Alaskan author, 1995 Western alumna and Pulitzer Prize finalist Eowyn Ivey will visit campus March 6 as part of Whatcom READS 2020.
Ivey’s latest novel, “To the Bright Edge of the World,” is this year's Whatcom READS book. The book is set in the first decades after the United States purchased the Alaska Territory, and features rich descriptions of the Alaskan wild, as well as a story of adventure, love and survival steeped in the living mythos of the Alaskan Indigenous peoples.
Ivey was a newspaper reporter at the Frontiersman in Wasilla, Alaska and also worked as a bookseller for nearly a decade. Her first novel “The Snow Child” was a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Whatcom READS is a county-wide program that encourages everyone to read and discuss the same book. The program is put on by all the libraries in Whatcom County, both public and academic, as well as Village Books. There are events based on the book throughout the year, including the free and open to the public events with the author in March.
“To have an entire community read my book, to coordinate events and celebrations around it — I can’t think of any greater honor for a novelist,” Ivey said.
Community members can recommend books based on criteria including that the author must be available to come speak and lead events, they must be an engaging speaker, and either the book or the author must have some kind of local tie to Whatcom County.
“We take seriously the job of recommending a title for the entire community to read,” said Ann McAllen of the Whatcom County Library System. “Eowyn Ivey and her novel were a perfect fit on many levels. We especially liked her ties to Western, and the book has so many doorways, meaning we believe everyone who reads it will find something that connects with them.”
Ivey graduated from the journalism program at Western in 1995, with a minor in English, and was also a participant in the Honors Program.
“Going through the journalism program at Western instilled some very important lessons lessons in me as a writer — to be open and engage with editing, to set aside my ego and defensiveness for the sake of work, to meet deadlines and write under pressure,” Ivey said.
“But I also got my minor in English, and continued to fall in love with literature during my college years. It was at Western where I was first introduced to writers such as the American novelist Louise Erdrich, the English poet William Blake, and countless other writers whose work continues to inspire me,” she said.
Back on Campus
Ivey will make public appearances throughout Whatcom County March 5-7, discussing the book and the craft of writing at the Ferndale Library, Mount Baker Theatre, Wilson Library Reading Room, Whatcom Community College, and the Jansen Art Center. During her March 6 appearance at Western, she will visit the Honors Program, and then host a public discussion on writing.
She will first meet with the Honors seminar class, Magical Realism, which is taught by Lori Martindale.
“They are reading Ivey’s book right now,” said Scott Linneman, the director of the Honors Program and a Western professor of Geology. Honors will then host a lunch for her and 20 Honors-program students.
“I think it is important for students to meet Eowyn, because it will help them visualize what they can do,” Linneman said. “There are a lot of writers in the Honors Program, and they will get to see someone who is actually making a career doing it — it is very inspirational.”
Afterwards, Ivey will speak from 2-3:30 p.m. in the Wilson Library Reading Room for a public presentation on the craft of writing, and the campus community is invited to attend.
“I’m excited to be coming there in person, to talk with readers about the book and my writing process,” Ivey said. “There are so many ways to go about it, so many different motivations that draw people to writing.”
To view a full list of events from Ivey’s visit, as well as for more information, go to https://www.whatcomreads.org.