Hi! I'm Alaska historian/Speaker Laurel Downing Bill, author of the "Aunt Phil's Trunk" Alaska history series.
Born in Fairbanks in 1951, I grew up with four siblings and learned the art of negotiation at a young age! My father, a civil engineer, took the family on a tour of the world through the jobs he accepted - including stints in Cameroon and Liberia, West Africa, Tanzania, East Africa, and Bandung, Indonesia.
I graduated from Baleares International High School in Mallorca, Spain, in 1969, attended a year of college at the American College of Switzerland in Leysin, and then returned to Alaska to carry on my life as an adult ... after all, I was 19 and knew everything, right?
Fast forward 30 years, a wonderful husband, three terrific children and an awesome life in the remote Alaska village of King Salmon to a much-anticipated life of leisure enjoying retirement in a condo in Anchorage.
Or so I thought. The reality was that my Alaska historian aunt, Phyllis Downing Carlson, left behind countless newspaper clips, research and rare Alaska history books when she died in 1993. My sister handed them off to me.
As I sifted through her work and saw the many national awards she had received for her articles about Alaska's colorful past, I knew I had to bring the stories to light for the world.
I returned to college to get the tools needed for the big project ahead and graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2003 with honors and a degree in journalism, a minor in history.
The series was born in July 2002 as a weekly newspaper column in The Anchorage Chronicle. The short stories soon became one of the most popular features in the paper. They continue to be printed today in the monthly newspaper, The Senior Voice.
After receiving such an enthusiastic response to tales of Alaska's days gone by, I turned my attention to developing the state's history from thousands of years ago - when the Native people first arrived in the country - up to the present. The final book in the series, Volume Five, shares Alaska's history during its first 25 years of statehood and ends in 1984.
Then I searched through the archives of museums, libraries and universities around the country to find historical photographs to help tell the stories. I found so many photographs and wonderful stories that my plan for one book has turned into the present five-volume series filled with dozens of entertaining short stories and hundreds of historical photographs.
My desire to share Alaska's history has turned into a passion. Volumes One through Five - released in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2016 - are flying off shelves of both major and independent bookstores, as well as gift shops and chain stores across Alaska.
I now speak to many different groups about Alaska's colorful past and appear in a weekly television segment titled Alaska Story Time with Aunt Phil on the Anchorage CBS affiliate KTVA Channel 11. I also have shared stories on Alaska Public Radio.