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Collaborative Reflections & Book News By and About Alaskan AuthorsAndromeda Romano-Laxhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/16988887975016816552noreply@blogger.comBlogger1933125
Updated: 13 hours 43 min ago

Round Up of News & Events

Fri, 05/29/2015 - 1:44am
Since its founding, the Machetanz Art Festival at Mat-Su College has been a highlight of early summer. Now in its fifth year, the festival invited 49 Writers to partner with them to bring a literary component to the program. The result is an authors' panel discussion followed by three workshops on various aspects of craft. So come up to the Valley and check it out. Preregistration is available online

Happy writing
Morgan

EVENTS IN ANCHORAGEEvents at the UAA BookstoreJune 10, 4-6pm. Poet Tom Sexton presents A Ladder of Cranes.June 15, 4-6pm. Author and Activist Chris Dixon presents Another Politics: Talking Across Today’s Transformative Movements
Bestselling , Newbery Award winning author Kate DiCamillo, the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, will visit Anchorage on June 11-12.  She will make presentations at four local libraries. Click here for the schedule.
EVENTS AROUND ALASKASOUTHCENTRAL, MAT-SU, KENAI PENINSULAAuthor events at Fireside Books, Palmer
  • Robert H. Armstrong, Friday, May 29 at 11:00am. Bob Armstrong has pursued a career in Alaska as a biologist, naturalist, and nature photographer since 1960. He is the author of the best-selling book Nature of Southeast Alaska and numerous other popular and scientific books and articles on the natural history of the state. He lives in Juneau, Alaska.
  • Timothy Bateson, Saturday, May 30 at 11:30am. Timothy's short story appears in the new anthology: .Across the Karman Line. 
Machetanz Art Festival writing panel and workshops, June 6, at the Mat-Su College campus. Preregistration required.
  • Writers Panel: Is This the Golden Age of Alaskan Writing? 9-10:30am. Panelists: Deb Vanasse, Don Rearden, Julie LeMay
  • Poetry: The Mysterious and the Obscure. 10:30-12pm, Instructor: Julie Hungiville LeMay
  • Unleashing the Screenwriter Within. 1-2:30pm. Instructor: Don Rearden
  • Saturday, June 6—1:00-2:30 PM
  • Windows on Your Characters: Strategies for Compelling Fiction. 2:30-4pm. Instructor: Deb Vanasse
  • Spoken Word Poetry Slam Workshop for High School. 6-7:30pm. Instructor: Trey Josey

Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference, June 12-16. 2015’s keynote speaker is Andre Dubus III, and there are a host of amazing writers on the faculty this year (as there are every year). This year's post-conference workshop at Tutka Bay Lodge, Finding the Geography of Our Work, will be led by 2014 Kingsley Tufts Award winner Afaa Weaver, June 16-18,
SOUTHEASTBestselling author Kate DiCamillo, the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, will visit Juneau on June 9-10 to help the Juneau Public Libraries kick off their Summer Reading Program. A wide range of free events have been planned. More information can be found on the JPL website at www.juneau.org/library or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/libraryevents.
INTERIORThe Art of the Essay, June 26-28, with Frank Soos, is a three-day intense class in reading and writing personal essays. The essay as practiced from the beginning of the form up to the present day is the most open to experimentation and innovation of all the commonly practiced forms. They will explore that range by discussing a variety of essay forms to consider how an essay can be made. Details and registration info at Northern Susitna Institute, Talkeetna AK.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR WRITERSCONFERENCES, RETREATS & RESIDENCIES
The Achievement and Assessment Institute (AAI) will be holding two writing workshops in Alaska this summer, one in Anchorage in June and the other in Fairbanks in July. They develop material for the Alaska Measures of Progress as well as other reading assessments, and participation from Alaskan writers helps ensure quality passages that relate to Alaskan students. Writers can apply to either workshop by filling out a brief survey. They'd like to have a mix of educators and established writers as well as students in these workshops and will be selecting applicants based on the strength of their writing samples and background.
The Tutka Bay Writers Retreat is half full. Don't miss out on a fantastic retreat featuring two outstanding guest instructors, Ann Eriksson and Gary Geddes! September 11-13 at the fabulous Tutka Bay Lodge. 

Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference, June 12-16, 2015 in Homer: keynote speaker is Andre Dubus III, and there are a host of amazing writers on the faculty this year (as there are every year).

Last Frontier Theatre Conference, June 14-20, in Valdez, features new work by playwrights from around the country. There are evening performances, 10-minute play slams, even a fringe festival. The deadline is past for play submissions, but they may still need actors.

Wrangell Mountains Writing Workshop presents RiverSong with Frank Soos, Michelle McAfee, Robin Child, and Nancy Cook, July 22-27, McCarthy to Chitina. The Wrangell Mountains Writing Workshop is pleased to partner with McCarthy River Tours & Outfitters to host a six-day, five-night adventure in the fabulous Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. This year’s workshop will feature poet and essayist, Frank Soos, who is currently serving as Alaska’s Writer Laureate, joined by accomplished singer-songwriter Michelle McAfee, backcountry banjo-diva Robin Child, and workshop director Nancy Cook. Together they will explore the ways wilderness can help inspire songs, stories, poems, and essays. Activities include an opening reading/performance and craft sessions in the comfort of the Wrangell Mountains Center’s facility in McCarthy, followed by three nights and four days of creative inquiry along the Kennicott, Nizina, Chitina, and Copper Rivers. Space is limited to eight student writers/ songwriters.

