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Collaborative Reflections & Book News By and About Alaskan AuthorsAndromeda Romano-Laxhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/16988887975016816552noreply@blogger.comBlogger1849125
Updated: 39 min 12 sec ago

Round Up of News & Events

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 1:42am
Hearty congratulations to Fireside Books in Palmer, recipients of a $7500 grant from author James Patterson! They plan to use the money to promote Alaskan authors. Click here for the article at newsmatsu.com.

Juneau is a stunning place, a narrow strip of land snuggled between the mountains and the sea. That's where I am this week to connect with the vibrant community of writers. Tuesday evening we had an informal meet and greet with 49 Writers members at the Silverbow Wine Bar. We had a lively conversation about their work and the kinds of programming they want to see in their neck of the woods. If they are a representative group, Juneau has a lot of poets who want to know more about getting published in journals!

In September, 49 Writers will sponsor a literary tour of Haines and Juneau featuring Melinda Moustakis, author of Bear Down Bear North. This project is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. I'm meeting with our Juneau partners: the Juneau Public Library, KTOO, and UAS. We get to associate names and face while exploring the details of this exciting project.

Yesterday I attended legislative advocacy training sponsored by Museums Alaska, the Alaska Humanities Forum, the Alaska Arts & Culture Foundation, and the Alaska Historical Society. The main point of the training was to be proactive about advocacy: build relationships with elective official and their staffs to let them know what we do and how it impacts peoples' lives. I'd love to hear how 49 Writers has impacted your life. After the training I dropped in at the offices of Rep. Lance Pruitt and Sen. Anna MacKinnon and had a great conversation with a legislative aid.

49 Writers events to check out this week: a new Crosscurrents with Andy Hall and David Stevenson, and Deb Vanasse's Ready to Publish class. If you didn't catch yeaterday's blog with Deb's detailed description of the class, scroll down now and check it out! This looks like a great class for anyone who wants to publish.

What an Opportunity! Do you want to correspond with writers of all kinds? 49 Writers is looking for a new volunteer blog coordinator. Details below.

Happy writing!
Morgan


EVENTS IN ANCHORAGECrosscurrents: Andy Hall (Denali's Howl) joins David Stevenson (Letters from Chamonix) for an onstage conversation about their processes of creating an engaging narrative in prose. What are the unique affordances and challenges of each genre, and where can writers learn from the strategies employed in other genres? February 5, 7-8:30 pm at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center.

UAA Bookstore events in February. All events at the UAA Campus Bookstore. Click here for details.
  • Cultural Roots of Lithuanian and Jewish History, Tuesday, February 3, 5-7pm
  • Wildlife and Alaskans: Life amongs Complex Relations, Tuesday, February 10, 5-7 pm
  • Magic Realism in Literature, Thursday, February 12, 5-7pm
"What Do We Do When the Lifeboats are Burning?" Songs and Stories about Climate, Community and Courage. Libby Roderick and Kathleen Dean Moore in concert and conversation.February 22, 2 pm, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 2824 E. 18th (18th & Sunrise, Airport Heights). $20 suggested donation. 50% of proceeds go to Alaskan climate organizations. Co-sponsored by UU Fellowship, 49 Writers, and UAA Office of Sustainability.

49 Writers Spring Classes: Anchorage. Registration is open. Find full information on the 49 Writers website.
  • New Class: "Ready to Publish" with Deb Vanasse. Saturday, February 7, 9am-4pm. $110 members/$130 non-members. Fee includes the textbook for the class, What Every Author Should Know, by Deb.
  • NEW DATE: Historical Research Sources for Writers with Lawrence Weiss: Saturday, April 4, 9am-12pm. $50 members/$60 non-members.

EVENTS AROUND ALASKACabin Fever Pop-Up Film Series: Homer Edition The Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer will host the second of three off-site film screenings associated with the Anchorage Museum’s Cabin Fever exhibition. Like Alaskans who suffer through long winters, American experimental filmmakers often work in darkness and isolation. The event features poetry by Erin Hollowell, Bruce Farnsworth, Jeremy Pataky, Eva Saulitis, and Miranda Weiss; films by George Kuchar, Claude, Peter Rose, Renato Umali, Michael Walsh, and Martha Colburn, and Performance by Easy D. Curated by Michael Walsh. January 31, 7 to 9 p.m. Bunnell Street Arts Center, Homer. Suggested give-what-you-can donation.

Juneau’s 49 Writers (Members-Only) Writing Group will meet next Thursday, February 5, from 7-9pm This month, we’ll gather at Missy McMillan’s home located off the Back Loop in the Mendenhall Valley. Along with readings, socializing, eating and drinking, we’ll have several (okay –oodles of) back issues of Literary Magazines and Journal for sale. It’s a great opportunity to see what kind of journals are out there and what they are looking to publish. Have questions about Juneau’s Writing Group or other Juneau-based events? Email: 49writersjuneau@gmail.com

Poems in Place Kickoff Events in Kodiak & Seward February 4th to 7th. Poems in Place places poems by Alaskan writers on permanent signs in two of Alaska’s State Parks each year. This year we are seeking poems for Caines Head State Recreational Area, Seward and Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park, Kodiak. All events are free.
  • Alaska Poetry Old and New – A Fireside Exploration: Sharing of 100 Years of Alaska Poetry   Wednesday, February 4th, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Kodiak Public Library, 612 Egan Way Lila Vogt will present images of this year’s parks: Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park, Kodiak and Caines Head State Recreational Area, Seward. Explore a selection of anthologies and poetry books featuring Alaskan poets to find a relationship between place and poem. You’re welcome to bring you own books to share. Tea and cookies provided. 
  • Poems in Place Kickoff: An Evening of Poetry. Thursday, February 5th, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Kodiak Public Library, 612 Egan Way, Please join us to read past poems in place and learn about this year’s project. Please bring your own poems to share. Refreshments and conversation after the reading.
  • An Evening of Poetry, Friday February 6th from 7-8:30pm. Resurrect Art Coffee House and Gallery, 320 Third Ave, Seward. Please join us to learn about this year’s Poems in Place project and to listen to Alaskan poet Joan Kane and local Seward writers read. Music, refreshments and conversation follow the reading. 
  • A Conversation Between Alaskan Landscapes and Poetry. Saturday, February 7th from 3 to 4:30 pm, Seward Community Library & Museum Community Room, Seward. Please come help us discover nominees for this year’s Poems in Place project. Wendy Erd will present images of this year’s parks: Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park, Kodiak and Caines Head State Recreational Area, Seward. Then dive into a selection of anthologies and poetry books featuring Alaskan poets to find relationships between a place and a poem. Tea and cookies provided. 
For more information about Poems in Place please visit alaskacenterforthebook.org
For more information about kickoff events please contact poemsinplace@gmail.com

Writers' Showcase at 360 North, KTOO, Juneau is accepting submissions for their March show. The theme is Journeys. Deadline is February 27. They are fairly liberal with theme interpretations, so if you have any kind of journey: actual, figurative, symbolic, abstract, or theoretical, please let them know. Speaking of theoretical, they tend to receive mostly creative non-fiction so fiction would be most welcome. Essays and short stories should be about 10 minutes long when read aloud. Please submit to arts [at] ktoo.org and let them know of any publication history or rights. Click here for details.

