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Collaborative Reflections & Book News By and About Alaskan AuthorsAndromeda Romano-Laxhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/16988887975016816552noreply@blogger.comBlogger1996125
Updated: 3 hours 3 min ago

From the Archives: Deb Vanasse on That Glint of Light

Mon, 08/31/2015 - 10:54am

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov
Description has a bad rap: bland, boring, basic. But it's also true that description is often overdone, or done badly. 
In Thanks, But This Isn’t for Us, literary agent Jessica Page Morrell explains that good description should get readers out of their worlds by anchoring them in the setting and creating mood. Good description also reveals character and develops emotions. It establishes credibility for future events, and it intensifies scenes, slowing the pace and causing the reader to linger. In short, it’s primarily through description that the abstract is made understandable and that readers are able to suspend disbelief. 
Good description is beautiful, and as Mark Doty says, “Beauty is simply accuracy, to come as close as we can to what seems to be real.”
An obvious path to good description is attentiveness, which is broader than you might think. Sensory images are lovely. We draw meaning from what we see and intimacy from what we taste and touch. Sounds focus our attention, while smells affect the limbic, primitive part of our brains. 
From sensory images, it’s a short hop to show, don’t tell, that old writer’s adage. It’s among the first lessons writers learn: Telling reads like synopsis, while showing reads like art. 
But it’s also possible to get way too much of a good thing, especially if you think showing happens only through sensory images. In fact, if taken too much to heart, show, don’t tell is bad advice. Study the writers you love, and you’ll find that part of showing is telling: what characters think, how they feel, what it all means.
Consider this passage from one of my favorite authors, Seth Kantner, in his novel Ordinary Wolves:
Dawna stood still.  The morning night and streetlight shared shadows on her face, glinting her eyes, laying dusk caves under her chin.  Frost jeweled the black silk of her hair.  She stood with her knees close, slightly bent in the cold, her stiff hard tennis shoes pressed together.  A smile lifted the top line of her lip, folding it back provocatively.  Behind her the school waited, for me a terribly cold heated place, for Dawna a pasture of popularity.  My chest was full of air and empty.  I loved her.  I wanted to hold her.  The magazines and TV didn’t know; beauty was Eskimo and brown and named Dawna Wolfglove.
We see the shared shadows, the glint in her eyes, her frost-jeweled hair. We see how Dawna stands, how she smiles. But it’s the oblique parts that set this description apart: the dusk caves lain under her chin, the school a cold heated place, the chest full of air and empty. And the telling is crucial : I loved her.  I wanted to hold her.  The magazines and TV didn’t know; beauty was Eskimo and brown and named Dawna Wolfglove.
“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.” If description were only a matter of precise, camera-like attentiveness, we wouldn’t have this beautiful line from George Eliot’s Middlemarch.
“Description is made both more moving and more exact when it is acknowledged that it is invariably INCOMPLETE,” Doty says, invoking capital letters as he points out that not everything can be described, or needs to be. “The choice of what to evoke, to make any scene seem REAL to the reader is a crucial one,” he adds. A few elements to ground the reader, and a few to evoke surprise - these, Doty says, will rescue a scene from the generic – from the bland, boring, and basic. 
Try This: Freewrite a scene showing yourself in your childhood home, revealing specific emotions tied to specific times and/or corners within the place. The scene may be fiction or fact. Do plenty of showing, but don't be afraid to strategically tell, acknowledging what can't be said or evoking surprise.
Check This Out: Poet Mark Doty ponders The Art of Description in a slim volume by the same name from Graywolf Press. The book reads like a lot like a poem, packed with beauty and distilled thoughts and lyrical lines from the masters.


