Monday, June 29, 2015

Michigander Monday: Emily Van Kley

I'm pleased to welcome Emily Van Kley to Michigander Monday!

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

Emily:  I  grew up in the U.P., mostly in the small towns of Ishpeming and Wakefield. Currently I live in Olympia, Washington, where it tragically never snows but where there are plenty of trees and big water--salty though it may be---all of which helps me feel at home. I met my partner, Allison, when I was in graduate school in Spokane, Washington, and she and I have been adventuring since then, living for a while in the North Cascades, learning to keep chickens, braving canoe rides among the jellyfish of the Puget Sound. I currently work for the Olympia Food Co-op, a collectively-managed grocery store, love to practice aerial acrobatics in my spare time. I have a website! A brand new little thing a friend helped me set up: www.emilyvankley.com

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

Emily:  I have an MFA in fiction, but for the last five years or so I've found myself pretty much exclusively writing poetry. I'm hoping I'll be interested in stories again at some point, (I love to read them) but there's something about poems--their flintiness, their compression--that is just so compelling to me. Seems like that's what I'll be focusing on for the foreseeable future. People have introduced my work by calling it "idiosyncratic" and "muscular," adjectives I kind of like if applied to me as a person, but am mostly just confused by in regards to my writing.

Debbie:  New projects on the horizon?

Emily:  I've recently finished my first poetry manuscript and am working on a second. Poems from both collections have been published in a variety of journals: The Iowa Review, The Mississippi Review, etc.--I have a bundle forthcoming in Nimrod later this year. Recently I had the chance to collaborate with a book artist, (Catherine Alice Michaelis) an etymologist (Emilie Bess) and a musician (Melanie Valera) on a artist book project called Soil Dwellers, which will show at the University of Puget Sound this fall. And, let's see, I'm working on a Michigan-themed essay for Essay Daily, which is scheduled to be published this fall (though it could come out earlier). Also, this winter I had the chance to perform a poem as an aerial piece for the first time: I'd like to do more of that!

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

Emily:  I have really fond memories of the Carnegie Public Library in Ishpeming, where I spent countless summer hours checking out my limit of books and signing up to play super cool computer games like Winnie the Pooh back in the 80s, and where there's a floor made of glass(!) which when I was a kid seemed like pretty much the most magical thing.

My parents now live in Marquette and I love Snowbound Books: one of those lovely community bookshops with lots of fantastic nooks and crannies to explore, really interesting staff recommendations, and a strong sense of what's great out there in the literary world. I could happily spend hours there.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Emily:  Oh god. Well, I adore Lake Superior for its vastness and depth and sometimes brutal beauty. The lake and snow are the most salient landscapes of my child and early adulthood; they tend to dominate my thinking (and therefore my poetry) about the U.P. So most of my favorite places in Michigan are related to Lake Superior: I love Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore for its proximity to the lake and its wild variety of beaches: everything from rumpled boulders to white sand to otherwordly-looking shale that sounds like broken pottery underfoot and cuts away under waves ahead of you so there's no telling if it's an inch or a hundred feet thick.

I have an adopted elderly uncle whose camp is another one of my favorite spots: an a-frame right on Superior near Marquette, with a cement and cedar sauna that sits just above the massive rock formations that make up the shoreline. The sauna has three benches and a hulk of a stove topped by lake-smoothed stones upon which you throw water until steam fills the room and threatens to cut off your breathing, at which point you burst out the sauna door, run down a few steps and huddle in a wave-carved rock hollow where you are pummeled by the most mind-numbingly cold water you can imagine, then fly back to the sauna to repeat over and over.

I love the mouth of the Black River where it meets Lake Superior, the tea-colored water of so many U.P. rivers feathering out into more blue than you can your eyes can properly take in.