Reading and Craft Talk with Rachel Weaver. March 1, Juneau. Details to come.

Writing the Three-Dimensional Novel or Memoir, a 49 Writers class with Rachel Weaver. March 2 & 3, 6-9 pm. $95 members/$115 non-members. Details and registration here.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR WRITERSVolunteer Blog Coordinator needed at 49 Writers, training provided: This is a great opportunity to have contact with with a wide range of writers. The volunteer blog coordinator makes sure a post runs each weekday on the 49 Writers blog, along with updating the featured author sidebar and promoting the blog on the 49 Writers Facebook page. There’s a nice system in place, with some regular items like the Friday round-up and the monthly featured author.
On average, it takes ten hours a month to keep the blog up to date, a little more if you end up writing an original post here or there to fill in. If you’re reliable, responsible, pay attention to detail, know (or can readily learn) the Blogger platform, and communicate well, 49 Writers needs you! Before Deb Vanasse, our longtime Blog-ess, moves on to new projects. she will train you! What more could a fledgling (or experienced) blogger want?
So come have a turn at keeping us connected via the 49 Writers blog. Fill out a volunteer form today, and in the “tell us about you” spot, mention your interest in the blog coordinator position.

2015 Public Invitation for a Poem in Place: For the third and final project year, Poems in Place 2015 seeks one poem to place in Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park in Kodiak, and one poem for Caines Head State Recreation Area in Seward. Alaskan residents are invited to submit up to 3 poems in total. There is no submission fee. Poems should be either original work, a poem written previously or written in response to this invitation; or a nominated poem: the work of an Alaskan poet, either living or no longer living. Submissions accepted Feb. 1 - April 1. Click here for more info.

Mineral School is a new artists residency located in Mineral, Washington. During summer 2015, they will offer three two-week residency periods to writers of poetry and prose, providing accepted applicants with space and time to create new work without the interruptions of normal life. They are accepting applications from January 15 through February 25, 2015 (Midnight, EST) for the 2015 summer residencies. Notification will be given roughly two months before the residency period for which you've applied. More information and applications are available here.

Interested in self-publishing or micropublishing? Larry Weiss wants to connect with other folks who share this interest for a possible discussion group. Contact him at ldweiss at gmail.com.

Rasmuson Foundation Awards: The 2015 Individual Artist Award application period is now open. Over the past decade, Alaska artists have received $2.7 million in grants through the Individual Artist Award Program. The Award recognizes the role artists play in bringing inspiration to their communities. Guidelines and application materials are available here. The deadline is March 1.
There are three award types:
  • Project Awards of $7,500 support short-term projects in all disciplines that have a clear benefit to the artist and development of their work (visit page 5 of the application for more information. Disciplines include: choreography, crafts, folk and traditional arts, media arts, music composition, discipline/new genre, literary arts/scriptworks, performance art, presentation/interpretation, and visual arts). 
  • Fellowship Awards of $18,000 are available to mid-career and mature artists of rotating disciplines. For 2015, Fellowships will only be awarded in choreography, crafts, folk and traditional arts, literary arts/scriptworks, and performance art.
  • Distinguished Artist Award, a single award of $40,000 (selected through a separate nomination process).

The deadline for this year's UAA/Alaska Dispatch Creative Writing Contest is fast approaching. Go to adn.com/content/creative-writing-contest-rules for complete rules, list of prizes, and submission guidelines and send your best fiction, nonfiction or poetry. Deadline is Feb. 10, 2015, 5:30pm. Winners will be announced in mid-May.

Statewide Poetry Contest 2015: Alaskan poets of all ages are encouraged to enter up to four poems. Contest includes divisions for Elementary, Middle School, High School and Adults. Winners will receive cash prizes and be featured at the Poetry Contest Winners Literary Reading. Joan Kane, award winning author from Anchorage, will judge the contest this year. Deadline is March 2, 2015 at 6 pm. More information here.

Savor the Rising Words: Poetry Broadside Invitational in honor of National Poetry Month, Members of 49 Writers and past or present participants in 49 Writers workshops are invited to submit poetry broadsides for display at Great Harvest Bread Co. throughout the month of April 2015 in honor of National Poetry Month. Featured poets will be encouraged to read their works during a public event at the bakery at a date and time to be determined. Broadsides in the exhibit will be available for sale and proceeds will be donated to 49 Writers. Deadline: Friday, March 20, 2015. Click here for details and the entry form.

Going to Left Coast Crime: Crimelandia? Portland, March 1-15. Here's what's new: Author/Reader Connections. Left Coast Crime wants to make it easy for authors to connect with readers and vice versa! So we've created Author/Reader Connections. It might be lunch or dinner, a quiet drink, a walk through town or something equally fun. These connections are free.Check out all the opportunities and sign up now.

Cirque was founded to give writers (and artists) of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest more places to publish their work – and as a vehicle to bring the best writing of the region to the world. The next Cirque deadline is March 21st (the equinox). The submission address is cirque.submits@gmail.com.


