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Collaborative Reflections & Book News By and About Alaskan AuthorsAndromeda Romano-Laxhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/16988887975016816552noreply@blogger.comBlogger2108125
Updated: 23 hours 47 min ago

Weekly Roundup of Writing Opportunities for February 5

Fri, 02/05/2016 - 7:00am
2016 Class ScheduleRegistration for 2016 classes and workshops has started. Description, details, and registration on our website.  Feel free to contact us at 49writers@gmail.com if you have any questions.
AnchorageWriting from Historical Research taught by Kate PartridgeFebruary 13 and 27, 9am-noon
Mini Memoirs: Let’s Do Some Writing! taught by Judith ConteFebruary 20-21 and 27-28, 1-3pm
What Women Want taught by Martha AmoreMarch 3, 6-9pm
“THE END!” Writing Good Endings and Achieving Closure taught by Alyse KnorrMarch 5, 6-9pm
Writing with Anna Akhmatova taught by Olga Livshin and Kathleen TarrMarch 12 and 19, 9am-1pm
Forms of Poetry taught by Alyse KnorrApril 6, 13, 20, and 27, 6-9pm
Effectively Use Microsoft Word to Publish your Book to Kindle taught by Lara MaddenApril 7, 6-9pm
Set Your Fiction on Fire taught by Kim HeacoxApril 13, 6-9pm
HomerConfusing the Censor: Nurturing Receptive Mind taught by Peter Kaufmann and Wendy ErdApril 8 6:30-8:30pm, April 9 9am-noon & 1-4pm
JuneauSet Your Fiction on Fire taught by Kim HeacoxApril 18, 6-9pm
OnlineFlash Fiction taught by Katey Schultz4 week asynchronous (12 hours minimum) – one optional video chat – fictionFebruary 29-April 3
Flashbacks Without Whiplash: Managing Time in Fiction by Andromeda Romano-LaxAsynchronous online classApril 4-25
EVENTS IN ANCHORAGE
CrossCurrents: Who Owns the Story?
February 5 at 7pm at Anchorage Museum

From the National Book Award-winning short story collection Redeployment by Marine Corps veteran Phil Klay, to acclaimed novels written by civilians like Ben Fountain’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk; writers are tackling the difficult topic of war and doing it well. But does war as a topic of literature “belong” to veterans any more than it does non-veterans? Is there room for depictions outside of combat? What defines “the experience?”

Join us, to hear and be heard, for a discussion with Sherry Simpson (The Dominion of Bears), Benjamin Busch (Dust to Dust), Elliott Ackerman (Green on Blue) and Lea Carpenter (Eleven Days). These four distinguished authors from both military and civilian backgrounds will share thoughts and answer questions in a Crosscurrents event that will kick off “Danger Close: Alaska,” the state’s first writing workshop aimed at uniting veteran and civilian writers in the production of high-quality literature.


Savor the Rising Word Broadside InvitationalMembers of 49 Writers and past or present participants in 49 Writers workshops are invited to submit poetry broadsides for display at Great Harvest Bread Co. throughout the month of April 2016 in honor of National Poetry Month. Featured poets will be encouraged to read their works during a public event at the bakery at a date and time to be determined. Broadsides in the exhibit will be available for sale and proceeds will be donated to 49 Writers; those not sold will be retained by 49 Writers for future displays or events.

Details: Broadly defined, a poetry broadside combines the words of a poem with visual imagery. Though often printed on a letterpress or in other printmaking media, for purposes of this exhibit we will include any presentation that combines original poetry and original artwork (including photos) on thick paper (at least cardstock weight) no greater than 14” x 18” in size. Collaborative poet/artist pieces and collage pieces are welcome as long as they do not exceed the size limit.

Deadline: Monday, March 28, 2016. Submissions should be well wrapped in an envelope or paper and mailed or delivered by this date to the following address:
SAVOR THE RISING WORDS
Great Harvest Bread Co. Attn: Barbara Hood
570 East Benson, Suite 22 Anchorage, AK 99503

Please make sure your name(s) appear on the piece and include a completed Entry Form with your submission. All entrants will receive a coupon for a free loaf of bread and heartfelt gratitude. Don’t miss this opportunity to share your creative work and support a great cause!

Questions?
Please contact Barbara at middlerockraven@gmail.com or 907-301-5362. Thanks!
Events at the UAA Bookstore
Saturday, February 6 from 1:00pm-3:00pm at UAA/APU Consortium Library room 307
Historian Ian Hartman presents his book In the Shadow of Boone and Crockett: Race, Culture, and the Politics of Representation in the Upland South, where he explores American race theories concerning people of the upland South (southern Appalachia to the Ozarks).He describes how the eugenics movement “sought to regenerate and purify a once proud but now impoverished and degraded people through policies that included forced sterilization.”  He also explores how the contradictory identity of the upland South affected national debates about imperialism, poverty and inequality,Ian C. Hartman is an assistant professor of History at UAA.  There is free parking at UAA on Saturdays. 
Monday, February 8 from 5:00pm-7:00pm at the UAA/APU Consortium Library room 307Ernestine Saankalaxt’ Hayes presents “Writing, Rewriting, and Publication:  Before and After Blonde IndianErnestine Saankalaxt’ Hayes belongs to the Kaagwaantaan clan of the Eagle side of the Lingit nation.  Her memoir Blonde Indian: an Alaska Native Memoir received the American Book Award in 2007 and is the 2016 Alaska Reads selection.According to Jonas Lamb (Juneau Empire), Blonde Indian “ celebrates Tlingit culture, the strong connection between the people, this magnificent land, the animals and the spirits, it also brings to light the historic and contemporary fallout of colonialism and racism.  The structure of the book will challenge many and the content will confront others, but all readers will find they are changed by the experience.”
Ernestine Saankalaxt’ Hayes received her MFA in Creative Writing and Literary Arts from UAA and is an assistant professor of English at UAS. This event is sponsored by the Alaska Center for the Book and the UAA Campus Bookstore.There is free parking for this event in the Library Lot, Library NE Lot and the East Parking Garage.
For a look at future events see https://www.uaa.alaska.edu/bookstore/events/special-events-calendar.cfm

Local Library EventsBook SigningsEVENTS AROUND ALASKA
SOUTHCENTRAL, MAT-SU, KENAI PENINSULA
Homer
Shut Up and Write! Taking the writing experience from solitary to social.Thursdays, 7pm to 9pm, February 4 to March 10 in HomerAlice's Champagne Palace, upstairs, No critiquing, exercises, lectures, ego, competition or feeling guilty, just a place to show up, shut up, and work on your writing projects in the company of other writersNo fees or registration, just fun!Contact Christina Whiting for more information: 907-435-7969
SOUTHEASTOPPORTUNITIES FOR WRITERS
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 novelist and short story writer Rick Moody will lead fiction writers in a workshop will focus on experiment, imagination, and revision, techniques for each, with an emphasis on writing prompts, close reading of sentences, and ideas about structure. 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.

