Posted on August 11, 2017

Back to School Days

This was originally posted at my regular gig for Romancing the Genres. Check out their blog at https://romancingthegenres.blogspot.com. 

I loved school as a kid—I started telling people I was going to be a teacher in first or second grade. And I did become a teacher, so I continued going to school most of my life. August was always an exciting time, as I thought about going back to school and what great things might be in store.

Now that I’m retired, the heady anticipation of this time of year is gone. But I still love back to school sales. As a writer, I’m still attracted to all those notebooks and pens and such. 

I don’t need to buy much for myself. So I donate to a school supply drive. It’s a win-win situation, where I can give in to retail temptation and a student or two gets fun school supplies to start the year.

I encourage you to do the same. Check your local school or community group to find a school supply drive, and donate a little or a lot. Happy back to school days, whether you’re going back to school yourself, sending a child to school, or it’s a just fond memory!

back to school sale by Lynn Lovegreen

 

Posted on August 4, 2017

Togo, a Canine Hero

I recently attended the Polar Bear Garden exhibit at the Anchorage Museum. It was full of interesting things that connect Alaska and Russia. As I entered the section about dogs, I had the pleasant sensation of meeting an old friend in person for the first time: Togo was there.

I first heard of Togo thanks to the Girl Scouts. Our closest overnight camp was called Togowoods, and it was my happy home away from home every summer for many years. We learned about Togo and how he saved little children, just like we learned boating and outdoor cooking and lashing. It was a big part of my life when I was growing up. I still recall the black and white photo of Togo that is displayed in the main lodge. 

In case you didn’t camp at Togowoods, here’s a little bio for you: Togo was the lead dog of famed musher Leonhard Seppala. Togo was small, mischievous, and sickly as a puppy, so Seppala gave the dog away, but Togo jumped through a window and ran several miles home to him. That impressed Seppala, so he kept him, and Togo began sled dog training. Togo became his lead dog and took his team on what is sometimes called the Great Race of Mercy. In January of 1925, the town of Nome was in the midst of a diphtheria epidemic. People were dying, and the closest antitoxin serum was in Anchorage. While they were able to take it by train to Nenana, it had to go by dog sled on the mail route from Nenana to Nome, about 670 miles in the middle of winter. Hardy mushers and teams took the serum in relays, doing their best to keep the serum warm enough to stay usable. In the longest leg of the journey, Seppala, Togo and their team ran 170 miles, at temperatures down to minus 30 degrees F, with wind chills down to -81. The serum arrived in time to save many lives.

 

 

Togo by Lynn Lovegreen 1

 

 

As the Togowoods song says,

Togo helped to save the town of Nome

Long ago one winter cold,

Led his team across the frozen day

One small dog so brave and bold.

 

 

Flash forward forty-something years from my introduction to him, I got to see the real Togo (thanks to a taxidermist). He may be small and unimposing to look at, but there’s something about him—he was all heart.

 

 

Togo by Lynn Lovegreen 2

 

 

 

Thank goodness Togo and his canine and human colleagues were, so they could end the diphtheria epidemic and land in the annals of Alaska history.

Posted on July 27, 2017

Gardening in Alaska

I have a new vegetable garden this year. It’s bigger than I need, so I am only using part of it as a test case this year to see what grows and what doesn’t like the new spot. So far, the lettuce, broccoli, and collards seem to quite happy. 

garden 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

garden 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cole crops often do well in Alaska due to the cool temperatures, but many vegetables and flowers like the long summer days. My herbs and rhubarb look happy, too! Next year, I will branch out of my comfort zone and plant more varieties.

garden 3

 

 

 

 

 

garden 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While some other gardeners have to deal with deer, here we hope the moose don’t eat everything. Knock on wood, the tall enclosure seems to be working so far. Or maybe we just haven’t had any moose come through lately–time will tell.

I have donated one batch of veggies, and plan to take more down to the local soup kitchen soon. I encourage all you gardeners out there to do the same. Check out Plant a Row for the Hungry for more ideas at http://www.gardenwriters.org/Par/index.html.

 

Posted on July 14, 2017

Midnight Sun Cover Contest 2017

The Alaska chapter of the Romance Writers of America (AKRWA) is hosting a contest!

 

Do you have a stellar cover that catches the eye and draws the reader in? 

The Midnight Sun Cover Contest 2017 is a chance for published authors to win some great prizes! 

Every entry will be on printed, visual display to over 150 voracious readers at the 2017 AWG Writer’s Conference who will vote for the top entries!

(And perhaps buy your books!)

 

WHO CAN ENTER: Any published author can enter their book cover for a romance novel, novella, or short story published prior to August 30, 2017, either electronically or in print, in the United States for the first time.

WHEN IS THE DEADLINE? The deadline for submissions is midnight (Alaska Standard Time) on September 1, 2017.

JUDGING: All entries will be placed on prominent display in printed format at the Alaska Writer’s Guild (AWG) 2017 Conference, co-sponsored by AKRWA. Conference attendees and presenters (approximately 150) will select first-round entries via ballot box. Then trained judges will select the winners from the top ten entries selected at the Alaska Writer’s Guild Conference. Final judging will occur at the annual AKRWA Writing Retreat at the end of September. The winner will be announced in early October.