Pick.Click.Give. to 49 Writers! PFD application time is right around the corner, and that's your opportunity to Pick.Click.Give.! Your Pick.Click.Give donations support 49 Writers programs around the state. We received almost $2,500 in our first year as a Pick.Click.Give organization. You can help us double that in 2015. Plus, Pick.Click.Give.rs have a chance to double their dividends.To show our appreciation, 49 Writers is offering incentive gifts to donors:
  • $75 donors will receive an original Alaskan art card from Shorefast Editions in Juneau
  • $150 donors will receive an autographed book by an Alaskan author.
Categories: Arts & Culture

Deb: Ready to Publish

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 5:00am

I wish I could say I’ve never submitted any of my work before it was ready to publish. In truth, I’ve done it more often than I care to admit, especially in my early days of publishing.
Some “too soon” submission, or even “too soon” publishing, is unavoidable, and perhaps even necessary to a writer’s development. It’s hard to judge your own work, and in fact you may be better off submitting too soon than holding your work back indefinitely because you’re holding it up against potentially unreachable standards.
But you don’t want to keep doing that forever. Of late, markets have become less forgiving. In traditional publishing, agents and editors rarely take time to “grow” authors the way they used to; Big Five publishers in particular are looking less and less for the slow-build author and more and more to the smash-hit celebrity. In indie publishing, authors who haven’t already built loyal followings are finding it harder to get noticed with projects that don’t shine in one way or another.
It’s for these reasons, along with the challenge of navigating an ever-changing set of publishing options, that I wrote What Every Author Should Know: No Matter HowYou Publish, along with its companion volume, Write Your Best Book (February 2015).
It’s also why I agreed to teach a six-hour “Ready to Publish”workshop for the 49 Alaska Writing Center. The workshop is activity-based; during our session, participants will create several documents, including an action plan, to guide their thinking about whether their writing projects are ready and what to do with them once they are.
In particular, workshop participants will:
·         Examine their writing process as a way of assessing where they are with their work·         Clarify what success means to them·         Use query questions to better understand their projects·         Use “also boughts” (aka comps) to better understand their readers·         Write back copy as a means of refining their approach to their projects·         Create individualized “ready for market” surveys·         Assess ways to use early readers to the benefit of the work·         Apply the psychology of revision to the creation of “best books”·         Draft a publishing strategy for their work·         Draft a query or sell sheet·         Create an action plan
If you’re in Anchorage on Saturday, Feb. 7 (9 am – 4 pm), I hope you’ll join us. Advance registration is required. A copy of What Every Author Should Know is included with the registration fee. There’s also an optional “first pages” critique; for this, be sure to register sooner rather than later, as I’ll be preparing the written portion of the critiques in advance of the individual consultations, scheduled during the lunch hour and aftermath of the workshop.
Co-founder of 49 Writers and founder of the independent authors cooperative Running Fox Books, Deb Vanasse has authored fifteen books. Her most recent are What Every Author Should Know, a comprehensive guide to book publishing and promotion, and Cold Spell, a novel that “captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds,” according to Booklist. A freelance editor and book coach, Deb lives and works on Hiland Mountain outside of Anchorage, Alaska, and at a cabin near the Matanuska Glacier. 


Categories: Arts & Culture

JT Torres: Conviction

Wed, 01/28/2015 - 5:00am
The altar for San Lazaro and Chango, the orisha who walks with San Lazaro. The desserts are left as offerings for both spirits.
My research in Cuba is impossible.
I can use physical descriptions to illustrate those who became possessed for you readers. I can describe a young man convulsing, his body contorted on a pair of crutches, his left foot dangling like it had been smashed with a hammer. I can tell you about the cigar that hung from his lips, the yellow foam that formed around his mouth. Yellow the color of tobacco, the color of his burlap clothing and straw hat. I can do my best to write what I saw: eyes that were hollow, that did not focus on anything in particular, a face that became something other than a face. A woman who screamed as if tormented by pain, clawed at her hair, and then ran out into the dirt street.
Or maybe I can’t.
There was too much for me to notice, much too much to write. After being overwhelmed by a series of violent possessions at a ceremony, I stood under an arch, away from the thumping drums and trembling earth. It took me thirty minutes before I realized a dead dove was hanging by its feet above me. Blood had dried under its eyes.
El ave mantiene a los malos éspiritus,” Roberto, the religious guide of the research team, told me. Birds keep bad spirits away.
Jill, the lead researcher, had asked me the night before, “Is it possible to represent what we are seeing in any authentic way?”
As a writer, I naturally believed that it was possible. Now I’m not so sure. How do I convince readers that actual spirits possessed actual people the way I saw it? How do I know that I’m even convinced?
“I believe in their power to believe.”
The young man lasted a good two hours convulsing on those crutches. Was he acting out the role of San Lázaro with impeccable performance? The foam fizzed around his chin and dripped onto the ground. His eyes shook, rolled up into his skull, and his head swung from shoulder to shoulder. Somehow, the cigar stayed in his mouth.
Even if I didn’t believe it, I could feel it. I mean, feel it. The drums matched the beating of my heart. Something like desire built in my stomach, but a desire for what, I don’t know. My body swayed to the percussive beat, which is something I’ve never done. Never have I danced in public. I couldn’t help it, either. The frantic screams of the possessed woman who ran into the dark street could still be heard. Her howl matched the intensifying rhythm. It sounded like singing. The drums. Their music came from somewhere within my chest. I watched the musicians bounce their sacred hands against the taut skin of their ancient instruments, but was certain I was the source of that entrancing music.
Roberto started to shake. His head swung back and smacked the stone pillar holding up the thatched roof. I reached out to hold him, unsure at first what was happening, but his flailing arms struck me, knocking me back. His hazel eyes became clear puddles. In a second, he was gone. Some other spirit had taken over. He fell forward, seizure like, and I caught him.
A circle of dancers formed around us. Someone tossed kernels of corn, a purifier, at our feet. Roberto was only a few inches taller, but I couldn’t hold him up for long. His body had the weight of someone twice his size. It felt like he was pushing me down, into the earth. All the while his arms swung and his head rolled. His body became electric.
Jill, Melba, and Miguel ran to me and helped lift Roberto. Free of his weight, my legs gave out and I fell onto the ground. The three of them carried Roberto away from the ceremony, out towards the car. Even they struggled holding him.
Someone from the crowd, a man in a denim jacket and frill beanie, pulled me to my feet and hugged me. “Lo hermoso,” he said. His eyes were watery, like he’d just seen a miracle.
My entire body was trembling. Never had I felt pressure like that.
How can I write that? How do I explain it in a way that is real, in a way that represents what Arará means?
Later, on the way home from the ceremony, I asked Roberto if he could describe what he felt as he fell into a trance. He looked at me and thought for a while. It was as though no one had thought to ask him this question. Suddenly, I worried I’d offended him by asking, as if my question implied something disingenuous about his experience. As if I had just said, “Prove it!”
Miguel drove our rental car down an unpaved street surrounded on both sides by cane fields. The only light came from the stars.
In Spanish, he told me that he had been listening to the music, dancing to it. Then, suddenly it felt like the drums were within him, like his stomach created the music. It got louder and louder. Finally, he felt a force shoot down into him from above.
Jill and I sat in the backseat with Roberto. After he said this, I looked out of my window, as if the night sky would provide clarity. I traced the stars forming Ursa Major.
If I had felt exactly what Roberto felt, would that make representing the experience any more possible? Did I want to feel what Roberto felt? Research is about questions, I remembered from graduate school. My mind spun with them.
The rest of the drive back to Colón, where we stayed, Roberto slept. He was usually an animated man, convivial and full of energy. The night took a lot out of him. Jill, Melba, and Miguel spoke in Spanish about percussive styles, about the aging tradition of Arará and the importance of including younger generations.
I pulled my legs up and sat crunched in the back corner of the car, squeezing my stomach, which became a bit unsettled at the ceremony. I wanted never to let go of whatever it was I felt.

