Monday, December 19, 2011

Michigander Monday: Sarah Kallio

I'm pleased to welcome Sarah Kallio to Michigander Monday!  Sarah is co-author of The Stocked Kitchen: One Grocery List, Endless Recipes.

Debbie:  Sarah, tell us a little about yourself.

Sarah:  I was born and raised in Michigan.  I have migrated West across the State from Essexville, to Mt. Pleasant, to Grand Rapids, to Grand Haven.  I briefly lived in North Carolina and Illinois after college, and missed the mitten.  (More accurately, I missed my boyfriend who is now my husband, and has been for 12 years.)  I graduated from Mt. Pleasant High School and went on to receive a BS from the College of Engineering at Michigan State University.  I married my Larry and we have 2 of the most gorgeous, funny, and lovely daughters a mom could ask for.  The are now 5 and 9, going on 15 and 25.  (I allowed my youngest to wear just a bit of eye shadow for Halloween and she asked if I would give her a "smoky eye."  Lord help us!)   I worked in industry and manufacturing for years, but never felt like I was exactly in the right spot.  I now know that I need to have an more creative outlet.  I have a huge mound of kinky red hair, which I no longer attempt to straighten.  I love to read and to watch Merchant Ivory films (my husband argues that making him watch them with me is not in accordance with the Geneva Convention and is a crime against humanity.)  My favorite Sunday afternoon is when I put on an apron and set Slacker Radio to Edith Piaf and bake.  I like to always be wearing a bit of leopard skin pattern, and all I need to know I learned from Fran Drescher on The Nanny.  I love hard and hurt hard too.  I think it has something to do with a redheads mutation in the MC1R gene.  I am constantly curious and my feet rarely stop fidgeting.

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

SarahThe Stocked Kitchen was basically formed out of necessity.  My friend Stacey Krastins and I wanted to find an easier way to cook and entertain.  We loved to do it, but when we had our babies, the process became a lot more complicated.  Getting to the store for milk was a chore, so we for sure didn't want to have to go every time we made a new recipes.  We figured out that convenience to us didn't mean little seasoned rice packets packets or frozen dinners.  The convenience we were looking for was having what ingredients we needed on hand when we needed them.  We decided that by limiting the ingredients that we use and having what we needed on hand all the time was the solution we were looking for.  We created one single grocery list and wrote a whole bunch of recipes that only used the ingredients on that list.  We self-published our first book and won the Gold Medal for Cookbooks from the 2010 Independent Publisher Book Awards.  From there we signed with an agent and received a book deal from Atria, a division of Simon and Schuster.  They launched The Stocked Kitchen nationally this last July!  This book has changed the way we operate in the kitchen, all for the better.  We spend less, stress less, waste less, and enjoy cooking more!

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Sarah:  We are currently in talks with Atria for more books.  We would love to see a series of books that all use the same grocery list, but focus on different themes, such as holidays, healthy, special occasions, etc.  I love the fact that our book is so versatile that you can use it for just about and cooking or entertaining situation that you find yourself in.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Sarah:  Check out our calendar at

Debbie:  Do you have favorite Michigan bookstore?

SarahThe Bookman in Grand Haven, Michigan is such a great store for our community and our local authors.  Small, independent book shops with knowledgeable staff can change the way people see the world!  (I also tend to be a bit dramatic.)

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Sarah:  Lake Michigan in general, however we stumbled on this little cottage to rent in Charlevoix, MI a couple of years ago, that is right on Lake Michigan.  We live in a beach town, but there is something so perfect about having Lake Michigan waves lull you to sleep.  It barely sleeps four, so I especially love that when we are there, it is just me, Larry, and the girls.  Just family time.

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

Sarah:  I absolutely love Muskegon's Irish Music Festival, of course Grand Haven's Coast Guard Fest, and we had a ball last year at Charlevoix's Venetian Festival.  Fall tours of apple orchards and pumpkin patches are a must.  My girls and I go every year to the Nutcracker in Grand Rapids, which is such a treat.  I am trying to like winter, and we are going to be skiing more with our girls this year.  (I may or may not make it off the bunny hill.  My oldest finally said "buck up Mommy" last year, after I stood on the bottom of the hill freaking out.)  Spring will come though and we will be reminded why we live in "Grand Heaven" where the beach is a constant part of our lives all summer long, as is evident by the trails of sand though out our home.  My favorite thing to do, though, is just to go and explore.  On those rare occasions that we have a free weekend, my husband and I will choose a nearby city and I will look on the local events webpages, "family friendly" activities webpages, travel guides etc.  I absolutely love stumbling on little local festivals.  Exploring and playing it by ear is such a treat, especially now that the kids are old enough to enjoy it too. 

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

Sarah:  I have to say that Sue Beecham of Sue Beecham Photography is so talented and has been such an amazing friend to The Stocked Kitchen.  She did all the photography in our book and continues to take amazing pictures of my kids, and is a very dear friend of mine. In general, when we were first  starting out, there were so many people that were gracious and helpful to us.  Some of our biggest advocates were independent store owners that gave us a chance.  A few are Santo Stefano Del Lago and The Bookman, Grand Haven, MI, Rykes Bakery, Muskegon, MI, The Seasoned Home, Holland, MI, The Ideal Kitchen, Manistee, MI.  These small independent stores are so important to our communities because they often help foster success for local small businesses.  Remember your small independent stores this holiday season.  I have to say in general, I am amazed by the resilience and innovative spirits of Michiganders (spoiler alert for the question 10). 

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

Sarah:  Michigan is stronger than we appear.  That is what I would like people to know.  We are strong, innovative, and exceptionally good at making things.  We used to be known for our manufacturing.  I think we are still made of that stuff.  Maybe we just forgot that a bit.  We are this unique mixture of Countrytime Lemonade commercial aesthetic and industrial grit.  A goodness and realness mixed with logic and resilience.  All this and an amazingly diverse and gorgeous landscape backdrop.  I think we need to worry less about reinventing our State and more about remembering what qualities made us great in the first place.
Debbie:  Well said!  Last question:  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Sarah:  I don't think there is a debate, I just think Michigander is correct.  Michiganian sounds crazy! :)

Debbie:  Sarah, we'll add you to the Michigander column!  Thank you so much for being here today!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Guest Blog Post: Julie Hedlund

I'm pleased to welcome guest blogger Julie Hedlund to Jumping The Candlestick!  Julie, a regular reader of this blog, has a blog of her own that you should take a look at: Write Up My Life.  Julie is here today to tell us about an upcoming writing challenge on her blog, as well as about a competition that a story of hers is in.  Welcome, Julie!

First, I want to thank Debbie for hosting me today.It is such an honor to be here since she’s a celebrity in our house! I finally broke down and bought the e-book version of The Pout-Pout Fish because our printed copy was worn to nubs.

