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Sherwonit, Bill 1950–

SHERWONIT, Bill 1950–

PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced "Sure-wan-it"; born January 4, 1950, in Bridgeport, CT; son of Edward and Victoria (a secretary; maiden name, Schmollinger) Sherwonit; married Dulcy Boehle (a special-education teacher and speech therapist); children: Tiaré Neill. Education: Bates College, B.S. (cum laude), 1971; University of Arizona, M.S., 1974; attended Pierce College, 1978–80. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, music, hiking, bird feeding and watching, recreational basketball, wilderness exploration, natural history studies, environmental/conservation activism.

ADDRESSES: Home—7601 Soldotna Dr., Anchorage, AK 99507. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Worked as an exploration geologist in Alaska, c. 1974–80; Simi Valley Enterprise, Simi Valley, CA, sports writer and editor, 1980–82; Anchorage Times, Anchorage, AK, sports writer, 1985–87, outdoors writer and editor, 1987–92; freelance nature writer and photographer, Anchorage, 1992–. University of Alaska, Anchorage, adjunct instructor in creative writing, 1993–; presenter of writing workshops; public speaker, including appearances at Kachemak Bay Writers Conference, Alaska Nature Writing Institute, Sitka Symposium, Alaska Public Lands Information Center, and Eagle River Nature Center; guest on media programs. Chugach State Park citizens advisory board, member, 2000–03, chair of trails committee, 2002–03.

MEMBER: Outdoor Writers Association of America, Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment.

AWARDS, HONORS: First place award, Associated Press Sports Editors, 1985; Sierra Cup, Sierra Club (Alaska chapter), 1989, for work at Anchorage Times; Mountain Literature Award finalist, 2001, for Denali: A Literary Anthology; award from Wildlife Federation of Alaska; multiple awards from Outdoor Writers Association of America, Alaska Press Club, and Society of Professional Journalists.

WRITINGS:

To the Top of Denali: Climbing Adventures on North America's Highest Peak, Alaska Northwest Books (Portland, OR), 1990, revised edition, 2000.

Iditarod: The Great Race to Nome, Alaska Northwest Books (Portland, OR), 1991.

Alaska's Accessible Wilderness: A Traveler's Guide to Alaska's State Parks, Alaska Northwest Books (Portland, OR), 1996.

Alaska Ascents: World Class Mountaineers Tell Their Stories, Alaska Northwest Books (Portland, OR), 1996.

Alaska's Bears, Alaska Northwest Books (Portland, OR), 1998.

Denali: A Literary Anthology, Mountaineers Books (Seattle, WA), 2000.

Denali: The Complete Guide, Alaska Northwest Books (Portland, OR), 2002.

Wood-Tikchik: Alaska's Largest State Park, Aperture Foundation (New York, NY), 2003.

(Editor, with Andromeda Romano-Lax and Ellen Bielawski) Travelers' Tales: Alaska, Travelers' Tales (San Francisco, CA), 2003.

Work represented in anthologies, including The Last New Land: Stories of Alaska Past and Present, edited by Wayne Mergler, Alaska Northwest Books (Portland, OR), 1996; Danger! True Stories of Trouble and Survival, edited by James O'Reilly, Sean O'Reilly, and Larry Habegger, Travelers' Tales (San Francisco, CA), 1999; Earth beneath, Sky Beyond: Nature and Our Planet, edited by Whitney Scott, Outrider Press (Crete, IL), 2000; Arctic Refuge: A Circle of Testimony, edited by Carolyn Servid and Hank Lentfer, Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 2001; and Take Two—They're Small: Writings about Food, edited by Whitney Scott, Outrider Press (Crete, IL), 2002. Contributor to periodicals, including Alaska, Audubon, Backpacker, Christian Science Monitor, Climbing, National Wildlife, National Parks, Orion, Outside, Paddler, Sea Kayaker, Sierra, Wilderness, and Writing Nature.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Two works of literary nonfiction: Living with Wildness: An Alaskan Odyssey (tentative title) and a book about the Arctic wilderness.

SIDELIGHTS: Bill Sherwonit told CA: "I entered the 'writing life' in my late twenties, after getting an advanced degree in geology and working several years in that field. While a geologist, I found myself surrounded by people who were passionate about their work in a way I was not. Over time, I realized I did not want to spend my life working as a geologist; I decided to seek a career and lifestyle that I could be passionate about. As the late mythologist Joseph Campbell (well known for his advice to 'follow your bliss') might put it, I went in search of my bliss. I didn't know what that might be, so I took a leap of faith into the unknown. That leap led me into journalism. Taking classes at a junior college in California, I became excited at the possibilities. I joined the student newspaper as a sports writer (later to become sports editor), and that in turn led to my first job as a journalist: reporting on sports at the Simi Valley Enterprise.

"Though I'd decided not to build a career in geology, the profession had blessed me with a gift: it introduced me to Alaska. I fell in love with the state—especially its wild landscapes—my first summer there, in 1974. Though I later moved to California, I knew I would return to Alaska some day. I did, in 1982, reincarnated as a sports writer. I worked at the Anchorage Times from 1982 through 1992 (when the newspaper went out of business, after losing a newspaper war to the Anchorage Daily News), first as sports writer, then as the paper's outdoors writer and eventually editor.

"Almost immediately after I'd learned that the Times was folding in 1992, two thoughts streaked through my mind: I will continue to live in Alaska; and I will continue to write. It would be no easy task in a state with few newspapers or magazines. That led to another leap of faith, into the world of freelancing. Since 1992 I have survived—and in many ways, thrived—as a freelance writer. I now follow the bliss of nature writing in the place where I feel most at home, Alaska. It's an ideal combination.

"Through nature writing, I explore my relationship with the world. Through many different sorts of audiences (from the general audiences that read the local newspaper to those who read magazines such as Orion), I get to share my perspectives, opinions, and revelations—and perhaps get people to consider different ways of being in the world. Through writing I gain a sense of purpose. It's what I love to do. The writers who inspire me the most are those who write about nature and our species' complicated relationships with more-than-human nature, in one fashion or another (though some would hardly consider themselves nature writers). These include Alaska's own Richard Nelson and Sherry Simpson, as well as Loren Eiseley, Edward Abbey, Barry Lopez, Terry Tempest Williams, David James Duncan, Scott Russell Sanders, David Quammen, and Kathleen Dean Moore, among others. Others important to my writing craft and life include people with whom I've worked in local writing groups, particularly Andromeda Romano-Lax and Ellen Bielawski.

"Though I began writing as a journalist, I find myself ever more attracted to creative nonfiction, particularly the personal essay form (and longer, book-length narratives). This is the direction of growth for me as a writer. It's where my learning curve—and passion—is leading me."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

ONLINE

Bill Sherwonit Home Page, http://www.billsherwonit.alaskawriters.com (November 1, 2004).

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