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Tentatively Poking

What Turtle Blood Tastes Like - Mon, 01/26/2015 - 10:34am

isn’t every three year-old child
at least part dinosaur?
even the giant leaf eaters
capable of a great roar

down on the winter beach
a break in the bleakness
rain longing to be slush or more
dripping from everything
but the sky at the moment

we are taking off our gloves
beyond the slick rock of the beach
tentatively poking at vivid emerald
anemones and purple urchins

up the beach
beyond the fallen rye grass
a gaggle of children in bright reds
blues and yellows,
rain gear fit for Southeast Alaska’s worst
poke marshmallowed sticks
into roaring fire

down the trail adjusting his
thick mittens comes
my son’s friend, Benni
smiling a tentative smirk and roaring
part t-rex part Thomas the train
a whistle or a roar of a greeting
announcing his arrival
in this primal place
this cold winter beach
a momentary break
in the cold January rain

up and down the tide flats
they roam, and scramble up the slick, rocky trail
to an eroded beach cliff
on boots, on bottoms
these tough little dino-kids tramp

oblivious to the driving rain
that drives us parents
to huddle around the fire
and drink cold breakfast-
whiskey from flasks
discussing escape routes
to snowier places


Filed under: glimpses, parenting, Poetry
Categories: Arts & Culture

Creative Mistakes: Five Ways Authors Box Themselves In

49 Writers - Mon, 01/26/2015 - 5:00am


As an author, you’re a creative type. That goes without saying. But in your approach to your craft, your publishing, and your promotion, are you actually as creative as you might be?
Writing is a scary business, any way you cut it. In Write Your Best Book, the companion volume to What Every Author Should Know, I compare it to the position my son played on his high school hockey team. There’s nothing quite like being the mother of a goalie. He’s got his team out there, helping, but when pucks whiz toward the goal, it’s all up to him. And believe me, those pucks fly from every direction. The goalie has to watch every angle. He has to be quick. Fluid. Psychologically unshakable.
I don’t mean to suggest that the position of author should be a defensive one, although sadly, that’s how it ends up for some. What I learned from being a hockey mom (and please, no comparisons with thatother hockey mom) was that goalies shore up the uncertainty of their position with practices that don’t make a whole lot of sense, like never washing their jerseys during the season (my son claimed this was essential for his success) and talking to the goal posts, as top goalie Patrick Roy did in every game.
The equivalent for authors are these creative mistakes, all of which confine us in unhelpful ways:
·         A focus on the wrong kind of being: To write is to make yourself vulnerable. You will fail, time and again. Your work won’t be as good at first as it will become if you stick with it. Writers who fail to accept these truths typically end up spending more of their energy on “being” a writer instead of doing the hard work of a writer. The “being” that benefits writers is the “being” of everyday existence, the conscious effort of experiencing life as it happens, of staying actively engaged as opposed to striving to present ourselves as writers (or as anything else).·         Risk aversion: In any uncertain enterprise, the natural tendency is to shy from risk. For survival, risk aversion is a healthy impulse. But in both the entrepreneurial and creative pursuits of a writer, risks are inherent. To avoid them means doing what everyone else does—and getting generic results.·         Relying on formulas: Good writers balance reader expectations, which are sometimes taught as formulas, with the unique insights and approaches that are only achieved when we allow ourselves to think beyond formula. The same applies to promotion—do what everyone else does, and you’ll get lost in the crowd.·         Believing you’ve got nothing left to learn: A writer’s education is never finished. Seek out the best—in the books you read, in the examples you follow, in the discussions of craft and business in which you engage. Be an active learner of both aspects of being a writer: your craft and the publishing end. ·         Seeking rewards too soon: The readers, the accolades, the sales—these will come. Focus first on your process, on doing your best creative work. Don’t rush a book because this person or that person has theirs out already. Don’t succumb to discouragement because your rankings aren’t what you’d like. Take your time. Persistence, diligence, completing your work, having the courage to publish—these matter, but check your motivation. If it’s all about rewards, your work will suffer, and you’ll likely be disappointed. Repeat after me: you have nothing to prove.
As writers, we enjoy the freedom to innovate, in our work and also in the ways we learn and grow. How do we make the most of that freedom? Author of fifteen books, including the recent What Every Author Should Know, Deb Vanasse will discuss creative ways for writers to think about craft, education, and publishing at “The Self-Made Writer,” a 49 Writers Reading and Craft Talk on Thursday, Jan. 29 from 7:00 – 8:30 pm at the Great Harvest Bread Company, 570 E. Benson, Anchorage. Book sales and signing will follow (cash, checks, PayPal only).



Categories: Arts & Culture

Round Up of Weekly News & Events

49 Writers - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 3:46am
Do you have things to say and a hankering to join the conversation of Alaska writers? 49 Writers is looking for two guest bloggers to round out this year's calendar. Check out the Blogger Guidelines at the top of this page and contact us. The available months are May and August.

In a Reading & Craft Talk on Thursday, January 29, Deb Vanasse will discuss creative ways for writers to think about craft, education, and publishing. The event is held at Great Harvest Bread Company, 570 East Benson Blvd, from 7-8:30 pm. She just released a new book called What Every Writer Should Know. It will be the basis for a new class she's teaching on February 7.

I'm looking forward to my Juneau trip next week, especially the opportunity to meet some of our Juneau members.
- Morgan

EVENTS IN ANCHORAGETonight (Friday, Jan. 23) at 6 pm, Blue Hollomon Gallery, 3555 Arctic Blvd. C5, join us for the official launch of Cirque 6.1. Readers include, Kathleen Tarr, Jessica Ramsey Golden, Matt Iverson, Egan Millard, and Monica Devine. Joe Craig will entertain on guitar. Four Cirque artist/photographers will be present Katherine Coons, Banan Tarr, Suzi Towsley, and Brenda Jaeger. Get the new issue at the event or at wwwcirquejournal.com

Reading & Craft Talk with Deb Vanasse. Thursday, Jan. 29, 7-8:30pm: Great Harvest Bread, 570 E. Benson Blvd. "The Self-Made Writer;" As writers, we enjoy the freedom to innovate, in our work and also in the ways we learn and grow. How do we make the most of that freedom? Author of fifteen books, including the recent What Every Author Should Know, Deb Vanasse will discuss creative ways for writers to think about craft, education, and publishing.

"What Do We Do When the Lifeboats are Burning?" Songs and Stories about Climate, Community and Courage. Libby Roderick and Kathleen Dean Moore in concert and conversation. February 22, 2 pm, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 2824 E. 18th (18th & Sunrise, Airport Heights). $20 suggested donation. 50% of proceeds go to Alaskan climate organizations. Co-sponsored by UU Fellowship, 49 Writers, and UAA Office of Sustainability.

UAA Bookstore events in February
     - Cultural Roots of Lithuanian and Jewish History, Tuesday, February 3, 5-7pm
     - Wildlife and Alaskans: Life amongs Complex Relations, Tuesday, February 10, 5-7 pm
     - Magic Realism in Literature, Thursday, February 12, 5-7pm
All events at the UAA Campus Bookstore. Click here for details.

Crosscurrents: Andy Hall (Denali's Howl) joins David Stevenson (Letters from Chamonix) for an onstage conversation about their processes of creating an engaging narrative in prose. What are the unique affordances and challenges of each genre, and where can writers learn from the strategies employed in other genres? February 5, 7-8:30 pm at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center.

49 Writers Spring Classes: Anchorage
Registration is open. Find full information on the 49 Writers website.
     - New Class: "Ready to Publish" with Deb Vanasse. Saturday, February 7, 9am-4pm. $110
       members/$130 non-members. Fee includes the textbook for the class, What Every Author Should         Know, by Deb.
     - NEW DATE: Historical Research Sources for Writers with Lawrence Weiss: Saturday, 4, 9am-
       12pm. $50 members/$60 non-members.
     - NEW DATE:How to Publish Your Book on Kindle with Lawrence Weiss: Saturday, April 18,
       9am-12pm. $50 members/$60 non-members.

EVENTS AROUND ALASKA49 Writers in Juneau
     - Tuesday, January 27, 5-6 pm at the Silverbow Wine Bar (No Host Bar). Meet and Greet 
       with 49 Writers' new Executive Director, Morgan Grey. Come on in from the rain, visit
       with other writers, and chat with Morgan about the programming that you'd like to see in JNU  
       (and throughout the state). She's looking forward to meeting as many JNU members as possible

     - Writing the Three-Dimensional Novel or Memoir, a class with Rachel Weaver.
        March 2 & 3, 6-9 pm. $95 members/$115 non-members. Details and registration here.
The Governor’s Awards for the Arts & Humanities. January 29, 7:30pm at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center. Details here. Frank Soos, will be honored as the new Alaska State Writer Laureate. Frank’s mission during his term is to promote the work of other Alaska authors. Last year he taught several classes for 49 Writers.

Cabin Fever Pop-Up Film Series: Homer Edition The Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer will host the second of three off-site film screenings associated with the Anchorage Museum’s Cabin Fever exhibition. Like Alaskans who suffer through long winters, American experimental filmmakers often work in darkness and isolation. The event features poetry by Erin Hollowell, Bruce Farnsworth, Jeremy Pataky, Eva Saulitis, and Miranda Weiss; films by George Kuchar, Claude, Peter Rose, Renato Umali, Michael Walsh, and Martha Colburn, and Performance by Easy D. Curated by Michael Walsh. January 31, 7 to 9 p.m. Bunnell Street Arts Center, Homer. Suggested give-what-you-can donation.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR WRITERSMineral School is a new artists residency located in Mineral, Washington. During summer 2015, they will offer three two-week residency periods to writers of poetry and prose, providing accepted applicants with space and time to create new work without the interruptions of normal life. They are accepting applications from January 15 through February 25, 2015 (Midnight, EST) for the 2015 summer residencies. Notification will be given roughly two months before the residency period for which you've applied. More information and applications are available here.


Interested in self-publishing or micropublishing? Larry Weiss wants to connect with other folks who share this interest for a possible discussion group. Contact him at ldweiss at gmail.com.

The Equinox Project, a digital storytelling project sponsored by the UAA Department of Journalism & Communication and the Alaska Humanities Forum will mentor 10 -19 year olds from across Alaska to create a story from one day, any day, in your communities before the Spring Equinox, March 20, 2015. Stories will be about Spring Equinox - about the change from winter to spring, and about change in your lives, your communities, and our planet. On their own, your stories create an important and lasting document of Alaska as seen by young people. Together, your stories will develop a sense of place by merging your storytelling tradition with the digital age.
Participants will work with mentors to finalize stories to share with the public in Fall 2015. Our goal is to have each major region of Alaska represented.
What's in it for you (the participant)?
Mentored by experienced stortellers from your region.
     - Four participants invited to Alaska Press Club in Anchorage in April 2015.
     - Your work featured on a national website and in a First Friday Art Show at the Alaska
        Humanities Forum in Anchorage in Fall 2015.
Application Deadline: January 24, 2015. Acceptance notifications will be sent February 6, 2015

Rasmuson Foundation Awards
The 2015 Individual Artist Award application is now open. Over the past decade, Alaska artists have received $2.7 million in grants through the Individual Artist Award Program. The Award recognizes the role artists play in bringing inspiration to their communities. Guidelines and application materials are available here. The deadline is March 1.
There are three award types:
Project Awards of $7,500 support short-term projects in all disciplines that have a clear benefit to the artist and development of their work (visit page 5 of the application for more information. Disciplines include: choreography, crafts, folk and traditional arts, media arts, music composition, multidiscipline/new genre, literary arts/scriptworks, performance art, presentation/interpretation, and visual arts).
Fellowship Awards of $18,000 are available to mid-career and mature artists of rotating disciplines. For 2015, Fellowships will only be awarded in choreography, crafts, folk and traditional arts, literary arts/scriptworks, and performance art.
Distinguished Artist Award, a single award of $40,000 (selected through a separate nomination process).

The deadline for this year's UAA/Alaska Dispatch Creative Writing Contest is fast approaching. Go to adn.com/content/creative-writing-contest-rules for complete rules, list of prizes, and submission guidelines and send your best fiction, nonfiction or poetry. Deadline is Feb. 10, 2015, 5:30pm. Winners will be announced in mid-May.

Statewide Poetry Contest 2015: Alaskan poets of all ages are encouraged to enter up to four poems. Contest includes divisions for Elementary, Middle School, High School and Adults. Winners will receive cash prizes and be featured at the Poetry Contest Winners Literary Reading. Joan Kane, award winning author from Anchorage, will judge the contest this year. Deadline is March 2, 2015 at 6 pm. More information here.

Savor the Rising Words: Poetry Broadside Invitational in honor of National Poetry Month,
Members of 49 Writers and past or present participants in 49 Writers workshops are invited to submit poetry broadsides for display at Great Harvest Bread Co. throughout the month of April 2015 in honor of National Poetry Month. Featured poets will be encouraged to read their works during a public event at the bakery at a date and time to be determined. Broadsides in the exhibit will be available for sale and proceeds will be donated to 49 Writers. Deadline: Friday, March 20, 2015. Click here for details and the entry form.

