Art Beat: Anchorage publisher gets national distribution

Mike Dunham
Photo by Don Mohr

It's always difficult for a writer who doesn't happen to live in New York, Boston or Los Angeles to get his or her work noticed outside their home town. It may be particularly difficult for authors in Alaska. But now an Anchorage company, Vered Publishing and Design House (, has taken a notable step toward getting its books into the rest of the country.

Vered Mares, who started her company in 2011, said she'd reached an agreement on Tuesday with a California-based non-profit, Small Press Distribution. "They focus on independent and small publishing houses, specifically those publishing literary fiction and poetry. Cook books and guide books aren't their thing." Nor are self-published books.

Small Press Distribution has been around since 1969, one of the few book distributors that has grown as the publishing industry in general has gone into a tailspin. They market the output of hundreds of small publishers, getting the product out to bookstores, wholesalers and libraries. Several of their titles -- or rather the titles of publishers with whom they have an affiliation -- make the finalist lists for the National Book Awards and American Book Awards on a regular basis.

Mares' enterprise is decidedly on the small side. She has five titles in print and another four available as ebooks. She described herself as a cross between a traditional and non-traditional publisher. She submitted three of her in-print titles to SPD, who accepted all of them. The three are Kris Farmen's novel "Turn Again," the novella collection "Weathered Edge" by Farmen, Martha Amore and Buffy McKay, and "Defiant Street," a poetry book by Sandra Kleven.

The latter just arrived last week, Mares said. "I haven't even had time to inspect the boxes."

Mares suspects that her success with SPD may have something to do with the fact that she will be moderating a panel on "Publishing Local" at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference in Seattle at the end of February. Which is fine by her.

"I'm just thrilled that there's finally an opportunity to market my books to a big audience outside Alaska," she said.

Cordova singers go to New York

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Fundraise!

Singers Carl Ranney and Annie Carlson, students at Cordova Jr./Sr. High School, were thrilled to be accepted in the 2014 High School Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall. They were selected on the basis of audition recordings to join the elite group that will perform at the fabled venue in New York City on Feb. 9. The only hitch was how to pay for the trip.

So, with friends and fellow musicians, they organized a benefit concert for themselves. The "Cordova Music Extravaganza Fund Raiser" took place on Dec. 5 at Mt. Eccles Elementary School. "We had standing room only," said Wendy Ranney, Carl's mother and the librarian at the school. "We are regularly amazed and humbled by this community, but this was outstanding! Over $4,000.00 in donations were raised just that night to send the kids." In addition, the Cordova School District donated airline miles. Another donation from the Rachel Wiseheart Art & Music Fund brought the total to $10,000, enough for all of the teens' immediate family members (seven in sum) to make the trip.

Fundraising has continued with a special account at Wells Fargo banks -- "Carl and Annie to Carnegie" is the name -- and a crowd-sourcing site, The excess will be put back into the Cordova school music program, Wendy Ranney said.

Ms. Smith goes to Broadway

Molly Smith, who founded and directed Juneau's Perseverance Theatre from 1979 to 1998 and has been the artistic director of Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. since then, will make her Broadway directing debut in April with "The Velocity of Autumn" by Eric Coble. The production, which will start previews on April 1 and open on April 21 at the Booth Theatre, will star Academy Award-winner Estelle Parsons and Stephen Spinella, who has won two Tony Awards.

The play, described as a "90-minute powder keg dark comedy" had a sell-out run when it was presented in Washington. Several Arena shows have been taken to Broadway, but this is the first such personally directed by Smith.

New band welcomes solstice at Tap Root

A recently formed Alaska band will welcome winter at 8 p.m. Sunday. Yada Di -- the name means "what is this" in Dena'ina -- debuted earlier this year at the now defunct Out North. The core group is jazz/world music trumpeter and flutist Yngvil Vatn Guttu, fiddler Lena Lukina and performance artist Allison Warden, who perform with a backup rhythm section.

Guttu said the band is "taking steps to get a name outside of Alaska" but "is committed to celebrate each solar even here in our home town." Hence the title of Sunday's program, Winter Solstice Lounge. Catch them at Tap Root, 3300 Spenard Rd. Tickets are $10.

Also this Sunday, the Anchorage Concert Chorus will present their annual Holiday Pops concert in Atwood Concert Hall at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec 22. Tickets, $25-$39, are available at

Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.