For those of you that follow me, I often post pictures of the beautiful winters that we have here in the state of Alaska. I love living here, and my husband and I often get out into the weather and enjoy what Alaska has to offer, even in the cold of winter. But we are able to come home to a nice warm house. There are those who cannot. It’s even more heart-wrenching when it’s kids who are living out on the streets, often the victims of abuse, exploitation and trafficking.
Covenant House Alaska’s mission is not just to give kids a bed and food for a night, but to help these kids find a sustainable path off the streets. They do this through collaboration with other organizations in the community to provide mental and physical health care, job training, and support to these at-risk kids. You can read more about their mission below.
I think many of us as can agree that reading and writing is a form of escape. I know it is for me. I can lose myself in a book or in my writing for hours. Recently, I reviewed Ryen Leslie’s book, River. Afterwards, I really started to think about who it would resonate with. Some of my coworkers (and myself, indirectly) are volunteers for Covenant House Alaska. I felt strongly that her YA Fantasy would really connect with these kids. In addition, from my interactions with Ryen, AKA: The Witch, she is always connecting with other writers and offering support through our very unique writing community.
I reached out to Sam Hendricks, of Kyanite Press, and asked if I could buy a few copies of Ryen’s book in bulk so that I could donate it to the shelter here in town. Sam, being the amazing person she is, was more than happy to work with me. The books will be making their way to Alaska as soon as they are off the press.
Meanwhile I reached out to Alison Kear, the Director of Covenant House, Alaska and pitched my plan. Ideally, we would distribute the books and see what reaction the kids have. Between the multiple shelters here in town, they have many kids who are avid readers and writers. Many of them are highly creative and write poetry, stories and music there at the shelter. Once the kids have read the books, if they have questions about writing, getting published, or even what Ryen has planned next in her series, we plan on setting up a live chat. This would allow these kids to connect with a newly published author. They can see that the path to publication success can be difficult, it is achievable. We can also help them define success and show them ways to utilize social media to their advantage to market their own ideas. This is in line with Covenant House’s Mission of helping these kids to find a sustainable path away from the streets.
When I deliver the books to the shelter, I plan on doing a Facebook live event, to give the organizers an opportunity to speak to all of the amazing things they do to help these young people.
I am looking forward to seeing how this plays out. If we get participation (like we hope), I’ll be reaching out to you, my fellow authors. We’ll share your writing and stories with the young adults at the shelter. Speaking with the directors of the shelter and outreach center, there is an interest in just about every genre.
The Outreach Center here in Anchorage also has a coffee shop that is run by some of the teens at the shelter as a way for them to learn how to run a business. We plan on doing poetry and story readings to encourage the kids to share their writing.
Thanks for reading, and hope to share your writing with these wonderful young adults and encourage them to get their writing out there too!
About the Author
Daniella Shepard is an electrical engineer and ex-navy nuclear electrician’s mate who pulled up anchor at eighteen in California. Through many twists and turns, she made her way to Alaska. When she’s not playing with live electricity or writing stories about women in STEM saving the day, you can find her in her cabin off the grid in the interior of Alaska with her husband Ray building and trying out something new. If you want to read more about her latest Alaskan adventure, or her current work-in-progress, check out her website and sign up for her newsletter: http://dmshepard.com. You can also find her on Twitter, participating in writing prompts and sharing tidbits of stories: @dmshepard13.
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