Monday, November 20, 2006


A friend of mine recently said something along the lines of “You should write about living and writing in Alaska, like your blog says.” I haven’t written about being in the semi-Far North in a bit, and nothing particular about writing up here. So, here we go. Sort of. Not really : )

First, a little background. Originally, I’m from Long Island, NY. As a teen I didn’t see myself staying in “civilization” for my entire life. I went to college in a small town in North Dakota, then in Fairbanks. I was on my way to Wyoming for a stint with black-footed ferret re-introduction when I stopped off in Oregon to visit my then friend Scott. We got engaged (two weeks before I had to leave for three months), and then we were in Oregon for many years before a job in Alaska popped up for him.

I love living up here. I love the mountains and the ocean, and I have both when I look out my window. I love the moose browsing in the yard and having their babies next door. I love the fact it rarely gets over 70 in the summer. I love that it’s almost guaranteed we’ll have snow on the ground for Thanksgiving, definitely for Christmas, and sometimes for Memorial Day.

What does my penchant for cold climates have to do with writing? Everywhere I’ve lived I’ve had to deal with adjusting to the world around me. In biological terms, it’s adapt or perish. Adaptation is key in many aspects of life, particularly when you live in an environment where going outside without proper protection can freeze your skin in minutes. So you put on your bunny boots, parka, and Gore-Tex gloves to trundle to the mailbox 100 feet from your front door. You plug in you car’s oil pan heater overnight, then start it up 20 minutes before you need to leave so the engine gets a chance to warm up (my gas mileage absolutely bites in the winter), because driving a cold car at 60 below zero is uncomfortable as well as damaging. And yes, I know this from personal experience, having broken my first vehicle this way.

As a writer, adaptation can mean making changes that will give you a more marketable product, or adjusting your writing schedule around ballet and soccer practice. Sitting in front of your computer or whatever and not looking up to see what’s going on around you is dangerous. Sure, write the story of your heart, hell, write the story of your spleen, but keep in mind that a 300,000 word literary epic relating life and death to dust mite reproduction just may not be the thing to catch an editor or agent’s eye. And if you have to dash off bits and pieces of your story on fast food joint napkins while the kids play, do that too.

The first two books I wrote aren’t going to cut it for now. Maybe some time in the future. Maybe they will never sell. So I shifted gears and wrote a completely different kind of story. I don’t consider it writing to market, because by the time you do that the market has changed. It’s writing what’s more marketable. I hope. Like donning my warm woolies for a five minute walk to the mailbox, I know what I need to do to survive.

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At 7:08 AM, Blogger Meretta said...

That's a great analogy, Cathy. Thanks for sharing. As another cold weather friend, I can definitely relate!


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