Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Susan McBeth | Connecting People and Communities Through Books

Susan McBeth is part of a group of authors who will visit Anchorage Sept. 24-28, 2016 through an author exchange program sponsored by Adventures by the Book. In partnership with the Alaska Writers Guild, 49 Writers is featuring these visiting authors in workshops at the AWGconference on Saturday, Sept. 24 and also at a members-only salon event on Sunday, Sept. 25. 

“The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers & cities; but to know someone who thinks & feels with us, & who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.” 
 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Adventures by the Book™ (ABTB) was founded on the premise that books connect people and communities, so it probably comes as no surprise that I believe the success of a book will not only be determined by the quality of the writing, but also by an author’s ability to connect with readers and the reading community. Writing is a solitary profession, so how, then, does an author (you) leave your protective cocoon to fulfill your yearning to connect with readers? Promotion of your book can indeed be a daunting task, but it is crucial for its success and likely will not be as difficult as you think.

Perhaps it will be helpful for you to think of your book promotion in terms of a set of concentric circles, with you at the bull’s eye, the actual center of those circles. This makes sense considering you are the creator, and you are the most invested in the success of your own book. You certainly cannot expect others to help promote your book if you are not doing so yourself.

With that in mind, it is incumbent upon you to lead the way by making available and disseminating information about your book as many ways as possible, through whatever channels are available to you, such as your mailing list, social media, and your website. Once you schedule your book signing event(s), make sure to not only include crucial details like date, time, venue, cost etc., but other relevant and often overlooked information such as how readers register to attend an event (making sure to include a direct link), where and how readers may purchase books, and what they can expect from their experience.

Once you have laid this groundwork, you can expand to the next closest circle, that of family, friends and colleagues. After all, these are the close-reach people who are invested in you and want to see you succeed. Do not be shy about asking then to spread the word to their friends and book clubs, whether by word of mouth, e-mail, or their own social media, or to help you host events. As I built ABTB from ground zero, my first event consisted solely of a wonderful group of my girlfriends and colleagues, some of whom brought members of their family or book club members, and my following has grown organically from there.

The next concentric circle belongs to your immediate community. This is where you can post events at local libraries, community centers, or public event calendars, and at any other businesses or organizations with whom you have a connection or may have an interest in your event. This does not have to be a bookstore. Non-traditional book signings at alternative venues are a great option for Alaskan authors who are geographically dispersed or who live in areas that don’t have brick and mortar bookstores. Another benefit from working with community organizations is that they typically have their own mailing lists and are usually happy to help you promote your event, as they are also vested in its success. Just do not assume they will do so automatically, so make sure to ask.

Your last and outer circle consists of media, whether the traditional radio, television, and print media, or of the social media variety. Do not be afraid to send out press releases for your event, and do not be afraid of jumping into the social media world, even if you have never before done so. Conduct a little research to see which are the most relevant social media formats for your reading demographic, and focus on those few rather than overwhelming yourself by utilizing every social media outlet available.

While this is just a guideline to get you started, remember that the amount of effort you put into promoting your event will bear a direct correlation to the success of your event(s) and your book sales. If you work hard at promoting your book, the rewards are worth it, as there is nothing more satisfying than connecting people and communities through books. So go out and create your own Adventure by the Book!

Susan McBeth founded Adventures by the Book™ in 2011 after having specialized in event management for over twenty years, including four and a half years as Director of Marketing and Events for one of the oldest independent bookstores in the United States. Her passion to more intimately connect readers with authors and their books through unique and interactive literary events and travel has led her to redefine traditional author readings. Susan is also the founder of AuthorPreneurs™, an incubator program for writers She is a contributor to Midge Raymond’s Everyday Book Marketing and a contributing editor to international online magazine Wine Dine & Travel, with her column “Travel by the Book”.

