Good to see the rain finally found its way to Anchorage. It just didn't feel right writing with the sun glaring off my laptop screen. This is why Miami has produced such few belles lettres.
In Juneau, our next member event is on August 6 from 7-9 pm; again, members should watch for details via email. (Not a member? Head over to our website to join.) And stay tuned for the fall schedule including Melinda Moustakis’ (Bear Down, Bear North - 2012 Flannery O’Connor Award Recipient for Short Fiction) NEA-funded tour of Southeast Alaska.
Last but not least, we're looking for authors to get involved with Alaska Book Week Oct. 3 -11. Visit www.alaskabookweek.com and click the 2015 logo to participate. This year, you can also get involved with a video interview. 49 Writers Volunteer Seta KabranianEVENTS IN ANCHORAGEPoetry Parley will be on hiatus for July and August. Starting September 20th at Hugi-Lewis Studio, Parley will kick off a new season with readings from 10 (plus) local poets. There will be no marquee poet. Send a note to email@example.com if you want to be considered. We will hold a few slots for new readers. Anchorage Museum has posted their Schedule of Programs for July and August. Visit www.anchoragemuseum.org/media for the full list of events. Below are some of the highlights. To confirm details and dates, call the Marketing and Public Relations Department at (907) 929-9227.
Call for Stories of Summer Adventure. Are you having the best summer? Prove it and share your tales with a Pecha Kucha style presentation on Aug. 21. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org by Aug. 14 if you would like to be a presenter.
Promote your book at the National Federation of Press Women Annual Conference, September 10 – 12 at the Captain Cook Hotel Anchorage. Alaska Professional Communicators will provide at no charge an opportunity for authors to sign and sell their books. Attendees, conference speakers, and APC members can sign up for a place at the authors' tables on both Fri., Sept. 11, 3:45 - 4:30 PM and Sat., Sept. 12, 4:00 - 4:30 PM. Contact Lizzie Newell at
email@example.com to let her know the name of your book(s). We will provide attendees a list of participating authors and their books. Events at the UAA Bookstore Tuesday, August 4 from 4:00-6:00 pm, Historical Fiction Author Lynn Lovegreen presents Gold Nuggets, the final book in her young adult Gold Rush, which includes: Worth Her Weight in Gold (Juneau 1886); Fools Gold (Skagway, 1898); Quicksilver to Gold (Nome, 1900); Golden Days (Fairbanks, 1906); Gold Nuggets (Denali & Kantishna, 1916). Lynn Lovegreen was raised and lives in Anchorage, Alaska and has taught at the Anchorage School district. Thursday, August 6 from 4:00pm-6:00pm, Anchorage Remembers: A Century of Stories. Contributors to Anchorage Remembers, an anthology of 39 stories selected by 49 Writers, discuss the relationship amongst memoir, writing, and history. Guest speakers include Betty Arnett, Diane Benson, Mary Katzke, and Katy Neher. This event is sponsored with 49 Writers and the program is made possible by a Centennial Community Grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum, the Rasmuson Foundation, and the Anchorage Centennial Celebration. All UAA Campus Bookstore events are informal, free and open to the public. There is free parking for bookstore events in the South Lot, the West Campus Central Lot (behind Rasmuson Hall), and the Sports NW Lot. Note: UAA Campus Bookstore podcasts are posted in iTunes or iTunes U--just search UAA or UAA Campus Bookstore. Or see http://www.uaa.alaska.edu/bookstore/events/podcasts.cfm. Local Library Events
EVENTS AROUND ALASKASOUTHCENTRAL, MAT-SU, KENAI PENINSULA SOUTHEAST INTERIOR
OPPORTUNITIES FOR WRITERSCONFERENCES, AWARDS, RETREATS & RESIDENCIES The Alaska Literary Awards were established in 2014 by the Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation, through a generous gift from Peggy Shumaker and Joe Usibelli, to recognize and support writers of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, playwriting, screenwriting, and mixed genres. Any Alaska writer over the age of 18 who is not a full-time student is eligible to apply. Quality of the work submitted is the primary consideration in determining who receives the awards. A select number of $5,000 awards will be awarded this year. For more information, and to apply, go to:http://bit.ly/2015AKLitAwards. The deadline for entries is August 31st, 2015 at 9:59 AKDT. The Connie Boochever Artist Fellowship awards recognize and support Alaska emerging artists of exceptional talent. In the 2015 cycle, a select number of $2,500 fellowships will be awarded to individual artists working in visual art, including film, digital and media arts. For more information, and to apply, go to: http://bit.ly/2015BoocheverFellows. The deadline for entries