Monday, September 14, 2015

Michigander Monday: Linda Sienkiewicz

I'm pleased to welcome Linda Sienkiewicz to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Linda, please tell us a little about yourself.

Linda:  When I was a girl, one of my favorite pastimes was to sit on my front steps and staple little books out of manila paper, and in them I wrote dramatic love stories about teenagers who fall in love and run away together. I also painted, drew, sewed many of my own clothes, and crafted jewelry out of things I found in the back woods where I loved to spend time by myself. I went to art school, worked in graphics for a few years, raised a family, and then returned to writing later in life.

My poetry, short stories and essays are widely published in literary journals such as Prairie Schooner, Spoon River Poetry Review, Rattle, CALYX, Permafrost, The MacGuffin and others. I have a poetry chapbook award, three other poetry chapbooks, and a Pushcart Prize Nomination. When I was in my 50s, I decided to return to school to get my MFA in Fiction.

I'm a corgi lover -- I have a Welsh Pembroke named Clementine who follows me everywhere. I also love black tea, red wine and vintage Archie comic books. These days, my favorite thing to do, besides writing, is to spoil my grandchildren and then send them back home.

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your book.

LindaIn the Context of Love  is a story about the discovery of a devastating family secret that derails the life of narrator, Angelica Schirrick. As a young woman with two children and a husband in prison, she must reevaluate her life before she can move forward, and what happens when what she discovers leads to more questions. Threaded through the novel is a love story.

It was inspired by a magazine article I read in the nineties titled "My Father is a Rapist," about several women who learned this horrifying truth when they were young adults. I was so impressed by their stories of strength, courage and redemption that I wanted to write a fictional story about such a woman. I had no idea how she would learn this secret, or what would happen when she did, but that's part of the joy of writing.

I was very happy when Buddhapuss Ink offered me a publishing contract. They are a small but solid press that aims to publish great fiction and nonfiction for readers who like to think.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

LindaI would also like to explore another story related to In the Context of Love, told from another character's point of view. I would also like to write a sequel, too, because several people have told me they fell in love with the characters, including Angelica's two children, and they want to know what happens to them.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Linda:  October 25 from 11 - 5 pm I'll be at the Books and Authors Event at Leon and Lulu's, 96 W. 14 Mile, in Clawson.

November 10 at 7pm I'll be at Pages Bookstore, 19560 Grand River Blvd. in Detroit.

November 24 at 1pm, I'll be on radio.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Linda:  I absolutely love poking around in John K. King Books on Woodward Avenue. It's a treasure trove of dusty relics and charming old books. I'll tell you a secret: I also make purses out of old books. It's a great way to recycle books that are falling apart. Book lovers, have no fear, I rebind or recycle the texts; nothing is lost. I sell them on Etsy. [Ed. note, which is to say, a word from Debbie:  I have one of these!  Love it.  Now back to Linda....]  I can't wait to make a clutch from my own book, but I've been busy promoting In the Context of Love and writing new work.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Linda:  I love my hometown of Rochester. We've got a beautiful park, terrific bistros, several 5-star restaurants and all kinds of shopping, from antiques to skateboards. We have great events like art shows, car shows, Dancing in the Streets, gallery walks, Girls Night Out, Rochester Posed, and the Big Bright Light Show at Christmas. We also host the second largest Christmas parade in the state.

Debbie:  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Linda:  I get really cranky if I have to miss the Arts and Apples Festival. Who can resist homemade apple pie and fabulous artwork?

Debbie:  A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Linda:  Yes! Anyone who reads fiction should know about critically acclaimed authors Bonnie Jo Campbell and Lev Raphael. If you enjoy poetry, check out Detroit poetry guru M. L. Liebler, Dr. Terry Blackhawk, who founded InsideOut Literary Arts Project where professional writers teach creative writing in city schools, and Diane DeCillis whose poetry collection Strings Attached won a Michigan Notable Book Award.

Debbie:  Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Linda:  Many people would be surprised to know that Michigan and the metro Detroit area has a vibrant literary community with writers of all genres and forms. We're like a tribe. There are excellent classes, readings, workshops and conferences here. Detroit is also home to Springfed Arts, Detroit Working Writers, and Rochester Writers.

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?

Linda:  Michiganian sounds a bit hoity-toity, but Michigander reminds me of a goose. I don't know. I'm from Michigan. I live in a mitten.

My website is and the buy link for my book on Amazon is

Debbie:  Linda, thank you for joining us today for Michigander/Mitten Monday!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Michigander Monday: Amy Nielander

I'm pleased to welcome Amy Nielander to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Amy, please tell us a little about yourself.

