Monday, July 20, 2015

Cheryl Lovegreen: Anchorage Remembers—It Takes a Village to Create a Book

In the fall of 2013, I met with Linda Ketchum, Executive Director of 49 Writers at the time, to discuss a project called Anchorage Remembers. In a 49 Writers blog post, she’d mentioned the project, asking for volunteers, and I was one of the first to raise my hand. To celebrate Anchorage’s centennial, 49 Writers was going to submit a grant proposal to create writing workshops for community members to help them write their memories of Anchorage. From their submissions and others, an anthology would be published. Being a longtime Anchorage resident, a history buff, and former writing teacher, I was excited about the possibilities. Linda offered me the job of Anchorage Remembers Coordinator, and I accepted.

My contract was to run from January of 2014 to the end of that year, but my commitment carried me voluntarily to the present, as it did many of the others who became involved. While a few stipends were paid, the project was genuinely a labor of love. The grant was approved and we became an official Anchorage Centennial project, sponsored by the Alaska Humanities Forum, the Rasmuson Foundation, and the Anchorage Centennial Celebration. I attended meetings held by the municipality that led to networking and support from other groups as well. My main duty was to communicate with people throughout the process and keep things moving along.

Our core committee members were Judith Conte, Susan Pope, Becky Saleeby, and Louise Freeman Toole. These 49 Writers members crafted the curriculum and led the writing workshops, making sure we were as inclusive as possible in reaching out to community residents. Workshops were offered at the Anchorage Senior Activity Center, the Pioneer School House, and the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior center, with support from the Anchorage Women’s Club and the senior centers. 49 Writers member Lizzie Newell took photos for us. I don’t have space here to list all 47 people who registered for workshops, or all 44 who submitted stories for the anthology. We opened the submission process to participants in the workshops and the general public. Sixty-one percent of the submissions selected were written by participants in the Anchorage Remembers workshops.

Volunteers Marilyn Borell, Lynn DeFilippo, Kellie Doherty, Sherry Eckrich, and Cindi White mentored the writers in revising and editing their work. A blog was set up for showcasing certain selections. Linda Ketchum’s leadership continued under Morgan Grey, who helped with editing the forty selections slated for print. Louise Freeman-Toole did additional editing and is coordinating the book distribution as well as the blog. Vered Mares completed the interior design and cover. Interim Assistant Deb Vanasse helped with the finishing touches, and volunteers Alex Kramarczuk and Kate Partridge are assisting with our book launch. (If I have missed any volunteers, it was my error— please accept my apologies.)

So I’m not kidding when I say it took a community to make this book. Thanks to everyone involved. And now our release day is finally here! We are proud to announce a Crosscurrents reading and book launch event this Thursday. You are all welcome to attend on July 23rd, 7-9 pm, at the Anchorage Museum to celebrate with us. You’ll hear some of our authors read from their selections and you’ll have an opportunity to meet with many others involved in this worthy project. Please, come join our party!

Anchorage Remembers can be ordered through your local independent bookstore. It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The print edition sells for $14.95. E-book editions will soon be available for Kindle, Kobo, and Nook readers.

Cheryl Lovegreen has been an Alaskan for forty-six years and a member of 49 Writers for five years. She writes young adult historical romance under her pen name. 

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