Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Elise Patkotak: On Writing a Column

Elise Patkotak
One of the questions I face most often as a regular newspaper columnist is why. Why would anyone put themselves and their personal opinions out for everyone to read and criticize on a regular basis, especially considering how poor the pay.

There is no easy answer to that question short of admitting to a bit of insanity in the family genes or a total inability to know where the line is between personal and private in my own life. In truth, the reason is that I already take enough pills to stay alive on a daily basis. If I didn’t write my weekly column and vent my frequent anger and frustration with our elected officials and their minions, I would have to take many more. I’d have to take heart pills, more blood pressure pills, headache pills, indigestion pills and, at the end of the day, sleeping pills to turn off my mind enough to relax and unclench my fists. So you can see where just writing my frustrations out on a regular basis is a much healthier approach.

Of course, if you choose this route, you also choose to make very public your views on all kinds of matters and, in doing so, incur the wrath of many who do not share your views. In this wonderful new age of electronic communications, this means that your e-mail box can rapidly fill up with messages that start with the words, “Are you completely insane or just stupid?” And in actual fact, that is probably some of the more polite opening words I’ve ever read. I’ve been accused of being so stupid I’d make a turkey in the rain look smart (think about it, it will come to you). Based on names I’ve been called, some apparently think my mother was not married when she born me. And if many of my e-mails are true, I am definitely not going to heaven… at least, not to the heaven some Christians plan to inhabit.

I do occasionally get e-mails from people thanking me for saying what they are thinking. They are usually thanking me because this saves them from having to say it out loud and encountering opposition. I am happy to do this for them. I assume when I need them, they will be there to protect me. Right?  Guys? Gals? Right?

Actually, the best e-mail I’ve ever received about one of my columns can easily be placed in either the love or hate side of the equation. It simply said, “Your column today made sense. Sometimes you do.”

Brevity truly is the soul of wit.

Author Elise Patkotak will be speaking on "The World of Self-Publishing and Why" on

Thursday, Apr. 24, 7pm, Great Harvest Bread Co. as part of the 49 Writers Reading and Craft Talk series.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Spotlight on Alaska Books: River of Light by John Morgan





Sun jackknifes into
                               the river. Elsewhere,
wars blight and innocents die.
The river’s texture of fish-skin,
sparks, and
                   burbles can breed a harvest 
of grief. The month my
                                       mother died,
I plied her with chocolate
determined to
                       keep her alive. Near the end,
I touched a damp sponge to
                                           her lips, then
squirted some morphine in to soften
the ache as her vital organs
                                           shut down.
How shallow her
                             breathing. I offered
her orange juice, tilting the glass
and she whispered, "More,” then
                                                     “More!"—
her last words
                 that echo in me
                                       now. My whole life
was a dream, Kabir declares,
and by god I slept right through it!

                        *
In no hurry, our patched rafts glide with
the river, drifting from
                                    side to side.
We can see a gash where boulders
rolled down
                    the hill, and behind it
glimpse mountains
                                    fractured in
last year’s quake.

River of Light: A Conversation with Kabir, by John Morgan with artwork by Kesler Woodward)

John Morgan’s book-length poem, River of Light: A Conversation with Kabir, has just been published in the Alaska Literary Series by the University of Alaska Press. The poem takes the reader on a week-long raft trip down a wild river in south-central Alaska. Bears, eagles, moose, seals, otters and salmon inhabit the poem’s world, and the river’s shifting landscape of glaciers, mountains, rapids, and waterfalls energizes and enriches its meditative mood. The trip becomes a spiritual journey as well, since the poem incorporates commentary by the Indian mystic poet Kabir, who serves as a kind of mentor for the poem’s narrator. The raft trip described in the poem took place in 2003, the year of the second Iraq War, so the war is on the narrator’s mind and becomes a metaphor for the his inner struggles. But the main story of the poem is the trip itself, as the river’s waves and currents influence the shaping and pacing of its lines, and the wildlife and scenery provide frequent surprises for the travelers. The volume includes artwork by the distinguished Alaskan artist, Kesler Woodward, who participated in the original raft trip and makes an appearance in the poem.

 “This poem by one of our finest poets draws upon incandescent, creation-laden words to reveal the ‘authentic wilderness’ that flourishes within us and, yes, without us. River of Light dazzles with the pure pleasure of its passing.” –Michael Waters, editor of Contemporary American Poetry.

“I love the complexity of experience and voice. So many layers here. The free verse lines are spot-on, capturing both the flow and layering of the journey’s breath-taking moments.”
—Christianne Balk, winner of the Walt Whitman Award.

John Morgan studied with Robert Lowell at Harvard, where he won the Hatch Prize for Lyric Poetry.  He earned his M.F.A at the Iowa Writers Workshop. In 1976, he moved to Fairbanks, where he helped found the Midnight Sun Writers’ Conference and taught for many years at the university. Morgan has published five books of poetry and a collection of essays. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, APR, The Paris Review, Cirque, The Alaska Quarterly Review, The New Republic. Morgan was chosen to be the first writer-in-residence at Denali National Park. He has also been a featured blogger for 49writers. Annie Dillard writes that his poems “are strong and full of carefully controlled feeling. They are tender and precise evocations of the moral and sensory life of man.”

For more information check out Morgan’s website: www.johnmorganpoet.com
River of Light: A Conversation with Kabir can be purchased at Gulliver’s Books in Fairbanks and online at Amazon.com. John and Kes Woodward will be speaking at the UAA Bookstore today, April 21, from 5 - 7 pm.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Linda: 49 Writers Weekly Roundup

Photo courtesy of Christina Whiting
First of all, we'd like to express our appreciation to everyone who participated in last Friday's Write-a-thon - a great time was had by all at Snow City Café as you created new work and raised money for 49 Writers! We'll have a full report for you next week. 

