If you’re going to live your life based on delusions, and you are, because we all do, then why not at least select a delusion that is helpful? Allow me to suggest this one. The work wants to be made and it wants to be made through you.Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear I am lucky to have an Alaska writer friend visiting me at the moment in Mexico, and in addition to drinking a number of margaritas, we’ve had the chance to talk for days and days about writing. Sure, we talk about the things we’ve written. But even more time is spent on the things still to write or – and this is where nostalgia can turn toward the bitter or the sweet – the things we never got around to writing. Boy, do I have a list, especially when it comes to nonfiction. Perhaps the idea itself wasn’t fully formed or exactly right (yet), or perhaps I simply lost, early in the process, the chutzpah and the stamina to keep plunging and stumbling. Unlike fiction, which can be endlessly reshaped, nonfiction ideas have more of a shelf life. I have at various times started to write books or parts of books about cod, climate change, volunteerism, Obama, leisure time and why we all think we don’t have enough of it, the history and sociology of the American house, my own experiments with learning the cello and the piano, sprint bicycle racing, and a year spent reading a century of American classics. (I get no credit for any of those projects, of course, because I did not finish them. Ideas are cheap.) Many of those ideas, or the research on which they were based, had a timely quality. An editor asked me recently about digging up one of my old nonfiction book projects and I told her that it was too late. The info was dated. The zeitgeist had changed. About half of those books died at the stage when I – or someone I turned to for guidance, like an agent or specialist in the field I was trying to write about – ventured a guess at the readership and marketing side of things. I know enough now to realize that when it comes to marketing, even the experts can’t predict what will sell. I was told no one—not a single person— would ever read a book about cod. I did not manage to excite an agent about the concept of the American house. Mark Kurlansky and Bill Bryson went ahead with their books about cod and about the history of the house—and good for them. The stories were out there. As Gilbert says above: “The work wants to be made.” Gilbert in her incredibly generous book, Big Magic (which I recommend in audio form), has an amazing story about this. She failed to finish a book and the spirit of that idea, she sincerely believes, packed up and left her, and then entered the mind of Ann Patchett, who ended up writing a freakishly similar novel. Gilbert’s attitude about this is wonderful. She doesn’t think the universe is unfair. She feels like she got to witness a miracle. Sometimes I think I am fonder of these unrealized ideas than of the things I’ve actually written. I think of them as old friends I lost touch with. Why didn’t we keep updating each other when we moved or changed email addresses? Why didn’t I value them enough? What struck me during my conversations with my visiting friend is that I still believe nearly all –heck, maybe all—of those old ideas were good. I still think I should have moved ahead with them. Here’s the thing –the new middle-age thinking: When I consider what I would have learned and all that I would have experienced by writing those books, I don’t worry in retrospect about their sales potential. Not one bit. With the hindsight of over ten years for most of those ideas, I realize now that the royalties would have long ago been spent, the sting of any middling reviews (or being completely ignored by reviewers) would have worn off, and those books most likely would have joined the bargain bins with every other book that sells somewhere between 1000 and 10,000 copies. But I still would have had the part that belongs to the artist: the joy of making. This should be clear to me looking forward – to the things I might still make, the books I might still write. But looking forward, I still get caught up in the false ideas of ego and reputation and possible financial gain. Looking back, I see so much more clearly. I think we all do. The lesson is not completely lost on me. I am in the middle of one nonfiction book project and eyeing another. One is helping me achieve a promise I made to myself – to become fluent in Spanish. Another, because it involves physical activity and restorative nature at a time when my own health is not perfect, could save my life—or at least help me be healthier for six to twelve months. Now, when I talk with writing friends about their own ideas and whether they could end up writing the next Eat Pray Love or Wild or Into the Wild, I want to scream (and often, I do scream): “Who cares!” It doesn’t have to be Eat Pray Love. Even Elizabeth Gilbert herself never foresaw the success of the book. Even she has not been able to repeat the success of that book. The test of a great book idea is not whether you think some reader years from now is definitely going to want to read it, because who can possibly know and trend-chasing is a game for fools. It’s whether you would want to read it.It’s whether you want—need— to write it. It’s whether you love it and know deep in your heart, once you allow yourself to imagine actually doing it to your own satisfaction, that you will never regret spending that time living it. That’s not the smart-money thing to say, and it’s not the way to talk to editors or agents. But I think it’s how we writers can talk candidly with each other. And probably most important: it’s how we might consider talking to ourselves.
Andromeda Romano-Lax’s latest book is BEHAVE, a novel about science and motherhood in the Roaring Twenties. (www.aromanolax.com).
