Visiting Alaska: libraries and SCBWI

In Alaska, I got to meet a whole bunch of readers and writers. I have the best job in the world. 🙂

July 2, Seward Community Museum and Library. Librarian Rachel James hosted young readers and their families with snacks and drinks. I talked about books and reading and writing and A LONG WALK TO WATER, then did a signing. A great way to kick off my Alaska events! The Seward Phoenix Log covered the gathering:

July 8, SCBWI-Alaska. Regional Advisor Stefanie Tatalias met me (along with Hub and Dot) for an early dinner at Simon & Seafort’s, a landmark Anchorage restaurant with great seafood and stunning views. Then Stefanie and I were off to the Blue Hollomon Gallery, the venue for my evening workshop. The Gallery’s current exhibit is work by children’s book illustrators, curated by Amy Meissner (more on Amy later). It was the perfect setting for the workshop.

Because Alaska is so vast, Stefanie has even more challenges than most RAs, and she’s been very creative about solutions! ‘Live’ at the gallery with me were half a dozen people, but the workshop was available virtually too. People joined in from all over Alaska, and from places like Hawaii and Montana as well! There were some tech glitches (for the remote participants, it came down to a choice of either seeing me or hearing me, so they got only a brief glimpse of me in action), but overall everything went smoothly. While in-person meetings will always have their advantages, this option is great for folks who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend. I hope the remote folks enjoyed the workshop as much as I did. Thanks to Stefanie and everyone who participated.

July 9, Anchorage Public Library system, Loussac branch. Loussac is the main branch of the APL system. In the afternoon, I gave a presentation in the auditorium to elementary-age readers, then signed books afterwards.

Later that day–oops, I guess it was evening, but it was still so light out!–I did a workshop at the Teen Underground, a space set aside for teen readers. They were a talented and respectful group; I loved working with them. Thanks to Jim and Candace for facilitating.

July 10-11, Muldoon, Gerrish-Girdwood, Eagle River and Mountain View branches. I enjoyed being able to visit each of these APL branches–all different, with staff working hard to serve their clientele. Even the drives in between were fun, with the mountains just outside Anchorage always in sight.

And a special treat at the Eagle River branch: I had seen illustrator Amy Meissner’s terrific work at the Hollomon Gallery. Some of her illustrations are executed in textiles. She created an amazing fabric mural of a dragon which hangs in the children’s section:


It’s two-sided!




Although some of the audiences were rather ‘intimate’ ;-), all were enthusiastic and attentive. I really appreciate everyone who came to hear me speak, especially since the weather was so beautiful that week, it was hard to be indoors!

Many thanks to: Sue Sommers, Jim Curran, Lacey Hemming, Sue Sherif, Stephanie Schott, Denise Dargan, Terrie Weckerle, Dean Brovold, and Elizabeth Nicolai (fresh from ALA and the 2013 Newbery committee), all of whom took great care of me during my stay.

Obligatory food photo:


King salmon prepared sort of Mexican-style, with rice, corn, black beans and a red-pepper puree. Underneath, a really good thick corn tortilla. At Kinley’s in Anchorage. The king salmon was the best I’ve ever eaten.

I came home with two special souvenirs. One was given to me by Terrie Weckerle, who drove me around on my last day. Her husband and son are commercial fishermen, and Terrie gave me a jar of smoked salmon caught and processed en famille!

On Wednesday, librarian Sherri Douglas–my contact for the trip, who planned the whole schmear–made a special stop for me. I’d been to the Anchorage Museum earlier in the day and had been awed by the baskets made by Native Alaskans. Intricate, beautiful, practical. They sold miniature versions in the museum shop, but those were out of my price range. So Sherri stopped at a store specializing in Native creations, and I found a lovely little basket–a perfect souvenir of my trip.


Basket at right, with miniature celadon vase from Korea and miniature copperware from Peru.

THANKS, Sherri. HURRAH for Alaska libraries–I can’t wait to go back!