As a pre-published picture book writer, I was thrilled to discover that Debbie, a best-selling author, also hails from Michigan. Although I currently live in Colorado, I was born and raised in Gaylord and graduated from the University of Michigan.From Debbie’s wonderful “Michigander Monday” series, I’ve since discovered more amazing Michigan authors.

Speaking of picture books, I am sponsoring a picture book writing challenge on my blog this year called 12 x 12 in 2012. The goal is to write one complete picture book draft a month for each month of the year in 2012.

I got the idea for the challenge while participating in this year’s Picture Book Idea Month, sponsored by author Tara Lazar. You see, I participated in PiBoIdMo last year too, but when I looked over my output for 2011, only one of those 30 ideas ended up as a complete draft. I was determined to change those statistics for 2012 and invited fellow writers to join me.We have more than 100 participants so far!I hope to see some of you there too.Debbie herself is going to be one of our featured “author experts” (although I can’t tell you which month because I want to keep it a surprise).

I do have one picture book I wrote, A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS, entered in the Children’s Author Challenge with e-Publisher MeeGenius.I love this story because it teaches kids some collective nouns for groups of animals. I’d heard of a pack of wolves, a herd of buffalo and a pride of lions. But a float of crocodiles? An ostentation of peacocks? So fun!

I would love it if you could take a look at the story and give it a “like” IF you like it.  If you’re interested in doing more and want the chance to win some prizes, I’m running a contest on my blog right now. Just hitting the “like” button gets you two points.Prizes include a list of agents, an iPod shuffle, bookstore gift cards, writing critiques and, of course, Picture Books!

Once again, my sincere thanks to Debbie for hosting me today and to YOU for reading.

Happy Holidays!

Julie Hedlund blogs about the writing life (and regular life) at Write Up My Life. She writes picture books, travel articles and personal essays and WILL write a novel one day. When she is not mothering, writing or reading, she enjoys running, hiking, skiing, cooking, yoga, and savoring a great glass of red wine at sunset. She especially likes to do these things while traveling.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Michigander Monday: Jay Miles

I'm pleased to welcome Jay Miles to Michigander Monday!

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

Jay:  I was born in Muskegon, MI, the same year that ARPANET (a predecessor of the Internet) saw its first computers connected remotely (and I’ve been riding the wave of technology ever since!). I moved to the Washington, DC area as a young teen, and started learning about TV production in high school. I studied technical theatre at the University of Virginia, moving to New York City after graduation. I later landed in New Haven, Connecticut, where the coffeehouse scene pushed my growth as an artist. Over the next few years, I ran a small record label, worked for several ad agencies, wrote for the local paper and dabbled in graphic design. All of these pursuits came together in 2001, when I was accepted into the TV, Radio and Film master’s program at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Communication.

From Syracuse I drove to LA and spent the next 5 years working in TV and film, including shows for NBC, FOX, ABC and the Discovery Channel. Since returning to the East Coast, I have worked on broadcasts of “The NHL on Versus” (now part of the NBC sports group), two shows for HGTV and the US Open tennis tournament (for DirecTV). I currently teach high school video and audio production and I’m a hockey player, poker player and drummer. I live near New Haven with my cat, Ruffus.

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

JayThe book merges production skills used by TV pros with time-tested exercises I use with my video students. The book’s 101 tips provide affordable, effective video solutions to all YouTube users.
My initial idea was to help teachers benefit from creating video for use in their classrooms. Teachers are being pushed to use more and more technology, but often have to find their own quick, economical solutions. I approached publisher Michael Wiese, who suggested that I take a broader approach: to bring video power to the people. Michael also encouraged me to stay away from writing an overly technical manual, so I was free to keep my sense of humor and write from a perspective of empowerment. And, for the most part, I feel like I managed to do just that - bringing a wealth of video tips and tricks to YouTuber and to those who are curious about video.

I was also responsible for creating the images for the book, which took almost as long to finish as it took to write the text. I generated over 500 images and narrowed that down to some 200 images that appear in the book. They include “how-to” style pics, before and after shots and images taken from YouTube videos and major motion pictures. I spent the summer of 2010 working with LA-based editor Pam Grieman, who did a fantastic job keeping me focused and positive. This was the first time I had been edited in about 10 years, and I was a nervous wreck, but Pam was super patient and helpful.
My vision had been to bring as much knowledge and video tips to as many as possible, and Michael and his publishing team were able to give me the chance to make that happen, without compromising my ideas or pushing me away from my strengths or the strengths of the book. All told, the entire process took about 2 ½ years, from my first “pitch” email to MWP until the day we released the book.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Jay:  In addition to teaching, I have several upcoming video productions going, including a music video for a New Haven rock band and a documentary that I am co-producing that centers on some unexpected religious history in a small Connecticut town.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Jay:  This coming February 23rd, I’ll be giving a special workshop for aspiring YouTubers at New York City’s celebrated camera store, Adorama. Also in late February, I will be an honored guest for the New Haven LEAP organization’s annual fundraiser. The event includes a book signing and a dinner.

Debbie:  Do you have favorite Michigan library?

Jay:  The Hackley Public Library and the Norton Shores Branch Library, both in Muskegon, remain two of my favorite libraries. I visited both frequently as a kid, and they both provided excellent experiences. As libraries, they offered a huge variety of activities for kids that were both fun and stimulating. The classic Victorian markings of the Hackley, from the woodwork to the famous glass floors, are just awesome. The stone front rises like a castle from the downtown streets and its smooth, curved entrance almost swallows you as you near.

The Norton Shores branch of the Muskegon libraries is a modern building set back in the woods organically, almost like a Frank Lloyd Wright home, serving as a quiet barrier against the modern world. I recall countless evenings at this library, sitting on one of the many carpeted “block”-style risers, gazing out of the full length windows at the trees and ignoring my mother’s calls for us to leave.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Jay:  Wow, just had a flood of places come rushing back to me! I love the shore of Lake Michigan, especially P.J. Hoffmaster State Park and Pere Marquette Park. As a kid we vacationed at Silver Lake and the dune rides still resonate as some of my most thrilling experiences. Sleeping Bear Dunes in Traverse City is a must, as is the campus at the U of M. The town of Saugatuck set an early standard for me for art, adventure, ice cream and fun. I love visiting Holland’s Wooden Shoe Factory and Dutch Village. I am way overdue for a return visit to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. I dig the Blockhouse in Muskegon State Park, football games at Grand Valley State and touring the USS Silversides. But my favorite might be Michigan's Adventure – the amusement park. I was there recently, and was thrilled to see that some of the same rides that I enjoyed as a kid (when the site was much smaller, featured live animals you could feed and was known as Deer Park) are still in operation. Some things never change.