She has been featured on NBC San Diego, KPBS, San Diego Union-Tribune, San Diego Magazine, Women’s Radio, Reading with Robin Radio, Hera Hub Podcast, IBPA Independent Magazine, and others Susan is a facilitator for the San Diego State University Osher Institute’s ‘Ed’-ventures and sits on the committee for KPBS One Book, One San Diego, and is a former Board member for the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association She holds a Masters in Comparative Literature with an emphasis in German Literature from San Diego State University, where she earned membership in Phi Beta Kappa and Mortar Board Honor Society after graduating Magna cum Laude from San Diego State University with a degree in business administration, with distinction in management, and a minor in German. Find out more at www.adventuresbythebook.com

Monday, August 29, 2016

Jeremy Pataky | Silences So Deep: A Conversation with John Luther Adams

A slightly shorter version originally appeared in the Anchorage Press, here.

photo credit: Pete Woodhead
I call John Luther Adams from my cabin near McCarthy. He’s maintained his 907 area code, though I know he’s relocated to New York City after 40 years in Alaska. My spot in the woods seems more akin to his former habitat than the deep urban place where he answers the phone. I’m picturing Adams inside his old studio cabin nestled in calm, subarctic boreal forest, as documented by filmmaker Bob Curtis-Johnson before Adams left. Afterimages of that short—and completely silent—film clash with the intermittent city sirens that whine through the phone. They’re an odd soundtrack to our conversation about art, purpose, and living.

Adams is a composer. He’s also an author, presently finishing up his third book, called Silences So Deep: A Memoir of Music and Alaska, recently excerpted in Alaska Quarterly Review and forthcoming from Wesleyan University Press.

Both his life and work are deeply rooted in the natural world. Adams was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his symphonic work Become Ocean, and a 2015 Grammy Award for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition”. Inuksuit, his outdoor work for up to 99 percussionists, is regularly performed all over the world. He’s won a number of other prestigious awards.

Born in 1953, John Luther Adams grew up in the South and in the suburbs of New York City. He studied composition at the California Institute of the Arts, where he was in the first graduating class (in 1973). He became an environmental activist in the mid-1970s, campaigning for the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and then serving as executive director of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center.

Adams has taught at Harvard University, the Oberlin Conservatory, Bennington College, and the University of Alaska. He has also served as composer in residence with the Anchorage Symphony, Anchorage Opera, Fairbanks Symphony, Arctic Chamber Orchestra, and the Alaska Public Radio Network.

Though his recognition stems almost entirely from his musical career, his book Winter Music: Composing the North placed him on my radar a dozen years ago. His work has been a steady presence for me since.

I’ve also admired his depictions of two other Alaskan artists, the poet John Haines and conductor Gordon Wright. Adams has written evocatively of his friendship with them. Adams’ anecdotes about how he and Wright would hoot at each other and a visitation from an owl after Wright died came to mind the night before our interview. I was prepping for our conversation when a Great Horned Owl flew passed the cabin and landed in a spruce. I went outside and it stayed put for minutes, bobbing its head and watching me. It was the first owl I’d seen since spring. Adams’ joked: “That was probably Gordon. He always wanted to be my press agent.” 

You first came to Alaska in 1975 and stayed for forty years. You said you came to Alaska instead of going to grad school, and that your time playing timpani in Fairbanks was more valuable than graduate school could have been. How exactly did Alaska educate you?

Because I was in Fairbanks, I had opportunities that just wouldn’t have been available to me perhaps anywhere else…. I was immediately hired as the timpanist. I’d never played timpani in my life, but I was a kind of lapsed percussionist. I had the most important qualification for employment in Fairbanks in those days, though—I was there. It didn’t hurt that the conductor was my best friend. By the time I finished I was probably at the best I ever played anything.

As timpanist and composer in residence at the Fairbanks Symphony, I had the opportunity to learn things that I probably wouldn’t have had anywhere else. I got to get inside of orchestral music of all sorts and learn it from the inside out. I learned about orchestration from inside the orchestra, from hearing the different sections practice different passages and then hearing how things went together. I always got the score for everything we were playing so I was not only learning my part as the timpanist, but I was learning the score. Previously, I’d had little or no interest in the canon of western classical music. In my youthful rebellion, I had thrown that baby out with the bathwater. But because I was the timpanist in the Fairbanks Symphony, I came to terms with that music and learned it from the inside, and it was incredible.

In time, you know, part of the devil’s bargain that Gordon [Wright] made with me was “Okay, you play timpani in my orchestra and I’ll play your music.” So really, as I used to tell Gordon, I got the better end of both sides there. I got to write things and hear them played. I got to learn how to compose for orchestra by doing it, not just by reading about it, and I got this incredible education about the history of orchestra music that I probably wouldn’t have gotten any other way. It was a win-win for me.

