A mix of titles currently on my shelves.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Finding Gold

Matthew Lasley’s first picture book is Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story, illustrated by Jacob Souva and published by Alaska Northwest Books in 2019. This whimsical tale manages to tell an entertaining story from the point of view of a gold pan (“call me Pan for short”) while also conveying basic information about prospecting for gold — a topic almost non-existent in children’s picture books.

Pedro's Pan: A Gold Rush Story
by Matthew Lasley, illustrated by Jacob Souva

Above all, Pedro's Pan is fun. Lasley focuses on telling a simple story for ages four to seven about the challenges and joys of a pan and his man in the wilderness. Parents and children may read the story solely for pleasure, while educators may use it as a springboard to spark interest in geology and to explore the social, political, and environmental repercussions surrounding Gold Rush history in Alaska and elsewhere.

Thanks to a well-written text, imaginative illustrations, and thoughtful pacing, the personalities of both Pan and his prospecting partner Pedro come to life as they search for gold. It is Pan, however, that especially shines. In Lasley’s story, Pan is more than a tool; he is a committed partner and companion who helps Pedro in unexpected ways and worries about letting Pedro down.

"On sunny days I shade Pedro's eyes.
On rainy days I keep his head dry."

Lasley smoothly incorporates basic information and vocabulary about prospecting into the story, including quartz, black sand, fool’s gold (iron pyrite), and panning. Pan’s voice is straightforward and engaging, with a touch of humor that both kids and adults can appreciate.

“What is it, Pedro? Do you see
a moose? Is it a bear? Did a
mosquito fly up your nose?"

Souva’s illustrations extend and complement the text with verve. Unlike the time-worn, stodgy historical images of Gold Rush prospectors we’re familiar with, Pedro verges on the cartoonish — in a contemporary, energetic way. True to prospector form, he still wears suspenders, patched jeans, and what I presume is a button-down union suit. But Souva’s style — a mix of what might be called naive with digital sophistication — gives a feeling of bringing the past into today. The red-flannel-patterned endpapers add a fitting touch.

Pedro’s Pan includes a brief note on Felix Pedro, a real-life Italian emigrant and prospector whose discovery initiated a second gold rush and the founding of Fairbanks, Alaska. Lasley also gives directions on “How to Pan for Gold” and “Gold Facts.” From his bio, we learn that Lasley grew up in an Alaskan gold-mining family and currently lives in Anchorage, where he teaches first grade.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Catching Up

It’s past time to highlight some of the new Alaska and northern books I’ve seen this past year. First up:

Fighter in Velvet Gloves
by Annie Boochever with Roy Peratrovich Jr.

At long last we have a biography about Elizabeth Peratrovich!

Fighter in Velvet Gloves: Alaska Civil Rights Hero Elizabeth Peratrovich, by Annie Boochever with Roy Peratrovich Jr., documents the life and work of this exceptional Tlingit woman. Her tireless efforts to end discrimination against Alaska Natives contributed significantly to passage of the first anti-discrimination law in the United States, right here in Alaska.

Thanks to Boochever, who grew up in Juneau (the setting for much of the book) and Roy Peratrovich Jr., the son of Elizabeth and her husband Roy, we now have an accurate historical account of Peratrovich’s life and legacy.

On February 16, 1945 Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act became law in what was then the territory of Alaska, a notable feat when we consider that it took nineteen more years for the U.S. Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act. While the work of Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich, along with many others, was instrumental in creating change, Elizabeth’s eloquent speech before the Territorial Legislature was a decisive factor in striking this legal victory against discrimination. Boochever writes, “This book celebrates all their efforts by telling the story of a woman who exemplified courage and commitment throughout her life.”

Fighter in Velvet Gloves is published by Snowy Owl Books/University of Alaska Press for a teen audience “and their families.” Though the format of the book lacks the graphic sophistication that’s become prevalent among YA nonfiction produced by the Big Five publishers, Fighter is meticulously researched and respectfully written to honor the values of Tlingit traditions. The text includes Tlingit words and names, black-and-white photos, a timeline, bibliography, glossary, and notes by both authors. It sheds light on historical struggles for equality and justice that adults, as well as young people, may not be aware of. Fighter in Velvet Gloves may well inspire readers to make a difference, too.

