Monday, June 30, 2014

Michigander Monday: Rosemary Van Deuren

I'm very pleased to welcome the fabulous Rosemary Van Deuren to Michigander Monday!

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

Rosemary:  I am a novelist, essayist, interviewer, and press writer. I wrote the arts and entertainment column "Flipside" for the former webzine idlermag.com, which was chosen by the Writer's Guild of America West for their Hotlist: A Guide to the Web's Most Cutting Edge New Media Content.

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

Rosemary:  My debut novel Basajaun is a young adult adventure fantasy about a twelve year-old girl who's trying to rescue a warren of mystical rabbits from a dark and sinister force. Some people have called it "Watership Down meets Little Red Riding Hood," or, "The Golden Compass meets The Velveteen Rabbit," but with an approach that's completely new. I wanted to create the kind of story that would have resonated with me when I was twelve, so it's a little bit scary, a little bit contemplative, and a little bit magical -- just how I liked my books when I was a kid. The narrative was written for ages ten and up, but honestly, I have as many adult readers now as younger ones!

A Basajaun book trailer is available for viewing at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnSuCH5LIao

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Rosemary:  I've just signed with the Florida merchandise company District Lines to do Basajaun t-shirts, and I'm super pumped about that. Everything is shaping up terrific, and the DL folks are helping me get ready for the launch ... soon!

I've also recently conducted an in-depth guest-interview with musician and engineer Stephen Linsley for the UK / US music website Louder Than War. It's a beautiful interview. Stephen was also the bassist for The Jim Carroll Band, and he offers such an insightful and nuanced account of his experiences in the music world, and how they've impacted his life.

As for the long haul, I'm working on my next novel -- something completely different from Basajaun, which has been a rewarding challenge so far. I'm posting snippets from the new manuscript online, and you can find those on the writing page of my website.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Rosemary:  I just got back from the Ann Arbor Book Festival Street Fair. It was a great time! I got to read at their open-air children's and young adult event. Also coming up in Ann Arbor, I'll be at the Kerrytown Bookfest on September 7th (as will a certain Pout-Pout Fish author, I hear!).

Debbie:  Looking forward to it!!  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Rosemary:  I always find something at the Dawn Treader Book Shop in Ann Arbor. And John K. King Books in Detroit was staggering back when I went there -- the building is five stories high! Curious Book Shop in East Lansing is a lot of fun too. Ray Walsh, the store owner, reviewed Basajaun for his column in The Lansing State Journal newspaper. He's also part of the Michigan Antiquarian Book and Paper Show that runs bi-annually in Lansing. If you want to cast your peepers over a signed first edition of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood in a locked plexiglass case, that's the place to do it!

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Rosemary:  I love The Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary. I'm a companion rabbit owner, and the GLRS does wonderful work. Their non-profit farm property in Monroe, Michigan is equipped to lovingly house fifty or so rescued, adoptable rabbits and a handful of potbellied pigs. When people are looking to add a pet rabbit to their home, I always send them to The Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary.

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

Rosemary:  The Bat Zone tours at the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills are pretty rad. Their educators conduct tours daily in the summer and on weekends the rest of the year. It's a great way for children (and adults!) to familiarize themselves first-hand with bats and other nocturnal creatures, like owls and sloths. The Bat Zone facility is also the headquarters for the Organization for Bat Conservation. Jannell Cannon, the author of Stellaluna, is affiliated with the OBC.

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

Rosemary:  There is so much talent here in the state, I wouldn't want to risk leaving anyone out! But Michigan boasts a roster of acclaimed individuals, spanning back years. Iggy Pop was born in Muskegon and grew up in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. Rosa Parks wrote her autobiography in Detroit and retired there. And Robert Frost held a fellowship teaching post at the University of Michigan in the twenties. Can you imagine?

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

Rosemary:  We have marvelous parks here. They are awesome. The trees and vegetation in this part of the country are lovely, and there's a bounty of nature centers and deep, wooded trails that are open to the public. All my city-mouse friends look forward to the forest escape when they visit me here. I'm the lucky one who has access to it whenever I want!

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?

Rosemary:  I grew up in Wisconsin -- I've heard the term "Wisconsinites." [laughs] "Michigander" rolls off the tongue more easily than Michiganian, I think. Also, then you can say, "What's good for the Mittengoose is good for the Michigander."

Debbie:  Love it!  We'll add you to the Michigander column.  Rosemary, thank you so much for being here today for Michigander Monday!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School! - and interview round-up

I'm happy to announce that today is the release day for The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School, my and Dan Hanna's latest adventure for Mr. Fish!

