Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Guest Blogger Robert Davis Hoffmann: Intersections

In the Sheldon Jackson Museum where I work, I get to sit among the collection of priceless objects from each of Alaska’s Native cultures. It’s impossible not to notice that every object is embellished with artwork. Among our Tlingit people, clan designs decorate every utilitarian object: bentwood boxes, carved bowls, sheep horn spoons, Chilkat blankets, speaker staffs, halibut hooks, canoe paddles, everything.

I’m aware of this permeation as I design or write. For me, art and poetry are in things, ideas are in things. They wait. They wait to be realized, interpreted, defined.

In my mind, everything lives in containers. The sea world contains the Sea People, and so on. Mortuary poles contain bentwood chests with cremated remains. Songs contain stories of sorrow, celebration and remembrance. Legends contain lessons for socializing the young. It’s about embodiment.

On slow days in the museum, I have my handy sketchbook, because it’s impossible for me not to be inspired when I’m breathing art. I get pretty experimental when I have little to do but sketch. My pages start filling with shapes, concentric, overlapping forms, lines that increase and decrease in tapered widths as is characteristic of formline design. My sketchbook is a curious muddle of Tlingit looking shapes, and starts of poems.

Sometimes creations come “all-at-once” when I visualize an entire design, or when I have an entire poem outline. Here I start with the main structure or framework, and all I have to do is fill in the blanks.

Sometimes creations take shape organically. When I start with a few powerful lines, my free-association propagates more lines. In design, I begin sketching from any point on the canvas and allow the design to develop.

When I create, I give form to a concept, whether by written alphabet, or by the system of formline elements – the ovoid, ‘u’ and ‘s’ shapes, and the negative spaces that result from combining these shapes. My constraints are determined by the surface I’m decorating, and in poetry the lines are limited by page size. They both have visual impact.

Art and writing both have form and content.

In working out form, I consider composition, whether to be literal or symbolic.
In working out content, I consider how to interpret the subject, what it means.
All the rest is about filler, connections, interconnections, allusions, juxtaposition, what to add, what to leave out. As with any creation, knowing when to stop is the difference between good or amateur.

I’m lucky to work in this museum. Quiet time taps me into a source, from which either word or visuals spring. Both essentially allow me to make coherent that which forms in that source. Our Tlingit culture, both the rich past and the current history as it unfolds, are pathways to that place. I live and breathe this. The lighting is dim; the objects seem to glow. How can I not be part of this? How can I not want to interpret this feeling?

Robert Davis Hoffmann is a Tlingit poet originally from the village of Kake, fully engaged in his heritage and culture. He describes the creative impulse for his poetry and carving this way: “My desire to create comes from a drive to connect my past to the present, to redefine the traditional as present day cultural practices."

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Gathering for Fifteen Years on Kachemak Bay

 Gathering. Each June for the past 15 years, writers have been gathering at the tip of the Homer Spit for the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference. Fifteen years of keynote presenters like Maxine Hong Kingston, Billy Collins, Anne Lamott, Michael Cunningham, Barry Lopez, Naomi Shihab Nye, and just last year Andre Dubus III. This year’s keynoter is Natasha Trethewey, two-term United State Poet Laureate and a really lovely person. That’s what’s great about the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference, participants get to learn that the faculty, writers they admire, are really lovely people.

Out at the end of the land, water on three sides, mountains and glaciers and bald eagles all around, barriers are broken down. In incredible workshops given by award-winning authors, participants learn from workshop leaders, and workshop leaders learn from participants. It’s an exhausting four days of readings, panels, and lots of in-depth instruction on all aspects of the writing process, but one that is filled with bright moments of inspiration.

I’ve been lucky enough to help out with a few of these conferences, lucky to teach at some of them, and before that, I was lucky enough to attend quite a few. I can tell you that the visiting faculty (and yes, the core faculty as well) always gets as much as they give, and they always tell me on the way to the airport that they’ve been changed by meeting the participants at the conference. It’s a win-win-win-WIN situation.

This year, the visiting faculty is Dan Beachy-Quick, Jennine Capó Crucet, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Forrest Gander, Lee Goodman, Richard Hoffman, Sara Leavitt, Frank Soos, and David Stevenson. The returning core faculty is Rich Chiappone, me, Nancy Lord, Peggy Shumaker, and Sherry Simpson. We’ll also have agent Miriam Altshuler and editor Jane Rosenman. The entire schedule is up at the conference website, and you’ve got until 5pm on May 2 to take advantage of the early registration discount.