$1 Coin Honoring
Elizabeth Peratrovich
Image: US Mint
In 2020 the U.S. Mint will issue a $1 coin with her image.
In 1988 the Alaska Legislature declared February 16 “Elizabeth Peratrovich Day” in honor of her accomplishments.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

How Did Raven Get That Crooked Nose?

How Raven Got His Crooked Nose: An Alaskan Dena’ina Fable is my new favorite Alaskan picture book. To begin with, it’s a Raven tale, complete with tomfoolery, transformation, and tricksterism. That’s a great start but the best news is that it’s wonderfully told by Barbara and Ethan Atwater, skillfully illustrated by Mindy Dwyer, and thoughtfully designed by the team at Alaska Northwest Books.

How Raven Got His Crooked Nose -- Cover

Put all together, the book’s creators have accomplished no easy task — a modern retelling of a traditional Dena'ina Athabascan tale that honors the story and makes it accessible to children both within and outside of the culture it comes from.

This is a teaching tale, as well as a story-within-a-story. Scenes with a modern-day Dena’ina Grandmother and Granddaughter working at typical subsistence activities (berry picking, harvesting salmon) alternate with the sukdu, or story, of how Raven’s nose became crooked. Artistic style and color palette help clarify the two. Dwyer’s illustrations skillfully weave back and forth between the Raven tale and the contemporary storytelling setting.

Grandmother and Granddaughter with blueberries

Scenes with Grandmother and Granddaughter are portrayed realistically, with a color palette taken from the natural word and art that bleeds to the edges of the page, while Raven’s world is shown with more stylized representation. Dwyer also employs frames to contain the Raven tale within the larger story and uses graphic novel-style techniques. Panels accelerate the sense of action and occasional first-person speech bubbles break the narrative in the same way an oral storyteller may interject as narrator or speak a character’s part.

Where was his nose?

This synthesis of traditional and modern storytelling techniques works well to preserve the tone of the original oral tale, with its back-and-forth between teller and listener — or in this case, reader — and transformational elements, such as when Raven turns into a man, while speaking to readers of the 21st century.

Additionally, the authors skillfully incorporate Dena’ina words into the text, helpfully and unobtrusively including side notes with pronunciation and very brief definitions. Back matter includes a note with information about Alaskan Dena’ina people, their stories, and culture, as well as a brief glossary of Dena’ina words used in the text and a bibliography for further reading.

Chida finds Raven's nose

The tellers of this story, Barbara Jacko Atwater and her son Ethan Jacko Atwater, have a personal connection to it. Her great uncle Walter Johnson, a respected Dena’ina elder, told them the story, among others, with the instruction to “go and tell this story in your own way.” Readers in Alaska and elsewhere can be glad they’ve taken his direction to heart. As they say in their Dedication (or “edication,” since Raven the trickster has playfully flown off with the “D”!) Chin’an, thank you, for sharing this story.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

No Penguins Here! Inhabit Media's "Animals Illustrated."

Illustrated by Ben Shannon
A pet peeve of children’s librarians in Alaska is the appearance of penguins in books about the North or northern animals. Penguins — as we all know, right? — live in the southern hemisphere. In the northern hemisphere we have puffins. And yet we continue to see penguins hanging out with walrus or floating on icebergs with polar bears in children’s books. *Sigh*

So — it was with great joy that I recently discovered Inhabit Media’s “Animals Illustrated,” a series featuring 24-page, beautifully illustrated and factually accurate books for young readers about animals of the Arctic.

Illustrated by Kagan McLeod

Titles thus far include “Walrus,” “Muskox,” “Narwhal,” and “Polar Bear,” with “Bowhead Whale” forthcoming.

Designed for the youngest readers, each book features nine to ten chapters of one to four pages each. Text is brief with an emphasis on basic and interesting facts.

Muskox skeleton.
Fully illustrated, each page gently informs with details about the range, skeleton, diet, babies, predators, and more of each animal, including a wonderful section on “Traditional Uses.”

Endpapers from "Walrus."

The endpapers, as well, use illustrations to full effect to convey information.

Illustrated by Hwei Lim
Design of the series is spot-on, with attractive covers and lay-out that is both consistent throughout the series and age-appropriate for conveying information visually and textually. The table of contents gives a clear sense of organization. The illustrations are both scientifically accurate, engaging, and beautiful. One improvement I could suggest is a map to complement the section on Range.