Spring is in full swing across much of Alaska, full of reminders that the world is rife with beauty and detail to apprehend. While the season presents so much to observe, it can also be a time when slowing down to reflect becomes harder as we shift into summertime go-mode and rev our photosynthetic engines. This post from Deb Vanasse, with cameos from a few fantastic writers who have taught and presented in the past for 49 Writers, first appeared here four years ago. It's a helpful reminder that rich lived experience and lively written language can be two sides of a coin, complete with a great writing prompt. Thanks, again, for this nugget, Deb! ~ Jeremy _____ What one seems to want in art, in experiencing it, is the same thing that is necessary for its creation, a self-forgetful, perfectly useless concentration. ~Elizabeth Bishop Moments that are self-forgetful, concentration that’s perfectly useless. None of that sounds tough, or even important. But these are the moments we write toward, whether we know it or not. “My intent is always to reach some unbearable moment where time slows down and the sensual and psychological details compress and the language always reaches into the lyric register,” says Steve Almond in Honey, This Won’t Take but a Minute. “The rest is just chewing gum and string.” Almond’s stories often end with such a moment. Here, the final paragraph from “The Evil B.B. Chow”: “Instead, I wander the docks, the old schooners burdened under ornate masts, the colonial cemetery dressed in gravestones, names and years in elegant rows, and roasted garlic everywhere, everywhere tourists in their pink summer legs and dusk on the bricks, rain gutters fat with pigeons and rooftops sprigged with antennae, the sediments of beauty, I mean, and the widows on their stoops, done with the suffering of men and silent before the soft click of bocce balls. There is so much time in this life for grief. So many men lying in wait. And here, tonight, there is a harvest moon, which hangs so heavily yellow above the sea it might be God, or my heart.” What makes such moments unbearable? It might be sheer pain, or it might be sheer beauty or truth. These are the moments in which we feel most alive. Dani Shapiro calls them moments of being, those small and deeply internal moments embedded within our usual state of non-being, moments that in our writing we hope to capture in their deepest emotional purity. They’re important moments, but they’re not self-important – they’re real. Too often when we reach for the lyric moment, we speed up (Important! Important! Got to get there, pronto!) in exactly the places we should slow down and allow the moment to expand on the page. Or sensing the importance of the moment, we overwrite it. The lyric moment is not meant for striving. Consider the way children play, suggests Mark Doty inThe Art of Description: lost in the present, entirely occupied. “In lyric time,” he explains, “we cease to be aware of forward movement; lyric is concerned neither with the impingement of the past nor with the anticipation of events to come. It represents instead a slipping out of story and into something still more fluid, less linear: the interior landscape of reverie. This sense of time originates in childhood, before the conception of causality and the solidifying of our temporal sense into an orderly sort of progression.” Though musicality is implied, lyric moments don’t demand a certain style. In these moments language and truth and time intersect in what Doty describes as “an unpointed awareness, a free-floating sense of self detached from context, agency, and lines of action.” To get at these moments, Shapiro suggests we access the specific and dig deep. We all know how, because we were all children once. We latched onto something – a toy, a rock, a stick. We forgot about time and went in deep and where we landed was that landscape of reverie, the place where children and writers abide. Try This: “There are road signs to beauty,” David Vann says. “Hearing the sentences of great writers in your head enlarges your register.” Identify lyric moments in the work of your favorite authors, moments that step away from the forward momentum of the narrative, moments of full, deep awareness. How do language and time work together with truth in these moments? Then look for such moments – or opportunities for such moments – in your own work. Have you allowed time to slow? Have the sensual and psychological details compressed? Is the language reaching the lyric register? Wherever you sense such a moment approaching, follow Shapiro’s advice: access the specific, then dig deep. Check This Out: You can only get it from two sources – the author and the Harvard Book Store – but Steve Almond’s Honey, This Won’t Take but a Minute is worth ferreting out. Think of it as a take-no-hostages update to Strunk and White in which the advice to writers isn’t on style but on something a lot more elusive: truth. As a bonus, this slim little volume delivers flash fiction that proves Almond walks what he talks. Find more from Deb at http://coastwriting.org/
The incongruous thing about a book tour is you’ve spent so much time alone working on this loving, faithful animal, and suddenly: it’s in the wild on a table in Barnes & Noble. And you’re in front of 50 people for a reading. My debut novel The Alaskan Laundry released April 26th. On the 25th, a writer at a prestigious paper in New York City that borrows from the city’s name read the galley of the book, enjoyed, and generously showed me around the paper. Walking through the book review section, stacks of galleys balanced on the cubicle partitions, I made any number of silent prayers. Please. Please review mine. In the lobby I got a photo in front of the birches, spare leafy trees planted in the outside green space. Apparently, my friend said, these birches are famous because all writers talk about them when they have nothing else to say. That same evening I went to the book release of Molly Prentiss’ Tuesday Nights in 1980, another book that takes place in – you guessed it – New York City. I’ll leave you to guess the year. This at the venerable House Works in SoHo. Feeling distinctly homeless and uncool with my suitcase and backpack. I spent the eve at my stepsister’s at 14th Street, late for dinner, to her great dismay. And then – morning. April 26th! The book in the world. Woke at 8:45, checked the Google document sent by the publicist to find there was a 9:30 am appearance on a radio show. Oops. Cabbed it 20 blocks north, tried to act cool and collected, but