And for us. You’re primarily identified as a composer, but you are also an author. You’ve corresponded or collaborated with some fantastic writers in addition to composers, musicians, and producers. What artistic obligations span your twin practices of composing and writing?

You know, I didn’t answer the phone when you first called because my editor was just leaving. We’re ploughing through the third draft of a new book, which is the story of my life and work in Alaska. But it’s funny—I try not to think of myself as a writer; I still talk of myself as a composer who sometimes writes. Maybe that’s just superstition, but… I want to keep it fun. Composing is difficult.

There was a pitcher—I can’t remember who it was, but it was a major league pitcher a number of years ago—who was also a pretty good hitter. Someone said to him “You know, you’re a good pitcher, but you’re a pretty good hitter, too,” and he said “Pitching is hard. Hitting is fun.” I sort of feel like that about writing. I know better, but composing is hard and writing is fun, at least by comparison.

You write quite a bit about the ideas and process behind your music. Has it felt important to “explain” yourself as a composer through writing?

Well, I’m usually writing for the same person for whom I’m composing—that is, myself. When I’m composing, it’s almost as though I’m composing home. I’m trying to hear something I haven’t heard before. I’m trying always to discover new sonic territory, new musical territory. If I’m lucky, I get hopelessly lost in those strange new landscapes. And, of course, that’s what I want for myself, but it’s also what I want for you, the listener.

As a writer, I write primarily to figure out what the work wants of me. The great painter Barnet Newman once quipped—he was a pretty fair writer himself—that the artist sometimes writes so he’ll have something to read. I think I know what he meant. I think I understand that. I write sometimes before, sometimes during, and sometimes after the process of composing to try and figure out what the music wants from me. It helps me understand the work and where the work wants to lead me.  

So this book I’m working on now is the story of my life and work in Alaska. I really found home in Alaska, and it is home in the deepest sense and it always will be. I really came of age, as an artist and a man, in Alaska.

So now that I’ve left home, I’m trying to figure out what it was that drew me there in the first place, what I discovered there, what I thought I was doing, and what it might have meant, and ultimately why the time came for me to leave. So once again, I’m writing a book as a process of discovery for myself, and then I hope to make it a good enough story that somebody else is going to be interested in reading it.

And you’ll be reading from that new manuscript soon in Anchorage.

Yes—I haven’t decided yet what I want to read. It’s sort of carrying coals to Newcastle, bringing this story home, because everyone in the room will have their own Alaska story, but I’m excited about it.

You’ve written at length about the impact of creative collaborations and conversations with fellow artists, the conductor Gordon Wright and poet John Haines. How has your creative process changed in their absence and your own maturation as an artist?

John and Gordon are two of the three most important people in my life. The dedication in the new book is to Cynthia, Gordon, and John. Cynthia, of course, is the love of my life, my soulmate for thirty nine years, now. John and Gordon are not absent in my life. They’re still with me every day in so many ways. You know—I shared with those three people a life and a vision of how the world is and how the world might be that still sustains me every day in everything that I do.

Did their passing help prompt or even permit your own choice to leave Alaska?

Absolutely. The short version is that when Gordon died, I knew the time was coming, and when John died, I knew the time had come.

As a poet, I was interested in how you describe Gordon Wright eventually learning that “sound rather than syntax was the key to making sense of [your] music,” and that it was Haines’s poetry that helped Wright realize that. Can you comment on how your experience of poetry and music have informed each other, or how they might relate?

Ya, when I was an adolescent, like all of us, I wrote bad poetry. I read a lot of poetry and literature and I might have been a writer, I might have been a poet instead of a composer. I’ve always had that frame of reference or sensitivity to language. In addition to John Haines, one of my other dearest friends is Barry Lopez. Barry and I delight in the feeling that we’re doing the same work in different forms. We take no end of pleasure in discovering not the differences but the parallels between our work in different artistic media. So I would say in a way that as a composer I’ve learned as much—probably more—from writers and from visual art than I have from music and other composers.

Interesting. I know you’ve endorsed Walter Pater’s notion that “all the arts constantly aspire to the condition of music,” so it’s interesting to pair those thoughts.

