Posted on 09/02/2015 at 12:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
It's not uncommon to hear tales of workers quitting corporate office life for ventures others might consider risky.
The leap that Bonnie Rose Ward and her husband took, though, included much more danger than, say, a startup or freelance career ... and far more bears.
The couple left suburban Ohio in 1980 for a remote island on Alaska's Skilak Lake. Life in the wilderness south of Anchorage certainly wasn't easy, but it did inspire a book.
Bonnie — now in a much more forgiving climate — answered a few questions recently about how "Winds of Skilak" came into existence and the effect it has had.
SADYE: In another interview, you listed two reasons why you wrote your book (the beauty/power of Alaska, and how much it changed you). But what particular moment or series of events prompted you to sit down and actually write?
BONNIE: It was actually my mother. I wrote letters to my parents that turned into journals, as trips to the post office were sometimes months apart.
When I had the opportunity to visit my family a couple years after moving to the Alaska wilderness, my mother returned the letters. “Here,” she had said, “for the book you’ll write one day.”
I couldn't have asked for a better cheerleader than my mother. She always encouraged me to write — which is what led me to writing articles about our wilderness life for my hometown newspaper.
Even to her dying day my mother didn't give up on me. "Bonnie," she said, "you have to write your story." I regret that she didn't live long enough to see my published book. But, I believe she's smiling down from heaven now and probably thinking, "It's about time!"
SADYE: Did you have a writing background before "Winds of Skilak?"
BONNIE: "Winds of Skilak" is my first book. As I had mentioned earlier, I wrote numerous articles about our wilderness lifestyle for my hometown newspaper, The Farmington Independent in Farmington, Minn.
The readers enjoyed the articles and seemed interested in our off-grid life in Alaska. This also prompted me to keep writing.
SADYE: Have you heard from anyone inspired by your book to go on their own Alaskan wilderness quest, or at least something similar?
BONNIE: It is with great joy that I can give a resounding, "Yes," in answer to this question. ... I have had many readers tell me that they want to do the same thing that my husband and I did. Some are actually making preparations to do so, and others have told me that they know they can't do it, but enjoy "living and experiencing" it through my book.
To know that others have been inspired by my book gives me a sense of accomplishment and makes it well worth burning the midnight oil for all the years that it took me to write our story.
SADYE: What are your favorite books that feature Alaska or other similarly wild areas?
BONNIE: It's hard for me to narrow it down to just a few favorites, because I love reading anything and everything about Alaska. I especially love Alaska memoirs written by women because I can truly relate to my "sisters of the wilderness!"
I enjoyed reading "Goodbye Boise, Hello Alaska" by Cora Holmes and "Arctic Homestead" by Norma Cobb. I also enjoy reading novels like "The Snow Child" by Eowyn Ivey.
SADYE: What writing project is up next?
BONNIE: I've had many requests from my readers for a sequel to "Winds of Skilak." I'm hoping to get the first draft knocked out by spring.
* * *
Categories: Author Interview