Notes about the authors and illustrators add to the authenticity of the books, in particular giving a sense of the connection between the authors and the environment of their subjects. Solomon Awa (Narwhal) was born in a sod house near Igloolik and teaches traditional knowledge at Nunavut Arctic College. 

Illustrated by Danny
Allen Niptanatiak (Muskox) “is a hunter and trapper from Kugluktuk, Nunavut.”  Herve Paniaq (Walrus) “is an elder from Igloolik, Nunavut.” And William Flaherty (Polar Bear) is a conservation officer and hunter who lives in Iquluit, Nunavut.

This attention to place is purposeful. According to their website, Inhabit Media is “an Inuit-owned publishing company, with our head office located in Iqaluit, Nunavut. To our knowledge we are the only independent publishing company located in the Canadian Arctic.” Their mission is to “preserve and promote the stories, knowledge and talent of Inuit and northern Canada.”

Forthcoming December
Though the focus of this series is the Canadian Arctic, the information contained and the quality of its conveyance makes it a useful resource for readers, teachers, and librarians in Alaska and beyond. The attention to interesting details, accuracy, visual design, and authenticity sets this series apart for interest and excellence.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Little Whale

Little Whale by Roy A. Peratrovich, Jr. melds family history with imagination in this slim chapter book about 10-year-old Kéet, a young Tlingit boy who accompanies his father on a 200-mile journey by canoe from present-day Sitka to Ketchikan. Though fiction, the story is based on a voyage taken by Peratrovich’s Tlingit grandfather, Andrew Wanamaker, as a young child.

The book begins with a map of their route, a glossary of eight “words to know,” and an introduction that gives background information on the Tlingit people and their way of life, effectively setting the stage for the story that follows. The tale is thus able to unfold naturally, without excessive interruptions for explanations that would be necessary for young readers unfamiliar with Tlingit culture and Southeastern Alaska.

Kéet, whose name means “Killer Whale” in Tlingit, is the youngest and smallest member of his family. Normally left behind while his father and brothers hunt and fish, Kéet is thrilled when one morning his father takes him halibut fishing. On that excursion, they discover and successfully free a baby whale caught in a strange net, probably belonging to the “pale people” who have begun to appear in Tlingit country. Shortly after this brave and compassionate act, Kéet stows away in his father’s canoe, secretly joining a large party of men led by his father on a mission to seek recompense for a wrong committed by a member of the Ketchikan clan. Suffice to say, adventures involving weather, whales, and their reception in Ketchikan ensue.

Little Whale by Roy A. Peratrovich, Jr.
Published 2016, Snowy Owl Books
University of Alaska Press

While most of the story is told in a straightforward narrative style, one chapter contains an element of the fantastic, which Peratrovich identifies in his author’s note at the end of the book as his own embellishment.

Much of the interest of the story is found in the details of daily life, customs, tools, language, and attitudes among the Tlingit of that place and time. Peratrovich, who is the son of renowned Alaska Native civil rights leaders Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich, thanks noted Tlingit scholar Rosita Worl for authenticating his inclusion of Tlingit words and customs. Blurbs by Dr. Worl and Tlingit leader Randy Wanamaker further support the high level of authenticity found in both the text and the drawings. 

Peratrovich’s drawings enhance the story, with most chapters containing one black-and-white spot illustration. While several of the drawings would benefit from cleaner lines and better contrast, the details they depict are informative and interesting.

Little Whale is a valuable addition to the small body of authentic literature for children about Tlingit people and culture. While the book has an educational tone, the author’s storytelling style is strong enough to convey a tale that should be of interest to most children ages eight to ten. As well, it offers numerous possibilities for discussion about topics such as the impacts of Western colonization upon Alaska Natives, subsistence living, settlement of disputes, survival at sea, and values such as courage, compassion, and respect. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

An Almost-True Alaskan Adventure

A recent picture book by Erin McKittrick and illustrator Valise Higman, My Coyote Nose and Ptarmigan Toes, melds nature and imagination in a child’s-eye view of a family’s outdoor adventures.

