ABOUT THE AUTHOR (IN WHICH I WRITE ABOUT MYSELF IN THE THIRD PERSON)
Sherry Simpson was hauled to Alaska by her parents when she was 7. Even at that tender age, she had somehow gotten the idea that Alaska was a dreadful, ice-covered gulag of darkness and despair. Only in January, as it turns out. Sometimes December. And November.
At the University of Alaska Fairbanks she discovered that her inability to master math and chemistry meant that she would not become a marine biologist and learn to communicate with dolphins after all. Instead she studied journalism. She worked at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner andthe Juneau Empire and wrote columns and features for the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska magazine, and the Anchorage Press.
After writing one too many weather articles for the Juneau Empire in which it was either raining, had been raining, or would soon resume raining, she returned to UAF and earned an MFA in creative nonfiction. She teaches in the Low-Residency MFA Program at the University of Alaska Anchorage and the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. She's also on the faculty of the annual Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference in Homer.
My first editor told me that if the word "essays" appeared on this book cover, people would run screaming from the store. That's why the subtitle says "Alaska Stories," which suggests a cornucopia of short fiction. It is not.
This collection of personal essays--there, I said it--explores the mystery and reality of living with bears, wolves, moose, otters, and ravens. The madness that falls upon us in forests. The yearning that comes from being alone on an island. The claim that winter makes on body and soul. There is hardly any screaming, not much swearing, and one teensy reference to sex for which my mother has forgiven me. So don't be afraid. They're just essays.
Is it possible for an ordinary person to discover anything new in the era of satellite phones and GPS? What did the old explorers want from Alaska, and what did they find? Why would anyone walk to the foot of Denali when you can fly over it or land on it?
Included in these accounts are one episode of overturning in a glacial river, one scary bear incident, one redeemed marriage, the occasional historic mule, three or four cuss words, a charming dog, a friendship tested by unceasing dampness, a melancholy interlude of contemplating mortality, one fellow who lost his way, another fellow who found his way, and many, many, many mosquitoes.