JT Torres is a PhD candidate at Washington State University. His upcoming novella will be included in Weathered Edge, alongside Don Rearden and Sarah Birdsall, by VP&D House. He had an essay in Best Food Writing 2014. And, yes, he recently returned from Cubawith Dr. Jill Flanders Crosby. The resulting research will inform a cultural memoir about Arará, Santería, and his own connections with Cuba.
Categories: Arts & Culture

Patrick Dixon: Falling into Water

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 5:00am


Editor's Note: We "met" Patrick at the 49 Writers Discussion Group on Facebook, where he shared this post from his blog Gillnet Dreams, reprinted here with permission. 
I drove the van as far as I could, until the road ended at a wall of rocks scattered on the edge of the gravel. We packed the crayons, rolls of butcher paper, masking tape, water bottles, apples, granola bars, camera and a few rolls of film into two rucksacks. We tightened the shoestrings on our hiking boots, grabbed our walking sticks and headed down the rocky beach as the tide began its ebb. 
It was mid-morning outside Wrangell, Alaska on September 16, 1974, and we’d heard there were jewels to be found down the beach a mile, if we were patient and lucky. 1,000 to 10,000 years ago, the forefathers of the Tlingit Indians sent their shaman walking over these same rocks to work their magic carving designs into small boulders for what must have taken weeks or even months. We were following their paths in hopes of creating rubbings of their stone carvings. It was my twenty-fourth birthday, and the first day of sun in the past 10 days of travel to get here.
We found the petroglyphs. We spent the next several hours laying the paper over the images of faces, whales and spirals, then rubbing the sides of the crayons across the paper to produce the pattern in he rock underneath in relief. In the process, we attempted to understand – to somehow intuitively bridge the gap between the millennia – so we might in a small way comprehend what it must have been like on this spot for those mystics. When we carefully rolled our papers, packed away the gear and headed to the van with the incoming tide, our heads were full of possibilities and we were dizzied from the experience.
We were halfway back, commenting in low voices about what a magical time it had been, when we heard a sound like a rock falling in water – only somehow different, more organic. More alive, and it wasn’t coming from the ocean just a few feet to our right. It was coming from overhead, behind us. We turned to look, and saw two large, black birds flying up the beach, maybe twenty feet above us. One of them made the sound again – and as it did, it pushed its wings down and rose in the air a foot higher than its companion, then folded its wings tight against its body, rolled onto its back and fell. It dropped until it was six or seven feet from the rocky beach, then rolled upright again, spread its wings and flapped up to its mate, who had been leisurely flying along the entire time. We watched, not believing what we had seen when a few seconds later the other raven made the same sound, pushed itself higher, rolled over and repeated the same move! We watched as they flew over us and up the beach the same direction we were traveling, continuing to fall and fly again as they went. Each time, they made the sound before dropping. Never had I seen a bird fly for the sheer enjoyment of it, as if it had discovered that since it could perform such a maneuver, it would. As if to say to any observer, See? Look what you can do. 
I listened. I realized what was possible, and I moved to Alaska the next year. Ravens would continue to haunt the fringes of my life there, but as I chose to frequent the water instead of the shore, my life was visited more by seabirds than the black-feathered trickster and deliverer of fire. But raven was there the day I left.
We lived in the Kenai area for 22 years. In late November of 1997 I got a job teaching at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, where I still live today. In Alaska, I divorced, fell in love again, remarried, had two children, became a commercial fisherman, taught middle and high school, learned and taught photography, built a house, built a new boat. I built a life as an Alaskan, as a fisherman, as a husband, as a father. And now we were leaving.
I pulled our van into the shipping warehouse, out the loading dock and onto a trailer packed with our possessions. Afterward, I signed the papers authorizing the shipping company to send that trailer containing everything we owned except our pickup truck parked out front to Anchorage, where it would be loaded on a barge and shipped to Seattle. If everything went right, it would arrive in Olympia a few days after we did.  In the truck outside, my wife and two sons waited for me as a full-blown blizzard raged around them. I stepped out the door and into a white-out of silver-dollar flakes swirling in a stiff wind. I wondered if our belongings would even get to Anchorage as I stepped across the porch and down the steps to the parking lot. Halfway down, I heard a croaking behind and above me. I know that voice. I turned around, and there he was, all fluffed out against the cold, hunkered down in the snow on the peak of the roof, looking right at me as if to say, You sure about this? We stared at one another for a long moment. I pursed my lips and said, “No.” I lowered my gaze and shook my head, then looked up one last time. He was still there. “I know,” I said aloud. “I can always come back.” He never said, No you can’t.  I found that out on my own.
I did, eventually, return to visit. Of course that wasn’t what I meant in the snowstorm, but I’ve been back to visit several times, and many were to read my poems and writings about Alaska at fisher-poet events. One of the first times, I went to Kodiak in April of 2008. I spent the night on a friend’s boat in dry-dock in the Kodiak boatyard. The yard was deserted and after a late night, I awoke to a thickening spring snowstorm. My friend was already up and gone, so I walked out on deck in my sweats and went to pee over the stern as the snow dropped straight down from low, gray clouds overhead. There was no wind. The flakes hissed as they landed on inches of white coating the decks of the boats, their rigging and the gravel of the yard. Holding my arms close to my chest against the cold, I turned to go back to the warmth of the cabin – and I am not making this up – I heard a sound I hadn’t heard in over 30 years, like a rock, falling in water. I recognized it immediately (I had told the Wrangell beach story dozens of times). I twisted around to look. Across the yard came one, no, two ravens, flying at rooftop level. I had looked too late to see if one of them had rolled over. They were just flying… then I heard it again, and sure enough, one of the large black birds lifted a few feet into the falling snow and rolled, dropping toward the ground like a stone above the ocean. She spread her wings and flipped at the last second, then rose to join her mate, flapping together through the flakes until they disappeared behind a curtain of white. 
I haven’t seen a raven in a long while. It’s been over a year since I was last in Alaska. I don’t recall seeing one the last time I was there, though I can’t imagine they weren’t present. I wonder if I’ve stopped looking, or if they’ve given up on me. I don’t much like either of those possibilities. There are charmed places near where I live where ravens live and work their magic. I think I need to find one.

