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La Conner alum Cheryle Coapstick to sign books here in August

Author Cheryle Coapstick has garnered strong reviews for a spot-on depiction of her birthplace, fishing hub and former Russian colonial city Sitka, Alaska, in her latest book, a compelling account of her extraordinary family.

Local readers will no doubt also recognize a La Conner influence through the pages of “Alaska’s Firy”.

That is by design. Coapstick, after all, is a 1967 La Conner High grad now living in Mount Vernon.

Scenes in “Alaska’s Firy” set at the Sitka Café and Sitka Sentinel newspaper office are reminiscent of those that folks living in La Conner during the 1960s would have witnessed at the Waterfront Lunch and Puget Sound Mail, familiar hangouts for Coapstick during her teen years.

She returns to La Conner Aug. 26 for a presentation and book signing at Seaport Books, where “Alaska’s Firy” can be purchased.

The book focuses on the early life of Coapstick’s mom, Gladys Schutt and the challenges she faced being bi-racial (Russian and Yupik) in then-segregated Sitka.

“There are some heavy themes in the book,” Coapstick told the Weekly News, “so I tried to lighten things up with the men at the café sitting around discussing the issues of the day kind of like the guys did at the Waterfront Lunch.”

After her graduation from La Conner High, Coapstick worked three years at the local bank, saved her money and set out on an adventure befitting a future author. She went to Israel and lived in a kibbutz.

Coapstick shared her experiences with La Conner readers via frequent articles submitted to PSM publisher Pat O’Leary.

From those days as a foreign correspondent for PSM, Coapstick has become a much-in-demand novelist and chronicler whose advice is sought by aspiring writers.

“Write, write and then write some more,” she tells them. “When you’re not writing, read. Read the authors you admire. Read the first time to enjoy the story, then re-read for the characters, the dialogue and the structure.

Coapstick also counsels prospective authors to invest time in taking detailed notes from the work of impactful writers.

“I have copied chapters in longhand from my favorite authors,” she said. “There is something about physically copying their work that gets into your muscles on a cellular level. I’m convinced it has made me a better writer.”

Coapstick is equally adept at receiving advice, as was the case when she began penning “Alaska’s Firy”. She asked La Conner resident Maureen Harlan and Kay Frey, formerly of Pleasant Ridge, to read its early chapters, adding further to the book’s La Conner connection.

“They gave me great advice,” said Coapstick.

“Alaska’s Firy” is part of a series of books screenwriter Bodie Thoene urged Coapstick to write.

“He challenged me to write my family story,” she explained, “so my grandchildren would know the kind of world their great-grandparents lived in.”

Book Two, “About Miss Ruth,” is scheduled for release this fall. Coapstick flies to Sitka in September to do research for the third volume, “Alaska’s Mama.“

But first, she has a late August date in La Conner.


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