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

Jay:  Does it count that I got to see the Michigan Panthers (of the now defunct USFL) play at the Silverdome once? Yeah, probably not… I make the ritual pilgrimage to see Grand Haven’s Musical Fountain during my summer visits. Pop Go the Sailors, the annual Mona Shores High School choir/band/talent performance, is always awesome. Watching West Michigan natives (Abdelkader, Bylsma) capture the Stanley Cup is always the best part of Spring! And I try to see a hockey game in Muskegon during every Holiday visit – no matter the team. I’ve seen Mohawk, Fury and Lumberjack teams and I love ‘em all!

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

Jay:  Some of my fave famous Michiganders are Anthony Kiedes (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Iggy Pop, Michael Moore, actor/producer Jeff Daniels, Francis Ford Coppola, Dick Martin, Dick Enberg, Steve Gorman (drummer, Black Crowes), and the late Harry Morgan. I grew up leafing through my mom’s old high school yearbooks trying to find pictures of Jim Bakker – back in his pre-scandal days. She also went to school with Bill Szymczyk, producer for The Who, The Eagles, and others. Buster Keaton spent his childhood summers in Muskegon and always regarded Muskegon as his home town. And I love that the actor and former hockey pro who played one of the Hanson Brothers (from ‘Slap Shot’) still lives in West Michigan.

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

Jay:  It’s not soda, it's pop. And you haven’t really had a ginger ale until you’ve had a Vernor’s!

Debbie:  Finally, some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: what’s the better term, "Michigander" or "Michiganian"?

Jay:  I’ve actually never heard anyone say "Michiganian"! LOL So, I am firmly in the "Michigander" clan!

Debbie:  Michigander it is!  Jay, thank you very much for being here today for Michigander Monday!

To learn more about Jay and his book, stop by his web site, his Facebook page, or his Twitter feed.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Michigander Monday: Patricia Majher

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

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

Patricia:  I'm a product of Bay City Catholic schools, got my undergrad degree in journalism from Central Michigan, and started my career as an advertising copywriter in 1979. After 10 years or so, I got restless in the business and began to look for a new direction to take. While on a walking tour of Ypsilanti's historic homes, I heard about a program in historic preservation offered at Eastern Michigan. I took one class, and another, and ended up finishing a master's degree there. Then I kept on doing what I'd been doing until 2003, when I decided to dust off the diploma and see where it could get me.

Though a change in career meant I had to start over on the pay scale (all the way back to minimum wage!), I built up some great experience at Michigan museums big and small. In 2009, the combination of my writing background and my knowledge of state and local history got me the job of editing Michigan History--a dream position.

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

Patricia:  The book had its genesis in my previous job, as assistant director/curator for the Michigan Women's Historical Center in Lansing. Among my responsibilities there was the development of new exhibits highlighting the historical achievements of Michigan women. An article on female lighthouse keepers sparked my interest, and eventually became the focus of my first exhibit. The exhibit's popularity surprised me, and made me think that the subject might make a good book. Thankfully, the University of Michigan Press agreed.

I spent another year on additional research into the subject, and saw Ladies of the Lights published in the fall of 2010. I've been on the road about once a month since, talking up the book and selling copies out of my trunk! (Sometimes literally.)

The book introduced me to many brave and interesting women who worked in the predominantly male occupation of lighthouse keeping. I grew especially fond of our last female keeper--Frances (Wuori Johnson) Marshall--and had the unique opportunity to interview her before her death. She was the last link in a chain of female keepers that stretched back to 1849 in the Great Lakes State. 

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Patricia:  I've explored the idea of a children's picture book, and was amazed to discover what a different publishing experience that would be. I didn't know I'd have to find my own illustrator!

Debbie:  I'm very thankful my publishers found mine - I wouldn't know where to start!  Patricia, how about upcoming appearances?

Patricia:  I'm taking it easy for the rest of the year. We'll see what 2012 brings.

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

PatriciaNicola's in Ann Arbor is my local favorite. She's really weathered the storm of store closings--even outlasting Borders--with style. My favorite library would probably be the one I grew up with: Sage Library in Bay City. The elegant, chateauesque structure was so unlike anything in the surrounding neighborhood that it was like visiting another world.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Patricia:  I had the privilege of working for about a year on Mackinac Island. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the history of that place.

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

Patricia:  My husband and I like to make the rounds of summer festivals in Washtenaw County: the Manchester Chicken Broil, Dixboro Fair, Old St. Pat's Labor Day Picnic, and the Webster Fall Festival.

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

Patricia:  Two people who come immediately to mind are Jack and Dave Dempsey. I met Jack through Michigan History; he was a huge help in shaping the magazine's commemoration of the Civil War sesquicentennial. (He sits on the Michigan Historical Commission, is a leader in the state's effort to commemorate the Civil War, and has written his own book on Michigan's involvement in that conflict.) I crossed paths with his brother Dave Dempsey when I was still at the women's museum. Dave's book on Michigan's conservation history was my primary source for an exhibit on Michigan women in nature and the environment.

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

Patricia:  That you shouldn't judge the state solely by the southeast corner. I've met so many people (some of them natives) who've never ventured outside the metro area and yet claim to know all there is about Michigan!

Debbie:  Finally, one last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Patricia:  I'm lining up with the minority vote: I prefer "Michiganian." I find "Michigander" too slangy for my taste. Who wants to be compared to a male goose!

Debbie:  Michiganian it is!  We'll add you to tally.  Patricia, thank you so much for being here today for Michigander, er, Michiganian Monday!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Michigander Monday: Allan Woodrow

I'm pleased to welcome Allan Woodrow to Michigander Monday!

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

Allan:  I grew up outside East Lansing … moved to Michigan right before first grade from sunny Southern Florida; I still remember my sister and I wearing jackets, freezing, while everyone else wore shorts. Mom and Dad still live in the house where I grew up, but I don’t get back as often as I’d like. I went to University of Michigan. Quite a few locals accused me of being a traitor to that other Big 10 school around the corner.

I wanted to be an author since elementary school, but it took me awhile to step up to the plate. Fear of rejection and the busy-ness of life are both to blame, pretty much equally.

Instead, I spent my career as an advertising copywriter and Creative Director, writing TV and radio commercials, and such. Wrote a little for TV and the stage on the side. Worked in and outside Detroit for big ad agencies. Moved to St. Louis for a brief spell, and then to Chicago.

When I finally set my mind to finally going after my life-long dream of being an author, it all happened quickly. From declaring I was going to write a book (my 2009 New Years resolution) to figuring out what book I would write (I had the resolution months before I had any good ideas), from writing it to finding an agent and getting a four-book contract … it all took less than a year. It was a bit of a whirlwind.

Debbie:  Wow!  Please tell us all about the first book in the series.

