A Tender Distance: Adventures Raising My Sons in Alaska


A mother’s story about raising her two boys in Alaska where wilderness is just out the back door of their home. Written with wit, wisdom, and a grateful heart, the book presents fifteen finely-crafted vignettes that explore the perils and joys of raising two fearless boys from toddlerhood to young men. Mothers everywhere will relate to the hard, familiar choice between holding close and letting go.



“A Tender Distance is written with a clam, deep grace. It is a poem of a book, suffused with courage, sadness, and beauty.” ~Richard Goodman, Author of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France and The Soul of Creative Writing.

“In these heart-in-your-mouth tales, Johnson first tries to guide, and then realizes she must merely watch in anxious awe as her sons encounter their wilderness without and within. Johnson’s fierce balancing act makes these amazing adventures a mother’s coming of age, too.” ~Molly Peacock, a former Poet-in-Residence at the American Poet’s Corner and author of the memoir Paradise, Piece by Piece.



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Author Kaylene Johnson

Kaylene Johnson-Sullivan’s work is inspired by the scale of Alaska’s landscape and the unique personalities that thrive there. She says it is a place of dichotomies — expansive light in summer, deep dark in winter; where vast landscapes fill one’s view while tiny tundra flowers bloom at your feet. Alaska, she says, is a place where an artist can feel rooted in what is real and true and at the same time feel free to create in expansive and challenging ways.

Author Kaylene Johnson with her horse
The Confessional

We asked & our authors answered…

Kaylene has been known to:  completely forget about time when hanging around horses.

Things she likes:  reading to her husband before bedtime; hiking; horseback riding; cross-country skiing; the scents of rain, freshly cut grass, and saddles.

She’ll never get caught:  Jumping out of an airplane. Deep sea diving. Forget it.

Favorite pop culture expression and where it’s from: Pop Culture? Seriously, who are the Kardashians?

Alaskans she most admires:  Dick Griffith, Mardy Murrie, Ray Bane (stay tuned)

Favorite Alaska places:  Brooks Range, Chugach Mountains, my backyard


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Author Kaylene Johnson

Kaylene Johnson is a professional writer and long-time Alaskan who lives in Eagle River, Alaska. She enjoys spending time in the backcountry and spent a season in the Brooks Range as a wrangler and cook.

Sneaky Peek

Suddenly I did not want to be backpacking with my sons. I was cursed with knowledge. To know the fallibility of their judgment was to lose faith in them and in an upbringing that had underscored respect for surroundings far more powerful than they. I didn’t want to be afraid for them any longer. I simply did not want to know. Yet I did know and I was afraid and the fact of it filled me with fury.

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