Hank Lentfer watched a dream become a book in just two months last winter. Monday night, Lentfer will share that book with Juneau in a reading at Hearthside Books.
"Arctic Refuge: A Circle of Testimony," a collection of 31 essays, is the brainchild of Hank Lentfer of Gustavus and Carolyn Servid of Sitka. The two were talking last January and envisioned a collection of writing reflecting views on the importance of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Within a few days of their conversation, they sent 50 letters to poets, environmental writers, scientists, politicians and Gwich'in Athabascans living near the Arctic refuge, inviting them to submit short essays.
Within two weeks they had 50 responses. Former President Jimmy Carter, philosopher Wendell Berry, writer Barry Lopez, and recording artist Libby Roderick are among the contributors to "Arctic Refuge." Others include 94-year-old Mardy Maurie, who in 1924 was the first woman to graduate from the University of Alaska, and Juneau-born Sherry Simpson, who works in Fairbanks.
"Two months to the day of our original phone conversation the book was off the press," Lentfer said.
After collecting and editing the essays, Lentfer sent the book as an e-mail file to the publisher. A few weeks later the book was printed. Lentfer flew to Washington, D.C., and he and five other writers met with Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat.
"We gave a copy to everyone in Congress," Lentfer said. "The initial printing of 2,000 was not intended for sale, it was just an advocacy tool."
He said a positive reception and demand for the book convinced the publisher to print 7,000 more copies for sale.
"Another thing that amazes me is the generosity of this project," Lentfer said. "Nobody has been paid a cent. The publishing cost was covered by a single private donation and all the proceeds are going into accounts that go back into grass roots efforts to protect the refuge.."
Lentfer will be at Hearthside Books in the Nugget Mall from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday to talk about the project.
"I'll just pick some pieces from the book to give a feel of the diversity of voices," he said. "I'll talk about where the issue stands in D.C. now and then open it up for discussion."