Call for 10-Minute Plays for 2016 8X10 FestivalFairbanks Drama Association and The Looking Glass Group Theatre invite Alaskan residents to send their best 10-minute plays to be considered for our Annual 8X10 Festival of New Alaskan Plays.
Eight ten-minute plays will be given staged readings at the Festival, which will be held April 22 & 23, 2016, at FDA’s Hap Ryder Riverfront Theater in Fairbanks.
Guidelines for entering scripts: Alaskan residents only. One entry per playwright. One author per play. No musicals or children’s plays. Submit 5 (five) copies of each script. Staple or paper-clip the play. DO NOT use binders or folders of any kind. Plays cannot be returned. Put playwright’s name and contact info, including phone and e-mail, on the cover (title) page. This is the only place the author’s name should appear. “Cast of Characters” page with brief character descriptions and time & place should follow cover page. Number pages beginning with the first page of dialogue. Plays should be between 8 & 12 minutes, based on one minute of playing time per page of script, 12 pt. font size, and be written in standard playwriting format. Cast size should be no more than eight actors. No electronic submissions or Express mail.
Submissions must be postmarked or hand-delivered no later than March 15, 2016 to:8X10 FestivalFairbanks Drama Association/ Looking Glass Group Theatre1852 Second AvenueFairbanks, Alaska 99701
For more information, contact: Peggy MacDonald Ferguson, Executive Director, pegferguson@gci.net
Distance CritiqueGet professional feedback on your writing for ADULTS, teens, or children! How does it work? Register and send your material in by due date (January; they send it to a professional literary agent who critiques and sends it back. Optional workshop to discuss critiques. Brought to you by The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI, Alaska Chapter, but this critique is for writers of any content. Register at https://alaska.scbwi.org/events/distance-critique-january-2016/
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 RiverThe PloverMartin 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
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
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 sbsommer@mtaonline.net.
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.
Alderworks Alaska Writers and Artists Retreat will be accepting residency applications November 15, 2015 - February15, 2016 (EXTENDED). For more information visit http://alderworksalaska.com
Thank You for Your Support!Over 1,000 people receive these newsletters. Many of them are members of 49 Writers, knowing 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
We hope that you'll remember 49 Writers when you file for your Permanent Fund Dividend and become part of the movement to support organizations you believe in through Pick Click Give.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.

Categories: Arts & Culture

Andromeda/Your Turn: The Dreaded Plateau

Thu, 02/04/2016 - 7:00am

Learning curve, imagined versus actual (from Polygot Dream blog)
I’m going to keep this short, because I’d really prefer it to be a conversation. The question is: How do you bust through learning plateaus? Not how do you learn something as a beginner, but how do you keep learning when you’re fairly competent, are experiencing diminishing returns, and are finding it harder to find the tools and teachers who can guide you?
For context let me explain that this week I started my fourth round of in-country Spanish lessons in a year. I started out at a lower intermediate level. I’m now somewhere at the upper intermediate level, having logged 500 study hours in Spanish. (I no longer believe in "fluency" as a simple concept. If I've learned anything, it's that "proficiency" is relative, situational, and even controversial.) That last step, from upper intermediate to advanced is a tricky one, and once again, I’m finding that teachers at this level don’t always know what to do with students who aren’t beginners. Today, I spent two stimulating hours talking about everything from circus arts to minimalist decor with my Mexican teacher, and I could understand her perfectly. But could I express myself completely? Absolutely not. 
Think of something you do well. Maybe you write seriously and have published and even garnered positive reviews in big places. Maybe you’ve taught for ten years and feel comfortable in the classroom. Maybe you’ve run a bunch of marathons, are fitter than 90% of people your age, and have a good idea of how to train.  Maybe you cook meals that occasionally astound your family and friends.
Now what?
I’ve been surfing the internet and reading, and come up with only a few answers.
Establish new goals: be specific.
Mix it up. Come at your subject/activity from a new direction.
Find a new source of motivation.
Find a new teacher.
Learn how to coach your own coach better.
Those tips are good, but a little colorless.
I’m asking you to think about what you used to do pretty well, and what you now do much better. How do you move from good to great, or from slightly frustrated to really excited and fulfilled? You may have answers from the world of writing, or from other places—sports, plant identification, you name it.

How did you break through a learning barrier? I'd love to hear your story.

Andromeda Romano-Lax is a co-founder of 49 Writers and the author of the forthcoming novel, Behave (March 2016), an Indie Next pick. She is also a book coach and teaches in the UAA MFA program
Categories: Arts & Culture

Guest Blogger Matt Komatsu: The Grind

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 5:00am
Dear Reader,

With no small sense of relief, I’m proud to say that this week, Danger Close: Alaska kicks off.  What began as a dream during my first residency at UAA’s MFA program is now staring me in the face, exhaling steam into the Alaska winter, and pawing the ground impatiently, full of life. It’s been a hell of a lot of work to get this far. Three nonprofits (four if you count the National Endowment for the Arts) across four time zones, fundraising, recruitment, scheduling…I have a new appreciation for the work that goes into making something like this happen.

Sometimes, if I push back from my laptop and just breathe for a moment, reflect on things, the gravity of what we’ve done hits me. There were times when I was sure we weren’t going to get the funding, when I was positive we wouldn’t get the registrants, when I just knew the other shoe was going to drop. But this is a business of belief, in ourselves and what we are doing. Good people made good things happen. Word spread. Seats filled. And that shoe never thudded to the ground.

This business of meaning-making that we’re all into: it’s a beast. And like anything else worthwhile, there are simply no shortcuts to the finish line. Its foundation is work. Not dreaming about writing. Not talking about writing. But actually putting pen to page, finger to key. Some days, it’s three steps forward, four steps back. Others, it’s a zero-g leap to parts unknown. And other days the cursor just sits there and blinks at you, accursedly patient. And that’s just the drafting. Don’t even get me started on the editing.

But then you inhale the scent of fresh ink on paper; word counts rise and hell if there aren’t a couple of great sentences in each other’s company; you feel the heft of a manuscript in your hands. You remember and maybe even smile at what you’ve done. There’s even a word for it: “Perspective.” Not to get to saccharine on things, but frankly, it’s absolutely necessary.

Achievement and success have been on my mind a lot lately, for obvious reasons. There was, and remains, a lot at stake for Danger Close: Alaska. There are a lot of “firsts” attached to it, so far as we can tell. The first writing workshop to treat war as subject matter in the state. The first time veterans and military have been invited to not only tell their stories, but find a way to do it better. The first time a partnership that spanned thousands of miles enabled the resourcing necessary to fund an artistic effort of this size and ambition.