Alaska Writers Guild & SCBWI Annual Writer’s Conference, September 19-20, Anchorage. Early registration starts May 2015. www.AlaskaWritersGuild.com
Categories: Arts & Culture

Ann Eriksson: Mommabe Writer

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 5:00am
Ann ErikssonWhen my son was four I made an appointment with a creative writing prof (I won’t mention any names) at the university in my town to talk about entering the program. The prof wore the stereotypical black turtle neck under a tweed coat with patched elbows, and he told me that because I was a mother I’d never write anything. I left spitting mad, muttering something like ‘chauvinist some-kind-of-oinky animal’ under my breath, but his lack of encouragement, his overt disdain for my dreams, did its work and I enrolled in the biology program instead, a far more rigorous degree with labs and field work and which I finished, along with a minor in environmental studies, with an honours designation. 

But the desire to write hadn’t left me and a few years later, with a story nagging at me, paragraphs and scenes haunting my sleep and my waking hours, I started my first novel. My situation had changed drastically. I had two children, my daughter eight years old, my son seventeen, and I no longer had a supportive husband. I was a single parent, working as a self-employed contract biologist so I could be at home with my kids. And I had a draughty 1920s era house to look after, and a dog to walk. I thought I must be crazy to consider taking on a project as daunting as writing a novel. But when a friend called to invite me to form a small writer’s group with her and two more of her friends, women I didn’t know, I jumped at the chance. The four of us fumbled our way forward, unsure, getting to know one another, learning to trust. I’ve never felt so encouraged and supported as I did in that group. We read our work aloud to one another, we gave feedback, edited and proofread, and attended readings and other literary events, hungry for knowledge, for the how and the why of writing. We made grand statements, ‘it’s not about publication, its about the process’ and then we’d laugh and say, ‘of course it’s about publication.’ We made rules about giving and receiving feedback, to protect our fragile egos, and we sometimes cried at a particularly beautiful or sad piece of writing. We were in love with the creative process and I think, with each other. 

Because of that group and the nurturing structure it created, I made time in my hectic life to write. I would have a new scene or chapter ready for each weekly meeting. I slotted writing time in between work and parenting, school volunteering and vacuuming. I stayed up late. I stood at the kitchen counter working at my laptop. I called it the ‘whenever method of writing.’ I completed the first draft of that novel in about six months. After another few months of revisions, I naively submitted it for publication, three query letters, then another three, then, halleluiah, a request to see the manuscript. When I received the acceptance call, great celebrations ensued among the group. We’d done it. Publication, the Holy Grail was possible. My three friends lived vicariously with me through the entire editing and production process, and the day the printed book arrived in my home we drank champagne in my living room while my children watched, as I opened the box and held the first book in my hand, an experience akin to holding your newborn for the first time, the beaming aunties looking on. 


I haven’t encountered that prof since that fateful meeting, but I’ve published four novels to date and just submitted my fifth to my publisher. The writing group eventually dissolved, each of us going on to individual creative pursuits. All three of my friends are successful artists and artisans. Two of us have published. My kids are grown. I’m married to a wonderful man, a poet, and we’ve moved to an idyllic island home with a writing room all of my own. I procrastinate more. I still belong to a loose writer’s group that meets occasionally, but my motivation to write comes entirely from within, by my love of the creative process. The seeds of that motivation were sown by that first group of women who I think of with an intense affection, like the first best friends of childhood who never lost faith in you.  I do a lot of public readings now and young women often approach me to ask whether I think they can write and still have children. My reply never varies: Ignore the naysayers, gather your aunties, and go for it girl!
Categories: Arts & Culture

Lizzie Newell: Angling with Cover Design

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 5:00am
Sappho's Agency Cover
The best thing about self-publishing may be doing your own cover. It also can be one of the worst things. Many traditionally published authors have no control of cover art and must enduring wildly inappropriate pairings of cover with book. Alaskan books often end up with Canadian scenery or with the wrong kind of equipment. This may be fine if all the readers are in the Lower 48 but target readers in Alaska and elsewhere may very well know the difference. When an author self-publishes she has control of the cover and that poses a challenge.

“You can’t tell a book by its cover” is only true of badly designed covers. A well-designed cover immediately conveys genre and subject matter. It catches the eye of those who might enjoy the book and establishes confidence in the author. The author is like an angler supplied with fishing gear for catching fish. In this scenario, the cover is akin to that scrap of feathers, furs, bait, and baubles which induces fish to bite.

The cover should attract not just any reader, but the target species. You can’t catch trout with a hunk of herring impaled on a halibut hook, nor can you catch a halibut with a dry fly. I’ve seen self-published science fiction covers which look like memoir and inspirational non-fiction which looks like fantasy. These covers attract the wrong readers who don’t buy the book or become disappointed and leave one star reviews.

The process of cover design starts with a visit to a bookstore for a chat with booksellers and a perusal of the shelves to see what readers are rising to, and biting. Genre shelving gives an idea of what kind of readers are in the pond and what they’re attracted to. Based on reader taste, the writer chooses the appropriate hook and bait which can be purchased by hiring a cover designer. Or the writer can craft his or her own cover. Designing a cover may involve purchasing software, an upgraded computer, camera equipment, and peripherals such as a drawing slate. A professional can spread these costs over multiple projects, and so hiring a designer is often the cheapest option. I’ve seen covers done for as low as $200. This amount doesn’t even cover the subscription for necessary software, let alone time and the additional equipment.

On the other hand, the author may have the best knowledge of the target  audience. The author is certainly the premier expert on the book. Purchasing the necessary equipment, upgrading skills, and putting the time in on the design may be worthwhile. It’s all a matter of what attracts target readers. Regardless of how the cover is produced, the goal is to attract readers while avoiding bycatch.

