Monday, March 3, 2014

Michigander Monday

It's been quite a while since I've posted a new Michigander Monday profile.  Sorry about that!  There's no shortage of wonderful authors to interview; but it's been a particularly busy winter, and I haven't been reaching out to potential interviewees lately.  I hope to resume the profiles in about a month or so.  Thank you for your patience!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Pout-Pout Fish Costume Tour!

A costume character of The Pout-Pout Fish will be on tour for the next few weeks!  The costume appearance schedule is below, with dates and times -- but if you plan to attend one of these events, be sure to call the store first to confirm the time and location, as schedules do sometimes change.

I won't be at any of these events, so if you go, I'd love to see your photos!

Saturday January 25 at 11am Los Altos, CA
Linden Tree Books
265 State St.
Los Altos, CA 94022

Sunday January 26 at 11am San Carlos, CA
The Reading Bug
785 Laurel St.
San Carlos, CA 94070
Contact: Lauren

Tuesday January 28 at 10:30am Denver, CO
Tattered Cover
2526 East Colfax Avenue
Denver, CO 80206

Thursday January 30 at 11am Wayzata, MN
The Bookcase
824 East Lake Street
Wayzata, MN 55391

Saturday February 1 at 11am Ann Arbor, MI
Nicola's Books
Westgate Shopping Center
2513 Jackson Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI  48103

Tuesday February 4 at 11am Memphis, TN
The Booksellers at Laurelwood
387 Perkins Road Extended
Memphis, TN 38117

Thursday February 6 at 3:30pm Cincinnati, OH
blue manatee children's bookstore
3054 Madison Road
Cincinnati, OH 45209

Saturday February 8 at 3:30pm Collegeville, PA
Towne Book Center and Cafe
220 Plaza Drive, Suite B-3
Collegeville, PA 19426

Thursday February 13 at 10:30am Madison, CT
RJ Julia Booksellers
768 Boston Post Rd.
Madison, CT 06443

Saturday February 15 at 10am Chicago, IL
Women & Children First
5233 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60640

Monday, January 20, 2014

Michigander Monday: Deborah Reed

I'm pleased to welcome Deborah Reed to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Deborah, please tell us a little about yourself and your books.

Deborah:  I am the author of the recently released novel, Things We Set On Fire. I was thrilled when Author Tim O’ Brien (The Things They Carried), had this to say about my work: “What a finely made, complex, and wholly engrossing novel this is. The people who inhabit Things We Set on Fire seem to be squeezed into some catastrophic critical mass, like the Big Bang in reverse, and yet the prose is completely under control, precise and lucid, sometimes electric with nuance, sometimes strangely musical, and always convincing. The moral pressures on these characters become almost unbearable, yet the radiance of grace and pardon and understanding shines on. Reed has given us a beautiful book.”

I am also the author of Carry Yourself Back to Me, a Best Book of 2011 Amazon Editors’ Pick. I wrote the bestselling thriller, A Small Fortune and its sequel, Fortune’s Deadly Descent, under my pen name, Audrey Braun. All of my novels have been translated or are forthcoming in German. I hold a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing (fiction) and teach at UCLA’s Extension Writing Program in Los Angeles, at the Black Forest Writing Seminar with the University of Freiburg, Germany, as well as workshops and conferences around the United States and in Europe. I was born in Detroit and raised in Westland, but have lived in Orlando, Florida; New York City; Düsseldorf and Herzogenaurach, Germany; Portland, Oregon; and currently reside in Los Angeles, California.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Deborah:  I'm currently working on a stand alone Audrey Braun psychological thriller. It takes place in LA. It's so scary I can hardly stand to write it.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Deborah:  Only if you consider me in my pajamas in front of a fire and my computer an "appearance". These days the internet allows the majority of book promotion to take place online, which means writers get to spend more time at home writing more books. This makes me happy.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite place in Michigan?

Deborah:  When I was growing up I always loved going to the apple orchards in Northville to pick apples and make apple cider. I loved canoeing down the Huron River, swimming at Walter Hayes State Park, and fishing with my dad at Kensington Lake, where I inevitably caught a bigger fish than my older brother, who now lives up on Lake Gladwin and still can't stand to hear about it all these decades later. I loved Boblo Island Amusement Park, which of course no longer exists, and the ferryboat rides it to took to get out there.

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

Deborah:  Michigan has some really great writers, some of which I'm happy to call my friends—Bonnie Jo Campbell, Jack Driscoll, Jeanne Haynes Sirotkin, Scott Sparling, Matt Bell, and Sharon Harrigan. Also, as an aside, my husband is a creative director and he recently worked on the Chevy account in Detroit. He was responsible for some of the Chevy commercials that recently ran, as well as quite a few of the billboards and print ads. He isn't from Michigan and we have an ongoing argument over the correct way to pronounce Impala. He claims the first a is long. I say no way. It is, and always has been, short. Im-pal-ah.

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

Deborah:  Impala is pronounced Im-pal-ah:) Elmore Leonard lived and died in Michigan. You can ski just outside of Detroit in the Irish Hills.

Debbie:  Last question. Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally, which is the better term: Michigander or Michiganian?