But while true, this is a false kind of perspective. It’s the type of conditional thinking that risks compromising the heart of Danger Close. Which, at the risk of sounding sweet (again), is twenty four people coming together with four remarkable artists to learn the art of storytelling. That’s what I’m most proud of, and what I look most forward to this weekend.

Next week, I look forward to sharing some perspectives on how things went.

Write on,
Matt Komatsu

The Danger Close: Alaska workshop is full, but please come to the CrossCurrents: Who Owns the Story? event on Friday, February 5 at 7pm at the Anchorage Museum. More info

Matthew Komatsu is an author, currently serving veteran, and Nonfiction candidate in the University of Alaska-Anchorage's MFA in Creative Writing program. He is a Pushcart Prize nominated essayist whose work has appeared in The New York Times; War, Literature and the Arts; Brevity; Storysouth; and VICE Motherboard. He has also essays forthcoming in The Southeast Review and The Normal School. You can follow him on Twitter @matthew_komatsu or at his website, www.matthewkomatsu.com. The opinions here are the author's alone and do not reflect official policy or position.

Categories: Arts & Culture

Alaska Shorts: Sad Music by Stephen D. Bolen

Tue, 02/02/2016 - 7:30pm
Sad Music
11/09/15
There's a service today,
A young man I don't know,
The cold I've come out of my own skin.
I'm falling down and down, keep going.
Is there any truth in this master confusion?
It isn't even a storm anymore,
It's calm and with good people gone now,
From this bright day,
I speak to the familiar—
I'm a stranger, ignore.
Even the wind is nowhere.
How will I get away from this
painfully content garden, I've grown
Before,there was an urgency, a reason;
My friends slay dragons, my love talks to the sky,
My body heavier, though thinner than usual,
Semicolons aren't enough to keep anyone.
All I hear is sad music.

by Stephen D. Bolen

Stephen D. Bolen is a poet, father, and a student of English, Psychology, and Philosophy at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. He is Inupiaq and was raised in The Native Village of Kotzebue, Alaska. When not writing, studying, or spending time with his 2 year old daughter, Stephen works in construction, goes hunting on the Noatak River, and enjoys fine woodworking, carpentry and furniture building.
Categories: Arts & Culture

Guest Bloggers Olga Livshin and Kathleen Tarr - Anna Akhmatova: Disaster Did Not Wither Her

Tue, 02/02/2016 - 5:00am
Photo courtesy of Igor B. RunovView of Moscow street taken in January 2016 where Anna Akhmatova admirers have spray-painted her image and fragments from some of her earliest poems across a wall.

Translation of above poem:
"I was brazen,
angry and funny
I didn't know at all
this was -- happiness."

---from By the Edge of the Sea (1914)

In the last two years of Anna Akhmatova’s life (she died in 1966 at age 77), the dignified, sometimes vain, poet traveled from the USSR to Italy, France and England to accept prestigious, foreign literary prizes and honors. She was feted by admirers and hailed as a poet of vast courage, fortitude, and stoicism—an authentic voice of Russia.

Twenty years earlier, Stalin’s commissar had publicly condemned and humiliated her as a writer, though she had gained renown and had been publishing poetry collections since her first book, Evening, had appeared in 1912.

Akhmatova was expelled from the Union of Writers by Zhdanov’s 1946 decree which accused her of being a relic of the past, a poet who was stuck in bourgeois, useless, personal lyrics—a frivolous thing who dashed between boudoir and chapel, as “harlot and as nun.”

Translation: To the high-level authorities, the workings of this woman’s mind lacked any ideological backbone. She would not be a puppet nor a tool for any pre-approved, Communist vision of social “progress.”

On two Saturdays in March (12 & 19), we are offering a short seminar to explore the life and writings of Akhmatova, now considered one of Russia’s greatest poets. Her fellow poet Osip Mandelstam, said “Great poetry is often a response to total disaster.” Akhmatova’s life embodied this notion.

Anna Andreyevna Akhmatova had lived under the horrific acts and cruel policies that followed the Russian Revolution and the newly-established Soviet government in the years before the outbreak of World War II. She fearfully watched as many prominent members of the cultural intelligentsia were silenced either through repression, exile or murder.

Through the terror of Stalin’s Purges, the harsh economic conditions, and her materially poor life, she also suffered deep, personal loss. Her first husband, Nickolai Gumilyov, was executed. Her only child, the son she bore with Gumilyov, was imprisoned in remote northern regions for approximately 15 years.

Akhmatova chose to remain in Russia. She continued to fill blank pages as a witness to her history—the bloodshed of both world wars and other tumultuous events.

“When I write,” she said, “I live with the very pulse of Russian life.”

What was the secret to Akhmatova’s persistence? She often wrote under far less than ideal circumstances and within unorthodox personal arrangements (no MFA programs or writers’ retreats!). Housing was extremely difficult to come by in Leningrad and this created untold challenges. For a long time, the poet occupied a barren room in an apartment she shared with her ex-lover and his doctor wife—an arrangement that was emotionally complicated for everyone involved.

We have to picture Akhmatova writing in hospital rooms where she spent much time because of her heart problems and recurring tuberculosis symptoms. When a bevy of younger authors visited her in a hospital in the 1960s, they found Akhmatova in a room she shared with six other patients, wearing a tattered hospital robe. In her lap were her poetry drafts. When a poet asked in disbelief, “Have you been working here, Anna Andreyevna?”, she responded, “Little one, you can work anywhere.”

Akhmatova also stands as a poet who made her life, as well as her art, an unconventional creation of her own. In the 1910s, she had to break through the image of the chatty poetess; women were not taken seriously as erudite poetry masters. She undertook a series of efforts to be seen as resembling a queen or a priestess – an otherworldly beauty. People who heard her recite poetry in St. Petersburg at the Stray Dog café reported that she read as if in a dream, mesmerizing the audience.

Akhmatova also created a highly original life for herself in the realm of love relationships. She often ignored the heterosexual, marital norms of her background. She had many sexual partners throughout her life, some simultaneously, and drew different creative energies from the poets, scholars and actors she loved.

In our 49Writers seminar, we will look at the imprint of Akhmatova’s writing style. In contrast to the massive trauma of her era, she maintained a minimalist style. We will talk about how, although her poems are generally quite small, they are like miniature jewels: you can read and reread them with all the pleasure and mystery of looking at a brooch made of cloudy Baltic amber.

Akhmatova speaks to us in a subtle, suggestive way. The dissident literary scholar Andrei Sinyavsky said in Novy Mir, “Silence in her verse is not a sign of solitude, but of a presence of ineffable majesty.”

