I’m smitten. After this past week, New Orleans might have just become my favorite city.
Last week I left behind zero degrees and blowing snow to set down in a land of palm trees and jazz music, cafe’ au lait and beignets, gorgeous antique shops and over-the-top costumes.
I spent the first morning walking down Royal and Chartres streets. I discovered lovely Crescent City Books and bought a book of poetry for my mom. Around one corner, I came across a Bohemian young woman with dreadlocks and fishnet stockings, and playing classical cello. In a central square, a brass band ripped out the kind of music that makes you want to dance. It was sunny and warm, but a pleasant breeze blew off the Mississippi River. It was a Thursday morning, but I suspect it always feels like Friday night in New Orleans.
Thursday evening, I met hundreds of booksellers from around the country — Boston and Denver, New York, San Francisco and Washington D.C. Some of them I knew through Twitter and Facebook. Some of them had never heard of The Snow Child, so I told them a bit about it and myself. Others had read it and were excited to talk to me about it. A few got tears in their eyes as they described how much it meant to them. It was an incredibly moving experience for me as a writer.
So now I’m back home, and glad to be with my family and breathe the cold Alaska air. But if anyone has need for me to come to New Orleans next winter for a few days, just give a shout.
Dear news-seeking reader,
Just a few quick things I want to share with you today:
- The Snow Child is being shipped out earlier than expected here in the United States. It should arrive at bookstores and other retailers in the next week or so. Those who have ordered online through sites like Amazon have gotten messages saying their copies on their way. I’d love to hear from anyone who spots it in their local bookstore or gets a copy in the mail!
- I’m off to the Winter Institute in New Orleans on Wednesday. Around 500 booksellers from around the country will convene to talk about the industry and learn about new books. I’m among more than 50 authors who are attending, along with Julianna Baggott, Richard Ford, Nathan Englander, John Green and many others.
- The Snow Child received this lovely review in the Book Page today.
- A librarian who attended high school with me here in Palmer, Alaska, recently wrote this sweet blog post about waiting for The Snow Child to arrive at her house.
- And last, but certainly not least, the sun has returned! Just a few days ago, the sun crept through the mountains and lit up our snowy yard for the first time in nearly a month. Beautiful, glorious sunshine!
Thank you! What more is there to say? With the help of the publisher Pantagruel and the support of book bloggers, book sellers, and readers across Norway, my debut novel Snøbarnet (The Snow Child) has landed at #1 on the Norwegian bestseller list.
1. Snøbarnet (Eowyn Ivey) – Pantagruel
2. Bibelen 2011 (flere) – Bibelselskapet
3. Reisen hjem (Lori Lansens) – Juritzen
4. Borderline (Liza Marklund) – Piratforlaget
5. Det dyrebare (Linn Ullmann) – Oktober
6. Tirsdagsdamene: reisen til Lourdes (Monica Peetz) – Bastion
7. Vinterstengt (Jørn Lier Horst) – Gyldendal
8. Krystallslottet (Jeannette Walls) – Pantagruel
9. Din godhet (Linda Olsson) – Vigmostad & Bjørke
10. Sirile gentlemen søkes (Karin Brunk Holmqvist) – Silke
I could barely sleep last night, I was so thrilled and overwhelmed. This is truly amazing news.
Dear acclimated reader,
It’s official. We have a lot of snow! In fact, for the first time during the five years we have lived at this house, we had to rent a bulldozer to push back the snow berms. We were running out of room to plow.
Sam and I considered letting the road fill with snow — we could walk up the driveway or even snowmachine when we have groceries. The only problem is that we wouldn’t have a way to haul water. An extra bit of walking? Great! No running water, no hot showers or turning on the faucet, for four months? Hmmm, maybe not.
It was pretty amazing, watching our friend Adam Boyd run the dozer while Sam used our plow truck to push snow in front of him. Our property is now dotted with huge hills of snow.
We are not alone. The Anchorage Daily News reports that the city’s 1995 record of 77 inches of snow was broken on Jan. 9 with more than 81 inches. And the small fishing village of Cordova has made national headlines with its 18 feet of snow on the ground, and the deployment of National Guard troops to help them dig out roads and houses. Around the state, major highways have been closed by avalanches and car accidents.