Amy:  I grew up in Northville, Michigan and was raised with a big family, lots of pets and a constant stream of music playing somewhere in or outside of the house.  Both of my parents are Romanian and we often attended summer picnics where a live band played traditional Romanian folksongs. There, we danced for hours and hours with more family, friends and newcomers building one tremendous swooping line. As a kid, this felt like I was part of a human roller coaster.  We sped up, we slowed down, spiraled in and out as the line grew but never let go of the hand on either side of us.  It was great fun and I treasure those summer memories.  The dance formations we created inspired the last pages of The Ladybug Race, my debut picture book.

Playing music was also a large part of my life growing up.  I took violin lessons at a young age and continued until I graduated from high school.  I built very stable and respectful relationships with my teachers during those years and met good friends through camps and orchestra.

I also really enjoyed reading, writing, drawing and being inventive as a kid. That curiosity and passion for creativity led me to pursue Product Design.  I attended the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.  After graduation, I lived and worked in Chicago then eventually moved back to Detroit when I got married.  I switched gears from design work to a digital automotive sculpting job (due to the surrounding industry), but then left the workplace all together when we started a family.

My journey to creating picture books started then.  My mom is an incredible writer and wrote a few of her own children’s stories when we were growing up.  I had the time to illustrate one for her and we submitted it, however did not get any bites.  After that project I was hooked on the idea of bringing joy and laughter to kids through books.  I became a member of SCBWI , attended conferences, submitted manuscripts and even earned a spot in a mentorship program.  I was still receiving multiple rejections which went on for years.  Just when I was starting to feel defeated, I heard about the international Silent Book Contest.  The stars finally aligned for me the day I received notice that I was a finalist.  

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your book.

Amy:  My very first picture book, The Ladybug Race, is available and published by PomegranateKids.  This book was a two year journey from concept to final publication.  When I came up with the idea I had just learned about the Silent Book Contest through SCBWI, specifically Ruth McNally Barshaw (forever indebted to Ruth!).  Since The Ladybug Race was a picture book that challenged genre boundaries it seemed like the perfect platform to test it out.

In traditional publishing circles, book illustrators are advised to avoid drawing near the center of the book (the gutter).  The Ladybug Race flips this concept on its head, and makes the gutter - the story’s conflict, uncommon in children’s books today.  The story also recognizes more ladybug species than the familiar red bodied-black dotted ladybug children know so well.  Each bug is drawn true to scale, creating a live race-like experience in the reader’s lap.  The wordless book is about compassion, kindness and unconditional love.

I became a Silent Book Contest finalist and traveled to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy where the work was exhibited.  I then queried the story when I returned home and it was picked up by PomegranateKids.  It has been a fabulous fit and I am grateful for their diligent team!

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Amy:  I have one picture book dummy under a second review with a publisher and queried another house with two other stories.  I am in the waiting stage which is agonizing, but now have time to flesh out a new dummy I plan on querying in December.  Outside of story making, I’d like to add more products to my online SHOP and develop THE BLOB BLOG even more.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Amy:  Yes!  The Ladybug Race Book Launch will be held at the Kerrytown BookFest, this Sunday, September 13, 11-5pm.  Please stop in to peruse the great books out there and say “HELLO” to me!

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan library?

Amy:  We have been longtime enthusiasts of our own library, the Royal Oak Library for the past 10 years.  My kids feel instantly at home every time we visit.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Amy:  My favorite place in Michigan...I went away to music camps when I was growing up so being surrounded by trees and water feels comforting. We’ve been camping at the Interlochen State Park the past two years. During evening bonfires, Taps has found its way to our campsite  from the music camp (accompanied by a perfect summer breeze).  This elevated our camping experience to a whole new level of Michiganedness.

Debbie:  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Amy:  Living in Royal Oak, we love to bike ride as a family to local events downtown or the Farmers Market.  Arts Eats and Beats is a popular weekend we look forward to.  We also have been Oak Apple runners in the past which is a race that brings many families together throughout the community.

Debbie:  Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Amy:  There are pockets of places to discover!  We recently did a day trip through Leelanau Peninsula and felt like we had been transported to California with all the windy roads and lovely waterfront views.

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?

Amy:  A happy Michigander grateful for the opportunity to be a guest on Jumping the Candlestick. Thank you Debbie!

Debbie:  Amy, we'll add you to the Michigander column.  Thank you for joining us for Michigander Monday!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Michigander Monday: Amorak Huey

I'm pleased to welcome Amorak Huey to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Amorak, please tell us a little about yourself.

Amorak:  I was born in Kalamazoo but my family moved to Alabama when I was very small. I grew up on a small farm outside a small town outside Birmingham. Then, when I was 30, my wife and I moved back to Michigan when she took a job teaching writing at Grand Valley State University. I worked as an editor at The Grand Rapids Press for eight years, and during that time I commuted to Kalamazoo in the evenings and managed to complete an MFA at Western Michigan. Now I also teach writing at GVSU, and we live in East Grand Rapids with our two kids, who are heading into fifth and seventh grade this fall. It’s a pretty amazing life I’ve stumbled into.

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your books.

Amorak:  Ha Ha Ha Thump is a collection of poetry freshly released by Sundress Publications. There’s not a single narrative, but the poems coalesce around themes of love, intimacy, connection, persona, vulnerability. At least, I hope they do.

I also have a chapbook, The Insomniac Circus, which came out last fall from Hyacinth Girl Press. These are persona poems about circus performers.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Amorak:  I have two new poetry manuscripts making the rounds at small presses and various book contests. Fingers crossed! One’s called Boom Box and the other is Seducing the Asparagus Queen.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Amorak:  I’m having a book launch on Sept. 9 at Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters in Grand Rapids, and beyond that I’m trying to set up some readings to promote Ha Ha Ha Thump, but nothing firm yet. If any of your readers want me to read for them, they should let me know!

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? And/or a favorite Michigan library?

Amorak:  My favorite library is my local one: the East Grand Rapids branch of Kent District Library. It’s within walking distance of my house, and it overlooks Reeds Lake, and my kids love going there, and the staff is amazing. I love libraries; they’re one of human society’s great innovations.

As for bookstore, I’d have to say the Schuler Books on 28th Street in Grand Rapids. Just walking in there makes me happy.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Amorak:  A blueberry patch in summer. An apple orchard in the fall. Anywhere on Lake Michigan when the sun is shining and the sand is hot and the water’s just barely warm enough to swim.

Debbie:  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Amorak:  The annual fireworks over Reeds Lake on the Fourth of July. Again, walking distance from my house, and it makes me feel all small-town patriotic, which is not necessarily my usual state of mind.

Debbie:  A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Amorak:  There are so, so many great writers in Michigan. Everyone should know about L.S. Klatt, the Grand Rapids Poet Laureate. Everyone should know about W. Todd Kaneko and his book The Dead Wrestler Elegies. We should all be reading Jamaal May’s Hum, which is about Detroit. Tarfia Faizullah’s Seam is a treasure. Caitlin HorrocksThis Is Not Your City is an amazing collection of short stories. Keith Taylor, Laura Kasischke, Nancy Eimers, William Olsen, Daneen Wardrop, Patricia Clark … I could go on and on here. I feel like I’m giving one of those Academy Award speeches where I’m leaving out some incredibly obvious and important people.

Debbie:  That's a great list!  Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Amorak:  We have great produce, from cherries to blueberries to apples to asparagus. It’s a great state to eat your fruits and veggies in.

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?

Amorak:  Oh, Michigander, and it’s not a close call. Does anyone really say Michiganian?

Debbie:  Not me!  But a few do.  Or so I've been told.  Amorak, thank you so much for being here today for Michigander Monday!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Reading Poem

It's been so long since I've posted on this blog that I figured I should pop in and at least dust things off a bit. Summer has been a busy time, but when the school year gets underway, I'll be back to posting here more regularly. And Michigander Monday will definitely resume!

In the meantime, here's a little poem for those of you who work with kids and might like to offer a bit of reading encouragement.  I'm thinking of putting it on a bookmark to give to kids, but haven't gotten around to that yet.  I suppose it's more of jingle than a poem, but anyway, here goes...

Grab a book and take a break.
Books are full of fun!
When you're finished, if there's time,
Don't just stop at one.

Every single book you try
Makes your brain grow stronger.
Books delight and books inspire,
So read a little longer!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Michigander Monday Guest Post: Mardi Jo Link

I'm thrilled to have Mardi Jo Link as a guest blogger today.  Mardi has previously been here for a standard Michigander Monday interview (click here to read that), and she's back today with a guest post about her new book, The Drummond Girls: A Story of Fierce Friendship Beyond Time and Chance, which hits the shelves this Tuesday (July 14).  Here's Mardi!

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Do I Dare? The Perils & Joys of Writing About My Best Friends

by Mardi Jo Link

It’s the memoirist’s ever-present dilemma: How do I write about the people I love (or once loved), without turning them into caricatures? Without using them for the page, and damaging our real life relationship?

I managed to find my way through that quandary with my first memoir, Bootstrapper (Knopf, 2013), the writing of which presented all sorts of ethical dilemmas. I wrote about my sons, who were young; I wrote about my parents, who are from a generation which eschews excessive sharing; and I even wrote about my ex-husband, who never signed up for having our split chronicled in a book. (Certainly not one with a big red axe on the cover!)
I did it by having two mantras, which I recited every morning before I even put my fingers on the keys: 1. Write the story only you can write; the one that belongs to you and to no one else; and 2. Write with love; if not with love for the person, than with love for the truth.

“Yes but when are you going to write our story?” my best friends asked me, a few months after Bootstrapper was published.

There were eight of us; we’d known each other for a quarter century, and our annual wild-woman trips to a remote island in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula had bonded us for life. We even had a name for ourselves, The Drummond Girls, in honor of the island where we’d let loose.

So I knew we had a story; I just hadn’t thought our story was available for me to write.  