is August 31st, 2015 at 9:59 AKDT. The 2016 Governor's Awards ceremony will be held in Juneau on Thursday, January 28th. We will also continue the tradition of scheduling CHAMP Day (Culture, Humanities, Arts & Museums Partners), a legislative fly-in day, on Wednesday, January 27th. Please start brainstorming ideas for nominees and consider submitting a nomination! The nomination process will open in August. This year's Arts categories will be: Margaret Nick Cooke Award for Alaska Native Arts & Languages, Business Leadership, Arts Advocacy and Individual Artist. A list of previous awardees can be found at https://education.alaska.gov/aksca/pdf/Past_Recipients_GAAH.pdf. 2016 Statewide Arts and Culture Conference will take place in Anchorage, Thursday, April 28th through Saturday, April 30th. We are in the process of exploring compelling themes, topics and national speakers for the convening. Like our last conference, we will be engaging Alaskan artists in the planning and production of the event. Be on the lookout for the opportunity to apply to be a conference Partner Artist, which will open in the fall. If you have any ideas to share with us, please send them our way by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The Anchorage Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) is conducting a survey to inform its Live. Work. Play. Initiative, which seeks to make Anchorage the number one city in America to live work and play by 2025. If you live in Anchorage and care about the arts, please take a moment to add your voice to this survey-it's just two VERY short questions!https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LiveWorkPlayAnchorage Poetry Out Loud registration deadline for schools deadline is October 15, 2015. Click here to hear from the 2015 National Poetry Out Loud Champion from Alaska, Maeva Ordaz. Wrangell Mountains Writing Workshoppresents RiverSong with Frank Soos, Michelle McAfee, Robin Child, and Nancy Cook, July 22-27, McCarthy to Chitina. The Wrangell Mountains Writing Workshop is pleased to partner with McCarthy River Tours & Outfitters to host a six-day, five-night adventure in the fabulous Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. This year’s workshop will feature poet and essayist, Frank Soos, who is currently serving as Alaska’s Writer Laureate, joined by accomplished singer-songwriter Michelle McAfee, backcountry banjo-diva Robin Child, and workshop director Nancy Cook. Together they will explore the ways wilderness can help inspire songs, stories, poems, and essays. Activities include an opening reading/performance and craft sessions in the comfort of the Wrangell Mountains Center’s facility in McCarthy, followed by three nights and four days of creative inquiry along the Kennicott, Nizina, Chitina, and Copper Rivers. Space is limited to eight student writers/ songwriters.
Alaska Writers Guild & SCBWI Annual Writer’s Conference, September 19-20, Anchorage. Early registration starts May 2015. www.AlaskaWritersGuild.com Alaska Women Speak is looking for a responsible maven fluent with InDesign (CS6) layout and website savvy to join the all-volunteer crew as Layout Editor. Here’s your chance to create for a 23rd year in the running, statewide, quarterly publication! This is not a site-specific volunteer opportunity, but sound Internet connection is required. Occasional Skype sessions apply. If interested, we'd love to hear from you. Please contact us 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.
From July 1 to August 15 theRasmuson Foundation Artist Residency Program will be accepting applications from Alaska artists and writers interested in a fully-funded two-month residency in the Lower 48. The eligibility requirements have changed—Alaska-based artists who have not received a Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist Award are now also eligible to apply. A free information session detailing the program, eligibility requirements, and application process will be held June 26, at 6 p.m. in the Anchorage Museum’s Reynolds Classroom. Potential applicants are invited to attend in-person or by teleconference. More information can be found at rasmuson.org. If you have questions about the program, contact Jayson Smart at email@example.com or call 907-297-2882.
GOOD NEWS! Erin Coughlin Hollowell is our new Executive Director!
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.
In the search for new ways to freshen up the blog, I've decided to write an occasional (once - or twice-monthly) column meant to help you endear yourself to future editors.While not an expert, I will point out a few issues of punctuation, grammar, and so on that have recently come to my attention, and I will try to keep these bite-sized, so you can feel good about getting that small dose of editorial self-improvement every now and again.
