Skagway’s North Words writer’s symposium announces summer lineup | KHNS Radio

North Words function in Dyea. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Brady)

The North Words Writers Symposium in Skagway has announced its return this summer after two years of pandemic-related closures. It will be a four-day event featuring Heather Lende of Haines the current Alaska Writer Laureate. Other prominent regional writers will be featured as will keynote Author Tommy Orange of Oakland, California. KHNS ‘Mike Swasey spoke with one of the symposium’s organizers Jeff Brady about what to expect at this summer’s event.

SwaseyJeff Brady, thanks so much for joining us to talk about the North Words Writers Symposium. The keynote writer for this year’s event is indigenous writer Tommy Orange. His book, which has actually been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, it was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, it follows a cast of characters that kind of grapple with past generations and the atrocities of what was essentially an American genocide, you know, and then how that impacts their lives moving forward as urban Native Americans. So tell us a little bit more about Tommy Orange and the North Words Writers Symposium

Brady – He’s an Oakland, California writer. And I would dare say he is the most popular Oakland, California writer, since Jack London. And Jack London has his own controversial history. We have a panel just on how to write in the shadow of Jack London. Because while he was a wonderful writer and storyteller, and he actually cemented the Gold Rush in the minds of readers the world over, there was a definite tint of racism throughout his literature. While he admired the native people for their survival instincts and societal knowledge as well, he was still, I think, thought the white men were superior. And that’s evident in his writing. So we’re going to talk about that.

And then how to get Native literature out in the public more, because there’s so much of it being done very well right now. Tommy is a great example, (so is) Robin Wall Kimmerer, with her Braiding Sweetgrass book, which is top of the bestseller list still today.

At North Words, we’re always trying to find a way to make literature relevant. And we think Tommy is the perfect writer for that.

There’s another panel called, “We Are Still Here.” And not only have Tommy with us, we also have an Inupiaq writer. Laureli Ivanoff, coming down from Unalakleet. So she’ll talk about, you know, how her people have survived as well. That, yeah, we’re still here, and we’re still talking our language. And we’re gonna write about these things, and that that’s really important.

SwaseyJeff Brady, thanks so much for sharing northwards with us.

Brady – Okay, you’re welcome.

The NorthWords Writers’ Symposium, started in part by Skagway’s former tourism director Carlin Buckwheat Donahue, is in its 12th year as a community-organized event. It will run from May 25-28 and participation is limited to 40 people. The cost is $ 395 for the immersive participation experience, but there will be at least two performance events open to the public as well. For more information or to register as a participant visit

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