Patrick Dixon’s writings have been published in Cirque Literary Magazine, Oberon Poetry Journal, Pacific Fishing, National Fisherman, Oregon Coast magazine and others. Mr. Dixon lived, taught and commercial fished in Alaska for 22 years. He now lives and works as a freelance photographer and writer in Olympia, Washington. He is the recipient of an Artist Trust Grant for his work as editor of Anchored in Deep Water: The FisherPoets Anthology(2014). He has read his work widely across the Pacific Northwest.
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Categories: Arts & Culture

Creative Mistakes: Five Ways Authors Box Themselves In

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 5:00am


As an author, you’re a creative type. That goes without saying. But in your approach to your craft, your publishing, and your promotion, are you actually as creative as you might be?
Writing is a scary business, any way you cut it. In Write Your Best Book, the companion volume to What Every Author Should Know, I compare it to the position my son played on his high school hockey team. There’s nothing quite like being the mother of a goalie. He’s got his team out there, helping, but when pucks whiz toward the goal, it’s all up to him. And believe me, those pucks fly from every direction. The goalie has to watch every angle. He has to be quick. Fluid. Psychologically unshakable.
I don’t mean to suggest that the position of author should be a defensive one, although sadly, that’s how it ends up for some. What I learned from being a hockey mom (and please, no comparisons with thatother hockey mom) was that goalies shore up the uncertainty of their position with practices that don’t make a whole lot of sense, like never washing their jerseys during the season (my son claimed this was essential for his success) and talking to the goal posts, as top goalie Patrick Roy did in every game.
The equivalent for authors are these creative mistakes, all of which confine us in unhelpful ways:
·         A focus on the wrong kind of being: To write is to make yourself vulnerable. You will fail, time and again. Your work won’t be as good at first as it will become if you stick with it. Writers who fail to accept these truths typically end up spending more of their energy on “being” a writer instead of doing the hard work of a writer. The “being” that benefits writers is the “being” of everyday existence, the conscious effort of experiencing life as it happens, of staying actively engaged as opposed to striving to present ourselves as writers (or as anything else).·         Risk aversion: In any uncertain enterprise, the natural tendency is to shy from risk. For survival, risk aversion is a healthy impulse. But in both the entrepreneurial and creative pursuits of a writer, risks are inherent. To avoid them means doing what everyone else does—and getting generic results.·         Relying on formulas: Good writers balance reader expectations, which are sometimes taught as formulas, with the unique insights and approaches that are only achieved when we allow ourselves to think beyond formula. The same applies to promotion—do what everyone else does, and you’ll get lost in the crowd.·         Believing you’ve got nothing left to learn: A writer’s education is never finished. Seek out the best—in the books you read, in the examples you follow, in the discussions of craft and business in which you engage. Be an active learner of both aspects of being a writer: your craft and the publishing end. ·         Seeking rewards too soon: The readers, the accolades, the sales—these will come. Focus first on your process, on doing your best creative work. Don’t rush a book because this person or that person has theirs out already. Don’t succumb to discouragement because your rankings aren’t what you’d like. Take your time. Persistence, diligence, completing your work, having the courage to publish—these matter, but check your motivation. If it’s all about rewards, your work will suffer, and you’ll likely be disappointed. Repeat after me: you have nothing to prove.
As writers, we enjoy the freedom to innovate, in our work and also in the ways we learn and grow. How do we make the most of that freedom? Author of fifteen books, including the recent What Every Author Should Know, Deb Vanasse will discuss creative ways for writers to think about craft, education, and publishing at “The Self-Made Writer,” a 49 Writers Reading and Craft Talk on Thursday, Jan. 29 from 7:00 – 8:30 pm at the Great Harvest Bread Company, 570 E. Benson, Anchorage. Book sales and signing will follow (cash, checks, PayPal only).



Categories: Arts & Culture

Round Up of Weekly News & Events

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 3:46am
Do you have things to say and a hankering to join the conversation of Alaska writers? 49 Writers is looking for two guest bloggers to round out this year's calendar. Check out the Blogger Guidelines at the top of this page and contact us. The available months are May and August.

In a Reading & Craft Talk on Thursday, January 29, Deb Vanasse will discuss creative ways for writers to think about craft, education, and publishing. The event is held at Great Harvest Bread Company, 570 East Benson Blvd, from 7-8:30 pm. She just released a new book called What Every Writer Should Know. It will be the basis for a new class she's teaching on February 7.

I'm looking forward to my Juneau trip next week, especially the opportunity to meet some of our Juneau members.
- Morgan

EVENTS IN ANCHORAGETonight (Friday, Jan. 23) at 6 pm, Blue Hollomon Gallery, 3555 Arctic Blvd. C5, join us for the official launch of Cirque 6.1. Readers include, Kathleen Tarr, Jessica Ramsey Golden, Matt Iverson, Egan Millard, and Monica Devine. Joe Craig will entertain on guitar. Four Cirque artist/photographers will be present Katherine Coons, Banan Tarr, Suzi Towsley, and Brenda Jaeger. Get the new issue at the event or at wwwcirquejournal.com

Reading & Craft Talk with Deb Vanasse. Thursday, Jan. 29, 7-8:30pm: Great Harvest Bread, 570 E. Benson Blvd. "The Self-Made Writer;" As writers, we enjoy the freedom to innovate, in our work and also in the ways we learn and grow. How do we make the most of that freedom? Author of fifteen books, including the recent What Every Author Should Know, Deb Vanasse will discuss creative ways for writers to think about craft, education, and publishing.

"What Do We Do When the Lifeboats are Burning?" Songs and Stories about Climate, Community and Courage. Libby Roderick and Kathleen Dean Moore in concert and conversation. February 22, 2 pm, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 2824 E. 18th (18th & Sunrise, Airport Heights). $20 suggested donation. 50% of proceeds go to Alaskan climate organizations. Co-sponsored by UU Fellowship, 49 Writers, and UAA Office of Sustainability.

UAA Bookstore events in February
     - Cultural Roots of Lithuanian and Jewish History, Tuesday, February 3, 5-7pm
     - Wildlife and Alaskans: Life amongs Complex Relations, Tuesday, February 10, 5-7 pm
     - Magic Realism in Literature, Thursday, February 12, 5-7pm
All events at the UAA Campus Bookstore. Click here for details.

Crosscurrents: Andy Hall (Denali's Howl) joins David Stevenson (Letters from Chamonix) for an onstage conversation about their processes of creating an engaging narrative in prose. What are the unique affordances and challenges of each genre, and where can writers learn from the strategies employed in other genres? February 5, 7-8:30 pm at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center.

