Ernestine Saankalaxt’ Hayes’ tenure as Alaska State Writer Laureate is lasting slightly longer than initially expected.
Hayes, a University of Alaska Southeast professor and author of “Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir” and “The Tao of Raven,” was announced as the 2016-2018 Alaska State Writer Laureate in December 2016 and introduced at the Governor’s Arts and Humanities Awards in January 2017.
When 2018 came to a close, there was no announcement of Hayes’ successor and no introduction of a new writer laureate at this year’s arts and humanities awards earlier this month.
“I’m not sure if I’m Laureate for a few extra months or if it’s more of a slight pause in the process,” Hayes told the Capital City Weekly via email. “It’s been an honor and a pleasure to serve as Writer Laureate, and I feel certain that serving as former Laureate will be just as fulfilling.”
While the Writer Laureate selection process is happening later than usual, it is in progress, and an announcement is expected in the coming weeks.
“The state writer selection process is underway and we should have an announcement for the media by March 30, 2019,” said Andrea Noble-Pelant, Executive Director for Alaska State Council on the Arts in an email responding to a phone call Tuesday. “It’s a little later than usual so the position will go from April 1, 2019-March 30, 2021.”
The State Writer Laureate program is a partnership between the state council on the arts and the Alaska Humanities Forum, according to the Alaska State Council on the Arts’ website. The program is a direct descendent of the Poet Laureate program started by the Juneau Poetry Society in the 1960s.
In 1996, the Poet Laureate Program was broadened to recognize all types of writing.
Noble-Pelant said this isn’t the first time there has been date change in the Writer Laureate Program’s recent history.
“Several years ago, the position was October – September, then January–December so the starting points have varied depending on a number of circumstances,” Noble-Pelant said. “We have limited staff capacity for all our programs, so we delayed the selection process while we focused on the Governor’s awards since staff is essentially the same for both programs.”
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.