Monday, September 15, 2008

Michigander Monday: Debbie Taylor

I'm very happy to welcome Debbie Taylor as this week's Michigander Monday guest. (Note: Since the two of us share the same first name, I'll be using our last names to indicate who is speaking.)

Diesen: Please tell us all about your book.

Taylor: Sweet Music in Harlem, inspired by Art Kane's famous 1958 photograph of jazz musicians, was published by Lee and Low in 2004. In the book, C J dashes through Harlem searching for his uncle’s hat. It’s a basic “quest” tale that young readers have embraced. Older readers and adults appreciate the historical significance of the photograph.

The book, illustrated by award-winning artist Frank Morrison, has earned fine book reviews and was honored by the International Reading Association, Cooperative Children's Book Council and the Bank Street College of Education. It was recently included in a textbook for educational publisher Scott-Foresman. Sweet Music in Harlem is also featured on the National Endowment for the Humanities "We the People Bookshelf" in the Democracy in America for grades K-3.

Diesen: Tell us a little about yourself.

Taylor: I’m native of Columbus Ohio. I grew up in a large, active family. My favorite activities were reading, catching butterflies and flying kites. I read anything I could get my hands on including candy wrappers, newspapers, comic books and magazines. I started to write my own stories when I was six or seven. In college I chose classes that allowed me the opportunity to write, write, write. A great day for me includes writing, reading a chapter of a good book, connecting with my family and eating a scrumptious meal.

I like to write about resourceful young heroes and heroines.

My short stories have appeared Cricket, Spider, New Moon and Pockets. Themes of these stories include self-reliance, the value of family and the importance of community.

I’m a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Authors Guild. My day job is serving as Director of the Women in Engineering Office at the University of Michigan.

Diesen: Other books and projects on the horizon?

Taylor: A couple of works are looking for a “home.” One is a book co-authored by my husband, “When Betty Lou Blew for the AWQ.” It’s a tale about girl who helps her mother develop a mute for a trumpet. The other is a basketball story.

I am tweaking a manuscript about Rosalind Cron, a saxophonist who played with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, a famous group of female musicians who traveled the word entertaining troops during the WWII. I had the honor of interviewing this courageous and talented woman several months ago.

My manuscript with a focus on fuel cells is also almost complete!

Diesen: Upcoming appearances?

Taylor: In August, I was delighted to read at Kensington Metropark during the Target Book Festival along with some really terrific Michigan authors. In October, I will appear at the Yak Book Festival at the Detroit Science Center. I have several school visits planned for next spring.

Diesen: Your favorite place in Michigan?

Taylor: That’s a great question. I truly enjoy the lovely botanical gardens in various parts of the state. The Meijer Garden in Grand Rapids is lovely, as are the Hidden Lake Gardens in Tipton and the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle Isle in Detroit. The Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor is my favorite haunt.

Diesen: Your favorite Michigan event or happening? (could be a place, or a natural occurrence)

Taylor: Every year, a splendid jazz festival is held in Idlewild, Michigan, a former resort area in Lake County.

Regarding a natural occurrence, although cold weather presents a challenge for us at times, I relish every snowfall.

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

Taylor: You should all know a musician and educator named Vincent York. He is the founder and director of an educational program called Jazzistry. Here is his site: http://www.jazzistry.org/. Another cool person is the program manager and music director at WEMU 89.1, Linda Yohn. Finally, Andy Kirshner, an Assistant Professor, at both the U of M School of Art & Design and School of Music. Andy composed a terrific musical piece based on “Sweet Music in Harlem” for the Ann Arbor Symphony.

Diesen: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about our state?

Taylor: I suspect that few people realize that officially, Michigan has 11,000 inland lakes!

Diesen: Some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganian. Which do you prefer?

Taylor: I am actually a Buckeye, born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. If pressed, I would opt for “Michiganian.”

Diesen: Thanks, Debbie, for being here today for Michiganian Monday. It was a pleasure!

1 comment:

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