Cirque was founded to give writers (and artists) of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest more places to publish their work – and as a vehicle to bring the best writing of the region to the world. The next Cirque deadline is March 21st (the equinox). The submission address is cirque.submits@gmail.com.

Pick.Click.Give. to 49 Writers! PFD application time is right around the corner, and that's your opportunity to Pick.Click.Give.! Your Pick.Click.Give donations support 49 Writers programs around the state. We received almost $2,500 in our first year as a Pick.Click.Give organization. You can help us double that in 2015. Plus, Pick.Click.Give.rs have a chance to double their dividends.To show our appreciation, 49 Writers is offering incentive gifts to donors:
  • $75 donors will receive an original Alaskan art card from Shorefast Editions in Juneau
  • $150 donors will receive an autographed book by an Alaskan author.
Categories: Arts & Culture

Spotlight on Alaska Books: North to the Star, by Richard Lannon

49 Writers - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 6:00am


As Tildie washed the dishes, she heard and felt a loud rumbling that a moment later caused the house to shake, the dishes in the sideboard to rattle, and the water in the sink to sway from side to side. She held onto the counter, realizing an earthquake was happening. Looking out the window, she saw the trees swaying as if there was a great wind blowing and the evenly-spaced power poles along the street doing a drunken dance.
As suddenly as it began, all motion stopped. As she glanced out the window to see if any damage had occurred, she unexpectedly felt Jake’s reassuring hand on her shoulder and wondered when he’d gotten home. Feeling his hand move to lightly brush her cheek, she turned to face him—and saw nothing! (from North to the Star by Richard Lannon)
They were ordinary people doing ordinary things but having an extraordinary impact. This is the saga of a family going from Ireland to Alaska during the years 1849 to 1945 as they settle into new life, new land, and new problems. In the center of it all is Matilda Annabelle O’Flaherty McLaughlin, though everyone called her Tildie. The Matilda had come from her father, a robust Irishman who had discovered at any early age the adventures hidden within the covers of books and had passed that legacy on to his daughter. The McLaughlin came from Jake, who had a constantly impish smile on his face and a good-natured way in which he dealt with life’s problems and the six children they eventually had.
From the day she first met him, Tildie knew he could be the only man for her, and she set about making it become a reality, little realizing that his ship’s course was set in the same direction. Their deep love would take the family to Alaska during its gold mining days and into two world wars. The pathways of their two lives were predetermined to intersect, and that happened one bright day in May, 1884.
From a reader review: “The descriptions of the various settings are vivid. The character development keeps the reader wanting more. The author also provides ‘words of wisdom’ that the reader picks up as he ‘reads’ between the lines. The history of Alaska is weaved into the plot as well as the description of the gorgeous lands.” – Annette
Richard lives in Alaska, where he’s now retired and a member of 49 Writers. During his 47-year career he taught, worked for a printing company, and managed a furniture store. He’s done a variety of writing that includes professional articles and a stage script, but this is his first novel. He also enjoys hiking, photography, singing, his friends, great movies, and catching the occasional salmon.
But his greatest love is traveling the world. He’s been to or lived in all but eight of the United States. He lived a year in Japan and nearly eight years in Germany. He’s traveled the length and breadth of Europe from Stonehenge to the Acropolis and from Copenhagen to Athens. He’s seen Mt. Fuji, the Rocky Mountains, and the Alps. He’s sailed both of the great oceans. Someday he hopes to cross the equator and visit South America or New Zealand.

A self-published copy of his work (in both print and e-book format) can be purchased here.
Categories: Arts & Culture

JT Torres: Forbidden Worlds

49 Writers - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:00am
Our host family gathered around the TV to watch Raul Castro announce the return of the Cuban spies, which would improve relations with the U.S.

As my departure from Cuba approached, I experienced a sort of barotrauma, much like decompression sickness experienced by divers who resurface too fast. I needed to slowly ascend, slowly return to the world I’d left behind in America.
Cubais a country cocooned in layers, and this is mostly because of its status as a country forbidden from the world in which I live. The embargo has encouraged Americans to imagine Cubain vastly different ways. The “Miami Cubans” envision the island in its oligarchic state under Batista. They dream about the haciendas Castro seized. They believe they will one day reclaim their property, some so that they can capitalize on it and others so that they can return to their aristocratic tropical lifestyles. For the “Miami Cubans,” it doesn’t matter that Cubans have suffered their share of loss as well. The only thing that matters is vociferating the evil of Castro’s rule to enforce an embargo that has done nothing but help isolate the island. “The people there have it bad, so we should keep the embargo in place,” they say, even though the embargo contributes to the people having “it bad.”
My brother-in-law, whom Cubans would call a “Miami Cuban,” describes Cubain a way that is far worse than in reality. According to him, a family in Cuba has to apply to the government to have a cake for someone’s birthday; and a single family is only allowed one cake.
The “Utopians” believe Castro’s Cuba is paradise. The idea of free healthcare, strong education, and a life free of the poison of material greed stand as absolute ideals that should be upheld everywhere. My brother by blood is one such “utopian.” Before I left America, he envied my journey, said he couldn’t wait to hear how impressed I was by a country that “valued its people.”
Because of the way layers work—skin folding over skin, shell extending to rind—the facets of Cuba’s identity change depending on how far one peels back its casing. The island is a contradiction, a paradox in which both the “Utopians” and the “Miami Cubans” are right.
I stayed with a loving family while in Colón. Andrea, who owned the house, cooked breakfast and dinner for us (a team of four researchers) each night. During our stay, Andrea’s granddaughter turned nine. There were three cakes made; one was just for us visitors, two of whom (me and Jill) were foreigners. There were also meringues, pastries, and a counter crowded with flan.
But it’s not all rich yellow cake with guava cream filling. The healthcare system, I learned, is essentially reserved for tourists. This is controlled via Cuba’s dual currencies, the Cuban Peso and the Cuban Convertible. The latter of which is an artificially inflated currency that remains equal to the U.S. dollar to provide tourists with exceptional buying power. Most Cubans are paid in Cuban Pesos, which is so weak compared to the Cuban Convertible they can hardly afford to buy oranges from the market.
I heard stories of Cubans breaking down in tears at the sight of a flat screen TV.
I walked down nameless streets in poor neighborhoods at 2 a.m. Doors to houses were open. Strangers waved. I felt safer than I do walking around Anchorage at 10 p.m.
I met people waiting twenty-two years for a chance to leave.
There are other layers, those which act as boundaries.
The music of Arará suffered a long history of banishment from Cuban airwaves. Social organizations, cabildos, were formed in secrecy so that slaves could continue their religious beliefs without persecution. For most of Castro’s rule, the music was also prohibited by law. My grandmother, raised a Roman Catholic, became interested in Santería when one of her parents’ servants, a Santera, protected her from the incessant loneliness that haunted my grandmother her entire life. She had to hide her interest from her strict father, who threatened beating her if he found her with anything besides a cross. And then here I was, in Cuba, claiming roots to the island, but knowing very little of the language. My parents never taught me Spanish, thinking it would interfere with my learning English. My grandmother spoke to me in Spanish, but not enough for me to become fluent.
The genius of syncretism is the blur of forbidding boundaries. Perhaps this is Cuba’s gift to history.
The cabildos quickly allowed for inclusive membership. Tribes and clans from different African traditions interacted and shared elements. Yoruba, Kongo, Pataki, Vodun, Arará, and Catholicism contributed to new forms of religious tradition that, by the 20th century, became difficult to identify as separate beliefs for European powers seeking to silence the rhythm of the batá. This is the deepest layer I found in Cuba: in Agromonte, almost the direct center of the island, beneath several layers pressurizing me in a world I still don’t quite understand, I was accepted into the community, encouraged to dance, sing, eat food offered to sacred altars. It didn’t matter that I was white, that I spoke a very rough Spanish, or that I was North American. When you go there, when you climb beneath both the imagined and real layers of the place, you find the boundaries vanish.

