Writing Firsts

First prize for writing

Letter to Mr. HodgepodgeMy first writing prize was awarded by Mr. Hodge Podge, who ran a Book Contest for children under age 14 in the Country Gentleman magazine. My book report on Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper was selected as a winner and I got to choose my prize from a long list that included a Kodak Brownie camera, a Senior Artists’ Paint Set, or up to three books of my choice.

I still have the March 1953 issue with my name listed in it and a lovely letter from Mr. Hodge Podge himself, who says he “will look forward to seeing more of your fine work in future contests”.

First published work

Alaska Travel BookMy first published work appeared in Top Cover for America, c. 1956, a welcome book for new arrivals to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska. It covered everything from uniform regulations to shopping to articles on dog mushing and the Northern lights.

The publisher called my contribution a “Write-up of the Highway Loop Trip from Anchorage, North & South”. The article covered 50 pages, divided into six sections:

  1. Anchorage to Glennallen, via Glenn Highway
  2. Glenallen to Tok Junction via Glenn Highway
  3. Tok Junction to Fairbanks via Alaska Highway
  4. Delta Junction to Valdez, via Richardson Highway
  5. Anchorage to Seward, via Seward Highway
  6. Seward to Homer, via Sterling Highway

Since I wasn’t old enough to drive, the entire family took these road trips while I scribbled notes in the back seat. We traveled in June, the best month for good weather – the ground snow has melted and it’s too early for mosquitoes. Every trading post, gas station, scenic viewpoint, animal sighting, geographical feature, and village is covered, accompanied by historical details.

As the Publisher’s Note says, “We feel that all of you people of the Armed forces who are stationed at any of the Alaskan installations will want to see as much of this magnificent territory as possible during your tour of duty up here. You will find that the following article will contain many interesting side-lights and pointers to help you more fully enjoy this highway trip, or any portion of it.”

My old account book shows I was paid $102 in cash! The article was uncredited, but I have a copy of the original and my memories.

First published poem

Mr. Crouch, my creative writing teacher, gave me an A+ and submitted one of my poems to the newspaper, where it was printed in the Poet’s Corner of the Anchorage Daily Times on Dec 18, 1957. Looking at the yellowed clipping now, I am pleased to see that mine appeared just above one by Margaret Mielke, who six years later was chosen to be Alaska’s first Poet Laureate.




First newspaper column

During my senior year in high school, The Anchorage Daily Times announced that it wanted to begin covering the teen-age scene. I got the job and “Teen Topics” was the title of my bi-weekly column. I loved the work and put the checks right into my college fund. A recommendation from the Editor said I had “been able to produce a highly readable column, won the confidence of persons known as ‘difficult to handle’ as news sources, and made many friends for the paper.