Writers can’t help but consider just about everything we see and do as “material.” That’s just how our brains work, whether we write fiction, non-fiction, or poetry.

My first trip to Drummond Island with the girls was 1993. From then till now I’ve had four books published, received my masters’ degree in creative writing, become a newspaper columnist, and even taught writing to other writers. And through it all I went to the island every fall with my girlfriends.

It was the one place I turned my writer’s brain off. Or, at least tried to.

Our weekends to me were life, not writing about life. Until they asked me to write our story.

I thought about my two writers’ mantras and knew the first one wasn’t going to work. We had eight stories and only one of them belonged to me. I tried to explain that to my friends but they wouldn’t hear it.

“Then just write yours,” they said.

Which was when I considered mantra two: Write with love; if not with love for the person, than with love for the truth. And, I revised it down to simply, Write with love. And over the next two years, that’s exactly what I did.

The Drummond Girls: A Story of Fierce Friendship Beyond Time and Chance is a memoir being published on July 14, 2015, by an imprint of a big New York publisher. It has received early praise from Kirkus, BookPage, Library Journal and the Detroit Free Press, among other places.

Which is nice. What it really is though, is a love letter to my best friends. That’s how writers tell you we love you. We write about you.

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To read an excerpt from Mardi's new book, click here.  And find her upcoming events at her web site.  Thank you for the guest post, Mardi!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Free bookmarks for classrooms and other places where readers hang out

In our area, the school year ended less than a month ago, so I'm definitely not in back-to-school mode yet. But I know some schools get rolling in early August, so I wanted to mention to those of you who are teachers that I have some bookmarks I'd be happy to send your way for your students for back-to-school.

I have two bookmark designs especially for classrooms.  One features Mr. Fish and quotes the reassuring theme of The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School (illustrated by Dan Hanna):

You are smart.
You can get it.
You belong.
Don't forget it!

The other design features the cover of Picture Day Perfection (illustrated by Dan Santat) and gives a bit of reading encouragement:

Books help us picture life's possibilities, so read lots of them!

Those two bookmarks, with their emphasis on learning and reading, work well in the classroom, especially on the milestones of First Day and of Picture Day.

In addition, I have some holiday-themed bookmarks, to go along with the forthcoming The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish.  The message on that bookmark echoes the book's conclusion:

Peace, joy, and love -- what a very merry gift!

The bookmarks are sized 2" x 6". The back of each bookmark has a list of my other books.

If you're interested in some bookmarks for your classroom, I'd love to send some your way.

Those of you who are booksellers or librarians, I'm happy to send bookmarks for a story time or a display.

And I'm always happy to send bookmarks to anyone who would like some for their own use or to share with friends.

If you'd like some bookmarks, please email me (deborah [at] deborahdiesen [dot] com). Let me know which style(s) you'd like, how many, your mailing address, and when you will need them by.

I generally sign the bookmarks before sending, but if you'd prefer I leave the signing spot blank so you can write your own message there, let me know that and I'll skip the signing.

I'll take this post down once I run out of bookmarks, but until then, I've got plenty.

Thank you for sharing the joy of books and reading -- and the fun of bookmarks!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Michigander Monday: Emily Van Kley

I'm pleased to welcome Emily Van Kley to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Emily, please tell us a little about yourself.

Emily:  I  grew up in the U.P., mostly in the small towns of Ishpeming and Wakefield. Currently I live in Olympia, Washington, where it tragically never snows but where there are plenty of trees and big water--salty though it may be---all of which helps me feel at home. I met my partner, Allison, when I was in graduate school in Spokane, Washington, and she and I have been adventuring since then, living for a while in the North Cascades, learning to keep chickens, braving canoe rides among the jellyfish of the Puget Sound. I currently work for the Olympia Food Co-op, a collectively-managed grocery store, love to practice aerial acrobatics in my spare time. I have a website! A brand new little thing a friend helped me set up:

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your writing.

Emily:  I have an MFA in fiction, but for the last five years or so I've found myself pretty much exclusively writing poetry. I'm hoping I'll be interested in stories again at some point, (I love to read them) but there's something about poems--their flintiness, their compression--that is just so compelling to me. Seems like that's what I'll be focusing on for the foreseeable future. People have introduced my work by calling it "idiosyncratic" and "muscular," adjectives I kind of like if applied to me as a person, but am mostly just confused by in regards to my writing.

Debbie:  New projects on the horizon?

Emily:  I've recently finished my first poetry manuscript and am working on a second. Poems from both collections have been published in a variety of journals: The Iowa Review, The Mississippi Review, etc.--I have a bundle forthcoming in Nimrod later this year. Recently I had the chance to collaborate with a book artist, (Catherine Alice Michaelis) an etymologist (Emilie Bess) and a musician (Melanie Valera) on a artist book project called Soil Dwellers, which will show at the University of Puget Sound this fall. And, let's see, I'm working on a Michigan-themed essay for Essay Daily, which is scheduled to be published this fall (though it could come out earlier). Also, this winter I had the chance to perform a poem as an aerial piece for the first time: I'd like to do more of that!

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? And/or a favorite Michigan library?

Emily:  I have really fond memories of the Carnegie Public Library in Ishpeming, where I spent countless summer hours checking out my limit of books and signing up to play super cool computer games like Winnie the Pooh back in the 80s, and where there's a floor made of glass(!) which when I was a kid seemed like pretty much the most magical thing.

My parents now live in Marquette and I love Snowbound Books: one of those lovely community bookshops with lots of fantastic nooks and crannies to explore, really interesting staff recommendations, and a strong sense of what's great out there in the literary world. I could happily spend hours there.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Emily:  Oh god. Well, I adore Lake Superior for its vastness and depth and sometimes brutal beauty. The lake and snow are the most salient landscapes of my child and early adulthood; they tend to dominate my thinking (and therefore my poetry) about the U.P. So most of my favorite places in Michigan are related to Lake Superior: I love Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore for its proximity to the lake and its wild variety of beaches: everything from rumpled boulders to white sand to otherwordly-looking shale that sounds like broken pottery underfoot and cuts away under waves ahead of you so there's no telling if it's an inch or a hundred feet thick.

I have an adopted elderly uncle whose camp is another one of my favorite spots: an a-frame right on Superior near Marquette, with a cement and cedar sauna that sits just above the massive rock formations that make up the shoreline. The sauna has three benches and a hulk of a stove topped by lake-smoothed stones upon which you throw water until steam fills the room and threatens to cut off your breathing, at which point you burst out the sauna door, run down a few steps and huddle in a wave-carved rock hollow where you are pummeled by the most mind-numbingly cold water you can imagine, then fly back to the sauna to repeat over and over.

I love the mouth of the Black River where it meets Lake Superior, the tea-colored water of so many U.P. rivers feathering out into more blue than you can your eyes can properly take in.

I'm not actually very familiar with Lower Michigan--my family tended to head west through Wisconsin when visiting Chicago and points south--but I will say that I feel really inspired by the work of community activists in Detroit and other parts of the state where people are finding ways to grow their own food, oppose the shutting off of water and other basic services, and otherwise confront the effects of the natural resources/ manufacturing sector collapse that has hit the whole state. Even if specific conditions in the rural U.P. are different than those in more urban areas, nearly every community in Michigan is dealing with the same economic struggle and I feel a lot of solidarity and a great tenderness for folks throughout the state because of that.

Debbie:  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Emily:  Well this summer there will be another installment of the U.P. book tour, which is a really special event: writers from the U.P. or whose work is set in the U.P. will visit all these small towns up north, reading in libraries and high school cafeterias, talking with folks about what inspires them to write about the U.P. I'm not able to make it back to read this year, but had a great time when I participated a few years ago, and anyone who's able should look for an event near them. This year the tour is promoting Here: Women Writing on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, a cool new anthology edited by Ron Riekki, where a couple of my poems appear. Tour dates at

Debbie:  A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Emily:  I really appreciate the poetry of Catie Rosemurgy and Ander Monson, two folks writing about the U.P. whose work I love to read.

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?

Emily:  Michigander all the way. Michiginian is not nearly as fun to say and besides is super annoying to spell. Plus what's good for the goose, etc.

Debbie:  We'll add you to the Michigander column!  Emily, thanks so much for joining us today for Michigander Monday.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Michigander Monday: Patricia Abbott

I'm pleased to welcome Patricia Abbott to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Patricia, please tell us a little about yourself.

Patricia:  For the last fifteen years I've been a short story writer, publishing more than 140 stories in various zines, print journals, and anthologies. I have also published two ebooks through Snubnose Press and edited an anthology through Untreed Reads. My husband just retired as a distinguished professor in political science at Wayne State University. I am also the mother of two grown children: Josh is an Assistant Prosecutor in Macomb County, MI and Megan is a novelist and screenwriter and lives in New York. Before retiring to write full-time, I wrote various publications at W.S.U for more than 20 years. For many years we lived in Grosse Pointe but now we live in Huntington Woods, MI

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your book.

Patricia:  Concrete Angel flips James Cain's Mildred Pierce. Eve Moran has always wanted “things” and has proven both inventive and tenacious in getting and keeping them. Eve lies, steals, cheats, swindles, and finally commits murder, paying little heed to the cost of her actions on those who love her. Her daughter, Christine, compelled by love, dependency, and circumstance, is caught up in her mother’s deceptions. It’s only when Christine’s three-year old brother, Ryan begins to prove useful to her mother, and she sees a pattern repeating itself, that Christine finds the courage and means to bring an end to Eve’s tyranny.  The book is set in Philadelphia in the sixties and seventies. (Polis Books is the publisher.)

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Patricia:  I had a two-book deal with Polis so a second book, set in Detroit and called Shot in Detroit, is due to be published in Summer 2016.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Patricia:  I was in New York last week at The Mysterious Bookshop.  I'll be at Bouchercon, the international mystery writers conference, in October, hopefully at the Grosse Pointe library sometime in the fall, and at an event in Austin sometime this winter.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? And/or a favorite Michigan library?

Patricia:  My favorite Michigan bookstores include Book Beat in Oak Park, Aunt Agatha's in Ann Arbor, Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor, and the Grosse Pointe Public Library, which has fed my need to read for 45 years. I am now becoming involved as a Friend of the Library in Huntington Woods.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Patricia:  I am crazy about so many towns in Michigan. This would include Chelsea, Michigan where we go see productions at the Purple Rose Theater; Leland, Michigan, where we have spent many vacations, Traverse City, which has become a truly great city in recent years, Ann Arbor, where both my kids went to college. We have spent many an hour browsing bookstores, seeing productions at Performance Network, the Hill Auditorium, etc. in Ann Arbor. And as someone who has lived outside Detroit for 45 years, I am gratified and hopeful about its recent steps toward a renaissance.

Debbie:  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Patricia:  My very favorite Michigan event is the Traverse City Film Festival, which we have attended almost every year since its inception. For anyone who loves movies, this is pure bliss. I cannot compliment Michael Moore or the people of Traverse City enough for putting on such a great festival. Runnerup would be the Kerrytown Book Festival in September. Such a special day.

Debbie:  A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Patricia:  I have been part of several writing groups over the years and would like to mention some of the great Michigan writers I have met through these groups: Kathe Koja, Dorene O'Brien, Mitch Bartoy, John Gallagher, Patrick O'Leary, Alinda Wasner, Ksenia Rychtycka, Claire Crabtree, Anca Vlaospolos, Anthony Ambrogio and Robin Watson.

Debbie:  Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Patricia:  Detroit's on its way back. From almost empty streets downtown five years ago to crowded restaurants and events today. Young people have done much to help in this revitalization. So too having the great anchors of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Michigan Opera Theater and many more. Few people realize Detroit is a world class city in so many ways.

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?

Patricia:  Michigander although I also regard myself as a Philadelphian. Concrete Angel let me tap into the love of my hometown.

Debbie:  Patricia, we'll add you to the Michigander/Philadelphian column.  Thank you very much for joining us today for Michigander Monday!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Michigander Monday: Matthew Baker

I'm pleased to welcome Matthew Baker to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Matthew, please tell us a little about yourself.

Matthew:  I grew up in a house in the woods on the outskirts of Grand Rapids. The house was at the end of a very long road lined with ponds and farms. I spent most of my childhood out in the woods climbing trees, collecting feathers, inspecting mushrooms, and chasing fireflies. It was perfect really. Anyway, I went to undergrad out in Holland, and then afterward I left Michigan for a while. I moved to Tennessee for a few years to study in the MFA program at Vanderbilt. I lived in Ireland for a year as a Fulbright Fellow. I was homeless for a while and bounced around between artist residencies in New York and New Hampshire and Illinois. And now I'm back in Grand Rapids. I currently live in a studio on the top floor of what used to be a gigantic church. I drink a lot of matcha, eat a lot of halvah, and like people-watching. I usually listen to video-game soundtracks while writing.

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your book.

Matthew:  If You Find This is a novel about a boy growing up in a village on the shore of Lake Michigan. It's a unique book in that it's narrated in a fusion of English and music notations. Every sound word in the book (like "slammed" or "sneezed") has a music dynamic attached underneath (like "forte" or "piano"). It's basically written like sheet music except with words instead of notes. The story is about a bootlegger grandfather, a supposedly haunted house, and a hunt for missing family heirlooms. So, in terms of genre, it's an experimental novel with elements of mystery and adventure. It's especially for readers between the ages of eight and thirteen.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Matthew:  My next novel is about computer hacking, urban exploring, and some other things that I'd better not mention specifically because I'm afraid of giving everything away. (That book should be coming out sometime in 2016.)

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Matthew:  My next reading/signing will be at Hope College on September 24th. (I'll be sharing the stage with the poet genius Kathleen McGookey.)

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Matthew:  So many. The Cottage Bookshop in Glen Arbor. Bookbug in Kalamazoo. The Book Beat in Detroit. Literati in Ann Arbor. I spend a lot of time, a lot, browsing the comics at Vault of Midnight. Have Company has got the best zines.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Matthew:  Well, my number one favorite place is The Secret Road, but that's probably not a very satisfying answer considering that I'm not allowed to tell you where it is or what it is or really anything about it at all. I have other favorites, though. The Bowl in Holland. Fishtown in Leland. Sleeping Bear. South Manitou and North Manitou. Mackinac Island. Interlochen. Marie Catrib's. Madcap. Robinette's Apple Haus.

Debbie:  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Matthew:  I go to The Cherry Bowl Drive-In every summer without fail.

Debbie:  A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Matthew:  If you don't know about Captain H. Tanny, I'd like to tell you about Captain H. Tanny. Captain H. Tanny is a mysterious adventurer who travels the world and periodically corresponds with the kids at the Creative Youth Center in Grand Rapids. She or he (not much is known about the captain's identity) has excellent taste in postcards.

 Debbie:  Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Matthew:  It's best not to provoke the Ada Witch.

Debbie:  Last question. Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?

Matthew:  There's no such thing as a Michiganian.

Debbie:  We will put you firmly in the Michigander column!  Matthew, thank you so much for joining us today for Michigander Monday!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Michigander Monday: Ellen Airgood

I'm pleased to welcome Ellen Airgood to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Ellen, please tell us a little about yourself.

Ellen:  I grew up on a small farm in Michigan’s thumb, the youngest of four.  It was a great childhood.  There were always lots of horses and dogs and books around; we ate fresh sweetcorn and strawberries all summer long.  I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was ten years old.  I played clarinet and piano in high school and expected to major in music, but made a last minute veer into the School of Natural Resources at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  I’ve lived in the Upper Peninsula, on the shore of Lake Superior, since 1991.  I love it here; it’s hard to imagine living anywhere else. Other things I love:  being outdoors, the big lake, food, friends, family.  Books.  Dogs.  Bonfires.

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your books.

Ellen:  My first novel, South of Superior, came out in June, 2011.  It’s a novel about life on the shore of Lake Superior, a harsh, beautiful, enlivening place.  I wanted to try and capture the essence of it.  My second novel, Prairie Evers, is about coping with change and about the limits and possibilities of friendship.  It’s aimed at 8 to 12 year olds but lots of my adult readers have told me they loved it, probably because Prairie, the narrator, is such an authentic character.  She marched into my head one April day with a story to tell, and I scrambled to keep up.  My third novel is a follow-up to Prairie Evers called The Education of Ivy Blake, and it’s due out tomorrow (June 9).  The protagonist, Ivy, is a hero of mine because she is so unfailingly optimistic when she has every reason not to be.  Also, I’m pleased to have a story and an essay included in The Way North, an anthology of Upper Peninsula writings that was published by Wayne State University Press in 2013, and an essay in The Great Lakes, A Literary Field Guide, which was published by Milkweed Editions in 2001.  I'm also thrilled to have work in the new anthology from Michigan State University:  Here, Women Writing on Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Ellen:  I’m looking forward to having a short story included in another Wayne State anthology, due out this summer, and am currently at work on a novel for adults set in the U.P.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Ellen:  I’m looking forward to a June 17 appearance at Dog Ears Books in Northport for the launch of The Education of Ivy Blake.  Other events are listed at my web site.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? And/or a favorite Michigan library?

Ellen:  I've traveled to many Michigan stores in the last few years, and I’m grateful to all of them. Ditto libraries, but here’s a shout-out to my most local libraries: Tahquahmenon Public Library in Newberry, Munising Public Library in Munising, Bayliss Public Library in Sault Ste. Marie, and Peter White Public Library in Marquette.  Further afield, but still local in the way everything in the U.P. is local, the beautiful Portage Township Library on the canal in Houghton.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Ellen:  Again, lots!  Sable Lighthouse in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  A stool at the counter in Jerusalem Garden, in Ann Arbor.  The Cobblestone Inn in McMillan.  The end of a little two-track near home that’s a lookout over Lake Superior.  My deck.  Houghton.  The tip of the Keeweenaw Peninsula.  Swimming in the bay of Grand Marais on moonlit nights. The Mackinac Bridge. The Dancing Crane Coffee Shop in Brimley.  Anywhere with a view of the St. Mary’s River and its freighters. Standing next to the fireplace in Chamberlain’s Old Forest Inn, in Curtis.

Debbie:  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Ellen:  When I lived in Ann Arbor I loved to watch the sandhill cranes congregate near Waterloo during their fall migration.

Debbie:  Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Ellen:  We have everything:  water, wilderness, great cities, diversity, culture, tradition. Also coney dogs, Pinconning cheese, and great barns.

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?

Ellen:  I’m a Michigander.

Debbie:  Ellen, we'll add you to the Michigander column.  Thank you so much for joining us today for Michigander Monday!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Michigan Authors on Tour

Getting underway this month and continuing into the fall is a Michigan/U.P. author tour that will feature a whole bunch of Michigan's wonderful writers (including many who are in the new book Here: Women Writing on Michigan's Upper Peninsula).  I wanted to pass on word about these Michigan writers and their events, the first of which is tomorrow.  I'll post updates as I receive them.  Ron Riekki, editor of Here, is coordinating the tour and has assembled a great group.  I hope you'll go hear some of these writers talk about their work!

