Monday, June 8, 2015
Michigander Monday: Ellen Airgood
I'm pleased to welcome Ellen Airgood to Michigander Monday!
Debbie: Ellen, please tell us a little about yourself.
Ellen: I grew up on a small farm in Michigan’s thumb, the youngest of four. It was a great childhood. There were always lots of horses and dogs and books around; we ate fresh sweetcorn and strawberries all summer long. I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was ten years old. I played clarinet and piano in high school and expected to major in music, but made a last minute veer into the School of Natural Resources at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I’ve lived in the Upper Peninsula, on the shore of Lake Superior, since 1991. I love it here; it’s hard to imagine living anywhere else. Other things I love: being outdoors, the big lake, food, friends, family. Books. Dogs. Bonfires.
Debbie: And, of course, we want to know all about your books.
Ellen: My first novel, South of Superior, came out in June, 2011. It’s a novel about life on the shore of Lake Superior, a harsh, beautiful, enlivening place. I wanted to try and capture the essence of it. My second novel, Prairie Evers, is about coping with change and about the limits and possibilities of friendship. It’s aimed at 8 to 12 year olds but lots of my adult readers have told me they loved it, probably because Prairie, the narrator, is such an authentic character. She marched into my head one April day with a story to tell, and I scrambled to keep up. My third novel is a follow-up to Prairie Evers called The Education of Ivy Blake, and it’s due out tomorrow (June 9). The protagonist, Ivy, is a hero of mine because she is so unfailingly optimistic when she has every reason not to be. Also, I’m pleased to have a story and an essay included in The Way North, an anthology of Upper Peninsula writings that was published by Wayne State University Press in 2013, and an essay in The Great Lakes, A Literary Field Guide, which was published by Milkweed Editions in 2001. I'm also thrilled to have work in the new anthology from Michigan State University: Here, Women Writing on Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Debbie: Other books or projects on the horizon?
Ellen: I’m looking forward to having a short story included in another Wayne State anthology, due out this summer, and am currently at work on a novel for adults set in the U.P.
Debbie: Upcoming appearances?
Ellen: I’m looking forward to a June 17 appearance at Dog Ears Books in Northport for the launch of The Education of Ivy Blake. Other events are listed at my web site.
Debbie: Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? And/or a favorite Michigan library?
Ellen: I've traveled to many Michigan stores in the last few years, and I’m grateful to all of them. Ditto libraries, but here’s a shout-out to my most local libraries: Tahquahmenon Public Library in Newberry, Munising Public Library in Munising, Bayliss Public Library in Sault Ste. Marie, and Peter White Public Library in Marquette. Further afield, but still local in the way everything in the U.P. is local, the beautiful Portage Township Library on the canal in Houghton.
Debbie: How about a favorite place in Michigan?
Ellen: Again, lots! Sable Lighthouse in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. A stool at the counter in Jerusalem Garden, in Ann Arbor. The Cobblestone Inn in McMillan. The end of a little two-track near home that’s a lookout over Lake Superior. My deck. Houghton. The tip of the Keeweenaw Peninsula. Swimming in the bay of Grand Marais on moonlit nights. The Mackinac Bridge. The Dancing Crane Coffee Shop in Brimley. Anywhere with a view of the St. Mary’s River and its freighters. Standing next to the fireplace in Chamberlain’s Old Forest Inn, in Curtis.
Debbie: Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?
Ellen: When I lived in Ann Arbor I loved to watch the sandhill cranes congregate near Waterloo during their fall migration.
Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?
Ellen: We have everything: water, wilderness, great cities, diversity, culture, tradition. Also coney dogs, Pinconning cheese, and great barns.
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?
Ellen: I’m a Michigander.
Debbie: Ellen, we'll add you to the Michigander column. Thank you so much for joining us today for Michigander Monday!