Monday, October 15, 2018

Michigander Monday: Anna Clark


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

DebbieAnna, please tell us a little about yourself.

AnnaI'm a journalist who grew up in a little town in the southwest corner of Michigan. My family scraped to get by while I was growing up, and I credit a lot of my fearlessness about work (of all kinds) and my habit of living simply -- critical characteristics for being a full-time freelance writer, it turns out -- to the culture of our household. I went to college at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and I now live in Detroit. I've also lived in Boston and in Nairobi, Kenya, but it's fair to say that I'm well-rooted in the Great Lakes State! Besides writing and reading, I'm enthusiastic about jogging, exploring the outdoors, and playing with my nieces and nephews. This past summer, I've been using The America's Test Kitchen Complete Vegetarian Cookbook as a way to not only eat tasty food but to become a better cook. The more I learn, the more fun it is to be in the kitchen!

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

Anna:  I wrote The Poisoned City: Flint's Water and the American Urban Tragedy, which not only looks at the utter disaster of what happened (and is still happening) in Flint, but also examines how the city became so vulnerable in the first place. It brings together original reporting, history, and narrative to bring the story to life.

Also, I wrote a small book that explores the rich and often surprising literary culture of the Third Coast. It's called Michigan Literary Luminaries: From Elmore Leonard to Robert Hayden, and it was fun excuse to dig up the roots of our great storytellers. I also edited A Detroit Anthology, which is a collection of essays, photographs, art, and poetry. The anthology was a chance to get past the  headlines about Detroit and bring the conversation back to our lived experiences. These are the kind of stories that are shared on porches and in pubs, in cafes and at church picnics -- that is, they are the kind of stories that made me fall in love with Detroit in the first place.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Anna:  Book events are such a fun way to engage with different communities, and I'm excited about all that's coming up! The calendar to date includes Michigan stops in Livonia, St. Joseph, Ypsilanti, Monroe, Grand Haven, Troy, and two particularly exciting programs: the fabulous Flint Literary Festival at the end of October, and the 9th Annual Community Reads program at the Wixom Public Library in November. Wixom is one of six different libraries in southeast Michigan that collaborate on a big annual book program. The Poisoned City is this year's pick, and there are fantastic events all season long -- book discussions, films, workshops, and more -- that pick up on the themes. I'm very excited to join such an engaged group at the final event on November 9.

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

Anna:  Don't make me choose, Debbie! There are too many to pick, but I'll shout out some of my many favorites. In Detroit, John K. King Used & Rare Books, Source Booksellers, and Pages Bookshop all offer radically different experiences for readers. Pages is spacious, brimming with great titles, and is the home of a prowling cat named Pip. Source is cozy, eclectic, and well-curated, specializing in African American nonfiction. John King is so labyrinthine, you actually get a map when you enter the doors. Also, up in Traverse City, Brilliant Books is a destination for me. It always raises my spirits, as does McLean and Eakin in Petoskey. And in St. Joseph, Forever Books (where I used to work!) is a joyful, sunny space that is such an important community hub.

Speaking of St. Joe, my childhood library, the Maud Preston Palenske Memorial Library, right on the Lake Michigan bluff, will always have a place in my heart. And here in the city where I now live, the Detroit Public Library never fails to astonish me with its wealth of books, art, and historic archives. I love writing and reading by the windows in the second floor of the main branch on Woodward Avenue. Plus, DPL gets a big high-five for re-opening on Sundays. Back in 1981, Sunday hours were shut down because of budget cuts. Now they're back at the main library, and newly available at two branches. Joy!

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Anna:  It's one of my many loves, but the Nordhouse Dunes, up near Ludington and the Manistee National Forest, gets a praise song from me. The sounds and sunsets sometimes show up in my dreams.

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

Anna:  Every October, my sister, brother-in-law, and two cousins and I run as a relay team in the Detroit Free Press International Marathon. It's a fantastic race that has given us a new beloved family tradition! The five of us live in three different states, so we call ourselves the Long Distance Long Distance Running Club. We keep up a text chain throughout the year about our running habits (among other things). Not only is it a fun way to keep us all connected, but it has propelled all of us to accomplish more as runners than we would have done alone. None of us are exactly natural-born Olympians, but we work hard and, most especially, we have fun. And while we've also run half-marathons and 5Ks together, the Detroit Marathon relay weekend is a mainstay. We come together from all our different towns (those with kids leave them with the grandparents!). We run as a team on a fantastic course that involves crossing an international border twice on foot. We cheer other on, and we enjoy good meals, good coffee and beers, and lots of laughter. We love it!

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

Anna:  We have more coastline than any other state besides Alaska. And anywhere you go in these two peninsulas, you will never more than six miles away from a natural body of water.

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?

Anna:  Michigander, 100 percent.

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