Phil Smith holds a microphone for Linda Buckley as she sings in August 2015. The songwriter, poet and retired teacher is publishing her first children’s book soon. It will have a November launch party in Juneau. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Phil Smith holds a microphone for Linda Buckley as she sings in August 2015. The songwriter, poet and retired teacher is publishing her first children’s book soon. It will have a November launch party in Juneau. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Longtime Juneauite turns the page with new book

Songwriter, poet and retired teacher publishes first children’s book

At the age of 75, Linda Buckley is still finding things to do for the first time.

The retired teacher’s book, “The Bear in the Blueberry,” will have a launch in Juneau in November, and it’s the poet and songwriter’s first foray into the world of children’s books.

“I used to be inspired when someone said, ‘At 80 years old she did a first gallery show,’” Buckley said in an interview, reflecting on a time when 80 seemed more distant. “I’d think, ‘Wow, people can just reinvent themselves late in life.’ I thought, ‘Here I am doing the very same thing, launching a children’s book in the twilight years of my life.’ As long as the creative juices are flowing, there’s no age limit to producing something in the world, whether it’s a song or book or a piece of art.”

[Former teacher leads singalong for school’s 50th]

The book also served as a respite from a more emotionally charged memoir that’s a work-in-progress.

“I gave up a child for adoption in Hawaii, and he found me 16 years ago, so I’m writing about that,” Buckley said. “It was like, this is emotional and everything, so I’ll do a children’s book.”

She said the book’s journey toward publication took about a year of work. That included finding illustrator Robin K. Robbins, working on the book’s layout, settling on a publisher and making final adjustments.

The general concept of the book and most of its text dates back much further, Buckley said.

“The Bear in the Blueberry” is a new children’s book written by longtime Juneauite Linda Buckley. It was inspired by reflections on zen philosophy through a Southeast Alaska lens. (Courtesy photo | Linda Buckley)

“The Bear in the Blueberry” is a new children’s book written by longtime Juneauite Linda Buckley. It was inspired by reflections on zen philosophy through a Southeast Alaska lens. (Courtesy photo | Linda Buckley)

“The actual text has been laying around for 15 or 20 years,” Buckley said. “I did a bunch of poetry and forgot about it.”

She wrote the book while reflecting on the message of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, whom she heard speak.

“He held up a blank piece of paper and said, ‘Can you see the logger in the paper?’ and I thought, ‘No,’ and I kept looking for a picture of a logger,” Buckley said. “Then he said, ‘Can you see the see the sun in the paper? Can you see the rain? Can you see the forest? Everything is in the paper.’ So then I thought, ‘The bear is in the blueberry.’”

The underlying message, Buckley said, is that animals, their food sources and the environment that produces the food are all intertwined.

“It’s really deep ecology where everything is interconnected,” Buckley said.

Linda Buckley, a poet, songwriter, retired teacher and longtime Juneauite, is publishing her first children’s book soon. It will have a November launch party in Juneau. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Linda Buckley, a poet, songwriter, retired teacher and longtime Juneauite, is publishing her first children’s book soon. It will have a November launch party in Juneau. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Katrina Woolford, store owner for the Store at the APK — the bookstore inside the Alaska State, Library, Archives and Museum — said she’s glad the book will be joining other Alaskan-penned works on her shelves.

“The books is beautiful,” Woolford said in a phone interview. “The illustrations are wonderful. The message is beautiful.”

[Reproductions shed hands-on light on rarely documented hunting tools]

Plus, the Nov. 1 launch event will celebrate an Alaska author writing about flora and fauna native to the state.

“It’s actually part of our mission to support Alaskan authors and artists,” Woolford said. “It is important to be supportive of Alaska artists and authors. I think that Linda Buckley has just been such a generous part of our community, and we’re thrilled to be hosting the launch event.”

Know & Go

What: “The Bear in the Blueberry” launch event.

When: First Friday, Nov. 1.

Where: Alaska State Library, Archives and Museum, 395 Whittier St.

Admission: Free.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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