By Melinda Munson

The tentative schedule is posted for the 2023 North Words Writers Symposium, happening May 24-27 in Skagway and Dyea. Judging from the faculty, the future really is female.

“It just kind of happened that way,” laughed Jeff Brady, organizing faculty member. “We’re very happy with that group.”

This year’s keynote author is Oregon resident Karen Russell, nominated in 2011 for a Pulitzer Prize for her debut novel, “Swamplandia!” 

NPR describes Russell as, “One of the most original American authors working today. She’s also one of the best.” They call her newest book, “Orange World,” “a thing of beauty, a stunning collection from one of the most brilliant literary minds of her generation.” 

“We’ve been trying to get Karen Russell for a couple of years,” Brady said.

Russell will be joined by Alaska transplant Marybeth Holleman, author of poetry and non-fiction; National Geographic Explorer, science writer and former Skagway worker M Jackson; fiction writer and Alaska sourdough Leigh Newman; Inupiaq poet and Nome resident Marie Tozier; wildlife biologist (who sometimes lives off-grid) Caroline Van Hemert; and Southeast professor of English and poet Emily Wall.

There is no set theme for the 13th annual writers gathering as the symposium embraces its new motto: “Ya aaní káa has du shkalneegí yaa nas.áx̱” (On this land their stories are sounding off.)

Organizing Faculty Member X́unei Lance Twitchell helped craft the new motto and translated it into Tlingit.

“You’re on this land where wonderful stories happened before Skagway was Skagway. We’re on a mission to continue to tell stories,” Brady explained. 

“We’re talking about better ways to tell stories,” he continued. “People who come here are already writers.” 

Brady said the small gathering is “powerful and insightful,” allowing writers to become even better.