Local Teacher Publishes First Novel

Alice Kinerk teaches a combined fourth and fifth grade class at Minter Creek Elementary School.

Alice Kernik
Alice Kernik Photo: Lisa Bryan, KP News

Key Peninsula writer and teacher Alice Kinerk has self-published her first full-length novel.

“The Octopus Under the Bridge” follows the adventures of Jay, a 14-year-old who lives in a dystopian Tacoma where fossil fuels have grown scarce. After Jay is sent away to live with his grandmother on the Key Peninsula, he must unravel his family’s secrets and learn to live in a changing world.

“Octopus” was heavily influenced by the geography and history of the KP, according to Kinerk, who is also a KP News contributor. The inspiration was the story of a boat captain who helped protect the community in Home from political backlash after the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901.

“Over the course of writing and revising, that particular story disappeared from the book. The characters were still there but that scene went away,” Kinerk said. Elements of the original historical tale remained, including a background of political upheaval and the focus on the KP. “It’s beautiful here, the people are terrific, and it’s just a really magical, special place. All of those things were inspirational to me,” she said.

Kinerk came up with the idea for the story in 2014 while helping her mother repaint a house on the East Coast. “I got really bored over the course of those weeks and all of a sudden this story popped up in my mind about back home, back here on the KP,” she said.

Kinerk has a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Washington and had written collections of short fiction, but longer projects proved a challenge. “Any time I tried to write a novel, I would get three-quarters of the way and things just fell apart. I couldn’t quite wrap it together for an ending. I’d get frustrated. I’d get busy on something else, so I always hit that point and just gave up.”

She wrote the first draft as fast as possible, hoping to get it all down before she lost her inspiration. “I did it in just three weeks, really intense, as fast as I could, every night, just type and type for three weeks and I got through it.”

The next six years were spent gradually rewriting, revising and expanding the concept with the help of family and friends. The final editing and design were completed over the summer and the book was published at the end of July.

“I felt like it had been on my mind for so many years,” Kinerk said. “I knew having it published would be a relief.”

A book about scarcity and social upheaval may hit close to home in 2020, but according to Kinerk, the parallels weren’t planned. “The funny thing was, I wrote this long before any of this happened, and in some ways the real world caught up to what I had written in the book.”

While the global pandemic may not have influenced the story, the writing process did serve as an outlet for Kinerk amid worries about the upcoming school year. “Having a creative pursuit was really good for my mental health. I think that gave me the final push to say, ‘I’m going to get this done’ after six years.”

Kinerk self-published through Amazon, a process she describes as surprisingly simple. She opted to undertake the formatting and design of the book herself, including putting together the cover art and promotional materials.

“I found some online resources to guide me, so I gave myself a crash course in self-publishing and marketing,” she said.

After uploading the story to Amazon, distribution was handled automatically, including physical copies printed to order. “I’m an environmentalist, and the thought has occurred to me, which trees will be get cut down to print my book? So if somebody wants to read the book, the book will be printed and will go to them, but there will not be huge leftover boxes of copies.”

For more information visit alicekinerk.com.