I hope to see all of you there in Homer from June 10 to 14. I can promise that every person who attends the conference will come away with something fabulous to inspire their writing for the rest of the year and beyond.

take care,

Monday, April 25, 2016

The View from Here

Family. Community. Support. 49 Writers, where Alaska’s writers gather.

It has been a privilege to be among you, to speak to you each Monday and to help create opportunities for learning and communing. Thank you for your warm support. Thank you for being amazing writers, and more importantly, thank you for being amazing people.

Jeremy Pataky and the board of 49 Writers will continue to grow the organization in a way that best meets the needs of all of us. I am so very glad to be part of this family. For once again, I will be back in the trenches with you, working on my own poetry the only way that I can. Writing can be a lonely business, but it can also be raucous and redemptive. 

So this week, sit yourself down and write. Share with another writer – your time, your writing, your best trick to keep yourself at the page. Our words are important. Our words create the world.

Take care,

Friday, April 22, 2016

Weekly Roundup of Writing Opportunities for April 22

With the beautiful weather it’s hard to stay inside. Summer feels close and indoor events seem to recede. Soon conferences and retreats will start in different parts of our state. I plan to attend at least one and hope you will have the chance to do so too.


Events at the UAA Bookstore

Thursday, April 21 from 5:00pm-7:00pm
Cecilia “Pudge” Kleinkauf presents Rookie No More:  Flyfishing Novice from a Pro

The book, Rookie No More is a lifesaver for novice fly fishers who are struggling with unanswered questions about various aspects of flyfishing. 
Cecilia "Pudge" Kleinkauf has been an Alaskan since 1969.   Her company, Women's Flyfishing, has taught women how to fly fish and has taken them on guided trips throughout Alaska to find the best fishing for salmon, trout, char, Arctic grayling, and other species.  Her website  is a leading resource for fly fishing enthusiasts.
There is free parking for this event in the South Lot, Sports Complex NW Lot, West Campus Central Lot, and Sports Campus West Lot. 

Saturday, April 23 from 1:00pm-3:00pm
Celebrating Shakespeare: Four Hundred Years On

English professors Toby Widdicombe and Sharon Emmerichs, UAA students and staff share favorite sonnets.
This literary tribute to Shakespeare commemorates the 400 year anniversary of his death on April 23, 1616.  

Everyone is encouraged to come.

There is free parking at UAA on Saturdays.

Local Library Events

Anchorage Public Library's Teen Writing Society needs our help!

Loussac Library's Teen Writing Society (TWS) is a club for teen writers. They are looking for reliable adults to lead their meetings and provide writing prompts or other activities. 49 Writers member Lynn Lovegreen has volunteered to lead the April meetings and help find leaders for the future.

One idea is to have different adult writers volunteer to take each month, so the teens benefit from seeing different writing types and styles. Or, if someone would like to help longer-term, that is another possibility. At this point, meetings are 6-7:30 pm on the second and fourth Wednesdays, but there is some room for flexibility. 

Please contact Lynn Lovegreen at or teen librarian Jon P. Ebron at if you are interested or would like more information.

Book Signings



The Copper Basin will welcome State Writer Laureate Frank Soos to our communities at the end of April. Frank will meet with a local bookclub and students at Kenny Lake and Glennallen Schools. Local writers are invited to Writers' Workshops at the Kenny Lake Library on Thursday, April 28, from 1 to 4 pm and at the Copper Basin Senior Citizen log cabin in Glennallen on Friday, April 29 from 1 to 4. Frank will present a program, "An Alaska Writers Sampler," at the Kenny Lake Community Hall on Thursday evening, April 28, at 6 pm. The public is also invited to a reading of Frank Soos' work on Friday night, April 29, at the Carriage House in Gakona. Local musicians will chime in for the reading event, and snacks and coffee and tea will be provided. Come join us! For more information, contact Mary Odden 822-3727 or

As part of the Machetanz Arts Festival at the Mat-Su College on June 4 and 5, writing workshops will be offered.
To learn more about the classes and to register:

Saturday, June 4
How Shall I Begin?: Starting Your Piece with a Bang taught by Alyse Knorr
Finding Yourself in a Poem taught by Julie LeMay
The Sphere of Writing taught by Don Rearden

Sunday, June 5
Capturing Character The Mechanics of Writing Great Characters in Fiction and Non-Fiction taught by Martha Amore
Playing with Description taught by Lynn Lovegreen
Walking the Line taught by Susanna Mishler

There is also a panel discussion at the end of each day, featuring the writers who’ve taught during that day.