GRAND PRIZE WINNER:  This contest seeks a single, most compelling cover. In addition, Honorable Mentions will be awarded at the final judges’ discretion in the following categories: Sweetest Romance, Best Male, Best Female, Sexiest Couple, Best Historical, Most Whimsical, Best Paranormal/Sci-fi/Fantasy, Best Romantic Suspense, Best Young Adult, and Best Contemporary.

PRIZES: The Finalists and Honorable Mention covers will be published on the AKRWA website with the Grand Prize winning cover receiving prime location. The Grand Prize winner will also be announced on the Alaska Writer’s Guild website. In addition, the Grand Prize winner will receive a 3-week NetGalley subscription (date to be determined by availability at time of announcement), a gorgeous aluminum print of their winning cover, and an electronic badge that can be placed on book covers, websites, or anywhere the winner deems appropriate.

For more details, see the contest page on AKRWA’s website at http://www.akrwa.com/contest.html.

 

Good luck! 😉

Posted on July 7, 2017

#FellowshipofWords: Listening and the World Café

If you’re not familiar with my #FellowshipofWords idea, you may want to read my original blog post at http://tinyurl.com/jtjpamr.

I was reading a recent YALSA blog post, “Creating Tomorrow’s Civic Leaders by Learning  to be Civically Engaged Today” (http://yalsa.ala.org/blog/2017/07/03/yals-summer-2017-resources-creating-tomorrows-civic-leaders-by-learning-to-be-civically-engaged-today/) and it had a reference to the World Café (http://www.theworldcafe.com). Intrigued, I clicked on their website and found a whole international community I didn’t know about. Like my original concept of the #FellowshipofWords, the World Café uses words, in this case dialogue, to build community. In the History tab, they describe the first series of small group conversations that allowed people to share ideas and deepen connections and ideas (http://www.theworldcafe.com/about-us/history/). They went on to create an approach that others can use for the same effect. Their 7 Key Concepts and Design Principles are too complex for me to sum up quickly, so I encourage you to read them on your own. But I’ll quote one here:

Key Concept 6) Listen together for Patterns and Insights

Listening is a gift we give to one another. The quality of our listening is perhaps the most important factor determining the success of a Café. Through practicing shared listening and paying attention to themes, patterns and insights, we begin to sense a connection to the larger whole. Encourage people to listen for what is not being spoken along with what is being shared.

(from http://www.theworldcafe.com/key-concepts-resources/design-principles/)

This is an important concept, and what I think is missing from much of our communication nowadays. We need to listen to each other in order to make connections, in ideas and with people. It’s a simple yet difficult thing to do. We are all human, and many of us are more interested in vocalizing our ideas than we are in learning about others’. But we can only learn and think deeply if we really listen to people.

My resolution for the rest of this year is to try to speak less and listen more. Maybe then I can pick up on patterns and insights and really contribute to the conversations I have with others. It’s one way I can add to the #FellowshipofWords.

How are things going with you in your own search for fellowship this year? Please feel free to comment on this post.

Posted on June 30, 2017

Summer Flowers in Alaska

I love Alaskan summers–the long days, the hiking and fishing, the ability to go out without a coat and boots! But one of the best parts of our summer is the flowers. Here are a few to enjoy!

Denali flower 1Denali flower 2 wild roseslupineSiberian irises

Posted on June 23, 2017

Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Field

I was scrolling through the Alaska Historical Society’s “This Month in Alaska History” list (http://alaskahistoricalsociety.org/discover-alaska/this-month-in-alaska-history/) for something I haven’t blogged about yet, and noticed this item:

June 27, 1940 – Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Field were activated near Anchorage.

Of course, looking at the date you can assume this occurred as the United States was getting ready for possible entry into World War II, and you’d be right about that. Many military leaders and others realized that our proximity to Asia would make Alaska a good location for launching our military forces, and create a need for defense here.

According to My Base Guide (http://www.mybaseguide.com/joint_bases/6-1151/joint_base_elmendorf_richardson_history_of_the_military), construction of the Fort Richardson airfield began on June 8, 1940 (Richardson after Wilds P. Richardson, who came to Alaska at the turn of the century to scout locations and survey roads and became the head of the Alaska Roads Commission). The first Army Air Corps personnel arrived in August of that year. On Nov. 12, 1940, the War Department formally designated it Fort Richardson. “The air facilities and flying field on the post were named Elmendorf Field in honor of Capt. Hugh M. Elmendorf, who was killed in 1933 while flight testing an experimental fighter, the Consolidated Y1P-25, near Wright Field, Ohio. Though he apparently had no tangible ties to Alaska, Elmendorf was a contemporary and friend of many of the leading Army Air Forces commanders before the war and would have doubtless figured prominently in the command hierarchy.” 

