Monday, September 26, 2011

Michigander Monday: Jerry Dennis

I'm very pleased to welcome Jerry Dennis to Michigander Monday!  His newest book, The Windward Shore, is just out this month and already a bestseller!

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

Jerry:  Dangerous question! Whenever I do journalism, that’s the first question I ask the people I interview, because I know that they will 1) tell a LOT about themselves, and 2) tell stuff they didn’t intend to tell. But here goes: I’m a full-time writer (have been since 1986) because I know that if I had another job, even a few hours a week of honest manual labor for minimum wage, I’d be too lazy, self-indulgent, exhausted, resentful, and distracted to write much of anything. I need to feel that time is expanding endlessly around me so that when I enter my office in the stone hut in the morning and know that I have all day ahead with no chance of being interrupted, I might be able to silence the monkey chatter in my head and sink into the work. Happily married for many, many years to my best friend. Proud father of extraordinary sons, Aaron and Nick. Outdoorsman, reader, animal lover, former athlete turned sometimes ardent tv sports fan (baseball, hockey, football. And now, women’s soccer!).

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

Jerry:  Ten published, plus the new book just out. Subjects of books are like rooms in the mansion of the author’s life, each packed with overflowing boxes, swollen file cabinets, photos and art on the walls, miscellaneous oddities junk, all theme-based. In my case, the themes have been the sense of wonder and the complexity of life, canoeing, camping, fishing, wildlife, growing up on the water and in the woods of rural northern Michigan, natural phenomena of the sky, Leelanau County, the Great Lakes.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

JerryThe Windward Shore: A Winter on the Great Lakes is now out from the University of Michigan Press. It will be followed by a collection of essays about animals, their behavior, and our relationships with them, with stunning illustrations by Glenn Wolff. Also in progress: a sprawling inquiry into the idea of abundance in life. And a collection of short stories which I have been working on for two decades and have appeared in literary magazines at the break-neck pace of one every two years. And another collection of essays on nature.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Jerry:  Many this fall. See my website ( or the University of Michigan Press for the schedule.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? Favorite Michigan library?

Jerry:  I’m a hometown boy: favorite bookstore is Horizon Books in Traverse City. Vic and his staff embraced me when I was a punk first-time writer entering their store in 1986 with the news that my guidebook to canoeing in Michigan was about to be published, and they’ve embraced me and every one of my books ever since. Favorite library is Traverse Area District Library (the brilliant successor to the richly atmospheric Carnegie Library on Sixth Street where I composed some of my early work and where my young sons fell in love with books). A close second is Peninsula Community Library down the road from my house, which is staffed by lovely friends and fellow book-lovers.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Jerry:  An embarrassment of riches! I’m prejudiced, of course, but I can never resist raving about northwest Lower Peninsula — the Lake Michigan shoreline and the dunes, the rivers and creeks, the rolling wooded hills, the swamps and bogs, the abandoned farmsteads turned wildflower meadows. When Gail and I need to get away we love the U.P., especially the Whitefish Point area and the Keweenaw Peninsula.

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

Jerry:  First snowfall in November, when the landscape becomes monochromatic overnight. First blizzard. First scent of spring (usually, very faintly, in January). Maple syrup time in March. Morel mushrooms late April through May. Traditional trout opener last Saturday in April. Hawk migration at Whitefish Point in early May. Arrival of the neotropical songbirds in mid- to late-May. Bird camp in the U.P. in October with ten fellow writers (25 years and counting).

Debbie:  What a great range of Michigan events and happenings!  How about a  few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

JerryI have collaborated with three artists who continually inspire and delight me. They are northern-Michiganders by choice, but are known around the world:

-- artist/musician Glenn Wolff ( whose illustrations have enriched my books immeasurably and whose fine-art enriches the world.

-- Ken Scott (, whose unique vision and tireless work ethic have rewarded us with iconic images of Leelanau County that shatter all the easy, tourist-bureau snapshots.

-- Chad Pastotnik ( whose astonishing letterpress creations may help ensure that the book as an object of art survives the digital age.

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

Jerry:  That it’s an astonishingly rich and diverse place and there’s much more to it than you suspect.

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

Jerry:  I’m definitely a Michigander.

Debbie:  Jerry, we'll add you to the Michigander column!  Thank you, so much, for being with us today.

To learn more about Jerry and his books, visit his website and his blog.  And be sure to check his appearances list, as there's a good chance he'll be in a bookstore or library near you this fall!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Michigan Reads 2011: Devin Scillian's "Memoirs of a Goldfish"

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of being involved with the Michigan Reads program.  Each year, the Library of Michigan selects a children's book to be featured in schools and libraries throughout the state, in order to highlight and reinforce the importance of books and reading in the lives of children.

