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Bill Sherwonit: Getting Essays Published - Maybe the Local Newspaper is an Option to Consider

49 Writers - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 7:00am
Earlier this month, on returning home from a trip to Denali National Park, I got some exciting news: one of my stories, “Of Waxwings and Goshawks and Standing Up to Power,” has been named a “Notable Essay” in this year’s Best American Essays anthology (joining two other 2014 Alaskan notables, Eva Saulitis and David Stevenson). But that’s not all. In April I learned that another essay of mine had been chosen to appear in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014, where “Twelve Ways of Viewing Alaska’s Wild, White Sheep” will be in the good company of essays and articles written by such literary luminaries as Barbara Kingsolver, Elizabeth Kolbert, Rebecca Solnit, and E.O. Wilson (along with several other lesser known journalists and essayists).
I mention these honors not to boast or seek pats on my aging back, but to make a couple of points. First, such recognition is good for the writer’s spirit (as well as his ego), especially one who’s a largely obscure scribbler beyond Alaska. Or perhaps even beyond Anchorage. It’s natural, I think, to wonder how one’s work stacks up against other, better known essayists and authors, especially when a writer works in the far-north reaches of our nation. It’s also too easy (at least for this writer) to become despondent after repeated rejections, whether sending essays to magazines and literary journals, submitting book proposals to agents or publishing houses, or applying for grants, residencies, etc.
The past few years my writing life has been filled with such rejections, prompting me to wonder whether I was in a slump of exceedingly long duration or simply didn’t measure up. Despite a reasonably successful career as a freelance journalist, essayist, and author, the doubts crept in. Maybe my work just isn’t very good. Or at least not good enough.
The acceptance and now publication of Animal Stories marked an important turning point to more positive territory (though it’s simply one of many pivots in a writing life that now stretches nearly 35 years, if I count my dozen years as a newspaper journalist). It’s been a darn cool thing, to have a book publishing staff get excited about my essays, a body of work that stretches across two decades. And I suppose the recognition of my essays in two “best American” series this year is the proverbial icing on the cake.
What’s even more cool is this: though both of the essays are included in Animal Stories, each was initially published in the Anchorage Press.
How amazing is it that the list of stories to appear in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014 collection not only includes pieces from Audubon, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Scientific American, Orion, The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, and National Geographic, but also a small weekly newspaper published in Anchorage, Alaska?
I bring this up because I think many creative nonfiction writers tend to overlook—or look down upon?—local publications when they have essays or other stories they’d like to see in print. Again I think it’s natural to seek publication in literary journals or magazines with a national or even international reach. And why not? But it might be a mistake to overlook something like the Anchorage Press, which (happily for me) sometimes runs pieces of 3,000 to 4,000 words and occasionally even longer. And which also pays decently (at least by newspaper standards) for such stories, not a small consideration for a “working writer” who’s eking out a living. Now that the Alaska Dispatch News has resurrected “We Alaskans,” there’s even more opportunity for Alaska’s essayists and other writers to find a local home for their stories.
There’s one other thing about writing for a local audience that I appreciate. As I note in my acknowledgments in Animal Stories, “Though it’s always a pleasure to have work appear in a national and/or literary publication, I owe a special debt to the string of editors who’ve run my essays in the local weekly newspaper, the Anchorage Press. Besides providing a forum for several of my longer pieces, the Presshas given me the opportunity to share my observations, musings, and perspectives with a broad spectrum of local residents, many of whom have much different backgrounds, attitudes, and beliefs than I. The opportunity to present these readers new or alternative ways of relating to and thinking about the wildlife with whom we share this landscape is no small thing.”
So both the Anchorage Pressand the newly revived “We Alaskans” will be on my literary radar whenever I write essays about the larger, wilder world we inhabit. And sometimes they’ll be the first places I turn when I have stories to share.
A transplanted New Englander, nature writer Bill Sherwonit has made Anchorage his home since 1982. He’s contributed essays, articles, and commentaries to a wide variety of publications and is the author of more than a dozen books. His newest, Animal Stories: Encounters with Alaska’s Wildlife, will be published this fall by Alaska Northwest Books. His website is www.billsherwonit.alaskawriters.com.

Categories: Arts & Culture

Juneau and southeast calendar

Capital City Weekly - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 3:40am
Juneau and southeast calendar.

Sidewalk Poll: You can be a famous historical artist for one day. Who do you choose and why?