Deborah:  Michigander, always.

Debbie:  Michigander it is!  Deborah, thank you so much for joining us today for Michigander Monday!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Michigander Monday: Ruta Sepetys

I'm pleased to welcome Ruta Sepetys to Michigander Monday!

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

Ruta:  Sure! Here are some Michigan details -

I was born in Detroit and raised in Farmington Hills. I attended Harrison High School and graduated from Hillsdale College.

My grandparents lived in Detroit near 7 Mile and Woodward. I have enormously fond memories of spending time at their house with my siblings and cousins. We created stories, plays, songs, and crazy puppet shows on that street in Detroit.

Below is a recent photo of the neighborhood. Yes, the sidewalks and windows are now cracked and empty, but when I close my eyes I can still hear whispers of voices, laughter, and the magic that was made there.

Debbie:  How have your Michigan roots affected you?

Ruta:  Growing up in Michigan and being exposed to the city of Detroit has definitely had an impact on my life and my writing.

Detroit possesses a unique fighting spirit that inspires me. That spirit is infused in the characters I create.

Bloodied but unbroken. Never given a break but never giving up. Detroit gave life and love to industry, immigrants, musicians, artists, and athletes. Right now the city might be fiscally bankrupt but it will always be rich in story and soul.

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

Ruta:  Thank you! I write historical fiction. I search for under-represented parts of history and weave fictional characters within them.

Through characters and story, I try to bring history alive in a way that readers will absorb and remember. I currently have two novels available:

Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray is set in 1941 and tells the story of a fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl who is arrested and deported to Siberia during Stalin's terror in the Baltic States.

Out of the Easy

Out of the Easy is set in 1950 in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The story follows Josie Moraine, the daughter of a brothel prostitute who is trying to escape the Big Easy and the identity she's been born into.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Ruta:  Yes, I'm just finishing my third book which takes place at the end of WWII and exposes a historical event that's been underground for over sixty years. I'm very excited about the new book.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Ruta:  Yes! On January 21st I will be making the following appearance in Michigan. I would love to see and meet your readers there!

Tuesday, January 21

Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads Presents "Between Shades of Gray"

6:00 p.m. Reception
7:00 p.m. Presentation

Towsley Center
Washtenaw Community College
4800 Huron River Drive
Ann Arbor, MI

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

RutaBookstore: Reading Express in Farmington Hills. It was a tiny independent bookstore, sadly long gone now. They had a fantastic selection of kids' books.

I used to sit on the floor and read while my mom shopped at the market next door.

Library: Farmington Community Library.  When I was little, I used to think my library card was a Visa or Mastercard. I'd heap my books up onto the counter and whisper, "Put it all on the card, please."

My favorite books to "charge?" Always something by Roald Dahl or The Littles by John Peterson.

(A bit of Michigan library trivia - Michigan was the first state to provide in its Constitution for the establishment of public libraries.)

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Ruta:  I'll choose a favorite late night haunt. I wonder if any of your readers are familiar with it?

As you drive south on Orchard Lake Road, perched on the corner of Ten Mile is a white tiled cube building that serves the best midnight sliders. White Castle, you say? No!  Greene's.

Greene's has been around for over fifty years and there's a reason. The spit and sizzle of grease in the fryer, the scent of caramelized onions when you walk through the door, the 1970's prices. Haven't tried it? You must.

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

Ruta:  I love visiting the Franklin Cider Mill in the fall. There's something so beautiful about waiting in line and battling the bees for a sack of plain cake donuts.

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

Ruta:  Absolutely! I'm so glad you asked.

Michelle Bommarito, Chef

Michelle grew up in Michigan. She is a U of M graduate and a renowned chef. She's been on the culinary staff at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, has worked for Martha Stewart, and has appeared on many Food Network TV shows. She currently lives in Michigan and often gives workshops and events. Don't miss her!

North Star Media

Prior to becoming a writer, I spent 22 years working in the music business in Los Angeles and Nashville. North Star Media is a boutique music entertainment firm in Michigan. Tucked away in Bloomfield Hills, they are quickly becoming a secret weapon in the industry.  North Star represents a diverse roster of recording artists, ranging from brand new indies to multi-platinum superstars. They also work closely with some of today's top composers and producers. Some of the best new music discoveries are coming out of North Star. I'm so thrilled to see such a successful music venture in Michigan!

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

Ruta:  Yes, Michigan Modernism. People outside of Michigan often associate the state solely with the automobile industry. But Michigan's design legacy reaches far beyond automotive. Some of the best modern architecture and furniture design was conceived in Michigan and associated with Cranbrook Educational Community. In fact, it has been said that mid-century modernism was born through Cranbrook. Saarinen, Bertoia, Eames, Knoll - they all had ties to Cranbrook.

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally, which is the better term: Michigander or Michiganian?

Ruta:  I've gotta go with Michigander.  That feels more real - like boots in the snow, trips to Traverse City, the Lions on Thanksgiving, 'pop' instead of 'soda.'

Michigander speaks of a warrior, someone in the trenches, someone who is hard-working, creative, and loves their land - even in sub-zero temperatures.

