Alaska Book Week is October 8-15, 2011. Book stores, libraries, publishers and schools are encouraged to feature Alaskan books and writers through author visits, book displays, public reading events and press coverage. The idea behind Alaska Book Week is to celebrate Alaska’s contribution to the literary world.
Below is a list of ten contemporary Alaskan authors that are making their mark in the world of literature:
1. Seth Kantner
Kantner’s first book, Ordinary Wolves, is a fictitious account of a young man growing up in the far northern regions of western Alaska. Kantner’s own upbringing inspired the story, which lends the book tremendous authenticity. It won the Milkweed National Fiction Prize in 2004. His second book, the non-fiction Shopping for Porcupine, is a prose account of his real life coupled with the author’s own stunning photography of arctic Alaska.
2. Eva Saulitis
In addition to being a prose writer and poet, Ms. Saulitis is also a whale biologist. Her book Leaving Resurrection is a collection of personal essays. While her writing is informed by her background in biology, it goes beyond science-speak and nature writing. Saulitis is an expert at examining human emotion and connecting it to the natural world.
3. Heather Lende
Ms. Lende lives in Haines, Alaska and has made a name for herself by chronicling life in her own Alaskan small town. She got her start by writing the obituaries for the Chilkat Valley News, and for many years wrote a column for the Anchorage Daily News. Now she has two books, If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name and Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs. Lende’s straight talking style gives you the sense that you’re sitting across the table from her, enjoying a cup of tea between daily chores. She currently writes for Woman’s Day magazine.
4. Nancy Lord
Ms. Lord is one of Alaska’s most versatile and prolific writers. She has three short story collections and five literary non-fiction books. All of her writing reflects her love and respect for the Alaskan landscape and the challenges that are inherent in the far north. From 2008-2010 Nancy Lord was the Alaska Writer Laureate. Her most recent book, Early Warming: Crisis and Response in the Climate-Changed North, investigates the ways northerners are responding to their changing environment. Her previous book, Rock, Water, Wild is a collection of personal essays.
5. Peggy Shumaker
Peggy Shumaker is a poet and teacher. Her most recent publication is a book of poems, Gnawed Bones. Her beautiful, lyrical memoir, Just Breathe Normally, was written after the author survived a life-threatening bicycling accident. In it she examines healing from her past as well as healing from her accident. It’s a lovely account that is surprisingly structured. She is Alaska’s current writer laureate.
6. David Marusek
David Marusek penned the books Mind Over Ship and Counting Heads both of which have been highly acclaimed in the Science Fiction genre. Marusek had the envy of all Alaskan writers when David Itzkoff wrote a raving review for Counting Heads in The New York Times in 2006. Marusek has also written a number of award winning short stories.
7. Miranda Weiss
Miranda Weiss is the author of the memoir, Tide Feather Snow: A Life in Alaska, which received a fair amount of critical acclaim upon its release in 2009. In her book, Weiss leads the reader through her own journey of discovering coastal Alaska, both its nature and its culture.
8. Rich Chiappone
Chiappone was a carpenter by trade before he became a writer and teacher. Perhaps it’s his practical approach to life that makes his writing so appealing. His recent book, Water of Undetermined Depth, is a collection of short stories around the theme of fishing. Chiappone can be laugh-out-loud funny at times, but has the uncanny ability to write about difficult subjects as shown in Chiappone’s essay “The Killing Season,” published in The Anchorage Press in May, 2009.
9. Stan Jones
Stan Jones knows Alaska, which is apparent in his Nathan Active mystery series, the most recent of which is called Village of the Ghost Bears. The fictional town of Chukchi is based on the real village of Kotzebue in the far northwestern region of Alaska where Jones lived for several years. Jones worked as an award winning newspaper journalist for many years and used his investigative reporting skills to co-write The Spill: Personal Stories from the Exxon Valdez Disaster, which was unique in its assessment of how the oil spill impacted a community.
10. Dana Stabenow
Dana Stabenow’s fiction writing covers three genres: mystery, science fiction and suspense/thriller. Her Kate Shugak novels are wildly popular, making her Alaska’s most commercially successful novelist. It has been announced that a television series will be made from the Kate Shugak series and Stabenow’s respect for her home state became apparent when she insisted the series be filmed on location in Alaska.