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 ( 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 (, 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,

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

I recently attended the Kachemak Bay Writer’s Conference ( 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

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 (, 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.

Posted on May 26, 2017

Baby Moose Time!

This is the time of year when baby moose and their mamas pop up all over Alaska, including towns and cities. So the internet is full of cute baby moose photos right now.

moose from Denali National Park and Preserve site

I haven’t had any moose in my yard yet, so I am posting other people’s pictures and some sites where you can find many, many more. Enjoy!


These photos are from the Denali National Park and Preserve

website (


moose from Denali National Park and Preserve site
moose from Denali National Park and Preserve site

Here are some more sources for baby moose pics:

Alaska Dispatch News Baby Moose gallery:


17 Best images about Baby moose on Pinterest:


Moose Calf Pictures and Images from gettyimages:

Posted on May 19, 2017

Come write with us in Alaska!

You already know Alaska is a beautiful place to live or visit. Maybe you’ve heard about our great writing organizations. But you may not know how many opportunities we have for writers, especially in the summer. Here’s a list for you:

North Words Writers Symposium will be May 31-June 3, 2017 in Skagway, Alaska. This year’s keynote speaker is world world travel and fiction writer Paul Theroux. A maximum of 50 registrants at the 2017 North Words Symposium will also engage with a faculty of Alaskan writers that includes John Straley, Sherry Simpson, Deb Vanasse, Tom Kizzia, Andy Hall, and Lenora Bell. Learn more at

2017 Kachemak Bay Writers Conference will occur June 9-13, 2017 in Homer, Alaska—“a spectacular combination of first-rate faculty, true camaraderie, and dazzling scenery.” The keynote speaker will be Jane Smiley, and the faculty also includes Alaskan authors, and national editors and agents. See the site at

The Wrangell Mountains Center presents Writing on the River: RiverSong from July 26-31, 2017, a six-day, five-night adventure in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. This year’s workshop will feature river sprite and musical poet David Grimes, songwriter and journalist Brad Warren, and workshop director Nancy Cook. Together we will explore the ways wilderness can help inspire songs, stories, poems, and essays. Space is limited to nine student writers/ songwriters. More info at

The vision of author Dana Stabenow, Storyknife Writers Retreat in Homer seeks to support women writers by providing uninterrupted time for development of their craft. When complete Storyknife Writers Retreat will have six cabins and host multiple residencies throughout the year. Storyknife is seeking funding for the remaining three cabins as well as the infrastructure, furnishings, and landscape development, but this year, three cabins are available. To apply or donate, see

49 Writers has a Literary Roundup on their blog every other weekend, and that’s a great place to learn about what’s going on year-round. Check out

Posted on May 12, 2017

Reinventing Myself

This was first posted on Romancing the Genres on May 11, 2017. I have a regular gig there on the second Thursday of the month, and you’ll find many great posts by authors from all over the world there. Check it out at

I have been reinventing myself over the past year, as I am at an in-between stage professionally and personally. My Gold Rush books are out of print, and I’m looking for an agent for my World War II series. Plus, I’m in the process of moving to a new house. And outside of that, I’ve discovered a new role for myself, as an activist in my community. It seems like the right time to stand up for what I believe in, especially if it gives a voice to people who don’t have a strong voice in our current system.

So, what have I learned from this?

1. Change is scary.

Many of the problems I’ve experienced in the last year have to do with reactions to change. Sometimes I’m the one who is having trouble adjusting, and sometimes it’s other people, but change is hard, and sometimes downright scary. Most of us are challenged by new circumstances. It’s good to acknowledge that and roll with it.

2. We are stronger than we think.

I’ve done a lot of things I didn’t know I could. Whether it’s physical or mental, I’ve found I can do more and deal with more than I realized. And I’ve been in groups where collectively we’ve helped each other grow in strength. That is powerful!

3. It’s easier to be fearless when it’s about something bigger than ourselves.

I can barge into a state senator’s office to start a conversation about a bill without worrying about what she’ll think of me—because it’s not about me. It’s about our kids and our state, and that’s more important than silly old me. It’s worth a few rejections, if it helps the cause. 

4. People will either applaud new roles and growth, or not. 

I’m blessed to have loved ones who encourage me, but I can’t expect everyone to do so. It goes back to #1—some people are threatened by change. They won’t like the new me, and I can’t do much about that except try not to get too caught up in others’ opinions.

 5. Balance is important.

I’ve learned I can’t do anyone else any good if I don’t take care of myself first. I need to find a balance between saving the world and saving myself. 

I hope these things will help you in your own reinvention. Carry on and become the best person you can be! 🙂

Posted on May 4, 2017

May the 4th be with you!

Star Wars Day—May the 4th be with you!

I’ve been a huge Star Wars fan since I saw the first movie as a teen. So in honor of Star Wars Day (May 4th, as in May the 4th be with you), here are a few Star Wars tidbits.


The official Star Wars website has a Star Wars Day page with deals and events:


Wookieepedia shows important events that happened on this day:


And TBS is showing the original six movies today:

May the Force be with you, always.

Posted on April 28, 2017

Alaska State Capitol, Juneau

I had the opportunity to go to Juneau and talk with legislators about a bill I support. Our capitol is a beautiful building we are proud of. The marble columns out front are from Alaska’s Prince of Wales Island. Inside, its Art Deco lighting and Alaskan art and historical photos add a rare touch of elegance in our frontier-minded state.

Here are a few photos for you:

Alaska Capitol bldg 1

Alaska Capitol bldg 2


Alaska Capitol bldg 3

Alaska Capitol bldg 4













Learn more at the Alaska Legislative website at

Posted on April 21, 2017

4th Avenue Theatre, Anchorage AK

I have written about the 4th Avenue Theatre a couple times, but it is appropriate to do so now for two reasons: the Alaska Historical Commission is holding a special meeting concerning this beautiful historic building next Monday, April 24 (9-11 am at the BP Energy Center in Anchorage), and there is a 70th anniversary celebration planned in downtown Anchorage on May 27-29 (see


Here is the post I wrote in September of last year:



The National Trust for Historic Preservation is encouraging us to join #thisplacematters during Preservation Month, September 2016. The idea is to post a photo of your favorite historic place, and tell about places that matter to you. (See more at


I have been fortunate to have many historic places in my life in Alaska. But the one that stands out for me personally is the 4th Avenue Theatre in downtown Anchorage. I posted about it here last May (


Cap Lathrop, a prominent Alaskan, started construction of the movie theater in 1941, but World War II postponed the project, and it was completed in 1947. It is also known as the Lathrop Building, in his honor. Designed in Art Deco style by B.Marcus Priteca in association with architect A. A. Porreca, it was the most opulent building in town, especially in a town that is not known for its artistic sensibility. I love the artwork inside the building, which no one gets to see anymore, so here are some old photos from the Library of Congress:



4th Avenue Theatre, Anchorage

4th Avenue Theatre, Anchorage





I have many happy memories of the theatre. I saw movies there as I was growing up, and my first date with my husband was there.


It is owned by a private company and the future plans for the building are up in the air. I hope that having the 4th Avenue Theatre on the Alaska Association for Historic Preservation’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Properties list and featured in #thisplacematters will help preserve it for the next generation.


If you’re interested in learning more about the 4th Avenue Theatre or the list, you can look at the AAHP’s website at Also, check out the Facebook group Save the 4th Avenue Theatre at


Do you have a special historic place in your life? Then please participate in #thisplacematters.