How did you write that, Debbie Clarke Moderow?

Fast Into the NightFast Into the Night:  A Woman, Her Dogs, and Their Journey North on the Iditarod Trail is the exciting story of Debbie Clarke Moderow‘s participation in the famous Iditarod dogsled race. How did she manage to take care of her dogs, follow the trail, and endure extreme weather conditions, and also write a gripping memoir of her experience? Here are her answers:

HDYWT: How did you come up with the idea for FAST INTO THE NIGHT?

Debbie: Soon after adopting our family’s first sled dog, Salt, I knew that he and I shared a fascinating and remarkable bond. Even in our earliest days with a handful of sled dogs, I wanted to write about sharing the trail with them. Of course, running Iditarod represented the ultimate opportunity to collaborate with our huskies. In the end, I wrote Fast Into the Night to honor those dogs and what I have learned in their company.

DebbieModerow-7965HDYWT: How did you begin work on this project?

Debbie: Initially I thought I would keep notes on the Iditarod Trail. That proved to be impossible, given the sleep deprivation and rugged terrain. Immediately after returning home from both of my Iditarods, I wrote notes chronicling the adventure checkpoint by checkpoint. These free-writing pages documented logistical and sequential details, as well as the emotional threads of our journey. Those pages were the very first of this project.  

HDYWT: How do you organize your research?

Debbie: I gathered as many resources as possible to document the facts: Iditarod checkpoint logs, my own notes, vet books that keep tracking dog details along the trail, and photos. I also referred to trail notes of other mushers that describe the topography of the Iditarod Trail. For the flashbacks of my non-mushing life, I referred to journals, photos, and those murky and often distant memories.

Also, two years after finishing Iditarod, I returned to the Iditarod Trail as a member of the 2007 Serum Run Expedition. To mush through much of the same territory, in daylight and while not sleep deprived, gave me a wonderful opportunity to recall and check topographical facts. On that trip I managed to take notes along the way and re-live my original journeys along the trail.

HDYWT: What does a typical day of research/writing/promotion look like?

Debbie: Due to the launch of Fast Into the Night, I’m currently doing more promotional work and blogging than new research or creative writing. Still I attempt to write something new, albeit brief, every day. I’m working on several different projects that require the mining of memories and cultivation of fresh ideas. After all, that’s what inspires me to write: the ongoing creative process of discovery.

HDYWT: What are your favorite tools in your writer’s toolbox?

Debbie: I suppose it’s no coincidence that my favorite “tools” are among my most treasured experiences: Dogs and trails. They offer me great inspiration, both on and off the page. Whether traveling a thousand miles across the state of Alaska, or simply walking my lead dog Cheddar in our downtown Anchorage neighborhood, interactions outdoors with other species inspire my writing and ever-surprising instances of self discovery.

Bonus question: How did you decide on the narrative structure of your memoir?

Debbie: To come up with the narrative structure of my memoir was a long and laborious process. Early drafts of Fast Into the Night began in a variety of “places.” I wrote the narrative in different tenses before deciding on the final form.

Ultimately I had to significantly narrow down the particular story I wanted to tell. I wrote many chapters that did not, in the end, make it into this memoir. But, like all the miles of training needed to be able to compete in the Iditarod, those chapters and drafts enhanced the final miles toward publication.


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