Seeking Writers and Photographers for New Alaska Foodie Magazine
Edible Alaska, a new magazine focused on food culture and practices in Alaska, will hit the newsstands in June. Currently they are getting ready to launch our website with lots of new content. Thus, they are looking for writers, photographers, recipe writers, and local chefs (who want to be a resource to them). 

Article pitches should fall (loosely) into the categories: eat, drink, and food for thought. Web articles will be between 250-400 words and will pay about $50 per piece and an additional $25 for an accompanying photograph. The rate is somewhat negotiable for more experienced writers/photographers and for longer pieces. 

They are looking for original recipes that can include your standard recipe and a "how-to" video. They are not looking for the usual story about Midnight Sun Brewery or well-known restaurant reviews. They are looking to expand what people know and think about food (and food culture) in Alaska as well as really create an archive of food practices throughout the state (both urban and rural).

Please email your pitch to with the subject line: Edible Article Pitch.  Please include in your pitch sample writing clips, if you have any. 

The magazine is particularly interested in recruiting writers from outside of Anchorage and writers who live in rural/bush areas of the state. Don't let a lack of writing experience deter you from pitching a story, they are interested in cultivating new writers who have great stories to share.”


The fifteenth Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference will be held on June 10-14 in Homer. This year's keynote is Pulitzer Prize winning, National Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, who will be joined by Miriam Altshuler (agent), Dan Beachy-Quick, Richard Chiappone, Jennine Capó Crucet, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Forrest Gander, Lee Goodman, Richard Hoffman, Erin Coughlin Hollowell, Sarah Leavitt, Nancy Lord, Jane Rosenman (editor), Peggy Shumaker, Sherry Simpson, Frank Soos, and David Stevenson. For more information and to register go to the website

Registration now open to the 2016 Tutka Bay Writers Retreat, which will take place on September 9-11, 2016 at the Tutka Bay Lodge. Faculty instructor award-winning writer Debra Magpie Earling will lead fiction writers in an in-depth writing workshop. There will be much in-class writing, and the overall atmosphere will stick close to supportiveness, collegiality, and constructive improvement. The engaged student will emerge with improved techniques for further work. Early registration fee is $600 for members and $650 for nonmembers. For more information or to register, go to:

Storyknife Writers Retreat is open for submissions for its inaugural Storyknife Fellow. We just can't wait for all six proposed cabin and main house to be built, so the Board of Directors of Storyknife is beginning with a single Storyknife Fellow who will live in the beautifully appointed cabin on the property. Women writers (over 21) can apply for a 2 week to 4 week residency during the month of September 2016. The successful candidate(s) will receive a $250 per week stipend at the end of their residency. This money can be used to cover the costs of travel, food, and a rental car if the resident is from out of the drivable area. The resident will need to purchase and prepare their own meals, with the exception of a welcome dinner and a farewell dinner, at the beginning and end of their stay. More information about the residency at and apply at

The sixth annual North Words Writers Symposium will be held May 25-28 in Skagway. Novelist/essayist/editor and storyteller supreme Brian Doyle of Portland, Oregon (Mink RiverThe PloverMartin Marten, and the forthcoming Chicago) will be the 2016 keynote author. He will be joined by Alaskan authors Kim Heacox, Eowyn Ivey, Heather Lende, Lynn Schooler, John Straley, and Emily Wall. For more information and to register go to

360 North will start the 2015-16 season of Writers’ Showcase. All Alaska writers are invited to submit fiction and nonfiction pieces. Stories are read before a live studio audience by professional actors, and later broadcast throughout Alaska on statewide public TV and radio. Stories should be about 10 minutes long when read aloud. Profanity will need to be edited for broadcast.
April 25, 2016                                    June 2, 2016
Submit to arts [at] ktoo [dot] org.
For questions contact Scott Burton
 - Arts, Culture and Music Producer at 907.463.6473

