Every week, we’ve been posting introductions to the amazing women on Storyknife’s Advisory Council, and every week the feedback is just so encouraging. We are glad that you think these women are top-notch; we think so, too! This week, we’d like to introduce you to Debby Dahl Edwardson. She sent us the following fabulous introduction, and we are so pleased that she’ll be helping us make Storyknife a reality.
I tell people I’m a late bloomer. I published my first book at the age of 50. I was 61 when my third book was named a finalist for the National Book Award. In truth, however, I’ve always been a writer. I was the kid who gave people poems and stories for presents. I was the English major who wrote stuff for hire. I returned to fiction later in life because fiction takes more time and a larger canvas than I was afforded as a younger woman.
I live at the Top of the World—Barrow—and am married into the Iñupiaq community. My husband George Edwardson and I have seven kids and nine grandchildren.
I used to count the years I’ve lived in Barrow, but now I simply say that I came here as a very young woman and have lived here ever since—nearly forty years. Most of the stories I write are set within an Iñupiaq cultural context. It is not the culture I was not born into but it is the one I belong to, the one that has become home to me as a human being and as an artist.
I write for young people because it’s an audience I love and respect. They have open minds and joyful hearts. As Madeline L’Engle once said, “If I have something that is too difficult for adults to swallow, then I will write it in a book for children.” Children will not tolerate navel gazing for the sake of navel gazing. They want a good story and they don’t care how holy you are or many starred reviews you’ve gotten or how many awards you’ve won. If you do not deliver the story, they will be the first to point out that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.
I like that about young readers.
My books have earned a number of stars and awards and have even been named to a few prestigious lists, but that’s not the point, is it?
My birth family is Norwegian and I have lived in Norway and speak the language, as well, although it’s rather rusty these days. I came into my own as an artist on the island in northern Minnesota where I spent my summers as a child. I have recently started a writing retreat there for children’s writers called LoonSong. Because writing is a lonely profession and we need other writers once in a while. We need to be amongst our own tribe to regenerate ourselves. This is what I got when I attended Hedgebrook, what I am extending through LoonSong and what I look forward to being a part of with Storyknife.
I’ve worked in everything from waitressing to PR to journalism. I am currently teaching literature and history as an adjunct at Ilisagvik College and writing online at writers.com. I serve on the boards of the North Slope Borough School District, Ilisagvik College and the Alaska Association of School Boards.