Special thanks go to MC Jonathan Bower for handling the role with aplomb; Write-a-thon coordinator Michelle Saport for her hard work behind the scenes; 49 Writers board member Jeremy Pataky for stepping in to oversee the all-important details; and Snow City Café for their fabulous food and smiling staff. We truly appreciate our loyal sponsors too, who donated a great selection of items for the prizes and drawings: Bear Tooth, Great Harvest Bread, Moose's Tooth, Raven's Brew Coffee, Snow City Cafe, Spenard Roadhouse, and Title Wave Books.

Yes, I'm back at my desk after an intense three weeks in Austria, training English language teachers with a friend from the University of Innsbruck and spreading the word about Alaska literature. My travels were capped by a weekend in Krakow with Alaskan writer Kathleen Tarr, one highlight of which was a meeting with the dynamic young people who are running the Krakow Festival and The Book Institute. They are most interested in what's happening in Alaska and the USA, and shared many great materials and ideas. What a treat to visit the new UNESCO City of Literature! Look for a future post from Ms Tarr about living in literary Poland.

I can't thank Lynn DeFilippo enough for taking over the roundup in my absence: please thank her too next time you see her! It makes all the difference when you can count on someone to share the load and keep getting the word out to our blog followers about all the exciting things happening in literary Alaska.

This year's Tutka Bay Writers Retreat with Carolyn Forché is now full! But don't despair, we have started a waitlist - if you're still interested, please email retreats@49writingcenter.org. Cancellations do happen as life is unpredictable.

49 Writers author events coming up in April & May
  • Thursday, Apr. 24, 7pm, Great Harvest Bread Co., Anchorage: Reading & Craft Talk with Elise Patkotak, "The World of Self-Publishing and Why"
  • Saturday, Apr. 26, 9am-12pm, 645 W. 3rd Avenue, Anchorage: Digital tools for the Creative Writer, a class with Lawrence Weiss
  • Saturday, Apr. 26, 1-3pm, Juneau Arts & Humanities Council: Every Day a Victory: How to organize your life to write that book you've always talked about, a workshop with award-winning Sitka author John Straley. Click here to register.
  • Tuesday, May 14 & Saturday, May 17, Anchorage Museum: “The Pressure is Off: Independent Publishing Options for Writers” with Dana Stabenow and Deb Vanasse.
  • Register here for Anchorage classes.
Around the State

Tonight, Friday, Apr. 18, 7pm, UAS Egan Library, Juneau: Gifts of the Crow: How perception, emotion, and thought allow smart birds to behave like humans, featuring author John Marzluff. Prof. Marzluff will discuss his research on animal minds, social learning and fear learning and continue the conversation of this year’s One Campus One Book theme, human-animal communication. Sponsored by the UAS One Campus One Book Committee and the School of Arts and Sciences.
 

Tomorrow, Saturday, Apr. 19, 11am: Fireside Books, Palmer. Time Travel with Bonnye Matthews! Meet the author of the award-winning historical fiction Winds of Change series: Ki'ti's Story, Manak-na's Story, and Zamimolo's Story. Whether you've started into this fascinating series or are ready to pick up the newly-published third book, come on by Fireside Books and take the opportunity to chat with Bonnye!

Monday Apr. 21, 5-7pm, UAA Campus Bookstore: poet John Morgan and artist Kesler Woodward present River of Light. Morgan’s River of Light: A Conversation with Kabir, from University of Alaska Press, is based on a trip down the Copper River. Alongside the artwork by Alaskan artist Kesler Woodward, River of Light folds words, sounds, and color into being.

Thursday, Apr. 24, 2:30pm: Celebrate National Poetry in Your Pocket Day by carrying a favorite poem in your pocket and sharing it with your friends, family, even random strangers you bump into throughout the day! Don't have a poem? Drop by Fireside Books in Palmer and we'll have some perfect pocket-sized poems ready for you to share!

Thursday, Apr. 24, 4-7:30pm, Midnight Sun Brewing Company, Anchorage: don't miss the book release and signing for David Stevenson (Letters from Chamonix) and Justin Herrmann (Highway One, Antarctica). It's always great to celebrate new publications from UAA MFA faculty and graduates!

Friday, Apr. 25, 7-9pm: Springtime in Alaska Brings Yellow Umbrellas from the Alaska Quarterly Review! Join them for the book launch party in Anchorage at TapRoot (3300 Spenard Road) and enjoy a night of jazz, conversation, cocktails, and readings from AQR’s featured poets Joan Naviyuk Kane, Eva Saulitis, and Sean Hill. Admission $7. The latest and 31st edition includes a wide variety of compelling short stories, provocative essays and poems from more than 35 different poets. Purchase a copy for $8.95 at bookstores throughout Alaska or on the web at uaa.alaska.edu/aqr

Friday, Apr. 25, 7pm, UAS Egan Lecture Hall, Juneau, 7pm: Don't miss the launch of the latest issues of Tidal Echoes, a literary and art journal that showcases the art and writing of Southeast Alaskans, published by UAS. 2014 featured author Christy NaMee Eriksen, featured artist Rachael Juzeler and some of the writers published in the this year’s edition will present and share some of their works.

Saturday Apr. 26, 7pm, UAF English Department will host their annual public reading of Masters in Creative Writing candidates, in the Fairbanks Art Association Bear Gallery, third floor of the Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts, Pioneer Park, 2300 Airport Way.

April 25-27, Prince William Sound Community College, Valdez, hosts Writing Down the Wild, a three-day workshop for creative nonfiction writers. This non-credit community workshop will be taught by Alaskan nature and wilderness writer Bill Sherwonit. The course will examine and practice the steps necessary to powerful and effective nature writing and will include time outdoors in the local landscape, along with readings and discussions. Registration limited to 12 students: click here for more information.