49 Writers Spring Classes: Anchorage
Registration is open. Find full information on the 49 Writers website.
     - New Class: "Ready to Publish" with Deb Vanasse. Saturday, February 7, 9am-4pm. $110
       members/$130 non-members. Fee includes the textbook for the class, What Every Author Should         Know, by Deb.
     - NEW DATE: Historical Research Sources for Writers with Lawrence Weiss: Saturday, 4, 9am-
       12pm. $50 members/$60 non-members.
     - NEW DATE:How to Publish Your Book on Kindle with Lawrence Weiss: Saturday, April 18,
       9am-12pm. $50 members/$60 non-members.

EVENTS AROUND ALASKA49 Writers in Juneau
     - Tuesday, January 27, 5-6 pm at the Silverbow Wine Bar (No Host Bar). Meet and Greet 
       with 49 Writers' new Executive Director, Morgan Grey. Come on in from the rain, visit
       with other writers, and chat with Morgan about the programming that you'd like to see in JNU  
       (and throughout the state). She's looking forward to meeting as many JNU members as possible

     - Writing the Three-Dimensional Novel or Memoir, a class with Rachel Weaver.
        March 2 & 3, 6-9 pm. $95 members/$115 non-members. Details and registration here.
The Governor’s Awards for the Arts & Humanities. January 29, 7:30pm at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center. Details here. Frank Soos, will be honored as the new Alaska State Writer Laureate. Frank’s mission during his term is to promote the work of other Alaska authors. Last year he taught several classes for 49 Writers.

Cabin Fever Pop-Up Film Series: Homer Edition The Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer will host the second of three off-site film screenings associated with the Anchorage Museum’s Cabin Fever exhibition. Like Alaskans who suffer through long winters, American experimental filmmakers often work in darkness and isolation. The event features poetry by Erin Hollowell, Bruce Farnsworth, Jeremy Pataky, Eva Saulitis, and Miranda Weiss; films by George Kuchar, Claude, Peter Rose, Renato Umali, Michael Walsh, and Martha Colburn, and Performance by Easy D. Curated by Michael Walsh. January 31, 7 to 9 p.m. Bunnell Street Arts Center, Homer. Suggested give-what-you-can donation.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR WRITERSMineral School is a new artists residency located in Mineral, Washington. During summer 2015, they will offer three two-week residency periods to writers of poetry and prose, providing accepted applicants with space and time to create new work without the interruptions of normal life. They are accepting applications from January 15 through February 25, 2015 (Midnight, EST) for the 2015 summer residencies. Notification will be given roughly two months before the residency period for which you've applied. More information and applications are available here.


Interested in self-publishing or micropublishing? Larry Weiss wants to connect with other folks who share this interest for a possible discussion group. Contact him at ldweiss at gmail.com.

The Equinox Project, a digital storytelling project sponsored by the UAA Department of Journalism & Communication and the Alaska Humanities Forum will mentor 10 -19 year olds from across Alaska to create a story from one day, any day, in your communities before the Spring Equinox, March 20, 2015. Stories will be about Spring Equinox - about the change from winter to spring, and about change in your lives, your communities, and our planet. On their own, your stories create an important and lasting document of Alaska as seen by young people. Together, your stories will develop a sense of place by merging your storytelling tradition with the digital age.
Participants will work with mentors to finalize stories to share with the public in Fall 2015. Our goal is to have each major region of Alaska represented.
What's in it for you (the participant)?
Mentored by experienced stortellers from your region.
     - Four participants invited to Alaska Press Club in Anchorage in April 2015.
     - Your work featured on a national website and in a First Friday Art Show at the Alaska
        Humanities Forum in Anchorage in Fall 2015.
Application Deadline: January 24, 2015. Acceptance notifications will be sent February 6, 2015

Rasmuson Foundation Awards
The 2015 Individual Artist Award application is now open. Over the past decade, Alaska artists have received $2.7 million in grants through the Individual Artist Award Program. The Award recognizes the role artists play in bringing inspiration to their communities. Guidelines and application materials are available here. The deadline is March 1.
There are three award types:
Project Awards of $7,500 support short-term projects in all disciplines that have a clear benefit to the artist and development of their work (visit page 5 of the application for more information. Disciplines include: choreography, crafts, folk and traditional arts, media arts, music composition, multidiscipline/new genre, literary arts/scriptworks, performance art, presentation/interpretation, and visual arts).
Fellowship Awards of $18,000 are available to mid-career and mature artists of rotating disciplines. For 2015, Fellowships will only be awarded in choreography, crafts, folk and traditional arts, literary arts/scriptworks, and performance art.
Distinguished Artist Award, a single award of $40,000 (selected through a separate nomination process).

The deadline for this year's UAA/Alaska Dispatch Creative Writing Contest is fast approaching. Go to adn.com/content/creative-writing-contest-rules for complete rules, list of prizes, and submission guidelines and send your best fiction, nonfiction or poetry. Deadline is Feb. 10, 2015, 5:30pm. Winners will be announced in mid-May.

Statewide Poetry Contest 2015: Alaskan poets of all ages are encouraged to enter up to four poems. Contest includes divisions for Elementary, Middle School, High School and Adults. Winners will receive cash prizes and be featured at the Poetry Contest Winners Literary Reading. Joan Kane, award winning author from Anchorage, will judge the contest this year. Deadline is March 2, 2015 at 6 pm. More information here.

Savor the Rising Words: Poetry Broadside Invitational in honor of National Poetry Month,
Members of 49 Writers and past or present participants in 49 Writers workshops are invited to submit poetry broadsides for display at Great Harvest Bread Co. throughout the month of April 2015 in honor of National Poetry Month. Featured poets will be encouraged to read their works during a public event at the bakery at a date and time to be determined. Broadsides in the exhibit will be available for sale and proceeds will be donated to 49 Writers. Deadline: Friday, March 20, 2015. Click here for details and the entry form.

Cirque was founded to give writers (and artists) of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest more places to publish their work – and as a vehicle to bring the best writing of the region to the world. The next Cirque deadline is March 21st (the equinox). The submission address is cirque.submits@gmail.com.