AllanThe Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless (HarperCollins) is the story of the world’s most evil kid. Zachary would do anything to join the Society Of Utterly Rotten, Beastly And Loathsome Lawbreaking Scoundrels, the world's most horrible gang of super villains. But first he must perform a truly terrible deed. With the help of his henchman Newt, Zachary battles the horrible Mayor Mudfogg and other felonious foes, not only to join SOURBALLS but to survive! Bwa-ha-ha! For ages 7-10.

Debbie:  Other books and projects on the horizon?

AllanThe Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless, Book 1, came out this past Spring. Book 2, The Stench of Goodness comes out this winter, Book 3 (SOURBALLS) comes out next Spring and Book 4 (The Undersea Lab) launches a year from this winter. Books 5 through 432 are under negotiations.

I just completed a non-Zachary book and my agent is in the process of sending it out, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Even with Zachary Ruthless books constantly being written, I have a number of books in various stages of disarray.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Allan:  None in Michigan, I’m afraid. At least at this moment. With Book 2 coming out this Winter, I’ll be planning some signings, but nothing definitive right now.

Debbie:  Do you have favorite Michigan bookstore?

Allan:  I haven’t lived in Michigan for awhile, I’m afraid. When I was a kid, I loved an old used bookstore in East Lansing called the Curious Book Shop. I would ride my bike there almost every week and buy old comic books and baseball cards with my paper route and snow shoveling money. I was the kind of kid who was always trying to earn money.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Allan:  There’s no place like home (hmmm, I should use that line sometime in a book. Has it ever been used before?...)

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

Allan:  When people think of Michigan they often think of Detroit, and often those thoughts aren’t flattering, which is a shame. I lived outside Detroit for a number of years after college, and miss the area quite a bit. I love going home, too, and I’ve visited all sorts of places on vacation, from the U.P. to Mackinaw to Saugatuck. I’m constantly delighted at how eclectic the state is, from the metropolitan cities, to the beaches and small towns. Michigan is so many things, and so many of its people are wonderful. So for any non-Michigander: Detroit is only a small part of Michigan, so don’t pigeonhole it.

Debbie:  Finally...  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally, what’s the better term:  "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Allan:  I grew up with Michigander, so I’m heavily in the gander camp.

Debbie:  Michigander it is!  Allan, thank you for joining us today for Michigander Monday.

To learn more about Allan and his books, please visit his web site and his blog, The Shelf Life.  You can also view a Zachary Ruthless book trailer over on YouTube to determine if you can laugh as evilly as Zachary Ruthless!  And you can find Zachary Ruthless on FaceBook.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Book Giveaways

Why bother with Black Friday shopping when you can just win a book instead?

Well, OK, I can't guarantee that you'll be a winner.  And in any case, you won't know today.  But what I can tell you is that there are currently two blogs hosting giveaways for my books.

First, you can enter to win a signed copy of The Barefooted, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade on the blog The Girl From the Ghetto.  You enter by leaving a comment on the giveaway blog post (click here); you also have the option of increasing your chances by doing additional things, such as sharing the giveaway link on Twitter or Facebook.  Deadline for entering is December 6 at 10 PM.

Second, over on the Memorable Children Books and Gifts blog, Mymcbooks, you can enter a giveaway for copies of The Pout-Pout Fish books.  To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on the giveaway post (click here).  Deadline for entries is December 10.  The blog also has an interview with me.  For the interview, click here and then scroll down past the bio to get to the Q and A.

Good luck - I hope you win a book!!

[Note:  Just so there's no confusion about where to leave your entry comments (that is, they have to be made on the blogs that are hosting the giveaways, not here), I've turned off comments on this post.  But the comments option should still be available on all other posts on this blog.]

Monday, November 21, 2011

Michigander Monday: Merrie Haskell

I'm pleased to welcome Merrie Haskell to Michigander Monday!

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

Merrie:  I was born in Mt. Pleasant, lived in Harrison and Midland until moving to Sault Ste Marie while my mom finished her nursing degree -- before we moved to North Carolina for the subsequent 11 years. Then I came back to Michigan for college. I majored in Biological Anthropology at the University of Michigan, and promptly got a job in a library.  Because that's what you do when you don't go to grad school with a BioAnth degree, I guess.  Anyway, I got married somewhere in there, started and didn't finish library school, and wrote some books! I'm also a fifth-generation Michigander, if not sixth/seventh, which blows my mind since I think of the US as such a young country.  My namesake ancestor got married in Holland, MI in the 1840s (Merrie is a family name).

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

MerrieThe Princess Curse came out this fall from HarperCollins Children's Books.  It's an "upper tween" retelling of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" set in medieval Romania.  I'm told it's also a retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" but I swear that wasn't intentional.  The main character is an herbalist's apprentice who is trying to break the curse so she can join a convent and become a master herbalist--but things go awry.  As they do in fiction (and life).  Anyway, if you are a fan of YA or fairy tale retellings, don't shy away from this just because it's marketed to tweens!

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Merrie:  I'm under contract for two more books.  I'm just finishing up with the second book (not a sequel) with my editor, and starting work on the third!  The second will be another historical fantasy, this time set in Germany with dragon slayers.  The third is gestating, and doesn't want me to talk about it.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Merrie:  I'm on the verge of getting some scheduled, but don't have any yet -- but my website will always have the most up-to-date information.

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

Merrie:  I love Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor -- it's sort of the platonic ideal of an independent bookstore.  And while Crazy Wisdom in Ann Arbor is not solely a bookstore, I love it to pieces and do buy a lot of books there.  I also love Schuler's (I go to the 28th St. location in Grand Rapids all the time in the summer, since it's the closest bookstore to our cottage), since going there hearkens back to the early, pre-corporate days of Borders.  I'm so sad Borders is gone; they had become something other than what they had been, but in the beginning my love for them was unparalleled. Let's just say, an inappropriate proportion of the reasons I chose to come to the University of Michigan had to do with Borders being here.

As for libraries...  I have so many favorites, it's absurd.  First, of course, I love the library I work in -- the Hatcher Graduate Library at the University of Michigan.  It's old and it's big and it's got so much character. Some students here refer to it as Hatcher Graduate Labyrinth, which is spot on.  It's seriously the most fun place, and I learn new things about it every year.  Secret passages! Glowing floors! It's amazing.  I love my hometown library, Saline District Library -- it's just a great small town library. The wooded walking path adjacent to it is icing on the cake.  I spent all my childhood summers in Michigan, and those summers were made much happier by going to the Harrison, Gladwin and Midland libraries, and each of those has a special place in my heart, as well. (I had family in all three towns that I spent time with, and they would all succumb to my begging to go the library sooner or later!).

