From Alaska to the BBC airwaves

Eowyn at the KSKA studio in Anchorage to record an interview with BBC.

Dear radio reader,

Last week I mentioned I had a few exciting news items coming up, and one of them is official now – I was interviewed by BBC’s World Outlook, a program that focuses on unique personal stories from around the globe. More than 40 million people listen to the program in English, in addition to many other languages.

The morning of the interview began with a dark, snowy, white-knuckle drive into Anchorage. We had received nearly a foot of snow during the night, and at 6 a.m. the roads weren’t plowed for much of the way. I worried I would slide into the ditch and miss my chance to be interviewed by one of the most respected and longest-running radio programs in the world.

Fortunately, I arrived at the public radio studio just in time to hear Tim and Lucy’s lovely British voices through a headset. The BBC producer and interviewer were wonderful to work with, as was the technical guru David at KSKA.

The story began airing in other countries earlier today. I’ve already received friendly messages from India, Japan, and France, from writers and readers who said they were inspired to hear about how I wrote my novel.

In the next day or so, the story will be available to play via the Outlook website, at http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/outlook.

There was a downside. BBC Outlook posted on Facebook a photo of me with a moose I had shot. The photo drew comments from people who were offended, and several used vitriolic language to attack me personally.

This has been a dilemma for me from the beginning. On one hand, many people seem interested to learn more about our rural lives in Alaska, how we hunt for our own meat and have forsaken some of the creature comforts of cities to live the way we do. Without this lifestyle, I never could have written The Snow Child. At the same time, I wonder about putting my life and family on display, and opening it up to this kind of criticism, when ultimately I just hope people read and enjoy The Snow Child.

I am curious to ask you, dear reader – do you enjoy knowing about the private lives of your favorite writers and artists? How much do you share about your own life in social media?

Cheers!

Eowyn

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20 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sue Mathis
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 15:21:48

    I think people who left unkind comments don’t understand your way of life. I personally don’t hunt, but I have no problem with those who do so responsibly, who don’t waste what they harvest and feed their families with what they hunt. I think it’s awesome that you don’t spend money on meat at a grocery store. This is Alaska! The game is plentiful and there for the taking when you do so legally. Kudos to you Eowyn – you are my hunting hero!

  2. Nance
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 15:23:29

    Tough call . . . once you’re in the limelight, you become vulnerable to criticism of all types. I’m sorry to hear you’re undergoing that experience already!

    As far as knowing personal details about an author’s life, it doesn’t happen too often. However, two of my favorite writers, Dave Eggers & Nick Hornby, have offered quite a bit about their lives and are public about their passions & challenges (Eggers is a strong advocate for quality education, Hornby has a son with autism and has spoken very eloquently about his life as a parent). In these two circumstances, I find that I am even more eager to read their writings (novels, as well as a variety of non-fiction, blog, magazine articles, etc.). I’m always curious about people, and especially the people in whom I invest so much time, money & emotion! I guess if they were cruel, disingenuous, or uninteresting people, I wouldn’t have had such a positive response.

    You, however, are a truly kind, genuine and interesting person, so I don’t see any problem. ;)

  3. Mr. Jim
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 15:24:57

    Eowyn don’t let them get you down. When your out there you have to take the bad with the good. I don’t care for Haggis and eggs so does that make me a bad person? Nice moose by the way.

  4. Mr. Baer
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 15:37:56

    There are always going to be those people who throw out vitriolic comments on Alaskan lifestyles or any lifestyles for that matter, without any understanding of what they are condemning. In this age of instant media, it makes it so much easier for them to throw their diatribes, but just consider it a small irritation, like that full stuffed feeling after a Thanksgiving dinner, it will eventually pass. People from around the world enjoy learning about the lifestyle you lead in Chickaloon, Alaska. I think it’s a lifestyle that is becoming rarer, even in Alaska. Alaska still has a mystique about it, look at all the people traveling here on tours, but they don’t get the real experience. Your blog and “The Snow Child” let one experience the real thing. Keep at it. And any person, male or female, who can shoot and butcher a moose, run a chainsaw, build a house, write a book are tops. As I was told by a salesman, when I bought Jenny (my significant other) her Christmas present, a worm drive skill saw, “She’s definitely worth hanging on to!” I also got her a romantic gift. Me, I’ve always been a member of PETA – people eating tasty animals.

    • Eowyn Ivey
      Dec 21, 2011 @ 22:58:15

      Perfect! Now we have a worm drive skill saw in the neighborhood we can borrow :) And yes, I suggest you hold on to Jenny. She is indeed a keeper.

  5. NathanDunbar
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 15:55:11

    In all honesty, though I truly know how meat gets to our dinner tables, I’d rather not think about methods of their demise. I couldn’t personally ever kill an animal unless it was to end its misery, but Eowyn I have great respect for the manner in which you hunt your game. It *is* your way of existing and you don’t do any of it wastefully.

    Back to your original question, it’s a hard call. I’ve learned things about an author recently that were pretty disappointing (nothing as simple as hunting though) and now I find myself vascillating on not reading their very popular books. I think as long as you continue to be the genuine, kind, thoughtful and friendly person you are, you should keep succeeding just fine.

  6. Caro Webster
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 18:48:01

    Eowyn,

    What a small world it is. Here I am, sitting at my desk in Sydney at 3.00 on the afternoon on 22 December. I’m working on my novel whilst live streaming BBC Radio 4 and up you pop. What a wonderfully interesting and evocative image you painted of, not only life in Alaska, but your book. I’ve now ordered a copy for me and my 8 year old daughter.

    And I say pfft to those who criticised you and the pic of the moose. I would suggest that perhaps they are also the people whose children believe milk comes from a carton, eggs from the fridge and beans from a can.

    I’ll genuinely look forward to hearing more of you.

