Posted on March 24, 2017
A few days ago, the outside temperature was just above freezing. I basked in the warmth of the sun heating up the interior of my car as I drove across town. As I turned into the right lane, my wheels hit the puddle of snow melt and threw water over the curb. “Break up is here,” I said to myself, glad no one was walking nearby. I’d hate to drench someone with that icy, dirty water.
Break up is the time of year when the snow and ice melt. (You’ll see it as one word or two, capitalized or not, so I just picked one spelling variation here to be consistent.) It gets its name from the dramatic break up of river ice, which is a lot more impressive than watching cars run through puddles. Other northern locales have break up too, but we like to claim it as an Alaskan thing.
Ice out on Yukon River 2 Pilot Station, Alaska by Mark Dornblaser U.S. Geological Survey firstname.lastname@example.org
Break up season varies around Alaska—here in Southcentral, we get it before the Interior or Arctic region. The Nenana Ice Classic (http://www.nenanaakiceclassic.com)is the biggest break up celebration in Alaska. It’s a lottery where people guess when the Nenana River will melt enough to knock down a tripod set on top of the ice. Last year, the winners split a pot of $300,000 when it went down on April 23.
Of course some of us like the play on words between the season break up and a break up in a relationship. My local romance writers group used to run a break up writing contest at this time of year, when people submitted their best break up or fight scene. We read some awesome ones over the years. A break up is a good way to create a “dark moment” for a romance plot, as long as it’s only a temporary setback for the heroine. I’d love to see one set during break up season—would be a nice metaphor, don’t you think?
Here’s wishing you a good break up, or spring if that’s more your style. Stay away from the curb, just in case. 🙂
Posted on March 10, 2017
I recently had the privilege of attending the Alaska Library Association (AkLA) conference. Every time I walk into a room of librarians, I feel at home. I’m with my tribe—people who love books and the written word. But what I was most struck by last week was how much libraries do for their communities, with and without books.
Author Jewell Parker Rhodes set the tone in her kickoff speech, sharing her story of how books enriched her life. She’s been able to pass that on in her own writing, especially in her Louisiana Trilogy of middle grade novels. Many of us bought her books later, and other great titles we learned of during the conference. That was one of the highlights for me, seeing how much we all love books and want to share them with others.
Of course, librarians spend much of their time and job duties sharing books with people. But that’s not all they do, nowadays. I learned about several different programs that provide ebooks, music, and movies to library patrons. Public libraries are one of the few public places where people have computer access, important for applying for jobs, schools, and other opportunities. Libraries also host maker spaces and speakers who provide information about job skills, entrepreneurship, early child development, online research, self publishing—you name it, there’s probably a library near you that has offered it.
Each library provides programs and assistance tailored to their community. For example, they might have patrons who experience homelessness or need to learn English as a Second Language or who are bridging the gap between school and work. One segment of the population I have an interest in, teenagers, often have teen library programs catering to their interests and needs. One reason I attended was to pick up ideas for our local teen services, and I came away with lots of awesome examples we can try in the future.
The information age has fostered an evolution in libraries. As speaker Sari Feldman pointed out in her presentation, libraries have moved from helping people find answers to helping them craft the questions. Librarians are on the front line of the digital world, and they help patrons understand the flood of information and opinions out there, and how to tell the difference between the two. Even if they did nothing else, this would be a huge service to our country. As it is, digital literacy is one of many things libraries teach us.
THANK YOU to libraries and librarians everywhere. And an extra thank you for the ones I spent time with at the AkLA conference. Librarians are special people, and definitely members of the #FellowshipofWords!
(For more about the #FellowshipofWords see my blog post at http://lynnlovegreen.com/2017-the-fellowship-of-words-year-fellowshipofwords/.)
Posted on March 3, 2017
While in Ketchikan for the Alaska Library Conference, I discovered it is an important place for art from many cultures. Southeast Alaska is the traditional home for Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Indians. They all make complex and beautiful art, and totem poles are common in the Ketchikan area.
Totem Bight State Historical Park (http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/totembgh.htm) is a site that has restored historical totem poles and some copies of old ones from the area, plus a traditional clan house. Many of these were created or restored during the Depression through the CCC program.
Saxman Village’s Totem Park (http://www.alaska.org/detail/saxman-totem-park) has Tlingit totem poles and a clan house, plus a carving shed where people can watch artists at work. We were lucky to talk with the master carver Nathan Jackson there. Not only is he a gifted artist, but he’s also one of the most modest and nicest people I’ve met.