Categories: Arts & Culture

Weekly Roundup of Writing Opportunities for August 28

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 5:00am
Vacation is over, most visitors have left and we have our city back to ourselves. Sitting in my backyard overlooking Chester Creek, every morning I see more leaves turned yellow. While it’s August still, autumn is around the corner and time for us to look for inspiring events. Here are some exciting possibilities to consider. 
Our autumn schedule of classes is now live! Are you interested in writing thrillers? Lyrical language? Spiritual writing? How about writing about love? Maintaining your social media network? How about just needing to jumpstart your writing? Want to work on reflection in personal essays or maybe the use of scene in fiction and nonfiction? There are many different classes available online and in Anchorage, Juneau, and Haines. Check it out and register at the 49 Writers website. 49 Writers is seeking two "blitz team" volunteers, one to hang fliers in six Eagle River locations and one to hang fliers in five Spenard locations. Fliers arrive by mail to be posted two to three weeks in advance of our signature events. Willing to help? Email 49writers (at) gmail.com.
Alaska Book Week will soon be upon us scheduled for Oct. 3 -11. We would like to invite everyone to sign up by clicking the participation form on the right side of the website at www.alaskabookweek.comOnce you submit your form, the coordinator will be in contact with you soon. This year, we are making more of an effort to create lists of Alaskan authors and possible venues so that we can expand on our yearly celebration--and provide more representation for authors and their wonderful books!We would also like to remind Alaska Book Week participants that we are incorporating a YouTube campaign into our yearly celebration.
For questions or comments, please contact the Alaska Book Week coordinator at akbookweek@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing from you soon!
49 Writers Volunteer Seta
EVENTS IN ANCHORAGE
On Tuesday, September 8 at 7pm, Gary Geddes and Ann Eriksson will be be part of a Crosscurrents event at the Anchorage Museum - The Engaged Muse: Politics, Poetry and Narrative - What do these strange bedfellows have in common? Isn’t politics, like sex, verboten at the dinner table or in polite society? If you think of Canadians as passive or “nice,” Ann Eriksson and Gary Geddes are a couple of writers who don’t hesitate to write about social and political issues, without letting content overwhelm their art and without becoming ideologues or partisans. Join these writers and moderator Jeremy Pataky for this live, on-stage discussion.
Meet authorZoe Ferraris presented via teleconference on Thursday, September 17th, 7:00pmat the Innovation Lab in the Lousasac Library.Zoë Ferraris moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the first Gulf War. She lived in a conservative Muslim community with her then-husband and his family, a group of Saudi- Palestinians. Her debut novel, Finding Nouf won the LA Times Book Award. That novel and its follow-ups, City of Veils and Kingdom of Strangers, have been international bestsellers, publishing in over forty countries. A new children’s book, The Hunt for the Pyxis, will be published this summer. It is the first of a trilogy for mid-grade readers.For more information contact Stacia at mcgourtysa@muni.org  Event address: Z.J. Loussac Public Library
3600 Denali Street Anchorage, AK 99503
Nature and Travel Writing ClassAnchorage essayist and author Bill Sherwonit will teach a 12-week nature and travel writing class beginning Sept. 16, 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. 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.
Anchorage Museum has posted their Schedule of Programs for July and August. Visit www.anchoragemuseum.org/media for the full list of events. Below are some of the highlights. To confirm details and dates, call the Marketing and Public Relations Department at (907) 929-9227.
Promote your book at the National Federation of Press Women Annual Conference, September 10 – 12 at the Captain Cook Hotel Anchorage. Alaska Professional Communicators will provide at no charge an opportunity for authors to sign and sell their books. Attendees, conference speakers, and APC members can sign up for a place at the authors' tables on both Fri., Sept. 11, 3:45 - 4:30 PM and Sat., Sept. 12, 4:00 - 4:30 PM. Contact Lizzie Newell at lizzie-n@gci.net to let her know the name of your book(s). We will provide attendees a list of participating authors and their books.
Poetry Parley will be on hiatus for July and August. Starting September 20th at Hugi-Lewis Studio, Parley will kick off a new season with readings from 10 (plus) local poets. There will be no marquee poet. Send a note to poetryparley@gmail.com if you want to be considered. We will hold a few slots for new readers.
Events at the UAA Bookstore Tuesday, September 1, from 5:00pm-7:00pm Addressing Local Needs amid Global Attention to the Changing Arctic  Guest speakers Henry Huntington, Prof. Raymond Anthony and Jennifer Schmidt share their views on emerging scientific, climate change, and indigenous issues in the Arctic. The relationship between local and global interests will be highlighted.  Topics include: Indigenous Science: Exchange for Local Observations and Knowledge of the Arctic (ELOKA), Food Security and Climate Ethics, Human Activities and Ecosystems in the Arctic TUNDRA.
Friday, September 4, from 4:00pm-6:00pmIoana Lobontiu presents An Experiment in Nostalgia. She explores in writing and photography her return to Romania, her childhood memories and the overall theme “reality in relation to nostalgia”.  Refreshments will be served. 
Tuesday, September 8 from 5:00pm-7:00pm Guest speaker Larry Ilarion Merculieff , who has been a wisdom keeper and passionate advocate for indigenous rights, will present Moving into the 5thWorld, Indigenous Elder teachings concerning movement into the 5th World, also known as the 5th Hoop.Larry Ilarion Merculieff is an Aleut, raised in a traditional way.  He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Buffet Finalist Award for Indigenous Leadership, the Environmental Excellence Award for lifetime achievement from the Alaska Forum on the Environment, Rasmuson Foundation award for Creative Non-Fiction, and the Alaska Native Writers on the Environment Award.  He is co-author of Stop Talking: Indigenous Ways of Teaching and Learning, published by UAA and APU in 2008.
Wednesday, September 9, from 5:00pm-7:00pm Prof. Robert Madigan presents How Memory Works—and How to Make It Work for You. Robert Madigan is UAA Professor Emeritus of Psychology. His new book, How Memory Works--and How to Make I Work for You provides skills and techniques for improving memory function. 
Friday, September 11, from 4:00pm-6:00pm Lt Col. Ret. Linda Dunegan, author of the book The Price of Whistleblowingpresents Four Years of My Life. At this event, Linda Dunegan discusses her life, dedication to the Alaska Air National Guard, and the challenges she faces in her new career.
Monday, September 14, from 5:00pm-7:00pm Poets John Morgan and Tom Sexton present Readings from their New Books. John Morgan’s new book Archives of the Air and Tom Sexton’s collection A Ladder of Cranes are featured at this special event.   Monday, September 14, from 7:30pm-9:00pm at UAA/APU Consortium Library, room 307 Playwright Anne Hanley and Poet Stephen Bolen will discuss The Winter Bear,a play that tells the story of an Alaska Native teenager who rises above the traumas of his past to become a leader with the help of Sidney Huntington, a Koyukon elder. The Winter Bear Project has traveled to 31 communities throughout Alaska. For this event, at 7:00pm there is free parking in the Library Lot, Library NE Lot, and East Campus Central Lot.)
Thursday, September 17 from 5:00pm-7:00pm at UAA/APU Consortium Library, room 302ATed Galen Carpenter:  U.S. Foreign PolicyTed Galen Carpenter is Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. His recent books are America's Coming War with China: A Collision Course over Taiwan and The Korean Conundrum.  The Cato Institute is known as libertarian think tank that advocates for a U.S.  non-interventionist foreign policy.  This event is sponsored with the Alaska World Affairs Council.  Room cap is 30.For this event, there is free parking in the Library Lot, Library NE Lot, East Garage, South Lot.