With the release of the book, I've had a number of blog interviews lately, and I thought I'd round them up here in one post.  Click the links to head over to the interviews -- you'll discover some wonderful blogs in the process!

Most of the blogs feature book reviews and/or author interviews regularly, so I highly recommend that you add the blogs to your reading list!

Author Turf interview

Pawing Through Books interview

Art with Mr. E interview (includes a giveaway!)

Thank you to Brittney, Peggy, and Ted for interviewing me.  Much fun!

I also was interviewed by John Sellers for a Publishers Weekly PW KidsCast -- it's a podcast interview.

And several bloggers have recently posted reviews or craft activities:

Motley Toddler craft ideas (and a giveaway! - sign up by 6/27)

Pawing through Books: reviews of The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School, Picture Day Perfection, and The Pout-Pout Fish

Bumbles and Fairy-Tales:  reviews of Smile, Pout-Pout Fish and The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School

Thank you, Misty, Peggy, and Margie!

And it was great to have the new Pout-Pout Fish book mentioned in an article by Devon Corneal over on HuffPost Education, "24 Books That Will Captivate Your Kids This Summer."

I think that's it, though let me know if I've overlooked any links to interviews/reviews/etc.

(And I promise that my next post will be less me-me-me and fish-fish-fish!  It's just very exciting to have a book birthday!  :)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Michigander Monday: Mary D. Bowman

I'm pleased to welcome Mary D. Bowman to Michigander Monday!

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

Mary:  I was born and raised in Phila, Pa, and "migrated" to Harbor Springs with my husband, Andy, who had summered here as a child.

We have lived in Harbor Springs for 41 years, and raised our two children here, who are married with their own children. I am not an author by trade, just a grandmother who loves to tell stories to the kids.

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your book, Little Spruce of Raspberry Creek.

Mary:  Andy and I were on a five week camping trip from here to Fairbanks, Ak and back, the summer of 2010. During our many hours of driving, I enjoyed the sights, many of which were wooded areas, mountains, and lots of gorgeous scenery. I began to write down a story based on a little spruce tree I saw leaning out over a creek. I "went with it" wondering what his life would have been like were he able to grow tall and straight. As the story unfolded I realized there was a message in it, as "little spruce" did not fulfill his dream of being a stately tree, but became something more important to his forest friends: that being a bridge over which the small animals could escape from a forest fire. Life doesn't always go as we plan, but frequently things turn out better than imagined.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Mary:  I often think of a sequel to Little Spruce, but thus far haven't acted on it. I do enjoy asking school kids when I visit their classes, what they think might happen to Little Spruce, or perhaps the children or animals who visited him as a seedling, then as an adult tree in his "altered" form .

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Mary:  Beyond visiting schools, I have had signings/ readings in local book stores, who are gracious enough to carry my book. This summer my only appearance will be August 12, at the Charlevoix Public Library for a Michigan authors event. I am very excited about this, and hope to meet and greet many folks .

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite place in Michigan?

Mary:  In reference to a favorite place in Michigan, I would have to say, Harbor Springs :)  We do have a boat and cruise the area, especially the North Channel (northern Lake Huron, Manitoulin Is. Ont).

Debbie:  How about a favorite bookstore?

Mary:  My favorite book stores are all the area's independent stores, and not just because they carry my book. I think the "indies" are critical to communities, and offer the personal expertise you WON'T find on Amazon! We owned a ski/sports/clothing store, The Outfitter, here in Harbor Springs, for 23 years, and thankfully it is doing very well under new, younger ownership. It is a focal point of town, the way local bookstores are.

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?

Mary:  I cannot consider myself a "Michigander or Michiganian"'' as I've only been here 40'odd years. But it is my "home" and all my eastern relatives who visit understand quickly why it is so important to us.

Debbie:  Mary, thank you so much for being here for Michigander Monday!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Michigander Monday: Bruce Mills

I'm pleased to welcome Bruce Mills to Michigander Monday!

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

Bruce:  Though I’ve now lived in Michigan for nearly twenty-two years, my family (and imagination) has deep roots in Iowa.  I am reminded of this affinity to flat land and prairie when I travel the tree-lined roads near Kalamazoo.  I can feel a bit closed in at times!  From my home town of Storm Lake, I could drive five minutes, pull onto a gravel road, and see little but small farm groves and distant water towers poking the horizon. Nothing but field and sky—or so it seems.