Well, I’m slumming, right? [laughs] I think all the arts aspire to be whole. I think all of human intelligence and our human senses—we want to be whole, and we’ve become so divided—from ourselves, let alone from one another. We’re at a time in a culture in which human consciousness itself is dangerously fragmented and I think part of what we’re trying to do through poetry, through music, through the science of ecology, through all forms of creative thought… and good science is every bit as creative as good art… is to re-innovate ourselves, to make ourselves whole again, to find, as Gregory Bateson would say, “the pattern which connects.” And in feeling more fully integrated as individuals, hopefully we feel more integrated with one another and this whole miraculous world we inhabit, and all the forms of life with which we share this world.

That speaks to the condition of music and its relevancy across the arts and other disciplines.

Look, I’ve devoted my life to music and still I have no idea what music is. Music doesn’t care. Music can be whatever it wants to be. Sure, it can tell a story. Sure, it can express emotions, but it can also be a place or weather or it can be things that we haven’t yet imagined or understood. Ultimately, for me, as a composer—and I say this often—music is not what I do, music is how I understand the world. And the flip side of that is the whole world is music.

That certainly calls to mind The Place Where You Go To Listen, which was installed ten years ago at the Museum of the North. The Rasmuson Foundation just announced plans last month to fund a $104,000 upgrade. How has the meaning of The Place for you has changed over the course of its first decade?

That’s a great question. I’m amazed that The Place is still up and running ten years later. It’s a complex piece with a lot of moving parts, you know, a lot of hardware and a lot of software. I’m delighted and a little astonished that it’s still running. You know I wrote a whole book about The Place Where You Go To Listen and its evolution; in my body of work—and maybe in a larger sense— The Place Where You Go To Listen is unique. Within the context of my work, it’s both a point of arrival and departure. In some ways, it’s my most Alaskan work and if you want to experience The Place Where You Go To Listen you can’t download it on the internet, you can’t buy a CD. You have to go to Fairbanks and you have to sit in that room and wait. And listen. And wait. And listen. And wait. And listen. It’s all about being there in that place.

You could have just been describing, in a way, your creative process itself over the last forty years. Your description of how one could experience The Place Where You Go To Listen also describes, in a way, your approach to the world itself.

Ya, I think that is astute and generous of you to say. I think that’s right. It’s profoundly satisfying to me to know that there are people like you—that you can go to The Place Where You Go To Listen and sit in silence and deep attention and feel as though you’re in tune with, in touch with, the forces of the world, this music that is swirling around us all the time, some of it just beyond the reach of our ears.

None of the forces that actually create the music, none of the forces behind the sounds in The Place Where You Go To Listen, are normally audible to us. It’s driven by seismic activity, by the photoperiod, by the phases of the moon, by geomagnetic weather, the solar winds, by the rhythms of night and day. These are things that we’re not usually able to hear. So you go there, and they’re transposed into the reach of your ears. You go and you sit in The Place Where You Go To Listen and feel as though—even though you won’t recognize a single sound—that somehow it’s real, it’s alive, and it’s connected to the larger world, and you are there, alone, in the center of the world. That’s what I want for myself. It’s what I want for you, the listener, in all of my work.

I’m curious how indigenous people have responded over the years to your work.

Generally speaking… I’ve not worked directly with native music. There is one piece from many years ago—Earth and the Great Weather—that is subtitled “A Sonic Geography of the Arctic”. That’s grounded in the geography of the eastern north slope—what we now call the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which of course is the home country of both Iñupiaq people to the north and Gwich’in Athabascan people to the south. So in that piece, I worked very closely with four native performers and even so, I didn’t borrow directly from native music.

I tried to translate what I had experienced as the energy of—the spirit of—native music into my own musical world. I think the profound influence of native culture on my life’s work has been through—what would I call it?—the wisdom of native experience. The deep and ancient experience of that place as home. The knowledge that the whole world has intelligence. The Yupik people talk about the spirit in all things. That really is close to the heart of my own faith, my own belief system. Everything in the world—everything in what we call “nature”—has presence, and dignity, and awareness, and everything in the world is in counterpoint with everything else, and in some way influences everything else… which is a fundamental principle of ecology, isn’t it? So that’s probably the deepest influence of native culture on my work.

Is there anything else you want to share in advance of your trip to Alaska?