There's nothing like editing other people's work to make your own eye a little keener, and I've spent the last 2,000 years -- I mean, six months -- freelance copyediting several drafts of a highly technical 800-page document. Oh, how it has revealed to me my own past errors, and how those errors compounded over the length of a book manuscript can drive an editor batty, I now know from personal experience! I've also been doing just a wee bit of manuscript coaching, and again, I notice how each of us have our own little blind spots, the correcting of which might greatly soothe the frayed nerves of the people who read our work. (And yes, I have my own blind spots, without a doubt. We're all better at cleaning up other people's copy-- that's why editors and proofreaders exist. And will I continue to make mistakes at this blog? Absolutely. It's much easier to catch and correct errors in a word document than on a blogpost. You've been warned!)
Today, I begin with the smallest thing of all: the space.
The error: Putting more than one space between each sentence. (Am I seeing a lot of this? Yes ma'am. And it means I have to scroll sentence by sentence, taking out a space at a time, and inevitably missing a few because spaces are often hard to judge, over the course of hundreds of pages.)
The correction: One space. Just one. It's that easy.
Why the furor? Agent Nathan Bransford did a survey and found that his readers split over the issue of spacing. Asked how many spaces should be used after a period, 54 percent said "one space, clearly!" and 45 percent said "two spaces, obviously!" I'm sorry to tell you that 45 percent of his readers are wrong.
Why the error? Like so many things, this one has to do with changing technology. In old-fashioned pre-computer days, we were limited to non-proportional font spacing (all characters same width), and two spaces between each sentence made text easier to read. But today, proportional font renders the extra space obsolete. People who learned the old way in typing classes seem to have a hard time letting this one go, but it's an important habit to break. Why? Because you're making work for your copyeditor. You want your copyeditor to love you. And that's why you'll stay tuned for the next column in this series!
Don't believe me and/or want to learn more? This take-no-hostages column at Slate will more than satisfy your spacing questions and leave you feeling sheepish that you didn't have it straight until now.
How do I know what I think until I see what I say?~E.M. Forster I rarely outline, not at first anyhow. But like most writers, I do a lot of thinking about structure, and especially about what I call the reveal. Admittedly, outlines are great for seeing what you’ve got to work with and for playing around with organization. But they also wheel us back to the artifices of academia that work against fresh, lively prose. The outline’s partner in crime is the five-paragraph essay. Both set up habits that please teachers but stifle interest. Find a topic, chop it up in the most obvious way, knit it back together with a thesis statement and a bunch of handy transitions, reiterate, reiterate, reiterate, and then wrap it all up. You may thank Artistotle for the snores of your readers. This training is all wrong. We’re not building a case in a courtroom. We’re aiming for art, insight, and enjoyment. But if logic’s not the best way to arrive at surprise and delight, a hodgepodge doesn’t satisfy either. Rewind to Aristotle, more helpful with his three acts. Beginning, middle, end; set-up, complication, climax/resolution. Screenwriters can tell you how long each should be, and how the action shifts. The more we read, the more good movies we watch, the more we develop an intuitive sense these three acts, so as we’re playing around with ideas for a story or a narrative essay or a book, we start to envision scenes in which the action builds from the set-up and complications toward a climax and resolution. Though we’d like to think the process is entirely organic, at some level order does get imposed. The question turns to when and what kind of order. First thoughts aren’t always best thoughts, and that’s the problem with a lot of traditional outlining, which carves a topic into logical parts and arranges them in the most logical and expected manner. Pulitzer-prize winning author Jon Franklin says there are three levels of story: the academic, polished level; the outline level that deals with conceptual relationships between characters; and the structural level, made up of major focuses that zoom in on emotional turning points. Transitions aren’t used to connect dots, but to move the reader from scene to scene. The first focus Franklin calls the complicating focus. It’s where your reader is hooked, where character begins to unfold, where the nature of the dilemma is made clear. The second focus, in three or more parts, is the developmental focus, where complications are explored. Each of these has its own beginning, middle, and end. The first can carry a flashback. At the end of the third comes a moment of insight, a plot point in screenwriter lingo. A resolving focus comes at the end. S.C. Gwynne’s bestseller Empire of the Summer Moon, a finalist for the Pulitzer, is a great example of Franklin’s principles on the page. The subtitle reveals the scope of this nonfiction book: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History. Outlined