Monday, August 20, 2012

Michigander Monday: Amy Ackley

I'm pleased to welcome Amy Ackley to Michigander Monday

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

Amy:  I’ve lived in Michigan all my life.  I grew up on White Lake in Highland, Michigan, earned my undergraduate degree at Oakland University and my graduate degree at Central Michigan University, and have lived in Brighton with my husband and daughters for the last thirteen years.

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

Amy:  My debut young adult novel, Sign Language, was drawn from the loss of my dad to cancer when I was a teen, and is set in my hometown of Highland, Michigan.  Sign Language was published by Viking Juvenile in August 2011 after winning the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for YA Fiction.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Amy:  My second YA book, tentatively titled Never, Ever Land, is a work of contemporary fiction based on J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.  I am represented by New York literary agent Jennifer DeChiara.  Publication news forthcoming!  In the meantime, I am working on two new manuscripts, both young adult fiction, and have more ideas than I have time to write!

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Amy:  I list events on my website:  You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter (@amyackley73).

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

AmyNicola’s Books in Ann Arbor is very supportive of Michigan authors and hosts fantastic events for both well-known and debut authors from around the country.  The owner and staff are incredibly fun, knowledgeable, and helpful people, and the bookstore is so cozy and yet carries a wider variety of titles than the bigger chain stores. 

The Book Beat in Oak Park is another favorite.  The Book Beat was recently awarded the prestigious Pannell award for promoting literacy in young people, and the owners are also very supportive of Michigan authors.

As for libraries, I’d have to say that the Highland Township Library has the coolest, most welcoming staff, and they host great events for both young people and adults.
Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Amy:  The Leelanau Peninsula, hands down.  My brother owns two cottages in Glen Arbor and lets me sneak up when he has a rare vacancy.  Leelanau has everything for an outdoorsy girl like me – lots of places to hike, bike, kayak and canoe – and I believe has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world.  A couple of years ago, while hiking the South Manitou Island I climbed to the top of the perched dunes and knew it would be the perfect setting for the Peter Pan book that had been trying to form in my mind.  Suddenly everything came together – Leelanau Peninsula’s lakes, sand dunes, shipwrecks, Indian reservation - it was Neverland come to life.  I’m so excited to get Never, Ever Land into the hands of my fellow Michiganders, and hopefully get the stamp of approval.

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

Amy:  Nothing compares to autumn in Michigan.  I love the changing colors, the crisp air, picking apples and eating fresh doughnuts and cider at local orchards.  My favorite thing to do is take my kids to Crossroads Village in Genesee County where they can trick-or-treat, see a magic show, and ride the Huckleberry Ghost Train.  A rule in my house is that no one is allowed to get too old to dress up in costume for Crossroads Village.

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

Amy:  Since my book was released last summer I’ve met some fantastic authors and was surprised to find so many that live here in Michigan!  I recently participated in an author panel with three Michigan-based young adult authors that I was so glad to meet: Lara Zielin, author of Donut Days, The Implosion of Aggie Winchester, and The Waiting Sky, Tracy Bilen, author of What She Left Behind, and Beth Neff, author of Getting Somewhere.  I was thrilled to connect with others that write for young adults.

Darci Hannah, author of The Exile of Sara Stevenson and The Angel of Blythe Hall, is an amazing author of historical fiction and just the funniest, sweetest person.  She’s a great speaker and a popular book club pick and blogs on behalf of her dog, Barkley, otherwise known as The Yard Panda (

Ellen Airgood, author of South of Superior (a Michigan Notable Book) and middle grade novel Prairie Evers, runs a diner in Grand Marais with her husband and is a refreshingly down-to-earth, talented author.

I appreciate the arts in all forms.  Thanks to my daughters, when I’m not writing I am surrounded by music and dance, and I’d love to draw attention to the Michigan Dance Project, a non-profit professional contemporary dance company based in southeast Michigan.  Kathy King, founder and director of the Michigan Dance Project, is a creative, fun, and inspiring person who is passionate about strengthening the dance community throughout Michigan.  Check out their upcoming events:

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

Amy:  In Michigan, we drink “pop”, not “soda”. We buy it at a “party store”, and never throw away the “empties” – you can use the cash to fill up your tank to drive “Up North”, where most of us vacation.  If you’re going all the way to the “U.P.”, where the “Yoopers” live and you can buy “pasties”, you drive across “The Bridge”.  To travel internationally, you can take “The Lodge” to “The Tunnel”.  During construction season (otherwise known as not-winter), you may have to exit the freeway.  If you have to detour and a left turn is not permitted, don’t worry; you can take a right and then a “Michigan Left”.  If you need a visual of any of this I could show you on my hands.

Also, we love the Lions, no matter what.

Debbie:  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"?

Amy:  Michigander, though it makes us sound like a regional breed of male geese.

Debbie:  Amy, thank you for being here today for Michigander Monday!

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