don’t think I fooled anyone, least of all the interviewer who wore a hooded sweatshirt that said “I don’t need to kick” because he was a boxer and not a kickboxer. I liked him immediately. Afterward, on the sage advice of a more season writer and close friend, I went around Indie Bookstores, and also Barnes and Noble, to sign copies of the book. This to increase visibility, and also because apparently the stores can’t return them. I’ve since heard this was untrue. But what a shock to see the book, with my name on it. Really? Got emails from the publicist that a great review was coming out in Portland Book Review, and Powell’s had selected it as book for the month. Was flying in the clouds until I visited my favorite bookstore in Soho and they didn’t even have a copy. “We f—ed up,” the owner said. The woman at the Strand proudly told me they had sold one copy. And also that she would move the books closer to the front, now that they were signed. I bought one to help get the skunk off the deck, using my author’s discount. The cashier appeared disgusted. That evening, before the book launch at Greenlight in Brooklyn, one of my best and oldest friends, Alex, made me an Old Pal at his Ditmus Park apartment, which got me good and loopy, especially considering I hadn’t eaten lunch. I got a text from a buddy about a blogpost I wrote for someone that just dropped, about how Appalachia is not the Ozarks, which technically is true, but then Appalachian folks spread to the Ozarks. Whatever. We grabbed some bbq down the street from the store in Fort Greene, and he made sure I had no sauce on my lips on the front step. Cute. And then – the reading. This where the true wonder of the whole journey emerged: like the end of Big Fish where all these wonderful folks from different walks of life step forward. From high school, or timber framing in New Hampshire, or a writing residency, or Sitka Fine Arts Camp. My daughter Haley Marie sat on my knee as I signed copies, occasionally correcting my signature. Afterward headed over with a crew to Frank’s a Polish Bar and we got mistaken for being a band, probably because two of our members had long hair. That mistake corrected when one of our ilk danced to Kate Bush. The following morning one more interview, a quick lesson in how to make rice wine from Alex using glutinous rice and yeast packets, and off to Boston. That eve the reading in Newtonville to a full house, and drinks afterward at Union Tavern, strafed with questions about Alaska. What is it about the 49th state that has folks so obsessed these days? I mean, I think I understand the reality TV thing: what makes a better story than taking folks with tough pasts and putting them in precarious situations? See whether that guy who left his wife will actually fall through the ice. Maybe we all hope he does. But there’s something more, as if the state has become its own Truman Show, with everyone tuning in and making their own respective wagers. Some even visiting in the flesh. Anyways at that Boston reading I wanted to use tongs with each individual person, to speak individually and catch up on stories, but instead only had paddles. Frustrating. The following morning after an interview with KBRW in Barrow I spoke at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt headquarters – learning minutes before that it was supposed to be just that, a speech instead of a reading. Gulp. Lunch afterward with my brilliant and savvy editor Jenna Johnson who was in Boston launching her list of books, then a plane south to DC, which got stuck on the runway when the weather turned sulky. After seeing the book at the airport bookstore I hoped as I sat there someone would take a copy out of the bag and start reading, perhaps even weep with emotion. And I could be like, hey, I wrote that. Instead a woman took out a copy of People Magazine, and someone else a book I recognized on Jefferson as a slave owner. Folks in the plane started to grumble. The flight attendants grew gruff. Why is Alaska Airlines so wonderful and chill, and all other airlines so rigid and awful? They should give colloquiums. Something. In DC arrived minutes before the event on the back porch of the house of one of my oldest friends. About 25 folks, including a couple AK connections, which was nice, especially because it was damn cold on the porch and the AKers didn’t seem bothered. Sold books, then a train north to Philly to rejoin the family. On the train I edited a piece about living in Alaska, but maintaining Philly roots that would run on the cover of the Philadelphia Inquirer “Currents” section. Anything to battle against the conceptions of Southeast as a land of igloos and sasquatch. A couple things I’ve learned so far about tour: the best thing is getting to see other people. Also I should not be so tense, should taking more photos, and not take myself so seriously. And also that it’s a kindness of the publisher – I can’t imagine how any of this makes Houghton money. I can’t wait to get back to AK.
___________________________________________ Brendan Jones is the author of the novel The Alaskan Laundry, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. A recipient of a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation, and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Fundacion Valparaiso, and Ragdale, he is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. He has had work in the New York Times, Ploughshares, Narrative Magazine, Popular Woodworking, The Huffington Post, and has recorded commentaries for NPR. Raised in Philadelphia, he took the Greyhound west at the age of 19, ending up in Sitka, Alaska. He graduated from Oxford University, where he boxed for the Blues team, then returned to Alaska to commercial fish. He was a general contractor for seven years in Philadelphia, before heading back to Sitka, where he now lives, commercial fishing and renovating a WWII tugboat. | www.alaskanlaundry.com
I laid down in bed early on Saturday, exhausted after a busy but memorable week without enough sleep. Instead of passing right out, though, my mind wouldn’t turn off. There’s plenty on it, lately, but I was surprised when the mental autopilot eventually swiveled to Roethke’s poem “The Waking”. It’s a villanelle that I love and have pretty well memorized, though it can be slippery. Maybe it turned up because Facebook had reminded me that it was the last night of National Poetry Month. I’d written a blog post here, in fact, that mentions the poem in that context a few years ago. Maybe now I associate National Poetry Month with that poem.