in the traditional way, it would follow the life of Quanah Parker, starting with his birth, tracking the rise of his influence, and ending with his death. Yawn. Gwynne begins instead with a complicating focus, hooking the reader with on-the-ground accounts of fierce Comanche battles. Hints of Quanah’s character through the captivating (literally) story of his mother, a white woman taken by the Comanches. The over-arching dilemma is clear: the Comanches rise up as warriors among the Plains Indian tribes, and they won’t go down without a fight. Every complication has its own beginning, middle, and end: the introduction of the horse onto the American plains, the botched Indian policies of the U.S. government, the in-fighting among tribes. Each focus weaves into the others, and the very, very end of the book satisfies the reader’s anticipation of how they’ll ultimately come together. Even at the paragraph level, Gwynne is a master of rocking the traditional order. Look at where he puts the traditional topic sentence in this excerpt, which comes at the end of a long paragraph about the blunders of Ranald Slidell Mackenzie, deemed the “Anti-Custer” by Gwynne: Large concentrations of soldiers with long supply trains were a signal to simply disappear, which was usually easy enough. It was the reason so many U.S. troops spent so much time marching and riding about, looking for and not finding Indians. Not finding Indians had been the principal activity of the U.S. cavalry for years in the West. Mackenzie’s force was enormous by plains standards: It was the largest that had ever been sent to pursue Indians. “Not finding Indians had been the principal activity of the U.S. cavalry for years in the West.” A less writer would have killed the reveal by moving this great one-liner to the top of the paragraph where we expect the topic sentence, and thereby deflating its effect by half. Withholding is a huge part of good writing. So is shaking up the traditional order. Try This: Shake up the order of your work in progress. Think like a camera, zooming and in and out of complications. Work the stories within your story. Strategize your reveals. As Seth Kantner says, you need to always carry your reader, but don’t overuse transitions to impose logic; instead, use them sparingly, to move the reader from scene to scene. Check This Out: Jon Franklin’s Writing for Story promises – and delivers on – craft secrets of dramatic non-fiction by a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. It opens new ways to think about structure for writers of fiction, too.
HATHAWAY SQUATTED LIKE death itself over the remains of the deer, dirty to the elbows with her innards. The smell rising from her open cavity burned like ammonia. Fluids stung his hands and forearms. His shot had entered behind the shoulder and low, spiraling through the doe’s organs like a drill bit and bursting her bladder, tainting the meat with urine. Splinters of bone punctured the stomach. Gastric acid trickled out in a pair of slow streams that ran beneath Hathaway’s legs and down the beach to the water. He wiped his face on his sleeve, up high by his shoulder and away from the blood. Under other circumstances such a shot might embarrass him. This time it didn’t matter. He wasn’t there for the deer. He’d come to kill his friend John Stone. Stretching the curve from his back, Hathaway stood and looked around the beach for bear. This was when they’d get him — startle him over a kill while his hands were busy, the scent of blood like a perfumed dinner invitation. His quadriceps ached imagining the weight of a bite. He’d been near bears before and the smell of death surrounded them, fetid and rank, unapologetically savage. Bears terrified him. He couldn’t imagine ever getting used to their presence here in Alaska. This was their damn country. He glanced at his deer rifle, a stainless Winchester ought-six he’d leaned against a felled spruce left on the beach by the tide. It was cut and limbed recently enough that the exposed faces hadn’t yet discolored. Concentric rings showed its age. Ancient. Dizzying. It seemed a sin to log it. He guessed it had broken away from a raft being towed past the town, toward the logging company camp.Since the local Native corporation had sold the logging rights, the town had entered yet another evolution. After a thousand years, the corporation’s animal totem — raven on brown bear on killer whale — had been re-imagined: helicopters swarmed the southern sky, log trucks prowled the roads, barges ghosted in and out of the bay at night, hulking shadows on a moonless horizon. The air trembled with activity. Locals remembered a time not so long ago when the paper mill was here, in town, and the sour smell of pulp coated everything like the rain, but now the pulp was made in Japan and the raw trees came from here, as if, having killed the town by suffocating its economy, the Japanese were coming back for its flesh and bones. He’d heard fishermen in the harbors complaining about all the deadhead logs in the water, how they had to run them like a gauntlet while checking their crab pots, or cut them from their gillnets like bloated corpses. Before he’d come to the island, Hathaway had never run a boat. He still hadn’t run one in the dark, and like everything else up here, the thought of it scared him. There were a lot of ways to die in Alaska.
