Haines non-fiction writer chosen for Distinguished Service to the Humanities Award

Non-fiction writer Heather Lende of Haines was chosen for the Distinguished Service to the Humanities Award for the 2017 Governor’s Arts and Humanities Awards.

Lende has had quite the career. She began with a slice of life radio segment for Haines’ local station; wrote “Duly Noted,” a column on the big happenings in neighbors’ lives for the Chilkat Valley News, and at that same paper, began writing obituaries which launched her into writing books.

In an interview with the Capital City Weekly in 2015, Lende said, “I sort of fell into the writing, I think. I think I’m a storyteller, and I liked to come home and tell a story at the dinner table sort of thing… the writing just came because that was the way to tell the stories.”

“If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska” details the happenings in the close-knit community of Haines. “Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs: A True Story of Bad Breaks and Small Miracles” explores matters of faith, forgiveness, loss and devotion alongside Alaskan adventures as she recovers from a near-fatal bicycle accident.

Lende’s latest book, “Find the Good – Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer” asks readers to find the good even in dark or sad times – something with which Lende has practice as an obituary writer.

“Finding the good is coming from a position of really bad. That’s the difference between (the book) and a Hallmark card,” Lende said in the 2015 interview. “(Obituaries) start off from a pretty bad premise every time … but there’s something else underneath all the things, and I seem to bump into it frequently.”

Lende was unavailable to speak to the Capital City Weekly about her reaction to being chosen or her body of work that inspired Alaskans to nominate her. However, at least one person who nominated Lende made his letter available to the Capital City Weekly so his reasoning why he thought she should be chosen for the award could be public.

Ronald Spatz, Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Quarterly Review and professor of English at the University of Alaska Anchorage, wrote: “…Heather Lende’s work exemplifies for me what we expect and need from the humanities (and the arts): the vivid real-life stories of real people—past and present—stories imbued with insight, wisdom, compassion, and truth. Heather Lende is an exemplar and her body of work is a treasure. Her work not only has a wide reach, it is unquestionably important and influential to both Alaskans and non-Alaskans alike to better understand the nature of the place —Alaska—and the nature of the people who live here.”

The awards ceremony takes place on Thursday, Jan. 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center. Tickets are $25. To purchase an award ceremony ticket or a VIP reception ticket, go toakgovawards.org/attend.

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