The Hippo


Apr 25, 2019








Meet Dan Szczesny

Gibson’s Bookstore: 45 S. Main St., Concord, Tuesday, June 7, 5:30 to 7 p.m., launch party
Derry Public Library: 64 E. Broadway, Derry, Wednesday, June 15, 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Barnes & Noble: 1741 S. Willow St., Manchester, Saturday, June 18, 1 to 4 p.m.
Contact: Szczesny talks about Mosquito Rain: Alaskan Travel Essays at all these events; for more author events, visit

Poetic prose
Dan Szczesny pens new book of travel essays

By Kelly Sennott

 For Dan Szczesny, any travel opportunity is also a writing opportunity, which is how he treated his fall 2013 adventure to Alaska with his wife Meena Gyawali. 

The three-week trip was their last before the birth of their baby, and on the search for the off-the-beaten-path Alaska, Szczesny (a Hippo associate publisher) tapped into his career as a reporter and talked with the locals to find coveted salmon fishing holes and breathtaking experiences. Of course, in Alaska, finding locals to talk to comes with its own challenges — the pair had to drive over mountains to get from village to village. 
“Alaska is the last frontier. That’s its nickname. It’s a place where people go to get away. If you want to travel in America and feel like you are on another planet or in another country … that’s where you go,” Szczesny said. “But everyone wants to talk. The whole idea of a reporter is, everyone has a story. So my approach to Alaska was through the locals, through the people who live there.”
Szczesny and his wife flew into Anchorage and rented a small SUV. They slept inside or camped the rest of the trip. They trekked to all the state’s hot spots: Fairbanks, Valdez, the Arctic Circle, Delta Junction and Denali National Park and Preserve. In Denali, they slept as close as possible to the mountain itself, which is where he came up with the essay “Mosquito Rain.” 
“The mosquito is almost like the national bird of Alaska. We’re camping in the shadow of Mount Denali, and we wake up in the morning, and I thought it was raining outside the tent. It turns out it was just actually mosquitos. Swarms and swarms of mosquitos. Our whole trip in Denali became this quest for breeze. We had to find wind to keep the bugs off of us,” he said.
He also wrote about the salmon, which he said is “unbelievably delicious” in Alaska. But he compared it to writing about lobster in Maine, done a thousand times before, so for the essay, the couple learned from local fishermen about a secret cove where salmon jump into your net. They traveled through dirt roads and forests and over a mountain to find it.
Their trip was during a time when darkness was just a couple hours a day, so they had countless hours to take in the state’s scenes of 15,000-foot mountains every way you turn. It certainly felt like the last frontier.
“Just to get from place to place in Alaska, you have to drive over these mountain ranges that here would be state parks or, you know, designated natural scenic areas, but there they’re just unnamed mountains,” Szczesny said. “It was like going over Franconia Notch every 10 miles. … There are so many mountains, so many peaks that are still unclimbed. The Alaskan Tundra takes up about a third of the whole state.”
Szczesny took notes while he was there and wrote a series of essays when he returned. He self-published the 3,000-word collection on Amazon with the intention of collecting some readers and maybe a few bucks.
“There used to be such a stigma attached to self-publishing. It isn’t there anymore. If you can do it right and you can do it well, then people are making a living just off self-publishing now. And you don’t have to wait,” he said. 
Months later, a publisher, Folded Word Press, reached out to him, asking if he could expand those 3,000 words into 10,000 for a book of travel essays. The result is Mosquito Rain: Alaskan Travel Essays. 
He said the company traditionally publishes poetry, and he likes to think the essays have a lyrical quality in them.
“I like nonfiction that has sound and beauty to the tone,” he said. “I felt like I wasn’t really there long enough to really know Alaska like I know Nepal [he’s also the author of The Nepal Chronicles], but I wanted to bring up the little pieces, like the off-the-beaten-path things, or the little images or the people we met along the way, and the best way for me, I felt, to do that was in poetic prose.” 

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