Cyberwit.net is publishing Ken Waldman's novel, Now Entering Alaska Time, in June 2022 (though Ken will have review copies on hand sometime in January). Here's Ken's introduction to the novel and scroll down to see the front and back cover of the book (and here's the link to Ken's successful Kickstarter campaign where you can read much more about the project):
Welcome to my twentieth book: sixteen full-length poetry collections, a memoir, a kids' book, a creative writing manual, and now this novel. So it's no wonder that people who know me as a writer think of me as a poet. But in 1985 I arrived in Fairbanks to enter the MFA program as a fiction writer, and I graduated in 1988 as a fiction writer who'd begun writing poems.
Winter 1989 I was living in Juneau and making smart progress on a collection of stories I'd worked on throughout grad school. One new story, set in Fairbanks, got away from me. What I thought might be a fifteen or twenty-pager about a young man, Zan, turned into “Potluck,” the opening section here. I remember writing the eighty pages in a three-or-four-day blur. Twenty pages in, when I'd hoped to end it, I'd barely gotten started.
For months I congratulated myself; I'd written a novella. But a year later in Sitka where I was a visiting assistant professor at a branch campus of the university, having at last completed the story collection, I realized the novella was not just an outlier, but the start of a novel. At that point I began writing the second section set in Juneau with a female character, Melinda.
1990-1992, then tenure-track at another branch campus, this time Nome, I taught five classes a semester, and wrote more poems, though weekends I might sporadically add to that second section. Then I got sick. Mysterious debilitating joint pains necessitated a leave of absence and eventual resignation from the Nome job, and put the novel on hold.
Seeking healers, I journeyed from Nome to Seattle to New York City to Prescott, Arizona, then back to Seattle. Late 1994, still convalescing, running through savings from three years of teaching, I finished a draft of that second section, “December 21, Juneau,” and moved back to Juneau where I thought I'd quickly finish the novel.
But no. For months I moved between sublets as I picked up a few jobs teaching and performing. Sometime that year I managed to squeeze out the third section, “When in Nome.” March 1996, not long after I'd finally found stable housing, and felt as if the illness time was perhaps fully behind me, I survived a plane crash while working in rural Alaska. Bloodied and concussed, I was lucky to be alive. The novel waited.
Spring 1997 I wrote both the fourth section, “Nome Winter,” and the coda, “The Alaska Spring,” and immediately set about querying agents. A few asked to see fifty or a hundred pages. A handful requested the complete manuscript. One agent held on to the manuscript for a year, regretfully declining, writing that though she liked it, she didn't know how she could sell it.
I queried more agents, queried editors, and also attended various writing conferences. At one, in 1996, six weeks after my plane crash, a serendipitous meeting with a publisher began a process that led to my first two poetry collections in 2000 and 2002. By then I'd also had several hundred poems and a dozen short stories published, and was occasionally performing not just in Alaska, but throughout the Pacific Northwest. But that's running ahead of myself.
November 1999 I was working for several days in Interior Alaska schools with music partner, Andrea Cooper, a Canadian banjo player and flute player. She'd flown in, her first time in the state, and wanted to read a contemporary Alaska-set novel. Back then there were a few mysteries set in Alaska, and some good nonfiction, but little literary fiction. I offered her Now Entering Alaska Time, that is if she didn't mind 300+ typewritten pages. She told me she'd try it, and read it in the evenings after our days in the schools. The end of the week, I asked how she liked it. Her response, “What is it with your country you can't get this published?”
That was twenty-two years ago. Around that time, an intern at a major publishing house responded to a query and asked me to send the manuscript. A few weeks later she wrote that while she really enjoyed it, she couldn't recommend it because the publisher was interested in real literature, not popular fiction. I shrugged. Other agents and editors who'd taken time to respond personally had said that despite the strong writing, they couldn't see a market for this. It didn't seem to matter that I was already going around doing events and that because string-band music was featured in the book, I could make an accompanying CD.
Since then I've kept busy with the touring and a myriad of other projects. In 2001 I drove out of Anchorage, where I was then living, and I've been driving around doing jobs ever since. Occasionally I'd submit the novel to a university publisher, a small press, or a contest. When told by one university press that the length was prohibitive, I shaved 5,000 words, then 2,000 words, then another 6,000, ultimately cutting almost an eighth of the book. Still too long, they said.
After initially finishing Now Entering Alaska Time, I envisioned it as the first of a trilogy. Now, thirty-two years after starting it, twenty-four years after “finishing,” it's become a period piece. If I'd have to self-publish, eventually I would; I knew the book was worthy. But I also knew it only took a single editor or publisher. Every few years I'd take it out again to revise.
Fall 2020, Dr. Karunesh Kumar Agarwal, from Cyberwit.net in India contacted me about potentially publishing a book of poetry. Satisfied with that book, Leftovers and Gravy, and our working relationship, in summer 2021 he reached out about publishing a second book. It somehow seems exactly right that Now Entering Alaska Time has found this particular publisher at this particular time. India? Sure!
I'm excited this novel has finally found a home.
--Ken Waldman, September 2021, begun on a plane en route to Anchorage, finished November 2021 in Durham NC