Thursday, July 30, 2009

Young Folk BookFest, August 8-9, 2009!

The first annual Young Folk BookFest, launched and hosted by Michigan State University Press, will be held Saturday, August 8 and Sunday, August 9, in conjunction with the 2009 East Lansing Great Lakes Folk Festival. Be sure to stop by!

The schedule is now available. Guest authors and illustrators scheduled for readings and discussions (in order of appearance) include: Gloria Whelan, Denise Brennan-Nelson, Rosemarie Brennan, Mary Ann McCabe Riehle, Ruth McNally Barshaw, Renee Hand, Kirk Lignell, Jef Mallett, Doris Holik Kelly, Nancy Shaw, Charity Nebbe, Jeffrey Shatzer, Susan Collins Thoms, Cynthia Furlong Reynolds, Debbie Taylor, Jim Hines, David Coverly, and Jim Tobin. (That's a long list! I think I included them all, but I may have left one off...)

The MSU Literacy Achievement Research Center will be holding several sessions of interest to parents and educators: one on poetry; one on multicultural and African literature; and one on humor and graphic novels.

There will be many books from the MSU Press on display (and I was pleased to see my friend Ann Finkelstein's MSU Press book Science Is Golden on the Young Folk BookFest poster!). Also on hand will be books for sale by Barnes & Noble; Curious Book Shop, Archives Book Shop; Everybody Reads; and Riley Books. The East Lansing Public Library and the Library of Michigan will have informational displays.

According to the Young Folk BookFest press release, the BookFest's generous sponsors are Meijer, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, CATA, City of Lansing 4th Ward Council Member Tim Kaltenbach, Levine Law Group, Megawave Corporation, Michigan Flyer, MittenLit, MSU Office of the Provost, and Mark Shawl. Great gratitude goes out to all the sponsors and planners for launching the inaugural Young Folk BookFest!

Should be a great time! Be sure to come!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Michigander Monday: Karen Bell-Brege and Darrin Brege

I'm pleased to welcome Karen Bell-Brege to Michigander Monday!

Debbie: Tell us a little about yourself.

Karen: I am originally from Michigan, but have lived in other countries with my family when I was young, and several states before coming back home to Michigan. I always loved to read - constantly. I am the author of the Mick Morris Myth Solver series and the Ghost Board Posse series. My husband Darrin began his art career at 13 and he is the cover artist and interior illustrator for all of our books. He is also the artist who branded the Michigan and American Chillers series. We met when he auditioned for my improvisational comedy troupe at Mark Ridley's Comedy Castle. We performed comedy together weekly, for 15 years (and sometimes still do). We both do voice-overs and have done several computer games and worked in radio. We love being young at heart – which is what lead us to our two children's books series…that, and of course our adorable son who is our inspiration.

Debbie: And we'd like to know all about your latest books.

Karen: The next book coming out is: Mick Morris Myth Solver #5 Abominable Snowman…A Frozen Nightmare! Also, immediately following that is the second book in the Ghost Board Posse series, Ghost Board Posse #2 Aloha Haunts!

Debbie: Other books, and projects on the horizon?

Karen: We are working on a sketchbook entitled Sketch the Myths which will be a fun compilation of many of the illustrations from our Mick Morris books and how to draw the, plus myth facts.

Debbie: Upcoming appearances?

Karen: We will be at the Brighton District Library in Brighton, Michigan, August 6th at 6:30pm, at the Barnes & Noble in Muskegon, October 19th at 11:30am, and at the Clinton Macomb Public Library in Clinton Township on November 7th at 2:00pm. Plus, we have lots of school visits lined up this year, which is something we just love to do!

Debbie: Your favorite place or placess in Michigan?

