Monday, October 31, 2011

Michigander Monday: Ron Riekki

I'm pleased to welcome Ron Riekki to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Tell us a little about yourself.

Ron:  Hi, my name is Ron Riekki and I'm pretty tall.

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

Ron:  I just have one main book, a novel entitled U.P.  It's done pretty well for a smaller press, Ghost Road out of Colorado.  John Casey nominated it for the Sewanee Writers Series.  Later it was also nominated for the Great Michigan Read series.  And I have a couple of poetry chapbooks with Gypsy Daughter, both nominated for &Now Awards for Innovative Writing.  Leave Me Alone I'm Bleeding is probably my favorite of the two.  For playwriting, Ruckus Theater in Chicago did a great production of my play All Saints' Day and I also loved Circle Theatre's production of my play War.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Ron:  There are too many to list.  I had a multi-book deal with Ghost Road, but that fell through.  But I'm talking with Michigan State University Press, Northern Michigan University Press, and Wayne State University Press about a bunch of book projects that look like they are going to happen, so I'll be busy from now until 2016 or so with those.  I just adapted Dandelion Cottage for Lake Superior Theatre.  It looks like they'll be performing the adaptation next summer if all goes as planned.  I have a publisher interested in the adaptation, so discussing that.  In the interesting liminal stages for a lot of these projects.  I'm doing another adaptation for another theater as well.  And Stageworks/Hudson just did a great production of my play Carol.  Then I have some TV and film things in the pipeline, but I don't like to talk about those too much until they're closer to coming to fruition.  I'm repped by a great agency out of Beverly Hills for TV writing.  I like them very much.  And hope they read that I like them very much.  Also, I have a thriller I've been struggling with that a literary agent wants to see when it's ready, but the key verb in this sentence is struggling.

Even more projects than the ones listed above.

I like to keep very busy in the writing world, but those are the things that immediately come to mind.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Ron:  I have a couple of appearances in the Savannah, GA, area in November.  I forget where, have to look them up.  Appearing there with Chad Faries and Amy Lynn Hess, two great poets.  Looking like maybe one or two in FL upcoming too, but will see.  I'm on deadlines, so not a lot of time anymore to appear for things, especially if they're wanting me to do it for free.  I have to focus my energies on completing the projects already underway.  (Plus I'm directing a play in Ocala, FL, so my scale of busy-ness on a scale of one to ten is at an eleven right now.)

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

RonPeter White Public Library has always been nice to me.  Bayliss Public Library too.  A lot of libraries, actually.  The Chicago Public Library was the first ever to host me for a reading, so I'm definitely thankful to them.

And Snowbound Books in Marquette has always been a big supporter of my novel.  Aurora Books in Menominee too.  And Safe Harbor BooksNorth Wind Books, Country Village.  Too many stores to list.  Polyester Books in Australia I have to mention too.

I really appreciate the stores that support Michigan writers.  I once contacted Prairie Lights in Iowa City to see if I could set up a reading and the person who answered the phone said something along the lines of--nobody around here would care about a book set in the U.P.  So thank God for the bookstores who do care about a book set there.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Ron:  Little Presque always comes to mind, but . . .

Last year I was driving with Steve Hamilton (great writer and an amazing human being) and he took me to this breathtaking beach near Paradise, Michigan.  We were on our way to a reading and I couldn't help it--I had to jump in.  It was just too beautiful not to swim.  He basically had to call me back to shore and I ended up changing clothing really quickly at his friend's house and we still made the reading on time, just barely.  But that was one of the best moments of my life.  There's something about beautiful Michigan nature and being with a writer you respect that for me is just perfection.  After a reading at Falling Rock Cafe and Bookstore in Munising (another store I love), I went canoeing with Jonathan Johnson (great poet and also an amazing person) and there was just a gorgeous calm to the air.  That perfect U.P. summer air.  Chad Faries was in a kayak circling us talking about his owl tattoo.  Those were great moments, peaceful.

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

Ron:  I've been Program Director for the U.P. Book Tour for the last two years.  We appeared all over the U.P. last year--Houghton, Ishpeming, Negaunee, Sault Ste Marie, Menominee, Munising, Hancock, Baraga, Marquette, Escanaba, St. Ignace,  Brimley, and a bunch of other towns.  Those events have been incredible.  In the Sault, the panel consisted of Steve, myself, Jonathan, Nancy Eimers, William Olsen, Jaswinder Bolina, and Keith Taylor.  Those events are really fun, to get the best Michigan writers I know into one room like that.  I'm excited for what's falling in place for next year's events, which are looking to be Jun 20 to Jul 7, 2012.

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

Ron:  I've already named a bunch, but I think Matthew Gavin Frank is someone people should check out.  He's a nice guy too.  And Bamewawagezhikaquay.  I don't think you can really be a Michigan writer until you've read her.  She's so formative, necessary to know.  I'm a big Neil LaBute fan.  Philip Levine too.  And Catie Rosemurgy is a pure Michigan writer to me.  A lot of names I could name.  A lot.  I'll try to hold back though.  Oh, five more and then I'll move on--Laura Kasischke, Ellen Airgood, Caitlin Horrocks, Beverly Matherne, Austin Hummell . . . Arnie Johnston, Donald Goines, Sam Raimi, Wayne Dyer, Stuart Dybek, John Smolens, Jen Howard, Carroll Watson Rankin, Melinda Moustakis, Nelson Algren . . . I can't stop.  So many names people should know.  Hell, Eminem, Gregg Alexander, MC Serch, Madonna, Aaliyah, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Iggy Pop while we're at it.  And for sports journalism--Mitch Albom or even better yet Jim Lahde.  That's for those out there who really know your Michigan sports journalism.

When you really look at it, the talent out of Michigan is incredible.  I could make a full list that would make you think all of the best artists and writers from the country come from one state.  Pure respect for the wolverine state . . .

By the way, buy Michigan books for upcoming Christmas presents!  Keep it local.  (If you have young daughters who behave, buy 'em Dandelion Cottage.  If you have young sons who don't, buy 'em U.P.).

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

Ron:  We have amazing literature up here.  Enough books about New York, especially people from New York who have nannies and visit India.  I think after I read my 1000th book set in New York I started realizing this intense craving for books set where I grew up.  So I started devouring Michigan authors and loved the connection I feel to the place as I'm reading.  [Let me put it this way: I dislike New York pizza.  Give me Tino's (in Negaunee) any day.]

Debbie:  Finally, last question -- some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Ron:  Yooper.

Debbie:  Yooper it is!  Ron, thank you for being here today for Michigander Monday!

To learn more about Ron, his books, and the U.P. author tour, please stop by his web site.

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