Bellingham Writers’ Resolutions, plus a Call for Women Writers

2 01 2013

I’m blessed that both of my home communities have amazing bookstores: Old Harbor Books in Sitka, Alaska, and Village Books in Bellingham, Washington. Independent bookstores do heroic work to foster lively literary communities – readings, events, opportunities you won’t get from Amazon. Village is hosting one of those opportunities this weekend, with their annual “Resolutions for Writers” extravaganza.

Saturday’s five mini-workshops are designed to help jump-start your writing year, by tackling clutter, getting un-stuck, loving finances, intention-setting through collage, and maintaining vision and balance. Check here for more information on teachers and workshop times.

As good as Saturday looks, I’m especially invested in Sunday’s line-up:

If you’re in the Whatcom/Skagit County area, I hope you can join us. Check here for full details.

*****

In an opportunity open to female readers wherever you are, Cami Ostman is seeking submissions for another anthology. (Her first, Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religion, co-edited with Susan Tive, will be released this spring.)

She Writes Her Life: Women Explore How Writing Has Informed Their Identity Development explores women’s relationships with writing. Why we write, how our writing influences how we think about ourselves and who we are in the world. Essays should be no longer than 3500 words, have a $25 submission fee, and are due by March 4, 2013. Visit Cami’s site for more details.

I’ve had a few friends ask about the submission fee. She Writes Press is an independent publisher that prioritizes empowerment and community. Your $25 covers evaluation and printing, but most importantly, contributes to a pool for publishing at least one pro bono project a year. (Visit She Writes Press to learn more.)

I suspect Cami’s project – and SWP’s values – will resonate with many of Hooked’s regulars. (Happy New Year, Patricia, Tina, EBW, Heather, Claire, Lisa!) Please do pass this opportunity with your own readers. A new year is a great time to start a new essay!





Hooked Trolls for Help (& Offers a Gift)

28 12 2012

A funny thing happened on the Facebooks today.

When I opened my email this morning, a whole string of notifications greeted me. A long list of folks responding to one of my photos. That’s weird, I thought. I haven’t posted anything new.

Even odder: the image inspiring so much response was from last December – ancient by social media standards.

Tele's Proposal, Submission #1 2011

December 5, 2011: My first attempt at shopping my book proposal.

Turned out a new friend had given that old photo a second life. With her enthusiastic comment, it began appearing on other friends’ walls. One after another, folks chimed in with their support. “Can’t wait for you to sign my first edition at Old Harbor Books,” one wrote. Said another, “I’m not at all concerned over the fate of this book. I’m more worried about the effects of wealth and fame on your life.”

With every new congratulatory response, I felt a bit more embarrassed. More like a fraud.

Then Marlin called. “Hey, Sis! Congratulations on getting your proposal out. That’s really exciting!”

I interrupted his praise. “That’s an old picture of the proposal I submitted last winter. It totally got rejected – that’s okay, it deserved to be rejected because I submitted it before it – or I – was ready – but nobody commenting now knows that and I feel silly.”

Marlin’s laughter swept me up in his good humor. I chuckled with him, then considered, “The timing’s funny, though. I got good feedback from an agent and have been revising so it’s in better shape. I think it’s almost there. My goal is to submit it to her the first week of January.”

“Sounds like all of those sudden comments are the universe’s way of giving you that final push, telling you not to give up,” Marlin observed. “Maybe this was the best time for you to hear all of that encouragement.”

Ah. How can I be so lucky, that one of my oldest friends is also one of the wisest people I know? And how good Sitka’s docks have been to me: both my “brother” and my sweetheart, two of my life’s greatest gifts, are fellow boat kids I met on the breakwater over 25 years ago.

*****

If you’ve wondered why Hooked’s been such a quiet little place lately, that’s why. You’ve been on my mind, but everything (and everyone) has taken a back seat to having this second attempt ready to submit next week. After way too many slow, discouraging days, today feels better. The 25 pages of book overview, bio, chapter summaries, marketing strategies, and comparative titles seem like they’re in good shape. The sample chapters still need work – not so much that they’re overwritten, like dough that’s been kneaded too long, but just enough that they sing in the right places and murmur pleasantly in the rest. Though I may feel differently tomorrow, today this feels do-able.

It’d feel even better with your participation, sweeties.

I’m a fan of epigraphs – relevant quotes providing a touchstone for each chapter’s takeaway message – and need your suggestions. What’s relevant? Hooked: a memoir of love, sex and salmon is a story of fidelity, as I struggle to define what it means to be true to a partner… a place… a life… and myself, over the course of a season aboard the Nerka. The voices I’ve gathered so far include Barbara Kingsolver on forgiveness, Cheryl Strayed on fear, Dan Savage on the myths of monogamy and “The One,” James Baldwin and Lynn Schooler on home, and Rumi on human imperfection.