In 1999, C.B. Bernard left New England to write for a newspaper in Sitka, Alaska, where he began to research rumors of an ancestor who had explored the unmapped Arctic as a free trader a century earlier. Soon he found records showing that Captain Joe Bernard had also moved to Sitka two years before his death in 1972 — and that the state had buried his ancestor in the cemetery next door to the house he’d rented. He’d put nearly 7,000 miles on his truck driving to Alaska and parked it on top of his own family. That experience and his research about Arctic exploration and how the past century has changed the north led to Chasing Alaska: A Portrait of the Last Frontier Then and Now (Lyons Press/2013). It was a finalist for a 2014 Oregon Book Award and a Publishers Weekly Top 10 Pick and National Geographic top book choice. A former Alaska resident, Bernard now lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and a temperamental bird dog named Shakespeare. In Alaska, a lot of things can kill you. Even the rain. This short story originally appeared in Gray’s Sporting Journal. To read more of the excerpt, download a free copy of the Alaska Sampler 2015.
For artists, the great problem to solve is how to get oneself noticed.~Balzac Once upon a time there was an easy order to the business of writing: create, pitch, publish, promote. A writer’s creative energy went mostly into her work, and the rest followed from there. That everything’s different is old news. Your work no longer stands only on its own two feet. It requires a platform, or so goes the twenty-first century wisdom. Agents and editors urge writers to promote early and often, even if they’re still working on their first viable project. To get your work noticed in the topsy-turvy world of modern publishing requires fortitude, courage, and a broad-minded approach. “Schmoozing, pitching, that’s your job,” says screenwriter Scott Silver. Though he admits some people are good only at schmoozing, he also points out that it’s juvenile to think that if your work is good enough, you’ll never have to promote. Nevertheless, he reiterates, the work matters most. “I’ve been a Luddite most of my life,” says author Lynn Schooler. “Then they overthrew the government in Twitter, and I realized I’d better start paying attention.” These days, Schooler notes, writers have to schmooze the world, not just a person. Though he self-describes as a bit of a recluse and until recently had only dial-up internet service, Schooler has managed to amass over 3000 Facebook friends in less than two years by applying an old principle of marketing – offering a value-added service by regularly posting scenic Alaska photos from his professional portfolio. Author Heather Lende contends that self-promotion boils down to doing the work and showing genuine interest in the people around you. In the beginning, you might find yourself working for free, the way Lende did. Though she initially volunteered to do radio shows in Haines, she looked up a few people at NPR and mailed tapes of her shows to them. She got her first paying gig as a writer on Monitor Radio, thanks to her husband’s Aunt Dottie, who passed on a tape of one of her radio pieces to the executive producer of Monitor Radio, who went to her church. Once she started writing a column for the Anchorage Daily News, NPR picked up Lende’s work. Whenever she called back East, Lende says, “I always asked who I was speaking to.” Editors come and go, but receptionists stay. Author Kim Heacox echoes Lende’s advice, recalling an early meeting with an editor at Discover magazine. When he asked how she’d gotten her job, he said, “she was like a flower I’d just watered.” The interview turned into a conversation. A few months later, assignments started flowing in. In the world of what Heacox calls “You Twit Face,” he reminds writers to promote the work of others in the writing community. His cautionary note: “Be careful you don’t turn into a cardboard version of your original self.” Should you blog? Post about your project on Facebook? Make book trailers? Schedule tours? Talk up yourself and your project every chance you get? The answers boil down to time, energy, and balance in your writing life. You need a viable project, finely crafted, though as Andromeda Romano-Lax demonstrates, it can be promoted in its development stage. Pay attention to opportunities to connect, in person and electronically, with people who might have an interest in your work. Be genuine and sincere in working your connections. Be courteous but not shy. Avoid arrogance. Get used to rejection. Support and promote the work of others, not just your own. Thanks to North WordsWriters Symposium for providing a forum for discussion of this topic, from which many of the quotes here were drawn. Try This: Writing’s an art, but it’s also a business. Do you have a business plan? Think in one, three, and five year increments. Jot down where you hope to be as a writer: what you hope to create and sell. Which smaller markets, even non-paying, are accessible to you? Which communities will help you grow as a writer? Which conferences, symposiums, and other writing events will help you build a network of professional connections? Who among you existing friends, colleagues, and family could be your Aunt Dottie, sharing your well-crafted work with the right people? Check This Out: For the basics of promotion in the traditional, pre-electronic marketplace, check out Mark Ortman’s A Simple Guide to Marketing Your Book, where you’ll learn to develop a marketing plan with attention to budget, product, audience, distribution, promotion, and timing. But don’t stop there. Your writing community (online, face to face) can help you stay up-to-date on electronic promotion.
