I grew up in Alaska, worked for public radio and also fished commercially. Here are a few words about those things that didn’t quite fit on the back of the book:
A Word About Radio:
One of the things that drew me to radio was the intimacy of hearing other people’s stories in their own voices. My first show was, in fact, called “Stories for the Journey.” It aired every week on Raven Radio in Sitka, Alaska, and featured all my friends and neighbors doing ordinary things like buying used clothes or getting married or butchering their roosters. My job was to tap into the extraordinary aspect of the ordinary. Sadly, all those shows were archived on cassette tapes and then lost in a flood. Now there’s a story!
When I started doing the news, I still wanted my newscast to tell a story, and I labored over every sentence until one day the news director finally yelled at me, “Good God, woman, it’s not poetry, it’s the news!” (I tipped him over the edge when I asked if I could stop doing attributions because they sounded clunky). I can’t believe he didn’t fire me. I was a volunteer at the time so he probably couldn’t fire me. I got better and eventually even got paid!
I miss radio. I miss doing the news. I really miss that news director. But I still believe everything has a bit of poetry in it—especially stories about everyday people living their everyday lives. Rather hear stories than read about me talking about them? A few are available here.
A Word About Fishing:
Yes, this is the boat that was a template for the F/V Squid in The Smell of Other People’s Houses. I loved fishing. As hard as it sometimes is, I wonder who my kids would be if they hadn’t grown up in this world, with this life. They can thank me later.
A Word About Alaska:
If I could have set this book anywhere else, I would have. But I’ll probably never know another place well enough to be able to write about it in my sleep, like this one. For me, The Smell of Other People’s Houses is more about growing up in a certain kind of family than it is about growing up in Alaska, although some of us really can thank Alaska for giving us big, wild, untamed childhoods, for better or worse. Even now, after trying to live in the Lower ’48 these past few years, nothing makes sense to me until I’m back home. If you’re really interested in how hard it is to adjust to life Outside (for me), you can read all about that struggle in this essay I wrote for High Country News.
That’s more than a few words. If you’ve read my book and want to drop me a note, I’d love to hear from you. And I never tire of people telling me about the smells that trigger memories for them.
All the best,