I’d love to hear your favorite reflections on home, the sea, love, trust, forgiveness, belonging. Actually, I’d love to hear your favorite reflections on anything. A beloved quotation, poem, or song lyric – who knows what might strike just the right chord? Whose words have spoken so deeply to you?

Because you’re all wonderful and I’m grateful for your support, everyone who comments with a suggestion over the next three days gets their name in the hat. (Boot, actually – an old Xtra Tuf.) I’ll draw two names at the end of New Year’s Day, two lucky participants who’ll receive care packages of local-made Sitka goodies and Cap’n J’s newly printed photo cards. Random gift-giving aside, my big appreciation and love to all for your contributions.

 

Update: Congratulations, Scott and EBW! Thanks to all for playing.

Hooked's Quote Giveaway Winners





Life in the Gray: After Sandy Hook

17 12 2012

I’m writing to you from a ferry. Seated alone on a midday crossing, staring into a muted seascape. Ocean the green of beach glass, clouds shushing the sky; land’s faintest skeleton peeks through sheets of rain. Whitecaps the only bright spots in this world. “Lots of sheep out here today,” one of our fleet elders would say about the turbulent sea.

This relentless gray depresses some, but I embrace it, a reassuring companion for my eternal ambivalence. It’s here in the gray that I struggle to balance a precarious tower of contradiction.

Contradictions like my relationship with guns. On auto-answer, I would’ve told you I don’t have one. You know who I am, sweeties – tree hugging, tofu eating, feminist fisherman and all that. I don’t like guns. I don’t want to shoot shit. I don’t need one to feel safe; they invoke the opposite in me. I don’t want any part of guns or gun culture.

But that’s too black and white for someone living in the gray. Of course I have a relationship with guns. Born and largely raised in a state where over 60% of households have them, how could I not?

Early childhood in Wasilla. My parents – like most Alaskans – hunted. One of our family stories recalled leg cramps hobbling my dad on a caribou trip. My mom packed him, all their gear, and the meat back out.

Being a deckhand. Until recently, most of the boats I crewed on had guns aboard. My mom. Single men. Family boats. Folks who regularly served venison and wouldn’t go to the beach without a gun as bear protection. The single time I’ve fired a gun was on one of those boats, urged to join my shipmates in target shooting a can tossed in the water. Wish I could tell you we retrieved the can afterward.

The August night that my teenaged self paddled to a Sitka Sound island with a handful of other deckhands. We started drinking on the way out, passing the fifth of Jager between kayaks, wasted by dusk. We told fireside stories of the kushtaka, Tlingit lore’s shape-shifting otter-man. Spooked by a shadowy tree, one of the boys pulled a handgun from his backpack. Began waving it around. The rest of us suddenly sober, another grabbed the gun and put it away.

Still a teenager. Midnight cruising the back roads of Washington farmlands. When headlights appeared in the rearview, the jittery driver reached for the glove box. A handgun inside. His paranoia, certain that the car behind was “after us.” Making it home, shaken by what could have been. A year later, learning that boy killed a man.

The land job I had, where shotguns leaned against the truck shop walls, casually propped alongside broomsticks. When the boss’s temper snapped, he’d grab the closest one, stalk outside, and blast starlings off the power lines.

The contrast of people in my heart. I’m on this ferry traveling to a winter reunion with fishing friends. Almost everyone there will be a hunter – including the petite young woman who recently shot her first deer, a four-point – except for Joel and me. I don’t eat meat other than fish because I choose not to eat what I can’t take responsibility for putting on my plate. I don’t like killing fish, but I do it as humanely as possible, with gratitude and respect. Most of these hunters share those values. They talk of “bad kills” – shots where the deer suffered unduly – with disapproval and condemn waste. I respect their connection to the food on their tables. I’ll be happy to see each of them, while avoiding the fixed marble-eyed gaze of bucks long since passed through our hosts’ freezer, Santa hats perched jauntily on ears forever cocked.

But this isn’t just about guns.

Contradictions like the sudden urgency with which we talk about mental healthcare after a tragedy like Sandy Hook, and the reality of how we respond to those struggling among us. The conversations that inevitably follow, where we talk about mental illness the way some folks talk about Africa – like it’s one uniform place, rather than a continent of many countries, ethnicities, languages, religions, cultures. Mental illness is that continent, inclusive of millions of us and a broad spectrum of diagnoses, behaviors, challenges, and triumphs. Contradictions like my hope that this will be the tragedy to reframe our nation’s priorities, that we’ll veer towards valuing and investing in others’ wellness, squared off against antipathy for a discussion that stigmatizes all people in need as the next potential assailant.

