By the time you read this I’ll be “Exploring the Frontiers of Language” in Skagway, attending this year’s edition of the North Words Writers Symposium. I’ve been at most of these gatherings since the first one in 2010 and have found the trip a pleasant way to begin summer travels with our trailer.
North Words is a gathering of Northern writers, most of them hailing from the arc that stretches from Fairbanks to Juneau. Most years I’m the only Yukoner.
Organized each year by Jeff Brady, Buckwheat Donahue, Wendy Anderson, Katrina Pearson, and Daniel Henry, the four-day event is a celebration of writing in its many aspects, with selected faculty members representing genres including fiction, nonfiction (creative and otherwise), poetry, journalism, and memoir.
Things begin on the Wednesday, May 27, when people can register in the afternoon at the Arctic Brotherhood (AB) Hall and then move on down the street to the Red Onion Saloon for a taco bar reception and tour of the upstairs brothel.
If you’re a real keener you can get up on Thursday and Friday for an Early Bird Writers Workshop at 6:45 at the Skagway Public Library. If you’re a night owl there’s a similar session from 9:45 to 11 p.m. at the Skagway Brewing Company. The rest of the days are fi lled with workshops, panel discussion, and signings by the guest authors at the Skagway News Depot.
Workshop sessions are typically a combination of “how-to” advice and personal anecdotes refl ecting the topic given to the panel. There are plenary sessions with the entire group, meeting in the AB Hall, as well as other sessions where half the group heads over a few blocks to First Presbyterian Church for an alternative discussion.
On Thursday evening the faculty will present a series of public readings in the National Parks Service Auditorium. Participants will have the chance to read aloud during the Friday afternoon sessions. Aspiring writers who wish to can sign up for individual sessions with faculty members on Friday afternoon.
Celebrating the great outdoors comes in two flavours: Jeff Brady, having been inspired by Berton House in Dawson and the Harrison retreat near Whitehorse, has spent the last several years developing the Alderworks Alaska Writers & Artists Retreat on his family property in Dyea, and the conference now spends a BBQ evening out there.
On Saturday afternoon participants board the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad and ride to the Denver Glacier Trailhead, where they either hike the trail for inspiration or try some writing exercises around a fire.
The conference concludes at a gala dinner at Poppies Restaurant overlooking Jewell Gardens, and with an address by the keynote speaker. This year that will be Mary Roach, a popular science writer who has written books such as Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex; and Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife.
I fully expect this will be another interesting event.