A "Michigander" can take a punch and get back up. A "Michiganian" sounds more like a quiet resident.

Debbie:  Michigander it is!  Ruta, thank you so very much for joining us today for Michigander Monday.

And I hope mid-Michigan Michiganders will make a point to go see you Tuesday, January 21, at the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads event!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Book: Smile, Pout-Pout Fish

Attention, fans of Mr. Fish:

Dan Hanna and I have a new Pout-Pout Fish book out this month.  This one is meant especially for the very young:

Many of you are familiar with The Pout-Pout Fish and its sequel The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark.  Those books have been popular with preschool and school-aged children.  Smile, Pout-Pout Fish, a board book, introduces the character of Mr. Fish to an even younger audience.

The text of Smile, Pout-Pout Fish is very simple and the story focuses on emotions.  Reviews here and here.

Later this year, Mr. Fish and friends will have another full-length hardcover adventure when The Pout-Pout Fish Goes To School is released.

Happy Reading!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Michigander Monday: Douglas Trevor

I'm pleased to welcome Douglas Trevor to Michigander Monday!

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

Douglas:  I grew up in Denver, Colorado, and didn't move to Michigan until 2007, when I joined the English Department at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. I write short stories and novels but I'm also an academic who specializes in English Renaissance poetry (writers such as John Donne and William Shakespeare).

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

Douglas:  Well, my most recent book is a novel entitled Girls I Know that is set in Boston (where I lived in the 90s). Girls I Know follows three characters whose lives are changed after a restaurant shooting. The central character, a 29-year-old named Walt Steadman, witnesses the shootings and ends up trying to help the daughter of the restaurant's owners, Mercedes Bittles, cope with the loss of her parents. The third character is a twenty-year-old named Ginger Newton who is writing a book on evil she has entitled Girls I Know. In broad terms, I guess you could say the book looks at how people respond to misfortunes that they are themselves not responsible for, and the unlikely ways in which individuals--young and old--can connect with one another by virtue of such misfortunes.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Douglas:  I'm almost done with a collection of stories, some of which are set in Michigan, that look at people whose lives are changed by virtue of books. The stories follow a wide-range of characters, some of whom are inveterate readers, some of whom feel that books and learning impinge and limit their lives, some of whom haven't had the chance to be educated and are trying to educate themselves, and some of whom find themselves in stories/version of their own lives that they want to break out of.

I've also started another novel, set in Denver and about a central character who uncovers secrets about his family, and the neighborhood in which he grew up.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Douglas:  My next reading is going to be in Chicago, at the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square, on January 11, 2014 at 7 PM.

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

DouglasNicola's Books is my favorite bookstore because the staff is so wonderful--highly read, engaging, and they do a wonderful job promoting books that they like. My favorite library is here at the University of Michigan, again because of the amazing staff.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Douglas:  I'm a big fan of the Crystal Lake/Sleeping Bear area of Michigan. In October I gave a reading in Petoskey and had a great time there. That's a beautiful town (and they have a great bookstore there too--McLean and Eakin).

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

Douglas:  I am a homebody. I like to see movies at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, listen to music at the Blind Pig, have drinks at the Old Town Tavern.

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

Douglas:  Everyone should know of my splendid colleague Keith Taylor. Keith is a fantastic poet, teacher, and editor, and he is a tremendous proponent of the arts here in Michigan. Plus, he's a great guy with whom to hang 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?

Douglas:  I am a Michigander. Go Blue.

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

Monday, December 30, 2013

Michigander Monday: Jo Dereske

It's a joy and an honor to have Jo Dereske here today for Michigander Monday.  My love of Jo's books goes back to 1994.  My copy of Miss Zukas and the Library Murders, purchased nearly twenty years ago at a book signing just weeks before I started library school, is inscribed, "For Debbie - Soon-to-be fellow librarian.  Best of luck and have fun!"  Little did I know then that I'd some day be not only a fellow librarian but also a fellow author; and little did I know then how much I'd absolutely adore Miss Zukas and her adventures (twelve in all), as well as all of Jo Dereske's writing.  What a thrill to have Jo Dereske here today for Michigander Monday!

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

Jo:  I grew up east of Ludington, MI, with a strong Lithuanian influence from my father’s side of the family. The potato dish, Kugelis is still my favorite food. After I received my MLS from WMU, I headed for the Pacific Northwest, where I still live, although I can’t help it: I continue to think of Michigan as “home.”

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

Jo:  When I left Michigan, I had every intention of writing  exciting books about the bigger, wider world, not my wee corner of Michigan, but I must be haunted: nearly everything I write either is rooted or set in the same rural area where I grew up. The main characters in the Miss Zukas mystery series (12 books) are from Michigan. The Ruby Crane mysteries (3 books) are about a woman who returns to her rural Michigan home with her brain-injured daughter. There are also three young peoples’ books and a raft of short stories that have been anthologized and collected.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Jo:  I’m currently finishing up a kind of memoir about a year spent where else: in Michigan, taking care of an aunt and uncle who both had dementia. The year follows the seasons on their farm and chronicles the indomitability of love. It’s been a labor of love, a project I work on, put away, then pull out to work on again.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Jo:  I frequently speak at libraries and schools, and  I just did a radio interview for KMRE FM that can be heard as a podcast at

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

Jo:  The only bookstore in our area that I knew as a child is long gone, but I fondly recall scavenging through auctions and second hand stores for books – what a treasure hunt!  I still have some of them.