The Totem Heritage Center (http://www.ktn-ak.us/totem-heritage-center) preserves old totem poles from Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian villages. Some of them are on display, and others are held in an archive. The Center also has displays and classes for other cultural art such as baskets and bentwood boxes.
If you travel to Ketchikan, give yourself an extra day or so to see these totems. You’ll be glad you did.
Posted on February 26, 2017
I’m in Ketchikan for the Alaska Library Association (AkLA) conference. It’s a great Southeast Alaskan town with its own culture and history. The Tongass and Cape Fox Tlingit people fished in this area for hundreds of years near the mouth of Ketchikan Creek, “kitschk-hin,” meaning creek of the “thundering wings of an eagle.” Then a cannery was built here in 1886, bringing in European Americans, Filipino and Asian workers. By the turn of the century, Ketchikan was a growing town, and Creek Street was the red-light district.
Fishing and fish processing, then logging, then tourism became the biggest industry here. Now, there’s a mix of all of the above plus medical and other employers, but the cruise ships rule Ketchikan in the summertime. The town is quiet during the winter, but still charming. Please enjoy my photos of Creek Street and downtown Ketchikan.
Posted on February 17, 2017
I’ve always loved ravens. They are smart, savvy, and sassy at times. They can be found in many different places around the world, including most of Alaska. I love their beautiful black feathers, their intelligence, and their personality. This time of year, they pair off to start a new generation of ravens.
Here in Southcentral Alaska, we see them all year round, but even more so in winter, when they move into town for the easy meals. Why work hard in the frigid woods when you can pick up french fries and other goodies in a parking lot? That’s why most of my raven photos are taken in the winter, when I can catch them perching on a streetlight or grabbing something off the pavement. These are a few samples.
Posted on February 10, 2017
This post first appeared on the Romancing the Genres blog, where I have a monthly gig. Check out the blog at http://romancingthegenres.blogspot.com.
My Most Romantic Scene by Lynn Lovegreen
I have written five young adult historical romances. I have several favorites in my Gold Rush series, from my favorite first kiss to my favorite supporting character. But my favorite romantic scene is in my novel Gold Nuggets, because it shows true love.
When a critique partner read this scene, she said it showed that Henry really loved Charlotte because he was thinking of her needs, not his desires. I agree—one definition of true love is that it makes you the best person you can be for that person. You’re not just after the fulfillment of your own wishes. Henry is at his best here.
He knew now that he loved Charlotte. He wanted the best for her, and wanted to be the best person he could, for her. That felt like love. The hard part was deciding what role he could play in her life that would be better for her. Should he woo her and marry her? Would being his wife be right for her? Or was she better off pursuing her own life without him? Henry didn’t want her to feel tied down to him, but maybe marrying him would give her more choices to pursue her dreams without worry about finances.
Of course, this was assuming she’d want to marry him. She still wouldn’t look him in the eye. Was that her way of putting him off?
The train car hit a short gap in the rail and it jolted Charlotte awake. She looked around and met his eyes. She smiled.
This was as close to alone as they’d ever be, so he seized his chance. “Charlotte, I love you.”
Hope you find the perfect romance in your own life, however you define it. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Direct link to Gold Nuggets page:
Posted on February 3, 2017
I am spoiled by all the scenery I see on a regular basis here in Southcentral Alaska. I love winter because of the low angles of sunlight, the snow, and alpenglow.
Here are a few of my favorite photos from this winter. Enjoy!
Posted on January 27, 2017
As you may know, I declared this year the #FellowshipofWords year and I’m encouraging everyone to bring people together through books and the written word. (See the first post at http://tinyurl.com/jtjpamr.)
I am starting a teen book club at my local library, and am on the planning committee for an upcoming librarians’ conference. Those are the obvious ways I plan to use my volunteer time towards this goal. But I also find myself drawn into the political fray. I promise not to get too preachy here, but I am shocked at recent presidential attempts to curb scientists’ and others’ freedom of speech. This seems like a perfect time to consider how the words we use matter and revisit the concept of freedom of speech. We can’t have democracy or civil discussions without it.
Here are a few classic works that explore the idea of freedom of speech (book links in parentheses):
1984 by George Orwell
Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau (nonfiction essay)
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
I’ve read Fahrenheit 451 most recently, so I’ll use that one as an example. I was struck by the idea of life without independent thought and how drab it was. I loved the images at the end, where individuals took responsibility for passing on great worlds of literature to save civilization. (And I hope we never get to that stage. That’s why we need to have conversations about this now.) Ray Bradbury’s book is a great way to imagine a world where the lack of freedom of speech is taken to its logical conclusion. He shows how important this is. And of course there are other reasons why his book is brilliant, but I’m focusing on this theme for now.
