The Short Story
Debbie Clarke Moderow is the author of Fast Into the Night: A Woman, Her Dogs, and their Journey North on the Iditarod Trail. The memoir recounts her experience running Alaska’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and explores her deepening and inextricable bond with her team of Alaskan huskies. The memoir is her first book, and is scheduled for publication by Houghton MIfflin Harcourt in February 2016.
Debbie earned a BA from Princeton University in 1977 and an MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writing Workshop in 2013. She and her husband Mark live in Denali Park and Anchorage Alaska.
photo by Michael Conti
The Long Story
The daughter of adventurous parents, Debbie spent an outdoors-centered childhood in New England. Her earliest memories include trips to her grandmother’s house in Cape Cod, flyfishing with her parents in upstate New York, skiing Stratton Mountain’s original trails, and traipsing through the woods behind their Connecticut home with her labrador Pokey. After graduating from Miss Porter’s in 1973, and Princeton in 1977, she worked briefly as a paralegal in Manhattan. In 1978 she moved to Wyoming—where, as a teen, she’d fallen in love with the wide western sky, the rolling sagebrush hills, the horses and people who lived there.
In 1979 Debbie traveled to Alaska for a short mountain climbing adventure, during which she met her husband Mark. In January 1980, five months after they met, Debbie and Mark married high in the mountains north of Anchorage. Their children Andy and Hannah were born in 1982 and 1984.
The Moderow children were 5 and 6, when the family adopted a retired Iditarod sled dog named Salt. The regal white husky captured the hearts of all the Moderows; Salt served as the inspiration and mentor for their Salty Dog Kennel. By the time Andy and Hannah completed high school, they had each participated in countless junior events as well as four Junior Iditarod Sled Dog Races. Mushing adventures with their backyard dog team highlighted the young family’s years.
When Andy and Hannah left for college, each bid an emotional farewell to the team of twenty sled dogs who lived in their back yard. Debbie’s subsequent decision to run the Iditarod represented her response to the “empty nest.” In the end, her Iditarod journey represented far more than a dog race. She wrote her story in order to honor her huskies and truths revealed during their long collaborative miles leading to Nome.
Debbie’s writing life began in earnest in 2010, when she began her MFA studies at Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writing Workshop; after working with dedicated mentors for three years, she graduated in 2013.
Debbie and her young leader Spaghetti, by Jane Sobel Klonsky www.projectunconditional.info
Today all four Moderows, and son-in-law Erik, call Alaska home. Debbie and Mark split their time between Anchorage and their Salty Dog Kennel in Denali Park. Mark continues to work as a corporate attorney while Debbie writes and manages kennel development, training, and adventures. Upcoming mushing excursions are the topic of many family discussions.
The writing of Fast Into the Night, like the running of the Iditarod, has been a challenging and sustained effort. Debbie is grateful to family and RWW mentors for lending fine editorial advice. Working with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on the publication of her memoir has been a privilege. She hopes through her book to honor family adventures, past and present, and spotlight the mysterious and sustaining bond gifted from dogs to their human companions.