Saturday Apr. 26, 2-4pm, Ann Stevens Room in the Loussac Library: Celebrate the Bard’s birthday at Shakespeare’s Sonnets, a reading celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday and of Poetry Month. There’s still time to practice your favorite sonnet, and even don a costume!

May 1-3 in Anchorage, The Alaska State Council on the Arts, in partnership with the Alaska Arts & Culture Foundation, will hold its 2014 statewide arts conference, Latitude: 2014 Alaska Arts Convergence, This conference offers opportunities for artists and arts professionals from throughout Alaska to network, learn valuable skills, participate in artistic activities and think big about the future of the arts in Alaska, and will interest arts professionals, artists, arts educators, volunteers, board members, and cross-sector leaders interested in how the arts can support Alaskans and Alaskan communities. $250 registration.

Outside events of interest to Alaskans

The incomparable Peggy Shumaker continues to criss-cross the country in the service of literature. If you have friends or family in either place, be sure to let them know this is an opportunity not to be missed:
  • Monday, May 5, 7pm,  City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco: Reading by Peggy Shumaker with Kate Gale and Doug Kearney
  • Thursday, May 8,  7pm, Poetry Foundation, Chicago: Reading by Peggy Shumaker with B. H. Fairchild
June 22-28, poet Camille Dungy, who recently visited Alaska, will be leading a five-day workshop at this year's Minnesota Northwoods Conference,  For a schedule and descriptions of the workshops to be taught by the distinguished faculty, please visit www.northwoodswriters.org

Upcoming deadlines for nominations and submissions

Wednesday, Apr. 30: There's still time to participate in The Salmon Project's haiku contest! You can enter as many times as you’d like, and the winning contestants will win great prizes including gift certificates to local sporting goods shops and salmon love swag. All entries must be received by midnight. Email your haiku(s), along with your name and phone number, to social@salmonproject.orgClick here for more information. 

Wednesday, Apr. 30: The Alaska Center for the Book annual Contributions to Literacy in Alaska (CLIA) Awards recognize people and institutions that have made a significant contribution in literacy, the literary arts, or the preservation of the written or spoken word in Alaska. The nomination form and information on past winners is available at www.alaskacenterforthebook.org. For more information on the contest, call (907) 764-1604 or e-mail carolben@gci.net

Wednesday, Apr. 30: Poems in Place has extended their open call for poetry. The project will place a poem by an Alaskan writer in each of the seven regions of the Alaska State Park’s system in the coming years. Both original work and nominated poems submitted by appreciative readers will be considered for Independence Mine State Historical Park, near Palmer, and Lake Aleknagik State Recreation Site/ Wood Tikchik State Park, near Dillingham. No submission fees. An honorarium will be paid to the winning poets. See http://www.alaskacenterforthebook.org for more information, contest rules and entry form. 

Thursday, May 1: The Extreme Weather Mystery Readers Journal 30:2 will focus on Crime Fiction that takes place or involves Extreme Weather (snow, hurricane, blizzard, sand storm, etc.). They are looking for articles, reviews, and author essays. Author essays: 500-1500 words, first person, about yourself, your books & the "Extreme Weather" connection. Email janet@mysteryreaders.org for more info.

Friday, May 2: 360North’s new statewide television series, “Writers’ Showcase,” is looking for fiction and creative non-fiction for their live recording on June 5. Inspired by NPR’s “Selected Shorts,” the show uses actors and celebrities as readers. They are especially interested in fiction for this episode. The show’s summer-inspired theme is “endurance,” and they want pieces that are set in summer or reflect the theme of endurance, and are five to twelve minutes long when read aloud. Visit 360north.org for more information. You can contact the shows producers with questions, or submit directly to to arts@ktoo.org.

Wednesday, May 14: The 2014 Anchorage Press Super Shorts Micro Fiction contest is now underway. Winners in each category will have their stories published in a special Super Shorts issue of the Press. Fabulous prizes to be announced later! Check out the Anchorage Press for details.

Literary happenings in Alaska this summer

May 28-31: This year's North Words Writers Symposium in beautiful Skagway, Southeast Alaska, features popular British-American writer Simon Winchester as keynote author, joined by an Alaska-Yukon faculty that includes Nora Marks Dauenhauer, Richard Dauenhauer, Nick Jans, Marcel Jolley, Heather Lende, Lael Morgan, John Straley, and Deb Vanasse. For full information, visit the conference website.

June 8-14: Prince William Sound Community College hosts the 2014 Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez. The invited 68 plays include writers from across the United States and internationally from the United Kingdom. There are 8 Alaskans invited to present their work, including 3 from Anchorage, 2 from Juneau, and 1 apiece from Fairbanks, Ketchikan, and Valdez. Alaskan playwrights include Jill Bess (Anchorage, AK), Simple Melody, Linda Billington (Anchorage, AK), A Duct Tale, Clint Jefferson Farr (Juneau, AK), The Kindness of Strangers, P. Shane Mitchell (Anchorage AK), Veritas, Tom Moran (Fairbanks AK), God On Our Side, Mollie Ramos (Valdez, AK), Snowmageddon, Barbara Shepherd (Juneau, AK), Ghost Stories, Norma Thompson (Ketchikan, AK), Missing Something?, and alternate Mark Muro (Anchorage, AK), Nocturne on 166th Street.

June 13-17: Kachemak Bay Writers Conference takes place in Homer, with keynote speaker Alice Sebold (The Lovely Bones). This year's post-conference workshop at Tutka Bay Lodge, Personal Stories and Great Realities, will be led by Scott Russell Sanders, June 17-19.

