"I see writing, music, film, and other art as a solution to the sense of hopelessness and despair felt amongst the youth of rural Alaska," said Alaskan author Don Rearden in response to our February 25 post, "Adapting the Kids from Nowhere." Here I am at Tukurngailnguq School in Stebbins, trying in three days to implement part of that solution. I asked some students how to pronounce the name of their school, but they couldn't tell me. Most of them speak Yup'ik only occasionally. None of them read or write it. Teachers - and tests - have identified writing (in English) as a major stumbling block for these kids. But after two days I've gotten great comments like these:
“I’ve learned that we can write anything, as far as our imagination can take us. And you, yourself, have taught me that I can be myself, with my own style of writing, only if I put my mind to it.” and "I want to learn how to be an author, like you. It looks like it is a lot of fun.”
If you're a writer, be thinking of whether you share Don's vision (and mine) to bring writing as hope and promise to rural Alaska. I'll have more to say about these possibilities in coming weeks. In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment expressing interest and/or ideas. And take a look over at http://www.alaskanauthors.com/, where I'll be posting some of the students' work.
In line with our discussion of new models for the changing world of publishing comes The Public Query, a blog started recently by aspiring novelist Rick Davis. If you'd like public critique of your query, you enter it as a comment to the invitational post. You can even include a few sample pages. Rick posts your query and hopefully you get some feedback. Maybe editors and agents will browse. Who knows? It's an innovative concept, though I suspect writerly paranoia may keep some authors away.
For more on new ways of thinking about writing, check out Ned Rozell's comment on last Tuesday's post, where he details his publishing experience with Amazon's CreateSpace.
Originally from Pakistan and now a longtime Alaskan, Shehla Anjum, UAA MFA graduate in nonfiction (2008), recently pubbed an op-ed in the ADN about the Taliban banning girls' education in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. With escalating troop levels in Afghanistan, Shehla fears we will be pulled into some skirmishes within Pakistan.
In the boo-hiss department, Publishers Weekly reports more bad news. "Barnes & Nobles results for the year ended January 31 confirmed what, in the words of CEO Steve Riggio, was “the most challenging year that the company and the industry have ever experienced.” Moreover, Riggio does not see things improving in 2009. Forecast for the first quarter calls for a 6% to 9% decline in comp store sales with same store sales falling 4% to 6% for the full year."
A P.S. update from Andromeda -- To those who were following Movie Week or are planning to get connected in the screenwriting scene, the Anchorage Daily News today ran a thorough front-page story by Elizabeth Bluemink about the local film industry, tax incentives, and local software whiz-turned-film entrepreneur Mike Devlin. This Saturday, Devlin's Evergreen Films will be publicly screening "Icy Killers," a documentary about Prince William Sound salmon sharks, for Natl Geographic Channel.