Monday, September 21 from 1:00pm-3:00pm at UAA/APU Consortium Library, room 307Instagram and Social Media with Julia O’MalleyCome and learn the tricks of Instagram with award winning journalist and social media expert Julia O’Malley.  Julia O’Malley currently serves as the UAA 21st Atwood Chair of Journalism and is widely known for her column in the Anchorage Daily News from 2009 to 2014.. Over the years her work has appeared in Huffington Post, The Guardian, National Geographic, Al Jazeera America, Eater, the Oregonian and PBS.org. Julia O’Malley is a recipient of the Berger Award, from Columbia Journalism School, the Darrell Sifford Memorial Prize from Missouri School of Journalism, and won first place for general commentary from the Society of Features Journalists.  For this event, there is free parking in the Library Lot, Library NE Lot, East Garage, South Lot.
All UAA Campus Bookstore events are informal, free and open to the public. There is free parking for bookstore events in the South Lot, West Campus Central Lot (behind Rasmuson Hall), Sports Lot and Sports NW Lot.Note: UAA Campus Bookstore podcasts are posted in iTunes or iTunes U –just search UAA or UAA Campus Bookstore.    
Local Library Events
Book Signings
EVENTS AROUND ALASKASOUTHCENTRAL, MAT-SU, KENAI PENINSULAOn Thursday, September 10, Gary Geddes and Ann Erikssonwill be reading at 7pm at the Kachemak Bay Campus of the Kenai Peninsula College. 
SOUTHEASTThis September, 49 Writers and Alaska Quarterly Review are co-sponsoring a tour that will combine live literary events in the Southeast Alaska communities of Haines and Juneau with distance programming, in pursuit of 49 Writers’ goal to serve writers across the state. These events are supported in part by a grant by the National Endowment of the Arts.
The tour will begin in Haines with a free public readingby Melinda Moustakis accompanied by local writers and musicians on the evening of September 18, 6pm, at Haines Public Library. Moustakis will teach two workshops on September 18 and 20; registration information available on the 49 Writers website at http://www.49writingcenter.org/. On September 19 at 1pm, there will be a statewide discussion of Moustakis’s book Bear Down, Bear North on the statewide Online With Libraries (OWL) system and locally at the Haines Public Library. 
In Juneau, Moustakis will teach two workshops on September 22 and 23; registration information available on the 49 Writers website at http://www.49writingcenter.org/. She will end her stay in Alaska with a CrossCurrents event on September 24 at 6:30pm at the Juneau Downtown Library. The event is entitled “Shaped by the North” and will feature writers Moustakis, Ernestine Hayes, Brendan Jones, and  photographer Ben Huff discussing how the landscape has shaped them as artists and shaped their work.
INTERIOR
OPPORTUNITIES FOR WRITERSCONFERENCES, AWARDS, RETREATS & RESIDENCIES
The Alaska Literary Awards were established in 2014 by the Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation, through a generous gift from Peggy Shumaker and Joe Usibelli, to recognize and support writers of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, playwriting, screenwriting, and mixed genres.  Any Alaska writer over the age of 18 who is not a full-time student is eligible to apply. Quality of the work submitted is the primary consideration in determining who receives the awards. A select number of $5,000 awards will be awarded this year. For more information, and to apply, go to :http://bit.ly/2015AKLitAwards. The deadline for entries is August 31st, 2015 at 9:59 AKDT.
The Connie Boochever Artist Fellowship awards recognize and support Alaska emerging artists of exceptional talent. In the 2015 cycle, a select number of $2,500 fellowships will be awarded to individual artists working in visual art, including film, digital and media arts. For more information, and to apply, go to: http://bit.ly/2015BoocheverFellows. The deadline for entries is August 31st, 2015 at 9:59 AKDT.
The 2016 Governor's Awards ceremony will be held in Juneau on Thursday, January 28th. We will also continue the tradition of scheduling CHAMP Day (Culture, Humanities, Arts & Museums Partners), a legislative fly-in day, on Wednesday, January 27th. Please start brainstorming ideas for nominees and consider submitting a nomination! The nomination process will open in August. This year's Arts categories will be: Margaret Nick Cooke Award for Alaska Native Arts & Languages, Business Leadership, Arts Advocacy and Individual Artist. A list of previous awardees can be found at https://education.alaska.gov/aksca/pdf/Past_Recipients_GAAH.pdf.
2016 Statewide Arts and Culture Conference will take place in Anchorage, Thursday, April 28th through Saturday, April 30th. We are in the process of exploring compelling themes, topics and national speakers for the convening. Like our last conference, we will be engaging Alaskan artists in the planning and production of the event. Be on the lookout for the opportunity to apply to be a conference Partner Artist, which will open in the fall. If you have any ideas to share with us, please send them our way by emailing aksca.info@alaska.gov
The Anchorage Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) is conducting a survey to inform its Live. Work. Play. Initiative, which seeks to make Anchorage the number one city in America to live work and play by 2025. If you live in Anchorage and care about the arts, please take a moment to add your voice to this survey-it's just two VERY short questions! https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LiveWorkPlayAnchorage
Poetry Out Loud registration deadline for schools is October 15, 2015Click here to hear from the 2015 National Poetry Out Loud Champion from Alaska, Maeva Ordaz. 
Alaska Writers Guild & SCBWI Annual Writer’s Conference, September 19-20, Anchorage. Early registration starts May 2015. www.AlaskaWritersGuild.com
13 Chairs Literary Journal, a new literary journal publishing short stories and poetry from new and emerging authors, seeks submissions and volunteers. They are currently composing their flagship issue, straight out of JBER, AK. To learn more, and to submit, email info@13chairs.com or visit 13chairs.com.
University of Alaska Press announces the release of Connecting Alaskans Telecommunications in Alaska from Telegraph to Broadband by Heather E. Hudson. The book will be available in September 2015. Cloth Price is $60.00 and it is also available in ebook.
CIRQUE 7.1 Submission deadline: September 21, 2015Publication date: December 21, 2015  CIRQUE is an independent literary journal staffed by volunteers, supported by readers and writers, and publishing in print and online. Cirque publishes the work of writers and artists from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.  We are dedicated to building a larger reading audience for Cirque's contributors bringing their work to the world in a publication of the highest quality.  We publish work in all genres and look forward to reviewing your submissions.  For submission guidelines see www.cirquejournal.comDonations: Please make donations at www.paypal.comto this email address, cirquejournal@gmail.com, or send a check to Sandra Kleven or Michael Burwell (editors) at CIRQUE, 3978 DEFIANCE STREET, ANCHORAGE, AK 99504Incentives: Donate $100 or more and you will be considered a sponsor.  Your name will be listed in the issue and we will send you an 8 x 10 art print from one of Cirque's fine artists. Donate $50 and we will send an art print (8 x 10).  Donate an amount below $50 and we will send a signed "art" postcard with our thanks.  We ask for donations by email, twice yearly.  Your amazing response has made it easy to produce the journal with limited requests for funds. Big prize:Artist, Jo Going, of Homer, Alaska, has donated an original water color to be given to the first person to contribute $1000 to Cirque.  See details on page 4 of the new issue at www.cirquejournal.comSubscriptions:  $40 per year.  Go to www.cirquejournal.comto subscribe.  Or send an email to cirquejournal@gmail.com and we'll work out payment.
The Alaska Quarterly Reviewwill publish Sparks: A Conversation in Poems and Paintings in its entirety in the May 2016 issue. You can see, in order, each of Peggy Shumaker's poems and each of Kesler Woodward's paintings from their year-long collaboration.  
As we all know, back-to-school time is getting close. This also means the issue of author signing is raised at the schools. Barnes & Noble has scheduled school book fairs and fundraising events and is in demand for local children’s book author presenters. If you are interested in participating in these events, please contact Renee Millner, Community Business Development Manager at 907-279-7323 or email her at crm2784@bn.com
Have news or events you'd like to see listed here? Email details to 49roundup (at) gmail.com. Your message must be received by noon on the Thursday before the roundup is scheduled to run. Unless your event falls in the "Opportunities" category, it should occur no more than 30 days from when we receive your email.
Categories: Arts & Culture

