UAA grad, others bring Sisters in Crime to Alaska

Fans of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie books will have a chance to meet and greet over a hundred murder-mystery writers next month at a conference held in downtown Anchorage.

UAA graduate and murder-mystery writer Dana Stabenow, along with a plethora of other famous authors, will take part in a four-day writer's conference at the Hilton this Feb. 15 to 18.

The 2001 Left Coast Crime Conference (LCC) will be showcasing authors from all over the globe who will also be offering workshops for fans of crime novels, as well as anyone who wants to wet their whistle in the art of writing.

Highlights of this year's conference will include a special appearance, book signing and reading session from British writer Lindsey Davis, the popular mystery writer whose dramatic and suspenseful accounts of ancient Rome brought her cult-status fame.

Author Dana Stabenow, this year's main organizer of the LCC and president of Alaska Sisters in Crime, graduated from UAF with a BA in Journalism back in 1973 and later in 1985 at UAA with a MFA in Creative Writing.

Stabenow has written two series of investigative mystery novels and other related crime books. One set involves an Aleut investigator, Kate Shugak, who stumbles upon crimes in small town Alaska. Shugak's roommate is a half-wolf, half-husky dog named Mutt.          

Her nearest neighbors are a bull moose and a grizzly sow. Stabenow's other series stars male protagonist Liam Campbell, a Bristol Bay State Trooper, assigned to murder cases and local mayhem. Both series have gained Stabenow a loyal fan following in and outside Alaska.

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Stabenow took some time off of her busy writing schedule to answer some questions about this year's conference via e-mail.


N.L.: What kind of advise did you get from UAA faculty about a future in writing?

 Stabenow: They all thought I was crazy, but when I came back for my MFA I knew what I wanted: to write about Alaska and make a living at it, and I wasn't about to let anyone get in my way. They gave their best, my UAA teachers, although they shook their heads a lot. Taking the degree was essential for two reasons: it got me back in the habit of writing on deadline, and reminded me how to research. I wouldn't be where I am now without it.


N.L.: How did the idea of bringing mystery writers together for a four day conference in Alaska come about?

Stabenow: Looooong story, but you asked.

About six years back, Barbara Peters of the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona, and founder of the Left Coast Crime convention, approached Alaska Sisters in Crime about holding Left Coast Crime in Anchorage some year.

Hmmm, I thought, if we put on a convention which gives a hundred authors a reason to write off a trip to Alaska, if we throw them a three-day party where they can strut their stuff and meet their fans and sell their books, if we made it sound like such a good time that they simply couldn't resist, well…once we got them here, we could send `em to the Bush.

This comes straight out of growing up in Seldovia, when I would have killed for just one author to walk into my classroom and say, “Hey! I'm a writer! You can be a writer, too!” What if I had a hundred authors coming to Anchorage I could ask to do just that? What if fifty of them said, “yes?” I went to Katherine Gottlieb at Southcentral Foundation and Carl Marrs at Cook Inlet Region, Inc. They didn't even blink; they thought it was such a good idea that the two corporations between them endowed Alaska Sisters in Crime to the tune of $45,000. The result is Michael Connelly in Seward, Ridley Pearson in Fort Yukon, Anne Perry in Hoonah, Christine Jorgensen in Bethel, Christine Andreae in Unalakleet, Donna Andrews in Ketchikan, Kent Braithwaite in Unalaska, Jeri Fink in Barrow, Raymond Derouin in St. Paul, Sinclair Browning in Homer, S.J. Rozan in Kenai, and many more.

In every town and village we send an author, I know there is another little girl with her knees wedged beneath a fourth-grade desk who will listen to all this talk about writing, and who will then pick up her pencil to begin her own story.

I can't wait to read it.

N.L.: Tell me more about your Saturday, Feb. 17 workshop, “Freezing in the Dark Builds Character.”

Stabenow: I'm the moderator, and I'll introduce Sue Henry, Brad Reynolds, John Straley, Megan Rust and myself with brief bios. Then each of us is going to talk about one uniquely Alaska thing that we used in one of our books (I'm going to talk about how my father almost cutting his hand off with the prop of his Super Cub led to a murder in one of my books). And then we'll throw the discussion open to questions from the audience. This form is pretty much the standard for traditional mystery convention programming, some talk among the moderator and panelists, then questions from the fans.

N.L.: What advice can you give to aspiring UAA writers who have interest in mystery writing and Alaska?

Stabenow: Write every day. Write every day, even if it's only one page a day. That's one more page than you had the day before, and at the end of the week you'll have a chapter and at the end of the year maybe a book. Write every day.

For more information about the Left Coast Crime conference, call 566-7500, or visit their Web site at