3 writers return to capital city

Brian O'Donoghue, Kate Ripley and Claire Rudolf Murphy will be in town for book signings and readings

Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2001

Juneau has sired and inspired a good many writers, three of whom are due in town this weekend.

Brian Patrick O'Donoghue and Kate Ripley, former Juneau residents now living in Fairbanks, are the guests in tonight's Authors to Juneau series, taking place at 7 p.m. at the Downtown Public Library.

Claire Rudolf Murphy will sign copies of "Gold Rush Dogs" at Hearthside Books' downtown location on Saturday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Murphy, a former Fairbanks resident, co-authored the book with Jane Haigh. One segment of the tribute to famous dogs from Alaska's history is devoted to Juneau's Patsy Ann, who greeted people at the cruise ship dock in the 1930s.

"Dogs" is Murphy and Haigh's third book together. They've also penned "Gold Rush Women" and "Children of the Gold Rush." Ideas for each book grew out of research for the previous one, Murphy said.

"I was interested in women in the Gold Rush, and out of that we met so many children that we loved," she said. "We wrote their book and then Jane said, 'Claire, there were these incredible dogs.'"

Murphy, who described herself as "not really a dog person," fell in love with the four-legged heroes she and Haigh researched.

"If I had been in the north in the gold rush, I too would have wanted a dog," she said. "They're fascinating characters and they're a very integral part of the gold rush story."

Though she's since moved to Spokane, Wash., Murphy retains close ties to Alaska. She jumped at the chance to join a Washington literary association's literacy cruise, and speak about the gold rush.

"After three books, we are so into the gold rush that every book gets, in one way, easier to write," Murphy said. "I finally understand more of the depth and breadth of the history."

Husband and wife team O'Donoghue and Ripley drew from personal experience when writing their respective works. O'Donoghue's book, "Honest Dogs," is his second work about sled dog racing. He came in last in both the 1991 Iditarod and the 1998 Yukon Quest races.

"I'm no big authority on competitive mushing, but it is fun," said O'Donoghue, who will teach journalism at the University of Alaska Fairbanks this fall. "I'm going to show a few slides from sled dog races and then read an installment or two from 'Honest Dogs.'"

Ripley, a journalist for 10 years, is now a "full-time stay-at-home mom" who writes after her kids have gone to bed. She'll read her essay "Clear Boundaries" from the "Our Alaska" collection, a compilation of stories about life in the North by Alaska authors. The essay deals with a subject close to Juneau residents' hearts the capital move. Ripley is firmly against it.

"It's just sort of a rant," Ripley said. "It was fun because I had some capital move information and files from when I was a reporter and I dug all that out."

After living in Juneau, she was shocked to learn that many Fairbanks residents support a capital move.

"It comes up a lot," Ripley said with a laugh. "My husband's a capital mover. In our marriage, that's an off-limits topic."

Genevieve Gagne-Hawes can be reached at geneviev@juneauempire.com.

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