From the Archives: Deb Vanasse on What Words Can Express

Thu, 08/27/2015 - 6:17am

“Find the key emotion; this may be all you need know to find your short story.” F. Scott Fitzgerald
Emotion is among the few things we don’t have to be taught, assuming that all the normal synapses are firing. No one has to tell us how to be sad or angry or cart-wheel happy. So when we speak of emotional resonance, or of the emotional core of our work, or of the emotional depth of our characters, we’re talking about what comes naturally, right?
Not exactly. It is true what Ron Carlson says, that “The literary story deals with the complicated human heart…people bearing up in the crucible of our days.”  It’s also true that feelings, translated as empathy, are what make our writing memorable and meaningful. But if the transfer of feelings to words were as instinctive as breathing, we wouldn’t need literature. And you can’t simply season your writing with emotion, like pepper in a pot. In the wrong hands, emotion comes off as sappy or melodramatic, or as toying with readers. 
“I was full of a tense excitement as well as regret,” says Del in Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women, when her father announces he'll have to kill the family’s wayward dog. That won’t do, you say. She’s telling, not showing. Yes, but Munro has earned the right to announce these feelings, through the careful peeling back of who her characters are and the trouble they’ve gotten into.  And in a scene where Del’s brother prays that their dad won’t go through with the shooting, Munro proves she can show emotion, not just tell it: “With the making of his prayer his face went through several desperate, private grimaces, each of which seemed to me a reproach and an exposure, hard to look at as skinned flesh.”
You have to go deep to convey real emotion, boring to bedrock and sometimes beyond. You can’t be lazy or complacent with it. Consider this passage, also from Munro’s novel, in which Del, desperate to not have to view the body of her deceased uncle, bites her mentally challenged cousin, only to be forgiven by her hovering relatives:
“Being forgiven creates a peculiar shame. I felt hot, and not just from the blanket. I felt held close, stifled, as if it was not air I had to move and talk through in this world but something thick as cotton. This shame was physical, but went far beyond sexual shame, my former shame of nakedness; now it was as if not the naked body but all the organs inside it – stomach, heart, lungs, liver – were laid bare and helpless. The nearest thing to this that I had ever known before was the feeling I got when I was tickled beyond endurance – horrible, voluptuous feeling of exposure, of impotence, self-betrayal. And shame went spreading out from me all through the house, covered everybody, even Mary Agnes, even Uncle Craig in his present disposable, vacated condition. To be made of flesh was humiliation.  I was caught in a vision which was, in a way, the very opposite of the mystic’s incommunicable vision of order and light; a vision, also incommunicable, of confusion and obscenity – of helplessness, which was revealed as the most obscene thing there could be.”
Munro starts with a physical sensation associated with shame: “I felt hot.” Avoiding cliché, she expands on it:  “I felt held close, stifled, as if it was not air I had to move through but something thick as cotton.”  She pushes deeper: “This shame was physical, but went far beyond sexual shame,” connecting Del’s feeling with backstory, “my former shame of nakedness,” and goes on to evoke a unique and horrifying extension - organs laid out, bare and helpless. She doesn’t leave us there, shocked, but reels back with a comparison we can all relate to, being “tickled beyond endurance.” A lesser writer might have left it there, but Munro probes deeper, describing the “horrible, voluptuous feeling of exposure, of impotence, self-betrayal.” From emotion comes revelation: “To be made of flesh was humiliation.” To know we can’t escape shame is an anti-vision of confusion and obscenity – one more way for us to feel what Del feels.
Not every emotion must be mined this fully; if it were, the reader – not to mention the writer – would soon grow weary. Like all decisions we writers make, the depth with which an emotion is explored has everything to do with the characters and the spine of the narrative, as well as the style of the writer. In Swamplandia, Karen Russell shows what her main character Ava feels as she tries to deny to her brother that she’s like their sister Ossie, who claims to channel the dead:
“But in fact I was like Ossie, in this one regard: I was consumed by a helpless, often furious love for a ghost. Every rock on the island, every swaying tree branch or dirty dish in our house was like a word in a sentence that I could read about my mother. All objects and events on our island, every single thing that you could see with your eyes, were like clues I could use to reinvent her: would our mom love this thing, would she hate it? For a second I luxuriated in a real hatred of my brother.”
With simple adjectives and verbs, Russell conveys the paradox inherent in most strong emotions: “helpless, often furious love” and “luxuriated in real hatred.” Like all good metaphors, hers have a visual effect, implying action as she heightens our understanding of Ava’s love: ordinary household items are each “like a word in a sentence I could read about my mother,” and “everything you could see with your eyes” contains “clues I could use to reinvent her.”
Emotional depth is of sufficient interest among writers for Ann Hood to have written an entire book about it:  Creating Character Emotions.  In it, she identifies mistakes writers make with regard to emotion, warning especially of vagueness and ambiguity. “Instead of considering the plot of the story and the character’s own emotional place, the writer relies on a nonspecific emotion and hopes the reader fills in the blanks,” she says, noting that ambiguity is often the result of a writer not trusting enough in her own emotional experiences and therefore not being willing to explore them.
To get it right, Hood suggests making an emotional timeline, first for yourself and then for your characters. Another idea is to use props to suggest emotion, or to show a character trying to hide her feelings. Interior monologue can sometimes be used to great emotional effect, as can an unpredictable emotional response, like Uncle Benny in Munro’s novel, who starts to laugh when confronted with the truth about his mail order bride, who beat her child:  “Uncle Benny chuckled miserably…Once Uncle Benny had started chuckling he couldn’t stop, it was like hiccups.” This is the complicated human heart: paradoxical, challenged, and real.
Try This: From Poets and Writers newsletter “The Time is Now” comes this exercise: The term "bewildered" can mean many things--to be perplexed, confused, or mystified; to have lost one's bearings; to be turned around or disoriented; to be baffled or bamboozled, befogged or befuddled. Write about an experience that left you bewildered--focusing not so much on what brought you to that moment but what it felt like once you arrived there. Try to put the feeling into words without using any of  the dictionary's many definitions of the word. 
Check This Out: In Creating Character Emotions, Ann Hood devotes a chapter to each of thirty-six different emotions, offering bad and good examples for each, along with exercises. While her approach is a little too clunky for my taste, it doesn’t hurt to maintain an awareness of all these emotions, and good examples of anything literary are always a plus. 
Categories: Arts & Culture