This year, the featured book is Memoirs of a Goldfish, written by Devin Scillian and illustrated by Tim Bowers.  What a fun book!

Devin Scillian and Tim Bowers are touring the state this month and next, and will visit twelve public libraries and schools.  To see if the tour is coming to your neck of the woods, check the MDE's page about the book and program.

I really love the Michigan Reads program - it's such a great resource for families, schools, and libraries.  And it reminds us all that Michigan reads to its kids, and Michigan's kids read!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Michigander Monday: Loreen Niewenhuis

I'm pleased to welcome Loreen Niewenhuis to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Loreen, tell us a little about yourself.

Loreen:  Well, I grew up in the greater Metro Detroit area (Plymouth and South Lyon), went to college in Grand Rapids (Calvin College) and Detroit (Wayne State), and now live in Battle Creek.

I pursued a life of science, getting a Bachelor, then Master of Science degrees. I worked in various aspects of that world including a hospital laboratory, basic animal research, and a bone marrow transplant group.

While taking a break from this work to raise my young sons, I began writing fiction. This evolved into a passion and I returned to school to get my MFA from Spalding University.

Many of my short stories have been published in literary journals and in 2009, my short story collection, Scar Tissue, was a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Award.

From the time I was a young girl climbing sand dunes and splashing in its cool waters, I felt connected and drawn to Lake Michigan. In 2009 I had a midlife crisis that evolved into a midlife adventure and I hiked all the way around this Great Lake, a journey of 1000-miles!

Debbie:  Wow - what a hike!  Please tell us about your books.

Loreen:  The account of my Lake Michigan adventure, A 1,000 Mile Walk on the Beach, was released in March 2011 by Crickhollow Books. It recently spent several weeks on the Heartland Indie Bestseller List!

My novella, Atlanta, was just released by Main Street Rag Publishing. I was at the Decatur Book Festival (in Georgia) to debut the novella this past Labor Day weekend.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Loreen:  I am the finishing touches on a novel set in the medical world. It’s called Tumor Board. It has a unique, modular structure and I have had a lot of fun working on it.

Next year I will undertake another 1000-mile hike in the Great Lakes region that will allow me to touch all five Great Lakes.I’ll announce the details on my blog this fall (

Debbie:  Both projects sound very intriguing and absorbing!  How about upcoming appearances?

Loreen:  MANY! Over the next month I’ll be in St. Louis, MO, and in Kalamazoo, Bangor, Mt. Pleasant, Lansing, and Romeo, MI (whew!). Please check my website for events booked through the end of the year:

Debbie:  Do you have favorite Michigan bookstore?

Loreen:  I am a huge supporter of Michigan’s indie bookstores and have been to MANY of them on my hike and book tour. We are fortunate to have so many indies in Michigan and I encourage everyone to support them by making their book purchases there. A few of my favorites are Brilliant Books (Suttons Bay), Mclean and Eakin (Petoskey), Dog Ears Books (Northport), and Black River Books (South Haven).

Debbie:  I second your enthusiasm for Michigan's great bookstores!  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Loreen:  I’m rather partial to Lake Michigan (ha!) and my favorite stretch of shoreline is the magnificent Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Debbie:  What a lovely area of the state!  Loreen, do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Loreen:  Any sunset on Lake Michigan is one of the best shows you can see in this great state! Traverse City Film Festival is a LOT of fun after the sun goes down.

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

Loreen:  Michigan writers have finally gotten the national recognition they deserve in recent years and I’d like to point out that two have been recently nominated for the National Book Award. Bonnie Jo Campbell was nominated for American Salvage, and Jaimy Gordon was nominated and won for Lord of Misrule.

Debbie:  Michigan has so much writing talent!  How about something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Loreen:  I’ve heard that Michigan has the third-longest “sunset coast” in the nation (behind California and Alaska). The west side of Michigan’s lower peninsula has some of the most beautiful sandy beaches in the world.

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

Loreen:  Michigander. Totally. Though it seems like we women in Michigan should be called Michigooses. Ha!

Debbie:  Michigander (Michigoose!) it is!  Loreen, thank you so much for being here today for Michigander Monday!!

To learn more about Loreen and her books, visit her web site, her blog, and her FaceBook page.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Michigander Monday: Jane Knuth

This week I'm very pleased to welcome Jane Knuth to Michigander Monday!

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

Jane:  I am from Kalamazoo, graduate of Kalamazoo College, '80. While raising my two daughters with husband, Dean, I began writing about my adventures volunteering in a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store. These were published occasionally in magazines and the local Catholic paper. Oct. 2010 my first book, Thrift Store Saints: Meeting Jesus 25 Cents at a Time, was published by Loyola Press, Chicago.

Debbie:  Please tell us about your book!

