Heather Lende, whose memoirs chronicle life in Haines, is named Alaska State Writer Laureate

Author Heather Lende, who gained national recognition for memoirs of her life in Haines, has been selected to be Alaska State Writer Laureate for 2021-2023.

Lende’s best-selling 2006 debut, “If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska,” chronicled her life in Haines and work writing obituaries for The Chilkat Valley News, her local newspaper. Lende followed that with “Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs” (2011) and “Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer” (2015).

Her most recent work, 2020′s “Of Bears and Ballots: An Alaskan Adventure in Small-Town Politics,” is the story of her experiences navigating the often-fraught landscape of local government after winning a borough assembly seat.

The Alaska Humanities Forum sponsors and manages the writer laureate program along with the Alaska State Council on the Arts. In a joint announcement, council chairman Benjamin Brown wrote that Lende’s work “speaks to the daily experiences, challenges, and joys of life in Alaska, and connects emotional and factual observations in a way that enhances our collective understanding of life in this unique place on earth.”

In addition to her memoirs, Lende’s essays and stories, often about her life in Haines, have appeared in publications including the Anchorage Daily News, Christian Science Monitor, NPR and Country Living. She was a 2017 recipient of the Alaska Governor’s Award for Distinguished Service to the Humanities.

According to Lende’s website, she and her husband, Chip, have lived in Haines for more than 35 years and own a lumberyard and hardware store. They have five adult children and seven grandchildren.

Lende wrote that while she’s still developing a plan for her time as state writer laureate, she’d like to focus on promoting readership of Alaska authors.

“There are so many, and they are so diverse, from poets, novelists and memoirists to journalists, biographers, children’s book writers — we are a land filled with creative, big-hearted, wise and talented communicators, and highlighting that seems to me a pretty good place to start. "