June 26-29: Stillpoint Lodge in Halibut Cove hosts a writers retreat, The Pen & The Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World, with Holly Hughes. How do we create space for writing in a world crowded with so many distractions? Learn mindfulness practices to provide support for writing and other forms of creativity. Holly co-authored the book The Pen and The Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World. Her collection of poems. Sailing by Ravens, is part of the University of Alaska Press’s 2014 Alaska Literary Series.

July 22-28: The Wrangell Mountain Writing Workshop in McCarthy presents: True Story, with Tom Kizzia, Frank Soos, and Nancy Cook. During this five-day workshop, writers will explore the craft of creative nonfiction: drafting compelling narratives that tell true stories. How can writers craft a meaningful, readable page-turner while working in the confines of the frequently controversial truth of "what actually happened.” Click here for more information.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Anita Dale: The Gun

The gun handle is facing my mother’s withered body as she labors to breathe through a mouth that grimaces more than smiles these days. Her hair is pure white now, like ivory, and her skin is the color of cream. It’s obvious how fragile she is in an emaciated state. She chills easily. The day’s humidity can’t even dampen her skin. All day she lies under a flannel sheet. At night, she needs an electric blanket to stop from shivering. She hasn’t been out in the sun for months, not that sun is important to her anymore.
Hearing my voice, she stirs in her bed. Wincing, she rolls onto her back then opens the cloudy pale eyes that were once royal blue.
“Hey,” she says in greeting.
“Hey, yourself,” I reply.
My hope is that something deep and meaningful has passed between us with those few words, but it may be too much to ask.
My brother has been taking care of her since her last operation two months ago. I need to ask him how to do everything so I can help while I’m here. So I can prove my worth and give him a break. But I first need to understand why there’s a gun on her night table.
“What’s that about?” I ask, pointing at the gun.
“Hmm?”
“The gun.”
“Oh, that,” she says. “Your brother put it there. It’s for the pain.”
I didn’t want to know how bad her pain is but now I feel obligated to inquire. I decide to be direct but in a tone that might soothe a newborn.
“Are you in pain?”
“Not so much.”
She explains that she doesn’t expect to need the gun. The doctor prescribed extra strength Tylenol when she told him she didn’t want a pain reliever that made her feel too good. She’s afraid of becoming drug dependent. It sounds odd in view of her circumstances.
My mother never considered dying, but it seems to be happening. The drama between us ended last year with a late stage diagnosis of cancer. She hasn’t wanted to talk about it. Not talking is the way she maintains control. But she has no control over death.
“You can get hooked on that stuff, you know.” She means morphine. She wants to educate me like the mother she still is. 
“And the gun is a better option?”
“Don’t worry. I don’t plan to use it. I thought I told you that.”
She doesn’t have enough strength to lift a gun or pull its trigger. Yet, I don’t know what to think about finding one an arm’s length away from her. I ask if the gun is loaded.
“I think so,” she says. Losing patience, she adds “Ask your brother. He put it there.”
Bristling with energy I didn’t think she had, she snaps at me. “Put it in the drawer, if it bothers you.”
The source of her irritation is unclear. It's either my questions, my brother's actions, dying, or all three. Certainly life hasn’t turned out for her as she expected. The key, I decide, is to not have expectations.
My thoughts retreat to a decade ago when my mother shot our bathtub. My father gave her a pistol for protection. Then he left for good. When I got home from school that day, I found a pile of porcelain shards on the floor next to the wounded tub. It amounted to enough shards to fill a space eighteen inches around. The tub’s bumpy iron interior stood unfazed by the trauma. Mom said she’d been practicing where no one could get hurt. With safer options available her explanation didn’t make sense, even to a twelve year old. Years later I figured out what she’d really been trying to do.
What bothers me is not that my mother might use the gun on herself. It’s that we’d have to clean up the mess if she did. For practical purposes, leaving a loaded gun near a dying person might be a reasonable idea. My brother will need to explain his thinking.

Following my mother's suggestion I grasp the gun's black barrel and pull it slowly across the table, like dragging a dead opossum by the tail. Relieved once it's shut away in the drawer, I look over at my mother. She seems destined toward a restless nap. It's time to find my brother.

Anita Dale is currently writing a memoir. The piece submitted is from that memoir.

Would you like to see your work published here? Check our Alaska Shorts guidelines and submit today!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Katie Eberhart: Common Life

Tiger Swallowtail on lilac

“The principal object, then, proposed in these Poems was to choose incidents and situations from common life, and to relate or describe them, throughout, as far as was possible...”
- William Wordsworth, “Preface to Lyrical Ballads”

For twenty-eight years, we lived in the same house a few miles from Palmer. The house was built in 1935 for a Matanuska Colonist family and had been the residence of several families before us. While we lived there, gradually we became acquainted with the house’s past and with changes that people had made—some thoughtful and well-planned, others ill-conceived and strange. We also left our own ideas and preferences behind, in colors and windows, walls and appliances, trees and shrubbery.

What triggers ideas for writing? As Wordsworth aptly mentioned “incidents and situations from common life” provide focus yet routine can make noticing difficult. Once, in a writing workshop, the instructor asked us to describe our morning using only scents. The words for smells eluded me, especially since I hadn’t been paying attention.

I wish now I had thought more often of words for aromas and smells. If I had written the smells, I might now have more nuanced memories of experiences, like picking tomatoes when the sour scent of foliage coated my hands and later the soapy wash-water turned green. If I had written scents and smells when we lived in our Alaska house, I might now have a more refined vocabulary for the heavy sweet aroma of the old lilac at the corner of the house that, one summer, attracted a flock of Tiger Swallowtail butterflies. The visual connection is stronger though and, now, seeing a Tiger Swallowtail brings to mind lilac blooms.

Being reminded of a smell can trigger memories but that writing workshop exercise could have had a second part, and even a third: after describing the smells, continue writing toward the place where the ephemeral and the gut-feeling meet. Follow each digressive or distractive memory or thought. Smells (whether real or remembered) might be strongly visceral like the late-autumn, pungent rotting of highbush cranberries; or lighter and harder to describe, like dry-cold mountain air.