Contradictions like friends’ posts on Facebook, where we communally grieve, rage, and process.

“It is one’s choice to act in a manner that will bring pain and suffering upon another,” wrote one. “Sadly, there isn’t anything we, as individuals and as a nation, will ever be able to do about the actions another chooses.”

Another said, “We live in a culture that is more oriented to competition than cooperation, to power than vulnerability; to materialism rather than sustainability; to defense rather than inquiry; to self-interest and individual rights rather than concern for the whole.”

I didn’t have the strength to weigh in. What could I say that hasn’t already been said about Sandy Hook… and Oregon… Tulare County… Minneapolis… New York… Wisconsin… Colorado… Seattle… Florida… Arizona… Ohio… Georgia… and Texas, in 2012 alone? Words are such worthless fragments, too small and brittle for this size of grief. What would they even matter?

Blogger Jim Wright’s readers were anxious to hear what the fiercely spoken Alaskan – a gun owning, military consulting, Navy veteran – would say about Newtown, but he wasn’t having it. “I may have something to say later, but at the moment, I’m not going to waste my time – and it’s exactly that, a complete and utter waste of my time because absolutely NOTHING has changed since the last bloody slaughter, since the last time a bunch of kids were mowed down by the insanity that is America and its bizarre obsession with guns and violence and blood. Nothing has changed. Not one goddamned thing. Exactly as I said five months ago. We can’t even have the conversation. Both sides were already rehashing the same old arguments before the blood was dry.”

I have two friends who didn’t rehash old arguments. They embraced action. “The only response is to organize,” the one in Seattle wrote. “I’ll be hosting a conversation today at 3 pm about possible next steps for those of us who want to ‘do something’ about gun violence. You don’t have to be any kind of expert – I’m not.”

The resulting group has scheduled bi-weekly meetings, open to anyone who wants to be involved. If you’d like to be, visit the Densmore Working Group.

The friend in Sitka didn’t waste any time, either: “I am sure that many of you are as furious, outraged, devastated, and so, so sad about the Connecticut shooting as I am,” she wrote. “I feel so strongly that SOMETHING needs to change in our nation, our states, and our communities. My personal step towards a solution is to invite people to a letter-writing campaign this Wednesday, December 19, at 6:30 pm at the Larkspur to send letters to our state senators, representatives, and president. The goal here is to do SOMETHING proactive to reduce these violent incidents.”

If you’re in Sitka, drop by the Larkspur Café, 6:30 to 8:30 pm, to participate. Those outside of Sitka can join in, too. I’ll be writing my letters in solidarity from Bellingham.

There aren’t a lot of easy answers here in the gray, but one sunbeam voice breaks through. My friend Laura posted this resource from Mr. Rogers, advising parents how to talk to children about traumatic events. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

Good advice for all. May we look for the helpers… May we be the helpers. I’m thankful to have friends setting the example.





Enough About Hooked… How are YOU?

29 09 2012

One hundred forty-nine.

That’s how many hours Cap’n J and I spent at the dock over the last 47 days of our season. As if finally grasping the fundamental trick to making a living fishing – keeping your hooks in the water – we pushed ourselves to make the quickest of turnarounds this year.

As fishermen, this hard-charging approach served us well.  As a writer, it wasn’t so good for me.

Midway through one of our last trips, I stood in the cockpit wiping sea lice from a coho’s supple body, my thoughts drifting like kelp torn free of the sea floor. I wondered how Jen Pickett’s gillnet season had gone, and if fall storms would trap her in Cordova. What was going on for all of the Red Wheelbarrow Writers? How was Emily holding up, dealing with her mom’s Alzheimer’s? What beautiful bit of writing was I missing from Sifting the Grain, and what were Lisa W. Rosenberg’s latest observations on body image and identity?

Standing in the place that makes me feel most in touch with myself and my surroundings, I suddenly realized how removed I’d become from others.

I write not only out of a desire to communicate, but to connect. To engage in meaningful conversations and forge relationships. But all of Hooked’s summer posts focused on how things were on the Nerka, published in a frenzied scramble as we left town. (True story. More than once I clicked “publish” as the dock lines were cut, crossing my fingers it would post before we lost the harbor’s tenuous internet.)

Those 149 hours ashore didn’t include opportunities to respond to your comments, visit your blogs, celebrate your recent successes or wish you the best in hardships. Instead of the reciprocal conversation that’s the great beauty of blogging, I’m afraid Hooked has veered dangerously close to becoming That Guy – the one loudly holding court at a party, dominating all conversation with his own self-absorbed monologues. No one enjoys getting stuck with that guy. I definitely don’t want Hooked to be that guy.