McKittrick, who has authored three books for adults, was inspired to write her first picture book while on a family expedition. Her son coped with the rigors of an unexpected blizzard in an unusual way: he pretended to be a wild, wooly mammoth, impervious to snow and cold. The result is an “almost-true Alaskan adventure” in verse about the joys and challenges of wilderness backpacking, boating, and camping. The young narrator imagines himself as numerous wild animals — the coyote and ptarmigan of the title, as well as a beaver, sparrow, bear, mountain goat, and others — each suitable for adapting to a specific challenge on the family’s journey.

Published by Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch Books, 2016

Higman fills black, cut-paper silhouettes with colored paper and paint to create bright, bold illustrations with texture, depth, and definition. The pictures give a feeling reminiscent of both stained glass and block prints. Each two-page spread throughout the book creates a scene of the family interacting with nature, rich with accurate natural details as well as whimsey, as the boy “becomes” a new creature.

Rhythm and rhyme generally flow smoothly, although inconsistencies in the pattern of the verse and number of lines sometimes contribute to confusion as the transition from reality to imagination is occurring. That said, My Coyote Nose and Ptarmigan Toes is a welcome addition to the relatively small number of books that celebrate children and their families interacting with wilderness in ways that are both realistic and imaginative.

As attractive and imaginative as it is informational, the book will be enjoyed by children and families, as well as useful in educational settings. It’s an exuberant reminder how powerful pretend can be and how nature fosters creativity.

For more information about Erin McKittrick, her books, and her family's outdoor adventures, visit her website.

Monday, April 4, 2016

A Conversation with Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Recently I've had the pleasure of corresponding with Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock, author of The Smell of Other People's Houses, her debut novel. The book for young adults is receiving great reviews and a lot of attention. As a long-time Alaskan, writer, and librarian, I just had to ask some questions!  

Ann: There are so many things I love about your book, The Smell of Other People's Houses. One is the way you work statehood — one of the watershed moments of Alaska history — into the background of your story. How did the movement toward statehood and its eventual passage impact you and your family?

Photo credit: The Daily Sitka Sentinel, James Poulson
Bonnie-Sue: I did not grow up in a political family at all. Being a reporter for so many years was when Alaska’s politics became much more informed for me, even though my mom was a Senior at Monroe High School [in Fairbanks] in 1959 when Alaska became a state. 

We did a lot of stories at APRN [Alaska Public Radio Network] and KUAC, especially for the 50th Anniversary of the Constitutional Convention. After I interviewed people who were opposed to Statehood—both native and non-native—it became something of an obsession of mine. What if we hadn’t gone that route? I was especially drawn to this question when I was the producer of Independent Native News because going to villages and talking to people and understanding tribal politics changed a lot of my views. Essentially, I only touched on this in my story, but the idea that not everyone supported statehood was an underlying theme.

Ann: Another thing I like is the way you bring so many insider details of life in Alaska to your novel — the iconic Ray Troll slogan (“If you must smoke, smoke salmon”) on the sweatshirt Sam wears, the Sno-Go and the three-wheelers, pilot bread and Spam, the routines on Alyce’s fishing boat. The poems by John Straley, Nancy White Carlstrom, and Ann Chandonnet, and the beautiful wood engravings by Rebecca Poulson are wonderful additions, as well. Did you think of all these details as you wrote or did they fill in over time? What kind of process did you use to get into the mental space of remembering or thinking of so many details?

Bonnie-Sue: Most of the details were organic and just flowed into the story because they are so familiar to me and when I’m world building I love filling it with details or “endowed objects.” This really is the only world I know well so it wasn’t hard to build. Even after being in the lower ’48 the past few years, I’m still immersed in Alaska. I stream only Alaska news, my significant other works month on, month off in Kotzebue and I’m still working on a radio story outside of Fairbanks so I go home a lot. I think of being Outside as being on a long, extended writing retreat. 

I always had the idea that I would use poems from Alaskans to break up the book’s sections and every single poet let me use their work. I had no idea there was going to be artwork, but when my editor said they were thinking of doing that I immediately mentioned Sitka artist, Rebecca Poulson. Her wood engravings are iconic in Southeast Alaska and it just made sense. I still can’t believe that it all came together so smoothly. 

But it was a long process and things definitely got added with every revision. For example, I’d written almost a full draft and then a friend sent me a Christmas card that she made out of a fishing chart and it reminded me how important charts are so I went back and wrote almost a whole chapter featuring the significance of fishing charts. Things like that felt like little gifts and also reminded me how connected we are to each other in Alaska. 