Pick.Click.Give. to 49 Writers! PFD application time is right around the corner, and that's your opportunity to Pick.Click.Give.! Your Pick.Click.Give donations support 49 Writers programs around the state. We received almost $2,500 in our first year as a Pick.Click.Give organization. You can help us double that in 2015. Plus, Pick.Click.Give.rs have a chance to double their dividends.To show our appreciation, 49 Writers is offering incentive gifts to donors:
  • $75 donors will receive an original Alaskan art card from Shorefast Editions in Juneau
  • $150 donors will receive an autographed book by an Alaskan author.
Categories: Arts & Culture

Spotlight on Alaska Books: North to the Star, by Richard Lannon

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 6:00am


As Tildie washed the dishes, she heard and felt a loud rumbling that a moment later caused the house to shake, the dishes in the sideboard to rattle, and the water in the sink to sway from side to side. She held onto the counter, realizing an earthquake was happening. Looking out the window, she saw the trees swaying as if there was a great wind blowing and the evenly-spaced power poles along the street doing a drunken dance.
As suddenly as it began, all motion stopped. As she glanced out the window to see if any damage had occurred, she unexpectedly felt Jake’s reassuring hand on her shoulder and wondered when he’d gotten home. Feeling his hand move to lightly brush her cheek, she turned to face him—and saw nothing! (from North to the Star by Richard Lannon)
They were ordinary people doing ordinary things but having an extraordinary impact. This is the saga of a family going from Ireland to Alaska during the years 1849 to 1945 as they settle into new life, new land, and new problems. In the center of it all is Matilda Annabelle O’Flaherty McLaughlin, though everyone called her Tildie. The Matilda had come from her father, a robust Irishman who had discovered at any early age the adventures hidden within the covers of books and had passed that legacy on to his daughter. The McLaughlin came from Jake, who had a constantly impish smile on his face and a good-natured way in which he dealt with life’s problems and the six children they eventually had.
From the day she first met him, Tildie knew he could be the only man for her, and she set about making it become a reality, little realizing that his ship’s course was set in the same direction. Their deep love would take the family to Alaska during its gold mining days and into two world wars. The pathways of their two lives were predetermined to intersect, and that happened one bright day in May, 1884.
From a reader review: “The descriptions of the various settings are vivid. The character development keeps the reader wanting more. The author also provides ‘words of wisdom’ that the reader picks up as he ‘reads’ between the lines. The history of Alaska is weaved into the plot as well as the description of the gorgeous lands.” – Annette
Richard lives in Alaska, where he’s now retired and a member of 49 Writers. During his 47-year career he taught, worked for a printing company, and managed a furniture store. He’s done a variety of writing that includes professional articles and a stage script, but this is his first novel. He also enjoys hiking, photography, singing, his friends, great movies, and catching the occasional salmon.
But his greatest love is traveling the world. He’s been to or lived in all but eight of the United States. He lived a year in Japan and nearly eight years in Germany. He’s traveled the length and breadth of Europe from Stonehenge to the Acropolis and from Copenhagen to Athens. He’s seen Mt. Fuji, the Rocky Mountains, and the Alps. He’s sailed both of the great oceans. Someday he hopes to cross the equator and visit South America or New Zealand.

A self-published copy of his work (in both print and e-book format) can be purchased here.
Categories: Arts & Culture

JT Torres: Forbidden Worlds

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:00am
Our host family gathered around the TV to watch Raul Castro announce the return of the Cuban spies, which would improve relations with the U.S.

As my departure from Cuba approached, I experienced a sort of barotrauma, much like decompression sickness experienced by divers who resurface too fast. I needed to slowly ascend, slowly return to the world I’d left behind in America.
Cubais a country cocooned in layers, and this is mostly because of its status as a country forbidden from the world in which I live. The embargo has encouraged Americans to imagine Cubain vastly different ways. The “Miami Cubans” envision the island in its oligarchic state under Batista. They dream about the haciendas Castro seized. They believe they will one day reclaim their property, some so that they can capitalize on it and others so that they can return to their aristocratic tropical lifestyles. For the “Miami Cubans,” it doesn’t matter that Cubans have suffered their share of loss as well. The only thing that matters is vociferating the evil of Castro’s rule to enforce an embargo that has done nothing but help isolate the island. “The people there have it bad, so we should keep the embargo in place,” they say, even though the embargo contributes to the people having “it bad.”
My brother-in-law, whom Cubans would call a “Miami Cuban,” describes Cubain a way that is far worse than in reality. According to him, a family in Cuba has to apply to the government to have a cake for someone’s birthday; and a single family is only allowed one cake.
The “Utopians” believe Castro’s Cuba is paradise. The idea of free healthcare, strong education, and a life free of the poison of material greed stand as absolute ideals that should be upheld everywhere. My brother by blood is one such “utopian.” Before I left America, he envied my journey, said he couldn’t wait to hear how impressed I was by a country that “valued its people.”
Because of the way layers work—skin folding over skin, shell extending to rind—the facets of Cuba’s identity change depending on how far one peels back its casing. The island is a contradiction, a paradox in which both the “Utopians” and the “Miami Cubans” are right.
I stayed with a loving family while in Colón. Andrea, who owned the house, cooked breakfast and dinner for us (a team of four researchers) each night. During our stay, Andrea’s granddaughter turned nine. There were three cakes made; one was just for us visitors, two of whom (me and Jill) were foreigners. There were also meringues, pastries, and a counter crowded with flan.
But it’s not all rich yellow cake with guava cream filling. The healthcare system, I learned, is essentially reserved for tourists. This is controlled via Cuba’s dual currencies, the Cuban Peso and the Cuban Convertible. The latter of which is an artificially inflated currency that remains equal to the U.S. dollar to provide tourists with exceptional buying power. Most Cubans are paid in Cuban Pesos, which is so weak compared to the Cuban Convertible they can hardly afford to buy oranges from the market.
I heard stories of Cubans breaking down in tears at the sight of a flat screen TV.
I walked down nameless streets in poor neighborhoods at 2 a.m. Doors to houses were open. Strangers waved. I felt safer than I do walking around Anchorage at 10 p.m.
I met people waiting twenty-two years for a chance to leave.
There are other layers, those which act as boundaries.
The music of Arará suffered a long history of banishment from Cuban airwaves. Social organizations, cabildos, were formed in secrecy so that slaves could continue their religious beliefs without persecution. For most of Castro’s rule, the music was also prohibited by law. My grandmother, raised a Roman Catholic, became interested in Santería when one of her parents’ servants, a Santera, protected her from the incessant loneliness that haunted my grandmother her entire life. She had to hide her interest from her strict father, who threatened beating her if he found her with anything besides a cross. And then here I was, in Cuba, claiming roots to the island, but knowing very little of the language. My parents never taught me Spanish, thinking it would interfere with my learning English. My grandmother spoke to me in Spanish, but not enough for me to become fluent.
The genius of syncretism is the blur of forbidding boundaries. Perhaps this is Cuba’s gift to history.
The cabildos quickly allowed for inclusive membership. Tribes and clans from different African traditions interacted and shared elements. Yoruba, Kongo, Pataki, Vodun, Arará, and Catholicism contributed to new forms of religious tradition that, by the 20th century, became difficult to identify as separate beliefs for European powers seeking to silence the rhythm of the batá. This is the deepest layer I found in Cuba: in Agromonte, almost the direct center of the island, beneath several layers pressurizing me in a world I still don’t quite understand, I was accepted into the community, encouraged to dance, sing, eat food offered to sacred altars. It didn’t matter that I was white, that I spoke a very rough Spanish, or that I was North American. When you go there, when you climb beneath both the imagined and real layers of the place, you find the boundaries vanish.

