From the Bookshelf

Innkeeper welcomes readers inside B&B

Posted: Thursday, June 23, 2005


  "You Wouldn't do it for the Money!" by Sherry Tomlinson

"You Wouldn't do it for the Money!" by Sherry Tomlinson

You Wouldn't Do It For The Money!: Tales from an Alaskan Bed and Breakfast

By Sherry Tomlinson

Published by Sherry Tomlinson

157 pages


$13.95 (softcover)

Tourism is a big deal in Alaska, and nearly all residents have dealt with a bed and breakfast at some point. We've either been guests ourselves or served as an unofficial booking agency for our overflowing Outside visitors or — in some cases — sized them up as potential business opportunities of our own.

Sherry Tomlinson has been hosting travelers in her Anchorage home for nearly two decades. She has enough seniority in the B&B business that others seek her advice. Now she has written and self-published a book about her experiences.

"You Wouldn't Do It For The Money!" is a cheerful and cheeky look inside one of the state's most popular visitor-related business types.

"Most Alaskans run a bed and breakfast; they just don't get paid for it," she writes. "Alaska is a cool destination for friends and relatives, so when the tribe hits town, you find beds for them and cook a lot of big breakfasts."

The book does not attempt to explore all facets of running a home-based inn. Instead, it introduces the highlights and low points from a personal angle, conveying the feel of opening one's doors to strangers.

Tomlinson enjoys chatting up visitors, and her gift of gab is clear in this book. It is chock full of anecdotes, told in a breezy manner spiced with humor and affection. She writes about "baby" sitting teens, assisting disoriented foreigners, relaxing with retirees and finding herself a serendipitous participant in people's life-changing journeys.

Her position gives her rare vantage to see how the Great Land touches people from all walks of life.

She writes of her delight in coddling people and the gratitude, affection, entertainment and good company she receives in return.

"Bed-and-breakfast guests are smart and funny, and they teach me lessons about life," she says.

But Tomlinson also writes about the other side of the coin. She talks about her own travel experiences on the Last Frontier, from Seldovia to Healy. Subtly, she conveys what it feels like to be a tourist in Alaska and how Alaskans come across to outsiders.

She is candid about Alaskans' social gaffes, such as the time a moose hunter couldn't resist shooting a placid Bullwinkle surrounded by camera-toting visitors.

Interspersed with her stories are recipes for favorite breakfast dishes such as fancy French toast and salmon omelets. She also puts in a plug for the charms of real, old-fashioned feather beds.

But the meat of the practical advice comes in the last chapter, where she answers the questions wannabe innkeepers most frequently ask her. She emphasizes that a bed and breakfast only succeeds as a labor of love. Hosts who really like having company are the only ones who can resist burnout.

"You Wouldn't Do It For The Money!" is an easy read. It is even shorter than it looks at first because most of the text is double-spaced. The writing is lively, entertaining and well executed.

Between the lines, Tomlinson conveys a lot of information about the pros and cons of operating a B&B and wry observations about the visitor industry in Alaska.

This book is a light piece of work, friendly and fun. It provides beach-blanket-style entertainment for summer reading.

Anyone considering opening a bed and breakfast and anyone seriously involved in the state's visitor industry will get even more out of this clever little book.

Shana Loshbaugh is a writer and former Clarion reporter who now lives near Fairbanks.

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