Monday, December 30, 2013

Michigander Monday: Jo Dereske

It's a joy and an honor to have Jo Dereske here today for Michigander Monday.  My love of Jo's books goes back to 1994.  My copy of Miss Zukas and the Library Murders, purchased nearly twenty years ago at a book signing just weeks before I started library school, is inscribed, "For Debbie - Soon-to-be fellow librarian.  Best of luck and have fun!"  Little did I know then that I'd some day be not only a fellow librarian but also a fellow author; and little did I know then how much I'd absolutely adore Miss Zukas and her adventures (twelve in all), as well as all of Jo Dereske's writing.  What a thrill to have Jo Dereske here today for Michigander Monday!

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

Jo:  I grew up east of Ludington, MI, with a strong Lithuanian influence from my father’s side of the family. The potato dish, Kugelis is still my favorite food. After I received my MLS from WMU, I headed for the Pacific Northwest, where I still live, although I can’t help it: I continue to think of Michigan as “home.”

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

Jo:  When I left Michigan, I had every intention of writing  exciting books about the bigger, wider world, not my wee corner of Michigan, but I must be haunted: nearly everything I write either is rooted or set in the same rural area where I grew up. The main characters in the Miss Zukas mystery series (12 books) are from Michigan. The Ruby Crane mysteries (3 books) are about a woman who returns to her rural Michigan home with her brain-injured daughter. There are also three young peoples’ books and a raft of short stories that have been anthologized and collected.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Jo:  I’m currently finishing up a kind of memoir about a year spent where else: in Michigan, taking care of an aunt and uncle who both had dementia. The year follows the seasons on their farm and chronicles the indomitability of love. It’s been a labor of love, a project I work on, put away, then pull out to work on again.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Jo:  I frequently speak at libraries and schools, and  I just did a radio interview for KMRE FM that can be heard as a podcast at http://womensvoicesnw.wordpress.com/podcasts/

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

Jo:  The only bookstore in our area that I knew as a child is long gone, but I fondly recall scavenging through auctions and second hand stores for books – what a treasure hunt!  I still have some of them.

The Mason County Library System was a magical second home for me. The librarians let me range across the collection, never telling me books were too old or not suitable. I was in heaven. Everyone in my family was a voracious reader. The bookmobile stopped in our driveway during the summers.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Jo:  That’s a hard one! The Lake Michigan dunes between Ludington and Manistee, anywhere along the Lake’s west coast, Frankfort, the bluffs. I spent a lot of time in and on the Pere Marquette River and when I think of “rivers,” that’s the river I envision.

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

Jo:  This has to be morel mushroom hunting after a warm “mushroom rain” in the spring. All that skulking around in the woods, people parking far from their favorite spots hoping no one can follow them, the smell of the earth with all its new growth,  and oh my, the glorious taste of morels sautéed in butter!

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

Jo:  I feel a zing of kinship when I hear about other writers from Michigan. Jim Harrison has always been a favorite. I’m from rural Michigan and the area is rich in interesting people. My brother Ray is a born storyteller and has introduced me to people who will never be famous but whose lives of bravery, trial and triumphs make me as a writer reach for my pencil in awe and celebration.

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

Jo:  Come visit. Michigan has to be the most varied state in the country. Just to think of Detroit and Copper Harbor being in the same state is mind-boggling. Most people can’t imagine the size of the great lakes (“You have LIGHTHOUSES?”)

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally, which is the better term: Michigander or Michiganian?

Jo:  Michigander is what I prefer, although I did recently have a woman tell me she was a “Michigoose.”

Debbie:  Jo, we'll add you to the "Michigander, occasional Michigoose" column.  Thank you so much for being here today for Michigander Monday!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Michigander Monday: Sherri Winston

I'm pleased to welcome Sherri Winston to Michigander Monday!

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

Sherri:  Hi, I have two teen daughters, multiple cats, two turtles and share custody with my sister’s little dog. I love to bake cupcakes and hope to one day create, illustrate and write my own graphic novel.

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

Sherri:  With Little, Brown, I’ve published The Kayla Chronicles and President of the Whole Fifth Grade. The Kayla Chronicles takes place in Florida and follows the story of Mikayala Alicia Dean (MAD), also known as Kayla, as she goes from shy-girl-in-the-corner to a high-stepping, high-kicking kick-butt dancer on her school’s nationally ranked dance team. President of the Whole Fifth Grade takes place in a fictitious Detroit suburb, Orchard Park. It’s imagined based on Redford Township, which I know well. In President, Brianna Justice wants to be President because she sees it as a stepping stone to becoming a millionaire cupcake maker and TV show star. The book was almost as fun to write as the recipes were to test and eat.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Sherri:  I have just received the go-ahead to write President of the Whole Sixth Grade. I’m very excited.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Sherri:  Nothing’s scheduled yet, but I’m going to work on it for the New Year.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan library?

