I’m sitting in my trailer in Whitehorse as I type these words, but I can almost hear Buckwheat Donahue hoowwlliingg with delight all the way from Skagway, where I spent the last several days, attending the very first North Words Writers Symposium.
Buckwheat likes to begin and end every event he’s involved in with a howl, and he was involved in this one from the very beginning.
It was Buckwheat’s brainstorm to bring together writers from all over Alaska to meet and discuss their craft under the general theme of “Exploring the Frontiers of Language”.
To his complete astonishment, when he pitched the idea to Skagway’s council last year, in his capacity as tourism director, the council not only agreed, but told him to put the event in his budget.
I became aware of this whenSkagway News publisher Jeff Brady, who kicked in an additional $5,000 to sweeten the budget, sent out a press release that I decided to run in the Klondike Sun, just in case any of Dawson’s legions of writers might be interested or have the time to attend.
It turned out that only I had the time, and so I found myself the sole Canadian amongst a group that sometimes swelled to 33 people over the four days of panel discussions, readings, excursions and sumptuous meals.
Guest writers brought in to inspire the lay people and each other included poet Peggy Shumaker, mystery writer Dana Stabenow, screenwriter Dave Hunsaker, journalists Nick Jans, Kaylene Johnson, Sherry Simpson, Tim Woody and Dan Henry and novelist Andromeda Romano-Lax.
What, you may be wondering, does any of this have to do with a column named “A Klondike Korner,” the aim of which, according to the mandate of this magazine, is to discuss and promote coming events in my community as much as possible?
Well, it’s like this: Buckwheat may not, by his own admission, be a writer, but he is a visionary of some repute, and his latest vision involves a continuing series of these symposia, held at three points of a triangle which he considers to be significant and inspirational.
The next point on the triangle is Dawson City, which is where he would like to see the second symposium held in one year’s time.
The third would be at Denali Park, and then the rotation would begin again.
Admittedly, promoting an event a year in advance may seem a bit “out there”, but it’s my firm conviction that a number of interest groups in Dawson City – including the town council, Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture, Parks Canada and the Klondike Visitors Association — need as much lead time as possible to begin thinking about this.
Besides that, writers in Whitehorse and from all over the territory need to decide if they want to participate in such a thing so that we can find out how big it might actually get well in advance, and come up with a plan worthy of the setting and the concept.
Next week – a few thoughts about the glittery metal.