Alaska Book Week 2015: the Alaska Writing Community
I’ve been celebrating Alaska Book Week 2015 by interviewing one of my favorite Alaskan author DeNise Woodbury last Friday (http://www.lynnlovegreen.com/?p=1829), featuring Alaskan writers on Twitter (@lynnlovegreen), and posting a Denali video on my YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuJLYG6E-yU). Today, I’ll tell you a bit about my experience in the great Alaskan writing community.
I first became part of a writing community through the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference (http://writersconf.kpc.alaska.edu) in Homer, Alaska. I started going to the conference when I was an English teacher, before I considered myself a “real” writer. But that didn’t matter—I was included as part of the group. It’s still a great place to meet writers of all genres and styles, and learn from fabulous presenters. As time went on and I went to more of these conferences over the years, I became more confident in my writing.
I wrote my first book through NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2003. After that, I wanted to turn my 50,000 rambling words into a decent novel. I met with the awesome editor Rebecca Goodrich, who gave me some great feedback and recommended I join AKRWA. That was one of the best suggestions I’ve ever received.
AKRWA is the Alaska chapter of Romance Writers of America (http://www.akrwa.com). AKRWA has published and unpublished writers, and includes writers of mainstream, paranormal, scifi, young adult, fantasy and more subgenres of romance. All the members have two things in common: a passion for writing and a desire to help fellow writers. I went to hours of critiques, craft talks, and more—and I learned how to write a real novel. In the process, I found my writing sisters. I still turn to my friends in this group whether I have a milestone to celebrate or a problem to overcome. I can’t imagine my life without them.
Another Alaskan group that has been a big influence is 49 Writers (http://49writers.blogspot.com). They are relatively new, having recently celebrated their fifth anniversary. 49 Writers started as a blog and grew into a writing group offering workshops and events. I still enjoy the blog, even had the opportunity to make guest posts, and have participated in several activities. I met authors like Andromeda Romano-Lax, Deb Vanasse, and Don Rearden, who have been role models, teachers, and cheerleaders for me. Many of them also belong to another Alaskan writing community, the North Words Writers Symposium.
To be precise, North Words (http://nwwriterss.com) is only part Alaskan—it’s also Canadian. The symposium takes place in Skagway each summer. I was able to attend last year, and found the participants just as friendly and knowledgable as 49 Writers. The workshops and informal conversations were inspiring and informative, and again, everyone is respected as a fellow writer, no matter what you write or if you’ve been published or not.
The last Alaskan writing group I recommend is the Alaska chapter of SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, http://alaska.scbwi.org). They also welcome both new and veteran writers, and their daytime critique group has been a crucial part of my draft and revision process. A few members have become good friends, too. We’re all in this together as we navigate our writing journeys.
Overall, I am lucky to be a writer in Alaska. There are groups and individuals to learn from and hang out with. I feel valued and appreciated, and try to give back to other writers so they can feel the same. Perhaps our frontier traditions and isolation from the rest of the country make it easier for us to reach out to each other. But I’d like to think that all writers can find their tribe, their local writing group, if they look around. That is my wish for you, too.