    Best wishes for a lovely Christmas.
    xx

  7. Gail Niebrugge
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 19:02:30

    Just keep on writing Eowyn, no matter what people say. You have something to share and others can learn from you. Never mind the nay sayers. Merry Christmas from my favorite writer.

    Gail Niebrugge, Alaska artist

  8. Eowyn Ivey
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 22:56:20

    Thank you all so much for your kind and thoughtful comments. It really made my day to come here and see all of you.

  9. Christy
    Dec 22, 2011 @ 01:34:51

    Ignorance led to the negative comments you received. If they read your blog they would understand that it is a part of life in Alaska.

  10. Jeanne
    Dec 22, 2011 @ 05:27:09

    From the librarian’s perspective, my students are curious, but the brief bio or f.a.q. section on most authors’ websites fulfills their curiosity.

    From my personal perspective, many of the authors I love are also bloggers so I get my fix there when I seek them out. Usually, if an author isn’t a blogger, I would just like to see what they look like.

    Two of my biggest pet peeves with books: when an author doesn’t include a picture on the back inside flap and how catalogers have done away with including birth dates in the verso page. For some reason, I liked having those dates.

  11. Jeanne
    Dec 22, 2011 @ 05:34:53

    BTW I would much rather have free-range wild game than CAFO fed beef or chickens with freakishly huge body parts who have been raised in horrible conditions. I think it is much more noble to work for your food. Poor hubby was skunked this year (too warm, a lot of wolves keeping the elk up high, hectic work schedule, etc.) and our stores are dwindling. I have been checking out vegan books from the library because this might be the way we choose to go until next hunting season. ;)

  12. Vivian Faith Prescott
    Dec 22, 2011 @ 06:49:08

    Eowyn,

    Sorry this has happened to you. I think in this digital age with blogs, Facebook fan pages, and Twitter we readers get to know more about authors. I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all. I love knowing more about authors. Last year Stephen King paid for airline tickets home for an ENTIRE unit of reserve Army soldiers from Maine who were stranded somewhere in the US and unable to afford tickets home in time for Christmas. This year he donated money to fill up heating oil tanks of Maine low-income residents. I found out about these things through social media.

    As far as hunting goes, from an indigenous worldview (I am Saami and was intermarried among the Tlingit), the animal gives itself to you for food. It is an honor to go hunting and an honor for the animal to provide food. In my family we thank the deer or fish for giving its life. There is always respect. You and your family have that same humble respect. And, yes, there will always be those who don’t understand that humans “kill” in order to live; even if it’s a vegetable you are eating, something dies.

  13. Eowyn Ivey
    Dec 22, 2011 @ 10:50:20

    If you’d like to listen to the interview online, go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00m7609. The program begins with the story of a Syrian actress. My interview begins about 9 minutes into the show.

  14. Eowyn Ivey
    Dec 22, 2011 @ 16:57:16

    Thanks again for all of your encouragement and insights. BBC has since taken down the photo of the moose from Facebook, and in the meantime I have received a wide variety of emails — from Kuwait, Denmark and many other far-flung locations, and with just as much variety in the opinions expressed. But I especially appreciate the humor and kindness from all of you.

  15. Jim Ivey
    Dec 24, 2011 @ 05:06:23

    I have just listened to the interview with BBC, and I sort of feel numb all over. Sam reminds me of my friend of 55 years, Lt. General Tom Fields, who chose precisely the right career, which brought out the very best in him. Similarly, Sam asked precisely the right woman to marry him. Your being successful is now old news; the next question is whether you are going to be an international celebrity! In which case — you can still live the life you cherish. Many people have managed to do that — to keep themselves out of the paparazzi scene in spite of fame.
    You were one of a number of well-known people re the BBC interview!
    To have any credibility, members of the the anti-hunting set must at least consume no mammalian meat. If they meet this standard, they are still likely to have no idea about how grocery store meat is procured. Almost for sure, they think of moose as having personalities and of their reproduction as a Mommy, Daddy, and Baby Moose scenario. The clueless should keep quiet. Jim

  16. Yaya
    Dec 24, 2011 @ 06:10:44

    I am so sad that you have been attacked by some. If people could see the terrible circumstances animals on huge farms endure, they would invest their time in protecting those creatures. ” The Omnivore’s Dilemma” should be required reading for all of us who buy meat in supermarkets. Vivian Prescott’s comment on respect for animals is so commendable and anyone who knows you and your family knows that you do have that respect.

  17. Sarah Davis
    Dec 26, 2011 @ 12:27:14

    Dear Eowyn
    I for one feel that people have no right to make unkind comments. I live in London and work as a librarian so different to life in Alaska so I think it is interesting to hear about your way of life – I find it very insightful. Best wishes sarah

  18. Valérie
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 08:00:05

    Waow, I’m listening to you, that’s great!
    The story of the meeting with your literary agent at the book fair is almost a kind of fairy tale.
    I will have to practise to say your first name properly and I promise I will try hard. :)

  19. Mrs Penfold
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 12:37:12

    Hi Eowyn,
    Try not to listen to any who throw a bit of negative energy at you. The way most animals are treated before they reach the table of the general public would be far worse than anything you would do to your moose.
    We have a number of examples over here, not so long ago, of the mistreatment of exported Australian cattle. Videos etc.. which were displayed in the general news for weeks on end, coverage of which provided for interesting class discussions. Tru situations showing unnecessary, cruel and drawn out ways of treating animals before they are killed and then delivered in plastic packages back to our supermarkets.
    In Australia we do have a few authors who open up their private lives on blogs. Jackie French is one, http://www.jackiefrench.com/ . In terms of students viewing your blog and reading it I can’t imagine it bothering them. Infact it would make them probably more fascinated with your lifestyle.

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