Monday, March 30, 2015

Michigander Monday: Darrin Doyle

I'm pleased to welcome Darrin Doyle to Michigander Monday!

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

Darrin:  I was born in Saginaw, grew up in Grand Rapids, and then lived for over a decade in Kalamazoo.  I also taught English in Osaka, Japan for a year.  I earned my MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and then earned my PhD in English at the University of Cincinnati.  I taught at Miami of Ohio, the University of Louisville, and Kansas State University before landing my tenure-track job at Central Michigan University.  Writing is my most prominent artistic outlet, but I've also played music for many years in different bands as well as just around the house.  My main instrument is guitar, but I also do OK at the banjo, bass, mandolin, piano, ukulele, and drums.  I’m a big horror movie fan, and I can juggle.  I don’t usually juggle while watching horror movies, but who knows?  There’s a first time for everything.

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

Darrin:  My first novel, Revenge of the Teacher’s Pet: A Love Story, was reviewed in the New York Times.  That was exciting for me.  They called it “an original tale that earns the reader’s trust and breaks their hearts a little in the process.”  My second novel, The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo, is sort of a modern fable/dark comedy/monster movie – a girl grows up to devour the city of Kalamazoo.  This is the central event of the story, but really the novel is about a highly dysfunctional family, and the effects of people not being able to connect with each other.  My most recent book is a collection of my short fiction, titled The Dark Will End the Dark.  The stories in it are a mixture of horror and humor, fabulism and realism.  Thematically, the pieces often have to do with the body, and in this way they also engage with questions about death and life and how we treat each other along the way.  But mostly when I write I’m trying to entertain, and I think these pieces – sometimes weird, sometimes frightening, sometimes funny – will keep the reader turning the pages.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Darrin:  Yes!  I’m always working on something.  I've actually got a couple of other completed novels that I’m shopping around for publication.  One of them is a murder mystery set in Grand Rapids.  Stay tuned!

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Darrin:  I’ll be doing a number of readings in support of my new book this summer and fall, and people can hear about these on my website or find me on Facebook or Twitter.  One event I’m very excited to be appearing is at the Kerrytown BookFest in Ann Arbor, which takes place on September 13th this year.  

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan library?

Darrin:  The Mount Pleasant Library is great, and we go there with our kids all the time, but I have to name the Harrison Public Library as my favorite.  My wife is the Youth Librarian there, so I’m a little biased, but the staff there is so upbeat and smart.  It’s a wonderful environment.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Darrin:  I love Wilderness State Park, about ten miles west of the Mackinac Bridge.  Their rustic cabins are so secluded, so peaceful.  So many stars at night, and you can even see the Northern Lights if you’re lucky.

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

Darrin:  I’m going to go with Detroit Tigers baseball.  Nothing says summer like a trip to the ballpark, and Comerica Park is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon (especially if the Tigers win).

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

Darrin:  Monica McFawn is an amazing fiction writer and playwright with a dynamic personality.  Everyone should know her and read her story collection, Bright Shards of Someplace Else.  And I have to give a holler to my colleagues at Central Michigan University:  Matt Roberson, Jeffrey Bean, and Robert Fanning are some extremely talented writers and teachers, and it’s such a privilege to work with them.

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

Darrin:  I've lived in three other states and visited plenty of others, and Michigan has some of the coolest, most friendly, and laid-back people around.  People here are humble, hard-working, and unpretentious, and that’s my kind of people.  Any state that can have the fan-base that the Detroit Lions have after all of their years of ineptitude (I’m a fan since age 9) must have an extremely generous and optimistic population.

Debbie:  That's a wonderful description of the attitude of our state!  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?

Darrin:  No offense to the title of your interview, but I’m going to go with Michiganian.  I can’t help but think of a male goose when I hear the other one.

Debbie:  Darrin, we'll add you to the Michiganian column.  Thank you so much for joining us today for Michiganderganian Monday!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Michigander Monday: Jim Daniels


I'm pleased to welcome Jim Daniels to Michigander Monday!

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

Jim:  I was born in Detroit in 1956 and grew up in Warren. Graduated from Alma College, then Bowling Green State University for grad school. I have been teaching at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where I am the Thomas Stockham Baker University Professor of English, since 1981.