I'm not actually very familiar with Lower Michigan--my family tended to head west through Wisconsin when visiting Chicago and points south--but I will say that I feel really inspired by the work of community activists in Detroit and other parts of the state where people are finding ways to grow their own food, oppose the shutting off of water and other basic services, and otherwise confront the effects of the natural resources/ manufacturing sector collapse that has hit the whole state. Even if specific conditions in the rural U.P. are different than those in more urban areas, nearly every community in Michigan is dealing with the same economic struggle and I feel a lot of solidarity and a great tenderness for folks throughout the state because of that.

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

Emily:  Well this summer there will be another installment of the U.P. book tour, which is a really special event: writers from the U.P. or whose work is set in the U.P. will visit all these small towns up north, reading in libraries and high school cafeterias, talking with folks about what inspires them to write about the U.P. I'm not able to make it back to read this year, but had a great time when I participated a few years ago, and anyone who's able should look for an event near them. This year the tour is promoting Here: Women Writing on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, a cool new anthology edited by Ron Riekki, where a couple of my poems appear. Tour dates at http://rariekki.webs.com/apps/blog/

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

Emily:  I really appreciate the poetry of Catie Rosemurgy and Ander Monson, two folks writing about the U.P. whose work I love to read.

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?

Emily:  Michigander all the way. Michiginian is not nearly as fun to say and besides is super annoying to spell. Plus what's good for the goose, etc.

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

Monday, June 22, 2015

Michigander Monday: Patricia Abbott

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

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

Patricia:  For the last fifteen years I've been a short story writer, publishing more than 140 stories in various zines, print journals, and anthologies. I have also published two ebooks through Snubnose Press and edited an anthology through Untreed Reads. My husband just retired as a distinguished professor in political science at Wayne State University. I am also the mother of two grown children: Josh is an Assistant Prosecutor in Macomb County, MI and Megan is a novelist and screenwriter and lives in New York. Before retiring to write full-time, I wrote various publications at W.S.U for more than 20 years. For many years we lived in Grosse Pointe but now we live in Huntington Woods, MI

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

Patricia:  Concrete Angel flips James Cain's Mildred Pierce. Eve Moran has always wanted “things” and has proven both inventive and tenacious in getting and keeping them. Eve lies, steals, cheats, swindles, and finally commits murder, paying little heed to the cost of her actions on those who love her. Her daughter, Christine, compelled by love, dependency, and circumstance, is caught up in her mother’s deceptions. It’s only when Christine’s three-year old brother, Ryan begins to prove useful to her mother, and she sees a pattern repeating itself, that Christine finds the courage and means to bring an end to Eve’s tyranny.  The book is set in Philadelphia in the sixties and seventies. (Polis Books is the publisher.)

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Patricia:  I had a two-book deal with Polis so a second book, set in Detroit and called Shot in Detroit, is due to be published in Summer 2016.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Patricia:  I was in New York last week at The Mysterious Bookshop.  I'll be at Bouchercon, the international mystery writers conference, in October, hopefully at the Grosse Pointe library sometime in the fall, and at an event in Austin sometime this winter.

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

Patricia:  My favorite Michigan bookstores include Book Beat in Oak Park, Aunt Agatha's in Ann Arbor, Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor, and the Grosse Pointe Public Library, which has fed my need to read for 45 years. I am now becoming involved as a Friend of the Library in Huntington Woods.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Patricia:  I am crazy about so many towns in Michigan. This would include Chelsea, Michigan where we go see productions at the Purple Rose Theater; Leland, Michigan, where we have spent many vacations, Traverse City, which has become a truly great city in recent years, Ann Arbor, where both my kids went to college. We have spent many an hour browsing bookstores, seeing productions at Performance Network, the Hill Auditorium, etc. in Ann Arbor. And as someone who has lived outside Detroit for 45 years, I am gratified and hopeful about its recent steps toward a renaissance.

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

Patricia:  My very favorite Michigan event is the Traverse City Film Festival, which we have attended almost every year since its inception. For anyone who loves movies, this is pure bliss. I cannot compliment Michael Moore or the people of Traverse City enough for putting on such a great festival. Runnerup would be the Kerrytown Book Festival in September. Such a special day.

