Time to nominate AK’s next State Writer Laureate: guest post by Charlotte Fox

Thanks to Charlotte at the Alaska State Council on the Arts for providing this interesting backstory as well as an opportunity to participate in nominating the state writer. And speaking of opportunity: the Council maintains an email list that it uses to inform writers of state arts news. If you have any doubt whether you’re on that list, drop a note to christa.rayl@alaska.gov, as Charlotte explains below.

In the early 1960s, the Juneau Poetry Society created the Poet Laureate Program to honor an Alaska poet and the genre of poetry. Since then, the program has evolved into the Alaska State Writer Laureate program, the only program in the U.S. that honors all genres of writing. We’re pretty proud of that.

Every two years, the Alaska State Council on the Arts solicits nominations for this honorary, unpaid position. We appreciate the commitment and passion that the selected State Writers have brought to Alaska during their respective terms. As illustrated by the names of the people who have held this position in the past (a complete list is on our website) it is obvious that this title, while voluntary, is one that is critical not only to the citizens of Alaska, but also to the field of writers and readers who nominate and choose these individuals.

Every State Writer is required to have a project during his or her term to advance the literary arts. Fairbanks playwright Anne Hanley (2002-2004) wrote a regular poetry column in the Anchorage Daily News. Jerah Chadwick, a poet from Unalaska (2004-2006) put together a terrific poem-a-day calendar during National Poetry Month. Poet and novelist John Straley from Sitka (2006-2008) taught writing workshops to at-risk young people. Our current State Writer Laureate Nancy Lord visited numerous communities across the state conveying her passion for writing, books and libraries. In addition, John Straley and Nancy Lord managed to write and publish books during their tenure. So maybe being State Writer Laureate is inspirational, too?

This year, for the first time, the Alaska State Council on the Arts is posting the nomination form on our website and expanding the nomination process. But we are still depending on you – the writers and readers who recognize good work and want good writers to be recognized, to nominate individuals for this position.

Before nominating someone, be sure also to realize that while exemplary writing is probably the number one criteria, it isn’t the only criteria. The person needs to be someone comfortable with talking to groups, teaching workshops, extolling the virtues of the Alaska State Council on the Arts (I just interjected that one), and traveling around the state. It’s not a cushy position, but I think that past State Writers Laureate can tell you it’s a pretty wonderful one. And while our budget doesn’t allow a stipend, we do cover the travel costs.

So go to our website, and download the nomination form. Take the time to nominate a writer whom you believe is worthy of the title, fits the requirements of the position, and is worthy of adding his or her name to the distinguished writers who have come before. The deadline is September 24, and that’s an “In the In Box” deadline. If you have questions don’t hesitate to contact me.

While I’ve got your attention, don’t forget that it’s also the season for the Governor’s Awards for the Arts and Humanities. If you’re in a nominating mood, grab that application on our website. One final thing, if you’re not getting regular information from the Alaska State Council on the Arts and you would like to do so, send a note to christa.rayl@alaska.gov Be sure to include your name, snail mail address, etc.

In closing, I’d like to thank 49 Writers for their work toward building a community of individual writers. We are fortunate to have many strong writers in Alaska, each working in a solitary way. This blog brings us together on the same page at the same time to read, laugh, reflect and think. Which is precisely what good writing should do. Keep writing!

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