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Merrie:  Tough question!  I practically grew up in the Cedar River in Gladwin.  In it, not on it!  My family used to cajole me: "Come out, your lips are turning blue!"  "Come out, you're going to grow gills!"  I will always love the Cedar above all other places; you can't fight the nostalgia of happy childhood memories. I also spent a lot of time in Higgins Lake as a kid, and I miss it. I am also a huge fan of Gun Lake, where my husband's family have had a cottage for something like seventy-five years.  And of course Mackinac Island.  My mom worked there for a summer before I was born, and had such fond memories of it, so it always seemed like this mysterious, wonderful place, and I just love it.  Especially staying on the Island after the last ferry leaves for the night, and the whole pace and tenor drop a level, and you can see the locals breathe a little easier.  I mean, we're still tourists and we're still there, but it's calmer, and you get a brief sense of how it might be as a small town.  I have recently noticed that I have a huge attraction to tourist towns, which I have decided to embrace, and no longer deny. Mackinac Island, Mackinaw City, Saugatuck...  (And numerous tourist towns other places, too!)

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

Merrie:  Even though I live in Saline, I have lived in or near Ann Arbor since I was 19, and have worked in Ann Arbor all my adult life.  And I, like most Ann Arborites, have a love/hate relationship with the art fairs.  Mostly love, at this point, though; I like to get over-priced street food with a friend and people-watch.  Delicious and educational!

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

Merrie:  Well, even though I write children's books now, I started out in science fiction short stories, so most of my writer acquaintances are from the sci-fi/fantasy side of things.  So, I commend to you Jim C. Hines, who writes fantasy books and has a new series coming up that I believe is set in a library in the UP.  Jim and I have one of those "It's a small state!" stories, because before we met as writers, I used to play paintball with his sister-in-law.  And Saladin Ahmed, a fellow historical fantasy writer who just returned to Michigan after some time away.  And Pearl North, who has an amazing YA series about a library/labyrinth (a concept near and dear to my heart).  And I also have to commend our local small press, Subterranean Press, and the fine folks there are supporting really great genre work .  I have no affiliation with them, they're just cool people.

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

Merrie:  a) There's a lot more going on in Detroit than pictures of ruined buildings.  b) We're in the Eastern Time Zone!  Really!!  c) There is really nothing like a Michigan summer day on a lake.  Nothing like it.

Debbie:  Last question:  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Merrie:  Michigander, definitely!  My grandfather taught me Michigander when I was a little kid; he never looked kindly on that other word.

Debbie:  We'll put you in the Michigander column!  Merrie, thank you very much for being here today!

To learn more about Merrie, her book, and her stories, head over to her web site and her blog.  You can also find her on Twitter; and over on FaceBook there's a page for her book The Princess Curse.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Michigander Monday: D.E. Johnson

I'm pleased to welcome D.E. Johnson to Michigander Monday!

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

Dan:  I was born in Kalamazoo and have lived in West Michigan all my life, most of my adult life in the Grand Rapids area, though my wife and I are back down by Kalamazoo again.

I have three lovely daughters, all out of the house now, which is both good and bad. Good because it gives me the time I need to write while also holding down a full-time job, and bad because we miss them.

Up until five years ago, I was one of those frustrated people who knew they should be writing, but I’d never worked at it and so was even more frustrated when I did try. Finally I got off my butt and started learning the craft, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m a happy guy.

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

Dan:  I’ve got two historical mysteries out. Here is the cover copy for each:

The Detroit Electric Scheme (2010, St. Martin’s Minotaur Books)

Detroit 1910: When Will Anderson finds the body of John Cooper crushed in a huge hydraulic press, he panics—for good reason. The body is in his father’s electric automobile factory, in the department Will manages. Worse yet, Cooper is engaged to the woman Will loves, his ex-fiancée, Elizabeth Hume.

He runs, eluding the police but leaving behind his cap and automobile. Under threat from a blackmailer and with the police closing in, Will discovers that Elizabeth is in terrible danger. He follows her through the Detroit underworld, trying to save her and find the killer at the same time.

As the evidence mounts, Will gets closer and closer to the secret Cooper had been desperately trying to keep—a secret that could cost Will not only his life, but also the lives of the people he loves most.

Booklist named The Detroit Electric Scheme one of their Top Ten First Crime Novels of the Year, and it also received a Michigan Notable Book Award.

My new book is Motor City Shakedown (2011, St. Martin’s Minotaur Books)

Detroit, 1911. Seven months have passed since Will Anderson’s friend, Wesley McRae, was brutally murdered, and Will and the woman he loves, Elizabeth Hume, barely escaped with their lives. Will’s hand, horribly disfigured from the sulfuric acid he used to help save them, causes him constant pain, forcing him into a morphine addiction. He lives for nothing except revenge against the people who contributed to Wesley's murder—first among them crime boss Vito Adamo.

When Will stumbles upon the bloody body of Adamo's driver, he knows he'll be a suspect, particularly since he was spotted outside the dead man's apartment that same night. He sets out to find the killer, and the trail leads him to a vast conspiracy in an underworld populated by gangsters, union organizers, crooked cops, and lawyers. Worse, it places him directly in the middle of Detroit's first mob war. The Teamsters want a piece of Will’s father’s car company, Detroit Electric, and the Gianolla gang is there to be sure they get it.

To save their families, Will and his ex-fiancée Elizabeth Hume enlist the help of Detroit Police Detective Riordan, the teenage members of what will one day be known as the Purple Gang, and Vito Adamo himself. They careen from one danger to the next, surviving shootouts, kidnappings and police brutality, while barreling toward a devastating climax readers won't soon forget.

Reviews so far for Motor City Shakedown have been great. Booklist recommended the series to fans of George Pelecanos and James Ellroy, Publishers Weekly gave it a rave and a starred review, and The New York Times even said that the scenes of Detroit were “extraordinarily vivid, and best viewed from the seat of one of those very snazzy cars.”

Debbie:  Outstanding reviews!  Do you have other books on the horizon?

Dan:  I have a contract with St. M’s for two more books. Next up will be Detroit Breakdown, which will come out next fall. This one sets Will at Eloise Hospital, which many people from the Detroit area will be familiar with. It was Wayne County’s sprawling mental health hospital from the mid-1800s until the 1970s. Of course, mental health care was not exactly enlightened 100 years ago (though I’d argue it’s still not). That gives me license to put Will through more pain while he tries to solve a murder.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Dan:  New appearances pop up frequently. Check my website – – for details.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Dan:  How about three – Schuler Books in Grand Rapids, Kazoo Books in Kalamazoo, and Aunt Agatha’s in Ann Arbor. All three are independents fighting the good fight. Please, everyone, support your local independent bookseller!

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Dan:  I know this makes me a freak, but my favorite place is where I am right now: sitting in my office at my computer.

