Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Where else but in Alaska would you find an ambitious publishing venture that bills itself as a cross between Ben and Jerry's and Harley Davidson? Publisher Barbara Farris talks here about 40 Below Ink, which is preparing to launch its first books later this year.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became involved in publishing.

I have been writing since I was five or six years old. I have an MFA in Art and taught art at the college level for three years. I became involved in publishing because I love books and writing. I also realized we can’t leave it to the New York City publishing houses to represent Alaska and Alaskan writers.

How does 40 Below Ink differ from other regional presses that publish books about Alaska?

We will be focusing on eBooks, for one. Also, Forty Below Ink is probably more “on the edge.” Although we are producing books about Alaska, our focus is for things outside the norm, slightly offbeat, and humorous, including all aspects of what it is to be Alaskan.

Your advisory committee includes several well-respected writers. How did you select the members, and what role do they serve?

We invited Alaskan authors from all areas and backgrounds. The publisher and editor will read all submissions. The advisory committee members (as available) will read the works that have been selected by the publisher and editor and offer their input.

What kind of response have you had from your call for manuscripts to be published in 2008? What are you anticipating in terms of genre, number of titles, and release dates for your initial list?

The response has been steady. We have mainly received manuscripts for novels at this time.

We hope to publish two titles later this year. The rest depends on what type and quality of submissions we receive.

You’ve mentioned that you plan to move into the eBook market as well as offering books in print. Can you elaborate on what that might mean for an individual title?

As publisher, I think the eBook market is very exciting. With a eBook, we can include images, audio and even video without appreciably increasing the cost of the book.

For some titles, it means we will produce a book in print and an eBook, which hopefully will result in an increase in sales. Those books more suited to the eBook format and/or market will be produced as eBook only, although they may be printed if sales determine that is the way to go.

How do you handle the selection and editing processes?

The selection process is as I mentioned above. We will edit the books in-house and hire a contract editor for the final copy edit.

What else would you like readers and writers to know about 40 Below Ink?

As a new company, we have a lot of energy for our goal, which is to produce books about Alaska that we can be proud of. We are also committed to environmentally friendly business practices and to supporting community service and non-profits. Please see our website at

Friday, February 22, 2008


Alaskan author Heather Lende writes with transparency, beauty, and a deep sense of truth. Her first book, If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name, is a remarkable tribute to the spirited Alaskan community of Haines. Here, Lende talks about both her first book and her latest venture, a collection of true stories from Haines that celebrate matters of faith.

If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name is in its sixth printing, a marvelous accomplishment for a non-fiction book about a small town in Alaska. What do you most enjoy about its success?

Well, I’m not sure, to tell you the truth. Certainly being noticed as a real writer now is nice, and being able to support myself some is a good thing. But to tell you the truth, my life is very much the same as it was before the book, and the only time I feel different is when I leave home for a book club talk, or a lecture, like the one I recently gave in Fairbanks. When I got home I told my husband I was sort of famous up there, and that I filled a hall. He said that was nice, and I said it was too, but we both agree it is a good thing I don’t live in a place where people think that.

You’ve been compared to authors Annie Dillard, Anne Lamott, and Garrison Keillor. Which authors have influenced you most, and in what ways?

That’s pretty heady stuff, as I admire all of them. I think that when I started writing the authors that appealed to me where the ones that wrote about where they lived in a way that made me interested, even though I’d never been there. Marjorie Rawlings wroteTthe Yearling, but my favorite book of hers is Cross Creek, about her years as an orange farmer in Florida. E.B. White’s Maine essays, Calvin Trillin’s food stories, and the poetry of Robert Frost, Mary Oliver & Jane Kenyon all influenced me. I read a lot of all kinds of things, I love James Lee Burke, Ellen Gilchrist, Larry McMurtry, Ivan Doig, Anne Tyler-- And of course Annie Lamott, I mean, I’m still taking writing “Bird by Bird”. Also, I really like John Gould, a former columnist for the Christian Science Monitor.

Living in a small, isolated community, to what extent do you miss interaction with other writers?

I didn’t at first, because I didn’t really think I was enough of a writer to have writer-ly friends. But lately I have been missing that, and I have applied to the low residency MFA in creative writing at UAA in large part because I do want some writer friends.

Your book beautifully explores the sense of community in Haines. How has the community reacted to being the subject of a book?

