Lookout is my second book and first novel, following a Western Montana family over decades. Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods, my first book, is a non-fiction account of working on trail crews for the National Park Service, and living in wild places in Montana and Alaska. Fiction and essays have appeared in The Sun, Glimmer Train Stories, Crazyhorse, Lumberyard, Broadsided Press, and other magazines, journals and anthologies. Please see READ for pieces that appear online. I teach craft classes for 49 Writers; I am a senior affiliate editor at Alaska Quarterly Review; and I sometimes work as a writer-in-residence, primarily in remote or under-funded public schools.
Northwestern Montana's landscape formed me. I started on a trail crew in Glacier National Park in 1996, right out of college. Thus began my love affair with hand tools, traildogs, and wild lands labor. I spent 6 seasons in Glacier's backcountry and winters in Missoula before moving to Alaska in 2002 to earn my MFA in creative writing at University of Alaska, Anchorage. In summers, I worked on Prince William Sound for the US Forest Service in the seaside town of Cordova, and then in Denali National Park, where I spent another 4 seasons leading trail crews. In 2008, my husband and I started our trail design & construction business, Interior Trails. We do consulting, training, layout & design and construction for trails projects all across Alaska. I also give keynote addresses and lectures for trails conferences. 2023 will be my 26th season in the field.
Home is a yurt off the grid on a few acres of tundra just north of Denali National Park, in the Wolf Townships; these lands, north of Healy, AK have been used for millennia by multiple groups of Dene people, including Ahtna, Tanana, and Dena'ina. My family spends a lot of time on the chores associated with rural life: hauling water, cutting and splitting firewood, building projects, snow removal. We have a small garden, and between field work stints, summer is spent harvesting, foraging, or preserving veggies, berries, fish and game. My neighborhood is full of good people who value open spaces, privacy, community, sled dogs, and the wild place we call home. Other neighbors include moose, porcupine, wolves, grizzlies, ptarmigan, caribou, lynx, snowshoe hares, Sandhill cranes, ravens and many more creatures who make it a place of significance.
When I'm not working, writing, reading or doing chores, I'm often found in the backcountry. I find solace, challenge and companionship with friends and among animals in wild places. I love travel by all kinds of skis--backcountry, Nordic, skate, touring, telemark; perfect for the 6-8 months of winter, depending on the year. Clip a dog to your waist and skiing becomes skijoring, which I learned from my two retired sled dogs. (I never turn down a chance to mush with friends' dog teams, either.) When there's no snow, I either go find it in the mountains, or make the best of it by trail running, riding my bike, climbing peaks and ridges, the occasional sea kayaking trip, and wandering the tundra around my home.
Everything I love to do, I learned from someone: backcountry travel, trail work, writing, cooking, spiritual practice. My list of patron saints is too vast to name in full, but I want to acknowledge some of the writers who have helped me understand this world and my place in it. Classics: James Baldwin, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Toni Morrison, Henry David Thoreau, Willa Cather, Walt Whitman, Ernest Hemingway, Eudora Welty, Zora Neale Hurston, John Steinbeck, Herman Melville, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Vladimir Nabakov, Anton Chekhov. Contemporary Favorites: Annie Dillard, Wendell Berry, James Welch, Grace Paley, Gary Snyder, William Kittredge, Raymond Carver, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Tillie Olsen, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jesmyn Ward, Rachel Carson, Peter Matthiesen, George Saunders, Alice Munro, Jim Harrison, Michael Chabon, Annie Proulx, David James Duncan, Lauren Groff, Rick Bass, Marilynne Robinson, Sherman Alexie, Susanna Sonnenberg. Poets I love: Jane Hirshfield, Terrance Hayes, Robert Hass, Linda McCarriston, Elizabeth Bradfield, Ross Gay, Adrienne Rich, Dogen, Basho, Rumi, Mark Doty, Nick Flynn, Robert Wrigley, Eavan Boland, James Galvin, Danez Smith. Favorite Alaskan Writers: Margaret Murie, Sherry Simpson, Seth Kantner, Eva Saulitis, Ernestine Shaankalaxt Hayes.