JT Torres is a PhD candidate at Washington State University. His upcoming novella will be included in Weathered Edge, alongside Don Rearden and Sarah Birdsall, by VP&D House. He had an essay in Best Food Writing 2014. And, yes, he recently returned from Cubawith Dr. Jill Flanders Crosby. The resulting research will inform a cultural memoir about Arará, Santería, and his own connections with Cuba.
Categories: Arts & Culture

Deb: Your Book’s First Pages - Why They Matter, and a Critique Opportunity

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 6:00am
One reason first pages matter: the "look inside" feature
No matter how you publish, first pages are crucial. From reading the first five to ten pages (sometimes even your first page or two), your readers—including agents and editors, if you’re going that route—are going to decide whether your book is worth their time, money, and attention. Online book vendors know this; that’s why they offer the “look inside” feature on a book’s “buy” page. You may think all this attention on beginnings is unfair. You’ve got a great narrative (either fiction or nonfiction). Lots of twists and turns. Unique characters. Readers can’t tell all that from the first few pages. Sorry. They can, and they do. From time to time, I’m asked to jury a writing contest or award. The first round of eliminations is actually easier than you might think; from the first page or two, it’s generally clear whether the author is capable and whether the selection is captivating enough to warrant a closer look. While recognizing the importance of first pages is a crucial step towards making sure yours are a worthy representation of your book, it’s also paradoxically true that authors sometimes try so hard to impress in a book’s early pages that their efforts end up attention of all the wrong kinds. In attempting to make sure your first pages “grab the reader,” it’s easy to overdo, putting the reader off instead of drawing her in. In What Every Author Should Know, I’ve written about five common flaws of first pages: clichés, bad pacing, insufficient grounding, flat characters, and shoddy dialogue. But of course it’s not enough to avoid the mistakes. You want your first pages to shine with an organic sort of magic, creating a magnetic pull from which the reader is helpless to escape. Study the first five pages of a book you love. Make notes on how the author draws you into the book­—the set-ups, the turns of phrase, the nuanced characters, the tension points that hint at the stakes. Then do the same with the first five pages of your own manuscript. Sometimes it’s tough to see your own flaws. Or you see them, but you’ve worked the material over so many times that you’re not sure how to improve. That’s when a good critique can be helpful. In conjunction with my upcoming 49 Writers Ready to Publish workshop, I’ll be doing a limited number of first pages critiques. Registrants who opt for the critique will receive instructions for submitting their first five pages in advance of the workshop. On each manuscript and also in a brief editorial letter, I’ll point out what’s working well, and I’ll offer suggestions for improving the parts that need work. During the lunch break and after the workshop is over, I’ll meet one-on-one with participants to discuss these critiques. If you’re not able to attend the Ready to Publish workshop on Feb. 7 in Anchorage but you’d still like a first pages critique from an experienced author and editor, check with me at debvanasse (at) gmail.com and, time permitting, we’ll see what can be arranged.
Co-founder of 49 Writers and founder of the independent authors cooperative Running Fox Books, Deb Vanasse has authored fifteen books. Her most recent are What Every Author Should Know, a comprehensive guide to book publishing and promotion, and Cold Spell, a novel that “captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds,” according to Booklist. Deb lives and works as freelance editor and coach on Hiland Mountain outside of Anchorage, Alaska, and at a cabin near the Matanuska Glacier. A version of this post also ran at www.selfmadewriter.blogspot.com.
Categories: Arts & Culture

Spotlight on Alaska Books: The Avalanche Teahouse, by Stephen Bottum

Mon, 01/19/2015 - 7:00am

“To Cora, the gift was somehow more touching for being incomplete. Any mountain person would appreciate the hard work falling short of the desire. This half-built hot tub could be a twin to her own half-sewn quilt. Two new sprouts in the garden of good intentions.
“Up close, it looked like a teacup built for a giant. The missing side was where the handle would go. In a land of instant, senseless death, it wasn’t hard to believe they all lived at the whim of an indifferent colossus. Cora could imagine age-old aches and long-clenched tensions relaxing, melting away as she brewed herself in there.” (The Avalanche TeahouseStephen Bottum)
From the author of the website Armistead Maupin called "my favorite culture blog," comes this enthralling novel about risk, rescue, and the perfect chocolate cake. 
Cautious, sensible Cora and her brisk, no-nonsense mother Blanche run the last of the old mountain teahouses, six miles up a tough trail. Helped each summer by two snappy, fearless college girls, they bake simple food for weary hikers, daredevil rock climbers, and the seven-man mountain rescue team. After years away, Hap, the hero of her youth, has just returned to rejoin the emergency crew. Despite her private hopes Cora stays in the safety of the cabin, serving tea to a world of travelers. Finally two very different strangers press Cora to rethink the past and take a far greater risk. Against a powerful landscape, contrasting danger seekers and everyday domestic hurts, this funny, generous, unsentimental story explores the true nature of who really rescues whom.
"The Avalanche Teahouse is a beautifully written, utterly absorbing novel. I was transported to the remote mountain setting by its first masterful paragraph and even now, days after reading the final page, have not been able to leave." -Stephen McCauley
"…a funny and flavorful portrait of a mountain refuge for hikers, is also an intricate puzzle box that carefully and skillfully springs loose its deep secrets about past deaths and present loves." -Jonathan Strong

"combines the delicacy of a fable with the scope of an epic…this warm-hearted, tough-minded story…is just the tale for our troubled times." -James Morrison
Stephen Bottum, formerly a vice president at a major publishing house, has reviewed fiction for Entertainment Weekly, written for local New York media, and been asked to guest lecture to journalism students at Johns Hopkins. He has run distance road races or marathons in Australia, the United States, and Europe. An Alaska resident since 2010, he is a member of 49 Writers. The Avalanche Teahouse is available as an ebook from Amazon.
Would you like to see your book featured here? Check out our Spotlight on Alaska Books guidelines and submit today.



Categories: Arts & Culture

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