The Mason County Library System was a magical second home for me. The librarians let me range across the collection, never telling me books were too old or not suitable. I was in heaven. Everyone in my family was a voracious reader. The bookmobile stopped in our driveway during the summers.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Jo:  That’s a hard one! The Lake Michigan dunes between Ludington and Manistee, anywhere along the Lake’s west coast, Frankfort, the bluffs. I spent a lot of time in and on the Pere Marquette River and when I think of “rivers,” that’s the river I envision.

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

Jo:  This has to be morel mushroom hunting after a warm “mushroom rain” in the spring. All that skulking around in the woods, people parking far from their favorite spots hoping no one can follow them, the smell of the earth with all its new growth,  and oh my, the glorious taste of morels sautéed in butter!

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

Jo:  I feel a zing of kinship when I hear about other writers from Michigan. Jim Harrison has always been a favorite. I’m from rural Michigan and the area is rich in interesting people. My brother Ray is a born storyteller and has introduced me to people who will never be famous but whose lives of bravery, trial and triumphs make me as a writer reach for my pencil in awe and celebration.

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

Jo:  Come visit. Michigan has to be the most varied state in the country. Just to think of Detroit and Copper Harbor being in the same state is mind-boggling. Most people can’t imagine the size of the great lakes (“You have LIGHTHOUSES?”)

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally, which is the better term: Michigander or Michiganian?

Jo:  Michigander is what I prefer, although I did recently have a woman tell me she was a “Michigoose.”

Debbie:  Jo, we'll add you to the "Michigander, occasional Michigoose" column.  Thank you so much for being here today for Michigander Monday!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Michigander Monday: Sherri Winston

I'm pleased to welcome Sherri Winston to Michigander Monday!

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

Sherri:  Hi, I have two teen daughters, multiple cats, two turtles and share custody with my sister’s little dog. I love to bake cupcakes and hope to one day create, illustrate and write my own graphic novel.

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

Sherri:  With Little, Brown, I’ve published The Kayla Chronicles and President of the Whole Fifth Grade. The Kayla Chronicles takes place in Florida and follows the story of Mikayala Alicia Dean (MAD), also known as Kayla, as she goes from shy-girl-in-the-corner to a high-stepping, high-kicking kick-butt dancer on her school’s nationally ranked dance team. President of the Whole Fifth Grade takes place in a fictitious Detroit suburb, Orchard Park. It’s imagined based on Redford Township, which I know well. In President, Brianna Justice wants to be President because she sees it as a stepping stone to becoming a millionaire cupcake maker and TV show star. The book was almost as fun to write as the recipes were to test and eat.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Sherri:  I have just received the go-ahead to write President of the Whole Sixth Grade. I’m very excited.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Sherri:  Nothing’s scheduled yet, but I’m going to work on it for the New Year.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan library?

Sherri:  I grew up in Muskegon, Mich., and one of my favorite childhood pastimes was going to the Hackley Library in downtown Muskegon. Also, in 2012 I had the pleasure of visiting a beautiful library in Whitehall with a running trail around it and a fireplace inside. Lovely!

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Sherri:  That’s hard to say, but if I could only pick one place in all of Michigan, it would have to be the campus at Michigan State University! Go Green! Go White!

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

Sherri:  Since I live in Florida now, land of perpetual summer, I love coming home in the fall to photograph the leaves and/or winter to get gorgeous shots of the snow.

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

Sherri:  Author Margaret Wiley was instrumental in bringing me to Michigan last year. Because of her I had a chance to really visit and have an impact on a number of Elementary schools. She is an outstanding person and I am so happy to have gotten to know her.

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

Sherri:  Michigan is filled with tough, smart, creative folks. My father’s family migrated from Mississippi, but to hear my Uncle Mac talk about the virtues of Michigan, you’d surely think he was a native. Non-Michiganders may not understand our deep connection to our state, but those of us blessed to call it home -- be it in residence or in our hearts -- cannot deny the positive impact of growing up Michigan. I love it!

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally, which is the better term: Michigander or Michiganian?

Sherri:  I am, without question, a Michigander.

Debbie:  Sherri, we'll add you to the Michigander column!  Such a pleasure to have you here today for Michigander Monday.  Thank you!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Michigander Monday: Patricia Clark

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

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

Patricia:  I've been in Michigan nearly 25 years -- but my roots are in Washington State where I grew up. How did I come to be here? Well, it's all about finding a job when you're a creative writer. I'd left home to go to University of Montana to get an MFA in poetry; and then left for Houston, Texas to get a Ph.D. at the University of Houston. Somehow after that I found myself in Tennessee. But I went on the job market, applied for a job in Western Michigan -- at Grand Valley State University -- and that's where I've ended up. What an adventure! And Michigan is about as watery a state as Washington is, so I feel as though I fit in. Just no saltwater and no mountains.

