Saturday, November 17, 2012

Signed Books

This time of year, I’m occasionally contacted by folks from outside of the area about how to get a book signed for a holiday gift.  If you’re interested in a signed copy of one of my books (The Pout-Pout Fish, The Pout-Pout Fish In The Big-Big Dark, or The Barefooted, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade), you have a couple of options.

One option is for you to call the Eastwood location of Schuler Books.  You can purchase the book and shipping and ask that the book be held for signing before it is shipped.  Then I can go to the store and sign the book, and the bookstore can ship the signed book to you (or to your chosen recipient).

If you’re interested in this option, the Eastwood location (be sure to use that one) is at (517) 316-7495 (or, if you’re in Michigan, you can call 888 612 6657).  You’ll want to incorporate plenty of lead time if you need the book(s) by a specific date, because depending on my travel and work schedule, it could take as much as a week for me to get to the store to do the signing, and then the book still has to be shipped.  So be sure to contact me by email if you plan to order a book for signing, and we can figure out if the timing will work out.  I’ll also need to know how you’d like the book personalized (whose name you’d like it made out to, etc.)

The other option is to contact me and request that I send you a signed bookplate (basically a large adhesive sticker that you can place in the book, with my signature and any personalization/inscription you request).  I’m happy to send as many bookplates as you’d like.  Just contact me by email.

My email address is deborah [at] deborahdiesen [dot] com


Monday, November 12, 2012

Michigander Monday: Lisa Jenn Bigelow

I'm pleased to welcome Lisa Jenn Bigelow to Michigander Monday!

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

Lisa:  I was born in central Michigan, but my family moved to the Kalamazoo area when I was a baby, so that’s what I consider “home.” I graduated from Portage Northern High School and the Kalamazoo Area Mathematics and Science Center before heading out of state for college in 1996. For the past ten years, I’ve lived in the Chicago area, where my day job is being a youth services librarian at a public library. Besides writing, I like making music, doing artsy/craftsy stuff, and hanging out with my dog.

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

Lisa:  My YA novel is Starting from Here. It’s about a teen girl named Colby who’s coping with the loss of her mother, complicated by her truck driver father’s frequent absences, her trouble applying herself in school, and, most recently, her almost girlfriend’s dumping her for a boy. When a hit-and-run accident leaves a stray dog at her feet, she decides to rescue it. But where there’s hope, there’s potential for heartache, and Colby’s afraid to risk her heart again. The book is set in Kalamazoo, and readers should recognize quite a few locales within the area, though I did make up a few details of my own.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Lisa:  I’m always working on something, but so far nothing’s on the docket for publication. I’m hoping that more of my YA and middle grade books will eventually make it out of the pipeline, however. So far most of them are set in Michigan as well.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Lisa:  Yes! Here’s what I’ve got lined up:

- Saturday, November 17, 2 p.m., at Bookbug in Kalamazoo MI

- Friday, November 30, 7:30 p.m., at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville IL, appearing with several other debut authors from the Apocalypsies, including Michigan’s Laura Ellen

- Saturday, December 1, 7 p.m., at East Towne Mall Barnes & Noble in Madison WI, appearing with several other debut authors from the Apocalypsies, including Michigan’s Laura Ellen

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

Lisa:  When I was growing up, my favorite Michigan bookstore with John Rollins Booksellers, in part because I could walk to it from home. Unfortunately, it’s no longer around. More recently, my mother has introduced me to Bookbug in Kalamazoo, which is a delightful independent store with a special focus on children’s and YA books. I’m pleased to appear there on November 17.

The Portage Public (now District) Library was another of my favorite haunts when I was growing up. I’d often bike there in the summer. It’s changed greatly since I was a kid, so it no longer feels like “mine,” but I do love Conrad Kaufman’s stunning mural in the children’s room.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Lisa:  The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts ranks very highly. While other kids were sleeping in or watching Saturday morning cartoons, as a kid I was taking art classes. Painting and printmaking were my favorites. Another favorite place is Camp Merrie Woode, the Girl Scout camp outside of Plainwell where I spent portions of every summer from third grade through freshman year of college.

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

Lisa:  Given my answer to the previous question, it’s probably no surprise that the Kalamazoo Art Fair is one of my favorite events, though living out of state I don’t get to experience it every year. Michigan also has great thunderstorms.