Lizzie Newell is an author, illustrator, book designer, and artist living in Anchorage, Alaska. She has written six books and twelve short stories set on the planet Fenria, a world which greatly resembles Alaska. She crafts related jewelry, costumes, and sculpture and received both a BA in arts and humanities from CSU in Colorado and a BFA in fine art from UAA. She does book design for other authors and often works with consulting editor Rebecca Goodrich. Newell’s first book, Sappho’s Agency, is available at UAA Bookstore and at Fireside Books in Palmer and as an e-book. She’s working on the cover for her next book, The Stud and the Sperm Thief, which will be available in October 2015.
Categories: Arts & Culture

Anchorage Remembers: Knik River Bridge, March 1964

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 7:00am
by Arne L. Bue

I didn't want to sign up with the Alaska National Guard, but in 1960s Juneau during the Vietnam War, the Draft Board was calling up a lot of the guys with whom I partied. My name would be called soon. A drinking buddy suggested it would be the right move to get in the Guard so I could stay out of Vietnam. That sounded pretty good to me, so I headed over to the Armory, where Captain Roger E. Henderson swore me in.

I didn't like wearing a uniform, however. Officers and sergeants considered me a goof-off and gave me latrine duty for my non-military attitude. Henderson knew I worked with numbers and writing, and he made me company clerk, probably to better keep an eye on me. Typing morning reports and filing kept my mind busy as my hangovers dissipated. I vowed that volunteering for any kind of extra military duty would never happen.

In March 1964, our annual active duty took place at Fort Richardson Army Base. As training ended on Good Friday, March 27, headquarters started closing down operations. A few company clerk duties occupied me that day. As I filed and packed, marching band music drifted in an open window. The glint of sun off a tuba caught my attention, then something unusual and frightening occurred: beyond the band, tall trees started whipping back and forth. Seconds later, the entire band fell to the ground, which was moving toward our headquarters like ocean rollers. When these waves hit, I toppled to my hands and knees. The rocking continued for more than three minutes. When it stopped, we laughed. Not because we thought this was funny, just that it happened so fast. We didn't realize its seriousness. Later, we learned this was one of the worst quakes in the history of the North American continent. It tumbled Anchorage.

In our Quonset hut a few hours later, a sergeant called us to attention. He needed volunteers. Some of us volunteered to go into Anchorage. He called for more volunteers, needing a few people at the Knik River Bridge, about thirty miles north on the Glenn Highway. For the first time in my Guard career, I raised my hand.

From the back of the ambulance—my new living quarters—little could be seen of where we were headed. Finally, the ambulance stopped. A staff sergeant opened the back. The Knik River Bridge wasn't far from us. An oil drum sat a few meters away. We dug some rocks and sand, dumped it in the drum, and set a rusty grill on top.

"You get hungry, pour this fuel in there and light it,” the sergeant said. “Heat up your rations here. Plenty of snow around to make coffee."

State engineers were examining the bridge. They concluded it had been damaged but was sound enough for traffic because one of them approached us and ordered, "Stop everyone. They gotta wait fifteen seconds while the vehicle in front crosses. Don't let them go faster than fifteen miles an hour."

An endless line of vehicles heading north out of Anchorage appeared, filled with families, suitcases, mattresses, tarps, coolers, boxes tied to the tops, parents in the front, kids in the back, dogs and cats.

I stood in front of an approaching vehicle and raised my arm. The line stopped. The driver rolled down his window and reached for me. He wanted to shake my hand.

“Thanks,” he said. His wife and kids waved. They crossed the bridge.

I stepped in front of the next vehicle.

On watch one night, the moon's light added a blue tinge to the snow. I crossed the bridge to keep moving and stay warm. Up the road a moving dot grew bigger and shaped into someone on foot. Closer this person came, an old-timer on snowshoes carrying a back pack, a 30-30 strapped over it. He slogged along, gray beard, flaps on his fur hat over his ears.

“Where’re you goin’?” I asked.

“Eklutna," he said.

As his figure receded, eventually disappearing into the cold night, I began to contemplate. The old-timer was someone who knew where he needed to go. He was carrying out a responsibility to his family, friends, or to himself. I compared what he was doing with how I'd been living, and this made me think of my mother and father, Norwegian immigrants. They'd wanted me to grow up in America believing I could do anything, and they wanted me always to try to do the right thing. The way I'd been living wasn't the right thing. I recalled my Uncle Ture. I'd earned college money commercial fishing with him. I could see him in my mind's eye, a man bothered by memories from his military service in World War II. What returned to me were the words about life he spoke to me on the fishing grounds: "All work is good work."

Perhaps these memories were part of the reason I volunteered for duty on this bridge. I think at that moment I was proud to wear the Guard uniform, and even a little grateful for having a commanding officer like Henderson and sergeants who kept an eye on goof-offs like me.

After that night, my life spun off in a new and better direction. Whenever I drive over today’s Knik River Bridge, I remember.