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

Dan:  Two authors everyone should read: Bonnie Jo Campbell – she’s an amazing writer. Read her new one, Once Upon a River. You’ll buy everything else she’s written.

The other is Albert Bell. Albert writes a number of different things, including an outstanding Roman mystery series. His third in the series, The Corpus Conundrum, came out recently. The second, The Blood of Caesar, was one of Library Journal’s Five Best Mysteries of 2008.

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

Dan:  When they say Pure Michigan, they’re not kidding. There are still so many beautiful parts of the State, you could never see them all.

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally, are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Dan:  Dang. I’ve wrestled with this. Michiganian has so much more dignity to it, but I grew up with Michigander, and I seem to be moving back in that direction.

Debbie:  No worries - for now, we'll put you in the "both" column!  Dan, thank you very much for being here for Michigander Monday!

To learn more about Dan and his books, visit his web site, D.E. Johnson, or find him on FaceBook.  You can even sign up for a chance to win an autographed copy of Motor City Shakedown (but act fast - deadline is 11/15!) and/or sign up for a chance to be a character in his next book (deadline is 12/31).

Monday, November 7, 2011

Michigander Monday: Wade Rouse

I'm pleased to welcome Wade Rouse to Michigander Monday!

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

Wade:  I am a bestselling humorist, whose work has been featured on NBC’s Today Show as well as on Chelsea Lately on E!. USA Today has called me “a wise, witty and often wicked voice,” and the Chicago Tribune’s Pulitzer Prize-winning cultural critic states that my memoirs are filled with “sparkling humor” and that everyone should “read Wade Rouse, especially if you value laughter and wisdom.” I am a regular contributor to Michigan Radio, one of the nation’s largest public radio stations, and live just south of Saugatuck-Douglas on three acres of pines and sugar maples in a knotty-pine cottage named “Turkey Run.” In fact, my partner and I fell so deeply in love with Michigan that we quit our jobs and moved (in the winter, no less!) from the city to more rural, small-town life (it’s the basis of my memoir, At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream). I am a huge runner, I love caffeine, wine, Kashi, lip shimmer, as well as Michigan’s beaches and unique resort towns. I do not love the snow, however. I tend to go all Shining after a few months. Most importantly, Writer’s Digest recently named me the #2 Writer, Dead or Alive, “We'd Love to Have Drinks With” (I was just behind Ernest Hemingway, and just ahead of Hunter S. Thompson). Depending on how you look at it, that’s either a wonderful honor or a very sad one. (Personally, I equate it with winning the Pulitzer, especially since I’ll never win a Pulitzer).

Debbie:  Never say never!  Wade, please tell us about your books.

Wade:  I am the author of four critically acclaimed memoirs: America’s Boy (Dutton/2006), Confessions of A Prep School Mommy Handler (Harmony/2007), At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream (Harmony/2009), and It’s All Relative: 2 Families, 3 Dogs, 34 Holidays, and 50 Boxes of Wine (Crown/2011). My current book is the hilarious dog anthology, I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship (NAL/2011), which features essays by some of America’s favorite humorists about their neurotic relationships with their dogs. I created and edited the project, and also contributed an essay. It features a Foreword by Chelsea Handler’s dog, Chunk, as well as nine New York Times bestselling authors and a Tony winner; and 50 percent of the book’s royalties are going to the Humane Society of the United States. I’m proud that my books have been national and IndieBound bestsellers, as well as “Books of the Year”, “Must-Read Picks” and “Breakout Books” by such places as Target, Barnes and Noble, (the former) Borders, Detroit Free Press, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Chicago Public Radio, the Grand Rapids Press and the American Library Association. It’s All Relative will be released by Random House in paperback this February, and my first memoir, America’s Boy, is being reissued this fall, which thrills me to no end.

Debbie:  What an amazing array of work!  Do you have other books on the horizon?

Wade:  Yes. A lot. I’m working on two memoirs, a novel and another “celebrity” anthology. In regard to the memoirs: My next book is entitled, THIS BLOWS! A Life, in Locks. It is what I’m calling the first-ever “hair-moir,” a memoir about my addiction to my hair (something to which I think most of us can relate). The book is a funny look at the styles – good, bad, sad – and Dippity-do’s and Dippity-don’ts of hair trends over the years. It’s also a deeper look at vanity and addiction, and the book juxtaposes my vanity against that of my mom, who had zero. As a hospice nurse who eventually battled cancer, she could have cared less how she looked, or whether she was wearing a wig. “A body is a body,” she always told me, “but a soul is a soul.” I’m also working on a book about our late mutt, Marge, titled One Final Walk: The Cross-Country, Ash-Scattering Odyssey of Two Men and the Rescue Dog Who Re-Taught Them to Laugh, Love and Live in the Moment. My partner and I are scattering Marge’s ashes in the 16 states she ever lived in, or visited, and recounting the lessons she taught to us. Michigan, of course, is featured prominently. It’s really a lovely tribute to her, and the power of animals, and loving unconditionally. I’m also working on a new celebrity anthology, which will also showcase humor to raise awareness, as well as a novel, both of which I’m playing close to the vest right now (although I’m not wearing a vest). I also speak and teach writing workshops around the country (, am a regular contributor to Michigan Public Radio, and write two humor columns. I’m a busy boy, but I know it is a blessing to be doing what I love.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Wade:  I just finished a nearly month-long tour (NYC, Chicago, Milwaukee, lots of stops around Michigan) for Bitch, but I do have a number of others scheduled here and around the country, including:

-November 10 at the Fennville Public Library at 7 p.m. (Reading/signing)
-November 18, Forever Books, St. Joseph, 6-8 p.m. (part of town’s luminary holiday festival; will be signing books)
-December 10, Writing Workshop "Facing Your Fear and Finding Your Voice" at Schuler Books in Grand Rapids -- for event details, click here; for registration info, click here
-December 17, Barnes and Noble, Holland, Noon (Reading/signing)
(For complete appearances info, please see Wade's appearances page on his web site.)

I’m also doing some national appearances, including the mega Pulpwood Queens’ Book Club 12th Anniversary Girlfriend Weekend from January 12-15 in Texas. I’m leading the Tulsa Writes! program (component of Tulsa Reads!) in April. And I’m also leading a three-day writer’s retreat in my hometown of Saugatuck from May 17-20. For more, folks can go to my web sites, and

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

Wade:  Michigan has been incredible to me: The readers, the fans, the booksellers, the libraries. I truly heart the Mitten. I hate to name one, as I’ve been to nearly every one of them, but here goes (and forgive me if I’ve forgotten to mention one): Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord; McLean and Eakin in Petoskey; Brilliant Books in Sutton’s Bay; Schuler Books in Grand Rapids and Lansing; Forever Books in St. Joe; Reader’s World (and Barnes and Noble) in Holland; Singapore Books in Saugatuck; Barnes and Noble (and MacKenzie!) in Rochester Hills; Common Language in Ann Arbor. I hope to visit Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor soon.