JT Torres is a PhD candidate at Washington State University. His upcoming novella will be included in Weathered Edge, alongside Don Rearden and Sarah Birdsall, by VP&D House. He had an essay in Best Food Writing 2014. And, yes, he recently returned from Cubawith Dr. Jill Flanders Crosby. The resulting research will inform a cultural memoir about Arará, Santería, and his own connections with Cuba.
Categories: Arts & Culture

Deb: Your Book’s First Pages - Why They Matter, and a Critique Opportunity

49 Writers - Tue, 01/20/2015 - 6:00am
One reason first pages matter: the "look inside" feature
No matter how you publish, first pages are crucial. From reading the first five to ten pages (sometimes even your first page or two), your readers—including agents and editors, if you’re going that route—are going to decide whether your book is worth their time, money, and attention. Online book vendors know this; that’s why they offer the “look inside” feature on a book’s “buy” page. You may think all this attention on beginnings is unfair. You’ve got a great narrative (either fiction or nonfiction). Lots of twists and turns. Unique characters. Readers can’t tell all that from the first few pages. Sorry. They can, and they do. From time to time, I’m asked to jury a writing contest or award. The first round of eliminations is actually easier than you might think; from the first page or two, it’s generally clear whether the author is capable and whether the selection is captivating enough to warrant a closer look. While recognizing the importance of first pages is a crucial step towards making sure yours are a worthy representation of your book, it’s also paradoxically true that authors sometimes try so hard to impress in a book’s early pages that their efforts end up attention of all the wrong kinds. In attempting to make sure your first pages “grab the reader,” it’s easy to overdo, putting the reader off instead of drawing her in. In What Every Author Should Know, I’ve written about five common flaws of first pages: clichés, bad pacing, insufficient grounding, flat characters, and shoddy dialogue. But of course it’s not enough to avoid the mistakes. You want your first pages to shine with an organic sort of magic, creating a magnetic pull from which the reader is helpless to escape. Study the first five pages of a book you love. Make notes on how the author draws you into the book­—the set-ups, the turns of phrase, the nuanced characters, the tension points that hint at the stakes. Then do the same with the first five pages of your own manuscript. Sometimes it’s tough to see your own flaws. Or you see them, but you’ve worked the material over so many times that you’re not sure how to improve. That’s when a good critique can be helpful. In conjunction with my upcoming 49 Writers Ready to Publish workshop, I’ll be doing a limited number of first pages critiques. Registrants who opt for the critique will receive instructions for submitting their first five pages in advance of the workshop. On each manuscript and also in a brief editorial letter, I’ll point out what’s working well, and I’ll offer suggestions for improving the parts that need work. During the lunch break and after the workshop is over, I’ll meet one-on-one with participants to discuss these critiques. If you’re not able to attend the Ready to Publish workshop on Feb. 7 in Anchorage but you’d still like a first pages critique from an experienced author and editor, check with me at debvanasse (at) gmail.com and, time permitting, we’ll see what can be arranged.
Co-founder of 49 Writers and founder of the independent authors cooperative Running Fox Books, Deb Vanasse has authored fifteen books. Her most recent are What Every Author Should Know, a comprehensive guide to book publishing and promotion, and Cold Spell, a novel that “captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds,” according to Booklist. Deb lives and works as freelance editor and coach on Hiland Mountain outside of Anchorage, Alaska, and at a cabin near the Matanuska Glacier. A version of this post also ran at www.selfmadewriter.blogspot.com.
Categories: Arts & Culture

Spotlight on Alaska Books: The Avalanche Teahouse, by Stephen Bottum

49 Writers - Mon, 01/19/2015 - 7:00am

“To Cora, the gift was somehow more touching for being incomplete. Any mountain person would appreciate the hard work falling short of the desire. This half-built hot tub could be a twin to her own half-sewn quilt. Two new sprouts in the garden of good intentions.
“Up close, it looked like a teacup built for a giant. The missing side was where the handle would go. In a land of instant, senseless death, it wasn’t hard to believe they all lived at the whim of an indifferent colossus. Cora could imagine age-old aches and long-clenched tensions relaxing, melting away as she brewed herself in there.” (The Avalanche TeahouseStephen Bottum)
From the author of the website Armistead Maupin called "my favorite culture blog," comes this enthralling novel about risk, rescue, and the perfect chocolate cake. 
Cautious, sensible Cora and her brisk, no-nonsense mother Blanche run the last of the old mountain teahouses, six miles up a tough trail. Helped each summer by two snappy, fearless college girls, they bake simple food for weary hikers, daredevil rock climbers, and the seven-man mountain rescue team. After years away, Hap, the hero of her youth, has just returned to rejoin the emergency crew. Despite her private hopes Cora stays in the safety of the cabin, serving tea to a world of travelers. Finally two very different strangers press Cora to rethink the past and take a far greater risk. Against a powerful landscape, contrasting danger seekers and everyday domestic hurts, this funny, generous, unsentimental story explores the true nature of who really rescues whom.
"The Avalanche Teahouse is a beautifully written, utterly absorbing novel. I was transported to the remote mountain setting by its first masterful paragraph and even now, days after reading the final page, have not been able to leave." -Stephen McCauley
"…a funny and flavorful portrait of a mountain refuge for hikers, is also an intricate puzzle box that carefully and skillfully springs loose its deep secrets about past deaths and present loves." -Jonathan Strong

"combines the delicacy of a fable with the scope of an epic…this warm-hearted, tough-minded story…is just the tale for our troubled times." -James Morrison
Stephen Bottum, formerly a vice president at a major publishing house, has reviewed fiction for Entertainment Weekly, written for local New York media, and been asked to guest lecture to journalism students at Johns Hopkins. He has run distance road races or marathons in Australia, the United States, and Europe. An Alaska resident since 2010, he is a member of 49 Writers. The Avalanche Teahouse is available as an ebook from Amazon.
Would you like to see your book featured here? Check out our Spotlight on Alaska Books guidelines and submit today.



