I’m not a big shopper, so while others are braving the stores at this time of year, I shift into a less glamorous mode: assessment and planning. As always, I’ll reflect on my writing – where it’s been, where it’s going – but this year I’ll also ponder our programs here at the 49 Alaska Writing Center.
Since the end of April, we’ve launched two instructional terms, hosted a hugely successful retreat, and sponsored author events featuring Heather Lende, David Vann, and Joe McGinniss. We’ve engaged readers in a Book and Tea Talk, and with the masterful orchestration of volunteer Paula Bryner, we’ve hosted regular First Friday book signings. In addition, librarians in Southeast Alaska helped us organize three writer gatherings. And to pay for it all, Andromeda and her fundraising team have devised fabulous ways to generate support.
Not bad for a newly-born center. But of course we’d love to do more. In the coming months, we’ll ponder options for program expansion: mentoring, distance education, youth programs, community outreach. Mindful of not doing too much too fast, we’ll weigh resources of time, money, and energy against various needs. As always, we welcome your input.
Since we’ve already got a track record in the program area of events, we’re turning our attention there first. While nothing is firm yet, I thought you might like a sneak peek of some of our planning – and we’d love to have you weigh in with your thoughts.
We began with these questions:
• What’s strong in the literary events scene?
• What’s missing in the literary events scene?
• Which models from other places do we like?
• How do we ensure that every event is successful and meaningful?
• How can we help Alaskan authors to become better presenters?
• Which venues are best for which types of events?
Agreeing that typical readings work from outdated models that often do little to engage readers with writers and books, we envisioned four broad categories of events, labeled here with working titles:
• CROSSCURRENTS: Because books aren’t just for reading, the Crosscurrents onstage conversations would unite authors and audiences through lively, moderated discussions on questions pertaining to art, culture, and science as illuminated by writers and their work.
• SYNERGIES: Following the Still North model of reading and performance, these would be uniquely experiential, literary-centric events that bring together sometimes disparate communities of artists and writers.
• GATHERINGS: Hosted in homes or cafes, these are informal opportunities to chat with visiting writers about craft.
• CELEBRATIONS: These may include occasional “open mic” readings by our students as well as collective book launch events. We’re also pondering a week-long “Alaska Book Celebration” that encourages libraries, schools, and bookstores to feature Alaska authors and books.
That’s our rough thinking so far. Now we’d love to hear yours. Are we close to the mark with events that support creative writers from throughout Alaska at all stages of their development while building an audience for Alaska literature? To what extent would you be excited about attending events like these? Any that you’d love to help out with? Any important event types we’ve missed?