In 1955 the Rasmuson Foundation gave its first grant to an Alaskan — $155 for a film projector. Since then, the foundation has awarded more than $200 million to nonprofit organizations, libraries, schools, and individual artists.
This year Rasmuson grants went to a screenwriter to write a documentary about Jewish pioneers in territorial Alaska, a traditional Alaskan artist who makes mukluks and parkas, a painter, a glass artist, and a Shakespeare thespian, to name a few.
When I attended the awards ceremony in Anchorage, I was so moved by the diversity and passion of the artists. I felt honored to be among them, and grateful to the Rasmuson Foundation for having both the means, courtesy of a family trust, and the vision to support art in all its many forms across Alaska.
My gratitude was more self-centered, as well – I was given $5,000 to assist in research for my next novel.
I’m afraid I can’t share much about my new novel yet. I once heard a writer refer to the process as baking a cake. Early on, it’s still just mostly batter, and if I open the oven too soon to show it off, it just might fall. So I’ll keep the oven closed for now, while it’s baking.
But I will tell you that the Rasmuson grant is funding my rafting trip down the Copper River later this summer. The trip is rapidly approaching, and this weekend Sam and I began making preliminary plans. We picked up the raft from Alaska Ultra Sport, the guiding service we’re renting it from, and got some tips from the guides about where to camp and how to read the river.
We still have a lot of strategic details to figure out– getting dropped off in Chitina, getting picked up in Cordova and catching the ferry home, how much food to bring, and where we’ll be able to find drinking water along the way. It’s a nearly 100-mile float trip without cell phone or internet access, electricity or roads. We have to think of everything now – once we are afloat on the river, there is no turning back.
Which is what I find so thrilling about a trip like this. When you set out on an adventure, you never know what you’ll see or how you’ll be changed by it. As I write those words, I realize it is perhaps at the core of my new novel – adventure and hardship and how it changes us. Of course, without saying too much, I certainly hope we don’t encounter the same kind of hardships my characters do along this stretch of the Copper River …