Outdoor writer and Alaskan Christine Cunningham waits for her first book, “Women Hunting Alaska,” to be released in January 2013. In the meantime, we asked this new writer and fairly new hunter some questions about her foray into the world of publishing and about her lifestyle. We think you’re going to like what you learn about her.
Christine: Christine Cunningham, born in Sitka, Alaska and now living on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.
Babbs: How did you discover your writing talent?
Christine: It was at summer camp! Everyone had won a badge for starting a fire or building a shelter, and I was not making it at any of these things. Finally, there was the poetry badge – the only badge I would earn at camp. We were instructed on the definition of a haiku – a Japanese form of poetry. We were then instructed to take our paper and pen into the woods and to write the three-line poem. Nature has always been my source of truth, so I sat there listening and looking – the haiku just poured out of me! I filled my paper with several haiku poems. It was with that poetry badge and recognition from others that I’d done something the fire starters and shelter builders couldn’t do, that really gave me confidence as a writer.
Babbs: How long have you been an outdoorswoman? And what do you do?
Christine: I discovered duck hunting in the fall of 2006. It was the most miserable thing I had ever experienced. The raw sludge of the swamp, spider webs and rain was like nothing I’d ever experienced. I missed a shot on two widgeon that day and just had to try again. As someone who had always loved the outdoors, there was some vital element missing from my experiences hiking, kayaking, or mountain biking. Watching nature does not bring about the same dialog as participating in it. I found that participation as a hunter. The outdoor world will never again look the same, and I can’t get enough of being in the field.
Babbs: Favorite hunting experience?
Christine: Taking my chocolate lab, Cheyenne, on her first “real” duck hunt on the west side of Alaska’s Cook Inlet. We had practicied together retrieving many times, but I could not be sure how she would do on a hunt. She is a very spirited dog who is animated and enthusiastic about everything. I worried she wouldn’t be able to sit still or she wouldn’t bring a live duck back. I was so wrong! It was the most powerful thing to realize that her instincts were better than my skills. She pulled off some amazing retrieves in strong currents and found birds my hunting partner and I would never have found. At the end of the day I couldn’t stop staring at her.
Babbs: The book: “Women Hunting Alaska.” How did that come to be?
Christine: I began connecting with other women who are hunters in Alaska who were living a similar life or had adventures beyond anything that I had experienced. The idea for the project seemed to come about from several places at once. It was just the right idea at the right time. I found the publisher, Tony Russ, whose wife is a big game hunter and who was extremely supportive of the project. Tony gave me some names of other women I had not met, and, although the stories are remarkably different, the selection of the women included happened by chance.
Babbs: Will there be a sequel?
Christine: The book is being released in as a small market paperback so it is hard to say what the response will be. If there is interest, I would absolutely love to do a sequel!
Babbs: What are you doing these days? I see where you have a new column?
Christine: I have had the Redoubt Reporter column since 2009, but I did take a small, one-month break from it this fall. “Common Ground” is an outdoor humor column for a community newspaper that goes out locally on the Kenai Peninsula. I’m looking at other writing projects that involve collaborations – it was so sad to be finished with “Women Hunting Alaska.” I really enjoyed the daily collaboration and meeting new women with similiar interests.
Babbs: Where can people find you?
Babbs: Anything else?
Christine: Just that one of the big attractions to this project for myself and most of the women featured was to share the stories of women as hunters. Women are under-represented in the literature and, I believe, we have the opportunity to influence a future generation of hunters. It’s been said that women are the future of hunting, and I believe we’re good ambassadors.
Sharing these stories was an incredible opportunity to learn how different the perspectives on hunting can be, and yet, how familiar it is to anyone who has been hunting. It was important to me not to amend the stories to they resembled my own thoughts on hunting – in that way, the book is a fair portrayal of these 17 women’s views. THAT is what I think makes it worth reading.