As for libraries, I adore the Grand Rapids Public Library. It is beautiful, the staff is amazing, and I love doing events there.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Wade:  I love my hometown of Saugatuck-Douglas. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world, as is Oval Beach and our local dunes area. I adore the Leland/Sutton’s Bay area, as well as Sleeping Bear Dunes.

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

Wade:  I live for the annual adult Halloween parade in Douglas. More fun than a human should have. I love the summer Ox-Bow artist events/auctions, where talented young artists get to showcase their work in Saugatuck. It’s perfection. I love the annual fall Blue Coast Artist tours in southwest Michigan as well as the annual Mt. Baldhead run here. And when they light the towns of Saugatuck-Douglas for Christmas, it is one of the most beautiful, special traditions I’ve ever experienced. Michigan has some amazing traditional events!

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

Wade:  I hope folks know the amazing author Bonnie Jo Campbell, as well as the wonderful writer Kris Riggle. I am a huge fan of local Saugatuck painter James Brandess and writer Jacqueline Carey, both of whom are hugely talented and nationally famed. Matt Balmer, the chef and owner at Everyday People Café in Douglas, is as creative and talented on a culinary level as they come. The owners of Evergreen Creamery, which makes the best goat cheese I’ve ever eaten, live around the corner from us. Uncommon Grounds in Saugatuck roasts the best coffee and makes the best lattes (Caramel Silk rocks!) anywhere. And Crane’s Pie Pantry and Orchard in Fennville is an institution: Go pick some apples or peaches, or just pick up a homemade pie. All of these folks make Michigan magical.

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

Wade:  Perhaps the most stunning scenery in America. The most beautiful beaches, the most unique towns. And the state is home to some of the nation’s best colleges and universities. And the people: I’ve been blown away by their kindness, compassion, and love of Michigan. This is a special place, so do we really have to let others know?

Debbie:  It's the best kept secret in the nation!  Finally, last question:  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally, are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Wade:  Michigander. Totally. I was born in Missouri, so I was a Missourian. And I lived in St. Louis, so I was a St. Louisan. I went to grad school at Northwestern in Chicago, where I was a Chicagoan. Michigander just sounds right. Or maybe I’m just sick of being an “ian.” (And if any of you just said, octogenarian, I’m comin’ after you!)

Debbie:  Non-octogenarian Michigander it is!  Wade, thank you so much for joining us today for Michigander Monday.

To learn more about Wade and his books, stop by his web sites: and .  And check out his blog at

Monday, October 31, 2011

Michigander Monday: Ron Riekki

I'm pleased to welcome Ron Riekki to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Tell us a little about yourself.

Ron:  Hi, my name is Ron Riekki and I'm pretty tall.

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

Ron:  I just have one main book, a novel entitled U.P.  It's done pretty well for a smaller press, Ghost Road out of Colorado.  John Casey nominated it for the Sewanee Writers Series.  Later it was also nominated for the Great Michigan Read series.  And I have a couple of poetry chapbooks with Gypsy Daughter, both nominated for &Now Awards for Innovative Writing.  Leave Me Alone I'm Bleeding is probably my favorite of the two.  For playwriting, Ruckus Theater in Chicago did a great production of my play All Saints' Day and I also loved Circle Theatre's production of my play War.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Ron:  There are too many to list.  I had a multi-book deal with Ghost Road, but that fell through.  But I'm talking with Michigan State University Press, Northern Michigan University Press, and Wayne State University Press about a bunch of book projects that look like they are going to happen, so I'll be busy from now until 2016 or so with those.  I just adapted Dandelion Cottage for Lake Superior Theatre.  It looks like they'll be performing the adaptation next summer if all goes as planned.  I have a publisher interested in the adaptation, so discussing that.  In the interesting liminal stages for a lot of these projects.  I'm doing another adaptation for another theater as well.  And Stageworks/Hudson just did a great production of my play Carol.  Then I have some TV and film things in the pipeline, but I don't like to talk about those too much until they're closer to coming to fruition.  I'm repped by a great agency out of Beverly Hills for TV writing.  I like them very much.  And hope they read that I like them very much.  Also, I have a thriller I've been struggling with that a literary agent wants to see when it's ready, but the key verb in this sentence is struggling.

Even more projects than the ones listed above.

I like to keep very busy in the writing world, but those are the things that immediately come to mind.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Ron:  I have a couple of appearances in the Savannah, GA, area in November.  I forget where, have to look them up.  Appearing there with Chad Faries and Amy Lynn Hess, two great poets.  Looking like maybe one or two in FL upcoming too, but will see.  I'm on deadlines, so not a lot of time anymore to appear for things, especially if they're wanting me to do it for free.  I have to focus my energies on completing the projects already underway.  (Plus I'm directing a play in Ocala, FL, so my scale of busy-ness on a scale of one to ten is at an eleven right now.)

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

RonPeter White Public Library has always been nice to me.  Bayliss Public Library too.  A lot of libraries, actually.  The Chicago Public Library was the first ever to host me for a reading, so I'm definitely thankful to them.

And Snowbound Books in Marquette has always been a big supporter of my novel.  Aurora Books in Menominee too.  And Safe Harbor BooksNorth Wind Books, Country Village.  Too many stores to list.  Polyester Books in Australia I have to mention too.

I really appreciate the stores that support Michigan writers.  I once contacted Prairie Lights in Iowa City to see if I could set up a reading and the person who answered the phone said something along the lines of--nobody around here would care about a book set in the U.P.  So thank God for the bookstores who do care about a book set there.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Ron:  Little Presque always comes to mind, but . . .

Last year I was driving with Steve Hamilton (great writer and an amazing human being) and he took me to this breathtaking beach near Paradise, Michigan.  We were on our way to a reading and I couldn't help it--I had to jump in.  It was just too beautiful not to swim.  He basically had to call me back to shore and I ended up changing clothing really quickly at his friend's house and we still made the reading on time, just barely.  But that was one of the best moments of my life.  There's something about beautiful Michigan nature and being with a writer you respect that for me is just perfection.  After a reading at Falling Rock Cafe and Bookstore in Munising (another store I love), I went canoeing with Jonathan Johnson (great poet and also an amazing person) and there was just a gorgeous calm to the air.  That perfect U.P. summer air.  Chad Faries was in a kayak circling us talking about his owl tattoo.  Those were great moments, peaceful.

