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.