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“Gaining Daylight” Wins Willa Award for Creative Non-Fiction

The following is from the Kodiak Daily Mirror:

As a library technician and a published author, Sara Loewen-Danelski knows books. She works in Kodiak College’s library, and published “Gaining Daylight: Life on Two Islands” a year and a half ago.

Now, that book has won the Willa Award for creative non-fiction.

“It was great news,” Loewen-Danelski said. “I knew some of the entrants and I really admired their books so that felt doubly exciting.”

The Willa Awards are given by Women Writing the West to the authors of women’s or girls’ stories that are set in the North American west, according to the WWW website.

The awards are named after Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Willa Cather.

One of the things that Loewen-Danelski likes about the awards is that librarians choose the winning books.

“The librarians are the judges. They’re doing the reading,” Loewen-Danelski said. “It’s neat because they have good material, you know they’re well read.”

“Gaining Daylight” is creative nonfiction about Loewen-Danelski’s experience living in Kodiak during the winters and spending summers set net fishing in Uyak Bay with her husband and children. The second island referenced in the title is Amook Island, located in Uyak Bay.

The book is made up of a 12 essays that Loewen-Danelski wrote for a graduate class while she was pursuing her master’s degree in creative nonfiction. The book weaves in natural and island history and Loewen-Danelski’s experience balancing the modern life with the more ancient way of living.

“Gaining Daylight” was published through the University of Alaska Press and is for sale here.

Reviews from Amazon include: “This book is something special,” “If you haven’t been to Kodiak, you will feel like you have after reading Gaining Daylight,” “Well written and a joy to read,” and “You want to read this book!”

Loewen-Danelski says the award has helped give her book a boost.

“The University of Alaska press is a great press, but it’s a small press, and it can’t do a lot with publicity,” Loewen-Danelski said. “But because of the Willa Award, the book gets a second life too.”

Loewen-Danelski found out about winning the award while she was out in Uyak Bay, running a skiff to Larsen Bay.

“The cell phone service popped up on my phone and the email popped up that the book had won the award,” Loewen-Danelski said. “It was kind of fun to be riding back across to our fish site, which is the focus of so many of these essays.”

Loewen-Danelski accepted the award in Colorado with her family, and she hopes to continue writing in the future.

“I think it’s a good motivation to keep writing and to make the time for writing,” she said.

Written by Julie Herrmann

book review in

Read the review by Editor-in-Chief & poet, Simmons Buntin, here is a terrific journal focused on the “soul of place” in environments both built and natural. Their most recent issue features contributions by writers like Wendell Berry and Rick Bass.

In 2010, editors nominated the essay “To Know A Place” for a Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses XXXVI


AWP in Seattle

I was happy to hear that the Alaska Literary Series panel was accepted for AWP’s 2014 conference in Seattle. Looking forward to meeting and reading with talented Alaska writers–Joan Kane, Holly Hughes, and John Morgan.

The 2014 Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference dates are February 26th to March 1st this year.

happy news

Gaining Daylight was given a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly!

Gaining Daylight: Life on Two Islands

Sara Loewen. Univ. of Alaska, $15.95 trade paper (140p) ISBN 978-1-60223-198-6

Loewen’s compilation of lyrical essays, written in “fragments of time over the last several years,” is a slim volume capable of enduring echoes. Loewen and her family live in Kodiak, Alaska, much of the year, but “leave every May for the salmon season, moving to… Uyak Bay on the west side of the island.” For half the year, she writes, they give up “fresh produce, telephones, cars, dryer, and dishwasher.” It’s a life Loewen looks at from a distance, sometimes wishing she was “an Alaskan who lives outside of Alaska,” while she wonders what it is, exactly, that keeps people there. As winter fades, she describes spring as “a teasing, mercurial girl… [who] will break my heart tomorrow with a gale or a snowstorm.” Loewen’s essays are exquisite slices of life in which she describes the patient, silent wait for the birth of her second son, reminisces about her childhood friend and their stories of Old Harbor, and watches as the corpse of a freshly dead whale approaches shore. This solemn, spare book is an intimate and loving look at a life that very few people live, so rich with detail and emotion that its handful of photographs are almost superfluous. (Feb.)Reviewed on 02/15/2013 |

Reading in Anchorage

I’m looking forward to the  2013 launch of the Alaska Literary Series and Boreal Books.

April 9, 2013, 7:00, Library 307, UAA

I’ll be reading with
Erin Hollowell, Pause, Traveler
Mei Mei Evans, Oil and Water
Carolyn Kremers, Upriver
Peggy Shumaker, Toucan Nest

Easter Reading


On Easter Sunday I’ll be reading with Eva Saulitis at the lovely Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer. It’s a beautiful space and Eva’s new book, Into Great Silence, is a wonderful read–a lyrical, meditative memoir about the oil spill and her years studying a group of orcas facing extinction.

You can hear her interview on Talk of Alaska:


Sunday, February 17th

“This Sunday at the Baranov Museum at 4pm, there will be a Writers’ Roundtable and Book Signing event aimed to share the unique perspective and processes surrounding researching and writing on the Emerald Isle. Local authors Sara Loewen & Sue Jeffrey will discuss their research processes and read book excerpts. Following the readings will be an in-depth question & answer session moderated by Anjuli Grantham, our Curator of Collections. Both Sara Loewen’s new book, Gaining Daylight: Life on Two Islands, and Sue Jeffrey’s A Legacy Built to Last, will be available for purchase and signing.”