Capital City Weekly - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 3:25am
You can be a famous historical artist for one day. Who do you choose and why?

Tickets on sale for Craig event

Capital City Weekly - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 11:06pm
Tickets are available for the fifth annual Women Who Rock event Oct. 18 at Craig Tribal Hall.

Southeast Runners flock to 32nd Klondike relay

Capital City Weekly - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 11:06pm
For the 32nd year in a row, runners from across Southeast flocked to Skagway for the 110-mile Klondike Road Relay.

Southeast History: Bombs, Bolsheviks and salmon at Port Althrop

Capital City Weekly - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 11:06pm
The period just before and especially during World War I was one of rapid expansion in the salmon industry. In Southeast Alaska, 36 new operations began between 1915 and 1918. What prompted this increase? Sockeye had been the most desired canned salmon in earlier years. Then the federal government purchased canned pink salmon for the overseas troops, thus opening a new market. Men hastened to join the bonanza.

Parking garage painting planned

Capital City Weekly - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 11:06pm
The Marine Parking Garage in downtown Juneau will be closed from 6 p.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 19 through Sept. 21, for repainting.

Petersburg's flowers blossom year-round

Capital City Weekly - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 11:06pm
Petersburg has rosemal painting on the way to the aiport. There's rosemal painting along Nordic Drive. There's rosemal painting on Sing Lee Alley - and soon, there will be more.

Meals with Midgi: On the menu: meat, cheese and advice

Capital City Weekly - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 11:06pm
When a chef advises me how to prepare something, I listen. I also study his recipes, plating and - fortunately for me - the chefs in Juneau allow me to ask a lot of questions. This enables me to share some great tips and recipes in my column and on my blog.

Ketchikan turns kitsch into friendly fun

Capital City Weekly - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 11:06pm
You can't take yourself too seriously.

Making Local Work: Petersburg fish smoker builds a reputation for quality

Capital City Weekly - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 11:06pm
PETERSBURG - Thomas Cumps can tell just by looking at a fish how it was cared for after it was caught.

Hundreds raise a glass at third Capital Brewfest

Capital City Weekly - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 11:06pm
Raise a glass to the Juneau Rotary.

Doctor Fermento: Pong goes pro as bars sponsor beer Sport

Capital City Weekly - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 11:06pm
Beer games and beer-oriented sports have flourished with the rise of craft beer since the mid-1980s, but I don't get into them much. I don't drink beer for sport or competition. I generally shy away from such activities because in too many cases, they involve a higher degree of quicker consumption - and I usually suck at the game.

Movies in Spanish Night

Juneau Public Library Blog - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 4:38pm
Tomorrow (9/15) is the Third Tuesday of the month; and what does that mean at the Juneau Public Libraries? Movies in Spanish Night! No matter what your level of Spanish is, you’re bound to have fun watching one of America’s favorite super heros speaking in Spanish and with English subtitles. Doors open at 5:30. Movie […]
Categories: Arts & Culture

Buddy Tabor taught me to filet a halibut

What Turtle Blood Tastes Like - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 2:35pm
in an interview i ask him what he thinks about when he paints houses? nothing, he says i just go blank you never write songs or poems to occupy your mind while working those hands? nope, he tells me when you get as old as me its a relief, the silent mind i’m deep into […]
Categories: Arts & Culture

Chilkat Curlique

Clarissa Rizal: Alaska Native Artist Blog - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 11:04am

A woven Curlique using Chilkat weaving techniques — by Clarissa Rizal

I am weaving a child-size Chilkat apron as part of a 5-piece Chilkat woven ensemble which will also include a headdress, robe, and leggings.  My goal is to complete the ensemble by end of October; I will have the entire ensemble shown at the Alaska-Juneau Public Market during Thanksgiving weekend at the Centennial Hall in Juneau, Alaska.   Above is a semi-completed image of my first curlique using the Chilkat weaving techniques. The merino yarns were hand-dyed by a yarn company out of Homer, Alaska.  Stay tuned for updates on the “Chilkat Child” ensemble.

Categories: Arts & Culture

Superintendent speaks out about student privacy rights

Juneau School District Announcements - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 2:40pm

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

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Categories: Arts & Culture

School District Report on Investigation into Hazing

Juneau School District Announcements - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 4:35pm

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

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

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Categories: Arts & Culture


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