Monday, October 3, 2011

Michigander Monday: Jane Shapiro

I enjoy every single Michigander Monday interview I do, but I find it particularly wonderful when I get to interview members of my own writing group!  Due to geography, Jane Shapiro is no longer an Attending Member at our critique sessions (the monthly commute from Oregon to Michigan would be a wee tad much...), but she remains a member in spirit, and a friend to us all.  We're quite thrilled about her new book, Magic Trash.

Debbie:  Jane, welcome!

Jane:  I’m excited to be a guest on the blog of my past critique partner and continuing writing friend. And, of course, splashing in the same waters as Mr. Fish is quite a thrill, whatever his mood.

Debbie:  Your Michigan-related book is out in the world now. What inspired this book?

Jane:  My book, Magic Trash, A Story of Tyree Guyton and his Art, arrives in bookstores this month. What a ride this has been! The idea for a children’s book about Tyree’s work struck me seven years ago when I led tours as a docent at the Kresge Art Museum on the Michigan State University campus. Visitors, adults and children, gravitated to his workman’s lunchbox painted in an American flag design and locked in a birdcage.

Debbie:  Then you approached the artist about a book?

Jane:  Both Tyree and his wife and manager Jenenne Whitfield immediately agreed to a biography and have supported with enthusiasm the many versions and revisions.

Debbie:  Would you tell us about the writing process for Magic Trash?

Jane:  I wrote the first manuscript of Magic Trash in rhyme. Randi Rivers from Charlesbridge responded that she “loved” the story, but requested that I take it out of rhyme to develop the characters and also the setting. Well, writers will do a lot for the love of an editor. So, I added more of young Tyree and his Grandpa Sam and continued their relationship through the years in the city of Detroit. But wait, I kept the rhyming refrain.

Debbie:  Have you visited Heidelberg in Detroit?

Jane:  Yes, and now I consider The Heidelberg Project in Detroit to be one of my favorite places in Michigan. A picture from one day I spent there with Tyree is on my website:

In addition, a surprise about Michigan for people living elsewhere is that the city of Detroit is a wonderful place with great museums, four professional sports teams, restaurants, and much more. I’m looking forward to a visit to Detroit on October 14th for a jazz concert in honor of Heidelberg’s 25th anniversary. Earlier that day I'll be signing at the Wayne State Barnes and Noble from 1 to 3 PM. Tyree will  join me there to sign from 2 to 3. Please, everyone, stop by if in the area.

Debbie:  You’re still a Michigander at heart?

Jane:  Michigan has been a place of wonder for me since I was a child in Indiana, spending part of each summer at the amazing Richelieu Lodge on Corey Lake in Three Rivers: turtle races, week-long shuffleboard tournaments, swimming, speed boating, water skiing (once), canoeing. Ahhh, summer meant Corey Lake and life there was all good, even when my older brother knocked me out of the shuffleboard bracket. Sadly, the lodge burned down some years ago. However, turtles probably flapped and snapped in relief that the races had ended.

Debbie:  When did you become a resident of our wonderful state?

Jane:  After college I moved to East Lansing, delivered my son at Sparrow Hospital, and remained there until a few years ago when I relocated to Portland, Oregon where my son and his wife delivered their first child this year. 

During those years in East Lansing I earned a master’s degree in social work at MI State University, eventually working for the Department of Medicine. I sang in the chorus for MSU productions of Madame Butterfly, Fidelio, The Merry Widow and other operas, and I sang soprano in the fun a cappella group, The Silver Swan Singers, performing around Michigan including the annual Renaissance Festival.

Debbie:  You had plenty to do already, but began writing for children?

Jane:  When a family at the Department of Medicine requested a children’s book on von Willebrand disease, a bleeding disorder, I wrote my first picture book aided by grants, the expertise of publishing professionals at the university, and a tenor in the Swans who painted fabulous green dinosaurs. Of course, this was part of my job and the books were given to children and families. But I was hooked the moment I saw kids clutching and reading the book.

Debbie:  And now you live in Oregon?

Jane:  After my husband, a mathematics professor at MSU, retired, we decided to experience living in the Northwest. Now we stare with wonder at beautiful mountains, forests, and our new granddaughter.  But we’ll always be Spartans, wherever we are, especially during college basketball season.

Debbie:  Finally, for our ongoing tally:  Michigander or Michiganian?

Jane:  Definitely Michigander, and thanks for inviting me to Michigander Monday.

Debbie:  Jane, it was truly my pleasure!  Thanks for being here!

To learn more about Jane Shapiro, please visit her web site.  You can find out more about The Heidelberg Project at this link, and about Tyree Guyton at this link.  And be sure to stop by the Wayne State Barnes & Noble on October 14 for a joint appearance by Jane and Tyree!


Ann Finkelstein said...

Jane and Debbie: What a lovely interview. I know Magic Trash will be a big success.

Jane Shapiro said...

Thanks, Debbie and Ann. Ann, you helped me with this manuscript when it was still in rhyme.