One winter night, I convinced my husband Chuck to drive with me into the Talkeetna Mountains toward Hatcher Pass because I thought that, from the 16-mile pullout, I could  photograph the aurora. When I got out of the car lugging my camera and tripod, the snowy peaks were awash with moonlight, the aurora was inconsequential, and in a few minutes the subzero breeze chased me back into the idling (and warm) car. Driving home, we stopped where the constellation Orion hung above the canyon wall. Getting out of the car and standing beside the empty road, we inhaled an iciness that crackles nose hairs and smells like nothing words describe. Beside us, the flow of the Little Susitna gurgled beneath the moonlit ice.

This fragment omits part of the scene and thus story. Before getting back into the car at 16-mile, I turned my camera toward the Matanuska Valley which was framed by a vee of mountains. I clicked photos of a scattering of house lights and the flamboyant orange streetlights that extend for three miles along the Glenn Highway across the Hay Flats.

My only encounter with a moose had been on that stretch when the highway was still a two-lane road, unlit and built-up like a causeway, where suddenly a moose appeared in the fog at the edge of my low beams, standing still and licking the pavement. What I remember is the seemingly slow-motion arc of the car sliding, the interminable time between cranking the steering wheel and learning whether the auto would plunge over the edge or spin into a new skid. Again and again the car switched directions, as if zigzagging along a narrow icy highway was normal, until finally the engine died and the car stopped, as if that was normal, too.

Both moose and highway ended up anchoring a section of my poem Illumination:

Before the freeway was built across
the hay flats, it was a two-lane road
with high causeway shoulders
and inky black winter nights.

Before the steep-sided highway was scraped
to a moderate height with code-compliant
edges, my fog-dimmed headlights
gave little warning of a motionless moose,
a glancing impact and long icy skid.

Now string-of-pearl street lamps slice
the dark hay-flats night and moose stand
in orange light pools
like frozen dreams—that startled, plunge
into the glowing stream.


Notes:

Illumination is in Unbound: Alaska Poems, published by Uttered Chaos Press (2013).

Our 1930s era house became a character in a number of my essays and poems, including Cabin Fever, an essay that appeared in Cirque Journal (Winter Solstice 2010, Vol. 2 No. 1).


Katie Eberhart's chapbook 'Unbound: Alaska Poems' was published in 2013 by Uttered Chaos Press. Her poems have appeared in Cirque Journal, Sand - Berlin’s English Literary Journal, Elohi Gadugi Journal, Crab Creek Review, and other places. Katie has an MFA in Creative Writing. She currently lives in Central Oregon where she blogs about nature and literature at http://solsticelight.wordpress.com/


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spotlight on Alaska Books: Dreaming Bears


For a while we watched expectantly. Then Volk and Ted broke out fishing rods. I dozed in the afternoon sun on the bank of the East Fork of the Chandalar River, now fifty or sixty miles above the Arctic Circle. Ted and Volk were looking intently upriver when I awoke.

“Johnny Frank coming,” Stanley announced. Across the swift main channel, a small man stood in a little green canoe. He wore an old tweed coat, shirt, and tie. He paddled into the current and was propelled rapidly downstream, balancing as he ferried toward our bank. He swept past us, intently watching the water, a pipe clenched in his teeth, his dark face shaded by an old-style peaked Stetson hat. We rushed down to the river and caught the boat as it came to shore. A smile broke across the man’s face as he stepped onto the bank.

This is the true story of the rare friendship that develops between a young medical student with deep roots in the South and an elderly Indian couple in the wilds of northeast Alaska. In 1961, Mike Holloway, his brother Ted, and a college friend set out from South Carolina to spend the summer hiking in arctic Alaska, intending to live off the land. They end up in the homeland of the Gwich’in – the northernmost Indians in North America. The young men charter a small plane into the isolated village of Venetie, and are directed to the remote cabins of Johnny and Sarah Frank, an elderly Gwich’in couple who lived a thirty-five mile walk from the village. Johnny was a well-known storyteller and former medicine man. Sarah made their home welcoming with warm, calm kindness – her well-worn hands seldom idle.

Mike’s rich encounters in Gwich’in country deepen his love of wild land and his respect for those who depend upon it for their survival. The experience alters his life. He becomes the adopted grandson of Johnny and Sarah, returning to Alaska as a doctor and an advocate for the land and its people.

“We won’t be seeing stories like this anymore, this remarkable real-deal first-person account of two generous and wry Indian elders who were still living out in the Brooks Range wilderness in the 1960s.” Tom Kizzia.

“Reading Holloway is like a long talk around the campfire with a new friend.”
Sharman Apt Russell, author of Hunger: An Unnatural History

“The next best thing to hunting bear … with an elderly Alaskan Gwich'in named Johnny Frank may be to read about it, and much more, in J. Michael Holloway's captivating Dreaming Bears.” 

Mike Holloway was born in South Carolina, but a trip to Alaska in 1961 and his introduction to two savvy Gwich’in elders redirected his life.  After completing medical studies in the South, he returned to Alaska, spending his professional career as an orthopedic surgeon with the Alaska Native Health Service. In 1977 Mike took a break from orthopedics to work as a subsistence advocate and Washington D.C.-village liaison for the Alaska Rural Community Action Program. He returned to work at the Native hospital and served some years as Chief of Orthopedics. He retired in 2001 when diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  In the next eight years he taught orthopedics, primarily in Africa with Health Volunteers Overseas. Mike and his wife Margie Gibson live in a cabin near Indian, Alaska. He is a member of 49 Writers. Dreaming Bears is published by Epicenter Press in a softcover edition with color photos.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Alaska Shorts: The Tanana Chats


The whishing snow over the frozen river
Sends sastrugis marching to the
Ice boom drum. The wind chime
Rhymes carry from houses on the Western bluff,
Whose windows squint in the sinking sun.

