North Words Writers Symposium is looking for wordsmiths for the May conference. (Jillian Rogers)

North Words Writers’ Symposium organizers are seeking writers of all sorts for the May event in Skagway. The line-up of speakers is a who’s who of Alaska and Northwest authors, journalists and poets, who are sure to inspire even neophyte word jockeys.

There are a total of 50 spots available for the four-day workshop, and while some are spoken for, the Skagway Visitors’ Bureau hopes to fill up in the next month or so. The keynote speaker this year is Brian Doyle.

Doyle describes himself as many things including shuffling, mumbling, grumbling, muttering, muddled and meandering. But he’s penned 13 books, and is the editor of Portland Magazine, so how muddled can he be? Doyle’s latest novel, Chicago, is set for release this spring.

“He’s an author that Dan Henry has been trying to get up here for the symposium for many years, so we were very pleased when he finally accepted for this year,” said Wendy Anderson, Skagway’s visitor information specialist. She says an impressive well of writers will accompany Doyle at the event and with so many talented wordsmiths, Anderson says participants are sure to get their money’s worth.

“A lot of the camaraderie that comes out of this is very valuable both for beginning authors and for experienced, published authors. We’ve had John Straley attending for the entire seven years that this has been going on. It provides a wonderful opportunity for them to connect with other authors and discuss the craft in great detail.”

Among the returning authors this year are Kim Heacox and Heather Lende.

Heacox’s new novel, Jimmy Bluefeather, was released in September, followed a short time later by The National Parks: An Illustrated History. And Lende’s Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer came out in April. Besides Straley, returning faculty includes University of Alaska Southeast professor and poet Emily Wall and Lynn Schooler, author of the acclaimed The Blue Bear. Chickaloon author Eowyn (A-Oh-Wyn) Ivey is also on the roster. Her first book, The Snow Child, made the shortlist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize.

Each year, participants run the gamut from rookies to pros. Anderson says this symposium has something for everyone.

“The conference provides pretty much whatever you want to get out of it. If you want to be able to read your work, there’s a session where you can do participant readings. But we also have a lot of people attend who are very early into their writing craft and the idea of getting up in front of other people and sharing their work makes them very nervous. You don’t have to do that.”

During the conference, participants and faculty will take a ride on the White Pass railroad to the Laughton Glacier trailhead. There, they can choose a guided hike to the glacier or a short walk to a rustic cabin for a uniquely Alaskan writing experience. On another day, symposium participants are shuttled to a cook-out party at Alderworks Alaska Writers & Artists Retreat near Dyea. Registration includes most meals, including a reception and banquet. All that and more for $375. And, Anderson says, it’s not just the multitude of talented authors that draw would-be writers, it’s the setting.

“Our first two people who registered this year have never been to Alaska. And part of the appeal of people attending this symposium is that it’s in a wild, fun, exciting place.”

There are still about 40 spots left, but Anderson says, waiting until the last minute is kind of the Alaska way, so she expects it fill up. The North Words Writers Symposium happens from May 25-28.

Credit hours may be earned through UAS. Go to or call the Skagway Convention & Visitors Bureau at 983-2854 for more information.