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

Patricia:  I've now published four books of poetry, most recently Sunday Rising, which just came out this year. It was published by Michigan State University Press. I feel lucky to have found such a good publisher who really cares about attractive books. Sunday Rising describes my own spiritual journey of the last few years but I call it spiritual with an attitude. I mean to include a little bit of "uprising" in the "rising" part of the title. It's not easy to come into your own and describe your own beliefs. I feel as though I've struggled to do that here.

Plus these are personal poems. Here's what I told the publisher:

"The center that holds here—and it is consistent from the first poem to the last—is Patricia Clark’s intimate relationship with the physical world and her beliefs about what that world can hold for us: what it teaches, consoles, speaks of, and resonates toward. No footsteps are left here to follow in; instead, there is a suggestion of spiritual practice in seeing as well as in taking note. 'Left what we felt / at what we saw' is a line from Wallace Stevens’ poem 'A Postcard from the Volcano.' The poems of Sunday Rising are such 'leavings': wrought, careful, and mined for their resonance, whether jewels or ore, art or something to throw away. There is a sifting, separating the valuable from the dross; the significant moment. Where will the eye land? One joins the writer in her journeys where spiritual exuberance along with suffering becomes a transformative way of shaping and remembering the experience of living in the world."

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Patricia:  Oh sure, (laughter) there is always another book or project on the horizon. I'm working on a fifth book of poetry -- I don't have a title yet or a theme. Stay tuned! It'll be interesting.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Patricia:  Yes, I've been giving some readings in connection with a new poetry anthology, Poetry in Michigan in Poetry. It's a beautiful book and an excellent one at capturing some words celebrating Michigan; also good at capturing visual art. I'll be reading in in East Grand Rapids on Dec 11.  [For event details, contact Patricia.]

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

Patricia:  My fav Michigan bookstore is Schuler Books in Grand Rapids -- both locations are great: 28th Street and also Alpine Avenue. It's a great place for books, music, lunch, and readings. My favorite library is our new campus library at GVSU, the Mary Idema Pew Learning Commons. It's gorgeous! There's a huge fireplace upstairs. I believe there are 28 different kinds of seating for library patrons.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Patricia:  How can I choose 1 favorite place in Michigan? Well, I really love Grand Marais up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. That's a pretty cool, secluded place to go. I also love Traverse City and Suttons Bay.

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

Patricia:  A Michigan event to attend? I love GVSU's Poetry Night which takes place every October, 1 night, and usually features two poets. This year we featured Pattiann Rogers and Li-Young Lee. Again, people could email me: next year it will be Thurs night October 16th. We'll have two wonderful poets and it's a free event with a wonderful reception following the readings.

I also love the Kerrytown Book Festival in Ann Arbor, September each year. That's always fun.

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

Patricia:  I think immediately of Michigan painters like Stephen Duren, sculptor Elona Van Gent, or Norwood Viviano. Then writers like Caitlin Horrocks, doing fiction, and teaching for us at GVSU. And musicians like Arthur Campbell who plays a wicked clarinet, his wife Helen Marlais who is a great pianist and also a great teacher of piano teachers. The arts keep us alive, vibrant, and challenged!

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

Patricia:  We're not just a Midwest state to fly over. C'mon people! The Great Lakes are huge freshwater seas. Come see them! We have beautiful sandy beaches and culture too.

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:  I vote for Michigander. I really don't know which is correct, or if there is a correct name, but I like the tang of the "gander" part of the word. Lighten up, folks, maybe we can fly a little like the Canada geese who honk by overhead.

Debbie:  Michigander it is!  We'll add you to the tally.  Patricia, thank you so much for being here today for Michigander Monday!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Michigander Monday: Keith Taylor

I'm pleased to welcome Keith Taylor to Michigander Monday!

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

Keith:  Almost forty years ago, I was a young Canadian who had spent most of three years in France and planned to live the rest of my life in that country. When that life plan fell apart, I applied for a graduate school in creative writing and went to the program that gave me the most money. That was Central Michigan University; they had me teach two sections of freshman comp a term and paid me $3000 a year plus tuition. I figured I could live on that, and I did. Since then Michigan has been very good to me. I followed a woman to Ann Arbor in the late 70s, and worked as a bookseller here for most of twenty years. Along the way, I continued to publish in the small presses, and won a few awards. After I was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1991, the University of Michigan asked me to teach a class. I did and apparently didn't do a horrible job, so they asked me again. And again. Fourteen years ago I quit selling books. Now I am the A.L.Becker Collegiate Lecturer in English, the Director of the Bear River Writers' Conference (the summer conference associated with UM), and Associate Editor for Michigan Quarterly Review. This state has been very good to me.