Karen: Oh, we would be so happy to give you a list; there are so many wonderful places here. We love Ann Arbor, just the entire flavor of that exciting little city. We also love all the beautiful coastal towns that dot this entire state: Grand Haven, Petoskey, Traverse City, and of course Mackinac Island. All of the Lake Michigan beaches –are just our favorites! And let's not forget the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, and Cranbrook. I know that you know the list goes on and on…

Debbie: It sure does! So many wonderful places to see in Michigan. And your favorite Michigan event or happening?

Karen: Summer with the most lush greenery and beautiful blue lakes, which is a toss-up for us between the breathtaking Fall – Cider Mills, Pumpkins, Plymouth's Fall Festival and there is no place like Halloween in Michigan! We also love the Traverse City Film Festival as we are huge movie buffs.

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

Karen: For starters you – Debbie Diesen! You take your time to help promote and share this information on your own wonder blog spot - Jumping the Candlestick, and you are a terrific writer yourself! So you - who takes care of us fellow authors and illustrators. Also, the teachers of our fine state, who keep navigating these kids to great heights in this tough economic climate. Next, I would have to say some of our comedy friends, Mark Ridley, Jeff Wilson, Heather Kovacik and all the other great local comics. Not to forget to mention the authors and illustrators from our fine state, Mike & Colleen Monroe, Johnathan Rand, and the van Frankenhuyzens…and so many other oh so talented people!

Debbie: Michigan sure does have an abundance of talent! What an amazing resource. (And thank you for your kind words about this blog and the Michigander Monday feature! -- but truly I'm just so thoroughly honored and pleased that folks are willing to share their time and be interviewed. It's very fun and gratifying to do.)

Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about our state?

Karen: Well, it's no secret with the automotive industry slump and the recession, in Michigan we have been hit the hardest, but if there is one thing that Michigan has – it's the people. As Michiganders we are hard-working, resilient, fun and funny…and we will always persevere…hopefully more creatively than ever before.

Debbie: Well said! One last question: Some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you "Michiganders" or a "Michiganians"?

Karen: Oops, I already said it – Michiganders, no question!

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

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Even the Llama Got A Lot of Writing Done

I'm back from my annual writing retreat. It was wonderful! Lots of productive writing time, along with plenty of food, laughter, and friendship. Can't wait until next year!

(L to R: Buffy, Tim, Lori, Me, Ann, Kay, Ruth, and Gus-Pacho. Not pictured: April and Amy, who will be with us next year.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Retreat! Retreat!

Whoever said "Never retreat; never surrender," never met my writing group. Today marks the start of my critique group's annual three-day writing weekend, and I plan to surrender myself to a productive and convivial retreat!

(Didn't have time to find the source of the "Never retreat; never surrender" quote. Is it a famous quotation? Song lyric? Fortune cookie insert? No idea. If you know, fill me in.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wednesday Workout Review: "Pick Your Level: Weight Loss Pilates" by Ellen Barrett

I have several Ellen Barrett workouts in my collection. She's a good instructor: her workouts are well-designed; and her demeanor is cheerful and encouraging without being over the top. Pick Your Level Weight Loss Pilates (2006) is not one of the DVDs in my own collection, but I recently rented it to give it a go.

The full workout runs 30 minutes, though you can choose to do it in 10-minute segments (standing, side-lying, or mat). Throughout the DVD, there are 3 different workout options (demonstrated by Ellen at level 2 and her assistants at levels 1 and 3).

While I found the 3-level format distracting at times, and while I do feel that the instructor should be the one to do the level 3, generally speaking I did like this workout. For a half hour workout, it's very thorough, and it proceeds at a good pace without ever feeling rushed. And Ellen always has a few moves or variations you don't see elsewhere, which helps prevent workout boredom from setting in.

Ellen Barrett has a website and a blog, and a new DVD coming out this fall.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday Tunes: "The Next Hundred Years" by Ted Hawkins

The Next Hundred Years by the late Ted Hawkins is an amazing and moving album. Read about it -- and about the life of Ted Hawkins -- here, here, here, and here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Michigander Monday: Ryan Hipp

(Quick Update: I apologize for some previous technical difficulties with the graphics on this post -- I think things are fixed now. DLD)

I'm pleased this week to welcome Ryan Hipp to Michigander Monday!

