Thursday, May 30, 2013

Alaskan Writing Events

We are lucky to have two large gatherings for writers in Alaska every summer. Here’s some information for those of you who keep thinking “I’d love to go to Alaska some day,” and need an extra incentive to book those tickets. :-)
The biggest writing conference in Alaska is Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference, set in Homer, Alaska.

(photo of Kachemak Bay by Lynn Lovegreen)

KBWC is sponsored by the Kachemak Bay Campus of Kenai Peninsula College, part of the University of Alaska Anchorage system. There are always excellent workshops led by writing instructors and other writing professionals. Plus, they have a nationally-known keynote speaker every year--this year’s is Naomi Shihab Nye.

I always learn a lot from the conference. But my favorite element is the camaraderie. No matter how much experience you have, whether you’re published or not, you are part of the writing community. I feel comfortable talking to everyone there, and it’s great to be surrounded by fellow writers.
(This year’s dates are June 14-18; check for space available.)

A similar atmosphere is found at the North Words Writers Symposium in Skagway, Alaska.
(This year’s dates are May 29-June 1st.; check for space available.)

I haven’t been to that one yet, but I hear it is a smaller gathering that has workshops, plus more in-depth discussions and memorable events in and near Skagway. This year’s keynote is author and environmental advocate Kathleen Dean Moore.

Check out their website at:
Alaska’s scenery is inspirational enough, but combining it with a writing event is a heady experience. If you’re thinking of coming up to Alaska in the summer, why not time it so you can attend one of these? Bookmark these sites and make it part of your plan to come up, whatever year your Alaska adventure takes place. And don’t be shy about introducing yourself to your fellow attendees--you may have connected with them already on this website! :-)

Lynn Lovegreen writes young adult historical romance set in Alaska, and her first book will be published by Prism Book Group this fall.
Check out her website at:

Friday, May 24, 2013

At Great Harvest Bread in Anchorage, Leigh Newman read from Still Points North, her excellent memoir of growing up in Alaska. Her footwear struck me as quite odd for wearing in Alaska in the springtime. I'm not sure if her shoes were uncomfortable or her feet were cold. I must say anyone who wears snake skin pumps for breakup in Anchorage is quite a gal. I understand she now lives in Baltimore, which might explain the choice of shoes.
The footwear of the audience ran to boring but practical black walking shoes.
Notice the red wool socks.

Footwear for the Alaskan Fashionista

Alaskans for the most part ignore fashion rules. Want to wear white shoes in the winter? No problem. We don't really care what color socks you wear or even if your socks have holes. Socks with sandals? We're good with it. However, we do have one social rule regarding footwear--shoes come off at the front door.
We share this practical custom with the people of Japan, Russian, Canada, and Scandinavia. It keeps snow, mud, and worse from being tracked into the house. Some hosts and hostesses offer slippers to visitors, custom knitted booties. Most don't. Sandals and clogs are great for dashing from car to front door and then removing, but only if they're worn with socks. Some Alaskans wear the sock and sandal combination for longer outdoor activities. I've witnessed a Buddhist monk wearing wool socks with his sport sandals, the socks appropriately colored saffron orange.
Most of us wear boots for longer outdoor winter activities: Sorrels, Extra Tuffs, and bunny boots, bulbous white monstrosities purchased from military surplus. It is perfectly acceptable to wear white bunny boots at any time of the year. Forget about the etiquette rule limiting white footwear to summer usage. We like any kind of boots as long as they are warm, waterproof, and practical.

In the winter many Alaskans slip on ice creepers, metal studded crampons stretched over boot soles for walking on ice. It's extremely rude to wear ice creepers inside. The studs damage floors which is part of why we remove footwear at the front door.

Despite the hazards of weather, we love wearing fashionable footwear. We just wish it was more practical. Alaskan women can act a bit giddy when given the opportunity to dress up. They might be traipsing around on stilt-like heels at cultural events. What is the fashionista to do while attending the theater? The solution, carry stiletto pumps in a shoulder bag while wearing Sorrels, Extra Tuffs, or Bunny boots with that lovely gown. Change footwear and leave the bunny boots at the coat check.

