News from there, and here

Dear returning reader,

I have so much to tell you, I hardly know how to start this letter.

I want to tell you how wonderful the staff and readers are at Tattered Cover in downtown Denver, where I participated in my first official author reading and book signing. I want to tell you how heart-warming it is to be surrounded by talented authors, kind book lovers, a beautiful bookstore. I even had my uncle at my side as I signed copies of The Snow Child! It is a day I will never forget.

But I also want to tell you how much I’ve appreciated your emails, messages and tweets telling me where you have spotted The Snow Child. Here are just a few places where there have been “Snow Child sightings.”

  • Buffalo, New York
  • Hawaii
  • The Costco Connection magazine that goes out to Costco members and featured an interview with me and a review of The Snow Child this month.
  • New Mexico
  • Delaware
  • Barnes & Noble in Baltimore, Maryland
  • Kodiak, Alaska
  • Olympia, Washington
  • Florida
  • Laramie, Wyoming
  • Powell’s Bookstore in Oregon
  • Pittsburg, Kansas
  • South Hadley, Massachusetts at the Odyssey Bookshop
  • Lansing, Michigan
  • Reno, Nevada
  • Oprah Magazine, February issue, Page 111 (I had to see it to believe it.)
  • Northwest Book Lovers blog
  • Idaho
  • Chicago
  • Pennsylvania
  • Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City
  • Rome, Italy
  • Ireland
  • Corsica
  • Flagstaff, Arizona Barnes & Noble
  • Jerusalem
  • Boyd Farm in Palmer, Alaska

It’s simply amazing!

Anchorage, Alaska

But in the end, I want to tell you about my trip back home to Alaska last night. Flying out of Denver and across the United States, I suddenly felt incredibly homesick. I missed my family, my house, my dog, my normal life. But it was something more, something I couldn’t quite identify. I stared out the window, over the endless checkerboard of cities and farmland.

It wasn’t until the airplane crested the Chugach Mountains here in Alaska that I was able to understand a little more of my homesickness.

As I watched out the window, it seemed as if the snowy peaks would scrape the bottom of the airplane, and once we cleared them, Anchorage appeared as a small clump of lights surrounded by swaths of dark wilderness. The plane began to descend and circle out over Cook Inlet, where massive sheets of ice floated on the salt water. The captain reported that it was 2 below zero with a slight wind.

I can’t count how many times I have watched that view come into focus. But it didn’t stop me from taking in a quiet gasp.

This place is exhilarating. And I had missed it.






Have you seen The Snow Child?

I recently received my first copies of the U.S. (left) and UK (right) editions of The Snow Child.

Dear first readers,

Monday morning, after running some errands in town, I drove by Fireside Books. The shop was closed and the lights off, but something caught my eye — in the front window, dozens of copies of my novel The Snow Child.

I thought  I might be imagining it, so I drove around the block and slowed down as I went by again. It was true! The books had arrived!

The official release date here in the United States is Feb. 1, but the publisher began shipping in the past week or two and so the books are arriving a few days ahead of schedule.

In the past week, I’ve gotten reports from people across the country who have spotted The Snow Child. My grandmother’s dear friend in Florida reported her copy had arrived. Good friends in Washington State tweeted they were beginning to read the book. And a bookseller friend in Chicago shared a photo of The Snow Child on display at the Barnes & Noble he manages.

Yesterday at Fireside Books, I signed copies for customers as they came in the door, and other copies that will soon be shipped off to Montana, New York, and Kodiak, Alaska.

The release date for the UK edition has been moved up to Feb. 1, so soon it will be appearing there as well.

So now I’d love to hear from you. Have you had a Snow Child sighting? Did you spy it in your neighborhood bookstore? Did a copy arrive in your mailbox?





In love with New Orleans

Dear southern reader,

I’m smitten. After this past week, New Orleans might have just become my favorite city.

Last week I left behind zero degrees and blowing snow to set down in a land of palm trees and jazz music, cafe’ au lait and beignets, gorgeous antique shops and over-the-top costumes.

I spent the first morning walking down Royal and Chartres streets. I discovered lovely Crescent City Books and bought a book of poetry for my mom. Around one corner, I came across a Bohemian young woman with dreadlocks and fishnet stockings, and playing classical cello. In a central square, a brass band ripped out the kind of music that makes you want to dance. It was sunny and warm, but a pleasant breeze blew off the Mississippi River. It was a Thursday morning, but I suspect it always feels like Friday night in New Orleans.

But part of my love of the city is due to Winter Institute, the bookseller conference I attended there.

Thursday evening, I met hundreds of booksellers from around the country — Boston and Denver, New York, San Francisco and Washington D.C. Some of them I knew through Twitter and Facebook. Some of them had never heard of The Snow Child, so I told them a bit about it and myself. Others had read it and were excited to talk to me about it. A few got tears in their eyes as they described how much it meant to them.  It was an incredibly moving experience for me as a writer.

So now I’m back home, and glad to be with my family and breathe the cold Alaska air. But if anyone has need for me to come to New Orleans next winter for a few days, just give a shout.



