Photo Post: On Writers Residency in Alaska

I’m back from my writers residency in Alaska. Right now I’m getting back to speed: the bags are unpacked and I’m over the jetlag, and working on implementing the lessons I learned from my residency into a new workflow that will allow me to be as productive as possible on the important work. I’ll share my insights on productivity and process in another blog post. Today I thought I would share a little of the factual information about my writers residency—where I went, what it was like, and some photos from southeast Alaska because it is BEAUTIFUL.

My Alaska Writers Residency

My residency was at Alderworks, which is located a few miles outside of Skagway, Alaska.

I lived in a restored wood cabin by a creek, which had all the basics (fridge, microwave, stove, wood stove for heat, electric stove for those not in the mood to chop wood, 4 gallon container of potable water on my porch, bed in the sleeping loft, furniture). There was a shared bathhouse, although one of the cabins has a private bathroom.

I had access to a bicycle to roam about, and one of the residents had brought a car and was generous with rides into town. We took a day trip up to Whitehorse, but other than that we stayed around Skagway. I only went into town once a week or so. Skagway is a major cruise ship destination and with some 890,000 cruisers treading through the old gold rush city from May-September, “going into town’ was somewhat of a culture shock after spending my days in quiet thought.

This wasn’t the sort of residency where kitchen fairies dropped off bundled meals at our doorsteps; we had to cook and keep our cabins clean and do laundry.

Speaking of which…I brought about 20 pounds of groceries with me and it was one of the best decisions I made.

Food is very expensive in Alaska due to the expense of the journey up there (you’re basically paying a portion of the barge fuel costs), and produce comes to Skagway once a week and not always on time.

I flew with hardy sweet potatoes and apples, dried fruit from Trader Joe’s, granola, rice, lentils, corn tortillas, coffee, chocolate, tea, pasta, garlic, and an arsenal of spices—my suitcase smelled link an Indian grocery—and used most of it during my residency and while camping in Denali. I saved a bundle taking my own pantry staples!

While the residency was mostly unstructured, I did get to attend the NorthWords Writers Symposium, which overlapped with my stay there, and we had a couple of resident BBQs, but other than that we were free to do as we wished.

The Symposium offered three days of readings and discussions, and gave me a nice pause in between wrapping up some projects I’d started pre-residency and diving into my residency project of creating a solid novel outline. The keynote speaker, Pico Iyer, is a lovely person and a true inspiration for how to be approach the business part of writing (readings, book signings, etc), and the other featured writers were very generous as well. I left with a long reading list and connections of folks to meet up with in my post-residency travels.

When not writing or reading, which I did no joke most of the time I was there—with daylight past 10 p.m., I found it easy to stay productive for some 12-16 hours a day—I went on a few hikes in the area, did yoga (pro tip: I downloaded some videos on my phone ahead of time, since streaming media wasn’t really possible on slow Alaskan internet) and took long walks to the creed bed with a pack of dogs.

I’m happy to talk more about my Alaska writers residency, and if you’ve got specific questions about my residency, fire away!

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