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

Ron:  I've been Program Director for the U.P. Book Tour for the last two years.  We appeared all over the U.P. last year--Houghton, Ishpeming, Negaunee, Sault Ste Marie, Menominee, Munising, Hancock, Baraga, Marquette, Escanaba, St. Ignace,  Brimley, and a bunch of other towns.  Those events have been incredible.  In the Sault, the panel consisted of Steve, myself, Jonathan, Nancy Eimers, William Olsen, Jaswinder Bolina, and Keith Taylor.  Those events are really fun, to get the best Michigan writers I know into one room like that.  I'm excited for what's falling in place for next year's events, which are looking to be Jun 20 to Jul 7, 2012.

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

Ron:  I've already named a bunch, but I think Matthew Gavin Frank is someone people should check out.  He's a nice guy too.  And Bamewawagezhikaquay.  I don't think you can really be a Michigan writer until you've read her.  She's so formative, necessary to know.  I'm a big Neil LaBute fan.  Philip Levine too.  And Catie Rosemurgy is a pure Michigan writer to me.  A lot of names I could name.  A lot.  I'll try to hold back though.  Oh, five more and then I'll move on--Laura Kasischke, Ellen Airgood, Caitlin Horrocks, Beverly Matherne, Austin Hummell . . . Arnie Johnston, Donald Goines, Sam Raimi, Wayne Dyer, Stuart Dybek, John Smolens, Jen Howard, Carroll Watson Rankin, Melinda Moustakis, Nelson Algren . . . I can't stop.  So many names people should know.  Hell, Eminem, Gregg Alexander, MC Serch, Madonna, Aaliyah, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Iggy Pop while we're at it.  And for sports journalism--Mitch Albom or even better yet Jim Lahde.  That's for those out there who really know your Michigan sports journalism.

When you really look at it, the talent out of Michigan is incredible.  I could make a full list that would make you think all of the best artists and writers from the country come from one state.  Pure respect for the wolverine state . . .

By the way, buy Michigan books for upcoming Christmas presents!  Keep it local.  (If you have young daughters who behave, buy 'em Dandelion Cottage.  If you have young sons who don't, buy 'em U.P.).

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

Ron:  We have amazing literature up here.  Enough books about New York, especially people from New York who have nannies and visit India.  I think after I read my 1000th book set in New York I started realizing this intense craving for books set where I grew up.  So I started devouring Michigan authors and loved the connection I feel to the place as I'm reading.  [Let me put it this way: I dislike New York pizza.  Give me Tino's (in Negaunee) any day.]

Debbie:  Finally, last question -- some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Ron:  Yooper.

Debbie:  Yooper it is!  Ron, thank you for being here today for Michigander Monday!

To learn more about Ron, his books, and the U.P. author tour, please stop by his web site.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Michigander Monday: Dan Mulhern

I'm pleased to welcome Dan Mulhern to Michigander Monday!  Dan is the author of Everyday Leadership and Be Real and the co-author, with his wife Jennifer Granholm, of A Governor's Story: The Fight For Jobs and America's Economic Future.  Both will be appearing at the Schuler Books in Okemos this Friday and at the Michigan International Book Festival in Livonia on Saturday; details are below.

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

Dan:  I am the father of 3, sibling to 6 and husband of one. I am trained as a teacher and as a lawyer, but I have done many many things in my life – from working in steel mills to caddying; from being a teacher and youth worker, to being a campaign manager and a fundraiser. Most of my career I have been working in the field of leadership – helping to guide individuals and groups to lead as best they can. I have written two books about leadership, coached many executives and executive teams, and hosted a radio show called “Everyday Leadership.”

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about A Governor's Story.

Dan:  Our book chronicles an amazing eight years in our lives.  The “our” here is of course my wife, Governor Jennifer Granholm, but especially the people of Michigan who were struggling with our aching economy.  We learned that the old ways in Michigan no longer work.  That’s an easy sentence to write, but involved a huge number of painful truths for businesses large and small, for government, for labor unions, and for individuals and families.  A Governor’s Story is very much an “inside look” from the Governor who wanted to fix everything and her relationship with the people who wanted her to fix everything.  We tell the story of what it was like as Michigan faced first what the entire country is now facing:  a stubborn lack of jobs, deficit-ridden budgets, and warring ideas about how to fix things.  Jennifer and I have blended our perspectives – her analytical, systemic look at jobs and government, and my views as a leadership and business expert and a man cast in a whole new role – of supportive spouse and lead parent.  We didn’t want to write a book that pretended that she knew everything and never made a mistake, but instead a very personal story of what it was like to lead in such difficult times. There is challenge and drama, but there are critical insights for this presidential race, and some real signs of hope for a revitalized economy.  It’s also an inspiring story of a pretty amazing woman!

Debbie:  Do you have other books on the horizon?

Dan:  I am thinking hard about how to write a book about the enormous changes affecting boys and men.  Hundreds of books have been written about “women’s liberation,” but few about men’s “confinement” let alone their liberation. I think it’s a great untold story which I and an increasing number of men have happily embraced. It’s a story we need to tell our boys.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Dan:  A signing at the Okemos Schulers Oct 28 from 10:30am – 12pm ( and

A signing at the Michigan International Books Festival Saturday October 29 at noon (

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

Dan:  Jennifer (former Governor Granholm) and I spent many many “date nights” trolling through Schuler Books in Lansing, camping on the floor or in a great leather chair and reading.  John King’s rare books is a blast and always deserves more time than we can give it.  As a high school student I spent many hours doing debate research at the Southfield Public Library; since then it has been enlarged and it is a wonderful community gathering place.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Dan:  Michigan’s governor has use of a wonderful “cottage” on Mackinac Island.  I fell in love with Mackinac.  With the trails that I grew to know very well, to the pier from which I jumped into frigid waters, and of course to the smell of fudge and horse droppings.

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

Dan:  “The Joe” tops my list.  Hockey is an amazing sport and Wings fans are completely into the game.  Jeff Daniels’ Thanksgiving concerts and the Michigan Theater have been marvelous.  But my fondest memories are the Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Run.

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

DanJim Dreyer (yes, that’s his name) who was once afraid of water, but now owns multiple Guinness records, and has swam across all 5 of Michigan’s Great Lakes; he’s also a champion for Mentor Michigan. Joe Dumars is (like me) not “fun;” he’s a serious guy, but a fascinating person, smart, well-rounded, competitive and gentlemanly.

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

Dan:  Our Lakes are for all practical purposes as large as oceans. Our beaches are as warm and wonderful as Florida’s. And we are both a kind and a diverse and soul-filled people.

Debbie:  Finally, some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally, what’s the better term: "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Dan:  If it’s good for the goose it’s good for the Gander!

Debbie:  Michigander it is!  We'll add it to our tally.  Dan, thank you for being here today!

To learn more about Dan Mulhern, visit his web site, "Everyday Leadership."  You can also find him on Twitter and on FaceBook.