Blessed Unrest - A guest post by Erin Hollowell

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 6:00am
There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time. This expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.
No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.

~ Martha Graham

I don't know what I could possibly add to this quote other than to attest to its truth. If you think that becoming a writer will make you happy – If you think that a day will come that you will feel satisfied and complete – If you think that there is a day when at last you will be the writer you've always imagined, I tell you that day will never come. But if you think that by choosing to devote yourself to becoming a better writer, to sharing your work, and to helping other writers, you will grow beyond whatever you can imagine – that I can promise. I'm so glad that 49 Writers can be part of the journey.
Categories: Arts & Culture

From The Archives: Deb Vanasse on Transcendence

Mon, 08/24/2015 - 5:17am

“I’m in love,” says Reagan Arthur, editor of the eponymous imprint at Little Brown Books. “I can’t wait to see what happens next.”
That’s how Arthur describes her response to exceptional books. Editors, agents, and readers often speak of books this way, with passion. Can this sort of book love be pinned down, described, analyzed? 
Consider Anne Lamott’s enthusiastic endorsement of Kathleen Winter’s debut novel Anabel. “It reads with such caring,” Lamott says. “It’s such a gift.”  How we got here, who we are, what we do now, how we awaken if in fact we do – the novel delves into all of these questions, Lamott says. 
Transcendence. That’s what literary agent Noah Lukeman calls a book that addresses such questions.  Of course, not everyone agrees on what transcendence means or where it applies. Winter’s book, for instance, garnered no starred reviews; in fact, a Publishers Weekly review calls its delivery “heavy-handed,” and its Amazon ranking is nothing to get excited about. Still, who wouldn’t be thrilled if even one writer with the chops of Lamott were to rave about the transcendence of our work, saying in essence that the world needs this book, Amazon rankings be damned.
Timing is everything when it comes to transcendence - not the timing of the project, though it is possible that what’s unappreciated in one era may transcend to another - but the writer’s timing in weighing the value of her work. Too much early concern about transcendence can kill a project before it ever gets off the ground. Too much early conviction regarding its importance breeds grandiosity, leading writers to invest large chunks of time into stuff no one wants to read, at which point the writers typically throw their hands in the air and complain that the world simply doesn’t get their particular manifestation of genius.
In The Plot Thickens, Lukeman warns that there are no formulas for genuine transcendence, but he does point to some of its common elements. Though not vague, transcendent works are open to interpretation. “The more levels, the more there is to work with,” Lukeman says. Transcendent writing also features multidimensional characters and circumstances. And transcendent work feels timeless. Regardless of era, readers will deeply identify with it. In reading, they’ll feel they’ve learned something, especially about themselves.  
“Works that leave lasting impressions are usually greater than the sum of their parts,” Lukeman says. “The greatness lies not in any individual character, or setting, or story twist, but in the coming together of these elements.” The ideal work, he adds, takes the audience through four stages, from curiosity to interest to need and, in rare instances, to action.
Though aiming for transcendence can be counterproductive, we can at least shoot for an awareness of what we mean to achieve. Lukeman suggests checking in with ourselves, at the deepest level, to discover what prompts us to write. If we write from defensiveness or insecurity, we’ll likely come off as aggressive. If we write out of pride, to prove how smart we are, our work becomes a showcase for high language and affected speech.  If at the root of our writing there’s fear, we wind up overstating. Revenge, control, deception – there are any number of poor motives that will show through in our work.  
“It is your job to clear the slate, to create a sacred space in your mind just for the writing, free from all your neuroses as a person. The writing must be about the art as much as possible,” Lukeman says. “No matter what your goal or motivation, you should strive to write from a place of truth and love.”  
When it comes to transcendence, try not to try too hard. Pushing for profundity, writing with an agenda, preaching a moral (or two or three or ten): don’t be fooled by any of these self-important pursuits. Humility, vulnerability – these are among the most transcendent perspectives in writing, because they open a work to its emotional core.
Try This: Lukeman suggests asking yourself and five other readers these questions: Does my work inspire curiosity, interest, need, or action? Why or why not? On a scale of 1 to 10, how inspirational is it in each of these areas? Where it’s lacking, how can it change?
Check This Out: In The Plot Thickens, literary agent Noah Lukeman has a gift for cutting to the chase without coming off as harsh or judgmental. He covers eight aspects of narrative, that deserve our attention, including transcendence. In addition to straightforward explanations, he includes practical exercises.  
Deb's posts are archived at www.selfmadewriter.blogspot.com.
Categories: Arts & Culture

