She was born in Alaska and grew up in California, but it was during her time in Western Michigan University‛s creative writing doctoral program that Melinda Moustakis honed her stories of the Alaska frontier into an award-winning book.
The result of her doctoral dissertation was “Bear Down, Bear North: Alaska Stories,” a book that would earn the budding author a coveted Flannery O‛Connor Award for Short Fiction and recognition from the National Book Foundation in 2011 as one of its five under age 35 award winners.
The collection of linked short stories illuminates the bare-knuckled lives of three generations of homesteaders pitted against the Alaskan wilderness. Readers encounter salty-tongued fishermen, fisherwomen, hunters and yarn spinners as they battle the harsh environment and sometimes each other.
Moustakis was paired with WMU creative writing faculty member Jaimy Gordon, an award-winning author in her own right and 2010 recipient of a National Book Award for fiction.
“She‛s brilliant and talented and a generous reader,” Moustakis says. “So it worked out. I found the ideal mentor for me in Jaimy Gordon.”
Moustakis, who is teaching as a visiting assistant professor at Pacific Lutheran University, says a beauty of WMU‛s creative writing program is its flexibility.
“One thing about Western‛s program is, it‛s not interested in making every student be a certain type of writer,” Moustakis says. “Especially the way Jaimy Gordon teaches, she‛s interested in discovering who you are and what‛s your voice as a writer and fostering and championing that.”
Moustakis now is hard at work on a new creation she thinks will turn into a novel. Beyond that, she doesn‛t want to say too much about it, other than “it will have moose and fish in it.”