Categories: Arts & Culture

Weekly Round Up of News and Events

49 Writers - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 4:13am
Frank Soos will be honored as Alaska's new writer laureate at the The Governor's Awards for Arts & Humanities in Juneau on January 29. I'll be there along with 49 Writers board member Jeremy Pataky. Join us to make a great showing of Alaska writers! Ticket information here.

While in Juneau, I'll also participate in CHAMP Day. That's short for Culture*Humanities*Arts*Museums*Partners. There'll training in advocacy and meetings with legislators to share the work we're doing across Alaska. 
Check out the season's first Reading & Craft Talk with Deb Vanasse, and Crosscurrents featuring Andy Hall and David Stevenson. Great programs from 49 Writers, free and open to the public.
- Morgan

EVENTS IN ANCHORAGEWoosh Kinaadeiyí Open Mic and Poetry Slam is December 16th at Silverbow Inn, 6:30 pm.
The event will be hosted by Bill Merk and Marla Lippard Christenson, with DJ Manu. It is open to poets and performers of all ages and all abilities. Sign up to read at 6 pm.
Woosh Kinaadeiyí is a local nonprofit committed to diversity, inclusive community, and empowering voice. The organization hosts monthly poetry slams and open mics throughout the community. Learn more at www.facebook.com/wooshpoetry.

Poet Jim Hanlen is hosting a William Stafford Birthday event on January 17, 1 pm at the Hugi-Lewis Gallery, 1008 W. Northern Lights Blvd. Bring your favorite William Stafford poem to read or tell us some personal anecdote about him and read one of your own.

Nature and Travel Writing Class, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 7 pm
Anchorage essayist and author Bill Sherwonit will teach a 12-week nature and travel writing class beginning Jan. 21 in the Sierra Club office downtown. Participants in this workshop-style class will explore and refine their own writing styles, with an emphasis on the personal essay form. The class will also read and discuss works by some of America’s finest nature and travel writers, past and present. The cost is $240. To sign up for this Wednesday night class (7 to 9:30 p.m.), or for more information, contact Sherwonit at 245-0283 or akgriz@hotmail.com. Further information about the teacher is also available at www.billsherwonit.alaskawriters.com.

Reading & Craft Talk with Deb Vanasse. Thursday, Jan. 29, 7-8:30pm: Great Harvest Bread, 570 E. Benson Blvd.  "The Self-Made Writer;" As writers, we enjoy the freedom to innovate, in our work and also in the ways we learn and grow. How do we make the most of that freedom? Author of fifteen books, including the recent What Every Author Should Know, Deb Vanasse will discuss creative ways for writers to think about craft, education, and publishing. 
"What Do We Do When the Lifeboats are Burning?" Songs and Stories about Climate, Community and Courage. Libby Roderick and Kathleen Dean Moore in concert and conversation. February 22, 2 pm, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 2824 E. 18th (18th & Sunrise, Airport Heights). $20 suggested donation. 50% of proceeds go to Alaskan climate organizations. Co-sponsored by UU Fellowship, 49 Writers, and UAA Office of Sustainability.

Contributors to Cirque, 6.1 will be reading at Blue.Hollomon Gallery on January 23, 6 pm. There will be literature and door prizes, four artists from the pages of Cirque. And Joe Craig playing music. The next Cirque reading event is February 15, 2 pm, at Fireside Books in Palmer.

UAA Bookstore events in January
  • Imperiled Arctic:Place, Threats, Solutions with Rick Steiner. Wednesday, January 21, 5-7pm
  • Yong Cao discusses the movie Fengshui, Inspirations about Men and Women in the current Chinese Society, Thursday, January 22, 5-7 pm
  • Dr. Lyn Freeman and Dr. Rebecca White present Pain & Neuroplasticity:Why Won’t the Pain Stop? Wednesday, January 28, 5-7pm
All events at the UAA Campus Bookstore. Click here for details.

Crosscurrents: Andy Hall (Denali's Howl) joins David Stevenson (Letters from Chamonix) for an onstage conversation about their processes of creating an engaging narrative in prose. What are the unique affordances and challenges of each genre, and where can writers learn from the strategies employed in other genres? February 5, 7-8:30 pm at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. 
49 Writers Spring Classes: AnchorageRegistration is open. Find full information on the 49 Writers website.
  • New Class: "Ready to Publish" with Deb Vanasse. Saturday, February 7, 9am-4pm. $110 members/$130 non-members. Fee includes the textbook for the class, What Every Author Should Know, by Deb. 
  • ‘What Chu Talk'n 'Bout Willis?” with Bryan Fierro: Saturday, February 21, 9am-4pm. $95 members/$115 non-members.
  • Writing the Three Dimensional Novel or Memoir: The Essential Ingredients to Capture Your Reader and Engage an Audience with Rachel Weaver: Saturday, February 28, 9am-4pm, $95 members/$115 non-members.
  • Joining the Conversation: Engaging with Poets Past with Sandra Kleven: Thursdays, March 5, 12 & 19 and April 2, 9 & 16, 6-8pm. $190 members/$230 non-members.
  • NEW DATE: Historical Research Sources for Writers with Lawrence Weiss: Saturday, 4, 9am-12pm. $50 members/$60 non-members.
  • NEW DATE:How to Publish Your Book on Kindle with Lawrence Weiss: Saturday, April 18, 9am-12pm. $50 members/$60 non-members.
  • Cancelled: The Spiritual in Writing: Across Faith, Genres, and Time with Kathleen Tarr. We’re planning to reschedule this in the fall.
Andromeda Romano-Lax will be offering three online courses this spring, expanding our offerings to writers across Alaska. These classes are asynchronous: that is, there are no scheduled meeting times but there will be weekly assignments and expectations, and everyone will complete the work on their own time. Interaction will utilize text-based formats such as discussion boards.
  • Point of View Intensive with Andromeda Romano-Lax: Sunday, February 8–Saturday, March 7, online, asynchronous. $195 members/$250 non-members.
  • Anatomy of Scene with Andromeda Romano-Lax: Sunday, March 8–Saturday, April 4, online, asynchronous. $195 members/$250 non-members.
  • Revision Intensive with Andromeda Romano-Lax: Sunday, April 5–Saturday, May 30. online, asynchronous. $295 members/$350 non-members.

EVENTS AROUND ALASKAThe Governor’s Awards for the Arts & Humanities. January 29, 7:30pm at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.Details here. Frank Soos, will be honored as the new Alaska State Writer Laureate. Frank’s mission during his term is to promote the work of other Alaska authors. Last year he taught several classes for 49 Writers.
49 Writers classes in Juneau: We are still pinning down dates but can tell you that Rachel Weaver will reprise her class there on March 2-3, and poet Jeremy Pataky will be teaching for us in Juneau at the end of March.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR WRITERSThe Equinox Project, a digital storytelling project sponsored by the UAA Department of Journalism & Communication and the Alaska Humanities Forum will mentor 10 -19 year olds from across Alaska to create a story from one day, any day, in your communities before the Spring Equinox, March 20, 2015. Stories will be about Spring Equinox - about the change from winter to spring, and about change in your lives, your communities, and our planet. On their own, your stories create an important and lasting document of Alaska as seen by young people. Together, your stories will develop a sense of place by merging your storytelling tradition with the digital age.
Participants will work with mentors to finalize stories to share with the public in Fall 2015. Our goal is to have each major region of Alaska represented.

What's in it for you?
  • Mentored by experienced stortellers from your region.
  • Four participants invited to Alaska Press Club in Anchorage in April 2015.
  • Your work featured on a national website and in a First Friday Art Show at the Alaska Humanities Forum in Anchorage in Fall 2015.
Application Deadline: January 24, 2015
Acceptance notifications will be sent February 6, 2015

Rasmuson Foundation Awards
The 2015 Individual Artist Award application is now open. Over the past decade, Alaska artists have received $2.7 million in grants through the Individual Artist Award Program. The Award recognizes the role artists play in bringing inspiration to their communities. Guidelines and application materials are available here. The deadline is March 1.
There are three award types:
  • Project Awards of $7,500 support short-term projects in all disciplines that have a clear benefit to the artist and development of their work (visit page 5 of the application for more information. Disciplines include: choreography, crafts, folk and traditional arts, media arts, music composition, multidiscipline/new genre, literary arts/scriptworks, performance art, presentation/interpretation, and visual arts).
  • Fellowship Awards of $18,000 are available to mid-career and mature artists of rotating disciplines. For 2015, Fellowships will only be awarded in choreography, crafts, folk and traditional arts, literary arts/scriptworks, and performance art.
  • Distinguished Artist Award, a single award of $40,000 (selected through a separate nomination process).

Ooligan Press is proud to announce their seventh Write to Publish conference, to be held Jan. 31, 2015, at the Smith Memorial Student Union located at 1825 SW Broadway, Portland, Oregon. Panel topics include how to write about difficult subjects, straight talk about contracts and rights, and how to create a professional platform. Workshops will feature editing and design tips. Authors will be able to sign up to pitch story ideas to publishers and agents.

Correction: The deadline for this year's UAA/Alaska Dispatch Creative Writing Contest is fast approaching. Go to adn.com/content/creative-writing-contest-rules for complete rules, list of prizes, and submission guidelines and send your best fiction, nonfiction or poetry. Deadline is Feb. 10, 2015, 5:30pm. Winners will be announced in mid-May.

Fairbanks Arts Association is accepting entries for the 2015 Statewide Poetry Contest, Deadline is Mar. 1, 2015, 6pm (hand delivered or postmarked). Hand deliver entries to Fairbanks Arts Association, Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts, Pioneer Park, 2300 Airport Way. This year's judge is Joan Naviyuk Kane, author of The Cormorant Hunter's Wife and Hyperboreal. A 2014 recipient of the American Book Award, and Whiting Writers' Award recipient, she's on the faculty for the graduate creative writing program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Visit www.fairbanksarts.org for more information.

Savor the Rising Words: Poetry Broadside Invitational in honor of National Poetry Month,
Members of 49 Writers and past or present participants in 49 Writers workshops are invited to submit poetry broadsides for display at Great Harvest Bread Co. throughout the month of April 2015 in honor of National Poetry Month. Featured poets will be encouraged to read their works during a public event at the bakery at a date and time to be determined. Broadsides in the exhibit will be available for sale and proceeds will be donated to 49 Writers. Deadline: Friday, March 20, 2015. Click here for details and the entry form.

Cirque was founded to give writers (and artists) of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest more places to publish their work – and as a vehicle to bring the best writing of the region to the world. The next Cirque deadline is March 21st (the equinox). The submission address is cirque.submits@gmail.com.


Pick.Click.Give. to 49 Writers! PFD application time is right around the corner, and that's your opportunity to Pick.Click.Give.! Your Pick.Click.Give donations support 49 Writers programs around the state. We received almost $2,500 in our first year as a Pick.Click.Give organization. You can help us double that in 2015. Plus, Pick.Click.Give.rs have a chance to double their dividends.
To show our appreciation, 49 Writers is offering incentive gifts to donors:
  • $75 donors will receive an original Alaskan art card from Shorefast Editions in Juneau
  • $150 donors will receive an autographed book by an Alaskan author.
Categories: Arts & Culture

Deb: Blog Coordinator, Anyone?

49 Writers - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 6:00am


When Executive Director Morgan Grey asked how long I’d been helping with the blog at 49 Writers, I had to stop and count.
Six years.
This amazing statewide writing center got its start as a blog, and the blog remains one of its signature features. Accessible statewide, it’s a way for all of us to stay connected, to feel part of the writing community no matter where we live.
I’ve had great fun getting to know all of you who’ve written guests posts and submitted Alaska Shorts features and interviews and Spotlight pieces. But it’s time for me to move on to other adventures and let someone else have the fun.
The volunteer blog coordinator makes sure a post runs each weekday on the 49 Writers blog, along with updating the featured author sidebar and promoting the blog on the 49 Writers Facebook page. There’s a nice system in place, with some regular items like the Friday round-up and the monthly featured author.
On average, it takes ten hours a month to keep the blog up to date, a little more if you end up writing an original post here or there to fill in. If you’re reliable, responsible, pay attention to detail, know (or can readily learn) the Blogger platform, and communicate well, 49 Writers needs you!

So come have a turn at keeping us connected via the 49 Writers blog. Fill out a volunteer form today, and in the “tell us about you” spot, mention your interest in the blog coordinator position.
Categories: Arts & Culture

JT Torres: En Trance

49 Writers - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 6:00am
The first ceremony of the week-long Festival de San Lazaro.

