Expanses tend to fill up with stories. That’s just one of the realizations our NaNoWriMo team of rollicking writing evangelists has made this week while preaching novel-writing in small-town Alaskan libraries.
It all started when Chris Baty co-piloted our floatplane to a splash landing in the bay outside of Craig, Alaska. Or so goes the tale as he tells it. He actually just sat in the copilot’s seat on the flight up, but such literal details don’t matter when creating stories that speak to higher truths.
Since our splashdown, I’ve heard stories about people who live in the bush and mush a team of dogs for days to get provisions, about moose that eat cabbage out of people’s sinks (and lick their cars for the salt), and about fishermen who forbid bananas aboard their boats because they ward off fish.
As Chris A. mentioned in his earlier post, Amy Marshall, an accomplished Wrimo and a librarian in Craig, Alaska, raised the funds to bring Chris Baty, Chris Angotti, and me here to convince people to write their tales. A basic NaNoWriMo precept is that everyone is a storyteller, and that’s proven true. Alaska might be sparsely populated, but words gush like the streams here, in part because people’s stories connect them in ways that the geography doesn’t.
Days are mostly dark and rainy in the winter months, so people have the time to ruminate on the story only they can tell. Stories abound, even if they’re not written down. We learned that on some totem poles, when figures’ tongues touch others, it means that a transformative story has been conveyed to another.
I’ve even heard of a new genre called “elf chick lit”—named by Wrimo Nikki Hyson, of Wasilla, Alaska. Nikki won the Craig, Alaska Pitchapalooza this week amidst stiff competition from many Alaskan scribes. Congrats to Nikki!
I travel to discover such stories. I love seeing proverbial elves dashing through the hills and dales of new landscapes, and in the midst of new sights and sounds and scents, different storylines flow through me.
I saw a pearly white jellyfish billowing through the water like an angel. I saw a whale grunt and spout and flip up its tail in friendly salutation. I saw a piece of driftwood bleached so smooth and white by the salt water it seemed as if it was covered in skin.
I’ve also seen a lot of fascinating mustaches. As you might guess, fishermen in these parts can be a grizzled lot, so I’ve wondered how to describe their facial hair. Some men have beavery ‘staches while others sport stiff iron brushes. A writer’s description toolbox is never full, and I know an Alaskan fisherman will enter a future tale—maybe even this year’s NaNoWriMo novel.
We haven’t seen Sasquatch yet. But we’ve heard about him. And if we see him, we plan to give him a NaNoWriMo sticker. It’s time we hear his story.