Despite what you might gather from watching reality shows, Fox News pundits, or movies set in Alaska and filmed far from Alaska, we’re not all a bunch of goofballs, idiots, and aspiring world leaders. Alaska is at once a strangely urban and multi-cultural landscape, and at the same time a rugged and pristine wilderness. The place is infinitely complex in terms of politics, people, and possibility.
One area where Alaska is rapidly finding a different place on the map that doesn’t fit within the stereotypes of our state in any shape or form is literature. We’ve had a few amazing years of literature when it comes to writers and publishing. I won’t even attempt to list all the successes that we’ve had simply for fear of missing or leaving out a friend or four. From being the home to the amazing Alaska Quarterly Review and a Pulitzer finalist to a host of best-sellers and major poetry awards, we’ve been racking up the accolades here.
For me, one of the cool things has been to be in a position to meet and become friends with some of these amazing authors. Alaska is huge, but the writing community fairly small. I’ve had the great fortune to work on some teaching materials for Whiteby award winning author Seth Kantner many years back. Seth wrote Ordinary Wolves, arguably one of Alaska’s best novels, and a great collection of essays, Shopping for Porcupine. Through that project I met Seth, and since then he’s become the older brother I never had. We share stories, laughter, and often publishing pains — not to mention some pretty cool adventures in the wilderness.
For years I’d forward Seth photos of my sister’s artwork. She’s a commercial fisherwoman, teacher, parent, and painter in SW Alaska. She’s self-taught and talented as hell. Seth recognized her potential. Next thing I know, she’s illustrating a kid’s book he wrote and they had a publisher. The book is called Pup & Pokey, an endearing tale of the friendship between a wolf and a porcupine, and I’m really proud to have somehow been a part of this collaboration of two talented Alaskans: Seth Kantner and Beth Hill.
This is how the real Alaska works. Good people creating good art. Not everything is screwed up here, as any number of reality shows, bad movies, and political wannabes might have you believe.
Don Rearden grew up on the tundra of Southwestern Alaska, an experience that informed his critically acclaimed debut literary thriller The Raven’s Gift. While calling Don “a master of the cliffhanger” The Washington Post went on to praise the novel’s “hunter-hunted suspense of Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male, the post-apocalyptic bleakness of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and the haunting mysteriousness of The X-Files.”
Stay tuned for more posts from Don Rearden and his upcoming Alaskan thriller only from The Rogue Reader.