I’m very, very excited about coming home. I miss Alaska every day, and as I said earlier, it’s home and it always will be, and I can’t wait to be home for a while.

photo credit: Donald Lee

John Luther Adams will read from his new book Silences So Deep: A Memoir of Music and Alaska in Anchorage at Cyrano's at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1

On Friday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m., he will give an artist's talk at the Anchorage Museum titled Music in the Anthropocene. A reception at 8 p.m. will occur in the atrium adjacent to the auditorium. The talk will be simulcast at the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, site of his installation The Place Where You Go to Listen.

From 6 p.m. to midnight on Sept. 2 and 3 the Museum will present the six-hour-long Veils and Vesper, a series of electronic pieces composed by Adams in 2005. The Alaska Humanities Forum is a sponsor of Adams' visit. 

Jeremy Pataky is the author of Overwinter (University of Alaska Press 2015) and the Interim Executive Director of 49 Writers, Inc. He splits his time between Anchorage and McCarthy.   

Friday, August 26, 2016

49 Writers | Roundup for Literary Alaska


Book launch and celebration: Blue Ticket by Kris Farmen 
ANCHORAGE | Friday, August 26 from 7-10 pm at the Writer's Block Bookstore and Cafe (3956 Spenard Road). Farmen will read from and sign his new novel. Refreshments and additional entertainment as well. 

John Luther Adams 
ANCHORAGE | The Alaska Humanities Forum will welcome John Luther Adams for a series of events as part of the Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires Initiative to celebrate excellence in journalism and the arts. 

John Luther Adams is a composer and author whose life and work is deeply rooted in the natural world—especially in Alaska, where he lived for forty years before moving to New York City in 2015. Adams was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for music for his symphonic work Become Ocean, and a 2015 Grammy Award for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition.” He has taught widely, including at Harvard University and the Oberlin Conservatory, and served as composer in residence with the Anchorage Symphony, Anchorage Opera, Fairbanks Symphony, Arctic Chamber Orchestra, and APRN.  
The public is invited to a series of three free events during John Luther Adams' visit to Anchorage; you can also tune in to 106.1 FM KONR to listen to selected works from september 1-7.

READING AND BOOK SIGNING | Thursday, September 1, 6-8 pm at Cyrano's Playhouse. Adams will read from his upcoming memoir, Silences So Deep: A Memoir of Music and AlaskaPassages reflecting on his friendships with poet John Haines and composer Gordon Wright have been excerpted in the New Yorker and Alaska Quarterly Review.

ARTIST'S TALK & RECEPTION | Friday, September 2, Talk: 7 P.M | Reception 8 P.M. at  Anchorage Museum. A growing number of geologists believe we have entered a new period - the Anthropocene - in which the dominant geologic force is humanity itself. What does this mean for a composer, or for any creative artist working in any medium today?

VEILS AND VESPER INSTALLATION | Friday & Saturday, September 2 & 3 | 6 P.M. - midnight. Veils and Vesper is a series of distinct but related electronic pieces written
by Adams in 2005. When the pieces are installed together, listeners are able to create their own ‘mix’ and experience the music by moving through an immersive environment.

HOMER | Debra Magpie Earling Reading, Thursday, September 8th, at Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College UAA. Debra is the author of The Lost Journals of Sacajawea and Perma Red, recipient of the American Book Award and the Western Writers Association Spur Award, and and Gugggenheim Award (2007). She directs the University of Montana's Creative Writing program and is the guest instructor for the 7th annual 49 Writers Tutka Bay Writers Retreat. Free and open to the public. 

ANCHORAGE | Anchorage essayist and author Bill Sherwonit will teach a 12-week nature and travel writing class beginning September 21st in the Sierra Club office downtown. Participants in this workshop-style class will explore and refine their own writing styles, with an emphasis on the personal essay form. The class will also read and discuss works by some of America’s finest nature and travel writers. $240. To sign up for this Wednesday night class (7 to 9:30 pm), or for more information, contact Sherwonit at 245-0283 or akgriz@hotmail.com.