The Snow Child is on its way!

The view from our house today at about noon, the sun shining through the mountains.

Dear news-seeking reader,

Just a few quick things I want to share with you today:

  • The Snow Child is being shipped out earlier than expected here in the United States. It should arrive at bookstores and other retailers in the next week or so. Those who have ordered online through sites like Amazon have gotten messages saying their copies on their way. I’d love to hear from anyone who spots it in their local bookstore or gets a copy in the mail!
  • I’m off to the Winter Institute in New Orleans on Wednesday. Around 500 booksellers from around the country will convene to talk about the industry and learn about new books. I’m among more than 50 authors who are attending, along with Julianna Baggott, Richard Ford, Nathan Englander, John Green and many others.
  • The Snow Child received this lovely review in the Book Page today.
  • A librarian who attended high school with me here in Palmer, Alaska, recently wrote this sweet blog post about waiting for The Snow Child to arrive at her house.
  • And last, but certainly not least, the sun has returned! Just a few days ago, the sun crept through the mountains and lit up our snowy yard for the first time in nearly a month. Beautiful, glorious sunshine!



Snøbarnet hits #1

Dear Norwegian readers,

Thank you! What more is there to say? With the help of the publisher Pantagruel and the support of book bloggers, book sellers, and readers across Norway, my debut novel Snøbarnet (The Snow Child) has landed at #1 on the Norwegian bestseller list.

1. Snøbarnet (Eowyn Ivey) – Pantagruel
2. Bibelen 2011 (flere) – Bibelselskapet
3. Reisen hjem (Lori Lansens) – Juritzen
4. Borderline (Liza Marklund) – Piratforlaget
5. Det dyrebare (Linn Ullmann) – Oktober
6. Tirsdagsdamene: reisen til Lourdes (Monica Peetz) – Bastion
7. Vinterstengt (Jørn Lier Horst) – Gyldendal
8. Krystallslottet (Jeannette Walls) – Pantagruel
9. Din godhet (Linda Olsson) – Vigmostad & Bjørke
10. Sirile gentlemen søkes (Karin Brunk Holmqvist) – Silke

I could barely sleep last night, I was so thrilled and overwhelmed. This is truly amazing news.

Tusen takk!



Snow, snow and … more snow

Alaskan author Don Rearden posted this photo on Twitter today, with the comment: "Either a ton of snow on our street or my son is one little boy...and more snow on the way!"

Dear acclimated reader,

It’s official. We have a lot of snow! In fact, for the first time during the five years we have lived at this house, we had to rent a bulldozer to push back the snow berms. We were running out of room to plow.

Sam and I considered letting the road fill with snow — we could walk up the driveway or even snowmachine when we have groceries. The only problem is that we wouldn’t have a way to haul water. An extra bit of walking? Great! No running water, no hot showers or turning on the faucet, for four months? Hmmm, maybe not.

It was pretty amazing, watching our friend Adam Boyd run the dozer while Sam used our plow truck to push snow in front of him. Our property is now dotted with huge hills of snow.

We are not alone. The Anchorage Daily News reports that the city’s 1995 record of 77 inches of snow was broken on Jan. 9 with more than 81 inches. And the small fishing village of Cordova has made national headlines with its 18 feet of snow on the ground, and the deployment of National Guard troops to help them dig out roads and houses. Around the state, major highways have been closed by avalanches and car accidents.

And now this, from the National Weather Service for  our area:

Winter weather advisory for snow remains in effect from 9 pm this evening to 9 pm akst thursday…

Tonight… Snow. Snow accumulation 2 to 5 inches. Lows 10 to 15 above.

Thursday… Snow. Snow accumulation 5 to 10 inches…highest amounts near the mountains. Highs 15 to 20. Northwest wind 10 to 15 mph.

Thursday Night… Snow likely in the evening…then isolated snow showers after midnight. Snow accumulation up to 1 inch. Storm total snow accumulation 8 to 16 inches. Lows zero to 5 below. North wind 15 mph.

Our neighbors are beginning to joke that we are a jinx with all this “snow child” talk.



The Snow Child comes to Fireside Books

Dear window-shopping reader,

For more than 8 years, I have worked as a bookseller at Fireside Books. And never once during that time did I dream I would someday see this in the shop’s front window:

Art by Ruth Hulbert. Photo by David Cheezem.

It’s a beautiful Snow Child window display painted by the extremely talented Ruth Hulbert, who also works at Fireside Books. She completed it on Saturday while we were both on shift at the store. I’m not sure which is more amazing to me — the fox’s realistic gaze, or the ornate lettering that Ruth painted free-hand and backwards.

I confess that sometimes I’m a little uncomfortable selling my own book to customers. At the same time, it’s a lot fun to be at the shop right now. Fireside Books is giving away tote bags with each prepaid order in the store for The Snow Child. Dozens of friends, neighbors, favorite customers, former teachers, and community members — people I have known my entire life — have come in to order their copies. I am so touched by everyone’s support.

As the Feb. 1 publication date nears, we are also planning the book release party, which will be at the nearby Colony Inn that evening. Originally a teachers dormitory for the Matanuska Colony in the 1930s, the inn is one of the more historic buildings in the area.