Admirable, addictive, that voice.

The profound minimalism found in her work is an antidote to our age when words are over-shared, and private spaces are intruded upon by social media. Akhmatova gives readers a space in which to be quiet and to reflect.

We invite all writers of any genre to participate. As for the seminar outline, we’ll begin by doing a close reading of individual poems and some of Akhmatova’s memoir prose, with the idea that we’ll also engage in some free-form writing ourselves and hold a mini-workshop. For example, we’ll try and figure how this famously restrained (at least with words) writer was to convey intense emotional power in a single quatrain.

We will reflect on how Akhmatova infused her work with historical and classical references, which gives her poetry archaeological strata, and which bring mythical narratives to life. This is, perhaps, less common in contemporary American poetry.

As writers, both of us (Olga having been born in Russia, and Kathleen, the self-professed “Russophile”) have spent much time being Akhmatovized. We discovered Akhmatova in completely different ways, but we both came under her spell – and for both of us, it endures wonderfully for decades.

As we have continued to immerse ourselves in her life and poems, we have been discussing the reasons why she inspires us as poets, and also as nonfiction writers.

We believe we can take the example of this great Russian poet’s legacy and hold the mirror up to our own ideas about perseverance and endurance.

We believe there’s a lot we can learn from how silence is transformed into words.

By the last few years of her life, Akhmatova had survived the emotional and political wreckage. She was enjoying the reversal of her public reputation in Russia.

But in reality, her poetic reputation wasn’t officially restored by the government until 1988.

By that time, the Soviet Union was undergoing another chaotic transition, this time to the promising era of glasnost and Perestroika. The truths about the severity of Stalin’s time were brought widely out in the open, at least for a few years.

Poets and writers who are living in Russia today are dealing with a different set of economic and political pressures. But creatively, they now have Akhmatova’s rich legacy to draw upon—and so do we.

Olga Livshin holds a Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literature and taught Russian at the University of Alaska, Anchorage from 2008 to 2012. Her poetry in English and Russian is published in journals such as The Mad Hatters' Review, Jacket and Eleven Eleven, and included in the Anthology of Chicago and the Persian World Anthology of Poetry (in Persian translation). In 2014, Olga was selected nationally to be one of ten participants in the first round of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs' mentoring program "Writer to Writer." Currently, she lives in Woodstock, Connecticut, and works on two books: a poetry collection and a translated volume of poetry by the contemporary Russian author Vladimir Gandelsman. She is thrilled to come back to Alaska, one of her spiritual homes, and to co-teach this seminar with the inimitable Kathleen Witkowska Tarr.

Kathleen Witkowska Tarr has a strong interest in Russian history and culture. Since 1990, she has been a frequent traveler to Russia, having made over a dozen trips to the country, most recently in 2015. Kathleen served as the former Program Coordinator of UAA’s low-residency MFA Program, and has taught creative writing at UAA and for the Alaskan Writing Center/49 Writers. Her work has appeared in a wide variety of anthologies, magazines, newspapers, blogs and literary journals including:
Sewanee Review, Creative Nonfiction, Cirque, and TriQuarterly, Alaska Airlines Magazine, and America Magazine (published in Moscow). She earned her MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Pittsburgh. Kathleen is a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and was named a “Mullin Scholar” at USC’s Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies in Los Angeles. She is the author of the forthcoming memoir, We Are All Poets Here (VP&D House).
Categories: Arts & Culture

What is the Durability of Your Writing?

Mon, 02/01/2016 - 5:00am
Nothing like a little seismic instability to get you considering the durability of where you store your writing. After the 7.1 shaker we had early morning January 24, a member of 49 Writers reached out to me to ask about storing his writing in “the Cloud.” He faithfully backs up his computer on an external drive (Good! Yes, do this, and more than once a month!). But what if there’s another big shaker and that external drive is destroyed along with his beloved computer? Then what?

Enter “Cloud” storage. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, it simply means storing your files on an external server someplace else. In other words, your files live on a computer located outside of your home or office. Most cloud storage solutions have redundant backups, so if the warehouse (or server farm as the computer gurus call them) which contains the computer that stores your files should burn down, explode, get flooded, etc., your files are safe because they are located in several places.

I use two kinds of Cloud storage, and I am manic about backing up my hard-drive. It’s fairly easy for me because I work on a Mac, and the operating system comes with iCloud, a cloud-based storage solution. I also have a DropBox account which I use for work. DropBox is great because files can be shared with multiple people, and they exist locally on your computer so if you have no internet connection, you can still work. When you reconnect to the web, the local files update the copies stored in the Cloud. (BTW, iCloud works the same way.)

There are many many options for Cloud-based storage. I couldn’t begin to knowledgeably explain them all here, but I can point you toward two recent reviews:
Of course, because I’m one of those poets, this whole discussion has led me down the rabbit hole considering what’s the durability of any of our work? For whom do we write? And why? What happens to all of those words when we’re in a different type of cloud storage? 
This past Friday night, I got one answer to those questions as I listened to people read from Eva Saulitis’s work – poems and essay snippets from books, magazine articles, Caring Bridge and blog posts, a piece from the local paper. The big conversation going onward and outward with love.
Such a privilege to be part of it all.
If you're close to Anchorage, I hope I'll see you on Friday night (7pm at the Anchorage Museum) for CrossCurrents: Who Owns the Story?
take care,Erin


Categories: Arts & Culture

Weekly Roundup of Writing Opportunities for January 29

Fri, 01/29/2016 - 7:00am
It’s time to sign up for classes that start in February and March!!!!! And don't miss February 5th's CrossCurrents Event: Who Owns the Story? More details below.
2016 Class ScheduleRegistration for 2016 classes and workshops has started. Description, details, and registration on our website.  Feel free to contact us at 49writers@gmail.com if you have any questions.
AnchorageWriting from Historical Research taught by Kate PartridgeFebruary 13 and 27, 9am-noon
Mini Memoirs: Let’s Do Some Writing! taught by Judith ConteFebruary 20-21 and 27-28, 1-3pm
What Women Want taught by Martha AmoreMarch 3, 6-9pm
“THE END!” Writing Good Endings and Achieving Closure taught by Alyse KnorrMarch 5, 6-9pm
Writing with Anna Akhmatova taught by Olga Livshin and Kathleen TarrMarch 12 and 19, 9am-1pm
Forms of Poetry taught by Alyse KnorrApril 6, 13, 20, and 27, 6-9pm
Effectively Use Microsoft Word to Publish your Book to Kindle taught by Lara MaddenApril 7, 6-9pm
Set Your Fiction on Fire taught by Kim HeacoxApril 13, 6-9pm
HomerConfusing the Censor: Nurturing Receptive Mind taught by Peter Kaufmann and Wendy ErdApril 8 6:30-8:30pm, April 9 9am-noon & 1-4pm
JuneauWalking the Line by Susanna MishlerJanuary 30, 9am-noon
Everything I Can Teach You About Humor Writing in 3 Hours by Geoff KirschFebruary 4, 6-9pm
Set Your Fiction on Fire taught by Kim HeacoxApril 18, 6-9pm
OnlineFlash Fiction taught by Katey Schultz4 week asynchronous (12 hours minimum) – one optional video chat – fictionFebruary 29-April 3
Flashbacks Without Whiplash: Managing Time in Fiction by Andromeda Romano-LaxAsynchronous online classApril 4-25
EVENTS IN ANCHORAGE