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

Jim:  My fourteenth book of poems, Birth Marks, was published by BOA Editions in 2013 and was selected as a Michigan Notable Book, winner of the Milton Kessler Poetry Book Award, and received the Gold Medal in Poetry in the Independent Publisher Book Awards. My fifth book of short fiction, Eight Mile High, was published by Michigan State University Press in 2014 and also was selected as a Michigan Notable Book. Other recent books include Trigger Man: More Tales of the Motor City, fiction, (Winner, Midwest Book Award), Having a Little Talk with Capital P Poetry, (Poetry Gold Medal, Independent Publisher Book Awards), and All of the Above, all published in 2011. In 2010, I wrote and produced the independent film Mr. Pleasant, my third produced screenplay, which appeared in a number of film festivals across the country, and From Milltown to Malltown (a collaborative book with photographs of Homestead, PA, by Charlee Brodsky), was published. My poems have been featured on Garrison Keillor's "Writer's Almanac," in Billy Collins' Poetry 180 anthologies, and Ted Kooser's "American Life in Poetry" series. My poem "Factory Love" is displayed on the roof of a race car. I have received the Brittingham Prize for Poetry, the Tillie Olsen Prize, the Blue Lynx Poetry Prize, two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and two from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. My poems have appeared in the Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry anthologies.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Jim:  Apology to the Moon, a chapbook of poems from BatCat Press, will appearing later in 2015, and my next film, The End of Blessings, is in postproduction.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Jim:  At the Wayne Public Library at 6:30pm on Tuesday May 26:

Wayne Public Library
3737 S. Wayne Road
Wayne, MI 48184
734-641-4627

And at the Southfield Public Library on Wednesday, May 27 at 6:30pm in the Auditorium:

Southfield Public Library
26300 Evergreen Rd.
Southfield, MI 48076
248-796-4200

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Jim:  Landmark Books in Traverse City

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Jim:  Well, it used to be Tiger Stadium….

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

Jim:  The hydroplane races on the Detroit River

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

Jim:  You cannot see across the Great Lakes. They are big.

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?

Jim:  Michigander, of course.

Debbie:  Jim, we'll add you to the Michigander column.  Thank you so much for joining us for Michigander Monday!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Michigander Monday: Kathleen M. Heideman

I'm pleased to welcome Kathleen Heideman to Michigander Monday.

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

Kathleen:  I grew up on a family dairy farm. My bother is a farmer, my sister is an opera singer.  Poetry feels like a compromise —rooted and earthy, subsistence fare, but also soaring, sometimes lyric, able to shatter glass with a handful of words.  I lived in Minneapolis for many years, but I grew enamored of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and I've come to love underpopulated places.  My work as a creative person, and as an environmentalist has been a gradual process of moving away from concerns that are strictly human-based —convenience, pop-culture, short term comfort— and towards a land ethic based on the writings of Ellen Meloy, Aldo Leopold, Robinson Jeffers, Mary Oliver, the Methow River Poems of William Stafford, etc. My creative work lured me to travel widely:  islands, abandoned mines, old growth forests, off-the-grid spots, National Parks, even Antarctica! But more recently, I've realized that I could spend the rest of my life learning about any single spot in the U.P., so that might be my next challenge:  being still. Seeing, listening.  Learning one spot, deeply.

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

Kathleen:  Well, I'm the proud author of two incredibly obscure chapbooks. They're impossible to find -- but works of art, truly.  Perhaps I love them more because of their rarity. Both were limited fine arts press edition books, gorgeous objects with letterpress type, hand-stitched signatures, hand-printed lithography, transparent overlays, gobs of love on every page. The first chapbook, She Used To Have Some Cows, was a long poem, my response to Joy Harjo's “She Had Some Horses.” That was the work of printer Rebecca Hoenig (La Vacas Press, Philadelphia: 1992). The second, Explaining Pictures to a Dead Hare, was created by artist and master-printer Paulette Myers-Rich (Traffic Street Press, Minneapolis: 1997) — a chapbook-length poem inspired by a photograph of the artist Joseph Beuys, taken by Ute Klophaus through a gallery window.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Kathleen:  A heap, always!  I've got a new poetry manuscript I'm sending around, which travels between the American Badlands and remote wild places of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, as well as a chapbook of poems about collapsed mining towns, and subsidences caused by undermining.  I'm also painting shoreline scenes in Marquette County.  This year, my creative plan is to focus on wild landscapes that are being industrialized, and old industrial sites that are being 'remediated.'  I suspect there's a great deal of difference between places with natural beauty, and artificially restored scenes, aesthetically, and in terms of the stories they tell.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Kathleen:  Easy:  Snowbound Books (Marquette) and Falling Rock Bookstore and Cafe (in Munising)!

