brendan Jones will be reporting post-conference, so look for his observations and insights too.

Here’s the schedule – it’s great to see so many 49 Writers bloggers and faculty (past, present, and future) represented in this rich program.

Thursday, February 27


R243. Writing the Midnight Sun: A Boreal Books Reading and Discussion. (Nicole Stellon O’Donnell, Peggy Shumaker, Melina Draper, Erin Hollowell, Susanna Mishler) Now in its 7th year, Boreal Books, an imprint of Red Hen Press, publishes literature and fine art from Alaska. Please join four Boreal poets and the imprint’s editor for a reading and discussion. You’ll hear from a lyrical lesbian electrician, a poet whose work spans both Americas, a writer whose house overlooks Kachemak Bay’s eagles and otters, and a novelist in verse whose book is set in Gold Rush days.

Friday, February 28


F105. Publishing Local in the Last Frontier. (Vered Mares, Martha Amore, Kris Farmen, Buffy (Roberta) McKay) A panel discussion with Alaska’s newest boutique publisher and select writers: We will talk about the challenges and successes of writing and publishing in this remote region. As a Latina woman and head of VP&D House, I encourage Alaska Natives, women, and other minority voices to publish and be heard in the local community and beyond. VP&D House focuses on writers’ success through financial equality, transparent business practices, and a very hands-on editing process.


F134. True North: Alaskan Literary Nonfiction. (Nancy Lord, Christine Byl, Ernestine Hayes, Tom Kizzia, Sherry Simpson) Recent years have brought the development of a strong field of creative nonfiction by Alaskans rooted in the land and its cultures. The result is a stranger-than-fiction literature of compelling, often dramatic truths. Five Alaskan writers will briefly posit reasons behind the genre’s northern robustness before sharing work inspired by extreme circumstances, encounters with the wild, and the challenges and opportunities of living in a rapidly-changing North.


F201. Alaska Voices: A Reading by Alaska Literary Series Authors. (James Engelhardt, Sara Loewen, John Morgan, Holly Hughes, Mei Mei Evans) The Alaska Literary Series began at the University of Alaska Press three years ago to showcase exciting Alaska voices and to explore the Alaska that doesn’t show up in popular media. Series authors—in poetry and nonfiction—will read from their work and discuss how to write, find community, and get published far from the literary world’s centers.

F225. Writing In the Margins (Christine Byl, Ruthie Rohde, Jill McDonough, Fred Marchant) Many people in this country have very difficult lives. What can reading and writing offer them? Are creative arts only for those who can afford to seek them out? Five writers discuss teaching in prisons, homeless shelters, gang rehab programs, with veterans, and in poor rural areas. When students are given tools, space, and encouragement to write, story becomes both an escape from difficult circumstances and a deep entry into human potential. How does such teaching change the teacher as well?


F262. Weaving Stories from Strands of Truth: Native Writers on Nonfiction. (Elissa Washuta, Debra Magpie Earling, Deborah Miranda, Ernestine Hayes) Many Native American writers are currently working within the genres of poetry and fiction; fewer writers work in nonfiction. This panel considers the complicated history of Native self-telling alongside contemporary memoir, essay, and other forms in order to examine where nonfiction is situated among the recently published literary works by Native writers. The history of Euro-American influence on the oral storytelling tradition creates a distinct set of issues within Native nonfiction.


F312. Robert Hass, Eva Saulitis, and Gary Snyder: Writing Nature in a Scientific Age, Sponsored by Red Hen Press. Author and marine biologist Eva Saulitis joins legendary poets Robert Hass and Gary Snyder for a reading followed by a conversation, moderated by Peggy Shumaker, about the task of writing about nature in a culture that often prizes easily commodifiable academic achievement over messier ways of knowing: the lyric, the spiritual, the sublime.

Saturday, March 1


S199. Crossing the Bridge to Nowhere. (Don Rearden, Seth Kantner, Bryan Fierro, Leigh Newman) Seth Kantner’s award-winning novel Ordinary Wolves established Alaska on the literary map. He broke ground for a new generation of authors writing about the Alaska that you don’t see on Discovery’s reality shows. In this cross-genre reading you’ll hear from four talented and award winning authors who don’t fit the Jack London image of Alaskan authors.

S203. The Alaskan Legacy of John Haines. (Nancy Lord, Carolyn Kremers, John Kooistra, Joan Naviyuk Kane, Tom Kizzia) John Haines (1924-2011) is considered a major American voice as well as a poet and essayist associated with—as Dana Gioia put it—an integrity of life and work. Haines’s ability to evoke and embody the North, in his writing and life, influenced many who followed. On this panel, five Alaskan writers at various career stages will comment on Haines’s influence, discuss how they’re challenged by (and challenge) his standards and assumptions, and probe their own connections to Alaska and the land.


S268. Isolation and Community: How We Write It, How We Live It. (Deb Vanasse, Don Rearden, Melinda Moustakis, Leigh Newman, Seth Kantner) Writing may be a lonely pursuit, but the tension between isolation and community evokes larger truths that emerge in our stories. What is the distinction between solitude and loneliness? In what ways does a survival culture both isolate and unify? How does self-reliance impact one’s life and work? How do isolation and community contribute to the re-imagining of frontier literature? Panelists with ties to Alaska explore the ways these issues play out in their writing lives and in their books.

S276. Rounding the Human Corners: Writing the Truth about the Changing World. (Marybeth Holleman, Linda Hogan, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Eva Saulitis, Juan Carlos Galeano) Straddling mass extinctions and shifting ecosystems, how do we write about the more-than-human in a way that avoids simple metaphor? And how do we write of degradation and extinction in language that engages the (human) reader and remains truthful to these “other nations?” Discussing a diversity of approaches are five authors of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction about horses, wolves, birch trees, killer whales, polar bears—the depth and range of the world just beyond our human skin.

Cirque has a special event planned that promises a unique experience, for those of you who don’t want to miss a Roethke performance and reading on Friday, Feb. 28, 7pm.

Seattle, here we come!

2 thoughts on “Linda: Gearing up for AWP”

  1. Wow, this is great! Now I'm really sorry I won't be there. Thanks for letting me know just how much I'm missing.

  2. Andromeda Romano-Lax

    What an amazing lineup and how great to see it summarized in one space. I'm sad to be missing this AWP but AMAZED by how many Alaskans are appearing on panels and in readings. Congrats to all those stepping up to the microphone and to the many more who will be braving the lectures, parties and bookfair–phew–have fun.

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