JaneThrift Store Saints tells stories of how a reluctant, middle-class mom, found herself volunteering in the heart of the inner-city, and all the amazing spiritual lessons that came with it.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

JaneThrift Store Graces will be released March, 2012.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Jane:  I recently spoke at the Annual Meeting of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Dallas, TX, Aug. 31. Next up is the A.M. Todd Rare Book Room, Kalamazoo College. Oct. 22 and 29, 10 a.m. also, Nov. 4, 4-8 p.m. I have other events in 2012, closer to the release date of the new book.

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

JaneMichigan News Agency, Michigan Avenue, Kalamazoo, Dean Hauk is an amazing owner! Also Saturn Books in Gaylord, Horizon Books in Traverse City and Cadillac, and Black River Books in South Haven have been very good promoters of Michigan authors like me. Schuler Books in Lansing bent over backward to put on a great author speaking event--they put books face-up on tables everywhere! I love the library in Constantine, Nottawa Township Public Library. They have started a very nice Michigan author speaking series.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Jane:  Who doesn't love the Leelenau? Or anyplace along our beautiful coasts? But, this is shocking--downtown Detroit tugs at my heart. The Detroit Institute of Arts is fabulous, the Pewabic Pottery preserves a lovely side of Michigan's artistic history, and don't miss the Edsel Ford house. There is much, much more to see and enjoy in this classic American city.

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

Jane:  Since childhood, I have always loved to pick blueberries. Check out the blueberry festival in South Haven.

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

JaneLadislav Hanka, he mostly makes exquisite nature etchings, but he also writes and binds his own books occasionally. Bob Rowe has spent his career singing in hospitals and nursing homes. Most of us will inevitably hear his band some day. Lovely stuff.

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

Jane:  Non-Michiganders need to be warned that the natives make an effort to be polite. People in Michigan wait in lines, give customers time to think, and buss their own tables. They rarely double-park, they give driving directions using north, south, east and west, and they don't put sugar in your tea without asking.

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

Jane:  Michigander.

Debbie:  We'll add you to the Michigander column!

Jane, it was lovely to have you here with us today.  Thank you!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Kerrytown BookFest This Sunday!

I'll be at the Kerrytown BookFest in Ann Arbor on Sunday the 11th, doing a story time in the children's tent at noon and again at 12:30.

The rest of the time I'll be wandering around in fangirl mode, because there's an amazing line-up of authors and book people slated to appear.  Click here for the full list of participants

For the event schedule, click here.

Hope to see you at the Kerrytown BookFest!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Michigander Monday: Jannie Ho

I'm pleased to welcome Jannie Ho to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Jannie, tell us a little about yourself.

Jannie:  My name is Jannie Ho (pronounced Jane-nee) and I've been a children's book illustrator for over 5 years now. I studied illustration at Parsons School of Design. I worked as a designer and an art director for various publishing houses before following my dream as a children's book illustrator. I moved from New York to Ann Arbor 2 years ago when my husband got a post doctoral position at the University of Michigan.

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

JannieThe Haunted Ghoul Bus and The Great Reindeer Rebellion, both written by Lisa Trumbauer, published by Sterling, are some of the first books I've illustrated. I've also illustrated many board books, the most recent being What Does Cow Say?, written by Joan Holub, published by Cartwheel books.

Debbie:  Other books and projects on the horizon?

Jannie:  I have a picture book coming out in September, Road Work Ahead, written by Anastasia Suen and illustrated by me. Its published by Viking and its filled with fun transportation and road work vehicles, which I hope to be a hit with boys (and girls too!)  And a fun Halloween book- Halloween Howlers: Frightfully Funny Knock-Knock Jokes written by Michael Teitelbaum, published by HarperFestival.

Debbie:  Jannie, do you have a favorite Michigan library?

Jannie:  The AADL (Ann Arbor District Library) is absolutely amazing. I can't rave more about it. They have incredible events and workshops that are fun for all ages. Its been a great venue for me to meet new people and learn new things.

Debbie:  How about a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Jannie:  This past summer, I participated in Kids Read Comics, a free event celebrating the art of comics, that was held in Chelsea. It was inspiring to meet other professional and young artists alike. It was also a great event to meet writers, librarians, and teachers too!

Debbie:  Jannie, thank you so much for joining us today!

To learn more about Jannie Ho and her books, visit her web site and her blog.  And look for her books at your favorite library or bookstore!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Libraries after Irene

The American Library Association has a rundown of libraries affected by Hurricane Irene.  Amongst the libraries is the Wells Memorial Library in Upper Jay, NY, which lost nearly its entire children's collection, including every single picture book.

Author Kate Messner has information about how you can help rebuild the library's collection (through monetary or book donations - see details in her post) and/or help with an upcoming silent auction fundraiser (they're looking for donations of original children's book art and also signed copies of children's books).

Please help if you can.  Thank you!