I thought that maybe if I tried to recite the whole poem a couple times in my head it’d lull me to sleep—better than counting sheep. In my foggy state, I couldn’t do it. The effort worked, though, and I fell asleep (ironically, I suppose, since the poem’s called “The Waking”) chewing on the recurring line “I learn by going where I have to go.” To go was definitely the theme the next morning. It was May 1st, or May Day (not to be confused with mayday! mayday!). I would go to McCarthy that morning. I would also officially begin working as interim Executive Director of 49 Writers. It was the first time I’d woken up as a non-49 Writers board member since the organization began. People traditionally celebrate spring on May Day in many places; in others, it’s an occasion for honoring workers. All in all, it seems like an auspicious time to embark on a new endeavor. The long May Day drive from Anchorage to McCarthy provided a good chance to contemplate 49 Writers’ past and future and my own changing role. Green up was on in force early and a lot of animals were out, including a beaver crossing the road, a porcupine crossing the road, and a moose crossing the road. (Nope, no chickens.) Driving from watershed to watershed, I thought of the Alaska Literary Map, a nice ArcGIS map that Britta Schroeder organized by watershed. I considered my own literary map of home, and the scads of ways 49 Writers has shaped that for the better over the years. I might be a sucker for gorgeous scenery and the season, but I felt gratitude. Our literary family in Alaska is growing, overall, despite some aching loss, lately, and widespread distress in the university system. Our collective successes are something to celebrate, though, whether we’re writing to publish or writing to simply think, remember, and feel. The existence, growth, and adaptation of 49 Writers itself, over the years, represents a creative, collaborative community expression. Rolling toward the end of the McCarthy Road and beyond, last night, I thought about the exciting new Storyknife Writers Retreat down at the end of another road—the one that leads to Homer. I’m pleased to know that our outgoing director, Erin Coughlin Hollowell, will manage it with all the care and experience she brought to 49 Writers during her tenure while being afforded more time to write, too. I also thought about 49 Writers' chance to facilitate six writers workshops early in June in the Mat-Su Valley in partnership with the Machetanz Arts Festival, another case-in-point indicator of Alaska’s literary momentum. Every time I drive between Anchorage and McCarthy I also think about 49 Writers’ beginnings. When I pass the turnoff in the Glacier View area I always think back to the time I wended down to the river there with Deb and Andromeda. We holed up in a house not far downstream from the Matanuska Glacier and hammered out the original strategic plan and vision for 49 Writers. Every moving part of the organization has changed since then, and will continue to do so. Spring is full of reminders of how dynamism and change characterize our landscapes, and this season I’m feeling how true that is for 49 Writers, as well. It felt so good to get out to the cabin again last night, and to hear songbirds sing the sun down. A pair of great horned owls called in the dark, later, while the stars brightened. By morning, weather had moved in, and rain that was almost snow fell steadily. I “took my waking slow” and mumbled my way through Roethke’s poem while I made coffee, fed the fire, and smiled about going onward into the wild 49 Writers yonder in new ways. See you all there!
EVENTS IN ANCHORAGEAnchorage's Loussac Public Library's Teen Writing Societyis a club for teen writers. They seek reliable adults to lead their meetings and provide writing prompts or other activities. 49 Writers member Lynn Lovegreen has volunteered to lead the April meetings and help find leaders for the future. One idea is to have different adult writers volunteer to take each month, so the teens benefit from seeing different writing types and styles. Or, if someone would like to help longer-term, that is another possibility. At this point, meetings are 6-7:30 pm on the second and fourth Wednesdays, but there is some room for flexibility. Please contact Lynn at email@example.com or teen librarian Jon P. Ebron at EbronJP@ci.anchorage.ak.us if you are interested or would like more information. Bear Stories at Bear Tooth Theatrepub, inspired by Arctic Entries Thursday, June 9, evening show, time TBA Music by Todd Grebe & Cold CountryTickets: $12, available May 24Hosted by the International Association for Bear Research and Management (IBA) with Arctic Entries volunteers and Bear Tooth. Proceeds benefit bear conservations. EVENTS in MAT-SU, the KENAI, and elsewhere in Southcentral 49 Writers is pleased to partner with the Machetanz Arts Festival at the Mat-Su Collegeon June 4 and 5 to facilitate six writing workshops and two panel discussions. Register today! Full schedule: Saturday, June 4, 2016Session I (9:30 – 11:30 am) Julie LeMay | Finding Yourself in a Poem While focusing on poetic techniques like metaphor and repetition, this workshop will use writing exercises to create poems about the self. Whether you’re a beginning or experienced poet, you’ll find this workshop a playful approach to getting some poems on the page. Open to all levels.
Session II (12:30 – 2:30 pm) Alyse Knorr | How Shall I Begin? Starting Your Piece with a Bang How do writers keep readers reading? What’s the best way to begin your short story, novel, memoir, or poem to set the mood, establish themes, and introduce conflict? This workshop will explore the art of beginnings, introductions, and first words. We will look at some top-notch examples, work through craft exercises, and finish class with several new beginnings and approaches to beginnings!
Session III (2:45 – 4:45 pm) Don Rearden | The Sphere of Writing Learn how to advance your fiction and nonfiction to the next level by giving your writing a 360-degree transformation. In this workshop you'll be guided through a series of fun writing prompts that will help you understand and see the world your characters live in a new light. Learn how to craft complex and detailed environments and watch your characters come to life within their new realm of existence.
