Author from Sitka to talk about writing

Collection of essays also featured at Monday night event

Posted: Sunday, January 28, 2001

Home and what it means has been a lifelong fascination for writer and editor Carolyn Servid of Sitka. Servid will read from her latest book and speak at 7 p.m. Monday at the Back Room at the Silverbow, part of the monthly Between The Lines reading series.

Servid recently published a collection of essays, "Of Landscape and Longing: Finding a Home at the Water's Edge."

"This collection is all about the issue of place," Servid said. "The notion of home and what that means in terms of commitment to place, and staying put in our lives and our commitment to community."

Servid was born overseas to American medical missionaries and grew up along the Arabian Sea. Living in a homeland that was not her own proved to be a life-shaping influence.

"For me it has to do with a sense of where I belong in the world," Servid said. "Part of it came from my having grown up in India and being taken away from the first place I loved as a child and not being able to make that my home."

Servid's family returned to the United States in the 1960s and settled in northwest Washington. After completing a bachelor's degree at Evergreen State College and earning a master's degree in English at Claremont Graduate School, she moved to Sitka in 1980. She said she was profoundly affected by her move.

"The strength of my response to Alaska was not unlike someone's sense of calling to a vocation, or a religious calling, even," she said.

Servid and her husband are the founders and directors of The Island Institute, a nonprofit organization that encourages people to think creatively about how they can best live together in community and best inhabit the places they live. For 18 years, the Island Institute has sponsored an annual summer conference for writers and thinkers. This summer's conference is already fully booked, with a waiting list of 60 people.

Servid is also the editor of two anthologies, "From the Island's Edge: A Sitka Reader" and "The Book of the Tongass."

Servid said she is not a fiction writer or poet. She uses writing to explore ideas and feelings.

"My sense is you have to be honest with yourself when you're writing," she said. "It's a useful way to explore questions. To start out with something you don't know the answer to and work toward an answer as you write. 'A poem is like a piece of ice that's riding on its own melting,' Robert Frost said. You don't have overall control of it you have to follow where leads."

Alexis Ross Miller, organizer of the reading series, said she invited Servid after reading her essays and attending the Sitka symposium. She said Servid is not simply a nature writer.

"She is so centered in her place," Miller said. "I think nature writer is a misnomer, that limits a writer. Any writer - like John Straley (also of Sitka) is not just a mystery writer. He's so poetic. He was trained as a poet. Their writing is so strong and imbued with the place they live in."

Servid will read and talk about her writing, then answer questions. Her presentation will be followed by open mike for local writers and poets who wish to share short pieces of writing.

Cost is $5 for adults and $3 for students.

Riley Woodford can be reached at

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