ANCHORAGE | Publication Consultants, in association with Alaska Book Week, is hosting the Great Alaska Book Fair sponsored in part by The Mall at Sears and Anchorage Public Library. They suggest that anyone interested in participating in The Great Alaska Book Fair respond before all tables are reserved. Concurrent event will include: a Farmer's Market, a Sidewalk Sale and the Better Business Bureau's Shred Day, and a Financial Fitness Fair; it's the same day that The Mall at Sears features an annual sidewalk sale to coincide with the release of Permanent Fund Dividends. If you're interested you can sign up for a table hereBook fair hours are 10 AM to 6 PM on Saturday, October 8, 2016. Tables will be allocated on a first come, first serve basis. Authors are responsible for their own sales—and pocket all the money. There will not be a central check out register. There is a charge of $50 per table. Authors may share tables if they'd like. 

David Sedaris 
ANCHORAGE | Tickets are selling for the Anchorage Concert Association's David Sedaris appearance on May 13, 2017. David Sedaris is one of America’s preeminent humor writers. Wielding sardonic wit and incisive social critiques, he slices through cultural euphemisms and political correctness with great skill. One of the most observant writers addressing the human condition today, Sedaris is returning to Anchorage with all new stories. His original radio pieces can be heard on “This American Life,” and he has seven million books in print, including “Naked,” “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim,” and his most recent, “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.” The San Francisco Chronicle says “Sedaris belongs on any list of people writing in English at the moment who are revising our ideas about what’s funny.” Buy tickets here

FAIRBANKS | Fairbanks Arts Association hosts the oldest literary reading series in the state. Every month, writers reading their own work publicly at a community meet-up where people can connect with other lovers of literature. Readings are held on the day after First Friday, usually the first Saturday of the month at 7 pm. Most reading are held in the Bear Gallery in Pioneer Park, although occasionally in the summer (June, July, and August) the weather is beautiful reading are held outside to another spot in Pioneer Park. Upcoming: 
SeptemberUAF Faculty Reading
OctoberSusheila Khera
NovemberNicole Stellon O'Donnell
DecemberRosemary McGuire
Additional readings and events may be held, but the First Saturday Literary Reading Series is monthly at 7 pm the day after First Friday (except February). 

FAIRBANKS | The Folk School offers a semester-long class for high school students who want to become better essay writers. Details and registration here

JUNEAU | Introducing Juneau’s anonymous poetry publication, MYTH Zine, currently available at The Rookery Café, Kindred Post, Alaska Robotics, The JACC, Rainy Retreat Books, The Goldtown Nickelodeon, and High Tide Tattoo. Send your poetry, prose, philosophical wonderings, or love letters to myythzine@gmail.com




EAST COAST and UK | After launching her new book, To the Bright Edge of the World in Palmer, Eowyn Ivey headed to the west coast to promote her book. She's made it to the east coast, now, and soon heads to the UK on a whirlwind book tour. Full schedule here

BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON | A Cirque reading will be held at the Mount Baker Theater, Encore Room, August 28, at 3 pm. more info   


Woosh Kinaadeiyi's Summer Writer's Retreat 

JUNEAU | Woosh Kinaadeiyí presents a SUMMER WRITER'S RETREAT, a unique opportunity for those who yearn for an immersive and inclusive experience. Build community and delve deeper into your own writing through guided activities and time away from your busy lives. Set in a waterfront house off the beaten path from 3 pm on August 20th until 11am on August 21st, space is limited. $45.00. Click here for the application

2016 Tutka Bay Writers Retreat
September 9-11th, 2016 
TUTKA BAY LODGE | This 49 Writers program takes place at the fantastic Tutka Bay Lodge. Faculty instructor award-winning writer Debra Magpie Earling will lead fiction writers in an in-depth writing workshop. Emphasizing in-class writing supportiveness, collegiality, and a constructive atmosphere, the engaged student will emerge with improved techniques for further work. Sold out and waitlisting. 

2016 Alaska Writers Guild Annual Conference for Writers & Illustrators
September 24th plus optional intensives and roundtables on Sept. 23rd.
SCBWIAlaska Writers Guild
ANCHORAGE | This year's conference is a partnership between Alaska Writers Guild, 49 Writers, and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. This all-day event takes place at the BP Energy + Conference Center and includes keynotes and panels, as well as writing craft, marketing, traditional publishing, self publishing, children's literature, illustration tracks. Sign up for optional Intensives or Roundtable Critiques, or take advantage of One-on-One Manuscript Excerpt Reviews. Early bird discount extended until July 31st at only $95 for AWG/49 Writers/SCBWI members or $145 for non-members. More info and registration here.  