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

Lisa:  Since I mentioned him earlier, let’s give a shout-out to Conrad Kaufman.  He was rising to prominence as a local artist when I was in high school, and from what I can tell he hasn’t let up since. I wonder if he’s ever considered illustrating children’s books…

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

Lisa:  Ann Arbor is cool, but it’s not the only cool part of Michigan! This doesn’t happen so much now that I’m back in the Midwest, but when I lived in California, working in academia, I met a surprising number of people who seemed to think the rest of the state was a dull backwater. My guess is they’d only seen the corridor between the Detroit airport and U of M, or they’d know what a beautiful state Michigan is. Also, the Great Lakes do have white caps on windy days!

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"?

Lisa:  No question: Michigander. As a Michigosling born and bred, I should know. Does anyone ever actually say “Michiganian” for this question? They can’t be serious!

Debbie:  We'll add you to the Michigander tally!  Thank you, Lisa, for joining us today for Michigander Monday!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Michigander Monday: Jody Lamb

I'm pleased to welcome Jody Lamb to Michigander Monday!

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

Jody:  I love Michigan and I’ve lived in the Detroit area my whole life. I’m also a lifelong lover of stories. As a little girl, I hurried through my homework every night for more precious time to write screenplays for my tiny toy animals to act out in the elaborate village I created for them in my parents’ basement. I loved the way I could I solve problems for the families the way I wished I could in my own family.

I’m a fan of books, writing, dogs, peppermint ice cream, ear-to-ear smiles, insides-twisting laughter and my family. By day, I’m a corporate public relations manager. I earned a journalism degree from Michigan State University. I’m also passionate advocate for kids with alcoholic loved ones.

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

JodyEaster Ann Peters’ Operation Cool is a middle-grade novel for ages 8 to 13 years. It’s about a 12-year-old girl named Easter Ann Peters who has a plan—Operation Cool—to make her seventh grade year awesome and erase years of being known only as a quiet, straight-A student who can’t think of a comeback to her bully. When the confident new girl, Wreni, becomes her long-needed best friend, Easter lets her personality shine. The coolest guy in school takes a sudden interest. But as tough times at school fade away, so does a happy life at home. Easter’s mother is drinking a lot, and Easter works double overtime to keep their secret in the tiny lakeside town. Operation Cool derails, fast, and Easter must discover a solution. Told by the lovable Easter character, it’s a witty, tender and heartwarming story of friendship, fitting in, first crushes, family drama and hope.

I wrote this book because it’s the story I would have enjoyed as a young girl. When I created the Easter Ann character, I knew I just had to keep going with the story because I wanted to know what would happen to her. Also, because alcoholism is a problem in my large family, and I know that millions of kids are coping with the destructive effects of alcoholism in their lives, too, I wanted to create a realistic story that could spark a little hope. After reading nearly every book written about alcoholism and its effect on families, I was shocked to discover that researchers estimate that 10 to 25 percent of American kids live with at least one parent who abuses alcohol.

I hope that young people will enjoy getting to know the Easter character and perhaps identify with her struggles at school and at home. I hope they’re moved by her determination and hope. For readers with alcoholics in their lives, I hope that they’re reminded that they are not alone and that they’re inspired by Easter’s discovery of the solution to improve her life situation. For readers who do not have alcoholics in their lives, I hope they’ll gain a more solid understanding of what alcoholism is, how it affects others and sensitivity to what their classmates, teammates and neighbors may be coping with at home.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Jody:  Yep! My first young adult novel is in progress. After reading nearly everything written about alcoholism and its effect on families, I believe there’s great need for contemporary, effective books on the subject for young people. I’m currently writing two non-fiction books for kids related to coping when loved ones are addicted to alcohol or other drugs.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Jody:  Yes! Gosh, I’m smiling so big right now. I’m having a celebratory reading and book-signing event on Sunday, November 11 at 1 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble in Brighton. Everyone is invited. Additional events are currently being scheduled for early next year. I’ll have those posted on my website, and on

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

Jody:  I haven’t been to a Michigan bookstore I haven’t loved! However, I’ve spent the most hours in Barnes & Noble in Brighton. I’m the grownup in the children’s section giggling over a picture book or two and carrying a skyscraper of middle-grade books. They make a mean grilled cheese sandwich there, too, by the way. Nicola’s in Ann Arbor is pretty spectacular, too, and they’re very supportive of Michigan authors.

