Monday, October 17, 2011

Michigander Monday: Caitlin Horrocks

I'm pleased to welcome Caitlin Horrocks to Michigander Monday!!  Caitlin is the author of the story collection, This Is Not Your City, and her stories and essays have appeared in numerous publications.

Debbie:  Caitlin, tell us a little about yourself.

Caitlin:  I grew up in Ann Arbor, moved away for college, then worked my way back to the state via Ohio, Arizona, England, Finland, and the Czech Republic. I moved to Grand Rapids four years ago to take a job teaching writing at Grand Valley State University, and I’ve enjoyed exploring the west side of the state.

As a kid, I was always reading, and I wrote my own choose-your-own-adventure stories and recorded fake radio shows with my sister. I took creative writing classes in college, but I kept thinking it was something I’d grow out of when I had a “real” career. But I kept writing, and while I was in graduate school I started sending my work out for publication. I got a lot of positive responses from literary magazine editors, and that helped me take myself more seriously as a writer. Some of the first stories I sent out ended up in my first book, This Is Not Your City, which came out this past July.
Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your book, This Is Not Your City.

Caitlin:  The jacket copy says it like this: “Eleven women confront dramas both everyday and outlandish… in stories as darkly comic as they are unflinching, people isolated by geography, emotion, or circumstance cut imperfect paths to peace—they have no other choice.” The New York Times called it “appealingly rugged-hearted,” and I like that a lot. I’m definitely interested in characters who don’t always follow the better angels of their natures.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?
Caitlin:  I’m working on a novel, but story ideas keep popping up to distract me.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?
Caitlin:  In Michigan and elsewhere. For a current list, check out

Debbie:  Do you have favorite Michigan bookstore?

Caitlin:  My beloved neighborhood bookstore is Literary Life Bookstore in Grand Rapids. For used books, I could spend hours in Dawn Treader Book Shop in Ann Arbor.

Debbie:  Fabulous bookstores, both!  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Caitlin:  It’s impossible to pick one, but the Manistee National Forest, on Lake Michigan, is the site of my favorite camping memories. A childhood friend’s family began a camping tradition up there, renting group sites and inviting lots of people to join them for a week or a few days. The beach and dunes there are gorgeous, but I also loved seeing friends, year after year, as we all grew up together.

Debbie:  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?
CaitlinArtPrize in Grand Rapids. It’s three years old this year, and worth travelling for. The downtown area fills with art, both giant installations and smaller pieces, and members of the public vote on their favorites. This results in plenty of grumbling about taste, but it also gives people the courage to feel like their opinion matters, like they’re “allowed” to have ideas about art, that it isn’t intended only for a particular museum or gallery-going crowd. It’s a very permission-giving sort of event, and it transforms the city for a few weeks each year.

Debbie:  A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?
Caitlin:  One of my favorite Michigan writers is a children’s author, John Bellairs, who grew up in Marshall and wrote these wonderfully creepy, Gothic kids’ novels, some of which featured recognizably Michigan locations. If you’ve never read them, the fact that Edward Gorey did the illustrations will tell you a lot about their feel. Ander Monson decamped for Arizona a few years ago, but he still counts: he’s a Michigan native and amazing writer of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. Overachiever! His wonderful story collection-slash-novel Other Electricities is set in the Upper Peninsula.  I also really enjoy Peter Ho Davies’ fiction. He lives in Ann Arbor and teaches at the University of Michigan.

Debbie:  Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?
Caitlin:  It’s so much more diverse, in every sense, than anyone outside the state imagines. We aren’t just a blown out tire and a rusty fence and a swath of wilderness. There’s a lot of life and a lot of beauty here, of all kinds.

Debbie:  Agreed!  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"?
Caitlin:  Michigander. Which makes me think of geese, but still sounds better than the ungainly –ganian.

Debbie:  Michigander it is!  Caitlin, thank you so much for being here today for Michigander Monday!

To learn more about Caitlin, please visit her web site.  For her upcoming appearances, be sure to visit her "News & Events" page.

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