Sherri:  I grew up in Muskegon, Mich., and one of my favorite childhood pastimes was going to the Hackley Library in downtown Muskegon. Also, in 2012 I had the pleasure of visiting a beautiful library in Whitehall with a running trail around it and a fireplace inside. Lovely!

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Sherri:  That’s hard to say, but if I could only pick one place in all of Michigan, it would have to be the campus at Michigan State University! Go Green! Go White!

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

Sherri:  Since I live in Florida now, land of perpetual summer, I love coming home in the fall to photograph the leaves and/or winter to get gorgeous shots of the snow.

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

Sherri:  Author Margaret Wiley was instrumental in bringing me to Michigan last year. Because of her I had a chance to really visit and have an impact on a number of Elementary schools. She is an outstanding person and I am so happy to have gotten to know her.

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

Sherri:  Michigan is filled with tough, smart, creative folks. My father’s family migrated from Mississippi, but to hear my Uncle Mac talk about the virtues of Michigan, you’d surely think he was a native. Non-Michiganders may not understand our deep connection to our state, but those of us blessed to call it home -- be it in residence or in our hearts -- cannot deny the positive impact of growing up Michigan. I love it!

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally, which is the better term: Michigander or Michiganian?

Sherri:  I am, without question, a Michigander.

Debbie:  Sherri, we'll add you to the Michigander column!  Such a pleasure to have you here today for Michigander Monday.  Thank you!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Michigander Monday: Patricia Clark

I'm pleased to welcome Patricia Clark to Michigander Monday!

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

Patricia:  I've been in Michigan nearly 25 years -- but my roots are in Washington State where I grew up. How did I come to be here? Well, it's all about finding a job when you're a creative writer. I'd left home to go to University of Montana to get an MFA in poetry; and then left for Houston, Texas to get a Ph.D. at the University of Houston. Somehow after that I found myself in Tennessee. But I went on the job market, applied for a job in Western Michigan -- at Grand Valley State University -- and that's where I've ended up. What an adventure! And Michigan is about as watery a state as Washington is, so I feel as though I fit in. Just no saltwater and no mountains.

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

Patricia:  I've now published four books of poetry, most recently Sunday Rising, which just came out this year. It was published by Michigan State University Press. I feel lucky to have found such a good publisher who really cares about attractive books. Sunday Rising describes my own spiritual journey of the last few years but I call it spiritual with an attitude. I mean to include a little bit of "uprising" in the "rising" part of the title. It's not easy to come into your own and describe your own beliefs. I feel as though I've struggled to do that here.

Plus these are personal poems. Here's what I told the publisher:

"The center that holds here—and it is consistent from the first poem to the last—is Patricia Clark’s intimate relationship with the physical world and her beliefs about what that world can hold for us: what it teaches, consoles, speaks of, and resonates toward. No footsteps are left here to follow in; instead, there is a suggestion of spiritual practice in seeing as well as in taking note. 'Left what we felt / at what we saw' is a line from Wallace Stevens’ poem 'A Postcard from the Volcano.' The poems of Sunday Rising are such 'leavings': wrought, careful, and mined for their resonance, whether jewels or ore, art or something to throw away. There is a sifting, separating the valuable from the dross; the significant moment. Where will the eye land? One joins the writer in her journeys where spiritual exuberance along with suffering becomes a transformative way of shaping and remembering the experience of living in the world."

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Patricia:  Oh sure, (laughter) there is always another book or project on the horizon. I'm working on a fifth book of poetry -- I don't have a title yet or a theme. Stay tuned! It'll be interesting.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Patricia:  Yes, I've been giving some readings in connection with a new poetry anthology, Poetry in Michigan in Poetry. It's a beautiful book and an excellent one at capturing some words celebrating Michigan; also good at capturing visual art. I'll be reading in in East Grand Rapids on Dec 11.  [For event details, contact Patricia.]

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

Patricia:  My fav Michigan bookstore is Schuler Books in Grand Rapids -- both locations are great: 28th Street and also Alpine Avenue. It's a great place for books, music, lunch, and readings. My favorite library is our new campus library at GVSU, the Mary Idema Pew Learning Commons. It's gorgeous! There's a huge fireplace upstairs. I believe there are 28 different kinds of seating for library patrons.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Patricia:  How can I choose 1 favorite place in Michigan? Well, I really love Grand Marais up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. That's a pretty cool, secluded place to go. I also love Traverse City and Suttons Bay.