Debbie: Tell us a little about yourself.

Ryan: My name is Ryan Hipp. I am a total dork. I obsessively collect toys. I play Dungeons & Dragons. I read comic books. I have seen every episode of the Twilight Zone several times. When we have home improvement plumbing projects, I secretly wish I could call the Mario Bros. If you show me a picture of a random Star Wars character, I can not only tell you their name, but what system they are from. I understand the most obscure Lord of the Rings references, and will high-five those who know what "BSG" means. Oh, and I make picture books and music for kids for a living.

Debbie (who disappeared briefly to Google what BSG means but who has now returned to the interview...): Ryan, please tell us about your latest book.

Ryan: My most current published book is called How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck Chuck?, but I am better known for co-illustrating A Curious Glimpse of Michigan.

Debbie: Other books, and and projects on the horizon?

Ryan: I am writing and illustrating a book called Cash Cow; the story of a spoiled heiress that doesn't know what to do with her life after she loses the family fortune. Its a story about being a good person and knowing what really matters most in life.

Debbie: Upcoming appearances?

Ryan: My really great and biggest news is I have been accepted by a really terrific venue for the Grand Rapids ARTPRIZE. The Grand Rapids Public Museum at the Van Andel Center will be hosting my ARTPRIZE project. My art will be showcased there beginning September 23 thru October 10, 2009. Its quite an honor as their selection pool was ginormous. For more information, visit my profile at

Debbie: Ryan, that's great news!! And your favorite place in Michigan?

Ryan: One of my very favorite places in Michigan is our cottage on Silver Lake near the sand dunes.

Debbie: Favorite Michigan event or happening?

Ryan: The National Asparagus Festival in Hart/Shelby. We have been going every year for the past 8 years. Its super great small town fun. There is a parade, and the highlight is the Scottville Clown Band that plays every year. Here is some footage I took this year:

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

Ryan: I am a member of a group of really talented West Michigan comics artists called the Grand Rapids Comics Roundtable (, and my co-founder is sequential artist and cartoonist Matthew Reidsma who is doing some really fantastic work:

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

Ryan: Michigan has the highest production of cucumbers that are used for pickling (an excerpt from my book, A Curious Glimpse of Michigan).

Debbie: Some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Ryan: I'm new skool. I just go by "Gander, yo."

Debbie: A new column for our tally! (Gotta love those write-in votes.) Ryan, thank you for being here today. And hearty congratulations to you on being accepted for the Grand Rapids ArtPrize venue!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

All the World

I love Marla Frazee's art. Every book that she illustrates pulls me in completely. Her characters are charming people I'm sure I've met; and her settings are absorbing places I'm sure I've stayed. Her style is the perfect mix of realistic and whimsical, and I absolutely adore it.

And so it is that I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to have an ARC of the forthcoming book All the World.

Written by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrated by none other than Marla Frazee, All the World is a beautiful book. The text begins, "Rock, stone, pebble, sand/Body, shoulder, arm, hand/A moat to dig, a shell to keep/All the world is wide and deep." The illustrations to the poetic text follow a family of four as their day takes them from shore to treetop to cafe to fireside and more, all with a widening cast of family and friends. The book ends: "Hope and peace and love and trust/All the world is all of us."

All the World is published by Allyn Johnston's new imprint Beach Lane Books, and will be in stores in September.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tuesday Tunes: This and that

This week, instead of featuring a favorite album, I invite you to stroll down musical memory lane for a moment and take this summer music quiz, which identifies the year in which middle age kicked in for you.

(It hardly seems fair that I apparently became middle-aged when I was 22.)

