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Nancy Lord 70F Writer Laureate of Alaska

By Taliesin Nayala 07F

After 35 years of living and writing on the edge of America, Nancy Lord 70F was selected in 2009 as Alaska State Writer Laureate, an honorary position she will hold for two years.

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As writer laureate, Lord promotes the work of Alaskan writers. She also gets to create a project of her choosing, and as part of this is working to strengthen the system of libraries around the state to provide better access to more materials.

Lord and her partner, Ken Castner 71F, met at Hampshire and moved to Homer, Alaska, in 1973, a town of 5,000 that turned out to be a thriving artistic community where they fit right in and have lived since.

“You hear a lot of people say that when they get [to Alaska], they have finally found their place, their home,” she says. “That was the case for me.”

Though it is the largest state in the U.S., Alaska has a population of only 700,000 people, so most of the writers in the state know each other and have developed a strong, if spread out, writing community. Her peers recommended Lord for writer laureate, and she says it is an honor to be recognized by the people she has worked with in the past three decades.

Lord worked in commercial fishing for many years and has taken her knowledge of the outdoors and transferred it to the written word. Though she did not move to Alaska with the intent to write, she has authored many nonfiction essays and short stories, as well as six books, including Beluga Days: Tracking a White Whale’s Truths, for which Publisher’s Weekly praised her meditative writing style and ability to tell all sides of the story.

She says, “I don’t pretend to be objective, but I do insist on being accurate and fair; when I write I have a clear attitude toward my subject, but I quiz myself about what I think and do and try to give a full picture.”

Lord is currently working on a nonfiction book about the response to climate change in the north, and she teaches writing at the University of Alaska in Homer.

“I believe my job in life is to be a constant learner and an activist,” she says. “Hampshire set that model and I have carried that philosophy into my teaching.”

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