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

Keith:  If I can count chapbooks and co-edited or co-translated volumes (and I do!), I have published fourteen books since 1985. Of those, eight of them have been published by small or university presses in Michigan. Of the 20,000 or so books of mine in print (and this is mostly poetry, remember), I figure that something close to 75% of them must have been sold within the state. Although I didn't set out to become a regional writer, that is indeed what has happened. Although I hope for a larger audience, I am very proud and happy that I've earned the attention of the Michigan audience that I do have. Wayne State University Press published my last full length collection of poems, If the World Becomes So Bright, in 2009. They also did an anthology of contemporary Michigan ghost stories, Ghost Writers, I co-edited with my friend Laura Kasischke in 2011. I have published two chapbooks in the last couple of years -- Marginalia for a Natural History and The Ancient Murrelet.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Keith:  I feel very fortunate that the work keeps presenting itself to me. I am working on several things right now. A new chapbook consisting of travel poems that combine prose and verse is beginning to take shape in my mind. I'm beginning to imagine the next full length collection of poems growing out of these last few chapbooks -- a collection that would center around the necessities and weirdnesses of finding a home (and mine is, of course, here). I've also, just this week, started a new thing -- I've decided to send out a new short poem on Twitter at least once every other day (@keithtaylora2). We'll see how long that lasts, but wouldn't it be cool if I can keep it up for a while!

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Keith:  I still have some appearances to help sell the lovely new anthology, Poetry in Michigan/Michigan in Poetry, edited by William Olsen and Jack Ridl, published by New Issues Press over in Kalamazoo. I'll have the Bear River Conference up at Walloon Lake at the end of May. And there are certainly several other appearances around the state before then. You could check my web site ( for a list of events that gets updated fairly regularly. In 2013 I have done 57 appearances, all but 4 or 5 of them in Michigan; that is almost certainly too many!

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

Keith:  I am indeed fortunate to live in Ann Arbor, a town with good bookstores and fantastic libraries. Of course we all worried when, in a very short period of time, Borders collapsed under its own corporate weight, and the legendary Shaman Drum Bookshop closed for several reasons. I had worked for both of those places, and I still miss them. But Nicola's Bookshop picked up the slack and did a very good job keeping Ann Arbor involved in the swirl of new books. And now a small, beautiful, boutique-y bookshop, Literati, has opened downtown. The young people who own it are working very hard to find and keep up with the right books for their audience. I have great hopes for them. Of course, the Ann Arbor District Library is one of the best public libraries in the country; it would have to be, given the demands of Ann Arbor's over-educated public. And my office is exactly a four minute walk from Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library at the University of Michigan, one of the four or five best libraries on the planet! And with my faculty card I have full access to their services. And now, with my named lectureship, I believe I will have that access for as long as I live! How could a bookish writer ask for more?

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Keith:  Oh, favorite places in Michigan! I have a hundred. Not least of which is my own backyard. For many summers I have taught at UM's Biological Station up on Douglas Lake outside Pellston. That is certainly near the top. The Kingston Plains, the windswept beautifully bleak, ghost forest behind Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. "Disney Land in Hamtramck," folk art hidden in an alley and hard to find. Isle Royale National Park, where I was Artist in Residence in 1991, and where I've returned only once. Thomas Lynch's secret house on a big lake in the north. The Detroit Institute of Arts. Sturgeon Bay and Wagoschaunce Point in Wilderness State Park. Little Cedar Lake Bog and surrounding trails in western Washtenaw County.

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

Keith:  I've gotten to enjoy the Bliss Music Festival a lot, although sometimes I just can't take the crowd. I'm afraid I lost my enjoyment in the Ann Arbor Art Fairs a few decades ago. We've tried several ways to get a book festival going in Ann Arbor, and now the Kerrytown Book Festival in September is going well, and generates excitement and a good crowd. I have hopes they'll keep that going. Some younger writers here in Ann Arbor have tried to start a State of the Book conference about Michigan publishing and writing. We had the second one this last September. It is not yet well attended, but I have hopes that it'll be able to garner a larger, genuinely state-wide audience.

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

Keith:  Oh, Michigan people! Wow. There are thousands of them. Thomas Lynch, undertaker and poet, again and again. Do you know Jerry Dennis, one of our best nature writers, from Traverse City? Terry Blackhawk, who does the essential work down in Detroit? Jamaal May, also from Detroit, one of the best young poets in the country? Alison and David Swan-- she's a wonderful writer, and they have both been fighting the long fight to save the Saugatuck Dunes area, for which they were once named "Michigan Environmentalists of the Year." Do you know of Rolf Peterson, who ran the wolf/moose study on Isle Royale until his recent retirement? Sue William Silverman and Marc Sheehan -- one of the powerhouse literary couples in the state, although not enough people know about them? William Olsen and Nancy Eimers, another power house literary couple? The great Jack Ridl, retired from Hope College, one of the best writing teachers in the world. My colleagues here at UM -- Laura Kasischke, Linda Gregerson, Van Jordan, Khaled Mattawa, Lorna Goodison, Thylias Moss, Nicholas Delbanco, Eileen Pollack, Michael Byers, Peter Ho Davies, Doug Trevor? Yeah, most of them came to Michigan for good jobs, but many of them will stay and become part of the fabric of the literary life in the state. Ray McDaniel, of the exquisite mind. Tom Fricke, chair of the Department of Anthropology at UM. The soft spoken, reserved, exquisite Eric Torgersen of Mount Pleasant. Robert Fanning now has Eric's old job; how lucky they were to find Robert! Detroit's irrepressible M.L.Liebler!  My friend Russ Fimbinger, retired principal from Harrison, and writer for the Hook and Bullet press, one of the finer people I know. Young writers just beginning to publish -- Ann Marie Thornburg, Airea "Dee" Mathews, Elizabeth Schmuhl, Russell Brakefield, Bruce Lack, francine j harris,  etc., etc. I've just been getting to know some really interesting writers who teach at Grand Valley State University. A host of writers in the Upper Peninsula -- Matt Bell, Matt Siegel, Janine Rastell, Julie Brooks Barbour, and others -- who are publishing well, setting up presses, keeping the fires burning. Steve Gillis and Dan Wickett who started Dzanc Books a few years back and have helped shape it into a significant force in American writing.  Oh, see, this is where I live! I love many many people. Someone might be offended that I didn't mention them.

