Dear snowy reader,
Today I am excited to announce that The Snow Child is now available in paperback here in the United States. It’s being shipped this week, and I’m already hearing reports of its landing in bookstores around the country.
Those of you in the UK or Australia or New Zealand might be baffled. The paperback was published there in August, but each publisher sets its own schedule.
So here in Palmer, Alaska, we’re celebrating. I’ll be at Fireside Books on Saturday to sign copies from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. And I might have a glass of bubbly and a snowflake cookie.
It has been a remarkable journey. This past year since The Snow Child was published in hardcover has been full of surprises. There was a five-week world tour, reviews and award nominations. I received word that The Snow Child was shortlisted for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, which means a trip to New York City for the awards dinner in December.
I will also be returning to London this December for some book events and other excitement. I’ll share more details soon.
The Snow Child has been nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award, determined by readers. You can cast your vote here.
And there are more surprises coming up this winter in Alaska that I will write about as soon as I can.
I did have one disappointment, though. The world tour meant that I missed autumn, my favorite season in Alaska. I wasn’t able to pick wild blueberries on the tundra, and our family wasn’t able to go on our annual caribou or moose hunt.
But last week my husband Sam and I had a rare gift — he and I spent a quiet day hunting for caribou north of our home. The sun was sparkling off the snow. We saw grizzly bear tracks, caribou too far away to shoot, a curious coyote. It was the kind of spectacular Alaska day that keeps me grounded even as I enjoy the whirlwind of The Snow Child.
And thanks to Sam, our family gratefully worked all weekend butchering and packaging meat from the caribou he got on another trip. We’ve also managed to get the firewood split and stacked, so with a well-filled freezer and a warm fire, we are feeling quite content.
I hope you are, too.
Hello from Alaska! After five weeks circling the globe, I am so very glad to be back. My first morning, I was welcomed with snow. It has since melted and we are now enjoying an unseasonably warm autumn. The leaves are gone from the trees, the fireweed blooms have turned to feathery fluff, and the tall grass is golden.
I missed so much about this place: crisp Alaskan air, spruce trees, mountains in all directions, friendly greetings from neighbors at the post office and grocery store, caribou steak and new potatoes, rhubarb cordial, a birch fire in the woodstove, family close by, and the complete silence and darkness of nightfall.
This weekend I head out again, but this time to a kind of second home — the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association trade show , this year in Tacoma, Washington. Sunday morning I’ll be speaking at a breakfast event along with authors Jon Klassen, Karen Cushman, and Sherman Alexie.
I look forward to visiting with you bookseller friends out there.
Dear steadfast reader,
I hope you are having a fine summer, or winter for those who are on the other end of the world. I haven’t written for a while because I haven’t had much to report. But now I do have a couple things to share.
First, I did an interview with the Lithuanian publication 15min. Here it is in Lithuanian, or if you would like to read a rough translation of it in English, click here. Thank you to the journalist Audrius Ožalas for the wonderful interview (which was done in English. Unfortunately I don’t know a word of Lithuanian.)
And in perhaps one of the biggest events around the Ivey house in some time, we scheduled a well drilling. As many of you know, we haul our water. We limit our baths and showers, collect rain water for the animals and garden, and do laundry either at my mom’s house or the laundromat. It’s not so inconvenient, but we’ve always dreamed of the luxury of a well. It could be especially handy when, say, trying to build an ice rink.
This summer, we crossed our fingers and called Ace Water Wells.
There are no guarantees you’ll find water at 100 feet or even 500 feet. Because of our location, up on a hill in mountainous terrain, we knew there was a good chance we would strike out. And whether we ended up with an artesian aquifer or a very deep dry hole in the ground, we would still have to pay the per-foot fee.
I admit I’m doubtful of the science behind water witching, but we tried to find someone to come out because we thought it couldn’t hurt. Summer is a busy time for Alaskans, though, and none of the dowsers we knew were available. By the time Alaska novelist Don Rearden kindly offered on Facebook that his mom is a dowser, it was too late. We were already committed.
