Sunday, December 21, 2008

Three Books by Three Alaska Women, in Various Stages, and Why Alaska Blogs are Increasingly Important

Pictured at left is the very pregnant Erin McKittrick, working on her book about the non-motorized trek she and her husband Bretwood Higman took, from Seattle to the far side of Unimak Island, in 2007 and 2008. The couple have moved from Seattle to Seldovia, where hig grew up. She's sitting next to the wood stove in their recently constructed yurt.

erin has a lot of material to work with, from the amazing blog she and hig kept up over the course of their Journey on the Wild Coast. She is hoping to finish the book's draft before their child arrives in February.

McKittrick's skills as a writer grew considerably during erin and hig's yearlong adventure. I'm more than a bit fascinated how this epicly improbable south-to-north journey, involving use of a water craft that didn't exist few years ago, combined with digital images, YouTubes of shoals of sea lions surrounding their fragile vessels, bimonthly blog updates from places like Icy Bay and Nondalton, and occasional school and community slide shows, now ends with a traditional book.

OK, the book might not end up being all that traditional, and erin and hig are organizing their collection of multimedia materials for on-line presentation, too. And I have a hunch the book will be important.

A book by another Alaska blogger that just came out, is by Juneau bicycle adventurer, Jill Homer. Jill, who works as the weekend editor for the Juneau Empire, isn't listed here as a progressive Alaska blogger, but her stories about bicycling around the Juneau area and elsewhere are among my favorite reads.

Her photographs are sometimes stunning. Like McKittrick's photos from her and hig's trek, Homer's glimpses of the glories of non-motorized transport, show how one can go so many places in Alaska without having to be a motorhead.

Jill Homer's book, is called Ghost Trails. In it, she describes the 2008 Iditarod Mountain Bike event, in which she placed second, behind Kathi Hirzinger-Merchant. At the time, Jill wrote about the event for the Juneau Empire, audio blogged the race for NPR's The Bryant Park Project, and kept up some posts at her own blog, Up in Alaska. And Jill has now started a blog on the book.

At Up in Alaska, Jill keeps a daily and monthly mileage meter of her bike treks. So far, in December 2008, she has biked almost 600 miles, most of it on snowy trails or off-road ice.

In early December, Progressive Alaska helped get the word out about 2008 Alaska Muckraker of the Year, Dr. Riki Ott, and hosted her book review a week ago at firedoglake, where she answered questions about her recent book, Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.

Riki Ott just completed her national book tour (C-SPAN TV will air one of her Bellingham, WA book talks on Sunday January 4th, at 12:10 p.m. Alaska time), Jill Homer has just released her book, and Erin McKittrick is working hard to complete the first draft of her book. Besides all three being Alaska women, McKittrick and Homer being outdoors adventure icons, and McKittrick and Ott being environmental activists with serious, holistic, long-term goals and hopes, what do these three people have in common that spurred this essay? At least two things.

First, all three have developed communities on the web through their activities. Ott less so than Homer or McKittrick, but her online community is moving along rapidly. Especially in regard to her program to create a nationwide movement designed to implement a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would end "personhood" for corporations.

Second, all three understand how the worldwide web works, and are using it to communicate to a wider world than to their communities of supporters and followers. Homer, an award-winning journalist, works for a print/on-line newspaper, so is somewhat tied to the dying mainline media paradigm. Ott has the most ambitious goal, a new amendment to our Constitution - the 28th. The 27th Amendment took 203 years to pass. McKittrick's goal is integrated wholly into helping get the word out that we need to throttle mindless development and waste.

Homer has studiously stayed clear of politics at her blog, and, I imagine, in her book. The simplicity of her goals, which started out by finding a neat way to stay fit year-round, when she moved to Juneau, and then writing about it in a cumulative, web log environment, is quite straightforward, and progressive in its reliance on pristine environments to work.

But all need continued Net Neutrality to help them maximize their visions. And none seem to rely directly on being covered by the traditional media, as they reach for their goals, attempt to help us change our lives for the better in large and small ways.

What got me going on this theme this morning (it is now very late Sunday evening) was looking through the comments attached to the two stories the Anchorage Daily News ran over the weekend on the arrest late last week, of the mom of Bristol Palin's baby's probable father. The ADN, in their lame efforts to maximize this sad arrest over the same weekend the young Palin woman is expected to deliver her child, has through the two articles, not only elicited 3,064 comments about Ms. Johnston's arrest, but created an electronic environment for thousands of mindless, vapid, stupid, rude, coarse and illiterate responses to this sad event.

On one hand, the purpose of the way the articles have been structured wasn't intentionally so negative. It just turned out that way. To a major degree, the ADN is a prisoner of its schtick when this happens.

On the other hand, Ms. Johnston has now gotten more electron space, more bandwidth, more national and international attention, than that antiquated, ill-led information delivery structure - the ADN - will ever give to Riki Ott, Erin McKittrick and Jill Homer and their positive, empowering messages combined.

images:

erin in the yurt, by hig
Jill's shadow, by Jill
Riki, with Shannyn, by Kelly

17 comments:

clark said...

i know you've written about erin and hig many times but i've never looked into it. sounds like a kind of modern starship and the canoe story.
it must hack off the professional journalists at ADN that they stoop to sherry johnston kind of stories to get their web traffic up. explains dan fagan, too. i don't spend as much time there as i used to. gravitating to the news-miner [fairbanks]. a lot of their commenters are reactionaries, too but as a rule they're more thoughtful and respecting.

Maia said...

News-Miner commenters tend to be better spellers, too, I've noticed. Less name-calling, more capitalization.

The only thing the Sherry Johnston non-story proves about Sarah Palin is that her daughter appears to have questionable taste in boyfriends. The same could be said for most seventeen-year-old girls.

Anonymous said...

how about retitling this post to:
FOUR BOOKS BY FOUR ALASKA WOMEN? Isn't Maia-Own The Sidewalk-writing a book too???

Philip Munger said...

anon @ #4 - Thanks for putting that in there about Maia's book. I didn't think of it until I was so far along in writing the post, that I would have had to back track through the entire essay to balance it. Sorry, Maia...

I wrote about Maia's book back when she got her Rassie.

Maia said...

Thanks, Anon & Phil. I hope my finished product lives up to the hype...

Philip Munger said...

Maia,

After raeding the E-mail Rep. Mike Doogan sent to AKMuckraker, I can tell you that at least you, in your writing, are able to separate fact from fiction.....

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