The jet plane above the Eastern
Bank flies silently, stalked by engine churn.
A dog team, small and invisible, barks
In my ear.

Down river, white road runs.
Up river, I lay parallel ski tracks,
Blue in their own shadows
Through the golden snow pack.

I have found where the stars
Rest during the day.
Do we really share them?
I have found where I would come
Day after day to look, move, and listen.

Kaiyuh Cornberg is a young writer from Fairbanks, Alaska. She spends as much time as she can outside.

Would you like to see your work published here? Check out our Alaska Shorts guidelines and submit!


Friday, April 11, 2014

Lynn: 49 Writers Roundup!

Tonight’s the night! The Write-a-thon at Snow City Café, 5:30–10:30 p.m. Thanks to you, we've raised around $5,000 so far. In the past 24 hours alone, we've raised nearly $1,500. A tremendous thank you to all those already registered and their supporters. If you haven't registered, it's not too late to sign up. Online registration for $10 is available until the event starts. On-site registration is $30.

Participants will spend the night writing for four hours, nine minutes. They'll be treated to food, drinks, and encouragement. Write-a-thon MC Jonathan Bower will draw hourly for prizes for all fundraisers. Everyone can win something–from a bag of coffee to a signed copy of Susanna Mishler’s new book. The top fundraisers will all receive sizable gift cards from local restaurants. As of now, the top three overall fundraisers are: Danielle Latuga, $775; Deb Vanasse; $325; Debbie LaFleiche,$275. All supporters have raised an average of $110 each. Thanks for the awesome work!

Write-a-thon proceeds help us to continue our programs for writers, to offer literary events to the community, and to maintain this blog as a go-to resource for Alaska’s writers. All donations are tax deductible. We couldn't do this without you. Thanks for your support! If you have any questions, email us at write-a-thon@49writingcenter.org."

In honor of National Poetry Month, Anchorage poet Emily Kurn will be on site at the Write-a-thon prompting writers to compose a salmon haiku for the Salmon Project. Writing, food, coffee, salmon haikus, prizes, why wouldn’t you come?
Thanks to everyone who came out on Monday night for the Crosscurrents conversation and reading with Louis Alberto Urrea and Brian Fiero. Urrea captivated the audience with a reading from his latest novel, Queen of America. He told stories about growing up in Tiajuana and the early influences on his writing career. “The border is a metaphor for what separates us. It’s everywhere.”

There are five slots still open for this year's Tutka Bay Writers Retreat with Carolyn Forché, Sept. 5-7. Don’t miss out on this opportunity. Click here for more information and to register. See more of Carolyn in this video, in which she delivers the Blaney Lecture on the Poetry of Witness at Poets Forum 2013.


49 Writers author events coming up in April and May:
   Thursday, Apr. 24, 7pm, Great Harvest Bread Co., Anchorage: Reading & Craft Talk with Elise Patkotak, "The World of Self-Publishing and Why."
   Saturday, Apr. 26, 9am-12pm, Anchorage: Digital tools for the Creative Writer, a class with Lawrence Weiss.
   Tuesday, May 14 & Saturday, May 17, Anchorage Museum: “The Pressure is Off: Independent Publishing Options for Writers” with Dana Stabenow and Deb Vanasse.

Saturday, Apr. 12, 7pm, Poetry Reading with Winners of Annual Statewide Poetry Contest. Winners from three categories (Adult, High School, and Middle & Elementary) will share their works at this free event in the Bear Gallery.

Monday, Apr. 14, 6:30pm, the Juneau Public Library will welcome author Kim Heacox to talk about his newest book "John Muir and the Ice that Started a Fire. This event is part of the ongoing celebration this year of the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

Wednesday Apr. 16, 7pm, Poetry Parley is featuring Alaskan poet Emily Kurn for the month of April. This free poetry event takes place every third Wednesday of the month at the Hugi-Lewis Studio, 1008 W. Northern Lights Blvd. The marquee poet is Alison Hawthorne Deming.

The UAA campus bookstore has several literary events this month:
·      Wednesday Apr. 16, 5-7:00 pm, Researching Alaska with Ann Fienup-Riordan, Willie Igglagruk Hensley, and Kate Ringsmuth will share insights on how to connect, research and uncover Alaska’s past.
·      Thursday Apr. 17, 5-7:00 pm UAA Creative Writing students from the undergraduate English department will read from their work. Everyone is invited to attend and explore the voices of multiple genres.
·      Monday Apr. 21, 5-7:00 pm poet John Morgan and artist Kesler Woodward present River of Light. Morgan’s River of Light: A Conversation with Kabir, from University of Alaska Press, is based on a trip down the Copper River. Alongside the artwork by Alaskan artist Kesler Woodward, River of Light folds words, sounds, and color into being.

Saturday Apr. 12, 7pm, Fairbanks Arts Association presents a reading by the winners of the Statewide Poetry Contest, at the Bear Gallery, third floor of the Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts, Pioneer Park, 2300 Airport Way.

Saturday Apr. 26, 7pm, UAF English Department will host their annual public reading of Masters in Creative Writing candidates, in the Fairbanks Art Association Bear Gallery, third floor of the Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts, Pioneer Park, 2300 Airport Way.

Creative nonfiction writers won’t want to miss Writing Down the Wild, a three-day workshop, April 25-27 at Prince William Sound Community College. This is a non-credit community workshop taught by Alaskan nature and wilderness writer Bill Sherwonit. This course will examine and practice the steps necessary to powerful and effective nature writing and will include time outdoors in the local landscape, along with readings and discussions. There’s a limit of 12 students, so don’t delay. Register at PWSCC.