But a few days before that, Sam and I had picked up a couple of copper wires and gave it a try ourselves. While I was in the house, he walked the yard with one bent wire held loosely in each hand. Then before he could tell me his results, I took the wires.
It was an odd experience. At first as I walked through the grass, nothing happened, and that made sense to me. But then gradually the two copper wires began to wobble in my hands and slowly draw together and cross in front of me. I reset them straight in my hands, walked away and then back to the same spot, and it happened again. I went inside and told Sam where the wires had moved, near a tall cow parsnip plant not far from the house.
“Me, too,” he said with a shrug.
So when the drillers arrived with their monstrously huge truck, we had them set up at that spot. Why not, right?
They positioned their truck, raised the tall drilling equipment, and started in. Great clouds of dust rose from the ground.
It wasn’t long before one of the brothers came to our front door looking very serious.
“Not good?” I asked.
“Nope. We hit bedrock at 13 feet.”
Bedrock, as in solid rock. In our area, this often means a dry well or at best a sulfury trickle.
Sam was trying to get home but was stuck in traffic halted by an automobile accident on the highway. I alone faced the decision — do we keep drilling, throwing dollars down this hole? Do we move to someplace else on our property? Or do we toss in the towel, so to speak?
The driller didn’t seem to think it would make much difference if we moved to another location, unless it was off the hill we live on. So we agreed to continue drilling in the same place.
I had a book-related teleconference scheduled that day, so as I talked on the phone over the roar of the drilling machine, I watched nervously out the window. The men wore ear protection against the noise. I tried to read their faces as they worked. They didn’t look particularly optimistic.
After the phone call, I continued to pace and watch and wonder if I had made a very expensive, very bad decision.
After a couple hours, a neighbor drove into our yard with Sam in his truck. Sam had caught a ride, having to leave his truck on the side of the highway because of the unmoving traffic.
The three of us stood outside visiting and watching the well drillers. And then we noticed something — was that water gushing out by the drillers’ feet? One of the brothers gave us a thumbs-up. What did it mean?
It meant water! At 145 feet, they struck a fracture in the rock with a stream of water. Fifteen gallons a minute of beautiful, wonderful water. The drillers seemed as pleasantly surprised as us.
When my novel was first acquired by publishers, I wondered how much it would change things for me and my family. For the most part, our days are the same. We live in the same house, have the same friends and interests and aspirations. But now we could afford to drill a well.
Endless hot baths and clean laundry are still a ways off ; we have to dig a trench from the well to the house and plumb it in. But we have water! Thank you to the readers around the world who helped make this possible.
Dear sleepless reader,
As promised, here is a photograph of the view from our house at midnight a few nights ago. Castle Mountain in the distance is still topped with snow.
As we near summer solstice, the sun officially sets just before midnight and rises again at 4 a.m. But during those four hours, it remains light enough to see and the robins and chickadees never stop singing.
Alaska is known as the home of the midnight sun, and as you can see, it is still nearly daylight at that hour. But as for the sun, it has been elusive. This summer so far has been rainy and cool. Of course when it did warm to 65 degrees, my husband and I complained about it being so muggy. My in-laws, visiting from Florida, might have disagreed. I guess “muggy” is a relative term.
What do your summer nights look and sound like? Do you have fireflies and croaking frogs? Streetlights and honking horns?
Dear resuming reader,
I have been remiss in writing to you this past week. But I have an excuse — we have officially entered the manic summer season in Alaska when we try to squeeze as much work/fun/family into every daylight hour.
I say “summer season” but really this is only applicable in terms of the increasing length of each day: currently sunrise is at 5 a.m. and sunset at nearly 11 p.m. In terms of summer weather, not so much. A hail storm yesterday afternoon turned into a snow squall. But we have not let the chill deter us.
We spent the first weekend of May in our riverboat. This is the earliest we’ve been out on the rivers; the ice broke up nearly a week before it usually does.
Beaver and muskrats swam along the shore; Arctic terns dipped and dove in aerobatics over the water as they fished for salmon smolt in the early morning; sandhill cranes, scaup ducks, mergansers, mallards, and buffleheads flew along the river and landed in the back sloughs; frogs uttered their first croaks of the season. At night, we sat beside a campfire and ate s’mores.