The Alaska Literary Awards are open to poets, playwrights, screenwriters, writers of fiction and literary nonfiction, writers of multi-genre, cross-genre, or genre-defying work. Any Alaska writer over 18 who is not a full-time student is eligible to apply. Quality of the work is the primary consideration in determining who receives the awards. $5,000 awards will be given, all from privately donated funds. Apply at www.callforentry.org by Sept. 1, 2016 at 9:59 AKDT. 

In early August, the Alaska State Council on the Arts will seek nominations for the 2017 Governor's Awards for the Arts, as well as the next Alaska State Writer Laureate. The deadline for nominations for Governor's Awards for the Arts is September 15, 2016 and nominations for State Writer Laureate will be accepted through October 3, 2016This year, the categories for the Governor's Awards for the Arts are: Arts Education, Individual Artist, Arts Organization and Alaska Native Arts. The Governor's Awards for the Arts and Humanities ceremony will be held in Juneau on Thursday, January 26, 2017Visit ASCA's website here for information about last year's Governor's Awardees, and here for the Alaska State Writer Laureate program.

Caitlin Press is currently accepting submissions The Pacific Ocean: Protecting Our Endangered Coast, an anthology of poems that will explore the Pacific Ocean as a wilderness, a haven, and a part of our natural world that needs protecting. Yvonne Blomer, Victoria, B.C.’s poet laureate, will edit the anthology. Blomer has published three collections of poetry, most recently As if a Raven (Palimpsest Press) and co-edited Poems from Planet Earth (Leaf Press). Her first book, a broken mirror, fallen leaf, was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Learn more, including how to submit two poems, here. Deadline: September 15, 2016.  

Call for Creative Teens The Anchorage Museum is looking for passionate, innovative high school-aged students to be a part of the Museum Teen Council, a group of young, creative leaders. They need teens who are passionate about something: doodling, blogging, technology, comedy, writing, music, photography, fashion, theater — anything — whose voices, ideas, and creativity can shape how they build community at the Anchorage Museum. Apply by Oct. 1. Details at anchoragemuseum.org.

Ghostwriting opportunity | A search is underway to find an experienced ghostwriter to write a series of twelve non-fiction articles for publication. These articles will be about the history of an immigrant family arriving in Alaska in the late '40s. The selected ghostwriter will be expected to agree on the proposed content and timeline for a series of articles and then interview the client and develop the articles from the interviews. Interested writers are invited to provide a CV, recent examples of work as a ghostwriter, demonstration of the ability to write in the client’s voice, examples/references which show an ability to meet deadlines and communicate effectively and efficiently, references which show an ability to work well with a client to enable a sharing of ideas, fact checking and research skills, pay rate, ability to discuss ideas and research with the client in a non-judgmental way; description of process to give the client the opportunity to approve, ask questions and give feedback on the material, and agreement to sign a nondisclosure agreement. If interested, please send questions, documents, and/or your rates to 13gwriter13@gmail.com by Tuesday, September 13, 2016

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

49 Writers: Guest Blogger Lucian Childs | Literary Chardonnay: Exploring Alaska's Urban Wilds

When people Outside think of Alaska, they imagine snow, rugged mountains, sled dog races, grizzlies, homestead cabins and “The Deadliest Catch.” That people would be living up here in an urban context would probably not occur to them.

Lucian Childs
But over half of us Alaskans live in cities. What makes our experience unique is the dichotomy we often feel between our ordinary travails—taking kids to school, dashing into Carrs for groceries, or meeting friends at the PAC for a musical—and what we think of as the Great Land, that vastness teeming with wildlife. Our lives are as helter-skelter as city folks anywhere, but we live surrounded by wilderness, which exerts a mighty influence on our lives. 

This hit me last spring when I flew into Anchorage for my semi-annual sojourn. After I picked up my car, I drove to my friend’s house on Government Hill where I was to stay. It was early evening, one of those days we get in the spring: cloudless and crystalline. Near my friend’s house, I pulled off at the park that overlooks the Tank Farm. All the expectations about my upcoming stay—the dinner parties and meet-ups with friends—all that dropped away. Beyond the oil tanks and our small port, Mt. Susitna reclined and the Alaska Range disappeared down Cook Inlet, white peaks silhouetted against the approaching sunset. I’ve lived in Anchorage almost twenty-five years, but I’d forgotten the formidable beauty in which it is located. Looking down Cook Inlet took my breath away.

