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READING AND WRITING

Home  >  Reading and Writing  >  Pass the Word
49 Writers

Andromeda Romano-Lax
Writers understand the power of collaboration, so it's no surprise that the combined efforts of Alaskan writers Andromeda Romano-Lax and Deb Vanasse have resulted in a popular and enduring forum for Alaskan authors and readers at 49 Writers (http://www.49writers.blogspot.com/).

The Anchorage authors began blogging separately -- Vanasse in 2007, Romano-Lax in 2008.  Vanasse had long had a vision for promoting the work of Alaskan authors online, and her move to Anchorage after twenty years in Fairbanks heightened her longing to network with writers across the state.  Attending a technology discussion at Bouchercon, an international conference hosted by the Alaska Sisters in Crime in Anchorage, Vanasse decided a blog might be the perfect medium for linking Alaskan writers and readers.

As Romano-Lax explains, "The Internet is a two-edged sword for any writer -- a source of nearly infinite distractions, but also a place to seek real connection with people who care about literature, sense of place, and much more. With the decline in print media and ongoing challenges in the publishing industry, it's nearly impossible to nurture a sustainable writing life without embracing new technologies. Like many Alaskans, Deb and I share a love of independence, and a distrust of crowds and fads. But we also feel that the northern pioneering spirit has a place in the online world."

Though they'd never met, Vanasse and Romano-Lax soon realized their common purpose.  Sharing a vision for promoting the work of Alaskan authors by engaging an active community of writers and readers, Romano-Lax and Deb Vanasse joined forces, merging their blogs on January 1, 2009.

Author and 49 Writers collaborator Deb Vanasse nears the summit of the historic Chilkoot Trail

"The response," says Vanasse, "has been overwhelming. We've become a ‘go-to' place for writers and their readers throughout Alaska and in the Lower 48."

Regular readers of the blog include fellow writers, teachers, students, librarians, publishers, and lovers of Alaska and its books. "Alaskan writers are geographically removed from many of our readers, who in turn have a real hunger to know what it's like to be an Alaskan," says Vanasse. 

 With nearly 500 posts in it archives as of November 2009, 49 Writers has featured interviews with authors Willie Hensley, Heather Lende, David Marusek, and John Straley.  Other popular features include the 49 Writers online book club and the annual "Ode to a Dead Salmon" bad poetry contest."

49 Writers builds an inclusive, no-cost community among Alaskan writers, offering publicity opportunities and a forum for discussing books, craft, and the business of writing.  Updated each weekday, the site includes guest posts on writing and books, weekly round-ups of writing news, calendars of events and deadlines, author and publisher interviews, and links to blogs and author sites.  Monthly featured authors include Nancy Lord, David Vann, Dana Stabenow, Ned Rozell, and John Morgan.

"Blogs are a good place for occasional contact," notes Romano-Lax.  "You don't have to commit to a monthly meeting or worry about scheduling time."  In conjunction with local author events, 49 Writers also hosts occasional face-to-face meet-ups for writers.

With over twenty published books between them, Romano-Lax and Vanasse hope expand by offering 49 Writer workshops and manuscript critiques.  "49 Writers is time-intensive," says Vanasse.  "But it's our way of giving back to the writing community." 

The site offers free email subscriptions and RSS feeds.  49 Writers welcomes guest posts as well as calendar, deadline, and weekly round-up submissions.  Submissions and comments can be sent through the contact form at http://www.49writers.blogspot.com/ or to debv@gci.net.

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