New KTOO program showcases Alaskan writers



Alaska’s creative writers will gain a new vehicle for sharing their work with audiences around the state this week when KTOO launches its new radio and TV program, “Writers Showcase.”

The program’s first installment will be recorded in front of a live audience Thursday at the KTOO Studios on Egan Drive beginning at 7 p.m., and will be broadcast without edits on statewide TV through 360 North and locally on KTOO-FM soon thereafter. It will feature readings of original work by local writers Geoff Kirsch, Joan Pardes and Clint Farr, and actors’ readings of works by Heather Lende and Rockwell Kent, among others.

Cheryl Levitt Snyder, who organized the program as part of her new position at the station as Assistant General Manager for Arts & Culture, said she saw an opportunity to showcase creative writing, an area of the arts where Alaska is particularly strong.

“We’re super excited about it,” she said. “There are so many great writers in the state.”

The show will be organized around a specific theme and will be produced quarterly. The theme of the first installment is “Holidays.”

Snyder said the program’s focus on creative writing and its statewide reach make it very different from Mudrooms, a popular open-forum storytelling event organized monthly by Amanda Compton and Alida Bus. Mudrooms’ performances are also broadcast on KTOO, usually a couple weeks after the live event.

“There’s a real power in being able to all come together and be a part of this really personal storytelling, and I think that’s the power of Mudrooms,” she said. “And with Mudrooms you get to see a side of people you might not know about them in your day-to-day life. This is going to showcase something different in our community, and really the statewide community, which is creative writing. As far as I’m aware, there’s not another showcase like this for creative writers to have their works exposed to a lot of people.”

Snyder said “Writers Showcase” has more in common with “Selected Shorts,” a national program that is one of her favorite shows. “Selected Shorts” airs from 8-9 p.m. on Tuesday nights on KTOO, and features actors’ readings of short stories recorded live in New York. After taking her new position this past summer, Snyder began discussing the possibility of an Alaska-based writers program with KTOO arts, culture and music producer Scott Burton.

“I guess I started to get the idea for it in the summertime and then it really took shape by October,” Snyder said. “Scott Burton and I started talking about it, and the more we talked about it the idea just became really concrete of what this could be.”

Alaskan writers who wish to be considered for a spot on “Writers Showcase“ should contact Snyder at KTOO. Though the program is open to anyone, there is a selection process in place.

“There is a vetting process, and just because you’ve submitted doesn’t mean you’ll be a part of it,” she said. “Our hope, too, is that it really becomes this honor for people to get to be on the program.”

For each installment, Snyder hopes to have readings of five different pieces -- three from established writers and two from up-and-coming ones. Previously published works will be considered as well as original pieces written specifically for the show. She also hopes to encourage actors’ readings of writers’ works.

“I think there’s real strength in having actors perform the pieces,” she said. “The stories really come to life in a different way when you have a performer read them aloud.”

When asked if she thinks the idea of connecting to far-flung friends and neighbors though personal storytelling has struck a nerve with people in our technology-obsessed society, Snyder demurred, saying for her those connections have never lost their importance.

“I’ve never left that tradition,” she said. “It’s part of why I do what I do, I love that. So for me this feels like bringing to fruition something that’s already so much a part of the listening experience.”

Thursday’s live performance is pay as you can. It will be broadcast on KTOO-FM on Dec. 23 at 7 p.m. and on 360 North statewide TV on Dec. 15 at 7 p.m., on Dec. 24 at 8 p.m., and Dec. 25 at 2 a.m., 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

The March edition of Writers Showcase will have the theme “Awakenings.” 

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