Panel Discussion (5 – 6:30 pm) Panel: Julie LeMay, Alyse Knorr, Don Rearden | "You've Written Something, Now What?" You’ve written your masterpiece, now what? This panel will explore the different ways to get feedback on your written work and how to decide where to submit your work for publication. We’ll discuss literary journals, agents, developmental editors, and all the behind-the-scenes work you need to accomplish between your first draft and getting your words in front of readers. Sunday, June 5, 2016Session I (9:30 – 11:30 am) Lynn Lovegreen | Playing With Description Good writers use description to set the scene or reveal character. We’ve all read a great line or sentence that describes perfectly, or cringed when a writer does too much or not enough. But how do we do that effectively? This workshop will explore description through reading and discussing examples, playing around with writing exercises, and finding what works for the writer in a specific audience, genre, and style. Session II (12:30 – 2:30 pm) Martha Amore | Capturing Character: The Mechanics of Writing Great Characters in Fiction and Nonfiction Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, crafting complex and emotionally moving characters is critical to a successful piece of writing. This workshop focuses on how to develop your characters while advancing your story. Session III (2:45 – 4:45 pm) Susanna Mishler | Walking the Line What exactly is a poetic line made of? What difference does it make where the line "breaks"? In this workshop participants will examine lines by contemporary English-language poets that are used to achieve very different effects. We will also experiment with lineation strategies and types with in-class exercises. Our exercises and guided discussion will help illuminate what makes a strong poetic line, and how an understanding of poetic lines can enhance our own writing and reading. Suitable for poets and prose writers, as well as readers, who would like to broaden their knowledge of poetic craft. Panel Discussion (5 – 6:30 pm) Panel: Lynn Lovegreen, Susanna Mishler, Martha Amore | Writing About Alaska Without Moose How do you write authentically about a place that has inspired so much clichéd literature? We’ll explore how to develop written work imbued with place that doesn’t descend into overly-familiar themes and images.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR WRITERSSeeking Storytellers | On the evening of Thursday, June 9, the International Association for Bear Research and Management is hosting a Bear Storytelling Night at the Bear Tooth Theatrepub. The format will be inspired by Arctic Entries. The theme for the show is bears: bear encounters, bear lessons, bear observations, bear obsessions, bear ANYTHING. Bear biologists, Alaskans of all ages, visitors, anyone who has a good bear tale – are welcome to tell us their best bear stories! Arctic Entries volunteers will help with story selection and story coaching for the show. This event will feature seven storytellers who will be selected based on the range of stories submitted – from the funny to the scary, adorable to the bizarre, and everything in between.Once a story is submitted, they will follow up either in person, on the phone, or through email. Arctic Entries volunteers will work with you on developing the story, fleshing out the parts that elicit a range of reactions from the audience, and finding a storytelling technique that works for you. We also provide assistance with stage fright. Please submit stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, email address, and phone number along with your story pitch. Thank you! Seeking Writers and Photographers for New Alaska Foodie MagazineEdible Alaska, a new magazine focused on food culture and practices in Alaska, will hit the newsstands in June. Currently they are getting ready to launch their website with lots of new content. They seek writers, photographers, recipe writers, and local chefs (who want to be a resource to them). Article pitches should fall (loosely) into the categories: eat, drink, and food for thought. Web articles will be between 250-400 words and will pay about $50 per piece and an additional $25 for an accompanying photograph. The rate is somewhat negotiable for more experienced writers/photographers and for longer pieces. They seek original recipes that can include your standard recipe and a "how-to" video. They are not looking for another profile about a great microbrewery or reviews of well-known restaurants. They want to expand what people know and think about food (and food culture) in Alaska while creating an archive of food practices throughout the state (both urban and rural). Please email your pitch to email@example.com with the subject line: Edible Article Pitch. Please include in your pitch sample writing clips, if you have any. The magazine is particularly interested in recruiting writers from outside of Anchorage and writers who live in rural/bush areas of the state. Don't let a lack of writing experience deter you from pitching a story, they are interested in cultivating new writers who have great stories to share.”