Arne L. Bue, a member of 49 Writers, lives with his wife Shirley near Baxter Bog Park in Anchorage. A life-long Alaskan, he was born in Ketchikan, worked in Juneau and Anchorage, and is now retired. He moved to Anchorage in 1978. Bue is the webmaster of Alaska eBooks Alaskan Authors, which can be found at http://home.gci.net/~bue/index.html.
Categories: Arts & Culture

From The Archives: Deb Vanasse on Getting the Distance

Mon, 05/25/2015 - 5:00am
Sit down, and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer.  But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.  ~Colette
I love revising. Really. But it’s hard, and harder still to teach. If you don’t believe me, plant yourself among inspired third graders with their freshly penned stories and try to get them to change anything.
You give a nice concise pep talk, including show and tell from your own work. Revision is important! Revision is hard! But you can do it! A child raises her hand. “What if I don’t want to change anything?” 
Confident in the power of metaphor, you reach for a few to counter the resistance. It’s like putting on 3-D glasses – when you revise, your story looks different. It’s like your room – it gets a little messy sometimes. But it’s important. You can do it. The same child raises her hand. “What if I like it just the way it is?”
Within us all is a vestigial third grader, happy with our efforts, not so keen on changing anything of substance. Like the third grader, we’re already attached to the structure, the characters, the way the narrative unfolds. Besides, big changes mean big work.
We know we have to go the distance with our projects. We also have to get distance from them. We have to set love and admiration aside (that stunning metaphor! that clever character!) so we can spot flaws and ease them out of our work. We have to silence our inner third graders and take a pragmatic stance. We have to be our own kind and reasonable readers, appreciating what’s done well while questioning everything that’s not.
We approach other books pragmatically, with both kindness and reason. We note what other writers do well, from the sentence level to the whole structure. We note what could have been done better. As writer-readers, we train ourselves to zoom in and out of the prose. But approaching our own work with this stance is tougher than it seems. We want so very much for our writing to be beautiful and whole and perfect. 
It’s critical to slow down. When you revise, you must be your own book doctor. First the diagnosis, then the treatment. Start by letting your project cool. When you pick it up to begin revision, find a way to see it in a different physical format. Changing the font and spacing helps. Even better – make it look like a book. 
One of the best uses I’ve found for my Kindle is uploading work for a revision read. Not only do I get to see it in a different format, but I also can’t change it as I go. This prevents me from jumping right into treatment, which promotes a narrow view as I zoom in on a particular area and apply my fix. Instead, I’m forced to use the e-reader’s highlighting tool to mark places that need my attention, and to make separate notes about what’s not working, as well as noting the places I want to expand and contract. It’s more cumbersome than fix and go, fix and go - the Jiffy Lube revision. But that’s the point. 
Third graders are great fun. But they’re still equipping themselves for life. Getting the distance for tough, meaningful revision is a skill we must make ourselves grow into. Pragmatic, kind, reasonable – that’s the reader you want to be when you revise. And there’s plenty of good in that approach, even beyond the page. “I think back to your class a lot,” a grown-up student recently wrote me. “I feel like I learned some life skills along with editing skills--the ‘pragmatic stance’ that is so enabling; imagining a kind and reasonable reader--what wonderful stuff!”
Try This: Resist the urge to be efficient. When you’re done with a draft, put it away and work on something else for a few weeks or even a few months. When you pick it up again, change the format – play with the font and the spacing, or convert to an ebook. As a kind and reasonable reader, diagnose before you treat. In a separate document – a reading journal - note what works and what doesn’t. Then read over all your notes, assume a pragmatic stance, and start your revision.
Check This Out: Your left brain is a censor, but you need its analytic prowess when it comes to revision. How to juggle the creative and the analytic? The classic text is Henriette Anne Klauser’s Writing on Both Sides of the Brain. 
Categories: Arts & Culture

Round Up of News and Events

Fri, 05/22/2015 - 7:00am
The 2015 Rasmuson Foundation artist awards were announced this week. The Fellowship award winners include writers Dawnell Smith and John Tetpon, and poets Nicole Stellon, Anne Coray, and Vivian Prescott. Project Grant winners include writers Martha Amore, Mary Odden, Rachel Ford, Sarah Birdsall, Chantelle Pence, and Maris O'Tierney, and songwriters Todd Grebe and Emma Hill. Congratulations to all!

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the National Endowment for the Arts wants to hear how the arts have affected your life: "how the arts are part of your day, how the arts have inspired you to do something unique, how they have made a difference among you and your family, as well as in the communities and neighborhoods in which you live," and if there is a specific NEA grant that has had an impact on you and your community. Check here for details.

Happy writing
Morgan

EVENTS IN ANCHORAGESpecial event for Poetry Parley: Former Alaska Poet Laureate, Joanne Townsend, will be in Alaska the last week in May. The May Parley will move to the 4th Thursday to allow her to read as our Alaska poet. She has selected Louise Gallop as the marquee poet. Louise is also of Alaska but died summer of 2013, in her nineties. The date is May 28, 7pm, Hugi-Lewis Studio, 1008 W Northern Lights Blvd.
Events at the UAA BookstoreJune 10, 4-6pm. Poet Tom Sexton presents A Ladder of Cranes.June 15, 4-6pm. Author and Activist Chris Dixon presents Another Politics: Talking Across Today’s Transformative Movements
EVENTS AROUND ALASKASOUTHCENTRAL, MAT-SU, KENAI PENINSULAAuthor events at Fireside Books, Palmer
  • Roger Woods, Saturday, May 23 at 2pm. Roger first landed in South Central Alaska in 1945. His book, "Treasure Alaska" is the story of a colorful people "with their strengths and their foibles tempered by the environment in which they have lived."
  • Robert H. Armstrong, Friday, May 29 at 11:00am. Bob Armstrong has pursued a career in Alaska as a biologist, naturalist, and nature photographer since 1960. He is the author of the best-selling book Nature of Southeast Alaska and numerous other popular and scientific books and articles on the natural history of the state. He lives in Juneau, Alaska.
  • Timothy Bateson, Saturday, May 30 at 11:30am. Timothy's short story appears in the new anthology: .Across the Karman Line. 
Open call for writers in Homer: reading opportunity with Emily Johnson/Catalyst. Deadline: Friday, May 22, 2015 at 5pm. Submit: Between 8 and 10 minutes of finished work (poetry, prose, short story, song, spoken word) related to HOME, PLACE, LAND. This can be interpreted widely. They are looking for work that speaks to our inherent connection to and disconnection from home, place, land, each other. How: Please submit finished work as one PDF to julia@catalystdance.com. Write SHORE READING SUBMISSION in the subject line. Include a cover page with your name and contact  information (email, phone) and links (youtube, vimeo,etc) to your performed work, if possible. Applicants mus be available to read/perform the submitted work at 7:30pm on June 9th at Bunnell St Arts Center as part of Emily Johnson/Catalyst’s performance project, SHORE in Lenapehoking. 5 - 6 applicants will be selected and paid a performance stipend.
Machetanz Art Festival writing panel and workshops, June 6, at the Mat-Su College campus. Preregistration required.
  • Writers Panel: Is This the Golden Age of Alaskan Writing? 9-10:30am. Panelists: Deb Vanasse, Don Rearden, Julie LeMay
  • Poetry: The Mysterious and the Obscure. 10:30-12pm, Instructor: Julie Hungiville LeMay
  • Unleashing the Screenwriter Within. 1-2:30pm. Instructor: Don Rearden
  • Saturday, June 6—1:00-2:30 PM
  • Windows on Your Characters: Strategies for Compelling Fiction. 2:30-4pm. Instructor: Deb Vanasse
  • Spoken Word Poetry Slam Workshop for High School. 6-7:30pm. Instructor: Trey Josey

Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference, June 12-16. 2015’s keynote speaker is Andre Dubus III, and there are a host of amazing writers on the faculty this year (as there are every year). This year's post-conference workshop at Tutka Bay Lodge, Finding the Geography of Our Work, will be led by 2014 Kingsley Tufts Award winner Afaa Weaver, June 16-18,
SOUTHEASTThe Sitka Story Lab is a place where young Sitkan writers ages 7-19 can tell their stories, practice their writing skills, and unleash their imaginations. The programs are free of charge and open to everyone. They believe that storytelling is an essential art form, especially for young people. It builds confidence, fosters important skills, and strengthens interpersonal connections. They aim to empower youth to think creatively and express themselves with clarity and purpose. The Sitka Story Lab is sponsored and created by the Island Institute and is a brand new program for the 2014-2015 school year.
INTERIORThe Art of the Essay, June 26-28, with Frank Soos, is a three-day intense class in reading and writing personal essays. The essay as practiced from the beginning of the form up to the present day is the most open to experimentation and innovation of all the commonly practiced forms. They will explore that range by discussing a variety of essay forms to consider how an essay can be made. Details and registration info at Northern Susitna Institute, Talkeetna AK.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR WRITERSCONFERENCES, RETREATS & RESIDENCIES
The Achievement and Assessment Institute (AAI) will be holding two writing workshops in Alaska this summer, one in Anchorage in June and the other in Fairbanks in July. They develop material for the Alaska Measures of Progress as well as other reading assessments, and participation from Alaskan writers helps ensure quality passages that relate to Alaskan students. Writers can apply to either workshop by filling out a brief survey. They'd like to have a mix of educators and established writers as well as students in these workshops and will be selecting applicants based on the strength of their writing samples and background.
The Tutka Bay Writers Retreat is half full. Don't miss out on a fantastic retreat featuring two outstanding guest instructors, Ann Eriksson and Gary Geddes! September 11-13 at the fabulous Tutka Bay Lodge. 

The Wrangell Mountains Center residency program aims to support artists of all genres, writers, and inquiring minds in the creation of their work. Their organization and community will provide unrestricted work time and space to focused individuals. They invite applicants with creative and inquisitive minds who will both add to and benefit from the interdisciplinary efforts at their campus in McCarthy, Alaska and the surrounding Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

North Words Writers Symposium, May 27-30, Skagway. Keynote speaker is Mary Roach, plus a bevvy of Alaska's best authors.

Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference, June 12-16, 2015 in Homer: keynote speaker is Andre Dubus III, and there are a host of amazing writers on the faculty this year (as there are every year).

Last Frontier Theatre Conference, June 14-20, in Valdez, features new work by playwrights from around the country. There are evening performances, 10-minute play slams, even a fringe festival. The deadline is past for play submissions, but they may still need actors.

Wrangell Mountains Writing Workshop presents RiverSong with Frank Soos, Michelle McAfee, Robin Child, and Nancy Cook, July 22-27, McCarthy to Chitina. The Wrangell Mountains Writing Workshop is pleased to partner with McCarthy River Tours & Outfitters to host a six-day, five-night adventure in the fabulous Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. This year’s workshop will feature poet and essayist, Frank Soos, who is currently serving as Alaska’s Writer Laureate, joined by accomplished singer-songwriter Michelle McAfee, backcountry banjo-diva Robin Child, and workshop director Nancy Cook. Together they will explore the ways wilderness can help inspire songs, stories, poems, and essays. Activities include an opening reading/performance and craft sessions in the comfort of the Wrangell Mountains Center’s facility in McCarthy, followed by three nights and four days of creative inquiry along the Kennicott, Nizina, Chitina, and Copper Rivers. Space is limited to eight student writers/ songwriters.