As a teenager living in Palmer, I couldn’t wait to move out of my small hometown. Now, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be during this exciting time in my life.




Click here to read more

Dear online reader,

Some people argue the web will be the death of fiction and literature, the demise of thought-provoking writing and in-depth analysis. But this past week has persuaded me otherwise.

While the digitized era certainly seems to favor short attention spans, the web also offers wonderful surprises.

  • LONG READS — A website devoted to the best long articles and essays being published. David Cheezem at Fireside Books told me about, and it is now one of my favorite websites. They post articles from magazines like Esquire, the Washington Post, Vanity Fair, and lesser-known publications. You can receive notices by email, and you can nominate articles you think should be included. Already I’ve read some of the most interesting, and well-written, pieces I have ever come across.
  • ANNOTATION NATION — My mom, Julie LeMay, is pursuing her MFA in poetry at Antioch University. Through her colleagues, she learned about the site Annotation Nation. The postings aren’t reviews  — “Loved it. Five stars” or “Stupid and pointless.” These are thoughtful essays looking at how a piece of writing actually works, including fiction, nonfiction and poetry. It’s a fabulous resource for writers, but I also think serious readers will enjoy it.
  • FIVE CHAPTERS — This website recently enabled me to get one of my short stories out into the world. serializes short fiction, publishing it daily over the course of a week. My story Remnants appeared on the site this week. It’s exciting to think they are creating more opportunities for fiction to thrive.

The biggest challenge of the web is learning about sites like these. That’s one reason I want to spread the word. And ask you — what treasures have you found online? Any websites that support arts and literature that you recommend?



P.S. If you click on the title heading for each website, it should take you there.

A lovely time of year … to go someplace else

High noon at our house yesterday. The sun is just behind those mountains. And notice the snow on the picnic table.

Dear winter reader,

We are in the midst of the darkest, coldest time of year here in Alaska. And this winter has been a bit extreme. We have so much snow at our house, Sam broke the plow off the front of the truck trying to clear our driveway. On Facebook, friends and neighbors are posting things like “20 below zero for third day in a row” and “wish I had remembered to plug in the truck.” There are also a lot of photos of cool blue mountains and frosty trees, with comments like “Beautiful, but so cold.”

This time of year can be dangerously cold. When Sam heads out by snowmachine on his trapline each week, he brings extra clothes and a fire-starting kit. He and his trapping partner travel more than 50 miles by snowmachine, crisscrossing river and streams and glaciers and enduring temperatures around 35 below zero Fahrenheit. They often break through overflow ice, which is formed when water runs on top of the surface of a frozen river and freezes again. It creates a false layer of ice. When you break through, you aren’t in danger of drowning, but you and your machine get sopping wet. With temperatures so brutally cold, water becomes a hazard all itself.

This is also the darkest time of year. At our house, we have entirely lost direct sunlight. The sun doesn’t rise high enough in the sky to clear the mountains. For about two weeks either side of winter solstice, the sun is just a bluish glow behind the peaks.

I love winter. I really do. I love sledding and skiing, ice skating and building snow forts. During the weeks leading to Christmas, I am positively joyful with the season.

It might be cool and rainy in London this time of year, but surely it's not 20 below zero.

But once Jan. 1 comes and goes, winter loses some of its luster. February is actually my least favorite time of year in Alaska.

This year, though, we are being rescued. I just got news that my UK publisher, Headline, wants to bring me to London for a week in February for the release of The Snow Child. We’ll also get to see a bit of Scotland during our visit.

The editor, publicist and other staff at Headline have been so wonderful to work with these past months, I am thrilled to get to meet them in person at last. And, I have to admit, I won’t mind bidding adieu to February in Alaska, even if it is just for a week.



A year in letters

Dear reminiscing reader,

Back in April, I sent you my first letter.

On Jan. 1, WordPress, the site provider for this blog, calculated some interesting statistics about the year that followed. Since the numbers say something about you, and about me, I thought I’d share them.

Letters from Alaska was viewed about 11,000 times in 2011.

During that time, I sent out 92 new letters. There were 227 pictures included. That’s about 4 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was October 7th with 167 views. The most popular post that day was Good news from Norway.

Most of you  are from the United States. The United Kingdom & Italy are not far behind. There are also readers from Brazil, the Netherlands, Norway, France, India, Spain, the Philippines, Tunisia,  Australia, and many other countries.

These were my most popular letters in 2011.:

1 Good news from Norway 20 comments October 2011

2 Book giveaway 40 comments June 2011

3 Hateful things 22 comments August 2011

4 Floating through a powerful world 14 comments July 2011

5 Warning: May contain bear hot dogs 18 comments July 2011

A special thank you to Sue Mathis, the Baers, Nathan Dunbar and Sarah Davis — you have been the most regular contributors to the comments section.  You make blogging fun!

And I want to thank all of you, regular subscribers and occasional visitors, for this past year. Without a reader, a letter is a rather useless thing.

Wishing all of you a happy New Year!