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- Our Town
Mountaineering author to speak in Cranbrook
An Alaska writer of mountain stories will visit Cranbrook on Saturday, March 22.
David Stevenson will give a reading of his collection of short stories, "Letters From Chamonix", at Lotus Books in Cranbrook at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 22.
Originally from Michigan but now living in Anchorage, Stevenson is the director of the fine arts program in creative writing at the University of Alaska.
An avid climber, he has been writing short stories in mountain settings for the past 30 years.
"It's the first time my stories have been collected. Most of them have been published in very small, specialized audience literary magazines," Stevenson said.
"I didn't actually set out to write a collection of mountaineering stories but that's what happened over time. I didn't even start to think of it as a book for a long time; I just thought of them as separate stories. They are quite different from one another in voice and setting. They are all set in the mountains, but a lot of different mountain ranges."
Some stories are set in Alaska, of course, but others, as the name suggests, as set in France, and some in South America.
"The stories are not autobiographical, for the most part," said Stevenson. "Sometimes the setting and some of the characters are based on people I know, but the events are all imagined.
"I find mountaineering very inspiring and very interesting. But I am always asking myself, what if? What if this happened? What if that happened? So I like to stress that these are made-up stories."
He has a handful of writers he looks up to, including Jim Harrison, a fellow Michigan author who writes fiction, poetry and essays about the outdoors. In the mountaineering realm, Stevenson looks up to James Salter, who wrote "Solo Faces". And, surprisingly, he finds the work of Californian surfer Kem Nunn inspiring.
Stevenson also has a nod for a Canadian legend.
"Like everyone else in the world, I love Alice Munro, who is often published in the New Yorker throughout the years and has finally garnered all the acclaim she deserves," he said.
Stevenson said that teaching young writers at the University of Alaska helps keep him on track.
"When you teach young writers, they keep you on your game, otherwise you feel like a fraud. You have to earn that respect. And that is inspiring," he said.
"When I wrote the acknowledgements for this book, I found myself thanking many former students because you want to be that person that you pretended to be in front of the class."
You can meet David Stevenson at Lotus Books in Cranbrook on Saturday, March 22 at 1 p.m. Coffee and cookies will be served.