Celebrate the Bard’s birthday at Shakespeare’s Sonnets, a reading celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday and of Poetry Month, Saturday Apr. 26 2-4:00pm at the Ann Stevens Room in the Loussac Library. There’s plenty of time for you to practice your favorite sonnet, and perhaps don a costume?

Alaska Center for the Book is seeking nominations for its annual Contributions to Literacy in Alaska (CLIA) Awards. Nominations are due April 30, 2014. The awards recognize people and institutions that have made a significant contribution in literacy, the literary arts, or the preservation of the written or spoken word in Alaska. Previous CLIA award winners include librarians, teachers, writers, tutors, historians, booksellers, reading programs, web sites and others dedicated to making the world a better place through the gift of language. More than 60 people and organizations have been honored over the past 22 years. The nomination form and information on past winners is available at www.alaskacenterforthebook.org. For more information on the contest, call (907) 764-1604 or e-mail carolben@gci.net
Poems in Place is extending their open call for poetry until April 30. Poems in Place is collaboration between Alaska Center for the Book, Alaska State Parks, and a committee of poets, writers, and Alaska residents. The project will place a poem by an Alaskan writer in each of the seven regions of the Alaska State Park’s system in the coming years. Both original work and nominated poems submitted by appreciative readers will be considered for Independence Mine State Historical Park, near Palmer, and Lake Aleknagik State Recreation Site/ Wood Tikchik State Park, near Dillingham. No submission fees. An honorarium will be paid to the winning poets. See http://www.alaskacenterforthebook.org for more information, contest rules and entry form. To see examples of current Poems in Place signs visit the Alaska State Parks website: http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/misc/poemplace.htm

The Alaska State Council on the Arts, in partnership with the Alaska Arts & Culture Foundation, is holding its 2014 statewide arts conference, Latitude: 2014 Alaska Arts Convergence on May 1-3 in Anchorage. This conference will offer opportunities for artists and arts professionals from throughout Alaska to network, learn valuable skills, participate in artistic activities and think big about the future of the arts in Alaska. This convergence is for arts professionals, artists, arts educators, volunteers, board members, and cross-sector leaders interested in how the arts can support Alaskans and Alaskan communities. $250 registration.

The Extreme Weather Mystery Readers Journal 30:2 will focus on Crime Fiction that takes place or involves Extreme Weather (snow, hurricane, blizzard, sand storm, etc.). They are looking for articles, reviews, & author essays. Author essays: 500-1500 words, first person, about yourself, your books & the "Extreme Weather" connection. The deadline is May 1, 2014. email janet@mysteryreaders.org for more info.

Attention Alaskan writers! 360North’s new statewide television series, “Writers’ Showcase,” is looking for fiction and creative non-fiction for their June 5th live recording. Submission deadline is Friday May 2. Inspired by NPR’s “Selected Shorts,” the show uses actors and celebrities as readers. They are especially interested in fiction for this episode. The show’s summer-inspired theme is “endurance,” and they want pieces that are set in summer or reflect the theme of endurance, and are five to twelve minutes long when read aloud. Visit 360north.org for more information. You can contact the shows producers with questions, or submit directly to to arts@ktoo.org.

The 2014 Anchorage Press Super Shorts Micro Fiction contest is now underway. Deadline for submissions is May 14, 2014. Winners in each category will have their stories published in a special Super Shorts issue of the Press. Fabulous prizes to be announced later! Check out the Anchorage Press for details.

You won’t want to miss the North Words Writers Symposium in beautiful Skagway in Southeast Alaska on May 28-31. This year’s keynote author is popular British-American writer Simon Winchester, who will be joined by an elite Alaska-Yukon faculty.

Don't forget to register for Kachemak Bay Writers Conference, June 13-17. This year's post-conference workshop at Tutka Bay Lodge, Personal Stories and Great Realities, will be led by Scott Russell Sanders, June 17-19.

The Northwoods Book Arts Guild of Fairbanks is hosting a group exhibition, June 6-28, Books As Art: Structure, Image, Text, in the Bear Gallery of the Fairbanks Arts Association. All Alaskan artists are invited to join the exhibition. The Guild is a community of artists learning about and creating artist books. They promote all aspects of book arts through education, exhibitions, and community outreach.

Writer’s Retreat: The Pen & The Bell presents Mindful Writing in a Busy World, with Holly Hughes, June 26-29 at Stillpoint Lodge in Halibut Cove. How do we create space for writing in a world crowded with so many distractions? Learn mindfulness practices to provide support for writing and other forms of creativity. Holly co-authored the book The Pen and The Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World. Her collection of poems Sailing by Ravens is forthcoming from the University of Alaska Press’s Literary Series in 2014.

It’s not too early to plan for summer writing fun in the mountains. The Wrangell Mountain Writing Workshop presents: True Story, July 22-28, with Tom Kizzia, Frank Soos, and Nancy Cook. Living in Alaska is a constant reminder that truth is often stranger than fiction. During this five-day workshop, writers will explore the craft of creative nonfiction: drafting compelling narratives that tell true stories. How can writers craft a meaningful, readable page-turner while working in the confines of the frequently controversial truth of "what actually happened.” Visit the Wrangell Mountain Center website for more details.

If you fancy traveling a little farther afield, at this year's Minnesota Northwoods Conference, June 22-28, poet Camille Dungy, who recently visited Alaska, will be leading a five-day workshop. For a schedule and descriptions of the workshops to be taught by the distinguished faculty, please visit www.northwoodswriters.org. The deadline for applying for the conference is May 1. Scholarships are available, but the scholarship deadline is Monday, Apr. 7, so apply today.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Deb: A Writer’s Convergence



What have you done lately for your writing community?

What have you done for yourself as a writer?

