Mission and HistoryJune 27, 2018
OUR VISION: A vibrant community of Alaskan writers coming together to inspire, create, and share.
OUR VALUES: Creativity – Craft – Culture
OUR MISSION: To support the artistic development of writers throughout Alaska, foster a writing community, and build an audience for literature.
Among the programs we’re proud to offer:
- Affordable creative writing classes, from half-day workshops to multi-week courses in all genres (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and screenwriting) as well as classes that address aspects of publishing and the writing life. Courses are taught by experienced/published writers, our faculty includes many of Alaska’s established authors and teachers.
- Literary events featuring both Alaskan and visiting authors, including onstage conversations in our Crosscurrents series, innovative poetry events in our Synergies series, craft talks by popular authors in all genres, opportunities for writers to meet and share in at literary salons, and community-wide opportunities to celebrate the written word.
- Daily online content and opportunities for literary networking via our collaborative blog, www.49writers.blogspot.com.
- A popular annual retreat at beautiful Tutka Bay Lodge, near Homer, featuring renowned writing faculty.
- A writing program for youth – Write Young Alaska or WYAK, featuring writing workshops/groups and writing contests
In today’s world, some brick-and-mortar organizations “go virtual.” The story of the 49 Alaska Writing Center is a little different: we started virtual, then went physical. Our timeline may be short but we’ve already come a long way.
January 1, 2009: Alaska authors Deb Vanasse and Andromeda Romano-Lax – both lit-bloggers since 2008 — decide, though they’ve never met in person, to merge their blogs into a collaborative effort called 49 Writers (49writers.blogspot.com). They are joined by a growing number of guest-posters and monthly featured authors, as well as active readers, who come forward to add their voices to this growing online community.
January 2010: Deb and Andromeda start offering creative writing workshops and researching the possibility of creating a full-fledged statewide nonprofit Alaska writing center. Throughout the spring, they keep talking with Alaskans and with writing centers outside the state, balancing creative visions with financial and business realities.
April 2010: An unexpected opportunity helps this virtual community become a physical one. 49 Writers, Inc. incorporates and forms a board (with third Director, Jeremy Pataky). The org becomes the proud tenant of a charming lease property at 415 L Street – a facility named “Raven Place” — which serves as a summer VRBO guesthouse, creating revenue to help launch literary programming. On May 1, the main room is used for a creative writing workshop. Over the next three weeks, about three dozen volunteers help renovate and spruce up the facility. On May 22, a ribbon-cutting celebration is held, with Haines author Heather Lende as guest speaker and many Founding Donors in attendance. By the end of its first month, the 49 Alaska Writing Center has earned revenue from paying guesthouse visitors and raised an additional $10,000 from individual donors.
April 28, 2010: 49 Writers incorporates as a non-profit.
May 26, 2010: 49 Writers receives 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status (ID# 27-2460995).
Summer 2010: The guesthouse does well in its first season, but the landlord decides to sell 415 L Street, with tenancy ending in November. Time for a second draft! The 49 Alaska Writing Center joins forces with Anchorage Historic Properties and moves, on November 1, into their historic 1917 cottage at 645 W. 3rd Avenue, next to Snow Goose Restaurant. A well-lighted classroom, views of Cook Inlet, historic atmosphere — good deal.
Fall 2010: Guest author David Vann leads our first writers’ retreat at Tutka Bay Lodge, a sold-out opportunity to experience both rigorous instruction and a growing feeling of literary community in one of Alaska’s most beautiful places. A few months later, Vann is awarded the French Prix Medici, that country’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize.
The first fall term is launched, with nine courses in Anchorage and two extra courses added to bring library-funded writing clinics, taught by Deb Vanasse, to Sitka and Juneau. Many courses fill and over 100 students are served. Our Board expands with the addition of new board members Don Rearden and Kirsten Dixon.
Winter/Spring 2011: Registration for a new term opens, with new genres and new subjects, including poetry, screenwriting, the graphic novel, and much more. 49 Writers continues to offer a full schedule of workshops in Spring, Summer, and Fall.
January 2012: Linda Ketchum takes over from Deb Vanasse as Executive Director. Co-founders Andromeda Romano-Lax and Deb Vanasse remain involved as instructors, bloggers, and volunteers.·During Linda’s tenure, 49 Writers expands services to Barrow, Craig, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Sitka, Soldotna, and Talkeetna, and establishes regular programming in Juneau. Membership triples in three years.
December 2014: 49 Writers awarded first federal grant, from National Endowment for the Arts, for programming in Southeast Alaska.
July 2015: Erin Coughlin Hollowell becomes Executive Director.