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

Keith:  I wish people would know and understand us by the contrasts of the state. Yes, we have Detroit, the city that led the world into post-industrial decline and now appears to be re-emerging on the other side as a very interesting place. But just 5 hours north, we are on the very edge of the great Northern wilderness, the sub-arctic forest that stretches all the way to the tundra. To the North Pole! I don't think there is another place on the earth that has such dramatic and important contrasts in so small a space.

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?

Keith:  I'm a Michigander. But it might be better to say, I'm part of a tiny subset -- Canadian Michiganders. We are indeed a special category.

Debbie:  Canadian Michigander it is!  We'll start a new column.  Keith, thank you so very much for joining us today for Canadian Michigander Monday!  It's been an honor and a pleasure.  Thank you!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Midland author event

I was born and grew up in Midland, MI.  Recently, I was invited to be one of the authors on hand for a local author event at the Midland Barnes & Noble back in October.

After the event, I meant to do a rundown of the array of authors who were there, but I don't think I ever did.  It was wide selection of writers -- some relatively new to writing; some who've been at it a long time; some self-published; some mainstream-published; pretty much every genre represented; a little bit of everything.

Anyway, in the spirit of better-late-than-never, here's a belated rundown of the writers who were there:

Bernie Rabine
Maril Ozanne Garrison
Ruth Gonyaw
Joaquin Guerrero
Barbara Hagler
Charlene Hock
Cooper Kellogg
Bill LaClair
Elizabeth Meyette
Jae W. Oh
Mark Oliver
Cassandra J. Sperry
Jack R. Westbrook

(I think I've included everyone who was there in this list, but if I've overlooked anyone, let me know.)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Michigander Monday: Matthew Thorburn

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

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

Matthew:  I’m a misplaced Michigander. I grew up in the Lansing area, when to college in Ann Arbor, worked in Detroit for a few years, then moved to New York for grad school. I thought that would be a good way to try out the city and see if I liked it. I did—and still do. I’ve lived here almost 15 years now. But of course I keep going back to Michigan to see my parents, family, old friends. And even now, if someone asks me where I’m from, the answer is Michigan. (Of course hardly anyone I know in New York is actually from New York….)

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

Matthew:  I’m the author of three books of poems. My most recent book is This Time Tomorrow, published in Spring 2013 by the Waywiser Press both here in the U.S. and in the U.K.

This Time Tomorrow is a collection of poems about traveling and finding your way in other cultures and landscapes. All of the poems take place in Japan, Iceland and China, countries my wife and I were fortunate to visit some years ago. The book is built around “Disappears in the Rain,” a long poem written loosely in the shape of a renga, that describes a journey around Japan. That’s preceded by a sequence of poems set in Iceland, and followed by a group of poems that move between China, Japan, and home again (New York, New Jersey and very briefly Michigan).

As I noted a while back on The Best American Poetry Blog, I wrote about being in China, Japan and Iceland to create “verbal devices” (as Philip Larkin once described his poems) to enable me to go back to these places, if only for a few moments, and only in my imagination. It’s my hope that interested readers may want to do the same. The experience of writing these poems was one of remembering, but also re-imagining, what it was like to be there—and so the poems are a mix of memory and imagination. You can read a couple of poems from the book in the excellent literary journals Linebreak and Memorious.

My previous books, also poetry collections, are Every Possible Blue, published by CW Books in 2012, and Subject to Change, published by New Issues Poetry & Prose (a.k.a. Western Michigan University Press) in 2004.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Matthew:  I’ve been working on two new poetry book manuscripts for the past couple of years, which are slowly taking shape. One is a collection of poems that I’m discovering revolves around thoughts on spirituality—losing faith, and in some ways finding it again—and death. As a poet, it can be very interesting to write a few dozen poems over several years without some larger project in mind, and then lay out all the poems on the table and see how they might fit together as a book. As the shape of the manuscript emerges you may suddenly realize, Ah, so these are the things I’ve been mulling over all this time!

My other project is a book-length poem that takes place over the course of a year, from one spring to the next. Part travelogue, part book of days, part meditative prayer, it has to do with a couple’s struggle to “deal with” a miscarriage: how do we grieve for someone we never knew, exactly, someone we loved but never met? The poem is about 60 pages in manuscript, and probably the closest I’ll ever come to writing a novel.