CrossCurrents: Who Owns the Story?
February 5 at 7pm at Anchorage Museum

From the National Book Award-winning short story collection Redeployment by Marine Corps veteran Phil Klay, to acclaimed novels written by civilians like Ben Fountain’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk; writers are tackling the difficult topic of war and doing it well. But does war as a topic of literature “belong” to veterans any more than it does non-veterans? Is there room for depictions outside of combat? What defines “the experience?”

Join us, to hear and be heard, for a discussion with Sherry Simpson (The Dominion of Bears), Benjamin Busch (Dust to Dust), Elliott Ackerman (Green on Blue) and Lea Carpenter (Eleven Days). These four distinguished authors from both military and civilian backgrounds will share thoughts and answer questions in a Crosscurrents event that will kick off “Danger Close: Alaska,” the state’s first writing workshop aimed at uniting veteran and civilian writers in the production of high-quality literature.

Cirque Launch
Tom Sexton and Elizabeth L Thompson will be among the readers tomorrow night as CIRQUE, 7.1 is launched.  Venus Transit, formerly of JazzFest, will be performing to poetry with that mix of music and movement for which they are known - but more than that, a collection of creatives are transforming the peep show booths of the former Adults Only establishment. This event is the first to occupy the premises bringing it into the light with work that will arouse deeper urges celebrating love, lust and literature.  Join the Occupation!  Doors open at 5 pm. 3956 Spenard Road. Anchorage.

Savor the Rising Word Broadside InvitationalMembers of 49 Writers and past or present participants in 49 Writers workshops are invited to submit poetry broadsides for display at Great Harvest Bread Co. throughout the month of April 2016 in honor of National Poetry Month. Featured poets will be encouraged to read their works during a public event at the bakery at a date and time to be determined. Broadsides in the exhibit will be available for sale and proceeds will be donated to 49 Writers; those not sold will be retained by 49 Writers for future displays or events.
Details: Broadly defined, a poetry broadside combines the words of a poem with visual imagery. Though often printed on a letterpress or in other printmaking media, for purposes of this exhibit we will include any presentation that combines original poetry and original artwork (including photos) on thick paper (at least cardstock weight) no greater than 14” x 18” in size. Collaborative poet/artist pieces and collage pieces are welcome as long as they do not exceed the size limit.

Deadline: Monday, March 28, 2016. Submissions should be well wrapped in an envelope or paper and mailed or delivered by this date to the following address:
SAVOR THE RISING WORDS
Great Harvest Bread Co. Attn: Barbara Hood
570 East Benson, Suite 22 Anchorage, AK 99503

Please make sure your name(s) appear on the piece and include a completed Entry Form with your submission. All entrants will receive a coupon for a free loaf of bread and heartfelt gratitude. Don’t miss this opportunity to share your creative work and support a great cause!

Questions?
Please contact Barbara at middlerockraven@gmail.com or 907-301-5362. Thanks!
Events at the UAA Bookstore
Friday, January 29 from 6:00pm-8:00pm at UAA/APU Consortium Library room 307
Chilkoot Charlie’s Mike Gordon:  Learning the RopesMike Gordon, of Chilkoot Charlie's fame, shares stories about his life, Alaska, mountain climbing and personal challenges.  From arriving in Seward in 1953, to creating an internationally known nightclub, to summiting the highest mountains on six continents, to finishing a Master’s degree at Alaska Pacific University, to keeping a marriage of thirty-two years, Mike Gordon life seems idyllic.  However, underneath his quite public successes are stories that acknowledge the many low places in his life and include how he ultimately manages to face his personal demons and put his priorities in order. There is free parking at UAA on Fridays.   
Saturday, February 6 from 1:00pm-3:00pm at UAA/APU Consortium Library room 307
Historian Ian Hartman presents his book In the Shadow of Boone and Crockett: Race, Culture, and the Politics of Representation in the Upland South, where he explores American race theories concerning people of the upland South (southern Appalachia to the Ozarks).He describes how the eugenics movement “sought to regenerate and purify a once proud but now impoverished and degraded people through policies that included forced sterilization.”  He also explores how the contradictory identity of the upland South affected national debates about imperialism, poverty and inequality,Ian C. Hartman is an assistant professor of History at UAA.  There is free parking at UAA on Saturdays. 
Monday, February 8 from 5:00pm-7:00pm at the UAA/APU Consortium Library room 307Ernestine Saankalaxt’ Hayes presents “Writing, Rewriting, and Publication:  Before and After Blonde IndianErnestine Saankalaxt’ Hayes belongs to the Kaagwaantaan clan of the Eagle side of the Lingit nation.  Her memoir Blonde Indian: an Alaska Native Memoir received the American Book Award in 2007 and is the 2016 Alaska Reads selection.According to Jonas Lamb (Juneau Empire), Blonde Indian “ celebrates Tlingit culture, the strong connection between the people, this magnificent land, the animals and the spirits, it also brings to light the historic and contemporary fallout of colonialism and racism.  The structure of the book will challenge many and the content will confront others, but all readers will find they are changed by the experience.”
Ernestine Saankalaxt’ Hayes received her MFA in Creative Writing and Literary Arts from UAA and is an assistant professor of English at UAS. This event is sponsored by the Alaska Center for the Book and the UAA Campus Bookstore.There is free parking for this event in the Library Lot, Library NE Lot and the East Parking Garage.
For a look at future events see https://www.uaa.alaska.edu/bookstore/events/special-events-calendar.cfm

Local Library EventsBook SigningsEVENTS AROUND ALASKASOUTHCENTRAL, MAT-SU, KENAI PENINSULA
HomerShut Up and Write! Taking the writing experience from solitary to social.Thursdays, 7pm to 9pm, February 4 to March 10 in HomerAlice's Champagne Palace, upstairsNo critiquing, exercises, lectures, ego, competition or feeling guilty, just a place to show up, shut up, and work on your writing projects in the company of other writers.No fees or registration, just fun!Contact Christina Whiting for more information: 907-435-7969

