Skagway’s North Words Writers’ Symposium Announces Summer Lineup | KHNS Radio

North words work in Dyea. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Brady)

The North Words Writers Symposium in Skagway has announced its return this summer after two years of pandemic-related closures. It will be a four-day event featuring Heather Lende of Haines, the current Alaskan Writer Award-winning. Other top regional writers will be featured, as will senior author Tommy Orange from Oakland, California. KHNS’ Mike Swasey spoke with one of the symposium organizers, Jeff Brady, about what to expect at this summer’s event.


SwaseyJeff Brady, thank you so much for joining us to talk about the North Words Writers Symposium. The lead author for this year’s event is Indigenous writer Tommy Orange. His book, which was actually nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, it follows a cast of characters who grapple with past generations and the atrocities of what was essentially American genocide, you know, and then how it affects their lives as urban Native Americans. Tell us a bit more about Tommy Orange and the North Words Writers Symposium

Brady – He’s a writer from Oakland, California. And I dare say he’s the most popular writer in Oakland, California since Jack London. And Jack London has his own controversial story. We have a panel on how to write in the shadow of Jack London. Because while he was a wonderful writer and storyteller, and actually cemented the gold rush in the minds of readers everywhere, there was a distinct tinge of racism in all of his literature . While he admired native people for their survival instincts and societal knowledge, he always thought, I think, that white men were superior. And it shows in his writing. So we’re going to talk about it.

And then how do you get more Indigenous literature out to the public, because there’s so much that’s being done really well right now. Tommy is a great example of this, as is Robin Wall Kimmerer, with his book Braiding Sweetgrass, which still tops the bestseller list today.

At North Words, we always try to find a way to make literature relevant. And we think Tommy is the perfect writer for that.

There is another sign called “We are still here”. And not only do we have Tommy with us, but we also have an Inupiaq writer. Laureli Ivanoff, descendant of Unalakleet. So she’ll talk about, you know, how her people survived too. That, yes, we are still here, and we still speak our language. And we’re going to write about these things, and that’s really important.

SwaseyJeff Brady, thank you so much for sharing the north with us.

Brady – Alright, nothing.

The NorthWords Writers’ Symposium, started in part by former Skagway Tourism Director Carlin Buckwheat Donahue, is in its 12th year as a community-organized event. It will take place from May 25 to 28 and participation is limited to 40 people. The cost is $395 for the immersive turnout experience, but there will also be at least two performance events open to the public. For more information or to register as a participant, visit nwwriters.com.

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