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

Patricia:  A Michigan event to attend? I love GVSU's Poetry Night which takes place every October, 1 night, and usually features two poets. This year we featured Pattiann Rogers and Li-Young Lee. Again, people could email me: next year it will be Thurs night October 16th. We'll have two wonderful poets and it's a free event with a wonderful reception following the readings.

I also love the Kerrytown Book Festival in Ann Arbor, September each year. That's always fun.

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

Patricia:  I think immediately of Michigan painters like Stephen Duren, sculptor Elona Van Gent, or Norwood Viviano. Then writers like Caitlin Horrocks, doing fiction, and teaching for us at GVSU. And musicians like Arthur Campbell who plays a wicked clarinet, his wife Helen Marlais who is a great pianist and also a great teacher of piano teachers. The arts keep us alive, vibrant, and challenged!

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

Patricia:  We're not just a Midwest state to fly over. C'mon people! The Great Lakes are huge freshwater seas. Come see them! We have beautiful sandy beaches and culture too.

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?

Patricia:  I vote for Michigander. I really don't know which is correct, or if there is a correct name, but I like the tang of the "gander" part of the word. Lighten up, folks, maybe we can fly a little like the Canada geese who honk by overhead.

Debbie:  Michigander it is!  We'll add you to the tally.  Patricia, thank you so much for being here today for Michigander Monday!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Michigander Monday: Keith Taylor

I'm pleased to welcome Keith Taylor to Michigander Monday!

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

Keith:  Almost forty years ago, I was a young Canadian who had spent most of three years in France and planned to live the rest of my life in that country. When that life plan fell apart, I applied for a graduate school in creative writing and went to the program that gave me the most money. That was Central Michigan University; they had me teach two sections of freshman comp a term and paid me $3000 a year plus tuition. I figured I could live on that, and I did. Since then Michigan has been very good to me. I followed a woman to Ann Arbor in the late 70s, and worked as a bookseller here for most of twenty years. Along the way, I continued to publish in the small presses, and won a few awards. After I was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1991, the University of Michigan asked me to teach a class. I did and apparently didn't do a horrible job, so they asked me again. And again. Fourteen years ago I quit selling books. Now I am the A.L.Becker Collegiate Lecturer in English, the Director of the Bear River Writers' Conference (the summer conference associated with UM), and Associate Editor for Michigan Quarterly Review. This state has been very good to me.

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

Keith:  If I can count chapbooks and co-edited or co-translated volumes (and I do!), I have published fourteen books since 1985. Of those, eight of them have been published by small or university presses in Michigan. Of the 20,000 or so books of mine in print (and this is mostly poetry, remember), I figure that something close to 75% of them must have been sold within the state. Although I didn't set out to become a regional writer, that is indeed what has happened. Although I hope for a larger audience, I am very proud and happy that I've earned the attention of the Michigan audience that I do have. Wayne State University Press published my last full length collection of poems, If the World Becomes So Bright, in 2009. They also did an anthology of contemporary Michigan ghost stories, Ghost Writers, I co-edited with my friend Laura Kasischke in 2011. I have published two chapbooks in the last couple of years -- Marginalia for a Natural History and The Ancient Murrelet.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Keith:  I feel very fortunate that the work keeps presenting itself to me. I am working on several things right now. A new chapbook consisting of travel poems that combine prose and verse is beginning to take shape in my mind. I'm beginning to imagine the next full length collection of poems growing out of these last few chapbooks -- a collection that would center around the necessities and weirdnesses of finding a home (and mine is, of course, here). I've also, just this week, started a new thing -- I've decided to send out a new short poem on Twitter at least once every other day (@keithtaylora2). We'll see how long that lasts, but wouldn't it be cool if I can keep it up for a while!

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Keith:  I still have some appearances to help sell the lovely new anthology, Poetry in Michigan/Michigan in Poetry, edited by William Olsen and Jack Ridl, published by New Issues Press over in Kalamazoo. I'll have the Bear River Conference up at Walloon Lake at the end of May. And there are certainly several other appearances around the state before then. You could check my web site (www.keithtaylorannarbor.com) for a list of events that gets updated fairly regularly. In 2013 I have done 57 appearances, all but 4 or 5 of them in Michigan; that is almost certainly too many!

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

Keith:  I am indeed fortunate to live in Ann Arbor, a town with good bookstores and fantastic libraries. Of course we all worried when, in a very short period of time, Borders collapsed under its own corporate weight, and the legendary Shaman Drum Bookshop closed for several reasons. I had worked for both of those places, and I still miss them. But Nicola's Bookshop picked up the slack and did a very good job keeping Ann Arbor involved in the swirl of new books. And now a small, beautiful, boutique-y bookshop, Literati, has opened downtown. The young people who own it are working very hard to find and keep up with the right books for their audience. I have great hopes for them. Of course, the Ann Arbor District Library is one of the best public libraries in the country; it would have to be, given the demands of Ann Arbor's over-educated public. And my office is exactly a four minute walk from Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library at the University of Michigan, one of the four or five best libraries on the planet! And with my faculty card I have full access to their services. And now, with my named lectureship, I believe I will have that access for as long as I live! How could a bookish writer ask for more?