SOUTHEASTJoin the Alaska Marine Conservation Council and writers Tele Aadsen and Miranda Weiss for a storytelling workshop for young fishermen! The best spokespeople for Alaska's fisheries are those that live in the thick of it — those that know the rhythm of a North Pacific ground swell and the joy of bringing wild fish from ocean to table. Come and learn more about how you can speak for the way of life and the fisheries you love. Learn how to use your voice to shape a strong future for our coastal communities and the fish they depend on, listen to others' stories, and leave impassioned to speak for Alaska's next generation of fishermen.
This is a free 3-hour workshop, taking place in Juneau at 9 a.m. January 30, the Saturday morning following the Alaska Young Fishermen's Summit. We will meet at the Catholic Church in downtown Juneau (416 5th Street). Coffee, snacks and writing materials provided. To check out more on the awesome workshop leaders visit their blogs and links to their work below! - Miranda Weiss: http://mirandaweiss.com/- Tele Aadsen: "One woman at sea, trolling for the truth" http://www.teleaadsen.com/RSVP via the Facebook Event at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1531786377131370/Contact for more information: Hannah Heimbuch — hannah@akmarine.org
OPPORTUNITIES FOR WRITERS
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 novelist and short story writer Rick Moody will lead fiction writers in a workshop will focus on experiment, imagination, and revision, techniques for each, with an emphasis on writing prompts, close reading of sentences, and ideas about structure. 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.
Annual Statewide Poetry ContestDeadline: February 1, 2016, 6:00 pm
Fairbanks Arts Association (FAA) is now accepting entries for the 22nd Annual Statewide Poetry Contest, judged by James Engelhardt. The purpose of the contest is to encourage, publicize and reward the writing of high-quality poetry.
This year, FAA and KUAC are partnering to bring the poetry of the contest's winners to a larger audience; winners will be asked to record their poems for broadcast on KUAC's radio station FM 89.9 in celebration of Alaska's own poetry during National Poetry Month in April. The winners of the Statewide Poetry Contest will also be invited to read their poems alongside judge James Engelhardt at a special literary reading on Saturday, April 9 at 7pm at Fairbanks Arts Association's Bear Gallery (3rd Floor Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts, Pioneer Park, 2300 Airport Way).
Divisions: Awards:Adult - 1st Place $150 | 2nd Place $100 | 3rd Place $50High School - 1st Place $100 | 2nd Place $50 | 3rd Place $25Elementary & Middle School - 1st Place $50 | 2nd Place $30 | 3rd Place $15
Entry Fee: Grade, Middle and High School: $3 per poem or $10/four poems.Adults: $4 per poem or $13/four poems.
For more information about the poetry contest, click here, visit www.fairbanksarts.org, or call 907-456-6485 ext.226.
Call for 10-Minute Plays for 2016 8X10 FestivalFairbanks Drama Association and The Looking Glass Group Theatre invite Alaskan residents to send their best 10-minute plays to be considered for our Annual 8X10 Festival of New Alaskan Plays.
Eight ten-minute plays will be given staged readings at the Festival, which will be held April 22 & 23, 2016, at FDA’s Hap Ryder Riverfront Theater in Fairbanks.
Guidelines for entering scripts: Alaskan residents only. One entry per playwright. One author per play. No musicals or children’s plays. Submit 5 (five) copies of each script. Staple or paper-clip the play. DO NOT use binders or folders of any kind. Plays cannot be returned. Put playwright’s name and contact info, including phone and e-mail, on the cover (title) page. This is the only place the author’s name should appear. “Cast of Characters” page with brief character descriptions and time & place should follow cover page. Number pages beginning with the first page of dialogue. Plays should be between 8 & 12 minutes, based on one minute of playing time per page of script, 12 pt. font size, and be written in standard playwriting format. Cast size should be no more than eight actors. No electronic submissions or Express mail.
Submissions must be postmarked or hand-delivered no later than March 15, 2016 to:8X10 FestivalFairbanks Drama Association/ Looking Glass Group Theatre1852 Second AvenueFairbanks, Alaska 99701
For more information, contact: Peggy MacDonald Ferguson, Executive Director, pegferguson@gci.net
Distance CritiqueGet professional feedback on your writing for ADULTS, teens, or children! How does it work? Register and send your material in by due date (January; they send it to a professional literary agent who critiques and sends it back. Optional workshop to discuss critiques. Brought to you by The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI, Alaska Chapter, but this critique is for writers of any content. Register at https://alaska.scbwi.org/events/distance-critique-january-2016/
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 RiverThe PloverMartin 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
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
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 sbsommer@mtaonline.net.
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.
Alderworks Alaska Writers and Artists Retreat will be accepting residency applications November 15, 2015 - February15, 2016 (EXTENDED). For more information visit http://alderworksalaska.com
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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

Guest Blogger Martha Amore Ponders What Women Want

Thu, 01/28/2016 - 5:00am
During the 49 Writers recent Anchorage Resolve to Write event, I enjoyed hearing about everybody’s plans for the upcoming year. I was also interested to hear how much writing everybody accomplished in 2015. Truly inspiring! The event is helping me dive into 2016, a year in which I hope to finish a book of short stories, publish an anthology along with my co-editor Lucian Childs, and last but not least, apply to a doctoral program through University of Alaska Fairbanks. What? More schooling? I must suffer from degree envy.

Many fiction writers hold Bachelor degrees in English. I still can’t figure out why I do not hold such a degree, given the fact that English was always my very favorite class throughout high school. Somewhere amidst my rabble-rousing at the University of Michigan, though, I set my sights on the social sciences. I later returned to school and earned an MFA, but I have to admit the whole while I pined for graduate courses in sociology, anthropology, and psychology. Now, as I chase after a doctorate, I am finally able to weld both of my passions: creative writing and psychology. Turns out, they fit quite well together. You have heard of the psychological novel, right?

In my upcoming 49 Writers course, What Women Want, I will share with you some of what I am learning. Focusing on the current trends in the psychology of women, I will explain my belief that psychological research can add depth to your stories, poems, and non-fiction. People often think of Freud when confronted with the field of psychology, and in fact, it was Freud’s old question that inspired my course name. “What does woman want?” he asked forlornly, then he threw up his metaphorical arms and said something along the lines of “Whatevs.” Although Freud did rock the world with his idea of the mind as a complex entity of competing drives, the modern discipline views much of his work as horrendously lacking in scientific method. Sadly, my course will not focus on penis envy or hysteria. Rather, we will review a more modern history of the psychology of women, illustrating that women have been left out of the research for decades, and emphasizing the gender similarities approach.

