Journalism’s highest honor


The stories of the journalists who wrote the stories of Katrina and Watergate and the Boston pedophile priests, and many more, resulting in journalism’s highest honor, the Pulitzer Prize for public service. If you’re a writer, here are the nuts and bolts exposed. If you’re a supporter of the First Amendment, here’s why it’s necessary. If you never understood what public service means to journalism, here it is, explained (the Katrina story is especially moving). If you were unaware of the perils that can attend such reporting, all you have to do is look at the rattlesnake followers of Syanon stuffed in Paul Morantz’ mailbox, its rattles cut off so it wouldn’t alert Morantz to its presence.

When editor Howard Weaver of the Anchorage Daily News sent reporters out into the Alaskan Bush to investigate the effect of alcohol abuse on village populations he had one instruction for them: If they saw a breaking news story? To walk away. The result was “A People in Peril” and the ADN’s second Pulitzer Prize for public service. I still have my copy, every word of which still rings true today.

All my Goodreads reviews here.

Learning to make fire


by Margaret Atwood

Marriage is not
a house or even a tent

it is before that, and colder:

the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn

the edge of the receding glacier

where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
this far

we are learning to make fire

Dana Stabenow – In the Hot Seat

Dana Stabenow will be joining Barbara Peters, the owner of The Poisoned Pen, for two live travelogue programs, one on Nov. 29 at 7 PM, the other Dec. 3 at 2 PM. They will be discussing Alaska, the Arctic, and the Northwest Passage. Dana will also be at the Small Business Saturday event on Nov. […]


It’s #GivingTuesday.


And might we ask?

As we close out 2016 and head into 2017, might you add Storyknife Writers Retreat to the organizations you support with your financial contributions? In addition to our current campaign, we are always open for donations. Your support goes directly to supporting women writers, because their stories are vital for our communities and our culture.

You can donate via PayPal on our website or send a check to
PO Box 75
Homer, AK 99603.

Remember us on Giving Tuesday!

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‘Booted concussively.’



Maori cop Tito Ihaka has been put out to pasture for five years and is living a rural life out in the New Zealand sticks when a message arrives from his old boss saying he needs Ihaka’s help. Back to Auckland he goes, where he discovers that the case he got fired over has been reopened with the [sort of] killer’s confession. Ihaka was right and everyone in the department was wrong although no one is going to admit it out loud, but the real question is who actually drove the car in the hit-and-run, and, O.o, has the killer been branching out? Then there is that unfortunate incident of the attempted cop killing and the subsequent coverup, but of course now that Ihaka’s on the case that won’t hold for long.

There are a lot of characters but all are people drawn in full, the NZ place names positively sing, and there is some fun writing, as in

[Parks] lunged for [the shotgun], belly-flopping down on the table, which crumpled under his 140 kilos. As he wallowed among the wreckage, Ihaka took a couple of long strides and booted him concussively behind the ear.

‘Booted concussively.’ I bet even Stephen King would like that use of an adverb.

The ending is a little rushed, the killer’s confession a little too easily come by, and I hope Ihaka watches his back with that blonde bombshell he winds up with, but these are minor quibbles. Off to get the rest of the series now…


More of my Goodreads reviews here.

Well okay then, just rip the beating heart out of my breast why don’t you.


Well okay then, just rip the beating heart out of my breast why don’t you.

Eleven-year old August “Auggie” Pullman has a genetic defect that makes his face look like Darth Sidious after he gets burned by Sith lightning, and boy does he know it.

Rat boy. Freak. Monster. Freddy Krueger. E.T. Gross-out. Lizard face. Mutant. I know the names they call me. I’ve been in enough playgrounds to know kids can be mean. I know. I know. I know.

All he wants is to be an ordinary kid and that just isn’t in the cards for him, but now he’s 11 and his parents have decided that it’s time for him to leave homeschooling and enter the fifth grade at Beecher Prep.

The book is told in first person first by Auggie, then his sister Via, his friends Summer and Jack, Via’s boyfriend Justin, and Via’s friend Miranda. (I do wish Julian’s voice had been included.) The voices are so individual and so convincing that sometimes you forget this book was written by an adult. The texts between Auggie and Jack (and Jack’s letters of apology) after the big fight are just priceless

Auggie: wud u really wan to kill urself if u wer me???
Jack: no!!!!! I swear on my life but dude–I would want 2 kill myself if I were Julian🙂
Auggie: lol yes dude we’r frenz agen.

Auggie is different, he is other, it’s not something he can hide and it’s not something anyone can ignore, and this whole book is pretty much a teachable moment whose message could be distilled into two words: Be kind. People behave badly at Halloween

I’d been talking to Julian about August. Oh man. Now I understood! I was so mean. I don’t even know why. I’m not even sure what I said, but it was bad. It was only a minute or two. It’s just that I knew Julian and everybody thought I was so weird for hanging out with August all the time, and I felt stupid. And I don’t know why I said that stuff. I just was going along. I was stupid. I am stupid.

and with the plague and the shunning and at the nature retreat but the effort to ostracize and demonize Auggie fails utterly in the end. It’s partly because of Auggie himself, who all he wants to be is ordinary and is anything but. It’s partly because the staff and teachers of the school and some of the parents lead by example. But mostly it’s because of the kids’ own innate goodness. Maybe they didn’t know it was there before they met Auggie but they know it now. (Although one of my book club members with a vision-impaired child who was picked on a lot in school was more than a little skeptical about just how good these kids are.)

Palacio saves the best for last with the Postcard Precepts. Milo’s is so great, Julian’s hints that he may have learned something more than his mother wanted him to this year, and of course, Auggie’s

Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life because we all overcometh the world.

Auggie sure did, with a little help from his family and friends. And I would like to have seen that production of Our Town. Highly recommended, with Kleenex.

One quibble: According to the author’s acknowledgements this book was inspired by a girl she met in front of an ice cream store. Why isn’t Auggie a girl? Why do the writers of childrens’ books continue to favor male characters? It’s like Katniss Everdeen never existed. The 5th grade teacher in my book club said, “But Dana, you can’t get boys to read books about girls” and I said, “I’ve been hearing that since I was a kid. If writers and publishers–and teachers–keep catering to boy readers nothing will ever change.” If girl readers are force marched through books about boys it seems only fair that boys should be force marched through books about girls. And I have made grown men read The Hunger Games, so what is the big damn deal here???



More of my Goodreads reviews here.