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!!