Debbie:  And a favorite Michigan library?

Kathleen:  Yep -- Peter White Public Library in Marquette is like a second home.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Kathleen:  I'm partial to remote "balds" — bare rocky knobs of granite, found in the Huron Mountains and a few other special spots in the U.P., perfect for star-gazing or picnics. Also glacial outwash plains, beaches littered with fossilized coral reefs, remote waterfalls, rivers full of boulders, anywhere graced by old white pines.

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

Kathleen:  In winter, my husband and I love to watch the U.P. 200, a dog sled race between Marquette and Grand Marais, which runs right past our front door — a uniquely northwoods treat to see dog teams run by, their harness bells softly tinkling, the warm light of a lantern or headlamp illuminating the sled, the trail and the snow-buttered pines.  And of course, summer in Marquette means Art on the Rocks — a big summer art festival, which has expanded over the years to include a second venue, Outback Art Fair.

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

Kathleen:  Singer-songwriter Michael Waite. Writers Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, Ander Monson, Russell Thorburn, Jonathan Johnson, John Gubbins. Painters Nita Engle, Kathleen Conover, Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen. Photographer Shawn Malone, famous for how she captures starry nights and northern lights over Lake Superior. My late father-in-law, the author and historian Fred Rydholm.

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

Kathleen:  The obvious first, I guess -- Lake Superior contains approximately 10% of all the fresh water on the earth's surface! The aurora crackle like incoming telegraphs, if you listen closely.  Lichen is a sort of litmus test — it can't bear air pollution. And jack pine, no matter what the experts tell you, does not require fire for propagation: on a hot sunny summer day, the rock-hard resinous cones melt like gray crayons, flowering, scattering seeds which sprout in sand, thick as moss.

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?

Kathleen:  Isn't Yooper a choice?  Yooper is in the dictionary now, you know.  But for the sake of being flexible, let's say "Michigander."

Debbie:  Kathleen, we'll add you to both the Michigander and the Yooper columns!  Thank you for joining us today for Michigander/Yooper Monday!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Celebrate the U.P. Event -- Kathleen M. Heideman

One of my upcoming Michigander Monday profilees has an event that will occur prior to her interview running, so I wanted to take a moment to mention it.

Poet and artist Kathleen M. Heideman is a featured artist at this year's "Celebrate the U.P.!" event, sponsored by the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition and the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy.  She'll be presenting a multimedia reading from her newest manuscript, "Something in the Starry Night Keeps Asking To Be Held."  There'll be poems about wild and threatened places in the U.P., poems inspired by swamps, wolves, star-gazing, starvation on Isle Royale, nickel mining on the Yellow Dog Plains, imaginary islands in Lake Superior, sandhill cranes, bark beetles, crooked white pines, carnivorous plants, etc.  A slideshow of her paintings and photos will accompany the reading, as well as a display of watercolors from her artist residency at Isle Royale National Park.

The overall Celebrate the U.P. event runs March 13-15 in Marquette (more info here).  Kathleen's reading will be on Saturday, March 14 at 10:15 AM at the Peter White Public Library.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Michigander Monday: W. Bruce Cameron

I'm pleased to welcome W. Bruce Cameron to Michigander Monday!

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

Bruce:  I was born in Petoskey Michigan, though I don’t actually remember much about the event. For a long time I was a child. Then, much too briefly, I was a young man. Somewhere around age 22 I became middle-aged. The condition persists to this day.

I always wanted to be a writer. I mean, I would not have objected if I had turned out to be a professional athlete, or the heir to a tremendous fortune, but when I imagined myself as a grown-up, it was always as a man with a shelf full of bestsellers that I had written and which had made me very popular. However, when I got out of college, I found it difficult to live on my income as a writer, which was zero. I wound up holding down a whole roster of jobs, including repo man, insurance salesman, ambulance driver, financial analyst, and my favorite job title: Chief Knowledge Officer.  Through it all, over the years, I wrote. In all, I wrote nine unpublished novels before my 10th book, Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, was published. In August, my ninth published book will be out and I will finally have as many works in print as I do novels that have never seen the light of day.