I’ve been in Anchorage for the last couple of days for the UAA Low Res MFA residency; I’m the guest poet. I’ve met some really cool people and had a blast. Last Friday was my last day with the folks at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. I had a great time there too. My co-teachers, Jeanne Clark, Sarah Pape, and Don Rearden, were fantastic. I felt privileged to sit among the students and learn from them. The three of them kick-started some writing for me with the exercises they walked us through. We also had the good fortune of having Nicole Stellon O’Donnell, author of the poetry collection Steam Laundry, come in as guess teacher in the afternoon a couple of times last week. On Wednesday she talked to us about ars poeticas—poems about writing poetry, and on Friday she talked about genre blurring and form. And, as I remember it, on Friday she also brought up artist statements that are sometimes required for applications for grants and fellowships and those kinds of opportunities. That morning in an act of shameless self-promotion I’d shared with the class that my poem “The Sun in Bemidji, Minnesota” was that day’s Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day poem. The Poem-a-Day is distributed via e-mail, and it’s a free subscription. I like this series because the poets provide a note that accompanies the poem; it’s a resource I ask my students to subscribe to for that reason. I like that the reader gets sort of a glimpse at the poet’s process. I’d mentioned to the class that I liked the note that I’d written as much as I liked the poem. That somehow the two worked together for me. This came up again in the afternoon when Nicole mentioned the dreaded artist statement. I’ve heard other writers say that they don’t like to write artist statements. As a matter of fact, a few years ago I went to a panel at AWP about applying for grants and fellowships and such, and when the artist statement came up there was loud protest from the room—audience members wanted to know why they would have to write about their writing. They felt it was an unfair and unnatural thing to ask a writer to do that—to explain his or her work. I think the sentiment was that the work should stand for itself, that it shouldn’t need explanation or defense, and perhaps, that the writer’s impulse and process were either self-evident or irrelevant. At the time I’d already gone through the process of applying to such things a few times with some failure and some success, and I was there mostly because I knew the panelists, but I was wondering if I might pick up some tip like the rest of the audience. The panelists shared their experiences, and they were similar to mine. The application process isn’t mysterious, but it can be complicated. The tips were things you hear if you go to one of those informational sessions that granting organization often hold (I suggestion you attend one of these if you’re thinking about applying for a grant or fellowship or something like that). They suggested educating yourself about the grant or fellowship, making sure you’re a good fit for them and vice versa, getting started with the process early, writing down the questions that will arise out of the process, and contacting the organization to seek answers. All pretty straightforward stuff if you don’t go into the process (including writing an artist statement) thinking of it as adversarial. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine in Fairbanks was applying for a project grant through the Rasmuson Individual Awards Program, and, as I remember it, the artist statement caused my friend great consternation. Here’s what the actual application says, “E. Artist Statement Provide no more than a one page statement describing why you make your art, how you make your art, and what your art means to you. Keep your artist statement short and clear. Your statement is about you, so personalize it.” If you’ll notice it’s marked letter “e.” There are four other things including a budget that come before the artist statement. The artist statement comes right before the work sample identification form and the work sample. These are perhaps the most important part of one’s application, but one should attend to the application as a whole and make sure it’s the best it can be. By the way, I’ve added a link above to a post on artist statements recommended by the Rasmuson Foundation. I think of the artist statement as an opportunity for me to ruminate on, bring into focus, and articulate for myself and others what I’ve done, what it is I’m up to. I don’t know if anyone will read the note that follows my poem (they shouldn’t have to, don’t have to), but I’m glad I had the opportunity to briefly talk about what it is I do. I think it slightly changed my relationship to the poem for the better. A visual artist friend in Bemidji recently shared with me the story of getting over her dread of writing artist statements. Another friend of hers said that artists are often working away, doing what they do without regard for those looking on—an artist’s work is elevated—up in the clouds, and the artist statement is the ladder that helps those who probably aren’t practitioners get closer to the work. I like that metaphor—building a ladder to the clouds. Sean Hill is the author of Dangerous Goods (Milkweed Editions, 2014) and Blood Ties & Brown Liquor(UGA Press, 2008). His poems have appeared in Callaloo, Harvard Review, Poetry, Tin House, and numerous other journals and anthologies. He’s currently a visiting professor in the creative writing program at UA-Fairbanks. More information can be found at www.seanhillpoetry.com.