People like it, I think. When it first came out the bookstore gave a percentage of the cover price to Hospice of Haines, and they raised about 2,000 dollars. Before I wrote the book, even though I had a Anchorage Daily News column and had been on NPR often, people here didn’t know that I wrote about them so much—we don’t get many copies of the Daily News here, and the radio ran local news when my commentaries were on—so the book was a surprise. Now, some people are more careful what they say in front of me, and others want me to write about them. I write obituaries, and I had one nice elderly lady tell me it was too bad her husband hadn’t died sooner, because then he would have been in my book. Also, a truck hit me right at the same time the book came out (I got my first copy when I was in a nursing home in Seattle) so the Haines community was extra kind and generous.

Tell us a bit about the process of writing If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name. When did you start thinking about writing the book, and what compelled you to press forward with the project? How long did you spend in the various stages of writing? What did you most and least enjoy?

The book came about because an editor at Algonquin Books heard me on NPR and called to ask if I wanted to write a book. The initial idea was to publish a collection of radio and newspaper pieces. But I had wanted to write about writing obituaries, and a few years before had actually proposed such a book to an Alaskan publisher, but was told no one would be interested in reading about death, and since there was only 2,000 people in Haines even if everyone in town bought a copy the book would still lose money, so I was a little shy, to say the least, about mentioning my dream “death” book to the new editor. But I did send her a few of the essays that would later be in the book, mixed in with the others, and luckily, she liked what I call my death pieces, and she and I worked hard to mix them in with the life pieces. It took four years, working mostly in the winter, going back and forth to re-write and shape each chapter as a stand-alone essay, but also so they read like a kind of narrative. I spent more time re-writing than writing, and that is both the most enjoyable part and the most frustrating part. I learned a lot, and I really, really like my editor, and am very pleased that we worked so well together. I think she made me a better writer, and I know she taught me how to write longer. When I wrote for radio and newspaper,s everything was measured by the word and kept very short.

Tell us a bit about your most recent book project.

The good news is that I have the same editor, and that it is more true stories about life in Haines. This time the focus is not on obituaries, but on faith—not just religious, but the things we believe in that we can’t prove, with chapter titles from the Book of Common Prayer to set the tone in the reader’s heat and heart. There is also my own life-changing accident and then my mother’s death, so the last few years have been a faith journey for me too. This book has been put together less collaboratively than the last one, mainly because I was taught well the first time. This time, instead of using short radio and newspaper pieces and putting them together and re-writing them, I still used my newspaper columns as jumping off places, but I had the book in mind from beginning, which was easier, I think. I recently gave my editor the whole manuscript and we are editing from there, rather than one chapter at a time, and instead of a year to do it, I’m hoping it will only be a few months worth of changes. I don’t have a title yet, but that doesn’t worry me, since I didn’t have a title for the last one either- The publisher came up with it after someone in the Algonquin office joked that if they lived in Haines I’d know their name—and that seemed to work out very well. Mostly, I have been very fortunate, since I know so many very good writers who haven’t had the breaks I have. I’m grateful for the opportunity Algonquin Books has given me, and at the same time, I work very hard to give them my best efforts.

Monday, February 18, 2008


The doorbell rang the other day, just as the sun was sinking into evening. When I answered, I found a UPS truck driving away and a box of books on my doorstep. Inside were shiny new author copies of the sixth edition of Globe Pequot's OFF THE BEATEN PATH: ALASKA.

There's good reason why this travel guide has become a perennial favorite. The Milepost is great for road trip details, but where else will you find out about gems like Alaska's Boardwalk Lodge, tucked away in the stunning beauty of Prince of Wales Island, or the new VIP Restaurant in Bethel, of all places. Building on the solid foundation laid by Melissa DeVaughn, I had a whole lot of fun revising and updating the guide last summer.

Scientists say that new experiences light up the reward system in our brains. When we go new places and do new things, dopamine and norephinephtem rush in and make us feel fabulous. Eckhart Tolle, author of A NEW EARTH, explains the satisfaction differently. He says new experiences stun us into shutting off our egos and basking in the reality of our inner space, at least for a spell.

Whatever the theory, there's a lot to be said for getting off the beaten path, and there's plenty of off-path exploration to be done in Alaska. Whether you're a long-time resident or just planning a quick visit, OFF THE BEATEN PATH: ALASKA is a great way to discover the people and places that make our land great.