Also in true Alaska summer tradition, visitors have begun to arrive. My grandparents from Buffalo, NY, came for about a week, and then my uncle.
Soon, my husband’s family arrives, just in time to go fishing for king salmon. One of the downsides of living in Alaska is having extended family so far away. But these weeks have been the perfect antidote.
I have also been pursuing my new career as a published author. During the past weeks, I’ve visited libraries, schools, and book clubs to talk about The Snow Child, and a few days ago I had a signing event at the Flying Squirrel, a bakery cafe in Talkeetna, Alaska, where I ate the most scrumptious cauliflower macaroni & cheese and had a delightful conversation about books with the group of readers who attended.
And then, as if we haven’t tried to cram enough into our days, we have also been tackling lots of projects around our house. This weekend Sam and I built a small greenhouse so we can grow tomatoes, cucumbers and basil this summer. We hauled, split and stacked wood to try to replenish our wood shed. And I’m in the middle extending our garden and putting up new fencing around it. Hopefully by the end of the month, the snow squalls will have halted entirely, and we’ll be able to plant our garden with carrots, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, and lettuce.
So if another week goes by without a letter from me, know that I am only knee-deep in summer. But I am thinking of you.
What are your plans for the coming season?
Dear hopeful reader,
The past two weeks have been sunny and warm, at least by our standards — in the mid-50s during the heat of the day. The snow has nearly disappeared. The pussy willows are blooming. The rhubarb is poking its way out of the wet ground. And the wild swans have returned to Fish Lake.
It seems spring truly has arrived in Alaska.
My youngest daughter and I have planted our garden starts — squash and kale, broccoli and sweet peas — and now our living room windows are full of tiny, tender, green plants.
In another sign of spring, our friend and neighbor Donna gave us baby chicks. Chickens produce the most eggs during the first year or two, so each spring we add some new hens to the flock to keep up our egg production. Although, as you can see from our refrigerator, we are not suffering from a shortage of eggs. Luckily we have friends and relatives to share them with.
In another week or two the cottonwood and birch leaves will fully emerge, and in about a month we can plant our garden.
Of course yesterday afternoon as I was driving home, the sky began to spit snow at my windshield. But none of it stuck to the ground, so I’m just going to pretend that didn’t happen.
Are the seasons changing for you as well?
Dear longtime reader,
When I worked as a newspaper reporter, we would print breaking stories and then months later realize that we never let our readers know the outcome of the story. I’m afraid I’m guilty of this as a blogger. So today, I want to follow up on a few items I have mentioned in my letters to you:
- The Ice Rink: A Bust I’m afraid our backyard ice rink was doomed from the beginning of this very snowy winter. Even if we had figured out how to haul enough water to fill in the frame, it snowed so much this winter it would have been a full-time job just trying to keep it dug out. I had nearly forgotten about it until this last week when the snow began to melt. There it is — the remains of our ice skating dreams. But maybe there is hope for next winter because …
- A well. Sam and I are in the midst of scheduling the drilling of our well this summer. It’ s an exciting but somewhat daunting prospect. Some of our neighbors have 100-foot, clear running wells, while others had to blast through bedrock and go down more than 300 feet. And there’s no guarantee you’ll ever hit water. But we’re going to cross our fingers and hope for the best. I’ll keep you posted … I promise.
- Have you seen the snow child? Some time ago I mentioned wanting people to submit photos and images of the snow child — snow sculptures, maybe drawings or artwork that called the fairy tale to mind. Many readers have been posting fabulous images on The Snow Child Facebook page. It has been wonderful to see all the different interpretations, images of fox and ice princesses and much more. If you would like to share an image, please post it on the Facebook page.
- Faina travels the world. This week I got news that The Snow Child will be published in China by OmniBook in Taipei. In addition, the English language version distributed by my UK publisher Headline has made its way to India. That brings us up to more than 20 languages and around 30 countries, that I know of. Last week a reader posted an image of the Lithuanian cover on The Snow Child Facebook page. What an amazing journey Faina has taken us on!
So now that I’ve caught up on a few things, I was wondering — is there anything else I’ve forgotten? Do you have any questions for me?