Weekly Roundup of Writing Opportunities for August 21

Fri, 08/21/2015 - 5:00am
Our autumn schedule of classes is now live! Are you interested in writing thrillers? Lyrical language? Spiritual writing? How about writing about love? Maintaining your social media network? How about just needing to jumpstart your writing? Want to work on reflection in personal essays or maybe the use of scene in fiction and nonfiction? There are many different classes available online and in Anchorage, Juneau, and Haines. Check it out and register at the 49 Writers website

49 Writers is seeking two "blitz team" volunteers, one to hang fliers in six Eagle River locations and one to hang fliers in five Spenard locations. Fliers arrive by mail to be posted two to three weeks in advance of our signature events. Willing to help? Email 49writers (at) gmail.com.
Woosh Kinaadeiyí, a local nonprofit organization committed to diversity, inclusive community, and empowering voice, will host a BBQ and a poetry slam on Friday, August 21st at Sandy Beach. The event will be held from 5:00-9:00pm. An open mic and poetry slam will commence at 6:30pm. Participants can sign up to read at 6pm. Poets and performers of all ages and abilities are welcome.  Attendees are encouraged to bring food to share. The event is free and open to the public
Alaska Book Week will soon be upon us scheduled for Oct. 3 -11. We would like to invite everyone to sign up by clicking the participation form on the right side of the website at www.alaskabookweek.comOnce you submit your form, the coordinator will be in contact with you soon. This year, we are making more of an effort to create lists of Alaskan authors and possible venues so that we can expand on our yearly celebration--and provide more representation for authors and their wonderful books!We would also like to remind Alaska Book Week participants that we are incorporating a YouTube campaign into our yearly celebration.
For questions or comments, please contact the Alaska Book Week coordinator at akbookweek@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing from you soon!
49 Writers Volunteer Seta
EVENTS IN ANCHORAGE
On Tuesday, September 8 at 7pm, Gary Geddes and Ann Eriksson will be be part of a Crosscurrents event at the Anchorage Museum - The Engaged Muse: Politics, Poetry and Narrative - What do these strange bedfellows have in common? Isn’t politics, like sex, verboten at the dinner table or in polite society? If you think of Canadians as passive or “nice,” Ann Eriksson and Gary Geddes are a couple of writers who don’t hesitate to write about social and political issues, without letting content overwhelm their art and without becoming ideologues or partisans. Join these writers and moderator Jeremy Pataky for this live, on-stage discussion.

Meet authorZoe Ferraris presented via teleconference on Thursday, September 17th, 7:00pmat the Innovation Lab in the Lousasac Library.Zoë Ferraris moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the first Gulf War. She lived in a conservative Muslim community with her then-husband and his family, a group of Saudi- Palestinians. Her debut novel, Finding Nouf won the LA Times Book Award. That novel and its follow-ups, City of Veils and Kingdom of Strangers, have been international bestsellers, publishing in over forty countries. A new children’s book, The Hunt for the Pyxis, will be published this summer. It is the first of a trilogy for mid-grade readers.For more information contact Stacia at mcgourtysa@muni.org  Event address: Z.J. Loussac Public Library
3600 Denali Street Anchorage, AK 99503
Nature and Travel Writing ClassAnchorage essayist and author Bill Sherwonit will teach a 12-week nature and travel writing class beginning Sept. 16, 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. 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.
Anchorage Museum has posted their Schedule of Programs for July and August. Visit www.anchoragemuseum.org/media for the full list of events. Below are some of the highlights. To confirm details and dates, call the Marketing and Public Relations Department at (907) 929-9227.
Promote your book at the National Federation of Press Women Annual Conference, September 10 – 12 at the Captain Cook Hotel Anchorage. Alaska Professional Communicators will provide at no charge an opportunity for authors to sign and sell their books. Attendees, conference speakers, and APC members can sign up for a place at the authors' tables on both Fri., Sept. 11, 3:45 - 4:30 PM and Sat., Sept. 12, 4:00 - 4:30 PM. Contact Lizzie Newell at lizzie-n@gci.net to let her know the name of your book(s). We will provide attendees a list of participating authors and their books.
Poetry Parley will be on hiatus for July and August. Starting September 20th at Hugi-Lewis Studio, Parley will kick off a new season with readings from 10 (plus) local poets. There will be no marquee poet. Send a note to poetryparley@gmail.com  if you want to be considered. We will hold a few slots for new readers.
Events at the UAA Bookstore
Local Library Events
Book Signings

EVENTS AROUND ALASKASOUTHCENTRAL, MAT-SU, KENAI PENINSULA
On Thursday, September 10, Gary Geddes and Ann Eriksson will be reading at 7pm at the Kachemak Bay Campus of the Kenai Peninsula College. 

SOUTHEAST
This September, 49 Writers and Alaska Quarterly Review are co-sponsoring a tour that will combine live literary events in the Southeast Alaska communities of Haines and Juneau with distance programming, in pursuit of 49 Writers’ goal to serve writers across the state. These events are supported in part by a grant by the National Endowment of the Arts.

The tour will begin in Haines with a free public reading by Melinda Moustakis accompanied by local writers and musicians on the evening of September 18, 6pm, at Haines Public Library. Moustakis will teach two workshops on September 18 and 20; registration information available on the 49 Writers website at http://www.49writingcenter.org/. On September 19 at 1pm, there will be a statewide discussion of Moustakis’s book Bear Down, Bear North on the statewide Online With Libraries (OWL) system and locally at the Haines Public Library. 


In Juneau, Moustakis will teach two workshops on September 22 and 23; registration information available on the 49 Writers website at http://www.49writingcenter.org/. She will end her stay in Alaska with a CrossCurrents event on September 24 at 6:30pm at the Juneau Downtown Library. The event is entitled “Shaped by the North” and will feature writers Moustakis, Ernestine Hayes, Brendan Jones, and  photographer Ben Huff discussing how the landscape has shaped them as artists and shaped their work.