CONFERENCES, AWARDS, RETREATS & RESIDENCIES The fifteenth Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference will be held on June 10-14 in Homer. This year's keynote is Pulitzer Prize winning, National Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, who will be joined by Miriam Altshuler (agent), Dan Beachy-Quick, Richard Chiappone, Jennine Capó Crucet, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Forrest Gander, Lee Goodman, Richard Hoffman, Erin Coughlin Hollowell, Sarah Leavitt, Nancy Lord, Jane Rosenman (editor), Peggy Shumaker, Sherry Simpson, Frank Soos, and David Stevenson. For more information and to register go to the website Participants of 49 Writers' 2014 Tutka Bay Writers Retreat gather with Carolyn Forche in front of the main lodge.Register now for the 2016 Tutka Bay Writers Retreat, a 49 Writers program which will take place on September 9-11, 2016 at the fantastic Tutka Bay Lodge. Faculty instructor award-winning writer Debra Magpie Earling will lead fiction writers in an in-depth writing workshop. Emphasizing in-class writing supportiveness, collegiality, and constructive atmosphere, the engaged student will emerge with improved techniques for further work. Early registration fee is $600 for members and $650 for nonmembers. Learn more and register. Storyknife Writers Retreat is open for submissions for its inaugural Storyknife Fellow. We just can't wait for all six proposed cabin and main house to be built, so the Board of Directors of Storyknife is beginning with a single Storyknife Fellow who will live in the beautifully appointed cabin on the property. Women writers (over 21) can apply for a 2 week to 4 week residency during the month of September 2016. The successful candidate(s) will receive a $250 per week stipend at the end of their residency. This money can be used to cover the costs of travel, food, and a rental car if the resident is from out of the drivable area. The resident will need to purchase and prepare their own meals, with the exception of a welcome dinner and a farewell dinner, at the beginning and end of their stay. Learn more and apply. The sixth annual North Words Writers Symposium will be held May 25-28 in Skagway. Novelist/essayist/editor and storyteller supreme Brian Doyle of Portland, Oregon (Mink River, The Plover, Martin Marten, and the forthcoming Chicago) will be the 2016 keynote author. He will be joined by Alaskan authors Kim Heacox, Eowyn Ivey, Heather Lende, Lynn Schooler, John Straley, and Emily Wall. Learn more and register. Alaska Magazine seeks pitches from new and established writers. They are a publication for Alaska enthusiasts and need a wide variety of articles. The best section to break into the magazine is KtoB (formerly Ketchikan to Barrow), which includes everything from cool job profiles to End of the Trail obituaries to a short write up about an Alaska-made product. They’d also like to see queries about culture, history, nature, interviews with Alaskans and feature articles ideas. Review recent hard copy issues of Alaska magazine and visit www.alaskamagazine.com to learn more, and then send short, descriptive pitches to freelance contributing editor Susan Sommer at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com or visit 13chairs.com. Thank You for Your Support!Over 10,000 people read the blog each month. The blog is made possible by 49 Writers members, along with all of the workshops, author tours, Crosscurrents events, readings, and craft talks we offer. Won't you join them by becoming a member? Join Us 49 Writers Volunteer Seta 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 wen we receive your email.
In the Sheldon Jackson Museum where I work, I get to sit among the collection of priceless objects from each of Alaska’s Native cultures. It’s impossible not to notice that every object is embellished with artwork. Among our Tlingit people, clan designs decorate every utilitarian object: bentwood boxes, carved bowls, sheep horn spoons, Chilkat blankets, speaker staffs, halibut hooks, canoe paddles, everything. I’m aware of this permeation as I design or write. For me, art and poetry are in things, ideas are in things. They wait. They wait to be realized, interpreted, defined.
In my mind, everything lives in containers. The sea world contains the Sea People, and so on. Mortuary poles contain bentwood chests with cremated remains. Songs contain stories of sorrow, celebration and remembrance. Legends contain lessons for socializing the young. It’s about embodiment.
On slow days in the museum, I have my handy sketchbook, because it’s impossible for me not to be inspired when I’m breathing art. I get pretty experimental when I have little to do but sketch. My pages start filling with shapes, concentric, overlapping forms, lines that increase and decrease in tapered widths as is characteristic of formline design. My sketchbook is a curious muddle of Tlingit looking shapes, and starts of poems.
Sometimes creations come “all-at-once” when I visualize an entire design, or when I have an entire poem outline. Here I start with the main structure or framework, and all I have to do is fill in the blanks.
Sometimes creations take shape organically. When I start with a few powerful lines, my free-association propagates more lines. In design, I begin sketching from any point on the canvas and allow the design to develop.
When I create, I give form to a concept, whether by written alphabet, or by the system of formline elements – the ovoid, ‘u’ and ‘s’ shapes, and the negative spaces that result from combining these shapes. My constraints are determined by the surface I’m decorating, and in poetry the lines are limited by page size. They both have visual impact.
Art and writing both have form and content.
In working out form, I consider composition, whether to be literal or symbolic. In working out content, I consider how to interpret the subject, what it means. All the rest is about filler, connections, interconnections, allusions, juxtaposition, what to add, what to leave out. As with any creation, knowing when to stop is the difference between good or amateur.
I’m lucky to work in this museum. Quiet time taps me into a source, from which either word or visuals spring. Both essentially allow me to make coherent that which forms in that source. Our Tlingit culture, both the rich past and the current history as it unfolds, are pathways to that place. I live and breathe this. The lighting is dim; the objects seem to glow. How can I not be part of this? How can I not want to interpret this feeling?
Robert Davis Hoffmann is a Tlingit poet originally from the village of Kake, fully engaged in his heritage and culture. He describes the creative impulse for his poetry and carving this way: “My desire to create comes from a drive to connect my past to the present, to redefine the traditional as present day cultural practices."
Gathering. Each June for the past 15 years, writers have been gathering at the tip of the Homer Spit for the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference. Fifteen years of keynote presenters like Maxine Hong Kingston, Billy Collins, Anne Lamott, Michael Cunningham, Barry Lopez, Naomi Shihab Nye, and just last year Andre Dubus III. This year’s keynoter is Natasha Trethewey, two-term United State Poet Laureate and a really lovely person. That’s what’s great about the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference, participants get to learn that the faculty, writers they admire, are really lovely people.
