Writing is a journey. Perhaps lonely, or at least alone, navigating terrain of the writer’s mind. My journey to write Cabin 135, first the living and later the writing, spanned many decades. In December 2020 the book was published by University of Alaska Press. Since then there have been several readings: one sponsored by Roundabout Books in Bend Oregon, another co-hosted by UA Press and Fireside Books (Palmer, Alaska), and most recently on June 21, a reading put on by UAF Summer Sessions & Lifelong Learning together with the UA Press. With this latest reading, I decided on a different strategy, that rather than a sampling of sections that would convey the flavor of the old house and surrounding environment, I would read a section about a road-trip to the Arctic coast. I chose this section because it suggests cold and ice (or at least the hope of ice), perhaps providing momentary respite from the massive and record-smashing heat that has settled over the western United States. Now, I think if my goal had been to provide escape from the heat, reading a different passage would have had a chillier effect:
“Overhead, birch limbs messily thread the leaden sky. Snow crystals stack and intermesh along branches until the frozen-water weight becomes too much. A bough twitches and snow cascades on top of me, chilling my face and numbing my neck. After the frosty veil settles, the birch trunks—some striated white, some amber—appear starker than before.” (from Cabin 135)
Returning to my initial statement that writing is a lonely journey, I was thrilled to read the review of Cabin 135, A Memoir of Alaska by Valorie Grace Hallinan on her blog “Books Can Save a Life.” Valorie considers the writing process and reflects back to me meaning that she found in my writing. Not an in-person conversation but the hint of a conversation I’m already looking forward to, about writing process and ideas.
In the spirit of this conversation, between two writers (and two blogs), I quote from Valorie Grace Hallinan’s review of Cabin 135:
A couple of ideas I want to highlight here: that each draft is a kind of quasi-meditation. I have never thought of the writing process in this way, but Katie’s insight helps me better appreciate the richness of our quirky, individual writing paths; our creative instincts, given free reign, possess a kind of logic and aesthetic sense that may surprise us.
And, secondly, across your own life span, which dramas, scenes, and moments stand out? We choose from an infinite number of moments to tell our stories. And yet we each have within us a multitude of stories. -Valorie Grace Hallinan, Books Can Save a Life
Indeed. Choices? Distractions? Either way, many many drafts.
Katie, it’s thrilling to have you comment and highlight my comments on your book!
Thanks Val! This morning, I’m imagining an opera (which one? is there one?) with a writer writing, alone of course, grappling with the same question you asked: “which dramas, scenes, and moments stand out?” The writer is within the drama of an opera (I just imagine), the opera is its own world of scenes, memories, and emotion.
On the other hand, sometimes events or situations that didn’t particularly stick in memory have proven to to be rich terrain for exploring connections and ideas.
Thanks for all the conversation opportunities, Val!