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A Letter to Book Clubs from Leigh Newman, author of STILL POINTS NORTH

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Newman_Still Points North

Dear Book Club Readers,

Growing up as a girl in Alaska, I had a dad with his own motto, one that came in handy every time our floatplane almost fell out of the sky or we ran into grizzly. “One day,” my father would say, “That bear by the cooler will make a pretty funny story.”

As with so many other things, Dad was correct. All those narrow escapes did make pretty funny stories, as well as scary and sad and drastically joyful stories—mostly because they were also about how much I loved my parents and how much they loved me, even as our family fell apart right on the spongy, mosquito-swarmed tundra.

My life changed after my mom and I left the state and I began commuting 5,000 miles between her and Dad. But what’s so wonderful about the wilderness is that you take it with you wherever you go. Nobody just forgets the ragged, unflagging desire to survive. It exists in all of us and in every kind of place and situation. It gets us off the ground every time people don’t come through or just go away, every time the house burns down or the wedding gets called off, every time we have stand there with a smile made of broken diamonds while somebody explains, “Hey, you are not going to get what you so badly wanted—sorry.”

Another of Dad’s mottos was “Don’t lose altitude.” By this, he meant, “Keep climbing that mountain, honey.” I kept climbing. So many of us do. The only problem is with weepy ding-dong on our back, the one who feels so hugely and vastly alone, even as we march onward with our fast little rigid steps.

Lately, I’m beginning to think of competency as a mother-of-pearl shell that can leave you caught in your own luminous ability to keep going no matter what.

As you read Still Points North, I’d be honored if you’d happen to think of those moments in your life where either the shell broke or you collapsed under its glittering weight—and you had finally to choose: strong or weak; stay or leave; me or my past; me or my future; me or the other-me who might never ever be unless I do the thing I’m most afraid of doing. Which is almost always to risk being both hopeless and hopeful at the same time.

Then, if you’ll send me an email (alaskaleigh@gmail.com) and tell me the story of your choice, even if you’re still making it. I’m still making mine, and I’ll probably go on making it every day of my life.

Thank you so much for making time for this book.


Leigh Newman

Bertelsmann Media Worldwide