What do you think about these books?
What other books would you recommend for this theme?
Any other thoughts on how books and writing can help us through this time?
Thanks, and keep reading and writing! Join the #FellowshipofWords !
Posted on January 20, 2017
The last few winters were mild in Southcentral Alaska. But this winter is colder, back to our historical norms. It’s hovering around -10 F (-23 C) here, which is nothing compared to temperatures in Alaska’s Arctic and Interior regions. That got me thinking about anecdotes of winter’s cold in Alaska.
The first one that comes to mind is a classic short story, “To Build a Fire” by Jack London (first published in Century Magazine in 1908). I shared it with hundreds of high school sophomores over the years. Here’s a passage that always got my students’ attention:
As he turned to go on, he spat speculatively. There was a sharp, explosive crackle that startled him. He spat again. And again. in the air, before it could fall to the snow, the spittle crackled. He knew that at fifty below spittle crackled on the snow, but this spittle had crackled in the air.
(Spit and other liquids really do that in extreme temperatures.) You can read the whole story at Story of the Week by the Library of America at
Of course, there are real, nonfiction, anecdotes, too. We have to do things a little differently when it’s really cold. For example, keeping cars and other vehicles running in extreme cold can be tricky. Sometimes block heaters aren’t enough. People put space heaters under their oil pans, to thaw the oil to start the engine. The part of the tires that touches the ground freezes flat at about -40, so tires go thud, thud, thud, until they warm up and get round again. Smart Alaskans keep survival gear, or at least extra warm clothing, in their cars in case they break down and have to walk to safety.
Also, the severe cold seems to suck all the moisture out of the air. The dry air creates more static electricity, so people touch wood before they touch a person or metal—you don’t want to blow out your TV in cold weather. And a tip for those who use an outhouse in winter: styrofoam is warmer than a wood seat, and it is worth it to store the seat in the cabin and bring it out with you when you need to use it.
I know that other parts of the world have their cold, too. But it’s part of the Alaskan mystique. It makes us feel proud, a little tougher than the average person, to go through it here. So please forgive our bragging when we get a cold winter.
Now I’ll go put on another layer of clothes, and be thankful I have a warm house to live in. Wishing you a warm and comfy day wherever you are!
Posted on January 13, 2017
Last year, I declared it A Good Year for the Arts, and posted about once a month about what I experienced in the arts that moved me and helped me understand other people. While I still think that is valuable (see http://lynnlovegreen.com/2016-a-good-year-for-the-arts-wrap-up/), I didn’t want to repeat myself online this year. So I declare 2017 the Fellowship of Words year.
Like J. R. R. Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, we all come from different places (geographically and ideologically) and look at life through different lenses. But as human beings, we have a lot in common, and reasons to work together. We need to become friends and neighbors again, to solve our problems and face the future as one. In order to do that, we need to remember our commonalities, our compassionate values, and make connections with each other again. We need fellowship.
I define fellowship as a friendly group of people connected by common interest. While many of us have a fellowship in one sense or another, I think we need more fellowships, more ways for people to connect with each other. Love wins over fear when we know our neighbors, when we see others as part of our community. And books are a natural way to create fellowship. Words are powerful. That’s something I can work with to create fellowship in my little corner of the world.
I plan to build fellowship by reaching out to others and bringing people together through books, in my personal and professional lives. For example, as an individual, I’ve committed to leading a teen book club at a local library. We’ll be sharing books with each other, and finding common ground in our discussions of those books. I also plan to participate in the planning committee for a librarians’ conference in my hometown, which will help school and public libraries continue their work to bring people together. As the ALA states, “Libraries are uniquely positioned at the heart of local, campus and school communities, enjoying public trust as repositories of knowledge and offering democratic access.” Libraries, and books in general, build fellowships that can lead to a better world.
In my writing career, I want to build fellowship, too. As James Baldwin said, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” I hope to show readers and fellow writers how much we have in common, across time and space and all the other things that seem to separate us. That is one of the themes in my writing, and will continue to be so. As I write and speak to groups, etc. this year, I will make a conscious effort to create fellowship with my words. It’s my small way of making the world a better place.
What will you do this year to create fellowship or bring people together? Let’s use this opportunity to make a difference, through books and the written word. Feel free to use my graphic (created with Canva.com with book photo by banholio via Morguefile) and the hashtag #FellowshipofWords to continue this conversation online.