INTERIOR

OPPORTUNITIES FOR WRITERSCONFERENCES, AWARDS, RETREATS & RESIDENCIES
The Alaska Literary Awards were established in 2014 by the Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation, through a generous gift from Peggy Shumaker and Joe Usibelli, to recognize and support writers of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, playwriting, screenwriting, and mixed genres.  Any Alaska writer over the age of 18 who is not a full-time student is eligible to apply. Quality of the work submitted is the primary consideration in determining who receives the awards. A select number of $5,000 awards will be awarded this year. For more information, and to apply, go to :http://bit.ly/2015AKLitAwards. The deadline for entries is August 31st, 2015 at 9:59 AKDT.
The Connie Boochever Artist Fellowship awards recognize and support Alaska emerging artists of exceptional talent. In the 2015 cycle, a select number of $2,500 fellowships will be awarded to individual artists working in visual art, including film, digital and media arts. For more information, and to apply, go to: http://bit.ly/2015BoocheverFellows. The deadline for entries is August 31st, 2015 at 9:59 AKDT.
The 2016 Governor's Awards ceremony will be held in Juneau on Thursday, January 28th. We will also continue the tradition of scheduling CHAMP Day (Culture, Humanities, Arts & Museums Partners), a legislative fly-in day, on Wednesday, January 27th. Please start brainstorming ideas for nominees and consider submitting a nomination! The nomination process will open in August. This year's Arts categories will be: Margaret Nick Cooke Award for Alaska Native Arts & Languages, Business Leadership, Arts Advocacy and Individual Artist. A list of previous awardees can be found at https://education.alaska.gov/aksca/pdf/Past_Recipients_GAAH.pdf.
2016 Statewide Arts and Culture Conference will take place in Anchorage, Thursday, April 28th through Saturday, April 30th. We are in the process of exploring compelling themes, topics and national speakers for the convening. Like our last conference, we will be engaging Alaskan artists in the planning and production of the event. Be on the lookout for the opportunity to apply to be a conference Partner Artist, which will open in the fall. If you have any ideas to share with us, please send them our way by emailing aksca.info@alaska.gov
The Anchorage Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) is conducting a survey to inform its Live. Work. Play. Initiative, which seeks to make Anchorage the number one city in America to live work and play by 2025. If you live in Anchorage and care about the arts, please take a moment to add your voice to this survey-it's just two VERY short questions! https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LiveWorkPlayAnchorage
Poetry Out Loud registration deadline for schools is October 15, 2015Click here to hear from the 2015 National Poetry Out Loud Champion from Alaska, Maeva Ordaz. 
Alaska Writers Guild & SCBWI Annual Writer’s Conference, September 19-20, Anchorage. Early registration starts May 2015. www.AlaskaWritersGuild.com
13 Chairs Literary Journal, a new literary journal publishing short stories and poetry from new and emerging authors, seeks submissions and volunteers. They are currently composing their flagship issue, straight out of JBER, AK. To learn more, and to submit, email info@13chairs.com or visit 13chairs.com.
University of Alaska Press announces the release of Connecting Alaskans Telecommunications in Alaska from Telegraph to Broadband by Heather E. Hudson. The book will be available in September 2015. Cloth Price is $60.00 and it is also available in ebook.
As we all know, back-to-school time is getting close. This also means the issue of author signing is raised at the schools. Barnes & Noble has scheduled school book fairs and fundraising events and is in demand for local children’s book author presenters. If you are interested in participating in these events, please contact Renee Millner, Community Business Development Manager at 907-279-7323 or email her at crm2784@bn.com
Have news or events you'd like to see listed here? Email details to 49roundup (at) gmail.com. Your message must be received by noon on the Thursday before the roundup is scheduled to run. Unless your event falls in the "Opportunities" category, it should occur no more than 30 days from when we receive your email.
Categories: Arts & Culture

From the Archives: Deb Vanasse on Character Reins

Thu, 08/20/2015 - 6:20am

When we are convinced by qualities of character we cannot entirely reconcile, we are in the presence of mystery.
~Catherine Brady
Recently I re-read Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, one of the finest American books of the past few decades. Some will disagree heartily; in fact, such was the prevailing attitude when Robinson completed the manuscript. In an interview published in The Paris Review, Robinson says that though her friend’s agent offered to represent Housekeeping, she warned it might be difficult to place. Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux picked it up, but the editor warned it might not get reviewed.
Why the muted prospects? For one, the book lacks some of the basics fiction gurus preach, especially when it comes to character. The narrator, who goes unnamed for some time, speaks in first person but with omniscience, especially in the beginning. She exhibits none of the spunk or pluck that we’re told readers crave, unless you count her sheer survival in the face of circumstance. Quirky, yes, we’ll give her that, but not in a way that most of us would care to emulate. She and her sister are passive characters. What do they want? We’re not sure, not at first anyhow. Their motivation? Nothing conventional.
Hurray for Anatole Broyard, who did review the book, wanting to make sure it got noticed. It went on to win the Pen/Hemingway Award. If it had been up to me, it would have won the Pulitzer, too, but as often happens, that was awarded Robinson for the her next book, which is good but not nearly as finely wrought as Housekeeping.
How does Robinson, in defiance of conventional wisdom, grace us with a story of three utterly unforgettable women, plus a handful of intriguing “ghosts” whose influence lingers? 
As it turns out, passive characters aren’t the kiss of death, necessarily. Using as an example “A Cautionary Tale” by Deborah EisenbergRobin Romm points out that some of the best fiction features passive protagonists, defined by Romm as full characters who aren’t in charge of the action of the story as opposed to characters that aren’t fully developed.  Passive characters, she says, benefit from latent desires that they haven’t acted on yet.  Fierce protagonists, on the other hand, can alarm or exhaust the reader, and they may not be capable of the same revelations as the more reticent protagonist. In fact, it’s the pressure to act that brings interest to the acting.  The trick, Romm says, is that even a passive character will have an intriguing way of judging the world, and of course the passive character doesn’t stay passive: a moment of complicated crisis makes us rethink them.  
These principles are applied to full effect in Housekeeping. Ruthie and Lucille aren’t in charge, and neither are they fully developed. Their latent desire – the attention of their last relative, Sylvie – emerges well into the story. Through the retrospective, semi-omniscient first person narrative, Ruthie offers revelation after revelation from her intriguing perspective. We feel with her the growing pressure to act, building to a moment of complicated crisis that makes us rethink not only the characters but also what we consider as “normal.”
Though traditional heroes may be easier to work with, I’m drawn to the passive protagonist, which means I have to maintain a certain vigilance regarding latent desires, revelations, the pressure to act, complications. I also pay a good deal of attention to what I call character “reins,” my acronym for the ways even the most passive characters can grow into themselves, by way of their regrets; their expectations; their insights, intentions, and instabilities; their needs; and their speculation. 
Try This: What does your character regret? What does she expect? What insights, intentions, and instabilities have you discovered in her? What does she need? In what ways does she speculate?
Check This Out: If in the stranded-on-an-island scenario the book genre were craft, I’d choose Catherine Brady’s Story Logic and the Craftof Fiction, hands down. The chapter on Dynamic Characterization alone is worth several readings.
Categories: Arts & Culture