Still, I am a proud Kalamazoon—pronounced Kalamazoo-en!—having taught in the English Department at Kalamazoo College now for over two decades.  Among other things, the city is known for The Promise that, depending upon the number of years a student attends the city’s public schools, provides partial or full tuition to any state university.  (My daughter went to the University of Michigan as a result of this program.)  The city and county also has rich resources for people on the autism spectrum, a fact important to my family after our son was diagnosed in 1995.

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

Bruce:  I feel the need to claim both my work as a scholar in American literature and a writer of creative nonfiction!  In addition to books focusing on abolitionist Lydia Maria Child, I published Poe, Fuller, and the Mesmeric Arts: Transition States in the American Renaissance, research that investigated Edgar Allan Poe’s and Margaret Fuller’s fascination with early notions of the unconscious in their fiction and nonfiction.

More recently, I have turned to creative nonfiction.  In 2011, I co-edited Siblings and Autism: Stories Spanning Generations and Cultures with Debra Cumberland.  And, this past November, my memoir An Archaeology of Yearning was released by Etruscan Press.  It is this book that I have been traveling with this winter and spring.   As I have noted in publicity material, the memoir explores my family’s relationship with my son.  As the absence of the word “autism” in the title suggests, however, I hope to have captured something more expansive through this archaeological dig.  That is, the book reflects upon the nature of human connection and illuminates how stories and storytelling keep that connection alive.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Bruce:  I have been captivated by the evolution of my small home town of ten thousand in Iowa.  Almost entirely white in my growing up years (early 1960s to mid-1980s), residents of color currently make up nearly half the population.  This transformation intrigues me.  As you might imagine, it is a community whose members commit to work, to worship, and to the schools with different pasts.  When I drive along Lakeshore Drive, I observe Vietnamese families picnicking; at the St. Mary’s Catholic Church where I was confirmed, announcements for passers-by are in Spanish and English.   I am not sure whether I will compose a book as yet, but I feel the need to write my way into this present in light of my past.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Bruce:  I am between a run of spring events and scheduling summer and fall ones.  Looking farther ahead, I will be doing a talk/book signing in association with the Developmental Disabilities Institute at Wayne State University on October 30—for those Michiganders in the Detroit area who may be interested!  I will be posting other events as they get scheduled on my website: http://blogs.kzoo.edu/bmills/ .

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? A favorite Michigan library?

Bruce:  In Kalamazoo, we have three independent bookstores that support a vibrant writing community: The Bookbug, Kazoo Books, and Michigan News Agency.  I admire the owners who invest their heart, soul, and money in these enterprises: Joanna Parzakonis and Derek Moliter (Bookbug), Gloria Tiller (Kazoo Books), and Dean Hauk (Michigan News Agency).  The Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor (and its owners Hilary Lowe and Mike Gustafson) also deserves a shout out for establishing a downtown bookstore after the departure of Borders.

Regarding Michigan libraries, let me note two award-winning ones.  Kalamazoo Public Library, recipient of the Library of the Year Award in 2002, and the Chelsea District Library which was honored as the Best Small Library in 2008.  These places and spaces really elevate the community through their engaged staff, resources, and support for readings (and authors!).

And I cannot forget the archives at Kalamazoo College and the Bentley Historical Library in Ann Arbor.  During this past year, I have spent time in both.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Bruce:  By now, you have certainly heard of my love of Kalamazoo.  In the summer, when my wife and I are able, we enjoy the many fests: Island, Blues, and the Rib Fest.  The Rib Fest is especially important to us since it supports Community Advocates and its mission of serving those with physical and developmental disabilities.

We have also loved getting away to South Haven in the summer.  We like the beach and always try to make it to their blueberry festival in early August.

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

Bruce:  In mid-May, I enjoyed my first Zoo-de-Mack Bike Bash and thoroughly enjoyed the fifty-one mile ride with friends and the post-event camaraderie.  The bike ride starts at Boyne Highlands Resort and ends at Mackinac City.  My daughter, Sarah, talked me into the event.   (The ride was an act of faith given that I had only covered 25 miles in any single outing in the weeks prior to the trip.)  While I only endured the final 8-10 miles by carrying on a lively conversation with myself, I did cross the finish line without collapsing.  Even while gasping for oxygen along the way at times, I enjoyed the scenic roads, especially those that offered a glimpse of Lake Michigan.

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

Bruce:  Perhaps the best way I can respond to this question is by encouraging readers to click the following link about the writing community in Kalamazoo:

http://www.freep.com/article/20140323/ENT05/303230042/kalamazoo-authors-poets .

The work coming out of this area is quite stunning.

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

Bruce:  Fruit.  Farmer’s Markets.  And, of course, plenty of camping and outdoor opportunities, especially from the knuckles to fingertips of the Michigan mitten.

