Writer Interview: Kersten Christianson

When and why did you first start writing?

I wrote my first book review of Sark’s Succulent, Wild Woman in 1997 for the journal Alaska Women Speak.  At the time, I was living in a cabin on Kalifornsky Beach Road, gazing at Cook Inlet and Mt. Redoubt near Kenai, Alaska.  It is no wonder my jump into poetry was effortless.  The switch in genre gave me the chance to wrangle with and process my everyday brush with nature and its allure.  That’s not to say that writing poetry is an easy task; to the contrary.  Writing takes dedication and concentrated practice.

Who is most supportive about your writing?

Luckily, I can point to a number of mentors along my writing path:  from undergraduate studies professors Jim Hale and Joseph Powell; to Vivian Faith Prescott and our local writing group Blue Canoe Writers; to my MFA mentors and poets Elizabeth Bradfield, Zack Rogow and Anne Caston along with my fellow poets in the program Lisa Stice and Raquel Vasquez Gilliland; to editor Karen Kelsay of Kelsay Books/Aldrich Press who published my full length poetry collection, Something Yet to Be Named (2017); to my fellow board members and submitting writers of Alaska Women Speak; to writer friends who put their most creative thoughts to paper:  Ruby Hansen Murray, Rose Aspinall, Vivian Wagner, Carol Birrell; and of course my husband Bruce and daughter Rie who worked summer vacations around the four July residencies of my MFA program at the University of Alaska in Anchorage.

Tell me something about your work published in Peeking Cat Anthology 2017.

I’ve been fortunate to publish a handful of poems in a couple of issues of Peeking Cat Poetry and for that I’m grateful.  “The Wave of a Magic Wand” is a poem that employs the vocabulary of magic to the routineness of the ordinary.  In this instance, the speaker wishes to be the disappearing rabbit, and to land in a new setting with the assurances that all will be well.  I find it carries a hopeful tone for any reader desiring change – great or small.

Where do you write? Do you have a writing space or a particular process/routine?

My formal writing space consists of a large desk in a small room of pine floor stained indigo blue.  There are crystals hanging in the windows and white lights adorned with bright shards of glass hanging from the ceiling.  This room overlooks the Pacific Ocean, the path of sun, followed by moon.  The room is wrapped in art, chapbooks, woollen hats, art supplies, postage stamps, old letters, photographs, found objects and treasures.  My informal writing space can be anywhere:  walks along the shore, forested paths, noisy coffee shops…

What’s your favourite word?

Moon:   I should learn to tame its usage, but it’s an impossible notion on so many levels.

What do you find the most difficult or challenging about writing?

The readings.  When I pursued my MFA, I expected I’d be on a writing path and did not really put any stock into the very public nature of reading before audiences.  Though teaching is my chosen profession, I’m still a terrible introvert when it comes to standing in front of an audience of peers and reading the work I always assumed would be a conversation between me and the page.

Tell me about the piece of work that you are most proud of writing, or about the writing accomplishment you are most proud of.

I published my first full length collection last month titled Something Yet to Be Named (Aldrich Press, 2017).  I could never really anticipate the goodness that would ensue from the very act of publishing:  that old and new friends would request signed copies; that the collection would not only find shelf space in my locally owned independent bookstore (Old Harbor Books in Sitka, AK), but also The Homer Bookstore (Homer, AK); that this work would serve as a reminder of the adventuring that ensued as a result of my MFA program, including locating and exploring the empty homestead of the late Alaskan poet John Haines.

What are your writing plans, goals or dreams for the future?

To continue engagement in daily writing practice.  My chapbook What Caught Raven’s Eye is currently in the hands of Petroglyph Press.  I am also at work on another manuscript tentatively titled Found Objects.


Kersten Christianson is a raven-watching, moon-gazing, high school English-teaching Alaskan. When not exploring the summer lands and dark winter of the Yukon Territory, she lives in Sitka, Alaska with her husband and photographer Bruce Christianson, and daughter Rie. She completed her MFA in Creative Writing/Poetry through the University of Alaska Anchorage (2016).

3 thoughts on “Writer Interview: Kersten Christianson

  1. It's amazing to think that you're way across the world in Alaska and we're all together in the Peeking Cat Poetry Anthology and taking part in this launch in one way or another!

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