Monday, August 12, 2013

Michigander Monday: Susan Newhof

I'm pleased to welcome Susan Newhof to Michigander Monday!

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

Susan:  I was born and raised in Grand Rapids, and from the time I could hold a pencil, I have been putting words together. Poems, plays, songs, stories. In the early 1990s, I moved to Washington D.C. to work as a press officer for the American Red Cross National Headquarters. I conducted interviews with national media and did media briefings for Elizabeth Dole, who had just come on board as the organization’s president. I loved being in the thick of it.

And then…I ran into the wonderful man who had been my senior prom date and one of my best friends in high school. Paul and I fell in love, moved back to Michigan, and I gave up an exciting life in the big city for an even better life in a town of 2,500.

From my home in Montague, I write and work as a communication consultant to foundations and non-profit organizations. Words run through my head all day, and I am so fortunate to be able to make my living as a writer.

My concern for animal welfare issues moved me to become a vegetarian several years ago. Paul and I volunteer with Pound Buddies Shelter and Adoption Center in Muskegon and other local animal rescue groups, assisting cats and dogs in transition and helping find them permanent homes.

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

SusanSpirits & Wine is my first novel – the first of many, I hope. After decades of writing non-fiction, I discovered that making stuff up is great fun! Spirits & Wine was inspired by things that were happening in the 125-year-old house that Paul and I live in. It’s a mystery with a ghost in it, and readers describe it as a page turner – what a great compliment!

The fifth edition of my guide book Michigan’s Town & Country Inns was just released this month. This was a particularly fun edition to write. I loaded it with stories and sidebars, histories and recipes, a good many photos, and descriptions of more than 50 delightful inns and B&Bs in Michigan. It’s a great gift for the travelers in your life, and it offers a satisfying arm-chair tour for those who don’t want to leave their den.

Both books are published by the University of Michigan Press.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Susan:  I love writing prologues and am hoping to turn one of the half-dozen I’ve written into another novel. Our four lovely city hens have been the inspiration for several essays that I’d like expand into a memoir about raising chickens as pets.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Susan:  On August 16, we’ll launch Michigan’s Town & Country Inns at the Book Nook and Java Shop here in Montague. It’s from 5-7 p.m. – happy hour! I’ll make a brief presentation and show slides of several of the inns I featured. It should be great fun. Events at the Book Nook always are!

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

SusanThe Book Nook and Java Shop in our little downtown is at the top of my list. When it opened, it became a place for friends to gather, and when it was moved to bigger quarters a few doors down, the owners added a wine bar and full kitchen, a performance area and a cozy two-sided fireplace. Live music, author events and book groups fill its calendar. It is Montague’s version of a town square, and it’s within walking distance from my house. I love it!

I have a very warm spot for the friends I made when I spoke at the Roscommon Area District Library one snowy cold winter day. They laughed at my jokes, bought my books, and jump-started my car when I discovered I had left my lights on and my battery was dead!

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Susan:  That is an impossible question! Favorite places…I love the wineries, the beaches, the dunes, the rocky shores of Lake Superior, sun rises over Lake Huron and dusk at Lake Michigan. I love Heritage Hill in Grand Rapids, the lighted cross-country ski trails at Muskegon State Park, bonfires in our backyard on snowy nights, any river where I can sit on the shore and watch Paul fish, and the dinner tables of our friends where we gather often to share meals.

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

Susan:  Saturday mornings throughout the summer you’ll find me at the Farmers’ Market in Montague. The selection of fruits, vegetables, flowers and baked goods offered by our local vendors is spectacular, and the market is a fine time to catch up with friends. The Lavender Festival at Cherry Point in July is a mid-summer treat, and the Pumpkin Roll in Montague…well…if you’ve never legally rolled a pumpkin down a hilly city street hoping yours would be the first to the bottom, come try it!

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

Susan:  Writer Robbyn Smith and her artist-husband Gijsbert Van Frankenhuyzen are long-time friends and remarkably prolific, talented people; author Mardi Link, whose book Bootstrapper was just released, is a fine story teller and great fun; artist Sharon Smithem can make beauty in any medium, and when you stop in at the Book Nook, you’ll see her marvelous mosaics.

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

Susan:  Lake Michigan is MUCH bigger than you think!

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"?

Susan:  Michiganian.

Debbie:  We'll add you to the Michiganian tally column.  Thank you, Susan, for joining us today for Michiganian Monday!

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