Home again

Dear holiday reader,

Whew! What an amazing couple of weeks.

UK national book award

In London with the UK National Book Award for International Author of the Year. Thanks to my UK publisher, Headline.

December 1 I flew to London to attend the UK National Book Awards. Before the big night, I visited a half dozen bookstores near London. We traveled shop to shop via “snowmobile” (a snowflake-decorated car with Christmas tunes playing). Samantha and Nigel, members of the publishing crew there, sported their snow-themed “jumpers.”

At each bookstore we were warmly welcomed with cookies, tea, and copies of The Snow Child to sign. Readers I had met via Twitter or Facebook stopped by to introduce themselves in person. At one shop, an adorable little boy named Harry gave me a bouquet of flowers; at another a talented and delightful bookseller named Cara presented me with a knitted red hat, scarf and mittens. Without a doubt, this was the most fun I’ve ever had on a book tour.

To top it off, I joined my friends from the UK publisher Headline for the National Book Awards at the gorgeous Mandarin Oriental Hotel in London. As we sipped bubbly, I had the opportunity to meet the authors of some of my favorite books of the year. Then, when the announcer said I had won International Author of the Year, I somehow managed to stumble to the stage in a happy daze.

center for fiction

With Sam at the Center for Fiction awards dinner in New York City.

The next morning, I jumped on a plane back to Alaska. I spent the next three days in a jet-lagged stupor, wondering why on earth there was no snow in December in Alaska.

Dec. 9 I was back in the air, off to New York City with my husband Sam as welcome company. The Snow Child has been short listed for the Center for Fiction’s first novel prize.

For the first time, Sam and I had a relaxing afternoon to meander around the city. We found our way to holiday-festooned Macy’s, Bryant Park with its ice skaters and Christmas tree, the New York Public Library, Greenwich Village, the flower district. At Little, Brown and Company publishing house, we were happily surprised by a Champagne welcome, and I  had a chance to visit with the wonderful people there.

The Center for Fiction events began with a reading, at which Alif the Unseen author G. Willow Wilson impressed us all by giving her reading with her newborn baby in her arms. I shared a few passages from The Snow Child, and thoroughly enjoyed readings by fellow finalists Ben Fountain (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk), Peter Heller (The Dog Stars), Tupelo Hassman (Girlchild), Kevin Powers (The Yellow Birds), and Maggie Shipstead (Seating Arrangements). (Absolution author Patrick Flanery was unable to attend.)

The next night we all gathered at the posh University Club, joined by esteemed authors such as Jennifer Egan, Ian McEwan, George Saunders and Jonathan Franzen. There was more Champagne, more great food, and when Ben Fountain was awarded the first novel prize, he gave a moving speech about being a 54-year-old debut novelist.

Later that night, Sam and I were packing up and racing to the airport.

Snow at last

The welcoming sight of fresh snow in our backyard.

We arrived in Anchorage to a snowstorm. The roads were treacherous, but we managed the 70-mile dark and snowy drive home. There we rediscovered what wonderful neighbors we have.

Craig and Jenny had taken care of our two daughters and our golden retriever in our absence — everyone was well-fed, loved, and happy. Donna had looked after our chickens. Karl was plowing our driveway with his tractor — nearly two feet of snow had fallen in a single day. Once inside the door, we found that Donna had cooked us a homemade meatloaf with mashed potatoes and carrots, and Craig and Jenny had decorated our living room with Christmasy crafts they had made with the girls.

This past year’s journey with The Snow Child has been a remarkable and exciting one. But in the end, I am always grateful to come home to my family and friends. There truly is no place like home.

Wishing you a happy holiday season,