If your answer to either is “not enough,” fear not. Tomorrow night, these two priorities meet in perfect convergence at the 4th Annual 49 Writers Write-a-thon.

You’ve got a story to start. A novel to finish. An essay to draft. A poem that begs to be written.

Tomorrow, April 11, is your night. Four hours to indulge in the pleasures of language and discovery. Four hours to devote to a project that is your passion.

The bonus? While you nourish your creative self, you also help sustain Alaska’s vibrant literary community.

At 49 Writers, we depend on Write-a-thon proceeds to help fund programs that support the artistic development of writers throughout Alaska. We're short of our goal, which is to match last year’s donation total of $8000. Whether we meet that or not depends on you.

If you haven’t yet signed up, there’s still time. Advance registration is $10 at http://www.firstgiving.com/49alaskawritingcenter/49-writers-2014-write-a-thon. It’s quick and easy: Make a page. Set a goal. Share the link. Your family and friends want to support your creative efforts. They’re happy to help a good cause. (Deb’s tip: Thank your supporters publicly, on social media. They appreciate the recognition, and others will be inspired to pledge, too.)

Your pledge: to write for four hours and nine minutes. Most of us will start at 6 p.m. tomorrow, but if another time slot works better for you, go for it. If you’re in Anchorage, join the fun at Snow City Café, where you’ll enjoy food, caffeine, inspiration, stretch breaks, and the fun and excitement of converging with like-minded writers.

For $30, you can register at the door, but today it’s still $10, and you still have a chance to rally support for a great nonprofit. Not keen to participate? Pledge to support another participant. It's fast and easy and tax-deductible and guaranteed to impart the warm glow that comes from helping a good cause. 

What are you waiting for?



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Katie Eberhart: Digressive Travel

Walking along the Matanuska River

Laboring on yet another revision of my essay Driving the Dempster, I realized that I could not include every interesting occurrence or idea but I also could not bring myself to permanently jettison the deleted fragments.

In The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton wrote “Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than moving planes, ships or trains. . .” De Botton argues that taking long trips by plane or train positions us to collect large ideas within a wider and less familiar space. A road-trip into the Arctic can have a similar effect.

At the MacKenzie River, we waited in a glum rain, the river slithering north toward the Arctic Ocean. The ferry pushed away from the far shore, beating against the wind and current, the engines audibly surging as the vessel maneuvered to line up with the muck of the Dempster Highway. Vehicles lurched off the ferry, tires flinging mud. When the deck was clear, we drove up the steel ramp, following the hand signals of the gaunt ferryman who expertly packed the cars and trucks onto the deck.

Travel transports me away from the “junk” drawers of normal life and writing helps anchor memories. While crafting an essay, I search my journals for suitable stories and musings, but not all the borrowed paragraphs survive an essay’s multiple revisions and re-envisioning. Sometimes, even years later, I come across deletions that were once part of an unfinished essay. Encountering these narratives brings to mind past events and experiences and I hope these accidental encounters with earlier memories reset the time-clock of forgetting.

The odd thing about saving deleted fragments in one file is that meaning developed from careful positioning and entwining into an essay is lost in the jumbled castoffs. Rereading the MacKenzie River micro-narrative, I am struck by the metaphoric possibilities of a small river ferry, a rocking deck, and a weather-beaten ferryman—yet trekking into familiar places also stirs up thoughts and ideas.

When you live somewhere long enough you hear things—rumors or wishful thinking or truth, it's hard to tell. Was there really an Alaska winter when “it never froze”? A story repeated but now rootless and undocumented, yet we remember certain times as extraordinary—like the extreme cold and high-pressure weather that grounded planes during the Omega Block in 1989 and in 2002 when winter began so slowly that, on December 1st, some men waterskied on Wasilla Lake. That year, the Matanuska River's main channel had shifted west and we walked south from the Old Glenn Highway bridge (near Palmer) along the dry middle channel. Our shoes left prints in the glacial, wind-rippled sand—sand flecked with polished, multi-hued pebbles and carcasses of salmon, the half-buried fish transformed into armatures of bones and fierce teeth tied with strips of taut skin.

While walking, we pieced together a story from logs that had once tumbled into the river, to be jostled and twirled, sometimes an obstruction but now stuck high-and-dry, barricades that slowed the wind so silt, or snow, settled into drifts. Or the lee of the log that created a refuge for small animals, or people eating lunch. We sat and leaned our backs against a smooth log that would have once been a magnificent cottonwood but had become a relic mapping climate—weather and water—over decades, or a century, the cracked gray wood curving around nubs where branches had been. Leaning against the log and relishing the mild December weather, I imagined some future moment when the river would again shift, eating into the sand, undercutting one end of this log, silt swirling into the water that might be gentle or roiling until eventually the log tips and floats onward toward Cook Inlet.

Walking along the Matanuska River—only a short drive from where I once lived—was an expedition that encompassed both the large-view possibilities de Botton mentioned and the intimacy of a familiar place. As I re-read these narrative-fragments, I see a glimmer of how I might weld on more thoughts and moments also gathered from my medley of deletions. Between recycled fragments, I’ll create diversions that show landscapes we’ve traveled but also the direction that we’re headed. After all, the arc of an unfinished essay is anything but linear; a spiral perhaps, with chambers like a nautilus shell, or a chest of (junk) drawers—some drawers open, others still stuck shut.


Katie Eberhart's chapbook 'Unbound: Alaska Poems' was published in 2013 by Uttered Chaos Press. Her poems have appeared in Cirque Journal, Sand - Berlin’s English Literary Journal, Elohi Gadugi Journal, Crab Creek Review, and other places. Katie has an MFA in Creative Writing and degrees in geography and economics. She currently lives in Central Oregon where she blogs about nature and literature at http://solsticelight.wordpress.com/