Paul Theroux keynotes 2017 North Words

After writing nearly fifty books of nonfiction and fiction set in the most exotic of locales, America’s greatest travel writer is finally headed for one of Alaska’s most notorious: Skagway.

Paul Theroux will lead a faculty of seven acclaimed authors at the 8th annual North Words Writers Symposium May 31-June 3 in historic Skagway, Alaska. An inordinate percentage of Alaska households (including seasonal cabins) feature a well-worn copy of Theroux on their shelves—travel classics like The Great Railway Bazaar and The Old Patagonia Express, meaty fiction ala The Mosquito Coast, or the cultural satire of Blinding Light. The places, people, and stories which arise from Theroux’s considerable literary talents define a territory in American letters that belong wholly to the master; we are honored that he would consider extending his borders to include North Words, and encourage readers and writers to join us for the celebration.

When Theroux lands in Skagway, he will bring his latest published work, Mother Land (Houghton Mifflin, 2017), “a richly detailed, darkly hilarious novel” about a narcissistic matriarch of a Cape Cod family whose affections and quirks drive the saga of a “vast family that bickers, colludes, connives, and ultimately overcomes the painful ties that bind them.”

A maximum of 50 registrants at the 2017 North Words Symposium will also engage with a dazzling faculty of Alaskan writers that includes John Straley, Sherry Simpson, Deb Vanasse, Tom Kizzia, Andy Hall, and Lenora Bell.

Former Alaska writer laureate John Straley is the celebrated author of mystery, history, and poetry. His tenth crime novel is called Baby’s First Felony. Sherry Simpson’s first book, The Way Winter Comes, has become an Alaska literary staple; her most recent book is Dominion of Bears: Living with Wildlife in Alaska. Thirty-six years in Alaska enriches the writing of Deb Vanasse, author of seventeen books, whose latest work Wealth Woman: Kate Carmack and the Klondike Race for Gold, is a deeply researched biography of a Native woman’s role in the discovering the legendary gold of ’98.

Longtime Homer, Alaska journalist Tom Kizzia’s latest book, Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness inhabited the New York Times bestseller list and pegged #5 on Amazon’s Top Ten Books of the Year” list. Longtime editor of Alaska magazine, Andy Hall’s latest book is Denali’s Howl: The Deadliest Climbing Disaster on America’s Wildest Peak, a nonfiction account of the tragic 1967 Wilcox Expedition. Lenore Bell’s debut historical romance novel How the Duke was Won garnered the Golden Heart Award from the Romance Writers of America. Her third book in the Duke series hits the stands about the time she hits Broadway in Skagway.

Incredible people fuel the symposium panel discussions, but much of the unique spirit of North Words derives from the wild world beyond Skagway’s boardwalk. Symposium participants will ride the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad 18 fabled miles up narrow-gauge tracks to the Laughton Glacier trailhead. Participants choose a guided hike to the glacier or a short walk to a rustic cabin for a guided writing experience. On another day, symposium participants are shuttled to a cook-out party at Alderworks Alaska Writers & Artists Retreat near the ghost-town of Dyea. Registration also includes most meals, including an opening reception and keynote banquet.

The North Words staff includes bon vivant Buckwheat Donahue, editor-writer Jeff Brady, publisher-marketer Katrina Woolford, and teacher-writer Daniel Lee Henry.

Registration to North Words is now open to all writers—aspiring or professional—who seek inspiration, direction, a flesh-and-blood social network, and fun. One or two credit hours may be earned through University of Alaska Southeast. Sign up soon; the maximum is 50 participants. Find more at

North Words is a non-profit event supported by its fiscal sponsor, Skagway Development Corporation – Community Development Services, with generous support from the Municipality of Skagway and other donors. To donate, visit the Sponsor page on the website.

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