A Peek behind the Curtain

Early thumbnail sketches for pages 4 and 5

Early thumbnail sketches for Zig, pages 4-5

Cary Porter's final art for pages 4-5

Cary Porter’s final art for Zig, pages 4-5

A teacher-writer friend of mine has a terrific blog, and following the release of ZIG: THE WARRIOR PRINCESS, she interviewed me for details on how the book came together. If you’re interested, please click here to read more.

From a publishing standpoint, ZIG: THE WARRIOR PRINCESS was unique–about as non-traditional as you can get. I was the author as well as the book developer, contracted to write the book as well as hire an artist, a book designer, a production person/print buyer, and get the book lined up for delivery to the site where they will be sold: the Husky Homestead in Denali Park, Alaska.

If you’d like to obtain a copy, just visit Jeff King’s Husky Homestead online store by clicking here. I hope you come to love Zig as much as I have!

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Meet ZIG!

Not just another pretty face!

Not just another pretty face!

I’m happy to announce that hot off the press is Zig: The Warrior Princess, a new children’s book that I wrote with Iditarod champion Jeff King! The illustrator is the terrific guy who also produced the art for Bobbie the Wonder Dog. Recognize that gorgeous style? It’s Cary Porter!

Denali Park resident Jeff King has covered hundreds of thousands of miles in his career as a mid- and long-distance musher, both in training and in actual racing. He’s won the 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race four times, placing him in a rare club of mushers who’ve done it, too. But in all those years and trail-miles, he’s never had a dog like Zig, he told me. So we planned a book that would tell children, in Zig’s voice, why she’s the Princess of the dog yard, but at the same time, how she is a WARRIOR on the trail, so intense and focused that Jeff says he’s never had such a talented sled dog.

Zig is not just another pretty face…a good lesson for adventurous girls, especially!

If you’d like to pick up a copy, you may not yet find it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or even in your local Indie bookstore. Starting on June 22, you may click here to jump to Jeff King’s Husky Homestead (Where Sled Dogs are King!) store, and order your copies.

ISBN-13: 978-0-692-68607-2

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Back from Bobbie Country

Bobbie starred in a silent movie

Bobbie starred in a silent movie

Bobbie the Wonder Dog may have lived nearly a century ago, but he is still a big star in Silverton, Oregon. And now Silverton’s hometown dog is back in the national news with the release of a new book from WestWinds Press.

In the winter of 1923-24, after he became separated from his family, Bobbie walked from Wolcott, Indiana, to Silverton, alone. With miscellaneous side trails and byways, he walked about 2,800 miles. Bobbie was a news sensation. The small town sports a 70-foot mural dedicated to Bobbie, along with a statue of the collie mix, and a replica of his “Castle,” a heavy-duty doghouse originally built for Bobbie in 1924, at the peak of his fame.

I had the privilege of visiting Silverton during the days leading up

Frank Brazier poses with Bobbie in a publicity photo

Frank Brazier poses with Bobbie in a publicity photo

to their annual Pet Parade, hosted by the Kiwanis on May 21. I dropped by three local schools for book presentations (which includes showing a little movie of the book illustrations as I read). I was pleased to see those little faces light up when they recognized pictures of the mural and statue of Bobbie. And yet, the rest of the story, they hadn’t really heard. Well, they know it now! It was great to share this remarkable journey with a new generation, and the reaction to Bobbie’s nearly 3,000-mile walk was just the same it was in 1924: shock and amazement.


Thanks again to the descendants of Bobbie’s people, Frank and Elizabeth Brazier, for offering your support. Their great-grandsons Dana (and wife Donna) Crockett and Ron (and wife Chris) Crockett have been terrific. Thank you to Portland’s Cathy Marshall at KGW news, to Amy Wang at the Oregonian, and to Helen Raptis at AM Northwest for hosting us.

If you’re looking for a copy, check with your favorite bricks-and-mortar store, or go online to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Indiebound. They’ll have it. I’ll be doing some signings around Anchorage in the coming months, too.

Visiting with Quincy, a Bobbie lookalike, at the Pet Parade

Visiting with Quincy, a Bobbie lookalike, at the Silverton Pet Parade

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Musk Ox babies are the cutest

Illustrated by Debra Dubac

Illustrated by Debra Dubac

Each year, the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer, Alaska, reopens for the summer season on Mother’s Day Sunday. That’s the day they introduce the new babies to the public. If you’ve never made the trip out, it’s just one short hour from Anchorage to Palmer. Such a great family day trip! On Mother’s Day 2016, I’ll be there, too, signing copies of The Itchy Little Musk Ox. Come by between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and say hi, or bring your own copy if you’d like me to personalize it. The Farm has a whole day of fun planned, so don’t miss it. For more info, click here.