Ann: I also love that you don’t explain these details to death but build them into the structure of the story and the interactions of the characters. Did you find it a challenge to incorporate so many details about life in Alaska in a way that readers outside Alaska would understand? Did you have any particular audience in mind when you wrote the book?

Bonnie-Sue: This seems like such an easy question to answer but it’s a bit multi-faceted. (And I love that you asked it.) Until this book, I never thought anything I wrote would ever be read by anyone but me. I’m sure that sounds negative from a publishing stand point, but it’s also very freeing. In an idealistic world I think we’re writing for ourselves first. I was lucky because that’s what I got to do. But then, as you say, it did become very challenging (while revising with editors) to explain all of the nuances and details that are only familiar to Alaskans. There were times that I worried I was being forced to explain too much for Outsiders and I was losing the flow of the story or that Alaskans would roll their eyes and get bogged down while I over-explained what Bunny Boots were. The fishing sections, for example, were re-written many times. I ended up paring those down, while the Fish Camp sections had to be beefed up.

I think at one point I may have blurted out, “I only care what Alaskans think anyway.” That probably wasn’t the best thing to say to people in New York and London. Luckily, I had two amazing editors who were very patient with me and also really loved the story and wanted it to be authentic, as well as understandable. So, I hope that in the end we got there. I do think Alaskans will get something different out of the book because they will have more of a connection with those details. So, I like that it holds up for different audiences while still being true to the original intent (at least I hope it holds up).

Ann: Connection with the land and sea, through activities like berry picking, subsistence fishing, and small-scale commercial fishing, is portrayed as a positive component of life in Alaska. Dora, for instance, says of fish camp, “Life feels light and easy now…it doesn’t feel like work…it feels like being part of a family” — creating a contrast with her own parents, who spend their time drinking and accept fish from Dumpling’s father rather than catch their own. What personal experiences did you draw from to create those scenes? Do you think subsistence is as important today for Alaskans as it was in 1970?

Bonnie-Sue: I’ve been really lucky in my life because I lived all over the state and did a lot of different things. I commercial fished with my kids and of course, we hunted and filled our freezer with berries and all the rest of it. I mentioned my time as a reporter and that connected me much more to rural Alaska after growing up mainly in Fairbanks and Anchorage. Living in remote areas as an adult I came to realize how important subsistence is and I do believe it’s every bit as important today as it was in 1970, maybe even more important. It has huge cultural significance which Alaskans recognized in drafting the state constitution, adding native preference for subsistence, so I hope that stays a priority for management of fish and game in the state. 

One very personal experience I had as a kid is almost verbatim a conversation between two of my characters, Bunny and Lily. I was about Lily’s age and my Grandmother was living in Birch Park in Fairbanks, where I had an exchange with an Athabascan girl who informed me that we were poor and she was rich, because we didn’t have a fish camp. Obviously that stuck with me over the years and I remember going to fish camp for the first time years later and hearing her words again in my head. I loved playing with that idea that Alaskans really do have a different take on what makes a person rich. I agree with her, a freezer full of salmon is like having a lot of money in the bank.

Photo credit: Gregg Jones
Ann: You move the plot along by revealing events and offering perspectives from four viewpoints — not to mention wrangle a sizable cast of characters. How did you track all that?

Bonnie-Sue: Sometimes not very well! I have huge pieces of freezer paper taped to the wall with all the characters and a time line and arrows and then a venn diagram of where they intersect. This is another area where I made the editors crazy, I’m quite sure. But I also wrote this initially as a series of short stories and then it changed, so in some ways, that was helpful because I just moved the stories around a lot and then added or deleted things. It wasn’t pretty, let’s just say. 

Ann: I found Ruth’s forced retreat to the Canadian convent an interesting arrangement. How did you come to choose that setting? Is it historically based?

Bonnie-Sue: It’s not historically based but my own Grandmother was a novitiate for many years in a convent and almost became a nun (thankfully she didn’t or we wouldn’t be having this conversation). We grew up surrounded by her friends who were nuns and they told us stories. And then ironically, I ended up writing a lot of this book in a convent near the Colorado/Wyoming border so that influenced this particular plot point as well. I loved making the nuns more human, giving them their little personality quirks was one of my favorite things. 