Out at the end of the land, water on three sides, mountains and glaciers and bald eagles all around, barriers are broken down. In incredible workshops given by award-winning authors, participants learn from workshop leaders, and workshop leaders learn from participants. It’s an exhausting four days of readings, panels, and lots of in-depth instruction on all aspects of the writing process, but one that is filled with bright moments of inspiration. I’ve been lucky enough to help out with a few of these conferences, lucky to teach at some of them, and before that, I was lucky enough to attend quite a few. I can tell you that the visiting faculty (and yes, the core faculty as well) always gets as much as they give, and they always tell me on the way to the airport that they’ve been changed by meeting the participants at the conference. It’s a win-win-win-WIN situation. This year, the visiting faculty is Dan Beachy-Quick, Jennine Capó Crucet, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Forrest Gander, Lee Goodman, Richard Hoffman, Sara Leavitt, Frank Soos, and David Stevenson. The returning core faculty is Rich Chiappone, me, Nancy Lord, Peggy Shumaker, and Sherry Simpson. We’ll also have agent Miriam Altshuler and editor Jane Rosenman. The entire schedule is up at the conference website, and you’ve got until 5pm on May 2 to take advantage of the early registration discount.
I hope to see all of you there in Homer from June 10 to 14. I can promise that every person who attends the conference will come away with something fabulous to inspire their writing for the rest of the year and beyond. take care, Erin
. Family. Community. Support. 49 Writers, where Alaska’s writers gather.
It has been a privilege to be among you, to speak to you each Monday and to help create opportunities for learning and communing. Thank you for your warm support. Thank you for being amazing writers, and more importantly, thank you for being amazing people.
Jeremy Pataky and the board of 49 Writers will continue to grow the organization in a way that best meets the needs of all of us. I am so very glad to be part of this family. For once again, I will be back in the trenches with you, working on my own poetry the only way that I can. Writing can be a lonely business, but it can also be raucous and redemptive. So this week, sit yourself down and write. Share with another writer – your time, your writing, your best trick to keep yourself at the page. Our words are important. Our words create the world.
With the beautiful weather it’s hard to stay inside. Summer feels close and indoor events seem to recede. Soon conferences and retreats will start in different parts of our state. I plan to attend at least one and hope you will have the chance to do so too. EVENTS IN ANCHORAGE Events at the UAA Bookstore Thursday, April 21 from 5:00pm-7:00pmCecilia “Pudge” Kleinkauf presents Rookie No More: Flyfishing Novice from a Pro The book, Rookie No More is a lifesaver for novice fly fishers who are struggling with unanswered questions about various aspects of flyfishing. Cecilia "Pudge" Kleinkauf has been an Alaskan since 1969. Her company, Women's Flyfishing, has taught women how to fly fish and has taken them on guided trips throughout Alaska to find the best fishing for salmon, trout, char, Arctic grayling, and other species. Her website http://www.womensflyfishing.net is a leading resource for fly fishing enthusiasts.There is free parking for this event in the South Lot, Sports Complex NW Lot, West Campus Central Lot, and Sports Campus West Lot. Saturday, April 23 from 1:00pm-3:00pm Celebrating Shakespeare: Four Hundred Years On English professors Toby Widdicombe and Sharon Emmerichs, UAA students and staff share favorite sonnets.This literary tribute to Shakespeare commemorates the 400 year anniversary of his death on April 23, 1616. Everyone is encouraged to come. There is free parking at UAA on Saturdays. Local Library Events Anchorage Public Library's Teen Writing Societyneeds our help! Loussac Library's Teen Writing Society (TWS) is a club for teen writers. They are looking for reliable adults to lead their meetings and provide writing prompts or other activities. 49 Writers member Lynn Lovegreen has volunteered to lead the April meetings and help find leaders for the future. One idea is to have different adult writers volunteer to take each month, so the teens benefit from seeing different writing types and styles. Or, if someone would like to help longer-term, that is another possibility. At this point, meetings are 6-7:30 pm on the second and fourth Wednesdays, but there is some room for flexibility. Please contact Lynn Lovegreen at firstname.lastname@example.org or teen librarian Jon P. Ebron at EbronJP@ci.anchorage.ak.us if you are interested or would like more information. Book Signings EVENTS AROUND ALASKA SOUTHCENTRAL, MAT-SU, KENAI PENINSULA The Copper Basin will welcome State Writer Laureate Frank Soos to our communities at the end of April. Frank will meet with a local bookclub and students at Kenny Lake and Glennallen Schools. Local writers are invited to Writers' Workshops at the Kenny Lake Library on Thursday, April 28, from 1 to 4 pm and at the Copper Basin Senior Citizen log cabin in Glennallen on Friday, April 29from 1 to 4. Frank will present a program, "An Alaska Writers Sampler," at the Kenny Lake Community Hall on Thursday evening, April 28, at 6 pm. The public is also invited to a reading of Frank Soos' work on Friday night, April 29, at the Carriage House in Gakona. Local musicians will chime in for the reading event, and snacks and coffee and tea will be provided. Come join us! For more information, contact Mary Odden 822-3727 or email@example.com As part of the Machetanz Arts Festival at the Mat-Su Collegeon June 4 and 5, writing workshops will be offered.To learn more about the classes and to register: http://register.asapconnected.com/Courses.aspx?CourseGroupID=14213 Saturday, June 4How Shall I Begin?: Starting Your Piece with a Bang taught by Alyse KnorrFinding Yourself in a Poem taught by Julie LeMayThe Sphere of Writing taught by Don Rearden Sunday, June 5Capturing Character