Alaska magazine is seeking pitches from new and established writers. We are a publication for Alaska enthusiasts and need a wide variety of articles. The best section to break into the magazine is KtoB (formerly Ketchikan to Barrow), and includes everything from cool job profiles to End of the Trail obituaries to a short write up about an Alaska-made product. We’d also like to see queries about culture, history, nature, interviews with Alaskans and feature articles ideas. Review recent hard copy issues of Alaska magazine and visit for more about us, and then send short, descriptive pitches to freelance contributing editor Susan Sommer at

13 Chairs Literary Journal, a new literary journal publishing short stories and poetry from new and emerging authors, seeks submissions and volunteers. They are currently composing their flagship issue, straight out of JBER, AK. To learn more, and to submit, email or visit

Thank You for Your Support!
49 Writers members know that their membership helps support all of the workshops, author tours, Crosscurrents events, readings, blog posts, and craft talks. Won't you join them by becoming a member? Join Us

49 Writers Volunteer Seta

Have news or events you'd like to see listed here? Email details to 49roundup (at) Your message must be received by noon on the Thursday before the roundup is scheduled to run. Unless your event falls in the "Opportunities" category, it should occur no more than 30 days from when we receive your email.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Guest Blogger Robert Davis Hoffmann: Journal as Ritual

Everyone has rituals, things that we do in a certain way, at a certain time, or in certain settings. Some of the rituals we perform on special days of the month. Back home in Kake for example, before people go out to Grave Island on Memorial Day, family members clear off family graves and make the path to the gravesites accessible. Rituals like this will continue even after we are long gone because they have social benefit to the community. It defines the conduct of community members in regard to something sacred, remembrance of those who have walked into the forest.

I differentiate between the things I consider ritual from things that are mere habits, habits that are just repeated behaviors that are almost automatic. Rituals, for me, are the acts that connect me to the sacred and stir within me, feelings of awe and respect.

I like to rise early. It’s the best time of day for prayer and meditation. Rising early has become habitual; prayer and meditation have become ritual.

In the early morning I will sit with my cup of coffee and admire our Sitka scenery from my 4th floor window. From this altitude I will watch the rain and wind playing on our Crescent Bay, seagulls circling where a sea lion emerges, fog hugging the folds in the mountains. I will be thankful for my life and breath, for my senses with which to experience our majestic miraculous rainforest and its complex systems.

When I rise early it seems easier to be in a state of appreciation and thanksgiving. I am not yet in the hustle and bustle of the workday, and my mental to-do list hasn’t taken on a sense of urgency. In this uncluttered mental space, I find it easier to write, easier to let thoughts flow.

For the past two months, I have gotten back to morning writing, this time prompted by a quest to live with deeper appreciation and awareness of my daily gifts. Someone introduced me to the practice of keeping a daily “gratitude journal” as an antidote to depression and anxiety. Since starting this daily practice, I have been paying closer attention to details.

I took an Introduction to Drawing class last November in order to relearn some basics. One of those basics was taking my time in drawing. There were no quick sketches, but rather I had to really, REALLY study the subject, the subtleties and nuances. In this manner of looking at one thing with intense scrutiny, I began writing about one single thing or person each day for which I felt gratitude. I write about what made that special, about how it made me feel. I go into detail. I write about what qualified the daily entry as a “gift.”

There is much to be said for writers staying in the practice of writing. I had a teacher in college who rose every day at 5:00 a.m. and wrote lines of poems, whether good or bad, just to stay in the habit of writing. I’ve never been that disciplined. Sooner or later daily practice would start to feel tedious, laborious – habitual.

This kind of journaling, exploring gratitude, has not only helped me focus on details and descriptions, but it has had positive effects on me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. As well as keeping me appreciative of things that come to me serendipitously, it’s made me care more for that which I might take for granted, to savor the mundane. It’s made me write because I want to, not because I have to. Everything is a study. I must slow down. I must find the words that deepen my relationship to the world. When I approach this practice as ritual, rather than a good habit, even the act of writing falls in the spectrum of that which is sacred.

Robert Davis Hoffmann is a Tlingit poet originally from the village of Kake, fully engaged in his heritage and culture. He describes the creative impulse for his poetry and carving this way: “My desire to create comes from a drive to connect my past to the present, to redefine the traditional as present day cultural practices."