We were sitting at a brightly lit café in a neighborhood in Colón. The dirt streets stretched into darkness in each direction. Maybe two houses were lit; the rest faded into the night sky glowing impossibly clear constellations.
This was my first dinner in Cuba. I should have been thinking about the questions I would ask during interviews. I should have been deciding on a schema for how I’d record my observations. Methodology was furthest from my mind, though. Instead, I worried about the food—lettuce washed in contaminated water, meat not thoroughly cooked.
The servers all wore Santa Claus hats and garland necklaces with flickering red and green lights. Christmas is still a relatively new holiday in Cuba, since the revolution that is.
A stray dog limped into the café and rubbed against my leg. I nudged it away from me. It whimpered and limped into what I believe was the kitchen.
Before I could worry too much about the dog sniffing around the food while it was being prepared, Jill, the lead researcher, asked Roberto what we should do if he fell into a trance.
Roberto, a Santero who served as our religious guide, smiled bashfully. He pulled his white scarf up over his face and waved the question away with his other hand. “Es no problema,” he said. Everything he wore was white, except for his green and yellow bracelet, the colors of Oshun, the orisha of rivers and love.
“No, no,” Jill said. “Do you want me to bring you back or let you go?”
The tone of Jill’s voice, and Roberto’s coy response, struck me more than what was actually being discussed. Falling into trance means a spirit has possessed the mind and body. This happens almost exclusively at ceremonies when the drummers have reached a level of performance that can only be called divine. Everyone present dances the same dance, as one step, chanting the same chants, as one voice. The power of unison and musical energy acts like tundra charged with electrons, which attracts lightning from a storm thousands of miles above. The analogy is almost perfect; the spirits are believed to “come down.”
So, Jill was essentially asking Roberto what he wanted us to do if he became possessed, and her question came as normal as if she was asking what he wanted to drink.
In Cuba, everything strange is normal. Magic is mundane. The most unbelievable stories, when told, are heard without the slightest disbelief.
Melba, our translator, said, “We have to bring him back.” Of course, she said this in English so Jill, and not Roberto, would understand. “How will he interpret the ceremony in a trance?”
Of course, I thought to myself, the only concern in the event of a spirit possession is who would narrate the possession.
Worrying about getting sick from the food suddenly felt like a concern from another world.
A shooting star streaked across the sky, leaving a green trail. Those who noticed showed as much amazement as someone in Alaska would show while watching snow fall. Our server, followed by the stray dog, brought our food. The smell of mojo and platanos maduros reminded me of my grandmother. I remembered the stories she used to tell me of Cuba, each one having to do with spirits. One in particular was about a woman who kept an affair from her husband. Eventually, her husband caught her and killed her lover. It didn’t matter, Nana told me. Her lover’s spirit visited her often and they continued their affair. Flesh and ghost. Carnal and spiritual.
During Nana’s last days, my family attributed all of her supernatural stories to her worsening Alzheimer’s. “She’s crazy,” my mother would say with tears in her eyes. “Don’t instigate her,” my sister would admonish me. “You are making her worse by validating her lunacy.”
I was the only one who listened—really listened. I believed everything she said. Her stories were normal to her and while they weren’t necessarily “normal” to me, I fully entered her world. I’d lost that ability. Something happened when she died that I can’t explain. Maybe that’s why I was in Cuba. Maybe I needed to live her stories in order to remember her.
It was after Nana died that I left Florida, lived in state after state, changed job after job. I lost my ability to remain in step. A normal life became a chimera, something I could not define even though I chased it blindly. Or did the idea of a normal life chase me? I don’t know. Traveling to Cuba for the Festival of San Lazáro is anything but a normal life.
After dinner, we went to a house where the first night of the festival was taking place. About sixty people were gathered under a hut. Four drummers, one of them no older than thirteen, beat their hands in a blur against drums that were purported to be hundreds of years old. According to Roberto, the drums were carried here by slaves and repaired using skins only from Africa. I quickly noticed I was the only white person present, and it wasn’t even close. The second lightest skin tone was the color of ancient bronze. I am the color of fear. The stares of everyone present held me in what felt like eternal displacement. That was the closest I’ve come to feeling the existential crisis of diaspora.
Roberto must have sensed my discomfort. He pulled me after him into the room with the altar. Statues of white-skinned San Lazáros in purple cloaks and Caridad del Cobres crowned an arch. Under the arch, sheltered by dried palm leaves, was a statue of San Lazáro with black skin. The arrangement symbolized how Arará survived in Colonial Cuba. Arará, with its traditions rooted in West Africa, was outlawed in Cuba. Practitioners were brutally persecuted. Slaves had the choice of converting to Catholicism or suffering painful deaths. The result was a genius demonstration of creative literacy. Afro-Cubans syncretized symbols and names from Catholic hagiography and applied them to their traditions. Therefore, Saint Lazarus (Catholic), San Lázaro (Arará), Babalú-Ayé (Santería), and Sakpata (Ewe), became different representations of essentially the same figure. Afro-Cubans went on celebrating their religion to the ignorance of European slave-owners, oppressive governments, and dominant cultural norms.
Hanging from the ceiling was a stuffed animal monkey. Roberto informed me this meant that once you become a Santero, you are no longer “someone’s monkey.” You are free.
I stood in awe, breathing in the smell of plantains hanging from another part of the ceiling, the smell of rum poured as an offering on the altar and of tobacco spicing the air. Just as Roberto guided me out of the shrine, a man who couldn’t be older than forty, who had been dancing—dare I use the word?—normally cranked his head back and flung out his arms, knocking a woman next to him down. His body thrust against the ground, blurred like the drummers’ hands. The hard soil carried the vibrations to my own feet. I felt them thunder up my spine. His legs dangled like loose ribbons as he appeared to float.  Float? Then, as if cables attached to his shoulders controlled him, his body was tossed into the crowd, knocking more people down.
Roberto danced. “Míra, él está en trance,” he said, smiling.
I found Jill, who was also dancing. Melba and her husband, Miguel, chanted along with the singers. Only three people didn’t dance: the apparently possessed man and two Santeros who tried holding him still.
As they restrained him a mere six feet from me, I stared at the entranced man’s face, searching for a sign of cognizance. His eyes were blank. I mean this literally, as in there were only the whites of his eyes, and figuratively: there was something apparent that was not warm flesh human. Something beyond human. Drool spilled from his trembling mouth. The statues of San Lázaro had more expression.
Es un muerto,” Roberto said. “Es Palo.”
Palo is a variation of Arará that focuses more on elemental powers and communication with spirits of the dead rather than orishas, divine representations of deities. A muertois one such dead spirit, who can do damage if “mounting” someone, the term used when a muerto possesses the living.
The ceremony’s host, a man dressed in traditional burlap with purple ribbons streaming from his clothing, purified the possessed man by passing aja sticks, a bundle of broomlike bristles, throughout his body. The possessed man was carried into the altar room, and then the host purified the rest of us, to ensure the muertowouldn’t possess anyone else.
The drummers never stopped. The heartbeat music pumped blood into the veins of each person. Jill looked at me with disappointment. I was the only person not dancing. How could I? How could everyone go on as if what just happened was normal?
The dance required each person to place their hands on their head, then hold their hands up in the air. Again I thought of Nana. Her stories. What did it mean to believe? Was listening not enough?
And what about methodology? As if I could think about that now. Was the simple act of recording observations insufficient? “Go to Cuba,” Nana used to say. “See that the stories are real.” Participate. Perform.
“She’s crazy.”
“You are making her worse.”
“I believe in their power to believe.”
My knees felt weak. My stomach twisted upon itself, and I knew it wasn’t the food. I was terrified for the man who fell into a violent trance. I kept looking up at Roberto, whose hazel eyes reflected the light from the fire, assuring me that he was still present, still in control of his own soul. Roberto continued to dance. He looked at me, still smiling, nodded for me to follow his step. I swallowed hard and tried.