And now this, from the National Weather Service for our area:
Winter weather advisory for snow remains in effect from 9 pm this evening to 9 pm akst thursday…
Tonight… Snow. Snow accumulation 2 to 5 inches. Lows 10 to 15 above.
Thursday… Snow. Snow accumulation 5 to 10 inches…highest amounts near the mountains. Highs 15 to 20. Northwest wind 10 to 15 mph.
Thursday Night… Snow likely in the evening…then isolated snow showers after midnight. Snow accumulation up to 1 inch. Storm total snow accumulation 8 to 16 inches. Lows zero to 5 below. North wind 15 mph.
Our neighbors are beginning to joke that we are a jinx with all this “snow child” talk.
Dear window-shopping reader,
For more than 8 years, I have worked as a bookseller at Fireside Books. And never once during that time did I dream I would someday see this in the shop’s front window:
It’s a beautiful Snow Child window display painted by the extremely talented Ruth Hulbert, who also works at Fireside Books. She completed it on Saturday while we were both on shift at the store. I’m not sure which is more amazing to me — the fox’s realistic gaze, or the ornate lettering that Ruth painted free-hand and backwards.
I confess that sometimes I’m a little uncomfortable selling my own book to customers. At the same time, it’s a lot fun to be at the shop right now. Fireside Books is giving away tote bags with each prepaid order in the store for The Snow Child. Dozens of friends, neighbors, favorite customers, former teachers, and community members — people I have known my entire life — have come in to order their copies. I am so touched by everyone’s support.
As the Feb. 1 publication date nears, we are also planning the book release party, which will be at the nearby Colony Inn that evening. Originally a teachers dormitory for the Matanuska Colony in the 1930s, the inn is one of the more historic buildings in the area.
As a teenager living in Palmer, I couldn’t wait to move out of my small hometown. Now, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be during this exciting time in my life.
Some people argue the web will be the death of fiction and literature, the demise of thought-provoking writing and in-depth analysis. But this past week has persuaded me otherwise.
While the digitized era certainly seems to favor short attention spans, the web also offers wonderful surprises.
- LONG READS — A website devoted to the best long articles and essays being published. David Cheezem at Fireside Books told me about LongReads.com, and it is now one of my favorite websites. They post articles from magazines like Esquire, the Washington Post, Vanity Fair, and lesser-known publications. You can receive notices by email, and you can nominate articles you think should be included. Already I’ve read some of the most interesting, and well-written, pieces I have ever come across.
- ANNOTATION NATION — My mom, Julie LeMay, is pursuing her MFA in poetry at Antioch University. Through her colleagues, she learned about the site Annotation Nation. The postings aren’t reviews — “Loved it. Five stars” or “Stupid and pointless.” These are thoughtful essays looking at how a piece of writing actually works, including fiction, nonfiction and poetry. It’s a fabulous resource for writers, but I also think serious readers will enjoy it.
- FIVE CHAPTERS — This website recently enabled me to get one of my short stories out into the world. FiveChapters.com serializes short fiction, publishing it daily over the course of a week. My story Remnants appeared on the site this week. It’s exciting to think they are creating more opportunities for fiction to thrive.
The biggest challenge of the web is learning about sites like these. That’s one reason I want to spread the word. And ask you — what treasures have you found online? Any websites that support arts and literature that you recommend?
P.S. If you click on the title heading for each website, it should take you there.
Dear winter reader,
We are in the midst of the darkest, coldest time of year here in Alaska. And this winter has been a bit extreme. We have so much snow at our house, Sam broke the plow off the front of the truck trying to clear our driveway. On Facebook, friends and neighbors are posting things like “20 below zero for third day in a row” and “wish I had remembered to plug in the truck.” There are also a lot of photos of cool blue mountains and frosty trees, with comments like “Beautiful, but so cold.”
This time of year can be dangerously cold. When Sam heads out by snowmachine on his trapline each week, he brings extra clothes and a fire-starting kit. He and his trapping partner travel more than 50 miles by snowmachine, crisscrossing river and streams and glaciers and enduring temperatures around 35 below zero Fahrenheit. They often break through overflow ice, which is formed when water runs on top of the surface of a frozen river and freezes again. It creates a false layer of ice. When you break through, you aren’t in danger of drowning, but you and your machine get sopping wet. With temperatures so brutally cold, water becomes a hazard all itself.