Alaska Writers Guild & SCBWI Annual Writer’s Conference, September 19-20, Anchorage. Early registration starts May 2015. www.AlaskaWritersGuild.com
Categories: Arts & Culture

Andromeda: "Just" Punctuation

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 6:00am
Flying to the first residency of my MFA program five years ago, I was still having second doubts. The first class I entered—8 a.m., everyone bumping and muttering with Styrofoam coffee cups in hand—was standing-room only. The topic: punctuation. That’s right, not something sexier, like “truth” in creative nonfiction or how to publish your first novel. Just punctuation.
At least one other class was running at the same time, and the Antioch LA MFA model does not feature required attendance at all classes. These people could have slept in. They could have turned around as soon as they saw there weren’t enough chairs.
The lecturer opined and the students debated: about commas and colons. About semi-colons and parentheses. About their own preferences and influences, well aside from the rules.
A stylistically distinct sentence appeared on the board.
My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three…Voices called out, in recognition and appreciation:  “Nabokov!”
I love what that particular parenthesis accomplishes in terms of voice and characterization. Who but the narrator of Lolita would compress and wall off, in an almost aggressively chilly aside, the causes of a fatal accident?
*
If you’re a writer, you love the fine details of language. You understand that every word – every dot and dash, in fact—can make a difference.
But just because you’re a writer doesn’t mean you don’t make mistakes. I sure do.
I recently finished an online graduate level class with a group of teachers in which nearly every person said he or she needed to learn more grammar in order to feel more confident in the classroom. Even the English teachers don’t know (or remember) all this stuff!
Tackling grammar and punctuation in isolation doesn’t help writers learn to write better, the research categorically informs us. The skills have to be learned in context. If a peer group, teacher or editor can point out a specific error you are making, perhaps repeatedly, that is the perfect opportunity for improvement. Better to tackle a few errors in context than add a complete book about copyediting to your summer reading list.
Some of us like to have fun—for example, experimenting with or without quotation marks, a la Cormac McCarthy. (See Deb’s post on this very subject.) But we don’t want to choose to vary from linguistic norms without purpose or to make repetitive errors unintentionally. Right? (Learn the rules, then choose whether to break them, in other words.)
One of the top errors I repeatedly see from my own students and book coach clients is the comma splice.
Comma splice. Definition from Purdue Owl: Comma splices are similar to run-on sentences because they also incorrectly connect independent clauses. A comma splice occurs when two independent clauses are connected with only a comma. For example:
  • I didn’t like the movie, it was way too long.
  • She and Jerry are getting married in the fall, they didn’t want a summer wedding.
  • My favorite bands are all really loud, playing loud music is good for stress relief.
How to rewrite the first?
Break into two sentences
I didn’t like the movie. It was way too long.
Use a semi-colon to connect independent clauses.
I didn’t like the movie; it was way too long.
Connect the two ideas with a conjunction.
I didn’t like the movie because it was too long.

Another error I see nearly as frequently is incorrect semi-colon use, or—among people who do understand how to use semi-colons—simple overuse and abuse. (I’m guilty as well. You can also see I have a fondness for em dashes and, while we’re at it, here I am using parentheses, perhaps once too often.)
I’m tempted to cut and paste more corrections and examples, but this blogpost about punctuation is more about process than rules. When I’m not sure if I’m using punctuation correctly, or when an editor or peer reader flags something for me, I head to Google. I do a search and look for trusted sources in the results. Or I put the source—like Purdue Owl or Grammar Girl—in the searchbox. So for example, I type: “Lie versus lay grammar girl.”
If I need more examples to understand the rule, I search again.
Lots of writing centers and educational sites have good handouts, like this one on semi-colons, commas, and dashes. 
I’m not always the fastest learner. I have to look up “lie versus lay” at least once a year.
Last week, I was corrected on my use of “since” versus “because.” (Always more to learn!) 
This blogpost could have been more concise, starting with “correct” choices instead of “artistic” choices, including Nabokov’s parentheses. But my message for you—and for my own perennial-student self—is that grammar*, punctuation*, mechanics*, usage*, and all that English class stuff is really cool, first. It’s also necessary, second.
(*What do each of these terms mean? This post explains nicely.)

Andromeda Romano-Lax is the author of The Spanish Bow, published in 11 languages, as well as The Detour and a forthcoming novel, Behave. She teaches for I2P, 49 Writers, and in the University of Alaska Anchorage low-residency MFA program. Her website iswww.aromanolax.com.
Categories: Arts & Culture

Lizzie Newell: Physical Books

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 11:46am
The current state of publishing is a frenzy of competition and marketing with publishers, booksellers, authors, and distributors fighting over a seemingly shrinking audience. Whether it’s shrinking or not, the entire industry is engaged in a frantic effort to capture audience interest.

Recently I read about a new strategy publishers can use for identifying bestsellers by tracking the sales of indie authors. If an author is doing well the publishers move in for a takeover. Meanwhile indie authors are organizing blog parties featuring trivia contests and free giveaways. Wanna-be authors are polishing their pitches and query letters in hopes of getting that pitch just right and impressing a publisher. On the prowl, ever-present Amazon fine-tunes its schemes and algorithms for holding onto the fickle loyalty of readers.

Despite all this, we’re still in the business of selling books. In the last ten years, e-book sales have taken off, but they won’t replace paper books. Readers are still more likely to buy a book if they can hold it in their hands. Even if they buy the e-book copies instead, that experience of holding a physical book, thumbing through it, and hefting its weight remains part of tactile memory. A physical book is advertising.

The big publishers know this. They put their money into getting books into bookstores even if most of those books won’t sell. The sheer number of copies stacked up on tables or turned face-out on a shelf makes an impression on readers.

Paper books are indispensable to indie authors as a marketing tool. Conferences often have signing events with maybe a hundred authors signing books. Authors who have e-books only must resort to signing postcards and passing out candy and swag. I recall meeting with some of these authors and still have the pens, bookmarks, and charms, but I have little recall of the authors’ names or what they write. I carry copies of my book in a shoulder bag. When I meet new people, I could explain what I do for a living and pass out business cards, but it’s faster to show what I do by pulling a book from my bag and handing it to them.

