Saturday, December 15, 2012

Put this author OUT IN THE COLD!

Unless you're one of those big rockstar authors, the likelihood of a publisher in today's turbulent writing times handing you a big fat advance to fund the research you need for your next big non-fiction project is slim.  Very slim.
Enter this whole new idea of crowd sourcing. Here the public can weigh in the perceived value a project has and the author can endeavor to raise the money and hit the research road.
I have a friend (no really, I do have a friend!) and he currently has a pretty cool project up on Kick Starter. He's working on book about surfing in Alaska.  I shot and edited the video, so don't blame him if you don't like it, that's all on me. Check his page out and if you can afford to, chip in a few bucks to help Kris out. Too often authors with great ideas are left out in the cold, but in this case, Kris needs your help to hit the rough surf of Alaska and get Out in the Cold.

Monday, December 10, 2012

My First Annual Alaskan Holiday Gift Guide

Someone once attributed the quote "with great power comes great responsibilty" to comic book legend Stan Lee, but that someone was incorrect and the real someone who supposedly said this, in French, was Voltaire. Of course, I only know this because I lack both power and responsibility, otherwise I have no way of explaining why I discovered the source of the quote from Wikipedia and not somewhere with a little more academic clout.

But alas, as my nephews recently decided I was famous after seeing my photo beside a column in a recent op-ed piece in the Anchorage Daily News I've decided to use this fame to share, albeit responsibly, with the general public my First Annual Alaskan Holiday Gift Guide! Or perhaps it would be better titled:


[ First a disclaimer to all, these are Alaskan books that can be given to non-Alaskan and Alaskans alike. I am not paid to put the authors or creators of these books on my guide; however, I will gladly accept payment. ]

 Two must read Alaskan books from 2012. 

Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child

Simply put, this is an amazing novel. There is a spellbinding magic at work here, that makes The Snow Child an instant Alaskan classic. Eowyn kindly wrote that my novel earned a place beside Velma Wallis's Two Old Women and Seth Kantner's Ordinary Wolves (two other books to add to your list!), but if any book deserves to be amongst those two favorites of mine, it is The Snow Child.

Kris Farmen's Turn Again
 From my blurb on the back of the novel:
“Kris Farmen’s Turn Again is a spellbinding masterpiece. A powerful epic with unforgettable characters, rich Alaskan history and culture, and an authentic glimpse at a time when humanity was forsaken in the name of progress. Farmen has crafted a haunting tale of mythical transformation and lost love. There is much to be learned from this modern parable.”
    —Don Rearden, author of the critically acclaimed novel, The Raven’s Gift


Crude Awakening by Amanda Coyne and Tony Hopfinger

If the Money and Mavericks don't get you, the Mayhem will. This is a must read about the dark and dirty days of Alaskan politics and greasy oil shenanigans. 

Heat: Adventures in The World's Fiery Places by Bill Streever.

This isn't out until Jan 15th, but you can pre-order to bring a little heat into your life! I was fortunate to read an early draft of Bill's book and if you liked Cold, then you'll love Heat. And if you haven't read Cold, well add that to your list too!


Joan Kane's The Cormorant Hunter is out in a new edition from the University of Alaska Press.  I can't say enough about the talent of this Alaskan writer. I find myself returning again and again to the poems in Joan's collection. A power and life exists in this work that borders on some sort of shaman at work in the words.

30 Years of publishing America's top writers. For fiction, non-fiction, or poetry you can't go wrong with Alaska Quarterly Review. And seriously. You can't find a better deal. Subscribe for your favorite reader or yourself now.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Working to Beat the Devil

Eskimo Medicine Man, Alaska. Exorcising Evil Spirits from a sick Boy.

 A favorite photo of mine from the Alaska digital archives. The photographer captioned it, "Working to Beat the Devil." Quite ironic when you consider the background and the history of colonization and the "work" put in to defeat shamanism.

Monday, December 3, 2012

After the Earthquake

Peering Down at What Could Be a Cold, Dark City.

From here on this crisp clear night in Bear Valley, far up on the mountain from the twinkling lights of Anchorage, I am trying not to imagine what I could be seeing --- nothing but dark, perhaps a few structure fires --- had the recent quake 5.9 quake been anything but a little hiccup compared to the devastation wrought by the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake.
We would be sitting around a warm woodstove, our small living-room lit only by the flicker from the fire. The emergency radio would be on, though I wonder who or what would be transmitting if the powergrid sustained damage. It's already near zero outside, and it would be a long night of tending the fire to keep the pipes from freezing, if they weren't already broken. We would be concerned for our friends and family in town, who have only natural gas or electricity to heat their homes, and for the safety of those coastal residents. I would be calculating food stores and in all honestly probably preparing for an early morning, and completely illegal, moose hunt. But then as I write this, I realize that might not be true, as when this quake struck I was home alone with my 18 month old son, so I wouldn't leave to hunt, not because I couldn't take him hunting, but because we'd be stuck here, waiting and hoping Annette would return home. See that's the thing about Anchorage, our city is so spread out, so much of our infrastructure built on unstable ground. We could only hope she'd be able to walk the thirteen miles up the mountain to our house, as the roads would be too damaged to drive. 
It would no doubt be a long and scary night for my son and I, and for you too if you live here, and you know what is scarier? It wouldn't be just one night either. Anchorage is built upon a tidal mud flat, we have one road in and out of town, and an airport built right beside the ever interesting Earthquake Park. If the quake was as big as the one in '64, and scientists say we will have one again, you can count on the city's transportation infrastructure being crippled. Repairs from the last quake took months to years to fix, and just look at the poor folks still suffering from Sandy if you don't think we would be waiting more than a day or two.

What is my point?


We Alaskans pride ourselves on how big stuff is here, big bears, big moose, big mountains, and this big earthquake. The thing is that Alaskans might brag about our history, but we don't seem to learn anything from it. I'm talking about myself here, too. We aren't ready for the big one. Individually or collectively. And I'm not just talking about Anchorage people here either, if you live in the bush or the interior and rely on Anchorage for your food and fuel, well, then I'm also talking to you, too. Individually we need to all have supplies and food stores, on hand, not to mention some sort of family plan (as the family cell phone plan probably won't be working) of how and where to meet up. Collectively we need to have plans at work and for our communities. It wouldn't hurt to run the occasional drill, but then follow-up with action plans and discussion.

We'll need warm shelters and food distribution centers.

We'll need leaders.

We'll need to figure out how to come together for warmth and comfort, just like they did in '64. In fact, there are many old timers still around; we could start by sitting down around the woodstove and listening to their stories, perhaps learn a lesson or two from them. It's going to take that and more.

[Curious where to start your preparations? I'll begin documenting and sharing my preparations here. But you could also get started really quickly with prepackaged kits like these.]   and an emergency food kit like this: