Monday, April 10, 2017

Michigander Monday: Drew Philp

I'm pleased to welcome Drew Philp to Michigander Monday.

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

Drew:  My name is Drew Philp, and my journalism and essays have been published both nationally and internationally, including in translation, and have appeared in publications including BuzzFeed, the Guardian, and the Detroit Free Press, among others. I live in Detroit with my dog, Gratiot, in a formerly abandoned house I purchased for $500 with no plumbing, electricity or windows. I repaired it myself, and my book about the experience, A $500 House in Detroit: Rebuilding an Abandoned Home and an American City, will be published April 11.

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

Drew:  From the flap copy:

In 2008, Drew Philp, an idealistic college student from a small town in Michigan, withdraws from the comforts of life on a university campus in search of a place to live where he can make a difference. He sets his sights on Detroit, the failed metropolis of abandoned buildings, widespread poverty, and rampant crime, a complicated source of fascination often stereotyped and little understood. Arriving with no job, no friends, and no money, Philp is naively determined to fix the huge, broken city with his own hands and on his own terms. A year later, he saves up and buys a ramshackle house for $500 in the east side neighborhood known as Poletown and moves in.

Philp gets what he pays for. The roomy Queen Anne has been abandoned for a decade and is little more than a clapboard shell on a crumbling brick foundation, filled with heaping piles of trash (including most of a chopped up minivan), and missing windows, heat, water, electricity and a functional roof. The landscape of the surrounding neighborhood resembles an urban prairie: overgrown fields dotted with houses that haven’t been demolished or burned to the ground—some of them well-maintained by Detroiters who have chosen to remain in the city, but many, like the Queen Anne, left vacant and in complete disrepair.

Based on a Buzzfeed essay that resonated with millions of readers, A $500 House in Detroit is Philp’s raw and earnest account of rebuilding everything but the frame of his house, nail by nail and room by room. It’s also the story of a young man finding his footing in the city, the country, and his own generation. As he assimilates into the community of Detroiters around him, Philp guides readers through the city’s vibrant history and engages in urgent conversations about gentrification, racial tensions, class warfare through his first-hand experiences. We witness his concept of Detroit shift, expand, and evolve as his plan to save the city gives way to a life forged from political meaning, personal connection, and collective purpose.

Part social history, part brash generational statement, part comeback story, A $500 House in Detroit is an intimate account of the tentative revival of an American city, home by home and person by person—and a glimpse at a new way forward for generations to come.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Drew:  I’m currently working on a wordless “children’s book” with Italian illustrator Matthew Watkins. As for a next book of nonfiction, I have some irons in the fire but nothing set as of yet.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Drew:  My book release party is April 14, at Trinosophes coffee house, art gallery and performance space. The event begins at 7PM and is free. All are welcome, and I’d love to see you there! We’ll also have some surprises, including music and art from people in the book.

I’ll also be reading at the Mount Clemens Public Library April 25th and The Detroit Public Library June 7th.

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

Drew:  Too many to name! I love both Literati and Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor, and John King Used books, The Source Booksellers and Pages in Detroit are always wonderful places full of great books and phenomenal, knowledgeable staff.

I have always loved the Detroit Public Library, particularly the main branch—they were a sanctuary to me when I first moved to Detroit, and they will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Drew:  I grew up near my grandparents’ house on Lake Huron. There’s nothing like watching the sun rise over the lake, the fiery, orange ball appearing over all of that fresh water. On any given morning there’s no place I’d rather be.

In Detroit, there’s no beating a bottle of wine and some cheese on Belle Isle, and maybe a pizza at the Motor City Brewing Works after. Polish Village Café and Yemen café, both in Hamtramck, have the best Polish and Yemeni food—and some of the best food anywhere—this side of Warsaw and Sana’a.

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

Drew:  I really enjoy “boat day” in Port Huron, the start of the annual Port Huron to Macinac sailboat race. The city swells to more than twice its size with all of the visitors, and if the wind is right the boats sail close to shore showing their colorful spinnaker sails.

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

Drew:  I’m really into the horn playing of young Michigander Marcus Elliot. He’s wicked smart, utterly superlative, and will be a huge star someday. Catch him in Metro Detroit while you can—this guy is going to be huge.

Airea D. Matthews also has a new book of poetry out, Simulacra, via Yale University, which is certain to be mindbending and powerful and unmissable. I eagerly await my copy.

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

Drew:  Michigan is clearly the finest state in the union, and Detroit is the best city in the US for young artists.

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?

Drew:  Michigander all the way.

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

Monday, April 3, 2017

Michigander Monday: Ruth Behar

I'm pleased to welcome Ruth Behar to Michigander Monday!

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

Ruth:  I was born in Cuba to a Jewish family and left the island with my parents and my little brother when I was a child. I grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Queens, New York where I attended public schools and spoke Spanish at home. From a young age I loved to write, but I also wanted to travel and that’s what led me to study cultural anthropology. I spent many years traveling to Spain and Mexico before going on to reconnect with Cuba, where I have been building cultural bridges with the United States for over two decades.

In 1986, I settled in Ann Arbor with my husband, David, also an anthropologist, as well as a translator. Our son, Gabriel, was born in Ann Arbor, and though he now lives in New York, he is passionate about his Michigan roots. I have been teaching at the University of Michigan for thirty years. David and I live in a Victorian house in Ann Arbor that is painted in bright Caribbean colors.

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

Ruth:  My book, Lucky Broken Girl, is my debut novel for young readers. I am thrilled to have been able to write it. The story was inspired by the year I spent in a body cast, confined to my bed, when I was nine going on ten. It was a traumatic experience for me as well as my family. We were immigrants, just arrived from Cuba, penniless and afraid, and suddenly the family had an invalid girl to take care of. Looking back, I realized how painful the situation was for everyone around me who wanted to help me heal. The book brings together those two narratives – the immigrant story and the story of healing from a serious injury – and takes up universal themes of self-acceptance, forgiveness, and learning to embrace the lucky aspects of even the worst things that happen to us in childhood.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Ruth:  I am at work on a new novel for young readers. It is set in Cuba at the time of the revolution. I was inspired by Carson McCullers’s haunting novel, The Member of the Wedding. The story focuses on a twelve-year-old girl who watches jealously as her older sister prepares to marry and is fitted for a beautiful lace honeymoon nightgown sewn to fit her measurements. Then things get more complicated as the revolution brings about dramatic changes and her parents decide to send her out of Cuba to the United States with the Peter Pan Operation.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Ruth:  I have two events coming up in Ann Arbor. I will be doing a reading from Lucky Broken Girl at Literati Bookstore on May 2nd and will participate in Children’s Book Week at Nicola’s Books on May 3rd.

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

Ruth:  I have many favorite Michigan bookstores! Ann Arbor is filled with the most wonderful bookstores. I miss Shaman Drum and Borders, which were havens when I first arrived in Ann Arbor, but I am thrilled that we have Nicola’s Books and Literati Bookstore, both of which are very supportive of local writers. I buy used books at Dawn Treader Book Shop, which has a great selection of classics and contemporary books. The Ann Arbor Public Library is an amazing resource and organizes terrific events with visiting writers. I’m in awe of the vast holdings at the University of Michigan Library where I can find every book I dream of.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Ruth:  I love the Old West Side in Ann Arbor, where I live. The tree-lined streets become so leafy in the summer it feels like a jungle. But our greatest Michigan treasure, I think, is the Detroit Institute of Art. I’ve gone many times to see the stunning Detroit Industry Murals by Diego Rivera, which were painted between 1932 and 1933 and represent the workers at the Ford Motor Company. Frida Kahlo accompanied her husband Diego Rivera during their stay in Detroit and it was there she painted many of her most important and haunting self-portraits.

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

Ruth:  The Ann Arbor Summer Festival is a lot of fun. I like the music events at Top of the Park and the outdoor salsa dancing. And while Ann Arborites complain about the inconveniences caused by the yearly Art Fair, I enjoy the carnival atmosphere and the streets filled with people strolling about.

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

Ruth:  There are so many great people in Michigan. Here are a few that come to mind, among colleagues and friends in Ann Arbor: visual artist Joanne Leonard; anthropologist Jason De Leon; photographer David Turnley; women’s studies scholar Sidonie Smith; linguistic anthropologist Bruce Mannheim; psychologist Susan Gelman; Latina/Latino Studies scholars Maria Cotera, Yeidy Rivero, and Larry LaFountain; musician and doctor Alberto Nacif; yoga teachers Carter and Ana Hough; and fellow Cuban-American writer Derek Palacio.

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

Ruth:  The winters are bad, it’s true, but autumn, spring, and summer are beautiful.

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?

Ruth:  I’m afraid I’m neither. Since I’m not originally from Michigan and come from an immigrant background, plus I’ve traveled so much as an anthropologist, I fear misleading people about my identity if I say I am either a Michigander or a Michiganian. What I usually say is that I’ve been a resident of Michigan for many years and that is where my only child was born.

Debbie:  Ruth, we'll make a brand new column for our tally!  Thank you so much for joining us for Michigander Monday!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Book Tour!

I'll be on a book tour for The Pout-Pout Fish, Far, Far From Home. Many of my tour stops will be schools, but I also have a few bookstore and library events scheduled.  If you're in the neighborhood of any of these, I'd love to see you!  (Be sure to confirm event details with the venue before attending.)

  • Wednesday, April 5 at 2:00 PM - Simsbury Public Library in Simsbury, CT 
  • Thursday, April 6 at 11:00 AM - Towne Book Center in Collegeville, PA 
  • Saturday, April 8 at 10:30 AM - Hooray for Books in Alexandria, VA 
  • Sunday, April 9 at 2:00 PM - Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC 

I will also be stopping by Politics & Prose (Washington DC), Square Books Jr. (Oxford, MS), and Red Balloon Bookshop (St. Paul, MN) during the tour to sign stock.  If you'd like to order a signed book but can't come to any of the story times, contact any of the story time or stock-signing bookstores before April 4 to put in your request.

Dan Hanna, fabulous illustrator of The Pout-Pout Fish books, will also be touring (we're on separate tours). You can meet him Tuesday, April 4th at 4pm at Hicklebee's (San Jose, CA); Saturday, April 8th at 10am at Changing Hands (Phoenix, AZ); and Sunday, April 9th at 11:30am at BookPeople (Austin, TX).

Monday, March 13, 2017


My blog has gotten a bit dusty again, but I'll have Michigander Monday interviews beginning again in April, so stay tuned for those.

Also in April, I will be headed out on a book tour for The Pout-Pout Fish, Far, Far from Home.  I'll be in Simsbury, CT; Collegeville, PA; Elkins Park, PA; Alexandria, VA; Raleigh, NC; Oxford, MS; and St. Paul, MN.  I'll post details of my itinerary later this month.

And, in the meantime, I have a new book!  Bloom, beautifully illustrated by the talented Mary Lundquist, hit the shelves this month.  You can find it at your favorite library or bookstore.

Celebrate all that blooms!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Michigander Monday: Heather Smith Meloche

I'm pleased to welcome Heather Smith Meloche to Michigander Monday!

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

Heather:  Well, I thought for sure I would never write a novel. Poetry was my thing. Short, punchy, easy to construct in a condensed amount of time. But then I had kids, and kids change everything! The poems I was writing for my first son over fifteen years ago turned into short stories that turned into picture books, which I was really lousy at, and then that morphed into me discovering my sixteen-year-old voice and writing young adult stories. Now I find that my poetry background plays right into my prose and into the voices of the characters and the tone. My writing wouldn’t be as strong without that poetic base.

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

Heather:  Again, because I never thought I was going to really do this whole novel thing, I was really surprised when I went to a children’s writing workshop in Oregon in 2007 and got a lot of excitement about my submission from the agents there. I’d submitted a couple chapters of Ripple, and that agent praise was huge motivation and impetus for me to keep going. At the time, because of the expectations in the children’s writing field, I was told Ripple – a book about the ripple of addiction from one generation to the next and two teens dealing with their own unique addictions -- would be a tough sell even though the writing was strong. And, in fact, it didn’t sell. Paranormal hit strongly right after that and everyone wanted books with a fairy, werewolf, or vampire in them. My edgy contemporary wasn’t very marketable. So I took the basic story and rewrote it in verse as a short story, which became “Him,” that won the Katherine Paterson Prize in 2011 through the literary journal Hunger Mountain at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Suddenly, agents were contacting me again. With the rise of John Green’s novels, contemporary was becoming hot again, Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games had blown the doors off the perceptions of what was edgy, and Ripple had a market. I chose an awesome, seasoned agent, Heather Schroder, who sold the book in 2014. It was released in September 2016.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Heather:  I’ve written two novels since getting my contract for Ripple. The first one my agent didn’t love. The second my editor passed on. So I’m plugging away with my next contemporary and hope to have it done by mid-spring. I also consistently work on short stories that are often offspring of the novels I’m working on – like side stories of certain characters or settings.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Heather:  I’m always adding to my schedule, but so far, it looks like this for 2017:
Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? And/or a favorite Michigan library?

Heather:  With regard to bookstores, my local Barnes and Noble has been wonderful to me and invites me to do so much in their store. But I also love my indie stores, including Pages Bookstore on Grand River in Detroit that just opened recently, Kazoo Books in Kalamazoo, and The Book Beat in Oak Park, which, magically, has books I didn’t even know I needed jumping off the shelves at my feet when I walk in! ;) When it comes to libraries, I can’t choose! I believe so strongly in libraries and the power of librarians, that every one of them is my favorite. But recently, I’ve had the chance to visit Orion Township Public Library in Lake Orion and Frenchtown Dixie Library in Monroe for some awesome book fairs. Both libraries have an out-of-this-world staff!!

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Heather:  My grandparents built a cottage on Lake Michigan in Cross Village, which is about 20 minutes below Mackinaw City. With my grandparents now gone from this world, my parents own it, and it is my favorite place to be. I write better there than anywhere else. My grandmother was an artist who told my mom when I was younger, “Heather will be a successful writer. I won’t be here to see it, but she’ll publish her work.” I can “feel” my grandmother there, which is inspiring.

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

Heather:  There is absolutely NOTHING like a sunset over Lake Michigan. It’s a total moment of awe and Zen every time.

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

Heather:  Cross Village has an awesome gallery, Three Pines Studio, that is run by artists and former Wayne State University professors, Joann Condino and Gene Reck. They do some amazing things mixing children’s literature with art. Joann is a marketing queen and has really networked well in Northern Michigan to bring art to so many people. They are wonderful!! Also, my roommate from Michigan State University has gone on to open an emporium/gallery in Sutton’s Bay called Great Goods. She features work by some award-winning jewelry artists in Michigan and worldwide, since metallurgy and jewelry-making was her focus in college. She also features some Michigan authors and other Michigan artists in her store, which is super fun to walk through!!

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

Heather:  Seriously, I would never want to live in any other state. I absolutely love it here. The summers are the very best for vacationing all over Michigan – both upper and lower peninsulas, and Michigan winters are huge for skiing, snowmobiling, and sledding. Detroit is having the most amazing resurgence when it comes to tourism and restaurants. Michigan is a state that is so diverse and so beautiful that it would be a shame for non-residents to never visit it. Do I sound like a “Pure Michigan” commercial? I’m totally good with that. 

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?

Heather:  I LOVE this question! I actually use them both interchangeably. I don’t want to offend anyone ;)

Debbie:  We'll add you to both columns!  Heather, thank you so much for joining us today for Michigander Monday and Michiganian Monday!  :)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Michigander Monday: Jodi McKay

I'm pleased to welcome Jodi McKay to Michigander Monday!

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

Jodi:  The first thing that comes to mind is that I am horrible at talking about myself, but I also like a good challenge so let’s see what happens here.

On a personal level: I live in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan with my husband, son, and the dynamic duo, Ralph and Alby (dog and cat bff’s). I received a master’s in Developmental Psychology from Florida Atlantic University and worked within that field for a short time before moving back to Michigan. I am a proud introvert who enjoys a quiet day, curled up with a good book in a pair of cozy pajamas.

As a writer:  I was an avid reader as a child and started writing my own stories when I was 8 years old. Writing and drawing were always my “go to” and I found ways to incorporate that creativity into different areas of my life. I started writing for children full time when my son started kindergarten and I had a little more time on my hands to really learn the craft. Now I am an active member of SCBWI and several other writing and critique groups which has been instrumental in my development as a writer.

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

Jodi:  Thanks! Where Are the Words? was born from a rather rough case of writer’s block. It was probably after the tenth time of me asking myself, “Why can’t I find the words?” that it finally hit me to write about just that, finding the words for a story. I knew that I needed a fresh spin on that concept as there are already a few books available on writing or telling stories, so I decided to use a different set of characters. Anthropomorphized punctuation marks was the twist that I was looking for which also established an avenue for learning. The punctuation marks work together to find the words for their story all while speaking as their actual punctuation roles dictate. My hope is that this will create a fun way for kids to learn about punctuation.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Jodi:  I have several books that are in a revision rotation and a handful of more ideas spinning around inside my head. I am enjoying the process of working on these manuscripts, especially with my agent who is very editorial and offers great insight into the craft of building a good book. I can say that I have a couple of favorites so fingers crossed that they find a home!

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Jodi:  I am working on my book tour now and am happy to announce that my book launch will start at Pages Bookshop in Detroit on January 7th. I will also be at Hopscotch Kids in Tecumseh, MI in January so keep an eye out for that event date. I am very excited for both and have plenty of fun planned so please join me!

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Jodi:  I have to say that I am a big fan of Pages Bookshop. It’s only been there for a year and a half, but it already has that wonderful book smell that soaks into everything and makes you feel immediately at home when you walk through the door. The owner, Susan Murphy is so welcoming and generous with her book knowledge, I could sit and chat with her for hours, although that would take away from my reading. Does it get any better than that? Yes! There is also a friendly feline who purr-uses the store offering her own opinion on books. It’s a delightful store, you have to go!

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

Jodi:  Michigan is a vacation destination! There are incredible beaches, stunning cities, charming towns, and a natural beauty that will leave you inspired. I would also like to add that Detroit is not scary. We lived in Detroit for 5 years and were able to walk down the street without any issues. The resurgence the city is experiencing is exciting and worth checking out.

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?

Jodi:  Ha! That’s funny! I am and forever will be a Michigander.

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

Michigander Monday: Jordan J. Scavone

I'm pleased to welcome Jordan Scavone to Michigander Monday!

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

Jordan:  This past April I received my M.A. in Children’s Literature from Eastern Michigan University. I also studied for my undergraduate degree in Ypsilanti, majoring in Children’s Literature and Theater for the Young, with a Minor in Communications. I originally wanted to go to EMU to do Forensics (Competitive Speech). I did it all through high school, and ended up doing it for a little over three years in college. That background allowed me to be extremely comfortable with talking to people - something that has really helped me during signing events, school visits, and talking with people within the field. Also, I’m a huge wrestling and video game fan. I actually did ‘backyard wrestling’ in high school with some friends and thought about pursuing it as a full-time thing at one point, but, then I remembered I’m not a fan of pain haha.

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

Jordan:  Might-E is my debut children’s book, and it follows a preschool girl named Emma. She suffers from social anxiety, and a general fear of being around other people. In order to help her overcome her fears she transforms from Emma into Might-E, the bravest, strongest, and mightiest superhero on the planet.

I really wanted to create something that would not only entertain, but inspire and help children (and adults alike) grow. I think this is something that most children’s authors want to do, so I suppose it isn’t that unique. But I felt that combining the aspects of the superhero genre as well as comics, I would be able to create a more desirable book. My illustrator Caitlyn Notaro (formerly Knepka – she got married! Yay!) is incredible and perfectly captured what I wanted visually. While I think my story is good enough to stand on its own, I know that Caitlyn’s ability really raised up, and elevated Might-E to another level.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Jordan:  I’m brainstorming a few ideas, while playing with some picture book manuscripts. I’m also exploring the world of YA literature. While exploring new ideas, and new stories, I am also sending out queries to agents. I want to extend the reach of my stories to more regions, and continue to push my story out, and inspire more kids.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Jordan:  Yes!  December 3rd at the Barnes and Noble in Brighton, December 10th at the Barnes and Noble in Grandville, and January 14th at the Barnes and Noble in Lansing. My book's Facebook page ( as well as my website ( have a constantly updating list of events.

I’m also lucky enough to be doing a school visit to an Ann Arbor elementary school this December. School visits are some of my favorite events; I’ve only done a few, but they are beyond fun, and really show me that what I’m doing is worthwhile.

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

Jordan:  I love the Dawn Treader in Ann Arbor. If you’ve never been it is wonderful. It is a deep literal treasure trove of books. Burgess Meredith would love it there. That’s a Twilight Zone joke. As for my favorite library, that would be the Wixom Library. Though I’ve only been there a couple times, it features a beautiful fountain area where my wife and I got our wedding pictures taken!

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Jordan:  The Sterling Heights Nature Center (across the street from where I grew up) is certainly one of my favorite places in Michigan. I spent a lot of time there, and it was where my wife and I took our first date. I also really really really like Mackinaw Island. I went once my senior year of High School and if I could afford it I’d go back yearly.

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

Jordan:  I’d like to one day go to the Traverse City Children’s Book Festival. I’ve heard it’s really fun, and I’ve also never been to Traverse City, so win win!

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

Jordan:  Earlier this year I met Cori McCarthy.  She is a Michigan Author out of Big Rapids. We picked up each other's books (her books for myself and Might-E for her little one). She was then gracious enough to do a review and blurb for Might-E. I’d encourage anyone to pick up Breaking Sky and You Were Here. They are stellar reads.

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

Jordan:  Some of us do not care about the feud between Michigan and Ohio schools. I’ll go fortify my doors and windows now.

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?

Jordan:  Michigander for life!

Debbie:  Jordan, we'll add you to the Michigander column!  Thank you for joining us today for a Might-E Michigander Monday!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Michigander Monday: Susan Froetschel

I'm pleased to welcome Susan Froetschel to Michigander Monday!

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

Susan:  I grew up in Pittsburgh and after living in many states, from Alaska to New York, I relish living and working in East Lansing. I am managing editor for an online magazine – YaleGlobal Online – which explores globalization defined as the interconnectedness of our world. These connections turn up in politics, economic, trade and security alliances, labor, health care, environment and many other ways – and what better job could there be than exploring the world and such connections through reading and writing? Chance encounters can leave lasting effects, and with instant global communications, a few ideas resonate and travel far. Such connections and encounters have found their way into my stories.  

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

Susan:  All my writing focuses on characters, ordinary people, both parents and their children, who question troublesome policies that others in their communities take for granted. As an editor and former newspaper reporter, I enjoy analyzing how public polices influence families and small communities – and analyzing these through fiction.

I have written five mystery novels and descriptions of where I live at the time slip into these books, though that may seem odd since my two most recent books – Fear of Beauty and Allure of Deceit – are set in a remote farming village in Afghanistan. Fear of Beauty is about a woman who is desperate to learn how to read so she can figure out the reasons behind the death of her oldest son. Allure of Deceit is about how charity can have a hidden agenda – and a foundation director who uses the program to investigate the death of her son. Royal Escape – set in London – is about a princess who resists the monarchy’s controls and discovers that security is more trap than protection. My first two novels were set in Sitka, Alaska, and the first was Alaska Gray, about art forgeries and a scholarship fraud. The second, Interruptions, is about a mother and son who work at cross purposes to fight a cross-island road with exorbitant costs in terms of money and the environment.

An excerpt of Fear of Beauty is available at Criminal Element.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Susan:  I have started a third book set in Afghanistan, but may take a detour into a story about a family with many secrets and resentments – possibly set in Michigan or Pennsylvania.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Susan:  Nothing on the schedule at this moment, but I always enjoy to speaking about writing and publishing, the celebrity culture, and many topics related to globalization for libraries, book groups, senior centers, clubs or classrooms for students of all ages. I have given many programs in Maine, Connecticut, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Florida, Georgia as well as Michigan.

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

Susan:  I love and appreciate every bookstore that stocks my books for their readers and that includes Horizon in Traverse City, McLean and Eakin in Petoskey, Blue Phoenix and Olivet in Alpena, and Schuler Books in Okemos! Naming a favorite library is again too difficult. I always enjoy my hometown library – the East Lansing Public Library. But I also enjoy exploring the extensive collections at college libraries like Michigan State University and Yale.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Susan:  The lakeside communities are stunningly beautiful, friendly and peaceful – Alpena, Saugatuck, Cheboygan – with the Great Lakes, again it’s very hard to decide!

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

Susan:  My favorite event is the Alpena Book Festival held each September. The entire downtown rallies to support of Michigan authors and organize a wide range of programs for readers and aspiring authors alike. The town is ideal for a book festival with the library, two bookstores, an art store, bakery, and wine-tasting room all in close proximity.

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

Susan:  Peg Herring is a talented and thoughtful mystery writer who juggles three series (The Loser Series, The Dead Detective Series and the Simon and Elizabeth Tudor Series) along with many other projects. She is fantastic at organizing, motivating and mentoring writers of all levels. She is adventurous and never shoots down new ideas. Connie Doherty, who just released her first mystery book, has a great voice and imagination.

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

Susan:  The people are open, friendly and the best at making their communities welcoming places.

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?

Susan:  Count me in with the ganders.

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

To learn more about Susan and her books, visit her web site (which includes her blog), Facebook page, Twitter account, and Yale Global.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Why are some Pout-Pout Fish stories longer than others?

I thought it might be helpful to provide an overview of the three kinds of Pout-Pout Fish books, since each kind differs from the others in length and format.

The three kinds are:  1) full-length adventure stories; 2) mini-adventures; and 3) novelty items.

There are currently four full-length adventure stories:  The Pout-Pout Fish; The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark; The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School; and The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish. Each of these books is a picture book story meant for toddlers, preschoolers, early elementary, and beyond, and are each about 500 or 600 words long.  They come in a hardcover format (approximately 10" x 10", with hard covers and paper pages); two of them (the original and the Big-Big Dark) also come in board book format (about 6.5" x 6.5", with thick board pages).  The board book versions of these stories are not shortened or abridged from the hard cover.

The mini-adventures are much shorter and simpler than the full-length adventure stories.  There are currently four of them:  Smile, Pout-Pout Fish; Sweet Dreams, Pout-Pout Fish; Kiss, Kiss, Pout-Pout Fish; and Trick or Treat, Pout-Pout Fish.  They're twelve pages long with just a few words per page - no more than around 50 words total.  They come in board book format -- they're the same size as the full-length adventure board books, but much thinner due to fewer pages.

The novelty items are a variety of activity books, including a lift-the-flap book, an alphabet and numbers workbook, a sticker book, and a touch-and-feel book.  Word length and format varies.

For more information about the various books, please visit my web page, or email me.

Thank you for your interest in The Pout-Pout Fish series!!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Booksigning Nov. 26, 11 AM to 1 PM

I'll be signing books at the Eastwood Schuler Books on Saturday, November 26, from 11 AM to 1 PM.  Hope to see you!

Location details etc. available at this link.

Friday, November 11, 2016

A Poem of Sorts. A promise.

Come and sit next to me.

There's room.

I will not harm you.
I will not make fun of you.
I will not push you away.
Whether we agree on everything,
on some things,
or on almost nothing at all,
it does not matter.
There's a place for you next to me,
and always.
You are safe.

And we can sit together

for as long as it takes

to find the strength

To Stand.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Michigander Monday: Mary Fox

I'm pleased to welcome Mary Fox to Michigander Monday.

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

Mary:  I grew up in Warren, MI and attended and graduated from Lincoln High School.  With scholarship money and earned money from jobs throughout my high school years and summers, I went to MSU where I obtained my teaching degree and a degree in English.  I taught for 40 years at Fowler High School and earned a Masters degree at CMU.  Toward the end of my career, I also taught part-time at LCC.  During my years teaching, I most liked teaching writing.  When I retired I promised myself I'd finally engage fully with my own writing, so I joined a writing group (Writing at the Ledges) and have worked on my own writing ever since.  Although my spouse died in 2015, I'm blessed with a lovely family and many friends who fill my time with fun and joy. Since I am a voracious reader and have haunted libraries and bookstores all my life, I do volunteer work at my local library, I also love to see plays and live entertainment, swim, walk on our River Trail and play golf.  What makes me most happy?  Spending good time with my kitties and family and friends.  Helping others and just hanging out with family and friends makes a good day.

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

Mary:  My book is a collection of poetry entitled Waiting for Rain. My poems aren't academic exercises.  I like to write for the ordinary person and about the things ordinary people experience. Here is the statement I gave about the book when I put the collection together.  I think it best expresses what I was trying to do in this collection of poems:

“In collecting the poems, I focused on the moments that people live in between life’s more dramatic events—times we are left waiting, resting, hoping, evaluating, mourning, or expecting what might come.  When we wait for rain, we can hope for growth, change or relief but we also can think of rain as interrupting our progress, flooding our plans, or in some other way 'raining on our parade,' as the cliché says.  I wanted poems that captured those reflective moments of life, our reactions, when we step back and look for meaning and enlightenment.”

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Mary:  Currently I'm working on putting together a webpage/blog.  I want a page for my writing that includes several things:  First, I have stories about my two cats--the dynamic duo of Boguy and Goldie.  I'm putting together a year's worth of adventures which I may turn into a nonfiction work later.  Secondly, I want a column on grief and grieving to be part of this page. I think that we do not talk about many of the aspects of grief we face throughout our life.  Death is still a subject with taboos, and then I want a column to explore grief fully.  When I have a year's worth of postings ready, I will launch the site.  Right now I've got quite a few of the cat stories done and some of the writing column started.  I'm gathering topics for the segments on grief, so if anyone has suggestions they can message me through the Writing at the Ledges facebook page.  Writing at the Ledges, my writing group, is also completing an anthology and I will be editing it in October.  We hope to have it out soon.  It is a collection of good short works based on writing prompts the group worked on.  I call this type of book a "cottage" book because it's the type of book I liked to take to a cottage when I was young because stories were short enough to finish in between the other more active stuff.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Mary:  I'm scheduling a poetry workshop at Portland Library in January and plan to be selling books at a couple events in October and November (including St. Mary's in Westphalia Nov. 6).  This is all rather new to me so I think I will learn as I go about how to market books.  I love the writing part but the sales part is all new to me.  So I'm slowly putting together events.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan library?

Mary:  Portland District Library, where I volunteer, is absolutely the best small town library ever.  The town residents and a dedicated group of women worked to raise funds to revamp this old Carnegie library into a modern, dynamic facility and we continue to improve it year by year.  The big push was to add on to the library and modernize its electrical, etc.  The children's library and facilities are therefore wonderful.  Recently a local donor provided funds for an outdoor reading area that is a "fairy" garden for outdoor children's literacy activities.  The whole bottom floor of the library is devoted to children's reading and literacy.  There is a wonderful area on the main floor for teens and areas for meetings and genealogy and business research.  My group, Friends of the Portland District Library, works to provide funds and manpower to upgrade and maintain our lovely library.  It gives my heart joy that we have so many people participating in our activities.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Mary:  I grew up in a suburb of Detroit, so Detroit has a special place in my heart--I love Tiger Stadium, the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak, and Greektown and the Art Museum and many locations hold good memories for me.  I also love Higgins Lake's deep clear water and the West Coast of Michigan in Pentwater and Ludington.  I think I live in the most beautiful state in the nation.

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

Mary:  My absolute favorite thing to do in Michigan?  It's hard to pick but Tiger games rates high, the Detroit Zoo is close behind, and any view of water off our shores makes me happy.  In the Lansing area, I like to wander Old Town and the City Market.  Walking MSU's campus is a treat.  In Grand Rapids, ArtPrize is a favorite.  Mackinac Island is lovely in the spring and fall as well as during "taffy" season.  I never tire of Michigan.

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

Mary:  I like to hang with ordinary people, so spend a day with someone from Michigan and learn about living here.  Whether a Troll or a Yooper, you'll have fun.  They might even teach you Euchre.

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

Mary:  One of the weirdest things I've learned about Michigan is that it has a gigantic salt mine under the Detroit area.  It stretches from Detroit to Dearborn.  The mines closed in the 1980s but the underground "city" still exists.  The other weird thing I know is that the term "hillbilly" was first defined in the Websters as a Michigan farmer.

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?

Mary:  I am a Michigander.

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