Once those stacks of books are sold or given away, they continues to act as advertising. Books sit on bookshelves, lie around on tables, or are given away. Other people see paper books and may borrow them. This doesn’t happen with the e-books squirrelled away on cell phones. For physical books, the longevity of reach can be astounding. I have books which belonged to my great-grandparents. Some of the books contain doodles in the margins and mustaches on historical figures. Others are beautiful examples of design with vintage typesetting and gorgeous illustrations. I love these books as a window into the past. Their physicality offers an immediacy which e-books can’t surpass.

Lizzie Newell is an author, illustrator, book designer, and artist living in Anchorage, Alaska. She has written six books and twelve short stories set on the planet Fenria, a world which greatly resembles Alaska. She crafts related jewelry, costumes, and sculpture, and received a BA in arts and humanities from CSU in Colorado and a BFA in fine art from UAA. She does book design for other authors and often works with consulting editor Rebecca Goodrich. Newell’s first book, Sappho’s Agency, is available at UAA Bookstore and at Fireside Books in Palmer and as an e-book.

Categories: Arts & Culture

Anchorage Remembers: Alaska's Big Day

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 7:00am
by Lee Jordan

When I punched the time clock at 7 a.m. on June 30, 1958, excitement was evident throughout the Anchorage Daily Times building. It could easily be seen on the faces of those who were already hard at work, their demeanor even more earnest than usual. I soon learned that the Alaska Statehood Bill, which had been debated for the past week, was awaiting a final vote in the United States Senate. Passage was assured and was imminent. History was being made, and Anchorage would celebrate in a big way once that day’s edition hit the streets. Throughout the building we could feel the tension as we waited for the words from Congress that would set us in frenzied final motion.

When the back shop crew arrived, we saw that Publisher Robert B. Atwood was already at his desk in the editorial offices on the second floor, on the telephone with E. L “Bob” Bartlett, Alaska Delegate to Congress in Washington, D.C. Also getting an early start was the three-person news staff. Those of us whose job it was to set the type and get the paper ready for printing were met by Editor Bernard J. Kosinski. Adrenalin began to flow when he told us to prepare the front page for an Extra. That word was set twice in 72-point bold capital letters, placed in “ears” at the top of the front page, one in a box on each side of the paper’s nameplate.

“What’s the biggest type we have?” Kosinski asked me.

From the adjoining pressroom, I extracted from a dust-covered cabinet a character from a font of wood type. The type was six inches tall, reserved for use in a “Doomsday” headline.

“Try ‘WE’RE NO. 49’,” Kosinski commanded. When I attempted to comply, I found two problems. The more serious was that the phrase was too long to fit within the 16-inch page width. The other was that there was no apostrophe in the type case.

“There’s a comma, and I can make an apostrophe out of it if you can shorten the head,” I advised.

“Make it ‘WE’RE IN’,” he replied after a moment’s thought. That solved the first problem. The other didn’t take long. I took the comma and walked over to the saw standing in one corner of the composing room. I cut off the raised character from the bottom portion of the slim strip of hardwood, and placed it at the top of the headline; spacing material cut to order filled the void below.

Even though the front page soon was complete, except for a two-column hole on the right side, it would be several hours before the “Extra” hit the street. There was a great deal of nail-biting while we waited, all eyes on the clock. The gaping hole could not be filled until the Times’ Associated Press representative in Washington sent his lead paragraphs by teletype. From the publisher to us minions in the back shop, we agonized as we waited to break the news to a public waiting eagerly.

Background stories had been written in advance by Kosinski and his two reporters. They told of the effort to bring a Statehood Bill to the floor, what it provided, and its anticipated effects. Leaders of the Statehood effort were quoted, and space was given to the constitution that would guide the new State of Alaska. Emphasis was placed on President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s promise to sign the Bill as soon as it made its way to his desk. A picture of a huge pile of wood stacked on the Park Strip, waiting to become a celebratory bonfire, illustrated the excitement.

Bartlett had advised that passage of the bill was certain even though debate was continuing by senators not yet ready to admit defeat. All that was needed was word that the vote was final. It did not come until 8:00 Eastern time—2:00 Alaska time, the newspaper’s normal Page One deadline—when Associated Press reporter Robert Smith filed his report.

Times Circulation Manager Harry Stiver had already called in his crew of carriers and engaged a handful of them to take the Extra to the streets. Drivers were standing by to get copies to the stores, to the airport, and up the highway. The pressroom foreman was told to run twice the usual number of copies.

With the recently installed Hoe press cranking out 12,000 copies an hour, the 20-page edition was soon in the hands of sellers who shouted, “Extra, Extra! Alaska’s a state! Read all about it.” The newspapers, which sold for 10 cents each, became valuable souvenirs.

The “WE’RE IN” headline became an icon identifying the successful end to a decades-long struggle by Alaskans to gain a place in the Union. That fight began half a century earlier when residents of Nome (then Alaska’s largest city), Juneau (named as Alaska’s capital in 1906), Sitka (the former capital dating from the days of ownership by Russia), and Skagway (gateway to the Klondike in the 1890s Gold Rush) petitioned for recognition. Lack of a voice in Washington—other than that of lobbyists—and edicts coming from people thousands of miles and a continent’s-width away had long frustrated residents of the Territory.

The first Alaska Statehood Bill was filed in 1916 by former judge James Wickersham, who was elected as Alaska’s third non-voting Delegate to Congress in 1909. It failed, as did several subsequent efforts, although each brought attention to the Last Frontier’s concerns.

