North Words Writers Symposium | What A Few Can Do

Glacier hike, North Words 2016. One of many adventure options for writers at this unique symposium!

Perhaps you’ve heard how this statewide organization, 49 Writers, got started. Two people who’d never before met—that would be Andromeda Romano-Lax and me—joined forces to encourage and promote the work of Alaska writers.

North Words Writers Symposium followed a similar trajectory although, in truth, their origin story is even cooler than ours. Years ago, Skagway’s legendary tourism director, Buckwheat, made a human-powered trek from Miami (FL) to Nome (AK) in order to raise money for a medical facility. Dan Henry joined him for part of the excursion. As they walked, they spoke at length about how an annual symposium could turn Skagway into a gathering place for writers.

Knowing a thing or two about turning ideas into action, Buckwheat convinced tourism folks that a writers symposium was a win-win for the community. With the help of Jeff Brady (Skaguay Books, Alderworks) and Dan Henry, North Words Writers Symposium (NWWS) launched in 2010. Owing to the allure of Skagway, the team (which now includes Katrina Woolford) recruits top-notch keynote speakers—this year, author Paul Theroux.

What makes North Words unique among writers’ gatherings is the controlled ratio of participants to faculty and a program that optimizes opportunities for faculty-participant interaction. Year to year, organizers refine the schedule, adding more workshop consultation options to the lively panels and field adventures for which the conference is known.

Every year, North Words puts together a congenial, spirited, talented faculty. For 2017, that includes Sherry Simpson, Tom Kizzia, Andy Hall, Lenora Bell, John Straley, and Paul Theroux. I’m honored to be included among them.

As we happily discover with our own writing, ideas grow as we devote ourselves to their nurture and sustenance. North Words Writers Symposium is proof of a good idea that gets better each year. On behalf of everyone at North Words, I invite you to join us in Skagway May 31 – June 3 to nurture and grown your own best ideas.

Co-founder of 49 Writers and founder of the independent authors cooperative Running Fox Books, Deb Vanasse has authored seventeen books. Among the most recent are Write Your Best Book, a practical guide to writing books that rise above the rest; Cold Spell, a novel that “captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds; and the “deeply researched and richly imagined” biography  Wealth Woman. After thirty-six years in Alaska, she now lives on the north coast of Oregon. She’s looking forward to reconnecting with Alaska writers in May at the North Words Writers Symposium in Skagway.

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