Erin Hollowell: Haiku You

Wed, 08/19/2015 - 6:00am
Last year I had a big poetry manuscript project that I was working feverishly on. This year, I knew that I would finish that project in the first quarter, and I worried that I might just stop writing. This is a common fear of writers, that the last thing we’ve written will be the LAST thing we’ll write. I wanted to have a continuous practice that was small. So small that I would be able to do it every day. So small that I couldn’t ever say I don’t have time to do that.
So starting on January 1st, I began to write a haiku each evening before I went to bed. I thought it might last a month. Each evening I would sit down, write a haiku about something I’d seen during the day, and then post the haiku on Facebook and Twitter. Seventeen syllables, one image, in and out.
I finished the month and kept going. About two months into it, folks began to comment. Sometimes it was an appreciative nod. Sometimes it was to chime in with their experience of whatever image was featured in the haiku. Sometimes it was to share their own haiku. Two months turned into three, and now into eight. Every evening, a haiku.
This practice takes so little time, but it changes the way that I move through the world. I pay closer attention. I start to notice what I see during the day that seems to resonate as bigger than just a pretty “image.” I am acutely aware of how time influences both the physical environment around us through the seasons and the weather and the patterns of sunlight, and how I feel about those things. There is a sadness at the heart of most haiku, acknowledgement that what is beautiful will also pass, that all things are impermanent.
Haiku is also a celebration of the simple. Its language is often sparse, imagery stripped down to the essential. By practicing each night, I remind myself to get out of my own way. To not try so hard, to not overthink. If I can’t write a haiku in under five minutes, I know that I’m forcing it, that I’m not bowing to the fact that in their dailiness, each is expendable. Some good, some mediocre, some downright bad.
To make our writing an essential part of our life, this is one measure of success. 
I leave you with a few spare haiku. May they spark your own writing practice.
1/3/15 two coyotes watchthe thumbprint moon disappearfrost clings to their feet
2/21/15 we are all walkingtowards a place we don’t knowlooking at the stars
3/12/15 memory finds meas I put on your black glovesmy hands shaped like yours
4/17/15 a sudden snowstormcatches earthworms unawarebleak calligraphy
5/22/15 those three piercing noteslike a child left all alonegolden-crowned sparrow
6/23/15coyotes singingancient voices entanglemuscle, bone, and sky
7/8/15squadrons of swallowsswooping above dusk-hushed roadslife-spark acrobats
8/17/15leaf tips kindlingthose first bright sparks of autumn breath cold in my throat
Categories: Arts & Culture

Spotlight on Alaska Books: The Creatures at the Absolute Bottom of the Sea by Rosemary McGuire

Tue, 08/18/2015 - 5:00am

Long after dark, they got the last crab pot strapped down. Jim climbed over the load checking the lashings that held the stack, though it was dark already, the deck slick with sleet and more rain falling on the wind that rolled in off the Bering Sea. The lights of town pricked through the night. The red and blue lights of the Unisea Bar. Music drifted over the water, from where the big crabbers lay rafted up. “Season ain’t even open for three days,” his deckhand said. What was his name? They all looked much the same in their greasy sweatshirts and fatty bodies, the permanent deckhands of the world. He never hired the good ones, the workers or the college kids. He got the ones the other men rejected, dumber than a box of smashed assholes. (from “The Creatures at the Absolute Bottom of the Sea,” Rosemary McGuire) In Rosemary McGuire’s new story collection, a man witnesses a tragic accident that calls his own life into question. A young woman meets her high school sweetheart after many years and seeks to make sense of the separate paths they’ve taken. A soldier home from Iraq tries to rebuild his life in a remote Alaskan village.
These are fishing stories, told as such stories are meant to be: simple, often coarse, and tinged with the elemental beauty of the sea. They reflect rugged lives lived on the edge of the ocean’s borders, where grief and grace ride the same waves. McGuire, a fisherman herself, captures the essential humanity at the heart of each tale. No one comes through unscathed, but all retain a sense of hope and belief in earthly miracles, however humble. A dazzling debut, The Creatures at the Absolute Bottom of the Sea will leave readers with a sense of the fragility and beauty inherent in eroded lives spent in proximity to danger."Make way for a terrific new voice from Alaska!  Rosemary McGuire’s short fictions are as authentic as they come—drawn from a life steeped in rural Alaska and commercial fishing, deeply imagined.  Her language is luminous, and her characters—rough, innocent, tragic, fully human—are unforgettable.”--Nancy Lord, former Alaska Writer Laureate and author of FishcampBeluga Days, and The Man Who Swam with BeaversRosemary McGuire was born and raised in coastal Alaska. She has worked there as a commercial fisherman for fifteen years, and has also worked in Antarctica and in field camps across Alaska. “The Creatures at the Bottom of the Sea” is her first collection of short stories. It can be purchased through the University of Alaska Press, www.alaska.edu/uapress, or at www.amazon.com.
Categories: Arts & Culture

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