JT Torres is a PhD candidate at Washington State University. His upcoming novella will be included in Weathered Edge, alongside Don Rearden and Sarah Birdsall, by VP&D House. He had an essay in Best Food Writing 2014. And, yes, he recently returned from Cubawith Dr. Jill Flanders Crosby. The resulting research will inform a cultural memoir about Arará, Santería, and his own connections with Cuba.
Categories: Arts & Culture

From the Archives: Craig Medred on Noisy Silence

49 Writers - Tue, 01/13/2015 - 6:00am
Silence amplifies every sound. It is an odd thing, but in the silence you hear the crunch each time a ski pole punches through the fresh, untracked whiteness into old and weathered snow beneath.

You hear the hiss of skis on the surface of the buried trail, and a clatter when the skis cross the unseen ice formed by water percolating out of the hidden soils of the muskeg.You hear the crinkle of the cold-stiffened nylon of wind pants, the jingle of the rabies tag on the dog ahead and the tiny whisper of the wind in the tops of the spruce trees.

And when you catch and pass the old dog at last at the end of the long climb into the valley, and make the turn for the long, fast downhill race back home that forces you to stop occasionally now to wait for him to catch up, you hear his heavy breathing as he comes down the trail, panting in the dark. You hear it long before the beam of the headlight probing the night finds the reflective dots of his eyes, and you shatter the night with your words.

“C’mon, Hoss. Atta boy. Let’s go.’’

And some writers think the great white silence of the north silent.

Almost never is the silence silent. Even when you stand perfectly still to put an end to the man-caused disturbances, there are often sounds. You hear the trees when they pop in the cold. You hear the earthquakes coming, as one did just the other day, seconds before they arrive for reasons not clearly understood. You hear the northern lights crackling overhead. And you hear that wind every time the planet breathes.

When it breathes heavily, you sometimes hear the wind too much. It can become a banshee. I remember mountain biker Kathi Merchant describing how its insistent, never-ending scream almost drove her mad along the Bering Sea coast one year on the Iditarod Trail to Nome.

Sometimes out in the great while silence you cannot escape the sound no matter how much you might wish to do so. Once, out in a white winter maelstrom with a friend, I remember contemplating whether wind noise and a snapping parka hood could threaten one with hearing loss. I actually did a little research later and discovered a study of motorcycle riders concluded wind noise can, indeed, do damage.

The sound at speeds of 65 mph or above can get up around 103dB, whichis normally thought of as the noise-generating territory of chainsaws and pneumatic drills. Some authorities on hearing protection recommend earplugs for motorcyclists, even those wearing helmets. The research makes you wonder if ear plugs might not be a good idea at times for mountaineers at times.

But this isn't about protecting anyone’s hearing. This is about how we, as writers, see and hear because good writing isn’t really about words. It is about observations. To quote a writer far, far better than me, good writing is about "the good and the bad, the ecstacy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.”

Students of the game will, of course, recognize that quote as stolen from the late Ernest Hemingway, a man of simple words and powerful observations: "What was his talent anyway? It was a talent all right,but instead of using it, he had traded on it. It was never what he had done, but always what he could do.''

You have to wonder if Hemingway was writing about himself there in "The Snows of Kiliminjaro.'' Good writers are the most insecure egotists you'll ever meet. It’s somewhat inevitable. It takes great confidence to be a good writer in a world where there is no definition for “good.’’ You can use the same exact words to tell a story that inspires as to tell as a story that bores. It is the reason good writers are always on edge.

I was sitting in the kitchen of one of those writers the other day, drinking a beer while she confessed her fears about how the book on which she was working might turn out to be a flop. It won't. I know the raw material fairly well, and it is extremely good. And I know the writer. She sees and hears wonderfully, and that is what this is about.

To write well, it is probably best to forget about writing. Get the words out of your head. Let the movies in. Watch them. Listen to them. Try to grasp the feel and taste. Let the the good and the bad, the ecstacy, the remorse and the sorrow of the characters become yours. And then describe it as best you can.

It’s all really that simple; and that damn difficult.

Craig Medred is the author of "Graveyard of Dreams: Dashed Hopes and Shattered Aspirations Along Alaska's Iditarod Trail." He was the outdoor editor of the Anchorage Daily News for 20 years and now writes for the Alaska Dispatch. This post first ran in 2011.
Categories: Arts & Culture

JUMP 2015 Winter Film Fest

JUMP Society - Thu, 01/08/2015 - 12:10pm
Thursday, Feb 12 · 7 pm Friday, Feb 13 · 7 pm & 9 pm Saturday, Feb 14 · 7 pm & 9 pm Gold Town Nickelodeon Friday, Feb 27 · 7 pm UAS Egan Room The JUMP Society Film Festival features locally made short films. Admission is free and tickets will be available (soon) […]
Categories: Arts & Culture

Superintendent speaks out about student privacy rights

Juneau School District Announcements - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 1:40pm

Supe's On  - Welcome to the Superintendent's Blog

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Categories: Arts & Culture

School District Report on Investigation into Hazing

Juneau School District Announcements - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 3:35pm

The Juneau School District has concluded our investigation into allegations that on or about May 30-31 of this year a group of incoming senior boys hazed/initiated a group of incoming freshmen boys by paddling them multiple times.

These events were first brought to our attention in early June. At that time the district began an initial investigation, which, due to an active police investigation and summer vacation, was put on hold. When we were informed that the police had concluded their investigation we resumed our efforts.

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Categories: Arts & Culture

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