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Keith:  Oh, favorite places in Michigan! I have a hundred. Not least of which is my own backyard. For many summers I have taught at UM's Biological Station up on Douglas Lake outside Pellston. That is certainly near the top. The Kingston Plains, the windswept beautifully bleak, ghost forest behind Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. "Disney Land in Hamtramck," folk art hidden in an alley and hard to find. Isle Royale National Park, where I was Artist in Residence in 1991, and where I've returned only once. Thomas Lynch's secret house on a big lake in the north. The Detroit Institute of Arts. Sturgeon Bay and Wagoschaunce Point in Wilderness State Park. Little Cedar Lake Bog and surrounding trails in western Washtenaw County.

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

Keith:  I've gotten to enjoy the Bliss Music Festival a lot, although sometimes I just can't take the crowd. I'm afraid I lost my enjoyment in the Ann Arbor Art Fairs a few decades ago. We've tried several ways to get a book festival going in Ann Arbor, and now the Kerrytown Book Festival in September is going well, and generates excitement and a good crowd. I have hopes they'll keep that going. Some younger writers here in Ann Arbor have tried to start a State of the Book conference about Michigan publishing and writing. We had the second one this last September. It is not yet well attended, but I have hopes that it'll be able to garner a larger, genuinely state-wide audience.

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

Keith:  Oh, Michigan people! Wow. There are thousands of them. Thomas Lynch, undertaker and poet, again and again. Do you know Jerry Dennis, one of our best nature writers, from Traverse City? Terry Blackhawk, who does the essential work down in Detroit? Jamaal May, also from Detroit, one of the best young poets in the country? Alison and David Swan-- she's a wonderful writer, and they have both been fighting the long fight to save the Saugatuck Dunes area, for which they were once named "Michigan Environmentalists of the Year." Do you know of Rolf Peterson, who ran the wolf/moose study on Isle Royale until his recent retirement? Sue William Silverman and Marc Sheehan -- one of the powerhouse literary couples in the state, although not enough people know about them? William Olsen and Nancy Eimers, another power house literary couple? The great Jack Ridl, retired from Hope College, one of the best writing teachers in the world. My colleagues here at UM -- Laura Kasischke, Linda Gregerson, Van Jordan, Khaled Mattawa, Lorna Goodison, Thylias Moss, Nicholas Delbanco, Eileen Pollack, Michael Byers, Peter Ho Davies, Doug Trevor? Yeah, most of them came to Michigan for good jobs, but many of them will stay and become part of the fabric of the literary life in the state. Ray McDaniel, of the exquisite mind. Tom Fricke, chair of the Department of Anthropology at UM. The soft spoken, reserved, exquisite Eric Torgersen of Mount Pleasant. Robert Fanning now has Eric's old job; how lucky they were to find Robert! Detroit's irrepressible M.L.Liebler!  My friend Russ Fimbinger, retired principal from Harrison, and writer for the Hook and Bullet press, one of the finer people I know. Young writers just beginning to publish -- Ann Marie Thornburg, Airea "Dee" Mathews, Elizabeth Schmuhl, Russell Brakefield, Bruce Lack, francine j harris,  etc., etc. I've just been getting to know some really interesting writers who teach at Grand Valley State University. A host of writers in the Upper Peninsula -- Matt Bell, Matt Siegel, Janine Rastell, Julie Brooks Barbour, and others -- who are publishing well, setting up presses, keeping the fires burning. Steve Gillis and Dan Wickett who started Dzanc Books a few years back and have helped shape it into a significant force in American writing.  Oh, see, this is where I live! I love many many people. Someone might be offended that I didn't mention them.

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

Keith:  I wish people would know and understand us by the contrasts of the state. Yes, we have Detroit, the city that led the world into post-industrial decline and now appears to be re-emerging on the other side as a very interesting place. But just 5 hours north, we are on the very edge of the great Northern wilderness, the sub-arctic forest that stretches all the way to the tundra. To the North Pole! I don't think there is another place on the earth that has such dramatic and important contrasts in so small a space.

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?

Keith:  I'm a Michigander. But it might be better to say, I'm part of a tiny subset -- Canadian Michiganders. We are indeed a special category.

Debbie:  Canadian Michigander it is!  We'll start a new column.  Keith, thank you so very much for joining us today for Canadian Michigander Monday!  It's been an honor and a pleasure.  Thank you!