A friendly yearling

A friendly yearling

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Authors Love Librarians

AKLA logoI’m not a librarian, but I think of them so highly. These men and women possess a passion for reading, but more . . . they understand the way reading affects how children see the world and themselves. They are encouragers. I love the printed word, the look, smell, and feel of a book, it’s true. But no matter the delivery, it’s content that’s key to opening young minds and stimulating the love of reading.

In a couple of weeks, members of the Alaska Library Association will meet in Fairbanks for their annual conference. Look for me in the Exhibitor’s Hall, representing Graphic Arts Books in their booth. I’ll have sneak-a-peek copies of Bobbie the Wonder Dog there, as well as other samples of what’s new for Spring 2016, and a whole catalog of other excellent books. If you’re at the conference, please stop by! Speakers include young adult authors Debby Dahl Edwardson and Matt de la Pena. They’re going to be sensational, I know. (Can’t wait!) Click here for more on the conference and an outstanding roster of other presenters: AKLA Conference.


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A Fresh Take

TB Sled Dog Wisdom 2nd edSled Dog Wisdom is back for a second edition in a bigger format that includes photos. Thanks, Epicenter Press, for reprising this collection of mushers’ stories and quotes. When I first gathered the material for this book, I asked dozens of mushers, competitive and recreational, about the unique relationship between a musher and his or her sled dogs. I wanted to know, “What you have learned from owning and running sled dogs?” Some of them laughed at themselves; others took a more serious route. (The Zen of mushing? Yeah, kinda.) Anyway, their answers were all over the place. You can order Sled Dog Wisdom at any of your favorite bookshops, in person or online. I hope you like it!

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One Fine Dog

He was called "The Wonder Dog"

They called him “The Wonder Dog”

I had heard of “devoted dog” stories, but when I delved into the history of a certain collie mix named Bobbie, I could only repeat what hundreds of thousands had already uttered: “Are you kidding? Really?” That’s because this dog, having become separated from his owners during a cross-country journey in summer 1923, resolved to retrace his route and head west, back home to Frank and Elizabeth Brazier. Bobbie would walk nearly three thousand miles during a six-month period (much of it in the dead of winter), all the way from northern Indiana to Silverton, Oregon, and into the restaurant that his people operated. They had given him up for dead, naturally, and he looked like the walking dead when he finally arrived.

In an age before social media, Bobbie’s wondrous journey made for sensational headlines across the country. He even made it into “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!” and attracted huge crowds during appearances.

My newest picture book about Bobbie will release in early April from WestWinds Press of Portland, Oregon. That may seem like a long time to wait, but I’m already revving up for the big celebration that will mark the event. And, of course, I’ll be available for author visits and talks anywhere in the country–but especially along Bobbie’s route.

So if you’re a librarian, media specialist, animal rescue operation, or shelter, start thinking ahead to April and see if this new book could be part of your school or organization’s plan to get kids reading and thinking about amazing animals. Let’s put our heads together. Click here to learn more about author visits.

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It’s all about the BOOK!

AlaskaBookWeek_final0115I’m so glad to be back in Anchorage, ready to visit schools, libraries, and get involved with big events like Alaska Book Week. It’s coming up the first week of October, when you’ll find Alaskan authors all over the state engaged in booksignings, talks, classroom visits, public presentations, and author fairs. Here’s what my schedule looks like so far:

Saturday, October 3:  Reading for early elementary children at Mountain View Library, 120 Bragaw, Anchorage. I’ll be sharing The Itchy Little Musk Ox for the read-to-me kids up to 2nd grade, and then I’ll read Charlie & the Blanket Toss for the children in 2nd-4th grades. Come on in and bring a brother or sister! If you own any of my other children’s books and would like me to sign them, bring them to the library, okay?

Sunday, October 4: Meet me at Barnes & Noble in Midtown Anchorage from 1-4 p.m.! They carry many of my books for children as well as adults. But now that Charlie & the Blanket Toss is an Alaska Battle of the Books selection for Alaskan 2nd-graders, we expect to see a big stack of them on the table. I’d love to see you there.

Saturday, October 10: Come down to the Loussac Library for 1:30 p.m. storytime, where I’ll be sharing a couple of books. Again, if you have a book that I’ve written, bring it to the library and I’d be happy to personalize and sign it for you. I love to meet my young readers.