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

Bruce:  I am probably best known for my two book series: A Dog’s Purpose, and the sequel, A Dog Journey. A Dog’s Purpose spent a combined 52 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and flirts with getting back on that list every Christmas. It was simple, really: I wrote a book centered on two themes we know are true – that true love never dies, and that our real friends are always there for us if we just know where to look. In my experience, when you mine something that is universally recognized as fact, people will want to read your work.

Yet, I started as a humor book writer. So, humor finds its way into everything I write. In October 2014, my novel, The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man, introduced my readers to the hilarious world of Ruddy McCann and his fellow misfits in the very real town of Kalkaska Michigan. It’s a murder mystery, a thriller, and a romantic novel: but it is also really funny. It is the best reviewed book I have ever written, and has reader ratings almost as high as those for A Dog’s Purpose. The premise: what would happen if one day you heard a voice in your head, a voice claiming to be a ghost, sort of, the ghost of a man who is been murdered. The victim wants you to find his killers and bring them to justice. Along the way, you need to make a living, which you do by being a repo man and by being the bouncer of your sister’s bar. I am currently crafting the sequel to The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man, which will be out in a year or so.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Bruce:  Ellie’s Story, a book for young readers, will be out in April 2015. It is based on the life of one of the dogs from A Dog’s Purpose.  It has one of the cutest puppies ever photographed on the cover.

In August 2015 the most ambitious book I have ever written will be published: The Dog Master.  It tells the story of one of the most pivotal events in human history – the very first time a wolf was domesticated. Set against the backdrop of one of the most dangerous times in our existence (the beginning of the last Ice Age), it’s a dramatic, sometimes violent, and always exciting tale, told from the point of view of the humans and the wolves involved in this amazing experience. Though I am proud of all of my books, this one taxed my talents and stamina more than anything else I have ever done.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Bruce:  I traveled almost continuously beginning October 26, 2014 and ending in mid-January. I gained so much weight I was afraid the airline was going to charge me extra. I experienced sleep deprivation, battle fatigue, too much fried food, and an eardrum bursting number of airport announcements. To even contemplate another appearance at this point sends me into hyperventilation. I am assuming that at some point in my life I will leave my home and go back out into the world, but right now, all I want to do is curl up with my dog.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Bruce:  My favorite bookstores are in Michigan because they are in Michigan. It is one of the best states in the Union in which to read. There is just something about the weather, the way the clouds and the cold combine to make a fire, a mug of coffee, and a good book an irresistible lure.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Bruce:  Just like the character Ruddy McCann in The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man, I was a repo man in northern Michigan. I spent most of my time in a car driving around the area. When the autumn colors were in full blush in the sunlight was spilling out of the sky, lighting up all the red and gold and yellow and green, I would laugh out loud with delight. Anyone who has never seen Michigan owes it to himself to go there and experience a uniquely glorious place.

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

Bruce:  I was born on July 25. Around that date, every year, Charlevoix hosts a Venetian Festival. When I was growing up, I assumed that the boats, the fireworks, the art fair, and everything was all because people were just so happy I had been born. I refuse to be dissuaded from that delusion to this day.

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

Bruce:  Outside the library in Petoskey Michigan there is a bronze statue of Bruce Catton. He is apparently the other “Bruce C.” who was born there. I expect that any day now I will get a phone call telling me that they are ready to unveil my bronze statue.

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

Bruce:  People don’t realize that there is another West Coast in this country: the long, gorgeous shoreline of Lake Michigan. A long time ago I wrote a travel article for Rachael Ray magazine extolling the benefits and beauty of this other West Coast. To do my research, I drove all the way from Benton Harbor to Harbor Springs. It was a really stupid idea. I did not have time to enjoy a moment of the trip, I was always behind schedule. However, I have also driven the West Coast in California, albeit at a more leisurely pace. I would put Michigan’s line up against California’s any day of the week.

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?

Bruce:  I have never met anyone who calls himself a Michiganian. It sounds like some sort of sandwich. I am a Michigander.

Debbie:  We'll add you to the Michigander column!  Bruce, thank you so much for joining us today for Michigander Monday!