I was intrigued with Deb Vanasse’s recent post, The Writer’s Dilemma and her suggestion to “…keep a diary of your writing activities: creation, revision, reflection, immersion, community, money stuff. Then tally up the time spent in each area, and compare it against how you’d like to be spending your writing time.”I took Deb’s advice and began a writers’ diary. I was curious how I was dividing my writing time. I didn’t have to do it for two weeks. Right away I saw that I wasn’t spending my time the way I wanted, on the writing process—first draft to completion. As a creative writing neophyte, I stumbled over myself in the seduction to be published. I was spending too much time online, researching writing sites, and looking for places to submit my work. After the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference, I morphed into a frenzied writing maniac. I cranked out short stories and blog posts, like my plane was going down. Consequently, I was caught up in the post-conference inspirational mode, without taking the requisite time to quadruple-check my work before hitting the ‘Submit’ button. I was free-writing my blog, without much revision. I developed bad habits; not revising or proofreading as I should, before posting online and submitting stories for publication. I learned my lesson, when The Anchorage Press accepted a lengthy fire story I submitted earlier this month. I was horrified to find glaring errors after submitting my story. This was my first paying gig as a writer, so naturally, I freaked out. I typed so fast, my keyboard smoked and screamed in protest, as I dashed off my embarrassing email correction to The Press editor. I didn’t take enough time to fact-check, or proofread the piece one more time before submitting.I was so excited The Press was publishing my story, I rushed through my process. Why I thought I had to complete my revisions in five seconds or less, I have no idea. I was giddy with the prospect of having a story published. I couldn’t stop dancing around long enough to plop my butt back in the chair to give the story another read. It’s no excuse, but I’ve learned my lesson: Take the extra time to proofread and revise! Admittedly, we writers must be multi-faceted; developing ‘fan bases,’ author platforms, reader-audiences, social media pages, tracking submissions, and all the rest. I became a multi-tasking fanatic, tense, stressed out, and not spending my time on writing. No wonder I was crabby. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out I was doing too much at once and burning my candle five ways. The bottom line is, I’d rather be writing, and yes, revising.Stop, breathe, slow down, and back up the trolley. I slowed my writing frenzy, to see how I want to spend my time. I found I was avoiding the elephant-in-the-room, or rather, the elephant-in-my-computer: Revision of my 85,000 word novel. I was avoiding revision, intimidated by the work, afraid I would lose my narrative voice. I want to finish this book. I’ve prioritized the revision of my novel and I’ve stopped obsessing about narrative voice.I made a list of writing goals and priorities. I’ve placed myself on a revision schedule, and work on other things when I can. Revising is hard work and not as much fun as free-writing the first draft. I’ve changed my perspective on revision; to view it as a necessary and enjoyable part of the writing process, not a tedious, ominous workload. I tell myself: Breathe. One word at a time…Bird by Bird, as Anne Lamott gently advises. Stay the course, write with passion, and revise with equal passion. Keep the energy and excitement of the first draft in your second and third drafts…and readers will respond to this energy. After all, isn’t that why we do this?Lois Paige Simenson lives in Eagle River, Alaska. She writes for newspapers and magazines, is a playwright, and has a blog, The Alaska Philosophaster, at Alaskazanylips.com. She is working on her debut novel, The Butte Girls Club. Her writing has recently appeared in The Anchorage Press, Memoirabilia Magazine, and online at Erma Bombeck Humor Writers.org.
