Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I'm back from a whirlwind author tour of Southeast Alaska - Ketchikan, Sitka, and Juneau - a scheme initially concocted by Charlotte Glover, 49 writers member/fan/contributor and librarian extraordinaire, pictured here with her assistant Debbie and me. Debbie, by the way, makes wonderful posters and displays for their visiting authors.
I'm seconding Tricia's shout-out to librarians like Charlotte and Debbie and Maite (in Sitka) and Sarah (also in Sitka) and Jonas (in Juneau). Together they arranged a logistically complicated author's tour that included nine school presentations for groups ranging in size from 20 to 200, one community presentation, two radio interviews, one preschool story hour, three writers gatherings, two 49 Writers courses, and an impromptu visit with detainees at Johnson Youth Facility in Juneau. And arranging wasn't the half of it. These tireless advocates for authors and books toured me around, fed me great meals, welcomed me into their homes, hauled sound systems and projectors, and fussed with all the little details of where to be when and who pays whom for what.
Beyond the fun of watching 200 first and second graders fall silent for the reading of a story (my story!), I was jazzed by the unflinching support of these librarians for the writers in their communities. They not only let us use their facilities to offer 49 Writers courses, they subsidized the entire course fee for the students (and laid out great spreads of snacks, too). As a result, both workshops were full, with waiting lists. And when I mentioned that I wanted to meet informally with writers in their communities, they set up writers gatherings at local cafes.
The response from writers was tremendous. I enjoyed meeting people I'd only chatted with online. Writers got acquainted with one another, exchanging email addresses and critique ideas. They offered input on how we could build our statewide outreach with more face-to-face courses, possibly augmented by electronic follow-up. They enthused over possible e-mentoring and apprenticeship opportunities, ideas that are still in the discussion stage here at 49 Writers.
Everywhere, there was the joy of interacting with the next generation of readers and writers. Students at Baranoff Elementary presented me with a book they had made, a spin-off from one of my own. Coming into a cafe where I was grabbing a quick bite to eat before my next presentation, a young girl announced to her mom, "Look! It's the author!" The boys at Johnson Youth Center talked eagerly about their writing projects and publishing possibilities. There was talk of collaboration and possible ongoing support from local writers. It's the sort of excitement we hope to embrace as we consider how 49 Writers can best reach out to youth, perhaps through models like 826 or WITS.
These are the sorts of partnerships we've been keen to build at 49 Writers - communities of readers and writers sharing resources and thinking outside our individual boxes to support the work of Alaskan authors and their books. Exhausting as it was, I'm eager to get out and do it again, or to send a new author emissary to writers statewide.
In the meantime, a tip for any who plan to talk writing and books to a couple hundred young writers in the five to six age range: C.R. Raven (Corvax McCarthy to you) is a big help.