What a Difference a Year Makes

How long has 49 Writers been around? It depends on when you start counting. We began with an online community back in 2008, expanded in 2009, and in 2010 we incorporated as an Alaska non-profit. Last year at this time, we’d just signed a three-year lease on a cute historic house on L Street and a crew of amazing volunteers joined forces to transform it into the first Alaska Writing Center, out of which we also ran a guesthouse to pay the rent.

What a difference a year makes. The building was sold, and we scrambled to find another place out of which we could run writing programs without breaking the bank. Our first landlord prorated back the improvements our crew had made at the L Street facility, making that our first big fund-raising effort. We’ve been fund-raising ever since, under the direction of our energetic and capable co-founder Andromeda Romano-Lax. With a successful holiday book bag extravaganza and a popular write-a-thon under our belts, we’re now nearing the home stretch of our first annual appeal for donations from our friends, fans, and followers: you.

But perhaps some of you are secretly waxing nostalgic, longing for the good old days when 49 Writers was nothing but a free-spirited online gathering place with no bank account, no Board of Directors, and no need for cash. There’s only one tiny problem with that sort of thinking: we could never have sustained that online volunteer effort over the long haul, much less offered the courses and events that have drawn raves from Alaska’s literary community. It simply takes too much time and energy. Look at the hundreds of thousands of blogs that launch in a burst of enthusiasm only to languish and die. Rather than burn out, we chose to become sustainable. That requires a Board of Directors and a bank account and yes, cash.

Almost daily, we receive emails and comments affirming what our recent online survey quantified: Alaska’s writers hanker for what we offer. For you, our literary-minded readers and members and fans, we know the importance of making sure we’re sustainable. Like most non-profits, we’re funded through our programs, through our fundraisers, and through direct public support. We’ve assembled a great grant-writing team, all volunteers, to apply for designated funding through formal channels. But we can’t depend solely on grant funding, nor can we raise enough through our programs if we’re to keep them vibrant and affordable. In the end, we depend on your help.

We’re so grateful to those who’ve already answered the call. So far this month $1870 has come in. Coupled with $5990 donated through our April 8 Write-a-thon, we’re about halfway toward our 2011 budget goal for individual and business contributions: $16,300.

What difference will the coming year make? In addition to offering high-quality instruction and sponsoring inspiring events (Dani Shapiro, Steve Almond, anyone?), we hope by this time next year to also brought you a successful series of youth writing workshops, the first-ever Alaska Book Week (Oct. 15-22), and a game plan toward more expansive physical space where Alaska’s writers can gather. But we can’t do it without your support.

Last year, the call was to mobilize. This year it’s to make us sustainable, a goal we can only achieve with your help. Only one week remains in our appeal month of May. If you haven’t already, we hope you’ll support us by clicking the link in the right sidebar and donating what you can. Thanks so much!

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