Do you remember books? They were about the size of five Samsung notebooks stacked together. When you opened them, fragile sheaths of cellulose, called paper, were revealed. They were glued together along one edge, protected somewhat by a hard covering. The paper had ink pressed on it in the form of letters, words, and eventually, stories. You had to shine light on the paper to read the stories. Books did not self-illuminate.
Life was hard then.
I hear some people still prefer to upload information about the world with this archaic, if quaint, method. Of course, it follows, then, that there are people willing to still provide books to these traditionalists.
Katrina Pearson is one such Juneauite. She is methodically building a soup-to-nuts series of businesses and connections to bring Alaskan books to the masses. Not only is Pearson dedicated to Alaska, but she’s also keeping the book publishing in-state with Alaskans as authors and book designers.
In her spare time, Pearson is the publications chair of the Gastineau Channel Historical Society. She is on the board of the Friends of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum and 49 Writers. And she is one of the organizing faculty for the North Words Writers Symposium. As you will read, where she finds the time for all this is a mystery.
Pearson is a lifelong Alaskan. To live in Alaska means to love Alaska. Pearson’s affection for Alaska and its stories is probably helped by being from a long-time Alaska family steeped in territorial history. Her grandfather was a Territorial Fish & Wildlife Officer in the 1940s. Her great-grandfather was a member of the Territorial Legislature.
Pearson’s love affair with books began as a bookseller more than 20 years ago. She spent cold days in Fairbanks minding the new and used books at Gulliver’s Books. There she met a fellow bookseller, and UAF graduate student, Colleen Mondor. Later their friendship would blossom into a business partnership.
First though, Pearson moved back to Juneau. She spent 10 years selling books and managing both stores for Hearthside Books. It was in her capacity as Hearthside’s manager, and a stint as an independent publicist, that Pearson reconnected with her old friend Mondor in Seattle.
By now Mondor was an author, having written “The Map of My Dead Pilots.” Pearson was assisting her with an Alaskan book tour.
During this time they agreed there was still a niche for authentic Alaskan books; books written and produced by Alaskans. They wanted to counteract the growing number of recent works written by people who visit Alaska, leave, write about their experience, and then get published by a down-south company. These stories our ours.
This concept led to the formation of Shorefast Editions. Shorefast is the term given to the line and mooring that keeps a fishing net attached to shore. Pearson said it is a metaphor for keeping history close to home and accessible to future generations.
Shorefast Editions’ first project is the reissue of Jean Potter’s “The Flying North.” First published in 1945, this book covers the early days of Alaska aviation, particularly the first bush pilots. Pearson said that not only are the pilots’ stories amazing, but the author’s adventures getting the interviews with these pilots back in the 1940s is a book unto itself.
I wondered at this point if publishing actual books might be a profession past its prime. I’m a little sensitive to choosing career paths in decline given my own track record of picking winners like environmental protection specialist and teacher.
Pearson doesn’t think so. It’s not to say that Shorefast Editions won’t do electronic publishing, they will. But Pearson is convinced hard copy books can still compete. People still appreciate the tactile feel of a book. Many people still cannot get used to reading illuminated screens. The focus, said Pearson, is on the book as a keepsake, a gift, a remembrance -- as something special.
You can see her philosophy in action already with “The Flying North.” The cover art -- a beautiful watercolor of an old Hamilton Metalplane navigating the Alaska Range -- is by Courtenay Birdsall Clifford, and the book itself is designed by local artist Sarah Asper-Smith.
To ensure absolute dominion over the publishing and distribution process, there is yet one more feather in Pearson’s cap. As of January 2014, Pearson will be owner of Taku Graphics: Alaska Arts and Book Distribution. There she can direct wholesaling and represent artists and authors.
I got to know Pearson at the North Words Writing Symposium over a dying fire in the rain and a sad, sad can of Kokanee. I was, and am, impressed by her passion for Alaska and its writers. I support anyone willing to rekindle the fire for non-Kindle books, held in hand.
For more on Shorefast Editions, visit www.shorefasteditions.com.
Pearson will be among the literary types featured at the Alaskan Brewing Co.'s "Local Brews, Local Books" event, to be held Saturday, Dec. 14, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Depot downtown.
• Clint J. Farr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.