While the majority of people writing in and about Alaska focus on its magnificent scenery and bountiful wildlife, Will Swagel has always been more fascinated with the quirky human characters who inhabit the small, isolated towns at the very edge of civilization.
Since 1982, Swagel has worked as a public radio and newspaper reporter, magazine writer in Alaska and has said “Yes” over the years to a weird assortment of writing gigs. He has written about subjects ranging from the cow carcass found at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean to the pizzeria in the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok that managed to make pizza even when they couldn’t get tomato sauce or cheese. His writing and photographs have appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Russian Life and Alaska Magazine along with numerous others.
To subsist in the harsh environment of the North, Swagel now operates the Sitka Soup, a 16-page, bi-weekly mix of ads, public service announcements and Sitka-centric features, whose relevance disappears as soon as one leaves Sitka (Luckily, the City and Borough of Sitka is the second largest city in the U.S. – ranking in at 4,800 square miles of land mass, mostly uninhabited forrest. Of course, Yakutat, Alaska is nearly twice as large, but “Yakutat Soup” doesn’t sound as good.)
One Soup item popular with senior women and the lunch counter crowd is a crossword puzzle that includes the names of local people as clues (ex. CLUE: Campbell and Richards – ANSWER: Norms). Each issue of The Soup also contains an episode of Our Town, which for more than 10 years has tracked a few adventures and many more misadventures of the Soupster and various Sitka townsfolk.