My favorite library is the Salem-South Lyon District Library. The library’s staff is always helpful and accommodating when I request a meeting room. Tens of thousands of words of my manuscript were written within those library walls. Thank you, SSLD Library! They’re extremely generous with encouragement as well as meeting space for the South Lyon Writers group, which I joined three years ago. If not for the South Lyon Writers and its sweet-souled, talented writers, I’m not sure my novel would exist today. They patted me the back just when I need it most and politely kicked me in the behind when my manuscript was ready to be shared with the publishing world.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Jody:  I adore our beautiful mitten of a state. My very favorite place to be in the world is in a Michigan park. It’s where I wrote most of all four drafts of my novel manuscript.

When I first began writing again as an adult, when I sat down to pen or key my homework assignments at home and at coffee shops, I froze. I was distracted by the usual stresses around me – the deadlines, the people, the carpet needing vacuuming. So I went to the park. Right away, when I unpacked my notebook and pen, I actually felt lighter, as crazy as that might sound. My work stresses and family drama weren’t with me there. Expectations and obligations. Worries and insecurities. They all slipped away. There, if only for a minute or two, I’m a writer with a notebook full of blank pages and a pen full of ink. It’s how I always thought grownup would feel. Being there is good for my writerly soul, like eating ice cream, and I am so grateful for that free feeling.

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

Jody:  Autumn is my very favorite time of the year here in Michigan. The Pure Michigan commercials almost don’t do it justice, as goosebumps-inducing as they are. I spend a lot of time outside enjoying the weather and the scenery this time of the year. There’s something about the crispness of the air. Also, in Michigan, there’s always opportunity to help good causes and have fun, too. You’ll find me at 5K events and fundraisers throughout the year. Of course, I’m a big Michigan State football and basketball fan, too.

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

Jody:  Is there a word count limit on this response? J Michigan is blessed with tons of talented writers and artists.  The Michigan chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is full of wonderful people (many Debbie Diesen-esque people!) who are very friendly and always willing to offer advice to novices. I’m so grateful for the encouragement, inspiration and friendship I found in this group.

Sarah Perry, a children’s and YA author, and historical novelist Darci Hannah are my favorite Michigan authors. Darci has a dog she calls her yard panda. Yard Panda has a blog. That’ll give you an idea of Darci’s fun personality.

Debbie:  How long did it take you to write this novel?

Jody:  This novel began as a short story homework assignment in a Washtenaw Community College creative writing course in the summer of 2009.

I was 26 and I had quickly moved up the corporate ladder in marketing and PR but I enjoyed little satisfaction in the work. Someone told me I’d have to settle for life as it was because that’s what you do at that age. Get married already. Keep climbing the corporate ladder. Gear up for the next 30 years of your life. That’s what everyone does….

But I was missing something. I studied many grownups around me. They’re full of regrets and they give up on dreams. I didn’t want to be that kind of grownup but I’d never felt so lost about changing my life. It was a bona-fide quarter-life crisis. One day, I read all of my childhood diaries and cried over the grand plans I had for life in grownup land. Little kid me would be so disappointed! The next day, the only thing I could think to do was enroll in a creative writing course at Washtenaw Community College.

Quickly came my first draft of a middle-grade novel manuscript. It was cathartic. I felt like me, again, for the first time in more than a decade.

I kept working on the novel, giving a lot of my non-working time to learning how to write better for kids. Two years and four drafts later, I mustered up my courage and sent it out. It was rejected 30 times by agents and editors. A few of them told me to drastically change it and I feared I may never be able to share it with young people. Other people told me writing a novel is a waste of time. Finally, the marvelous Jennifer Baum of Royal Oak, Michigan-based Scribe Publishing Company liked the story and believed in the subject and in me

In this rapidly evolving world of publishing, my advice to aspiring authors is to write the story that they want to read. Pay more attention to your heart than what the publishing industry editors and agents say about what they’re looking for to be the next big hit. The best story is going to be the one you love. And of course, don’t ever give up.

Debbie:  Great advice!  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"?

Jody:  I use Michigander because it’s more unique – just like our state – the wonderful mitten and its hat, the Upper Peninsula.

Debbie:  Jody, we'll add you to the Michigander column!  Thank you so much for joining us today for Michigander Monday!

You can learn more about Jody and her debut middle-grade novel, Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool, on her website – Jody hopes you’ll say hi and connect with her at and She loves meeting fellow story lovers!  The novel is now available for purchase in bookstores and on and There’s also a Kindle edition.  And be sure to check out the book trailer for Easter Ann Peters' Operation Cool!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Michigander Monday: Kelly O'Connor McNees

I'm pleased to welcome Kelly O'Connor McNees to Michigander Monday!

