Book signing planned Friday

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2001

Drawn by the currents that her book "Rowing to Latitude" is creating, author Jill Fredston will be at River City Books in Soldotna from 6 until 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Bookstore owner Peggy Mullen and Kenai Crewsers, a group of peninsula rowers, are sponsoring Fredston's visit.

Mullen said she saw "Rowing to Latitude" reviewed in a recent issue if Publishers Weekly.

"I was shocked to find a starred review," the symbol of a favored publication, Mullen said.

She also reported an extremely high level of interest in Fredston's book, with West Coast stores running low on copies.

For her 10th birthday, Fredston's parents presented her with her first boat, the "Ikky Kid." Armed with a pair of oars, she launched onto the waters of Long Island Sound and steered her 5-foot craft to the discovery of a new freedom.

Since then, Fredston has relocated to Alaska, where she and her husband, Doug Fesler, are directors of the Alaska Mountain Safety Center. Although she has long since left the Ikky Kid behind, that water-flavored taste of freedom remains.

In "Rowing to Latitude" she recounts long journeys she and Fesler have completed. With more than 20,000 miles of Arctic and sub-Arctic coastline to their credit, Fredston expertly weaves the telling of her life off the water with the long hours of blister-raising, wind-tossed crossings, collisions with icebergs and sights most of us will never see.

Donna Rea, of Kenai Crewsers, said she and other rowers are looking forward to meeting and listening to Fredston, "someone who views the outdoors much the same as we do. And I think a lot of people on the peninsula will have the same feeling."

For the last five years, the 35-member group has used Kenai and Mackey lakes as their training ground, honing rowing skills that recently won them third place in a Seattle competition and another third place in a competition in Victoria, British Columbia. They have their sights set on participating in the Nike World Games in Australia next October.

The same focus and discipline required of a rower has allowed Fredston to write "Rowing to Latitude" while continuing to teach backcountry safety and avalanche hazard recognition, evaluate hazardous situations and

participate in avalanche rescue efforts.

Mindful of Fredston's demanding schedule, the Publishers Weekly interviewer asked when she found time to write.

"I'd get up at three in the morning and work until eight, and then I'd switch jobs," Fredston said. "I think if I ever write another book, I'd really like it to be my only job, because after a while I began to write 12 and 14 hours a day. But when I was really into the book, I'd just wake up with sentences in my head."

Fredston also co-authored "Snow Sense" with Fesler. The book helps backcountry travelers evaluate avalanche hazards. Copies of "Rowing to Latitude" and "Snow Sense" will be available Friday evening, Mullen said.

On Saturday, Fredston will teach a course on avalanche hazard recognition. This is the third year the Kenai Peninsula Borough has offered this course to the public. It begins at 9 a.m. at Soldotna High School. Admission is free.

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