As I answer this question, it occurs to me these both sound like pretty depressing books! But both end in a kind of hope, in a renewed, older-but-wiser sense of promise and possibility… or will when I’ve finished them. And this second project has a happy sequel that takes place off the page: I actually haven’t been doing much writing just lately, being happily busy taking care of my son, who was born this summer.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Matthew:  I did a number of readings when This Time Tomorrow was published, including at the AWP Conference in Boston, at McNally Jackson Books in New York, at the wonderful Art House in New Jersey, and of course back home in Michigan – at the Delta Township District Library in Lansing and at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor.

I’ve been lying low this summer and fall, busy being a dad, but plan to do more readings in 2014. I’d love to read in Massachusetts again, and maybe read in Washington, D.C., and am working on putting some plans together. I’m also always up for class visits, either in person or via skype, if there are teachers out there who would be interested.

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

Matthew:  Some of my favorite Michigan bookstores are just memories now. As a high-schooler I loved going to Jocundry’s in East Lansing. I bought my copies of Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish and Howl there – a pivotal experience for the young poet I was in the early 1990s. That store seemed a world away from the mall’s Waldenbooks, or any other bookstore I’d experienced.

And as a college student I loved Shaman Drum in Ann Arbor. I bought a lot of books there, browsed through many more, and attended lots of readings. It’s where I bought my first copy of The American Poetry Review – with Charles Simic on the cover – and first discovered the world of literary magazines. And when Subject to Change was published in 2004, it was a wonderful treat for me to come back to Ann Arbor and give a reading there (introduced by Ray McDaniel!) to a store packed with old friends.

This is not to say that all good bookstores are in the past, though – no way. When I’m home for a visit, I always like going to Schuler Books. It’s easy to lose a few hours there. And I had a great time reading at Nicola’s, and just wished I had longer to browse their shelves.

My favorite Michigan library is the new-ish Delta Township District Library. It’s beautiful – what a wonderful space in which to read and think. I loved learning that they intentionally built it larger than their collection of books – meaning at first the shelves might have looked a little bare – so that they’d have room to grow. As I mentioned, I was thrilled to give a reading there for National Poetry Month in 2013, and share poems from This Time Tomorrow with a great local audience (including lots of family and old friends).

I wish this library had been around when I was a kid! The library I used to hang out in back then, which I believe had previously been a school, is now the Delta Township Enrichment Center. I had a chance to go back there recently and felt a strong sense of déjà vu. It looks very different, but is still a patch of hallowed ground for this writer-reader.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Matthew:  There are lots. But one area I love is up around Crystal Lake, and the villages of Beulah, and Frankfurt, and Leeland—that whole area is gorgeous in the summer, and filled with good memories for me. We used to rent a cottage on the lake there when I was a kid, and I had the chance to take my wife up there for a few days not long after we were married—a sort of second honeymoon. The one-two punch of the Cherry Hut restaurant and the Cherry Bowl Drive-in is hard to beat!

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

Matthew:  The thing I think of immediately is the Ann Arbor Art Fair, though I haven’t been there in quite a few years. My college orientation at U-M took place during the Art Fair, which made my first real taste of Ann Arbor that much more surprising and overwhelming.

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

Matthew:  I was happy to learn recently, when my dad sent me a clipping from the State Journal, that Wally Pleasant is still writing songs and playing shows now and then.  In high school, my friends and I used to go see him play in East Lansing—and he actually performed at one friend’s graduation open house, out on the back deck. 

This is also the perfect place to mention a wonderful anthology called Poetry in Michigan/Michigan in Poetry, edited by Jack Ridl and William Olsen, and published in Fall 2013 by New Issues. It brings together poems by dozens of wonderful poets, as well as beautiful reproductions of visual works by Michigan artists. It’s a gorgeous and hefty volume—and the perfect introduction to many poets who live in or are from Michigan. I’m proud to appear in this book alongside so many poets I admire, like Keith Taylor, Diane Wakoski, Richard Tillinghast, Jim Daniels, Mary Ann Samyn, and the late Herb Scott (who founded New Issues and published my first book) – to name just a few Michigan poets readers should know about.

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

Matthew:  Well, if you’re a writer looking to attend an MFA program, you need to know about the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan. If I wasn’t from Michigan, and hadn’t gone to U-M as an undergrad, and hadn’t felt the need to try finding my way in a new city—well, all those Ifs aside I would have applied to the U-M MFA program in a heartbeat. Amazing faculty, incredible funding, a beautiful campus in Ann Arbor, hanging out in the Hopwood Room—really it’s just about perfect.

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally, what’s the better term: Michigander or Michiganian?

Matthew:  I’m with you: “Michiganders” is what we are. What a wonderful word! I wrote a poem about looking back and feeling nostalgia for earlier days in my home state. It’s in my book Every Possible Blue and is called – what else? – “When We were Michiganders.”

Debbie:  Once a Michigander, always a Michigander!  Matthew, thank you so very much for joining us today!