Here is a fun fact.  You could drive from Kalamazoo to New York in about the same time it takes to travel from the city to the far end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  I am not sure what this means—except, perhaps, that the state has much for people to explore.

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?

Bruce:  I have already tipped my hat on this one in an earlier response.  Michigander.

Debbie:  Bruce, we'll add you to the Michigander column!  Thank you so much for being here today for Michigander Monday!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Michigander Monday: James Montgomery Jackson

I'm very pleased to welcome James M. Jackson to Michigander Monday!

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

Jim:  I’m a birdbrain. That is, I follow the migratory birds, who know there are real advantages to being up north in the summer and down south in the winter. We now split our time roughly 50/50 between the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (in Iron County) and Georgia’s Lowcountry. Although I am happy in either place I am, I far prefer our northern home. I must say, though, I was not sorry to miss this year’s winter in Michigan.

After I retired in 2002 from a career as a financial consultant specializing in pension and post-retirement medical plans (yes, you may yawn) I took up writing. I write both fiction and nonfiction.

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

Jim:  I write the Seamus McCree mystery series for Barking Rain Press. Bad Policy was published in 2013 and Cabin Fever was published April 2014. Cabin Fever uses Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the dead of winter as its setting. Here’s the back copy blurb:
Financial crimes investigator Seamus McCree returns in this thrilling sequel to Bad Policy. With his house in Cincinnati in ruins, Seamus retreats to the family cabin for some well-earned rest and relaxation. But his plans for a quiet, contemplative winter in the wilds of Michigan's Upper Peninsula are shattered when he discovers a naked woman on his porch during a blizzard. The mystery woman is suffering from hypothermia, frostbite, high fever, amnesia—and rope burns on her wrists and ankles.
Snowbound at the cabin, without transportation or phone coverage, Seamus struggles to keep the woman alive and find a way to get an SOS message out. What he doesn't know is that a domestic paramilitary organization is hunting for an escaped female prisoner—and closing in on his isolated refuge.
In addition, Master Point Press published my acclaimed book for intermediate bridge players, One Trick at a Time: How to start winning at bridge (2012).

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Jim:  I am currently working on the third Seamus McCree mystery, titled Doubtful Relations. In it Seamus’s ex-wife’s husband goes missing and she ensnares the whole family in determining what happened to him.

I am also starting work on a YA novel set at the end of the 21st century.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

The best way to check on my schedule is through my website: jamesmjackson.com, which has a current listing.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? A favorite Michigan library?

Jim:  Whatever bookstore I am in is my favorite bookstore at the time, although I prefer to support independent bookstores rather than chains. We are lucky that we have two great libraries in my home county. At a time when my fellow taxpayers reduced taxes for local governments our township continued to approve full funding of the Crystal Falls Community District Library. On the other side of the county in Iron River, MI is the West Iron District Library. Since my taxes do not support that one, I have become a lifetime member of their Friends of the Library.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Jim:  How corny is this, right? My favorite place is my home on eighty acres situated on the east side of a small remote inland lake fifteen miles from the nearest place (Amasa, MI) where you can buy anything.

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

Jim:  I love the name of this: The Humongous Fungus Fest. Located in Iron County is a single living organism that covers approximately 37 acres, an Armillaria gallica fungus. Deemed at its discovery the world’s largest and oldest living organism, it weighs some 21,000 pounds and is 1,500 years old (give or take). An Oregon fungus was since discovered that is much larger (2,200 acres), but unlike the Michigan fungus, which is all connected, the Oregon fungus is in multiple pieces that have the same genetic code.

Regardless of whether or not it is the largest living thing, it’s still a good excuse for a multi-day party in the county seat, Crystal Falls.

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

Jim:  I think it’s great that Steve Mariucci (former NFL head coach and now sports commentator) and Tom Izzo (Michigan State head basketball coach) have been best friends since high school in Iron Mountain. When I think of Michigan writers, Jim Harrison first comes to mind, although he no longer lives in state. Only last year did I become aware of Bonnie Jo Campbell, but I’ll add her to my list.

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

Jim:  Michigan is the second largest state east of the Mississippi. It takes ten hours to drive the six hundred miles between Detroit and Ironwood. You get to cross the Mackinac Bridge—the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere and fifth longest in the world.

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?

Jim:  Michigander sounds correct to me. (Of course, I’m proud to call myself a Yooper!)

Debbie:  Jim, we'll add you to the Michigander column (and the Yooper column!).  Thanks so much for being here today!