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

Patricia:  I have been part of several writing groups over the years and would like to mention some of the great Michigan writers I have met through these groups: Kathe Koja, Dorene O'Brien, Mitch Bartoy, John Gallagher, Patrick O'Leary, Alinda Wasner, Ksenia Rychtycka, Claire Crabtree, Anca Vlaospolos, Anthony Ambrogio and Robin Watson.

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

Patricia:  Detroit's on its way back. From almost empty streets downtown five years ago to crowded restaurants and events today. Young people have done much to help in this revitalization. So too having the great anchors of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Michigan Opera Theater and many more. Few people realize Detroit is a world class city in so many ways.

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:  Michigander although I also regard myself as a Philadelphian. Concrete Angel let me tap into the love of my hometown.

Debbie:  Patricia, we'll add you to the Michigander/Philadelphian column.  Thank you very much for joining us today for Michigander Monday!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Michigander Monday: Matthew Baker

I'm pleased to welcome Matthew Baker to Michigander Monday!

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

Matthew:  I grew up in a house in the woods on the outskirts of Grand Rapids. The house was at the end of a very long road lined with ponds and farms. I spent most of my childhood out in the woods climbing trees, collecting feathers, inspecting mushrooms, and chasing fireflies. It was perfect really. Anyway, I went to undergrad out in Holland, and then afterward I left Michigan for a while. I moved to Tennessee for a few years to study in the MFA program at Vanderbilt. I lived in Ireland for a year as a Fulbright Fellow. I was homeless for a while and bounced around between artist residencies in New York and New Hampshire and Illinois. And now I'm back in Grand Rapids. I currently live in a studio on the top floor of what used to be a gigantic church. I drink a lot of matcha, eat a lot of halvah, and like people-watching. I usually listen to video-game soundtracks while writing.

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

Matthew:  If You Find This is a novel about a boy growing up in a village on the shore of Lake Michigan. It's a unique book in that it's narrated in a fusion of English and music notations. Every sound word in the book (like "slammed" or "sneezed") has a music dynamic attached underneath (like "forte" or "piano"). It's basically written like sheet music except with words instead of notes. The story is about a bootlegger grandfather, a supposedly haunted house, and a hunt for missing family heirlooms. So, in terms of genre, it's an experimental novel with elements of mystery and adventure. It's especially for readers between the ages of eight and thirteen.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Matthew:  My next novel is about computer hacking, urban exploring, and some other things that I'd better not mention specifically because I'm afraid of giving everything away. (That book should be coming out sometime in 2016.)

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Matthew:  My next reading/signing will be at Hope College on September 24th. (I'll be sharing the stage with the poet genius Kathleen McGookey.)

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Matthew:  So many. The Cottage Bookshop in Glen Arbor. Bookbug in Kalamazoo. The Book Beat in Detroit. Literati in Ann Arbor. I spend a lot of time, a lot, browsing the comics at Vault of Midnight. Have Company has got the best zines.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Matthew:  Well, my number one favorite place is The Secret Road, but that's probably not a very satisfying answer considering that I'm not allowed to tell you where it is or what it is or really anything about it at all. I have other favorites, though. The Bowl in Holland. Fishtown in Leland. Sleeping Bear. South Manitou and North Manitou. Mackinac Island. Interlochen. Marie Catrib's. Madcap. Robinette's Apple Haus.

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

Matthew:  I go to The Cherry Bowl Drive-In every summer without fail.

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

Matthew:  If you don't know about Captain H. Tanny, I'd like to tell you about Captain H. Tanny. Captain H. Tanny is a mysterious adventurer who travels the world and periodically corresponds with the kids at the Creative Youth Center in Grand Rapids. She or he (not much is known about the captain's identity) has excellent taste in postcards.

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

Matthew:  It's best not to provoke the Ada Witch.

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?

Matthew:  There's no such thing as a Michiganian.

Debbie:  We will put you firmly in the Michigander column!  Matthew, thank you so much for joining us today for Michigander Monday!

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!