--- Lizzie Newell


Lizzie Newell writes science fiction set on a planet resembling Alaska: fjords, glaciers, and nasty tides. Due to fishing accidents, the planet Fenria has a shortage of men, so women are in charge. Lizzie crafts costumes, sculpture, and art, exhibiting and winning awards at Worldcon and NASFiC (North American Science Fiction Convention). She's interested in relationship between clothing and culture. She facilitates Northern Speculative Fiction, a Facebook page and website for speculative fiction writers in Alaska and Yukon. She also takes photographs of Alaskan writing events. Currently, she's working on a novel, The Stud and the Sperm Thief, about a man valued for his genetically determined altruism who becomes a stud for hire.


Friday, May 17, 2013

First Camping Trip of the Summer

Last weekend my family and I ventured out on our first camping trip of the summer. I use summer loosely because we live in Alaska. What we refer to as summer others refer to as fall/winter. It’s an acquired concept and one that a lot of people who venture to this rugged state never acquire.

Always, my family’s first outing is to the Valdez Airshow. This is our test run with the camper and I’ll admit we forgot a lot of stuff. Thus the test run. But the breathtaking drive made up for our forgetfulness. Even though snow still blanketed the mountains, there were definite signs of spring. Just the hint of melting sends most Alaskans into a euphoric state that lasts until the first snowfall.

Here are some of the sights we were gifted on our first night of driving.


Since we left on a Friday night and my husband had worked all day, we drove for three hours and then pulled into a rest stop near Mendeltna. Once we set up camp, my kids got busy. It was like nature’s movie screen. They would wait for a car or truck to pass and flail about, trying to get them to honk. Thank you to all the drivers who made their night by tooting your horns. Ten total by bedtime. Of course this did my heart good not to have my daughters hooked up to electronic life support and instead watch them enjoy the kind of fun we had to settle for as kids.


These are pictures from the second day of trip. We only had one mishap when the hatch of our camper blew off and we had to backtrack eighteen miles to find it. Luckily it was in one piece and my husband easily reattached it, saving us from having to go home.

The Valdez Airshow is where the general aviation population shows off its stuff. STOL (short takeoff and landing) competitions were the first order of the day. Some of the smaller planes can take off in as little as 200 feet and land even shorter. It’s amazing to watch.

Being plane owners, my husband’s a pilot, we love to walk around and check out the other planes. This one I call the monster truck of planes. The tires were huge and the black paint job only added to its badass feel.

Also on display was a Japanese Zero. Very cool.

But the best thing at the Valdez Airshow was Fiona, a nine week old English bulldog. Her owner, a pilot and friend of ours, had loaded the kids and the puppy into the plane for a weekend of camping fun. Fiona wore a red down vest and needless to say, drew more attention than the competitions. I wish I could have taken her home.

Overall, the trip was great fun and I can’t wait for our next outing, clamming at Deep Creek. I’m sure the weather will still be chilly and water icy, but I doubt that will stop Alaskans from taking advantage of one of the first low tides of the season. I can almost taste those clams already. Yum.

Friday, May 10, 2013



I spend nine months of the year “Outside” and my summers commercial fishing in South Naknek Alaska. Recently, I was at my writers group and talking about getting ready for fish camp. There are a million things to do this time of year. Where we fish there are no markets, pharmacy, or Starbucks. It’s remote. But my group of fellow authors started to joke and giggle. Every time I mentioned fish camp they saw a tent and little cartoon fish roasting marshmallows over a campfire swapping stories on how they got off the ‘hook’.

So, I thought I’d share with you what our fish camp entails. A large portion of other fish camps around the State of Alaska operate this way.

First, no running water, electricity, cell phones, Internet, and the before mentioned Starbucks. Instead we deal with outhouses, generators, and what food you can’t catch, you eat out of a can. Second, bears, weather, and the ocean RULE. If you find yourself in a situation, and can’t get out of it on your own, you usually don’t make it. Every day is a challenge and a fight. They call it Bristol Bay combat fishing, and it’s a wild, unforgiving place.

There seems to be more reasons not to be out there fishing than in favor of it. Here are some pluses. No electricity, cell phones, or Internet; and wildlife, the ocean, and the opportunity to make a lot of money in a short amount of time. Most importantly, time to spend with family, unplugged from civilization.