Fiercely pro-Statehood, Atwood became publisher of the Times in 1935. He battled relentlessly against the wealthy salmon cannery interests based in Seattle, whose fishermen came each spring to harvest the incredibly valuable runs spawned in Alaska’s rivers. To a great extent the Outside fishermen escaped paying taxes to the Territory. There were also concerns that with its small population Alaska could not afford to provide services previously provided by federal agencies. Control of the fishery, at least partially, ended with Statehood. The financial concern was alleviated when it became known that Atlantic-Richfield’s 1957 discovery of oil in the Kenai Peninsula’s Swanson River Field was a major find. That find was later eclipsed by what was found on Alaska’s North Slope. Although in 1958 we had only hopes for the future, Statehood has proved to be a success. Alaska holds untapped natural resources in abundance. The $7.2 million purchase from Russia has been repaid many times over. Alaska’s star continues to shine brightly.

My role in this drama was miniscule, but I still feel a sense of pride whenever I see the “WE’RE IN” headline. For a brief moment, I had a hand in history.


Lee Jordan was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1930. He enlisted in the Army and, despite asking to be sent “anywhere but Alaska,” found himself shivering at 20 degrees below zero on a windy dock in Whittier in January 1949, assigned to the Signal Corps’ historic Alaska Communication System. He later worked as a printer with the Anchorage Daily Times. He married Barbara Erickson in 1951. They moved to Chugiak in 1962, where they remain today. They founded the Chugiak-Eagle River Star in 1971 and operated it for 30 years until selling to the Morris newspaper chain. In 1974 Jordan was elected mayor of the short-lived Chugiak-Eagle River Borough. In semi-retirement, he is writing his fourth book—stories about people of the Klondike-Alaska Gold Rush. After 21 years of coaching baseball, Jordan is currently president of the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks Booster Club. He has four children, nine grandchildren, and four great-grandsons.

Categories: Arts & Culture

Alaska Shorts: Ten Years

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 7:00am


by K.M. Perry

They divorced and I packed my books, piano music, and journals to move away from the house with the chair by the kitchen window and my secret mountain. I gave my homeless friends the rest of my money and my large, well-organized bundle of bus transfer slips before hugging each of them good-bye.

I walked across the street, turned around, and said, “Stay strong!” just before getting on the departing bus.

When he remarried there were no more threats to have my arms or legs broken and I no longer worried I would be locked in my room at night. The New Wife guarded my boundaries and protected me in the same way my older brother had years earlier. The scabs and bruises on my arms healed and she took me shopping for short-sleeve shirts. I never asked anything of her but she always knew what I needed and it was always better than what I would have asked for myself. Whenever I had a dress-up event to attend, she always handed me her silver fox jacket and pearl necklace to borrow. I never felt I deserved to wear anything so expensive, but the look on her face as I wore it made me feel nothing less would have been right.

The New Wife had been adopted as an infant and she told me the story of the gold Star of David she always wore around her neck. As an adult she searched for her biological parents and found out they had been a young teenage couple who were both Jewish. She gave me books about the Holocaust and we spent hours talking about the Righteous Among the Nations and what we would do if we were in a similar circumstance.

Everything I did and dreamed to do she told me was good and wonderful. Every day she hugged me and told me I was loved until one day I believed it. At seventeen, I now had a Mom.

When I was married at eighteen, my Mom bought my wedding dress, hosted my bridal shower, and helped me in the dressing room before the wedding. She graciously ran interference as the peacekeeper to keep me safe from others who wanted to bully themselves into this chapter of my life.

Before my Mom adopted me, she raised five other children and lived in Nome, Alaska. I loved everything about my Mom and as a voracious reader, I spent the next twenty years reading every Alaskana book I could get my hands on.

I moved to Norway and back again, raised three sons, became a homeschool activist, Boy Scout leader, Girls on the Run coach, and renovated a Victorian house. I started a non-profit rescue mission for domestic violence survivors and gave motivational speeches to create a surreptitious income to buy plane tickets to move women to shelters far away from their abusers. My Mom helped me secretly purchase $50 savings bonds every week for twelve years, before I was finally able to rescue myself and move to Alaska.

Over the years, my non-profit work became more than simply buying plane tickets to relocate women and grew into rescuing women and children from situations around the world many people turn away from. On one of my trips I stopped off in Paris for a week. I walked the streets of Paris to honor my Huguenot ancestors who had escaped to Switzerland in the face of religious persecution. I took a train to Rouen to see where my childhood heroine, Joan of Arc had been burned at the stake. As I serenely sat beside an ancient fountain while enjoying a hot Nutella crepe I thought how wrong it was on so many levels my Mom never got to see Paris and I did.

Almost thirty years after my Mom adopted me, I lived in Israel for three months. As I walked through Jerusalem every day, I frequently thought of my Mom’s love of her Jewish heritage. I kissed the Western Wall every Shabbat for my Mom before I slowly backed away.

Our lives intertwined in more ways than my Mom ever knew. Over the years I serendipitously adopted four daughters one by one. A deep part of me didn’t want anyone else to wait seventeen years like I had to know a mother’s love. Two of my daughters came into my life just shy of their seventeenth birthday, one was eleven and one was fourteen. My Mom’s adoption story continues to live on through my family legacy.

In the ten years since my Mom’s passing, I’ve accomplished so much more than I could ever have imagined for myself. All is good and wonderful and I know my Mom is proud of me.


K.M. Perry is currently living the adventurous life in Alaska as a photographer and creative writer, while working on international justice issues for a non-profit humanitarian aid agency as a Justice Pastor. She also works locally as a domestic violence and homeless advocate, enjoys playing hockey, hiking and camping, traveling, painting, and playing ukulele.

Categories: Arts & Culture

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