I’ll update this calendar as other signings/talks shape up. Keep watching! And please, wherever you are in Alaska, join in the fun of Alaska Book Week–I’m betting there’s a special salute to books and Alaskan authors somewhere near you.

If your school or library (or another group in your town or village) would like to participate, click here for ideas on how to get involved!


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Return to 1967

Compiled by the Old Iditarod Gang

Compiled by the Old Iditarod Gang

A good part of my last three years has been dedicated to structuring, developing, and editing two epic books, each of which has a special tie to the year 1967.

The first book is IDITAROD®: The First Ten Years, a 400-plus-page compendium of stories, photos, artwork, and statistics surrounding those early years of the Anchorage-to-Nome race with sled-dogs. Compiled by “The Old Iditarod Gang,” the first-person memories come from the idea people, the trailbreakers, fundraisers, administrators, pancake-makers, artists, pilots, photographers, water-carriers, and a host of other volunteers–and the early mushers themselves. Make no mistake, this isn’t a light read. The hardbound edition weighs a full SEVEN pounds! Funded with Kickstarter help, and unveiled at the 2015 Iditarod, the book has been flying off the shelves. Consider it for yourself and the other mushing fans in your life. It’s beautiful as well as packed with great reading.

How was it tied to 1967? Well, the first race on the Iditarod Trail was held in 1967, as part of the Alaska Purchase Centennial celebration. Cities and towns/villages all over Alaska had been invited to come up with ideas to take advantage of federal funding. The Mat-Su Committee (headed by “Mother of the Iditarod” Dorothy Page) joined Joe Redington Sr.’s vision of calling attention to the area’s mushing history and the trail that runs through it. Joe Sr. and his son Joee cleared a portion of the trail for that shorter stage-race, which would memorialize Leonhard Seppala, the famed Nome musher who had recently died. The Centennial Race was the inspiration for organizers and participating mushers to broaden the race to a 1,000-mile run to Nome.

Celebrating 1967

Celebrating 1967

Now jump ahead to 2015, today, when I received an advance copy from the printer of the second book that’s also been my work-life these last three years: The View from the Future–2017: Fifty Years after the Alaska Purchase Centennial.

The old Alaska State Museum was one of forty-two community enrichment projects that were constructed with federal and matching funds back in 1967. The centennial of the U.S. purchase of Alaska was the first big thing since statehood in 1959. Some chose to build community centers, or medical facilities, to restore totem poles, or build libraries and museums…or organize a sled-dog race. In Juneau, the grand Alaska State Museum stood as testament to the efforts of the local committee. Over time, the state’s library, archives, and museum were one administrative division, but by necessity, the holdings were kept in separate buildings. It was clear that a new facility to reunite the Division of Libraries, Archives, and Museums was necessary.

As part of the mitigation for deconstructing the State Museum, state leaders wanted a book that would reflect back on the people and projects all over the state that were part of the 1967 Alaska Purchase Centennial. So we contracted with six writers and six photographers–probably many of your favorites. The writers: George Bryson, Nick Jans, Debra McKinney, Nancy Lord, Kathleen McCoy, and Dermot Cole. The photographers: Mark Kelley, Clark James Mishler, Matt Hage, Jim Lavrakas, Jeff Schultz, and Charles Mason. The six writer-photographer teams spread across the state and visited far-flung communities, asking, “What became of your Purchase Centennial project? Was it worthwhile? Is it still in use? Who were the people behind this great idea?” What they brought back, in words and spectacular images, appears in this beautifully designed book, with a Foreword by historian Terrence Cole, Ph.D.

While the print book is now finished, a small group of us continues to work on an enhanced eBook that will be released on July 1. It will be downloadable on most devices.

To order individual copies of either book, contact Taku Graphics in Juneau, Alaska. Click here.


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New Book Recommendation!

First Wilderness by Sam Keith 2014For those of you who’ve read One Man’s Wilderness, by Sam Keith, you’ve probably also seen the video spin-off of the Dick Proenneke story on PBS (titled Alone in the Wilderness). Years after the death of author Sam Keith, his family discovered a complete manuscript among his papers. Now the “lost” manuscript is finally in print: First Wilderness by Sam Keith was a joy to edit, and I’m looking forward to joining Sam’s daughter, Laurel Lies in two upcoming events. Please come if you can: Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Saturday, Sept. 27, at 4 p.m. And on Sunday, Sept 28, 3 p.m. we’ll be at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle.

A new release from Alaska Northwest Books, First Wilderness is available at your favorite online or storefront bookstore.

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