Where the musk oxen went last Wednesday night

Late last year, some dear friends gave me a pair of earrings.


They’d watched Arctic Lace come together from first idea to finished, now award-winning, book. (That’s Arctic Lace: Knitting Projects and Stories Inspired by Alaska’s Native Knitters by Donna Druchunas. I edited the book, designed its interior layout, did the technical production, and published it.)

So when my friends went to Alaska to visit family, they found these earrings in Anchorage at the Alaska Native Medical Center Craft Shop. That shop is described here as: "A hidden jewel. See the emphasis on the holistic nature of the Alaska Native culture and the value of art in healing." I haven’t been to the shop, but I look forward to having the opportunity some day. I especially like that "art in healing" comment.

The earrings were made and signed by R. B. Kokuluk (tiny signature on the back of each earring). I’ve searched on the name and found other carvings, but none is at a link that I think will be stable.

Obviously, I’m likely to keep these little treasures safely tucked away and to wear them for special occasions. Not only are they wonderful as a pair, they’re extremely fine individuals (who would like to stay together, so I plan to keep them that way). As the photo shows, they match in color and shape without being identical (yes, the left one came with different-colored guard hair on its shoulder).

A qualifying special event occurred last Wednesday. My daughter and I met Donna and her husband Dom in Denver for the awards celebration for the Colorado Book Awards, sponsored by Colorado Humanities (the state humanities council).

There are only eight categories in the whole Colorado Book Awards
process: anthology/collection, children’s literature, creative
nonfiction, fiction, history/biography, nonfiction, pictorial, and
young adult literature. Competition is stiff. Priscilla Gibson-Roberts’
Knitting in the Old Way was a finalist the year it was published.

Arctic Lace had been selected as a finalist in the broad category of "nonfiction," along with The Apron Book by EllynAnne Geisel (published by Andrews McMeel), Pull: Networking and Success since Benjamin Franklin by Pamela Walker Laird (published by Harvard University Press), and Walking into Colorado’s Past: 50 Front Range History Hikes by Ben Fogelbert and Steve Grimstead (Westcliffe Publishers).

We were in extraordinary company with all the finalists in all the categories. While browsing the bookselling table, I made a lot of notes about titles I’ll want to look up. Some ended up winning in their categories; even more didn’t. Because the suspense of wondering who won isn’t the point of this post, I’ll let you know now that the overall winner in the nonfiction cluster was Walking into Colorado’s Past.

Which doesn’t dilute my feeling that we won just as thoroughly by making it into the small group of finalists. At that point, the winner’s slot is luck of the draw.

So back to the question of what to wear. The usual jeans-and-t-shirt working clothes probably wouldn’t cut it at an event announced as appropriate for "cocktail attire." I don’t have cocktail attire, and would rather spend money on type.

I do have a qiviut gaiter (left below), which would have been mighty appropriate, but it’s WAAAAY too warm for indoor wear.

I also have a lovely black Russian shawl that was perfect. It came from One People: One World in Anchorage, a gift from Donna Druchunas, author of Arctic Lace, and a reminder of our trip to Alaska last October for the book’s launch at the Alaska State Yarn Council‘s Yarn Expo.


I was undoubtedly warmer than the MC, Natalie Tysdal, anchor of News 2 This Morning, who does own a cocktail dress. (The room was a comfortable temperature; I just enjoy being cosy as in "wrapped in a light layer of exquisitely spun and knitted natural fiber." That to me is warmth, and the reference only partially pertains to temperature.)

She looked really nice, though.


I also like my job lots better than I’d like hers. I may work twelve- to sixteen-hour days most days, but my alarm clock doesn’t go off at 2:45 a.m. and I don’t have to do my hair and makeup before appearing at my desk.

It’s fun, however, to get dressed up for a special occasion like the book awards.

Here’s Donna in her fancy duds (on the left) and my daughter in hers (on the right: she requested time off from one of her jobs to attend the party). You can’t see my daughter’s shoes in this photo. Mostly she wears reasonable shoes so she’s only slightly taller than I am. This evening she wore fancy shoes that give her a good two or three inches (5 to 7.5 cm) over me.


About that basket my daughter is holding.

One feature of the awards celebration is a silent auction. The proceeds benefit Colorado Center for the Book programs for children’s literacy, including Motheread/Fatheread Colorado, Authors in the Classroom, and the Student Literary Awards. My daughter and I bid on three baskets. We bid early, planning to support the process and to be outbid.

On a lark, we put in one later bid on the basket she’s holding above: it contains all three books in a series by Hilari Bell, whose The Farsala Trilogy: Forging the Sword was a finalist in the young adult literature category. The basket also has several other neat things, including a weirdly wonderful plastic clock and a note from Hilari Bell (there’s a real nice paragraph that she wrote on that link, similar in tone to the note in the basket). My daughter’s been wanting to read this series ever since she saw the first volume when it was released under a different title (Flame).

We won it. I’ve never won a silent auction item.

Top place in the young adult category this year went to Laura Resau‘s What the Moon Saw (we bid on her silent auction basket but didn’t win it).

Like I said, all the finalists in this event, not just the winners, were outstanding. The publishers run the gamut from the tiniest local presses to the biggest New York conglomerates.

Here’s another winner by Shari Caudron, a fellow member of the Colorado Authors’ League (I’m a member; so’s Laura Resau), that I’ve been wanting to read since before it was published (Shari’s was our third silent auction basket, another one that we didn’t win). And another finalist I’d like to read.

Independent literary publisher Ghost Road Press had no less than four finalists, in anthology/collection, creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry, and took the top honors for anthology/collection (hey! Sonya Unrein got to pick up the prize! an editor won a prize!) and for fiction.

Dominic Cotignola, Donna’s husband, took many of the photographs for Arctic Lace. Behind the camera is a great guy:


And here’s a photo that proves I was there, too (Dom took this one; I took the others):


Alas, you can’t see my sweater, which is a deep-sea-blue cotton version of Ann McCauley’s "Peri’s Parasol," from her The Pleasures of Knitting. I’ll have to get another picture some time to show that.

We had a whole bunch of the Arctic Lace collaborators at the event (I’m not calling us a "team," because I think we’re all too independent-minded for that, although we work well together):

  • Donna: Researched and wrote the book.
  • Dom: Took most of the photographs.
  • My daughter: Processed the images so they’d look good when they were printed, and consulted with me on most of the other design decisions.
  • Me: I edited the text, designed the interior, did production, marketed, and the like.

I think it was really nice of Colorado Humanities to have a party in honor of how we spent a few years of our lives.

We stayed out late for all of us, then headed home so we could get back to our jobs on Thursday morning.

I’ve tucked the earrings back safely away so they’ll be ready for their next special outing.

And Arctic Lace has now earned three remarkable honors:

First five photos © Deborah Robson. Sixth (final) photo © Dominic Cotignola.

UPDATE: Donna, who is much more technologically astute than I am, has a very cool slide show with more of Dom’s photos on her blog.


4 thoughts on “Where the musk oxen went last Wednesday night”

  1. Those earrings are wonderful, what a treasure! You looked quite noble. Congratulations on being nominated. I now treasure my Artic Lace book even more. ;o)

  2. WOOHOO! Hurray for my friends! You look gorgeous, your daughter does too, and Donna’s grin in that photo is just fabulous. What a great celebration for all of you…congratulations.

    PS: Rhinebeck went well. The leaves were lovely, and I even shopped a fair bit. No weirdness at all…it was too crowded for that!

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