Fort Richardson was a key base for the Eleventh Air Force, which defended Alaska in the Aleutian Campaign and other important missions during the war. It was also one reason that Anchorage grew from a sleepy little town to a boomtown during the war. Later, Elmendorf Field became Elmendorf Air Force Base. Now the two are combined as JBER, Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson.

The place has personal significance to me, as well. I grew up on Fort Richardson, since my dad was stationed there when I was six, and extended his tour so most of my elementary school years were spent there. Growing up on Fort Rich was like living in a small town, where everyone looked out for each other and there were always kids nearby to play with. Plus, we were in Alaska, so we had the mountains, moose, and all, too. No wonder we stayed!

 

Fort Richardson postcard: By Jim Balog – Scanned from own archive, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22428731

Posted on June 15, 2017

#FellowshipofWords — Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference 2017

As you may know, I declared this the #FellowshipofWords year, and I’m exploring how words and books can bring us together. (See my first blog post on this topic at http://tinyurl.com/jtjpamr.)

I recently attended the Kachemak Bay Writer’s Conference (http://sites.kpc.alaska.edu/writersconf/) in Homer, AK. I always enjoy the camaraderie and inspiration from this conference, and this year was no exception. But this time, several of the speakers reflected on themes that echo the #FellowshipofWords.

The panel discussion on “Writing and Empathy—Making the Connection” was excellent. Moderator Peggy Shumaker and panelists Kate Carrol de Gutes, Thomas Larson, Linda Martin, and Don Rearden had a lot to say on the subject. What struck me was how readers find more empathy when reading about fictional characters, and writers also do as they create characters and find ways to understand them. For example, Kate said our work resonates when it has empathy, connecting with emotion beneath the experience. Don said writers help readers see things that couldn’t before or see things in a new way. Good food for thought there.

I met one great writer who explores her characters with empathy: Nina McConigley. Her short stories in Cowboys and East Indians show us a modern, more diverse side of the West. As the PEN Judges’ Citation states, “In Cowboys and East Indians, Nina McConigley gives us Wyoming precisely the way we expect it—in landscape, sky, and animal life—and in ways we don’t.” Learn more about Nina and her work at http://ninamcconigley.com.

May we all read and write books that build our #FellowshipofWords. As Kate Carrol de Gutes put it, “writing that way is what will save us.”  

Posted on June 9, 2017

Homer, Alaska and the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference 2017

I am looking forward to attending the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference this weekend. It’s always a highlight of my writing year. The information and inspiration can’t be beat. There’s also an interesting history of the bay and Homer, AK.

Homer is the biggest settlement on the bay. The site was occasionally used as a camp by early Alutiiq Indians. The town was founded by the Cook Inlet Coal Fields Company when they built a coal mine, dock, town and railroad in the 1890s.  It may be best known as the “End of the Road” of Tom Bodett fame. (Thank you, Tom!)

The town was named for Homer Pennock, a gold mining promoter who built living quarters for his men on Homer Spit, a thin line of land that juts into the bay. That same spit is now home to the small boat harbor, restaurants, shops, and other amenities for the fishing and tourism folks that now make up most of the town’s business. The beauty, art and recreation also draw Alaskans to the area, including my friend, author Jennifer Bernard. 🙂

The Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference (http://writersconference.homer.alaska.edu), sponsored by the University of Alaska’s Kachemak Bay Campus, is held at Lands End Resort at the end of the spit. The most challenging thing for participants is to ignore the scenery outside the windows and focus on the speakers and our fellow writers in the workshops. The view is magnificent!

This year, the keynote speaker is novelist Jane Smiley. The faculty includes writers and other experts from Alaska and other parts of the world. See more details at the website, and I hope to see you there!

Posted on June 2, 2017

Traveling Memories, and Romance–Reprise

Traveling Memories, and Romance—Reprise

My husband and I just celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary. I am so thankful to have a real partner in life, and here’s “Traveling Memories, and Romance” (first published October 17, 2014) to give you a snapshot of our marriage.

I’ve been traveling with my husband for the last four weeks. If you follow me on social media, you probably know about the Alcan part of the trip. We also drove through parts of Canada and the United States to put the bus to bed for the winter, visited with friends and relatives en route, and attended a reunion in California. Good thing we’re great companions for each other—that’s a long time living in close quarters! But the point is, we did fine and had some lovely moments. Here are a few:

Walking around the remains of the old bridge at the Sikanni Chief River in British Columbia. (The photo is at the interpretive sign for the bridge.)

Sipping beer in a pub in Alberta, discussing why my mother had a crush on Joe Montana.

Staying up late talking with our friends in Minnesota, each person adding an element to the conversation.

Showing the bus to his cousin’s 6-year-old son. My husband was almost as enthused as he was.

Talking with people at my husband’s high school reunion, watching people listen to and enjoy his stories.

When people ask me why I write romance, I give one of several answers, depending on the person and the occasion. But one of the main reasons is my marriage. I am so lucky to be married to the same person for thirty years and still have a romantic partnership with him. I want to share this good feeling with others. Thanks, Darlin’. It was a wonderful trip, and I am glad to be home with you.