CHARLIE JOHNS KNEW it was going to be a strange year when he found a three-headed dandelion blooming in mid-October. Charlie sat drinking his coffee in front of the picture window at his home on Petroglyph Beach. His dog, Ossa, an old Australian shepherd, sat beside him. Charlie was Wooshkeetaan, Eagle, from the Shark House. He is called Aan gux — the keeper or backbone of the land. His mother was from Hoonah but he’d lived in Wrangell all his life. His father was Kaawdliyaayí Hit: House Lowered from the Sky. Here, Charlie lived among people from the Sun House and the Dogfish Intestine House as well as the Norwegians, the Finns, the Sáami, the Filipinos, and even the Chinese and Japanese. There were Vikings, wizards, bears, siyokoy, dragons, and Susanoo. The best thing, though, about living in Wrangell was living among stories. He practically lived at the coffee shop. Their stories lived there, and at the gas pump, and the work float, and at Shakes Island, and among the petroglyphs beside his house. Since Jesse, his wife of many years, had died, he began to spend his time among rocks, wandering with his thermos of coffee along the beach. He knew exactly where the Raven stealing the sun story was carved as well as the spiral and the killer whale. But he worried lately about the beach and the erosion happening all along Alaska’s coastline. The previous winter, an ice floe broke loose from the Stikine in March. Early break up, they called it. He didn’t believe it. But, the large sheet of ice came round the corner, then along the shoreline, and smashed into his beach. The tides were higher these past few years and the storms stronger. In fact, the sea had eroded the shore so many times that he had to move his house back two times in the last twenty years. It wasn’t just Wrangell, though. It was Shishmaref, Sitka, Tenakee, Newtok, villages on the Ninglick River, and more. Now Charlie sat down in the wet sand, tucking his raincoat under his butt. He held his thermos in his gloved hands and took a big sip of coffee. The gulls circled overhead, which made him feel comforted, since Jesse had been a seagull. She was T'akdeintaan. Some people called her a kittiwake, but she was old school and claimed she was a seagull. He looked up and screeched back at them. Every morning since Jesse's death, he’d made a point to check up on the rocks. Someone had to. Someone had to take care of them. Jesse who used to clean up the beach. She’d pick up Pepsi cans and white plastic grocery bags. Now it was his turn, he supposed, a sad turn. But he’d take it. He’d take anything that would still connect him to Jesse. He’d started by just trying to sit among the rocks but he couldn’t ignore the garbage. Once he’d found remnants of a small fire and a pile of beer bottles. Another time, a roll of butcher paper that people used to make rubbings of the petroglyphs, lying wet and soggy on the beach. He found orange letters sprayed across a petroglyph and it wasn't even something profound: the numbers “1995.” That really pissed him off. These were his people’s petroglyphs. At least that’s how he thought of them. He often had words with the tour guides and the town fathers when they’d claim they didn’t know who carved the petroglyphs. They were his ancestors. He knew this. It was as if the white folks were saying that the land around here really wasn’t Tlingit territory because they weren’t here first. You migrated here and so did we. Sometimes he had to stop the tourists from defacing the petroglyphs. At first, he simply stood on the porch with his rifle in his hand. That's when the cops got involved and told him not to scare the visitors — they don’t call them tourists anymore. The government had made the beach a state historic site and all that did was bring more people there. Some protection.
Vivian Faith Prescott is fifth-generation Alaskan, born and raised in Wrangell, Alaska. She lives in Sitka, Alaska, and part-time at her family’s fish camp in Wrangell. She’s married to US Coast Guardsman and poet Howie Martindale, and together they have six children, seventeen grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Vivian is of Sáami, Irish, Suomalainen, and Norwegian descent (among others). Her children are Raven of the T’akdeintaan clan/Snail House (Tlingit). She has an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Cross Cultural Studies from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She also has a M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Alaska Anchorage. Vivian’s short stories, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies such as Cold Flashes: Literary Snapshots of Alaska, Cirque, Altered States, and Tidal Echoes. “House Falling into the Sea” is a fictional story appearing in the forthcoming linked collection The Dead Go to Seattle (Boreal Books). The story depicts an Elder’s struggle to come to terms with loss and change. The stories in The Dead Go to Seattle connect through generations of families living in Wrangell, Alaska, prior to and in the midst of worldwide catastrophe: global warming creating havoc with the island’s inhabitants. To read more of the excerpt, download a free copy of the Alaska Sampler 2015. Would you like to see your work featured here? Check out our Alaska Shorts guidelines and submit today.