I also invite you to head over and watch this video. It will make you smile, I guarantee it.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Michigander Monday: Patricia Polacco

What a great thrill to welcome Patricia Polacco to Michigander Monday! Patricia Polacco is an amazing talent in the world of children's books.

Debbie: Tell us a little about yourself.

Patricia: I am the author and illustrator of over 50 children's picture books and I love to tell stories! Growing up in a family of marvelous storytellers, I was surrounded by glorious tales, each retelling gaining a little more umph! Many of those stories focused on what is near and dear to my heart; my family, my friends, and familiar places like my home town of Union City, Michigan.

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

Patricia: January's Sparrow is my latest book due for release on October 27th. It is about the Crosswhite family who were escaped slaves from Kentucky, who come up the underground railroad and eventually settled in Marshall, MI. The story is told through the eyes of Sadie, the youngest child in the Crosswhite family. The family lived in Marshall and became active in the African American community there, helping other runaway slaves escape to Canada through Marshall. A new baby was born to the family while there, but after four years of living in freedom and peace, the slave catchers from Kentucky came to steal them away and take them back to their plantation owner. The entire village of Marshall , black and white citizens alike, rioted and would not allow this family to be taken. It is said by some that this rebellion against the southern plantation owner was instrumental in starting the Civil War. It is a very heartbreaking, yet uplifting personal story that is true to the history of Marshall, MI. This is a novel with illustrations, There are 97 pages in this story!

Debbie: Other books, and and projects on the horizon?

Patricia: Junk Yard Wonders is a story about a Michigan teacher who was instrumental in helping me believe in myself. I was in her class of learning disabled students. This story takes place in Williamston, MI, which is where my father, William Barber, made his home for most of his life.

Debbie: Do you have any upcoming appearances?

Patricia: Fireside Books in Marshall, MI on October 29th for the release of January's Sparrow. (Watch Patricia's web site at for details to follow.)

Debbie: Your favorite place in Michigan?

Patricia: My farm here, called "Meteor Ridge Farm."

Debbie: And your favorite Michigan event or happening?

Patricia: The Meteor Festival that we hold here in Union City annually.

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

Patricia: David Small and Sarah Stewart who live in Mendon. Christopher Paul Curtis, a Michigan author. Joel and Donna Claar at their farm, "Welcome Comfort Farm." Marlin Mock, Larry and Sue Shroyer. Tammy Strong, Tom Lowande and Lori Miller. Judge Bill O'Grady and his family. And many more! Great people!!

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

Patricia: It is steeped in history and no matter where you are in Michigan, you are less than three miles away from a body of water.

Debbie: Some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Patricia: Michigander!

Debbie: Patricia, thank you so much for being here today! It's been a great honor.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

In Case It's Raining Where You Are

Yes, I've been guilty lately of (benign) blog neglect. Guess it's all the fresh air and sunshine around here, keeping me away from my computer. But just in case your weather isn't so lovely as ours, here are a few diversions for you until I get back to blogging:

Find Out What's Special About This Number? (Unique attributes of the numbers 0 to 9999)
Write Your Name In Elvish (not being a Tolkien reader, I had to actually look up what Elvish is)
Discover Where I Snagged The Previous Two Links From
Laugh Out Loud at "Web Site Story" (a short, updated-for-the-internet version of West Side Story)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Poetry Friday

Note: Tabatha A. Yeatts has the round-up this week. Head over for lots of great poetry and poetry discussion. Here's my bit for Poetry Friday.
- - - - - - -


In the oasis of cool basement

we sit side by side and sort the

bin marked "odds and ends."

He loses interest and wanders

away then circles round again

to see what I've tossed into the

tall trash can. Junk. Treasures.

Flotsam. Shards. He pulls out

and slips onto his small, soft wrist

an old watch. "It's broken,"

I say. But a smile lifts his cheeks.

He twirls the metal band, touches

the clear, glass face. "I'll wear it

anyway," he says. "We'll just be

frozen in time."