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Spotlight on Alaska Books | Secondhand Summer by Dan Walker

49 Writers - Thu, 06/16/2016 - 6:30am
I drank, forcing the Kool-Aid in between my tongue and the swelling log of sandwich. The Kool-Aid was like glue that attached the massive wad of sandwich. More if it ran out both sides of my mouth as I gasp for air. Wiping my chin on my sleeve, I was thankful for the extra seconds to think. What should I say to Mrs. Taylor? No one had asked me that before. In fact, I had never met anyone before who didn't already know my parents and my whole life story. Mrs. Taylor handed Taylor another sandwich and took my silence as an invitation to ask another question. "Is your father stationed here at the Air Force base?"
           My face turned red. I could feel it. And my eyes watered. I shook my head, and, suddenly, the mass on my palette dislodged. I gulped it down and blurted out, "He's dead." (Dan WalkerSecondhand Summer)

Secondhand Summer begins in Ninilchik, a tiny Alaskan community where the Barger family fishes for salmon. The father's death forces a move from their homestead to an apartment in a poor section of Anchorage. The tale is about Sam, a twelve-year-old boy who loved the homestead fishing life he left behind. Like most kids his age, his physical abilities and his imagination exceed his judgment and knowledge. The story focuses on the boy’s adventuresome adjustments to the big city, the loss of his father, and becoming a teenager. An abandoned nightclub, which Sam and his friends take over as their "fort", absorbs Sam's attention, energy, and gives him chance to escape from an adult controlled world, but his time runs out when the teenagers take over and then the city steps in. By the end of the summer, Sam looses his club, one of his new friends, and his idealism, leaving him feeling quite alone as he enters seventh grade, wilder and wiser.           
“Secondhand Summer is based on my own experience when I had to move to Anchorage from our homestead near Ninilchik after my father died. It was a summer of great change and adventure for a boy from the woods to move to the big city. Many of the experiences are very real, but it is a novel. I worked for years as a teacher, and in the process of developing this book with my editor, I realized how important it is to write books that boys want to read, our most reluctant readers. I also want the book to be sophisticated enough that it would engage adults. I think it tells a good story of life in 1965 on Government Hill in Anchorage.” — the author
Dan Walker is an Alaskan homesteaders’ son who grew up to become a teacher and a writer. He has worked as a chef, innkeeper, merchant seaman, fisherman, and carpenter. Drawing from these varied – and storied – experiences, he has blogged at written essays, professional articles, and fiction in magazines and literary journals. Dan has over thirty years in education and was named Teacher of the Year for Alaska in 1999. Today, Dan works with schools in rural Alaska and shares life on a lake near Seward with his college sweetheart and muse, Madelyn.
Dan has been a member of 49 Writers for two years. His writing workshops and consulting work take him throughout Alaska from Sitka to Barrow to Perryville, where he is devoted to working with teachers and students and rewarded by experiencing the remote Alaska that few people get to know. Secondhand Summer was released in paperback by Alaska Northwest Books on June 7, 2016. 
Categories: Arts & Culture

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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