Keeping It Real at the Book Fair

keeping it real at the book fair  - excerpted from a blog by Alaska Bike Girl , Rosemary "Rose" Austin, author, November 29, 2009. 


Bill's book about real Alaska...
details below...

I've spent the last three days at the Anchorage Museum selling my book at the annual ReadAlaska Book Fair.

The idea of the fair is to promote books that are published in Alaska. Most titles are by Alaskan authors. Art books, kids' books, memoirs of Alaskan experiences. History, fiction, guide books, science, calendars.

With all the authors on hand for signings, it sometimes feels like a social gathering just for us. But we also want to sell our books - lots of them. Each author has a little something they say about their books and I love listening to the hooks they use to draw in the sometimes-shy customers.

Another author, with his first book out this year, is Bill. I thought Bill would have a tough job getting his book to stand apart from the other personal accounts of Alaskan experiences. But his pitch is great. He'll tell the people strolling by, "These are real Alaskan stories." "Oh yeah?" someone might ask, to which Bill answers, "Yes, and mine are non-fiction." What I didn't notice until today was the sign he pointed to when he made his point. Once he broke the ice, people were laughing and ready to chat about his book, page through to look at some photos and maybe add it to their stack.

finding real Alaskan stories at the book fair.

With all the recent hype about what's real in our country and our state, I appreciate the authenticity of these guys and many other authors who have labored, sometimes for years, for the right words, the best photo.

The book business is a tough business, especially when people don't believe the recession is over. Authors put in their time, energy and emotion; they agonize over the right words, then after they’ve typed the last period of the last sentence, they have the job of wading through the often grueling editing and publishing process to get their book to market. Having someone decide to buy your book directly out of your hands is a pleasant reward.

The Book Fair is a celebration of what each author has achieved, with many authors sharing tips and offering encouragement, a little smile or a thumbs-up. I don't think the shoppers see this, but the mezzanine sometimes feels like an office party where we all just got promoted. And I always leave with something new to read.


Travel to the North Slope, Alaska

Hello All!!                                                                              July 11, 2012

This is another rare letter but I want to tell you about our latest great Alaska adventure. This writing is originating from Barrow, Alaska. The trip, of course, originated from our home in Anchorage several days ago.

We elected to make the long one-day trip (360 miles; about 6.5 hr. driving time) into two half-day trips. As it happens, we selected Healy as our half-way point. The second day took less than three hours. We went in and out of rain, wind, and traffic, but mostly, it was just long. Lumpy-bumpy frost heaves were obnoxious and tiring. Then the bad news… the check engine light lit up. There was nothing we could do but keep on trucking. We arrived in Fairbanks, checked in for our Monday tour, and found our way to our camp site.

This was on Sunday and I must have spent nearly two hours searching for a working diesel mechanic. Nothing. We started our tour early on Monday morning. Karel and I were in the last two seats of a nine passenger van and I was frantically working my way through the list of phone numbers I had accumulated. Finally, another referral. Bingo! Friday, we have an early morning appointment scheduled for a diagnostic. With luck, it will be innocuous and we will be on our way. If not, who knows? Hopefully, we can be home Friday night.

Okay, what are we doing anyway? We spent Monday and Tuesday in the van with six other tourists. We started on the Elliot Highway. (Remember that in Alaska, although major highways are numbered, they are more commonly referred to by name.) We wound our way around the bogs, over the hills, and passed defunct and active gold mining sites. After about 40 miles, we started north on the Dalton Highway - often referred to as the “haul road”. The Dalton is the primary supply artery for the Prudhoe Bay oil field. The 460 mile Dalton Highway is gravel with occasional interruptions of paved surface.  The oil pipeline was always nearby.

July 20.   We put in long days… from about 7AM to 7PM. This was surely remote Alaska. We stopped at the Yukon River where most travelers shed a shoe and inserted their foot into the river water. At about the midpoint of our trip, we stayed the night at Coldfoot, a left over construction camp. The next night was at Deadhorse, just south of the Prudhoe Bay oil field. Both provided adequate if barely comfortable conditions. In the evening after we arrived in Coldfoot, we took a short flightseeing tour through the “Gates of the Arctic in the Brooks Range and visited the remote native village of Anaktuvuk Pass with a population of about 200 people. The village is accessible only by air or by snow machines in winter. These natives subsist mainly by hunting caribou. The village was compact and busy. The Brooks Range and the Gates of the Arctic were beautiful and impressive.

Outside of Coldfoot, we visited the tiny mining town of Wiseman. Here we met and talked with a non-native who lived by trapping during winter and subsisting on moose, caribou, bears, and some fish. Wiseman was a neat and pretty small village.

Prudhoe Bay was a fascinating experience. Drilling rigs poked up from the horizons. Pipes of all sizes streamed across the landscape. No trees. Flat land. Clean and neat. There were about 5,000 workers and, during winter about 10,000. Five hundred miles of road. It is a big area. Most of the tourists kicked off their shoes and went wading in the Arctic Ocean. The ice had just gone out a couple weeks prior.

Interestingly, while we were in Barrow, the air temp was warmer than the temperature in Anchorage. Today, it snowed in Barrow. Barrow is the northernmost city in the U.S. with about 4,000 people. It has been occupied by Inupiat Eskimos for 1,000 to 2,000 years. It is a large village with all the usual features of any village. Dirt roads, community center, clinic, airfield, store, church, etc; but this village has something special. A football field for the high schoolers. It is edged on one side by the Arctic Ocean. Subsistence is the rule here, but the focus is on marine mammals. Whales, walrus, and seals. Many hunters were out taking advantage of the good weather. During our tour, we saw a couple hunters butchering two bearded seals and two women cutting the fat from a seal skin. Unfortunately, we could not access the tip of Point Barrow. The sun was in the northern part of the sky and it did not set while we were there. icebergs drifted by and late in the day, the sea ice pushed near to shore. I spotted a cute saying someone had written: SAVE THE WHALES… so we can eat them.

Much of the trip north was through forested lands, mostly black spruce with some birch and aspen, with alder around wetlands. So we were lucky to see a cow moose and a calf that burst onto the road ahead of us. And another that was out feeding in a lake. Otherwise, I was a bit disappointed with the amount of wildlife we saw. A dot of a Dall sheep and a single musk ox. Just south of the Deadhorse, we spotted a far off string of about 100 caribou and during our Prudhoe tour, we saw six more, close up. A red fox was bringing a lemming for the kits. And we were shown a sow grizzly with a cub. We saw some spouts from gray whales and some interesting birds: golden plover, Pacific loon, whitefronted geese, swans with cygnets, longtailed jaeger and a short eared owl, among others.

In all, we traveled nearly 2,000 miles.

Oh, that check engine light…

The mechanic had merely forgotten to reset a switch.

Keep in touch.