Once students digest the overview of the psychology of women, we will engage in a discussion about how psychological research can be just as important as historical research in the process of creative writing. Students will explore ways in which a character’s psychology interacts with other literary elements such as style, setting, and plot. After, we will do a close reading of a selection of female literary characters, some whose psychology is fully drawn and believable (though perhaps surprising), and some who . . . well, you’ll see. I encourage students to come to class with a draft or character sketch, as we will have an opportunity to practice various ways of envisioning and showing a character’s psychology.

I wish all of you the very best writing, health, and well-being in 2016.~Martha Amore
Register for What Women Want, an in-person class in Anchorage, held on March 3 at our website
MARTHA AMORE is a fiction writer and also teaches writing at Alaska Pacific University and the University of Alaska Anchorage. She achieved her Masters of Fine Arts in fiction from UAA, and currently resides in Anchorage with her husband and three daughters. Her first novella recently came out in the anthology Weathered Edge: Three Alaskan Novellas, and she is a 2015 Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist Project Award winner. Currently, she is working on an anthology of Alaskan LGBTQ short fiction and poetry, as well as a book of her own short stories. She is also a student of psychology, angling for an Interdisciplinary PhD.
Categories: Arts & Culture

Guest Blogger Kris Farmen: Alma Mater

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 5:00am
Now I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds, said Krishna to both Arjuna on the battlefield and Robert Oppenheimer of the Manhattan Project.  These words, for not entirely obvious reasons, rattled around my head yesterday as I wandered the trails behind the University of Alaska, Fairbanks with a long stick.  My purpose, among other things, was to knock the snow from all the nearby spruce trees as I walked.  A childish pleasure, admittedly, but with gunmen on the streets of Paris and the Far North falling apart due to climate change, I felt a specific need to flee to the woods.  The forest, after all, cares not a whit for our human vanities, and on a good day you can forget you have any ties to the human world.

I’m back on the UAF campus in the Tanana Valley because I happen to be madly in love with a lady in the MFA creative writing program up here.  The experience has been something of a Fairbanks redux for me.  I formerly lived in the Golden Heart City for ten years, starting with my college days here at UAF.  Then came the good job I was promised by my high school counselors if I majored in something other than art.  This phase of my life was truncated by a move overseas to a far sunnier place, then a move back to my home ground of Cook Inlet.  I must confess that I was not precisely thrilled to come back for more 40 below winters.  I’d been here, done this, and bought the t-shirt.  For a surfer like myself, Fairbanks is just too far removed from Mother Ocean for comfort.  Going too long without smelling the sea salt leaves you feeling like one of your major organs isn’t functioning properly.

Thankfully, love is a powerful force in the world.  Cook Inlet is where my heart resides, but it has been nothing short of delightful to reacquaint myself with my old forest haunts:  The big stands of aspen and white spruce, the peeling of birchbark in May, the gold leaves of September and the ruffed grouse hunting that comes with it.  The minty taste of dry cold air on the tongue and the blue of the sky reflected on the surface of the snow.  The hills between Fairbanks and Nenana are still my very favorite stretch of forest anywhere in the world.  There’s lots to eat here—blueberries, crowberries, the aforementioned ruffs.  Fairbanks still has the irksome tendency to consider itself the center of the universe, but then most every town does that.  Beauty abounds in this world, and the Tanana Valley has more than its fair share.

One of the great pleasures of being here has been getting to interact with a completely different community of writers, many if not most of whom are MFA students.  I should have been an art student, but I hated English classes with a passion.  At twenty years of age I wanted to work in the woods looking for old bottles and arrowheads, so I studied archaeology.  Twenty years later, as the significant other of a member of the English department, I get all the fun of hanging out and talking about books and writing, but with none of the responsibility.

But today is not about hunting and wild fruit, nor books and English degrees.  It’s about childish fun in the face of the onslaught of the madness that dominates our world, to say nothing of the difficulties of trying to make a life in the arts in a country that seems to consider my calling little more than a childish indulgence.

I walk along the narrow footpath, my hood pulled up.  This is not a trail of memory, just a path in the woods.  I never spent any time on these specific trails when I lived here before, but now with an apartment on campus, they’re the closest available woods.  Over the trail hangs a tall slender black spruce, bent over like a wedding bower from the weight of the accumulated snow.  It might be the fabled portal to another dimension, perhaps a world where a democratic socialist who understands hunting as a way of life can be elected president.  Sadly, it’s just a tree bent over the trail.  Two firm whacks of my stick brings the snow cascading to the ground in a series of muffled thumps.  It’s a delicate dance to keep from getting a splash of frozen water crystals down my face.  Water, cries the marooned surfer, water everywhere and not a drop to paddle out in.

It would be the most impotent of sentiments to say that campus has changed so much since the mid-nineties, but the dry bite of the November cold surely hasn’t.  Nor has my pleasure at reading animal tracks in the snow.  Knocking mounded snow off of spruce boughs is still as much of a cheap thrill as it was when I was a nine year old samurai warrior, about the time reading and books became the dominant features of my life.

PLEASE DO NOT WALK ON THE SKI TRAILS, says the sign.  I’ve never been very good with rules in the forest.  I smack the sign with my stick, saying “Please do not ski on the walking trails, bitches.”  The raven in to top of the nearby tree watches the hairless ape, deep in marginal territory for his frail species, his progress across the earth marked by cascades of falling snow and the upspring of newly unburdened boughs.

Kris Farmen is a novelist, historian, and award-winning journalist whose books include Weathered Edge, Turn Again, and The Devil's Share.  He is a semi-regular contributor to The Anchorage PRESS, and his work has also appeared in Alaska magazine, Mushing, Russian Life, and The Alaska Dispatch News, among others.  Blue Ticket, his new novel, will be released in early 2016.  He divides his time between Homer, Fairbanks, and Anchorage.
Categories: Arts & Culture

Guest Blogger: Alyse Knorr on Just Saying No to Dramatic Hamsters and Neat Pretty Bowties

Tue, 01/26/2016 - 5:00am
“He loved Big Brother.”
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
“How can we know the dancer from the dance?"