Ann: You don’t shy away from very tough issues, problems that plague Alaska today as they did back then. Neither you, as an author, nor your teens, as narrators, sugarcoat their situations. Toughest are Ruth’s pregnancy and Dora’s abuse at the hands of her alcoholic father. What motivated you — and prepared you — to write about these difficult issues?

Bonnie-Sue: Yes, this wasn’t easy. I did draw from personal experience, both mine and other people’s, and in the case of Dora I asked for permission from a friend who Dora’s life is based on. But that segue’s into your next question so perhaps I’ll just jump forward to that one.

Ann: Diversity and accurate representation of people of color and other minorities in children’s literature is a serious issue that’s received much attention, in particular over this past year. Alcoholism, and what it does to people as parents and as human beings, is a major theme in your book — and a sensitive one in Alaska, where alcoholism is connected with very high rates of violence, sexual abuse, and other social problems. When portraying an Alaska Native character from a family with serious alcoholism and abuse problems, were you concerned about how it would be received? Is there a line between perpetuating a stereotype and acknowledging a reality? Why did you choose Dora’s particular story to tell?

Bonnie-Sue: This is a great question, especially the perpetuating vs. acknowledging aspect. It’s also something I thought about a great deal as a reporter in Alaska. I noticed sometimes I would be reporting on these things—the high rates of abuse or alcoholism—and people’s eyes would glaze over as if they were tired of hearing about it. But then nothing would ever change. The irony is that I thought somehow I could do this better through fiction and I wasn’t at all prepared for the backlash that writing about the reality of alcoholic parents was offensive to people because they thought it was stereotyping. I actually thought that if I didn’t write about the stereotypes that were prevalent (on all sides) in Alaska in 1970 I would be criticized for sugar coating. So, hello rock and a hard place.

Interestingly enough, Dumpling’s Athabscan family is also based on real people that I grew up with and they are the most stable family in the book. There are dysfunctional families and there are functional families in Alaska, regardless of race. 
I decided to tell the story that was closest to my reality while growing up during this time period, and the reality of my aunts and uncles who were actually teenagers in Birch Park in 1970.

Dora’s story is based on a real person and she loves the outcome in the book, which is so much better than what she got in real life, so I’m okay with criticism from people who maybe don’t understand this life. I would never stereotype because I just don't have a one sided view of any of these issues. But I don't believe silence will ever change anything either, it just perpetuates it. Also, the girls from Tanana that spoke out about abuse at the AFN Convention a couple years ago showed me that speaking out is a lot better than staying silent. They did that right when I was struggling with how to tell Dora’s story, so their courage inspired me. The real Dora’s permission freed me. Sometimes someone else needs to tell these difficult stories because it’s too dangerous for the person in that situation to do it. It’s a responsibility as a reporter and a writer to know what is appropriate and what isn’t.

And then just as I was releasing the book Tlingit playwright Vera Starbard’s play Our Voices Will Be Heard premiered from Perseverance Theater, about girls speaking out against sexual abuse in their villages. To me, these people are finally saying enough is enough and putting themselves out there with personal, brave stories. Obviously something needs to change and this trend of Alaska’s children living in a cycle of abusive situations affects us all. I hope anyone who is offended by the idea that our stories are “stereotyping,” will be equally offended by the high rates of abuse, alcoholism and suicide. 

(Side note: The main character in the play Our Voices Will be Heard, Erin Tripp from Juneau, is also the voice of Dora in the audiobook of The Smell of Other People’s Houses. Erin is the first Alaska Native reader that Random House and Listening Library have ever had). 

Ann: I love that people — adults and youth, Alaska Natives and non-natives — reach out to each other and stand up for each other in your book. I especially love Dumpling’s father for his courage and integrity in protecting Dora. What led you to explore the idea, as Selma tells Dora, that “We don’t have to be blood to be family?”

Bonnie-Sue: That came from a very personal place. I’ve had kind of a crazy life, which I won’t go into, but every step of the way there have been amazing people who constantly are there for me. I’m sure some of them are reading this right now if they are in Homer, or Anchorage, or Fairbanks or Sitka or Juneau or Kotzebue—or places Outside. Family is sometimes a lot bigger than what you are born into. For me, that will always be a huge theme in my writing.