Bethel Novelist Wins Rasmuson Grant

Don Rearden has won a Rasmuson Project Award grant of $7,500 to turn his novel, The Raven’s Gift, into a screenplay.

Rearden says he painstakingly filled out paperwork for a handful of applications and survived years of rejection before he finally won the Rasmuson grant.

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Don Rearden.
Don Rearden.

“It’s a huge honor to be amongst so many of my peers and to know that my work has been validated a little bit by the Rasmuson Foundation. And hopefully, it’s just kickstarting off a project that will culminate in a film being shot in Bethel and he Y-K Delta, at some point.”

Rearden grew up in Bethel and is now an Associate Professor at University of Alaska Anchorage. His book, The Raven’s Gift, published in the U.S. in 2013, is a post-apocalyptic love story set in Bethel and the Y-K Delta region. It was a 2013 Washington Post Notable book and has won several awards including 2012 Alaska Professional communications novel of the year. Rearden says he passed on a Hollywood offer to buy the rights to make his book into film because he wanted to make sure the film was made at home.

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“I didn’t want to just give up control of it when I knew there was a chance that we could actually have it made in Bethel, on the Kuskokwim and have local people in the movie and as a part of it. And so that was important to me and I’ve always wanted to bring movies out there I just didn’t think that this was the one and now I think maybe this will be how I’ll get started.”

Rearden says he encourages other artists to not let rejection get them down.

the ravens gift“People should keep trying, not give up, not get discouraged from the comments. I’ve had some friends get some comments and feedback from the process that were really kind of discouraging to them. Never let criticism like that stop you from what you want to do.”

The Rasmuson grant puts him one step closer to sharing the culture and landscape he loves through film, Rearden says, and he hopes it will inspire others from the region to use the arts to highlight the important lessons that the Yup’ik Culture and people have to share with the world.

“Reading and writing are one way and the arts and film and music is one way to fill that void of boredom that people have and also one way to help capture the culture and save what’s there and bring the other stuff back, before we lose it.”

Rearden is one of about two-dozen Alaskans who Rasmuson awarded grants for projects in 2014. Rasmuson Foundation was created in May 1955. This is the eleventh year of the Individual Artist Awards program. The program has awarded 338 grants, totaling more than $2.7 million, directly to Alaska artists.

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Daysha Eaton is the News Director at KBBI in Homer. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.