So, enough about Hooked. How are you? What’s your latest triumph or challenge? Fellow bloggers, have you written a favorite post recently that you’d be willing to link to here? Fisherfolks, how did the season treat you?  What are you doing next?

I’ve missed knowing how you’re doing, buddies.

(Psstt…  Jen Karuza Schile, don’t you have a new e-book to share? Proud of you for creating a great resource for all of the shore-side heroes holding fishing families together! And Robin Blue, congrats on National Fisherman’s cover story on your family making the transition from crew to captain! Nick Rahaim, great Pacific Fishing article on Xtra Tuf’s shoddy sell-out to China – what are you working on next?)

Also, Hooked gained some additional readers recently. Welcome, new friends, and please say hello if you’re so inclined. I’m glad you’re here.





Fisherman, Community Participant; Someone in Between

24 04 2012

Cap’n J and I have been back in Sitka for a month now, blissing out on the pre-tourist calm. This is something I love about being up here early. Seasonal workers (yeah, like us) and visitors are a mere trickle in spring, rather than the flood of summer. Like bears snuffling their way out of hibernation, locals blink happily at the lengthening days, joking easily, relieved to have slipped through winter’s clammy fingers.

Sitkans know how to stay busy. Community events celebrate all manner of talent, and we’ve kept a full calendar since our return. The Sitka Film Society brought Salaam Dunk to town, a great film about an Iraqi girls’ basketball team. Performer Gene Tagaban shared a powerful evening of stories, music and dance. There was the Monthly Grind – a community-wide variety show that runs October-April – and an evening of live storytelling at the Larkspur Café.

All these things, and we even managed to go fishing. The Nerka spent 10 days away from the dock, as we tried our hand at winter king trolling. April’s ocean conditions are notoriously fickle; only weeks earlier, a friend awoke to his deck piled with snow, an icy skin on the water. Braced for the worst, we got the fantasy instead, re-entering our work life with flat calm water, gorgeous sunrises, and the occasional king salmon. Not even Bear could complain, sprawled on her bunk in a sunbeam. (Though she did get seasick when we first left the dock. Nothing like a glassy-eyed, mouth-foaming cat to make you feel like a terrible parent.)

Bear's kind of fishin': flat seas and sunny.

We’d have happily continued dragging our hooks around, but by the middle of this month, it was time to scrub the Nerka clean and switch gears. We’re jumping ship to longline on a friend’s boat, hoping to head out this week. Slowly progressing towards being ready, we spent much of Sunday loading halibut gear aboard. (The boat sat noticeably lower in the water, her nose sniffing the sky, after we were done.)

We’re here to make a living, I know, but I’m also hungry to make a life in Sitka. Every day, yet another flyer is tacked to the Backdoor Café’s bulletin board, promoting yet another tempting event. This week is no exception.

Monday was World Book Night, and Sitka’s unique method of spreading literary love earned a national shout-out in USA Today.

Isabella Brady will be honored on Tuesday evening, first with Alaska Native Sisterhood services (5 pm, ANB Hall), followed by cultural services that will continue late into the night (7 pm, Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi).

Wednesday marks a different honoring, as Sitka’s Fish to Schools program is recognized as Alaska’s 2011-2012 Best Farm to Schools Program. Only on its second year, Fish to Schools connects local schools with local seafood. If you’re in Sitka, dinner is a not-to-be-missed meal by Ludvig’s Colette Nelson. Otherwise, you can still support Fish to Schools here.

On Thursday, community organizer Lakota Harden will lead a workshop, “Allies for Youth,” training adults to ally with youth for social change and developing leaders for the next generation. (9 am-noon; RSVP with Brian Sparks, 907.747.3370.) This one’s dear to my heart: my non-fishing path was as a social worker with Seattle’s homeless youth. While I can’t give up this life at sea, I miss social justice work, cultural conversations, the energy and resilience of young people.

But as I heard so often as a teenager, “We are here to catch fish and make money,” and you can’t catch fish if your hooks aren’t in the water. Given a self-sustaining bank account and no anxious skippers, I’d gladly sign my time over to all of these events, and more – experience assures me that Thursday’s tempting event will be followed by something equally fascinating on Friday, then Saturday, and on and on. The thing about fishing for a living is that – eventually – you have to leave the dock.

All this makes me curious… Is our little island town of 9000 special (well, yes), or are other communities equally rich with goings-on? With Hooked’s friends spread across such diverse geography, I wonder what it’s like where you live. Do you feel very connected to your community events? Which ones? How do you hear about them?








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