In an hour, though, I was showered and shaved, catching up with my friend Julie over a good Chardonnay in the bar at Kinley’s. To me, this combination of activities is as deeply Alaskan as setting a trapline or dipnetting for reds—being awed by the beauty of the Inlet, then having that glass of Chard at a fine restaurant with a friend.

To be honest, I haven’t always felt that other Alaska writers share this sentiment. As compelling as their work is, so often it concerns the natural world and our place in it. So, when Martha Amore and I started reading submissions for the anthology we were editing, Building Fires in the Snow: A Collection of Alaska LGBTQ Short Fiction and Poetry, I expected works relating climbing accidents, backcountry bear encounters or childhoods in remote homestead cabins. Let me say, there is nothing wrong with those stories. I love those stories. I’ve even been part of some of them. But where are our Alaska stories with that glass of literary Chardonnay?

To my great delight, we found them in the submissions we read: stories of a couple interviewing for a rental house and unexpectedly finding a new friend, roommates dealing with a hornet’s nest, a lovelorn young man pouring his heart out to a stranger over drinks at Mad Myrna’s. There were urban bonfire parties, journalists, geologists, fiddle players, bloggers and roller derby enthusiasts. There was the loving mom thinking back on her wild and crazy single life; the long-time married couple, recent transplants to Anchorage, unhappy with the choices they’d made.

Martha and I worked hard to identify writers whose work was set in rural and bush communities, but as so many of us live in Anchorage, many of the stories and poems we read were set there as well. Yet always there was wilderness lurking at the edges, glimpsed in the rearview window, appreciated on an afternoon hike. But more than that, the characters in these stories and poems looked to nature for models of how to live. A lover ponders a difficult relationship by walking the Chugach Mountains alone. Taking a wild and wooly road trip through Pipeline-era Alaska, a young girl finds herself. A man on the cusp of old age accepts his new situation, seeing the way trees cling to life at the edge of a bog. In those stories and poems, the two halves of the dichotomy were wed—the urban and the wild.

Certainly, there was work we read that took place in non-urban locales and where wildness exerted its instructing influence, such as Jerah Chadwick’s stunning poems set in the Aleutians. Here, men grappled with themselves and a life with a lover while hauling in provisions or stoking a potbellied stove.

After all the submissions had been read, we selected works for the anthology from twenty-six contributors, including Martha and myself. These writers, some established pros, others emerging artists, weave the rich tapestry of Alaska life, for the first time using stories and poems from our LGTBQ community.

As I prepare to return to Anchorage for the launch of Building Fires in the Snow, I’m excited to soon be a part of this unique place again. I look forward to dinner at a friend’s overlooking the Inlet, Redoubt letting off steam in the distance. To celebrating the end of a long day’s hike by having an honest Alaska brew at a downtown eatery. To First Friday-ing in the sharp autumn air. To being an explorer again in Alaska’s urban wilds.

There will be launch events for Building Fires in the Snow all over the state this fall. You can check out what’s happening at our website and keep up to date on our Facebook page. Martha and I hope to see you at an event and to learn how wilderness and the city come together in your life.

Lucian Childs divides his time between Anchorage, Alaska and Toronto, Ontario where he lives with his husband. In 2013, he received a Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist Project Grant as well as the Prism Review Short Story Prize. He has been awarded residencies at Brydcliffe Art Colony and at Artscape Gibraltar Point and was a Peter Taylor Fellow at the 2015 Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. He is a co-editor of Building Fires in the Snow: A Collection of Alaska LGBTQ Short Fiction and Poetry. His short stories have appeared in Grain, Sanskrit, The Puritan, Jelly Bucket, Quiddity, and Cirque, among others.

A 49 Writers Crosscurrents event featuring panelists Lucian Childs and Martha Amore with moderator Heather Brook Adams will begin at 7 pm, October 13th, in the Anchorage Museum auditorium. This event, called “Tales of the City: Writing from Alaska’s Urban Hubs”, will be preceded by an informal
Building Fires in the Snow
meet and greet at MUSE Restaurant between 5 and 6:45 pm.