This is also the darkest time of year. At our house, we have entirely lost direct sunlight. The sun doesn’t rise high enough in the sky to clear the mountains. For about two weeks either side of winter solstice, the sun is just a bluish glow behind the peaks.
I love winter. I really do. I love sledding and skiing, ice skating and building snow forts. During the weeks leading to Christmas, I am positively joyful with the season.
But once Jan. 1 comes and goes, winter loses some of its luster. February is actually my least favorite time of year in Alaska.
This year, though, we are being rescued. I just got news that my UK publisher, Headline, wants to bring me to London for a week in February for the release of The Snow Child. We’ll also get to see a bit of Scotland during our visit.
The editor, publicist and other staff at Headline have been so wonderful to work with these past months, I am thrilled to get to meet them in person at last. And, I have to admit, I won’t mind bidding adieu to February in Alaska, even if it is just for a week.
Back in April, I sent you my first letter.
On Jan. 1, WordPress, the site provider for this blog, calculated some interesting statistics about the year that followed. Since the numbers say something about you, and about me, I thought I’d share them.
Letters from Alaska was viewed about 11,000 times in 2011.
During that time, I sent out 92 new letters. There were 227 pictures included. That’s about 4 pictures per week.
The busiest day of the year was October 7th with 167 views. The most popular post that day was Good news from Norway.
Most of you are from the United States. The United Kingdom & Italy are not far behind. There are also readers from Brazil, the Netherlands, Norway, France, India, Spain, the Philippines, Tunisia, Australia, and many other countries.
These were my most popular letters in 2011.:
1 Good news from Norway 20 comments October 2011
2 Book giveaway 40 comments June 2011
3 Hateful things 22 comments August 2011
4 Floating through a powerful world 14 comments July 2011
5 Warning: May contain bear hot dogs 18 comments July 2011
A special thank you to Sue Mathis, the Baers, Nathan Dunbar and Sarah Davis — you have been the most regular contributors to the comments section. You make blogging fun!
And I want to thank all of you, regular subscribers and occasional visitors, for this past year. Without a reader, a letter is a rather useless thing.
Wishing all of you a happy New Year!
I was thinking we could have a gift exchange — I could send you each some snow. We have more than enough to spare, more than three feet, and it’s still snowing.
In return, won’t you send me some sunshine? Sunrise is currently 10:15 am., sunset 3:45 p.m. And here at our house, we have lost direct sunlight because the sun does not rise far enough into the sky to clear the mountains. For at least another week, we will not see the sun at all. But winter solstice has come and gone, so bit by bit we will get our daylight back.
I hope you and your family have a very merry season.
May all our wishes come true,
P.S. I’ll write to you again after the New Year.
Dear radio reader,
Last week I mentioned I had a few exciting news items coming up, and one of them is official now – I was interviewed by BBC’s World Outlook, a program that focuses on unique personal stories from around the globe. More than 40 million people listen to the program in English, in addition to many other languages.
The morning of the interview began with a dark, snowy, white-knuckle drive into Anchorage. We had received nearly a foot of snow during the night, and at 6 a.m. the roads weren’t plowed for much of the way. I worried I would slide into the ditch and miss my chance to be interviewed by one of the most respected and longest-running radio programs in the world.
Fortunately, I arrived at the public radio studio just in time to hear Tim and Lucy’s lovely British voices through a headset. The BBC producer and interviewer were wonderful to work with, as was the technical guru David at KSKA.
The story began airing in other countries earlier today. I’ve already received friendly messages from India, Japan, and France, from writers and readers who said they were inspired to hear about how I wrote my novel.
In the next day or so, the story will be available to play via the Outlook website, at http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/outlook.
There was a downside. BBC Outlook posted on Facebook a photo of me with a moose I had shot. The photo drew comments from people who were offended, and several used vitriolic language to attack me personally.
This has been a dilemma for me from the beginning. On one hand, many people seem interested to learn more about our rural lives in Alaska, how we hunt for our own meat and have forsaken some of the creature comforts of cities to live the way we do. Without this lifestyle, I never could have written The Snow Child. At the same time, I wonder about putting my life and family on display, and opening it up to this kind of criticism, when ultimately I just hope people read and enjoy The Snow Child.
I am curious to ask you, dear reader – do you enjoy knowing about the private lives of your favorite writers and artists? How much do you share about your own life in social media?