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty—that is allYe know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
“Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision.”
In case you haven’t figured it out by now, what these five famous literary excerpts all have in common is this: They are fantastic, beautiful endings. But that certainly doesn’t mean they were easy to dream up. Each semester, I ask my writing students which they dread more: beginnings or endings. And every time, the vast majority of them choose endings. Why? Why are endings—good ones, at least—so difficult to write?
For starters, there’s the pressure of how important they are. If your reader has made it to your ending, it means you wrote a short story/novel/essay/poem that’s held their attention this entire time (congratulations on that, by the way!), and the last thing you want to do is mess all of that up in your final line. The ending is the last thing your reader will remember about your masterpiece, the lingering seed planted in their mind that will grow and grow—not to mention the impetus (hopefully!) for that reader to want to seek out more of your work in the future.
Perhaps endings are also so hard to write because, on some level, we don’t want to say goodbye to the project we’re working on. I know, I know, that sounds a little cheesy. But if you’ve poured your hopes and dreams, your sweat, blood, and tears, and everything else in between into this piece of writing, it’s a pretty tall order to come up with the line that will send it gently (or not so gently) into that good night.
And that brings us to the third challenge of producing a good ending: the dreaded feeling of having said everything there is to say already. You’ve simply run out of fuel. You’re out of material, but you’re left with a lingering, haunting feeling that the piece just isn’t quite finished yet.
But as tough as endings can be to hammer out, I’ve found that my favorite moments in the writing process usually involve final lines. The ending lines are the ones that most often take me by surprise—that sneak up on me in the middle of my drafting process and elbow their way to a closure I wasn’t expecting at all and had no idea I contained inside myself. It’s easy to get addicted to that feeling.
So how can we arrive at these kinds of moments instead of the moments of dread and frustration in our writing process? We’ll explore these questions and more in my 49 Writers class “The End!”, but for now, I’ll leave you with this: try to avoid at all costs the two worst kinds of endings—the neat bowtie ribbon ending and the dramatic hamster surprise ending. The neat bowtie ribbon ending is, essentially, “And they all lived happily ever after.” It ties everything up so neatly and prettily that the reader has no reason to ever think about your story, poem, essay, or novel ever again. Sometimes it’s saccharine-sweet, other times it’s trying too hard to feel wise and profound, telling the reader what to think of the ending with way too much hand-holding. It almost always feels like it’s forced, or like it’s trying too hard—like it’s announcing “HELLO, I AM AN ENDING!” in a gleeful or smug tone.
The dramatic hamster surprise ending, on the other hand, does something very different. It tries to introduce a sudden “twist” that reveals new information the reader didn’t and usually couldn’t have known all along. As an adolescent, I wrote a perfect example of one of these endings. I painted a picture of a grim and brutal war zone, inhabited by a soldier named Matt trying to sneak his way through enemy lines to victory, all while being bombarded with attack after attack. In the last sentence of the story, I revealed that Matt was actually a young child playing war with his friends outside. The “bombs” and “missiles” were actually water balloons. So what’s the problem with an ending like that? For starters, it feels like the whole story exists for the sole purpose of the ending. It’s all an elaborate joke with the ending as the punchline. It robs the story itself of any kind of beauty or significance. It trades good craft and interesting ideas for a cheap “Gotcha!” thrill—one that usually doesn’t reveal anything new or important about the world to the reader whatsoever.
Now don’t get me wrong—either of these endings often work extremely well in commercial novels (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has a great bowtie ribbon ending), and TV shows and films are absolutely full of them (Planet of the Apes, Oldboy, Memento, and any M. Night Shyamalan movie ever, to name just a handful, all feature mind-blowingly amazing dramatic hamster surprise twist endings). But in general—and “rules” are made to be broken, so don’t take everything I say here as an absolute—what works for thriller movies does not always work well for thoughtful poems and literary short stories. Then again, read Borges’s “The Garden of Forking Paths” and you’ll probably have lots to argue with me about.
Register for “THE END!” Writing Good Endings and Achieving Closure (March 5, 6-9pm)
Alyse Knorr has taught creative writing to individuals ages 8 to 80, of all levels and all genres, and is passionate about bringing out the best in her students. As a poet, she extremely sound-focused and spent three years studying meter, rhyme, and syntax while earning her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree from George Mason University. She currently teaches English at the University of Alaska Anchorage and is finishing up her fifth book.
Categories: Arts & Culture

Grammar is Your Friend

Mon, 01/25/2016 - 5:00am
Want to make yourself unpopular? Correct someone’s grammar. And yet, for a writer, grammar isn’t just making sure you’ve got the right their-there-they’re, it’s about understanding how sentence structure and punctuation can be used to make your writing more effective.
My students have often jumped to point out e e cummings’s lack of adherence to punctuation and capitalization rules as proof positive that creative writers (especially poets) do not have to hew to the strictures of grammar. To them, I offered the following advice, “In order to break the rules, you need to know the rules.” I still truly believe that. But perhaps more correctly, I should have said, “If you’re going to break the rules, make sure it is for a purpose.”
Writing a sentence fragment. Ending a sentence with a preposition. Starting a sentence with a conjunction. All grammatical no-no’s that can be used with great effect. However, breaking the rules must be intentional, not because you are willing to write sloppily.
And so, to help those of you that may have tuned out your high school English teacher, I’ve put together a list of grammar resources that are not tiresome, but rather are really quite fun.
Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing A seriously fun podcast by Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to PunctuationFor those of you who puzzle with punctuation. Here’s the book description: In Eats, Shoots & Leaves, former editor Lynne Truss, gravely concerned about our current grammatical state, boldly defends proper punctuation. She proclaims, in her delightfully urbane, witty, and very English way, that it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them as the wonderful and necessary things they are. Using examples from literature, history, neighborhood signage, and her own imagination, Truss shows how meaning is shaped by commas and apostrophes, and the hilarious consequences of punctuation gone awry.
Woe is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain EnglishAs described by Publisher’s Weekly: O'Conner's bestselling guide to grammar is an invigorating and entertaining dissection of our ever-evolving language. He guides readers through conversational conundrums with aplomb, filling in not only the logic behind the appropriate choice for, say, possessives, but also explaining such oddities as the spelling of restaurateur (instead of a "restauranteur"), the proper pronunciation of prix fix ("pree feeks") and a slew of mnemonic devices to help amateur grammarians keep ifs, ands and buts in check. It's these small digressions that make the book so readable, even for those with a deep-seated hatred for grammatical do-goodery. O'Conner gleefully eviscerates poor sentence construction and dangling participles, soothes verb tension and debunks the frequently intimidating semicolon with finesse. Tempered with a heavy dose of wit (reaching its nadir in her chapter on clichés), O'Conner's lively treatise is as vital as a dictionary for those who wish to be taken seriously in speech, in print or on Facebook.
For those of you who need a case by case clarification, I present OWL, the Online Writing Lab of Purdue University which is an outstanding resource for all things grammar and citations. I have steered students on a regular basis over the last ten years toward this wonderful resource.
So, don't dread grammar; revel in twisting it to your own purposes. It's still a bad idea to correct someone else's grammar, no matter how much you want to. Just do it in your head, like I do. (And for those who were wondering, I was breaking those grammar rules in spades so as to illustrate my point.)

Have a wonderful writing week,
Erin Hollowell
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