Dear lovely readers,
What makes me happy? One of you said it perfectly — reading people’s lists of things they love.
It’s been a joyful surprise for me to read about jigging for halibut, the sweet laughter from your grandkids, hiking anywhere and everywhere with your sisters, a good cup of coffee, cooking soups especially when they turn out even better than expected, brown bear tracks on the snow on a mountain in the spring, sitting with your husband on a favorite picnic rock in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, baking a pie, the smell of small wildflowers blanketing the floor of the desert in spring, the sound of the sea, drinking Earl Grey tea while watching evening snow fall, new socks, tulips emerging, and becoming obsessed with an art project.
And much to my surprise and delight, my husband Sam, who has teased me about blogging and Facebooking and twittering, came home from work yesterday with his own list. So here are some of the things that make Sam Ivey happy:
- Caribou hunting and camping with my girls — Eowyn and our two daughters.
- Feeling connected to nature when moose hunting or when studying animal tracks/behavior on the trapline.
- Lying in the snow on a dark night and listening to the power of the Matanuska River winds and the creaking of the trees overhead.
- The sounds of my oldest daughter practicing her flute and singing opera pieces.
- My 5-year-old offering to help me clean out the wood stove.
- Late-night writing discussions with Eowyn about elements of her projects, especially plot and place. (The Snow Child was a favorite pastime.)
- The extremes of Alaska’s seasons — I love each one, but always look forward to the next.
- Sourdough pancakes.
- Friends and neighbors always willing to lend a helping hand, even when you need help lifting a 500-pound beam into place.
- Singing a commonly known song with my 5-year-old daughter, using words she has invented, only to have her tell me I’m not singing it right.
- Working on house projects.
- Hooking a king salmon.
- Copper river reds.
- Cutting wood.
- Singing in the church choir with my oldest daughter.
- Packing moose meat out of the woods with Eowyn.
P.S. We can’t have too many happy things, so please tell me more.
Today, I want to write about happiness. Here are 20 things that leave me content, make me laugh, fill me with joy —
* Sledding parties on sunny March days when everyone from 5 to 50 flies down the hill and their laughter echoes through the trees.
* Coming indoors after a sledding party to a crackling wood stove and hot cocoa.
* Sunshine after 8 p.m.
* The fact that my father’s delight when I gave him a signed first edition of Bernard Cornwell’s newest novel wasn’t because it was a signed first edition, but because it was one he hadn’t read yet.
* Two hours spent utterly absorbed in a good book.
* The lines from my mother’s newest poems:
I was born in a wet month
that rains promises
of a forever spring.
* Hearing my husband Sam’s voice over our walkie-talkie as he plows the driveway in the dark. “The Northern lights are out!” Turning off all the house lights and rushing to the window to see a sheet of electric green rippling behind the mountains.
* Two hours spent cross-country skiing out of our backyard through sunlit birch trees, crossing paths with fox, ermine, grouse, and moose.
* Sam making moose meat burek for dinner when we learned The Snow Child will be published in Albania (recipe and publishing deal courtesy of Tracy at Little, Brown & Co.)
* News that The Snow Child’s list of foreign publishers has grown to include Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Turkey, Brazil, Israel, Serbia, Romania, Albania, and Poland.
* Listening to my oldest daughter as she sings Italian arias.
* The knowledge that our children will have talents and do things we never would have dreamed of doing.
* The hope that we might drill a well this summer and not have to haul water anymore.
* Warm chicken eggs in the nest on a cold morning.
* A 5-year-0ld’s knock-knock jokes, that only she gets but that make us all laugh.
* Pussy willows.
* Mud puddles.
* Knowing spring will come, and then be gone again.
What makes you happy?
Dear springy reader,
According to the calendar, today is the first day of spring. You might think otherwise when you look out on our yard. One of the snowiest winters ever means that we still have a long wait for green grass and tulips.
But there is one hopeful sign of the season — sunlight. And lots of it. The days are growing by nearly six minutes, and we now have more daylight than darkness, a remarkable change from the winter months. And all the white snow just makes the sunshine more beautiful and brilliant.