Friday, March 28, 2014
Five years! Sob.
Let this sound like a mere exercise in being maudlin, I promise there’s a reason for my schmaltzy words. When I had to leave Alaska it took a big chunk out of my heart. Let’s don’t even talk about missing the land itself—that’s another blog topic entirely. It was the people I couldn’t stand leaving behind. But here’s the thing—I took them all with me. I didn’t realize it for a long time, but I eventually figured it out. I learned so much about working together and taking time to appreciate everything about a group of friends, that I can’t thank Alaska enough for giving me the opportunity.
I have a new critique group here in Minnesota. There are only four of us and still, it was very hard to start this group—it felt awkward and disloyal and not close for a long time. But I went back to the memories of Alaska and remembered all the big-hearted things I learned in the big-hearted place I still love: patience, admiration for differences, listening, taking time—lots of time—and seeing other peoples’ strengths. I learned to love my new critique group because I still love the first one. Everything I learned about how to make this work, I learned from Alaska.
See, she has a big, sharing heart that way!
So, salute to all my old CPs (AKA Best of Friends) still slogging away up North. Here’s wishing everyone a chance to fall in love with the people of Alaska just as I did!
--- Liz Selvig
Friday, March 21, 2014
The mountains in Colorado look like Alaska but only if viewed from the north. Viewed from the south, where the Colorado sun shines hot and dry, these same mountains look like Arizona.
In Alaska, both sides of the mountains look like Alaska.
Colorado is sunny. It snows a bit and then it's sunny. It rains and then it's sunny.
Alaska: fog, wind, snow, rain, more snow, overcast, ice fog, high winds. Alaska might get sun for an afternoon, maybe in June.
Those conifers. You know what I mean, the type of conical trees you cut down for Christmas. In Colorado, they might be spruce or they might be pine or they might be fir or Douglas Fir.
In Alaska, if there are any around, they're spruce, different kinds of spruce, but still spruce. That is unless they're planted in a yard in Anchorage.
In Colorado, your Chihuahua might get eaten by a mountain lion.
In Alaska, he's on the menu serving bears, wolves, eagles, and mosquitos.
Alaska is noted for having the worst dressed city in the US. We aren't sure if that distinction belongs to Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks, or Bethel.
Colorado is better dressed, but not by much. If in doubt, check the footwear. If you see waterproof boots such as brown rubber XtraTufs,
you're in Alaska.
Children dancing during book festival at Loussac Public Library. Anchorage, Alaska
--- Lizzie Newell writes science fiction romance. She lives in Anchorage most of the time but travels both inside and outside Alaska attending writers' conferences. Her travels frequently take her to Colorado.
Friday, March 14, 2014
When my first novel was published, my local Homer newspaper wrote an article about me, which then got picked up by the big-time Anchorage paper, where it went online and people got to comment on it. That’s when things got interesting. Someone sniped about the fact that I’d set the series in Southern California rather than Alaska. “Is Alaska too real for her?” they wondered.
Well, first of all, that’s just silly. Every place is real to those who live there. And I’m writing fiction, so frankly, none of it is “real.” I stated my case at length with that commenter -- completely in my own head, of course, since I’m not one for online arguments. Salient points: I started writing the series before I moved to Alaska. I wasn’t slighting my new state – I just didn’t know it well enough yet to set something there. Also, for that series I wanted the setting to be the kind of environment that SoCal offered. Something that wouldn’t take the focus away from the characters, the story and the romance.
The fact is, when you set something in Alaska, it’s hard to make Alaska stay in the background. It dominates, with its extreme weather and its magnificence and complicated characters. If your story takes place in the summer, you have to mention the endless daylight, and vice versa for winter. You have to know exactly where the story takes place – the harsh Interior? Rainy Southeast? Above the tree-line Nome? They’re completely different. There is no such thing as a “generic” Alaska setting. How do you incorporate all that rich, fascinating detail without Alaska becoming a full-fledged character in your story?
Once I moved to Alaska, my friends often asked me if I was going to set something here. “Sure, someday,” I always answered. What was I waiting for? “But I just moved here. I have to get a feel for it first.” But I’ve set other stories in places I don’t know intimately. I can learn enough from brief visits and from cruising the Internet, reading websites and scanning photos. Hey, that’s what Google Earth is for.
But Alaska … feels different. As a relative newcomer of only seven years, I don’t want to set something here until I feel that I can do this place justice. I want to get the details right, but much of that can be determined by doing research. More importantly, I want to get the spirit right. I wouldn’t want to write a book set in Alaska that feels as if it could take place anywhere with snow. There’s something about Alaska that sinks into your soul and fills you with awe. I think it’s a mark of respect for the state that I haven’t set anything here yet. I have no doubt the time will come when I write an Alaska story. Every day I spend here brings me closer to earning that moment.
What do you think? How knowledgeable should an author be with the place where his or her books are set? Is it better to live there, or can enough be learned through research?
Jennifer Bernard's latest release is FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FIREMAN. Click the cover for more.
Friday, March 7, 2014
Pizza, Clay, San Pellegrino, Fleetwood Mac, and Overalls