May 13, 6:30pm—Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College, Wanbanung Campus, Baraga, reading and book signing -- Sally Brunk, Chad Faries, April Lindala, and Janeen Rastall

Jun 6, 1-3pm—Blue Frog Books, Howell -- Caitlin Horrocks

Jun 11, 7pm—Bayliss Public Library, Sault Ste. Marie, reading and book signing -- Julie Brooks Barbour, April Lindala, Saara Myrene Raappana, Andrea Scarpino [books supplied by Lake Superior State University bookstore]

June 13, 1-3pm-- Blue Frog Books, Howell -- Alison Swan

Jun 20, 11:30am-2:30pm—Saturn Booksellers, Gaylord, book signing only -- Julie Brooks Barbour, Sue Harrison

Jun 27, 4-6 pm—Horizon Books, Traverse City -- Caitlin Horrocks

Jun 29, 7pm—Literati Bookstore -- Caitlin Horrocks, Alison Swan, and Gloria Whelan

Jul 15, 1pm-2:30pm—Munising Public Library, Munising -- Elinor Benedict, L.E. Kimball, Beverly Matherne, and host Jane Piirto

Jul 19, time TBA—Falling Rock CafĂ© and Bookstore, Munising, book signing and reading -- Sue Harrison, Barbara Henning, and Alison Swan

Jul 24, time TBA—Mackinac Public Lib -- Julie Brooks Barbour, Sue Harrison

Aug 6, 6:30pm (Central Time for this event)—Wakefield Public Library/Municipal Building, Wakefield, reading -- Beverly Matherne and host Jane Piirto

Sep 17, 6:30pm-- Escanaba Public Library -- April Lindala, and Andrea Scarpino

Sep 23, time TBA—Snowbound Books/Peter White Public Library -- Ellen Airgood, Alison Swan

Oct 3
, time TBA—Bookbug, Kalamazoo -- Bonnie Jo Campbell

Monday, May 4, 2015

Michigander Monday: Andrea Scarpino

I'm very pleased to welcome Andrea Scarpino to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Andrea, please tell us a little about yourself.

Andrea:  Well, I was just named the 2015-2017 Poet Laureate of the Upper Peninsula! I moved to Marquette almost five years ago when my partner Zac got a tenure-track job at NMU, and I just love it here. The winters have taken me a little while to get used to—we moved from Los Angeles, but have both spent most of our lives in the Midwest—and truth be told, the winter can still be a little trying. But the UP is the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived, and I love continuing to explore Lake Superior and the many hundreds of miles of hiking trails especially.

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your books.

Andrea:  I have one full-length poetry collection called Once, Then that was published by Red Hen Press in 2014, and one chapbook called The Grove Behind, published by Finishing Line Press in 2009. Much of my poetry interest to date has been centered around elegy and poetry of witness; the chapbook is entirely poetry of witness, really, and Once, Then is in part an elegy for my father and for a teenage friend who was killed in a car accident.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Andrea:  Yes! I just completed my PhD in Creative Writing and would like to publish my dissertation project, which is a book-length poem centered on the body in pain. It’s called Pain Body right now, but titles are my least favorite things, so that may change! But I’m also working on a book-length poem that uses fairytale and mythological imagery to try to get at the struggle of childhood. I’ve been really interested in the book-length form for several years now, so I’m loving exploring that form with different subject matter.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Andrea:  I’ll be reading on June 11 at 7pm at the Bayliss Public Library (Sault Sainte Marie) with several other Michigan writers, and then will be heavily involved in Art Week June 20-27 in Marquette. I usually keep my website up to date with appearances:

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Andrea:  My favorite bookstore is Snowbound in Marquette—they have such a great collection of books and journals and notecards.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Andrea:  Any place within view of the lake! I’ve always loved water and have spent most of my life living near it, whether the Ohio River or Atlantic Ocean or Pacific Ocean, so any time I can spend near the lake is good time.

Debbie:  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Andrea:  Well. . . . there’s Beer Fest. . . . .

Debbie:  A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Andrea:  You know, there are so many interesting people in Michigan! One of the best things about moving to the UP is that I've had the chance to meet so many interesting people doing a diversity of interesting things: amazing home gardeners and builders of all sorts and visual artists and musicians and local business people—everyone I've met up here has some sort of interesting project going on. Even if it’s a side, weekend project, it’s bound to be interesting!

Debbie:  Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Andrea:  I would like people to know this is a very big and diverse state! People think of Michigan as Detroit or maybe Traverse City, but the UP is hours and hours away from either place! And we have such a rich diversity as a state. The car industry, of course, remains an important piece of what happens here, but we also have agriculture, a dedication to arts of all sorts, a rich intellectual heritage, so much to do outdoors. . . this is a very dynamic and fun state.

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?

Andrea:  Michigander. Because it sounds like a type of geese.

Debbie:  Andrea, we'll add you to the Michigander column!  Congratulations on being named U.P. Poet Laureate, and thank you so much for joining us today!