We play card games, cook, have dinner together, target practice, beachcomb, work and joke around together. Bond. Reconnecting in this crazy, busy world and building relationships is the absolute best thing about fish camp. Though the money doesn’t hurt.

Here is one of my favorite salmon recipes, and I have some dandies.

A fillet or two of Wild Alaskan Salmon
Basil pesto - home-made or store-bought (I use a small jar of store-bought pesto)
Lemon juice
Parmesan cheese
Pine nuts - optional
Sliced tomatoes - optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the salmon fillet into serving sizes, and pull out the pin bones. This doesn't take very long and is easy to do. If you don't have a pin bone tool, pliers work great. Squeeze on lemon juice, coat on pesto as thick as you like, and top with parmesan cheese and pine nuts.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Test with a fork. When the flesh flakes, it's done. I usually serve this over rice. I start the rice before I slather on the pesto and they both are done about the same time.

Tasty and so good for you!

Tiffinie Helmer’s latest Romance Novel in her Edge Series, 'HOOKED', will be released May 13th.
Visit her website for more information. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Real Men of Alaska - Mr. May 2013



 As Romance Writers
we are 
 always on the lookout for 
  Hunky Hero Types  
     So, here's BEN     
  to tell us a little bit  
      about himself...    
    BEN, Welcome to the AKRWA Blog Site    
   Please answer the following questions ---  
 --- what are REAL MEN Of ALASKA like?  
 1: Were you born in Alaska, and if not, then how did you end up here? What do you do for a living, and what do you do for fun. Age, height, fav. food, and any other statistics you are willing to share. (just remember - we are a PG 13 site and blush easily)  
     I was born in Wyoming. I was a flight paramedic. Right now, I’m in school to be a Physician’s Assistant. I’m 6 foot 5 inches, weigh 220, and I was a WYO state swim champ. I work out, and all of that means I have a six pack, ladies.
 2: What kind of woman appeals to you, and who do you let make the first move, you or her?  
     I’m physically active, and I really like a woman who can participate in my lifestyle. And who cares who makes the first move as long as it’s made!
 3: Where's your favorite place to take a girl on a first date?  
     Really classy restaurant (need he say more?)
 4: What's the wildest thing you've ever done with a female companion since living in Alaska?    
     Sky diving

 5: Winter can be long, dark, and very cold here in Alaska. What are your favorite frosty pastime activities ( - and what is the coldest temp you’ve seen/been in?  
     Snow machining, cross-country skiing, snow boarding.
As a paramedic, I’ve been stationed in Barrow, Alaska in the winter. I saw temp of 40 below zero.
 6: And, if we ask about winter then we simply must inquire about the too short, wonderful summers. What are your favorite things to do during all those long hours of sunshine?   
     Go boating. I wake board, jet ski, waterski, hike, take my dog and run.
 7: Alaskan men take their vehicles very seriously. What is your favorite mode of transportation – car, truck, snow machine, four-wheeler, airplane, skis, snowboard, etc., and why? 
I really love driving my Corvette convertible, but I also loved flying in the Light Flight helicopter.

 8: What is your favorite Alaskan animal to see along the highway - Or on your dinner plate?  
     Wolf. Hands down.
 9: Have you ever wrestled a polar bear, mushed a dog team, panned for gold, eaten muktuk, done the polar bear plunge, climbed Denali, run the Mt. Marathon, or any of the other, found only in Alaska, activities?   
     Oh, I’ve done the polar bear plunge.

 10: In your opinion, what exactly IS it that makes an Alaskan Male so wonderfully macho and appealing?  

         We just ARE          
   macho and appealing   
   (Come up and check)   
 11: Other than making love under them, what is your favorite thing to do when the Northern Lights are out and putting on a show?   
Watch them!
 12: And last but certainly not least, in your opinion, what is the most romantic thing about Alaska, and why?  
     Well heck - that’s got to be cold, dark, long winter nights...
  ...and really nice fireplaces.   
Thank you, Ben. We appreciate your candor and honesty.

To our Readers - please join us the first week of each month for another interview with REAL ALASKAN MEN -thanks for following us!