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Guest Blogger Miranda Weiss | A Column on Columns

49 Writers - Tue, 06/14/2016 - 6:00am
When Tide, Feather, Snow, my natural history memoir, came out in 2009, I thought there could be no greater thrill than to have strangers from all over the country contact me about the relationships they had with my book—relationships that had nothing to do with me. Then, seven months later, my first daughter was born.
I continued to write, sometimes sporadically, but not publish much for the next few years. During that time, after my second daughter was born and I was immersed in raising an infant and toddler, I was writing—personal essays, a very drafty draft of a second memoir, but with two very young children, I didn’t have the wherewithal to do anything with the pages.
Last spring, my youngest daughter turned three and learned how to ride a two-wheeler. I watched her ride down the street away from me and felt something had switched. Motherhood wasn’t as demanding as it had been. I was eager to write and publish. And I knew I needed to start modestly and with deadlines. I needed to have someone—aside from my children—waiting for me to give them something.
I pitched a summer series to one of Homer’s two weekly newspapers, the Homer News, and found myself as a reporter for three months. My beat: the Homer Spit, a four-and-a-half mile long finger of land that juts into the middle of Kachemak Bay and is home to Homer’s harbor, the town’s largest hotel, and the port that serves as the gateway to Cook Inlet. Each summer, the Spit turns into the region’s center for tourism, fishing, shipping, and dramatic biological and geological processes. I wrote about octopus and erosion, halibut and landing craft, and about how the Spit shapes kids who grow up out there. Each week I had to come up with 800–1,000 words and an image too. Each week there was space I had to fill.
As the series drew to a close, I panicked. What was next? I was writing again—nothing grand, not the pages of a next book—but something that felt like it was leading me somewhere. At the same time, I still felt I wasn’t ready to make a commitment to another big project
Late in the summer, as I was reporting on the last piece in the Spit series, an editor I had worked with at The American Scholarcontacted me and asked whether I would be interested in writing a weekly “letter from Alaska” column for the magazine’s website. Yes, was the answer. Whatever the Spit columns loosened in my head allowed me to write my weekly columns as well as pitch and write relatively furiously over the next months, publishing in Alaska Magazine, Alaska Dispatch, Edible Alaska, and The Economist.
This is a column in praise of columns, a shout out to small spaces to be filled with writing, especially when you need them most.

Miranda Weiss is a science and nature writer who lives in Homer. Her natural history memoir, Tide, Feather, Snow: A Life in Alaska, was a bestseller in the Pacific Northwest. Her Northern Lights column about life in and around Homer appears weekly on the website of The American Scholar. In addition, her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Economist, Alaska Dispatch News, and elsewhere.
Categories: Arts & Culture

What's happening this week June 15th - 21st, 2016

Capital City Weekly - Mon, 06/13/2016 - 10:18pm
Pride Week, Saturday, June 11 - Sunday, June 19. Various locations. Organized by SEAGLA, events include a pride trivia night at 7:30 p.m. at the Imperial on Wednesday, a hike and bonfire at 5 p.m. at Auke Rec on Thursday and Glitz at 7 p.m. on Friday at Centennial Hall. For more information and the full schedule, go to

Video Clip of Clarissa’s Chilkat Mask Dancing Celebration 2016

Clarissa Rizal: Alaska Native Artist Blog - Sun, 06/12/2016 - 9:17am

Clarissa Rizal’s Chilkat mask in the making; no eyeballs were woven for the allowance of the black warp to be cut so the wearer of the mask can see out — April 2016

Initially I wove this Chilkat mask with the intention of putting it in the Stonington Gallery’s show of Northwest Coast masks which opened on June 2nd; however, due to attending to immediate health issues this past Spring and other significant deadlines, I did not complete the mask in time.  Yet, I was determined to have the mask at least dance during Celebration, so during my few hours manning our booth at the Art Market, I finished the second part of the mask which was the headdress.

Click on the video clip (below) showing the dancing of the mask/headdress during David Boxley, Sr.’s dance group singing a great song and beat of their Exit song during Celebration 2016, June 11th.  Thank you, Stephanie Maddock for the video clip!


Categories: Arts & Culture

Two Poets Talking

What Turtle Blood Tastes Like - Tue, 05/24/2016 - 10:10am

One of my favorite poets, David Budbill has been dealing with rapidly declining health lately and while the conversations I’ve had with him over the years have been marked by a striking optimism, the challenges of being a writer who is losing the physical ability to write are becoming too much for even the most optimistic and zen of mountain recluse poets.   Here’s a recent conversation between Budbill and longtime friend, David French.  HIt the link for the full conversation,

David French’s questions and comments are in italics. Unless otherwise indicated, all the poems are David Budbill’s.

But let’s talk about what’s happening in your life right now.

The major thing that I’m dealing with is my Parkinson’s disease, my rare form of Parkinson’s disease. It has incapacitated me and made me incapable of all the things I used to love to do: I would cut wood and garden and mow, and I can’t do any of those anymore. So I’ve had to revise my life completely. So far I haven’t revised my life; I’ve just cancelled it, dropped out.

Now that’s not entirely true, because before I dropped out, I was able to finish a novel and a short story and a collection of poems, and they’re all coming out in the next year. So I did that before I cancelled my life.

The last time I was here, you said all this happened a year ago, when you moved to Montpelier.


Up until then, you’d still been working on your novel and your stories and your poem.

I suppose, yeah.

There recently was a song cycle of your poems at the Elley-Long Music Center. One song was about doing things for the last time. It was beautiful, but with an ache to it. You must have done a lot of that leaving Wolcott, walking around, looking around, knowing that was the last time you’d cut this wood or stack it or put it in the stove.

It was. Yeah, it was heartbreaking, because that was my identity, and now it’s no longer that. Which is no doubt one of the reasons I’m in limbo now.

So you’re not writing now.

No, I’m not.

You’re not making music.


Another theme that keeps coming up in your poetry, sometimes in very funny ways, is the lament over not having been a major voice in the poetry world. You wrote about the life of “genteel poverty and meditation” you lead:

…which gives me lots of time

to gnash my teeth and worry over

how I want to be known and read

by everyone and have admirers

everywhere and lots of money!

Is that something you would still write a poem about at this point, or is that an old theme that isn’t something you think about anymore?

I certainly think about it.

You still do?


You would like to be higher on whatever the poetry best-seller list is?


And have more money from it, recognition.

Yeah. Of course, who wouldn’t?

You’ve written:

When I came to Judevine Mountain

I thought

all my troubles would cease,

but I brought… my ambition –

so now, still,

all I know is grief.

Well, that’s true. I have this thing about ambition. I can’t live with it, and I can’t live without it.


Filed under: Poetry
Categories: Arts & Culture


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