Songs from an Outcast


John E. Smelcer is the poetry editor of Rosebud magazine and the author of more than forty books. He is an Alaskan Native of the Ahtna tribe, and is now the last tribal member who reads and writes in Ahtna.

His forthcoming novel, LONE WOLVES is being partially funded via an Indiegogo campaign. Check out this video and the unusual gifts offered. Among them, you can choose an autographed, numbered, limited-edition print of an award-winning poem by the author, with original artwork; you can have your name used for a character in the author's next book.

Smelcer's first novel, The Trap, was an American Library Association BBYA Top Ten Pick, a VOYA Top Shelf Selection, and a New York Public Library Notable Book. The Great Death was short-listed for the 2011 William Allen White Award, and nominated for the National Book Award, the BookTrust Prize (England), and the American Library Association's Award for American Indian YA Literature. His Alaska Native mythology books include The Raven and the Totem (introduced by Joseph Campbell). His short stories, poems, essays, and interviews have appeared in hundreds of magazines, and he is winner of the 2004 Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award and of the 2004 Western Writers of America Award for Poetry for his collection Without Reservation, which was nominated for a Pulitzer. John divides his time between a cabin in Talkeetna, the climbing capitol of Alaska, where he wrote much of Lone Wolves, and Kirksville Mo., where he is a visiting scholar in the Department of Communications Studies at Truman State University.

Smelcer is a prolific writer and poet whose many works focus primarily on subjects related to his Native American heritage. An Ahtna Athabaskan Indian, he also serves as executive director of the Ahtna tribe's Heritage Foundation. He is, noted a biographer on the Center for the Art of Translation Web site, the only surviving reader, speaker, and writer of the native Ahtna language.John holds degrees in anthropology and archaeology, linguistics, literature, and education. He also holds a PhD in English and creative writing from Binghamton University, and formerly chaired the Alaska Native Studies program at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

In the Shadows of Mountains: Ahtna Stories from the Copper River contains a collection of twenty-four stories from the Ahtna tribe. The stories consist of material by Ahtna elders and other tales told to Smelcer by his Ahtna relatives. These largely mythical stories "explore the processes that formed this world and created people, animals, places, and the distinctive interactions" between humans and nonhumans in legendary times, noted James Ruppert in MELUS. The tales range from stories common throughout Alaska, such as "The Blind Man and the Lion," to distinctly Ahtna stories specific to individual families and clans, such as "When They Killed the Monkey People." Ruppert concluded that Smelcer's book "has some value as a broad introduction to Ahtna narrative aimed at a general reader."

The Trap, Smelcer's first novel, is an "unforgettable survival tale, with both a life and a culture in the balance," commented Vicky Smith in Horn Book Magazine. Septuagenarian Albert Least-Weasel still clings to the old ways he has known all his life. While checking his traplines one cold winter day, Albert gets caught in one of his own wolf traps. Unable to reach his store of supplies, Albert faces certain death by exposure, dehydration, or animal attack, unless he can free himself or is rescued. At home, Albert's seventeen-year-old grandson Johnny becomes increasingly worried about his grandfather's welfare. Despite his best efforts, he is unable to generate much concern for the old man from his uncles, and cultural pride and the unwillingness to disrespect his elders prevents him from setting out on a search until his grandmother asks him to find her husband. By then, however,

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