The Mechanics of Writing Great Characters in Fiction and Non-Fiction taught by Martha AmorePlaying with Description taught by Lynn LovegreenWalking the Line taught by Susanna Mishler There is also a panel discussion at the end of each day, featuring the writers who’ve taught during that day. SOUTHEAST OPPORTUNITIES FOR WRITERS Seeking Writers and Photographers for New Alaska Foodie MagazineEdible Alaska, a new magazine focused on food culture and practices in Alaska, will hit the newsstands in June. Currently they are getting ready to launch our website with lots of new content. Thus, they are looking for writers, photographers, recipe writers, and local chefs (who want to be a resource to them). Article pitches should fall (loosely) into the categories: eat, drink, and food for thought. Web articles will be between 250-400 words and will pay about $50 per piece and an additional $25 for an accompanying photograph. The rate is somewhat negotiable for more experienced writers/photographers and for longer pieces. They are looking for original recipes that can include your standard recipe and a "how-to" video. They are not looking for the usual story about Midnight Sun Brewery or well-known restaurant reviews. They are looking to expand what people know and think about food (and food culture) in Alaska as well as really create an archive of food practices throughout the state (both urban and rural). Please email your pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Edible Article Pitch. Please include in your pitch sample writing clips, if you have any. The magazine is particularly interested in recruiting writers from outside of Anchorage and writers who live in rural/bush areas of the state. Don't let a lack of writing experience deter you from pitching a story, they are interested in cultivating new writers who have great stories to share.” CONFERENCES, AWARDS, RETREATS & RESIDENCIES The fifteenth Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference will be held on June 10-14 in Homer. This year's keynote is Pulitzer Prize winning, National Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, who will be joined by Miriam Altshuler (agent), Dan Beachy-Quick, Richard Chiappone, Jennine Capó Crucet, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Forrest Gander, Lee Goodman, Richard Hoffman, Erin Coughlin Hollowell, Sarah Leavitt, Nancy Lord, Jane Rosenman (editor), Peggy Shumaker, Sherry Simpson, Frank Soos, and David Stevenson. For more information and to register go to the website Registration now open to the 2016 Tutka Bay Writers Retreat, which will take place on September 9-11, 2016 at the Tutka Bay Lodge. Faculty instructor award-winning writer Debra Magpie Earling will lead fiction writers in an in-depth writing workshop. There will be much in-class writing, and the overall atmosphere will stick close to supportiveness, collegiality, and constructive improvement. The engaged student will emerge with improved techniques for further work. Early registration fee is $600 for members and $650 for nonmembers. For more information or to register, go to: http://www.49writingcenter.org/Retreats%26Events/retreats.php. Storyknife Writers Retreat is open for submissions for its inaugural Storyknife Fellow. We just can't wait for all six proposed cabin and main house to be built, so the Board of Directors of Storyknife is beginning with a single Storyknife Fellow who will live in the beautifully appointed cabin on the property. Women writers (over 21) can apply for a 2 week to 4 week residency during the month of September 2016. The successful candidate(s) will receive a $250 per week stipend at the end of their residency. This money can be used to cover the costs of travel, food, and a rental car if the resident is from out of the drivable area. The resident will need to purchase and prepare their own meals, with the exception of a welcome dinner and a farewell dinner, at the beginning and end of their stay. More information about the residency at https://storyknife.org and apply at https://storyknifewritersretreat.submittable.com/submit. The sixth annual North Words Writers Symposium will be held May 25-28 in Skagway. Novelist/essayist/editor and storyteller supreme Brian Doyle of Portland, Oregon (Mink River, The Plover, Martin Marten, and the forthcoming Chicago) will be the 2016 keynote author. He will be joined by Alaskan authors Kim Heacox, Eowyn Ivey, Heather Lende, Lynn Schooler, John Straley, and Emily Wall. For more information and to register go to http://nwwriterss.com/ 360 North will start the 2015-16 season of Writers’ Showcase. All Alaska writers are invited to submit fiction and nonfiction pieces. Stories are read before a live studio audience by professional actors, and later broadcast throughout Alaska on statewide public TV and radio. Stories should be about 10 minutes long when read aloud. Profanity will need to be edited for broadcast.SUBMISSION DEADLINE RECORDING DATEApril 25, 2016 June 2, 2016Submit to arts [at] ktoo [dot] org.For questions contact Scott Burton - Arts, Culture and Music Producer at 907.463.6473 Alaska magazine is seeking pitches from new and established writers. We are a publication for Alaska enthusiasts and need a wide variety of articles. The best section to break into the magazine is KtoB (formerly Ketchikan to Barrow), and includes everything from cool job profiles to End of the Trail obituaries to a short write up about an Alaska-made product. We’d also like to see queries about culture, history, nature, interviews with Alaskans and feature articles ideas. Review recent hard copy issues of Alaska magazine and visit www.alaskamagazine.com for more about us, and then send short, descriptive pitches to freelance contributing editor Susan Sommer at email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit 13chairs.com. Thank You for Your Support!49 Writers members know that their membership helps support all of the workshops, author tours, Crosscurrents events, readings, blog posts, and craft talks. Won't you join them by becoming a member? Join Us 49 Writers Volunteer Seta
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.