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

Kelly:  I grew up in Lansing and attended the University of Michigan, where I majored in English. After that I moved around quite a bit, to New York City, and later to Rhode Island and Ontario with my husband, who had research appointments at various universities. About three years ago we moved permanently to Chicago, right before my first novel was published. This year has been the busiest one yet: My daughter was born in February, and my second novel went on sale just two weeks ago. I am working on something new now and praying she will sleep through the night one of these days! We love Chicago and are very lucky to live close to the lake, but it's not quite the same over here. I miss Up North.

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

Kelly:  My first novel, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, imagined what might have taken place during the summer of 1855, long before Alcott wrote Little Women. The details of that summer are missing from her letters and journals, and I was inspired to speculate. My second novel, In Need of a Good Wife, tells the story of a group of mail-order brides who travel west from New York City to Nebraska after the Civil War.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Kelly:  I am working on my third novel now, and I am very pleased to say that it is set in northern Michigan. Stay tuned!

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Kelly:  I will be at the Delta Township Library in Lansing on October 25. I also keep busy Skyping in with book clubs all over the country. If you are in a book club and would like to schedule a call, let me know!

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

KellyMcLean & Eakin in Petoskey is my favorite bookstore in Michigan, or anywhere, really. It's a wonderful store and the owners are really committed to being the center of the literary community there. Plus, in order to get there, you get to go to Petoskey!

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Kelly:  I love South Haven, where I spent a lot of time as a kid, and Old Mission Peninsula, and Mackinac Island. Now I'm getting homesick.

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

Kelly:  Fall is my favorite season, and anytime I can get up north when the leaves change is a wonderful gift.

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

KellyBonnie Jo Campbell writes wrenching fiction set in Michigan. Her novel Once Upon a River left me speechless for about two days when I finished it last fall. Another favorite Michigan writer is Steve Hamilton, who writes thrillers set in Paradise, in the U.P., about a retired Detroit police officer.

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

Kelly:  I find it hard to believe that northern Michigan is not the number one summer vacation spot for everyone in the country, but I'm sort of glad they don't know. Part of what makes it great is that it flies under the radar.

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

Kelly:  I like Michigander, but embracing that term makes me wonder: Why doesn't anyone ever talk about the Michigoose? What's good for the Michigander must be good for the Michigoose, right?

Debbie:  Absolutely!  Kelly, thank you so very much for joining us today for Michigander/Michigoose Monday!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Michigander Monday: Carrie Pearson

I enjoy each and every Michigander Monday profile I do, but I'm particularly thrilled to welcome the fabulous Carrie Pearson to Michigander Monday!

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

Carrie:  I grew up in Hillsdale, Michigan near the Ohio border and was a reading nutcase. I’d read wherever and whenever I could – even locked in the bathroom! After my parent’s divorce when I was 7, I remember my mom’s new boyfriend saying I really needed to get outside more. J My other favorite activities were riding horses, playing Little Kiddles (remember those?) on my grandma’s farm, and driving electric golf carts on the family golf course. What an eclectic mash-up!

Sometime later, I graduated with a BA in early childhood education with a major in psychology and minors in social sciences and natural sciences from the University of Michigan (go blue!). I taught at the Madelon Pound House preschool and started their after-kindergarten enrichment program. I absolutely adored children because of their unique take on the world (and still do!).

After two years, I was asked to run the preschool which pointed me in a new direction: business. Later, I moved into the business world and in my last full-time corporate position, combined my concern for children with business as a professional fundraiser for a large children’s medical center.

Writing was a big part of my business life (proposals, newsletters, marketing materials, etc.) and after my three daughters were born and I’d read literally hundreds of books to them, I decided to try writing for children. I joined SCBWI and when a manuscript won the SCBWI-MI Picture Book Mentorship Award in 2007, my interest was validated. At that moment, my hobby became my intention.

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

CarrieA Warm Winter Tail is a cozy nature book about how animals adapt to the winter. It is told from animals’ perspective – which adds some humor – and compares/contrasts how people and animals manage the cold. It is a lyrical book first with some rhyming elements and packs a bunch of educational stuff into 32 pages. Christina Wald, the amazing illustrator, captured completely the pictures I had in my head. I am grateful for this because my stick drawings would never have done it justice. Seriously, she has a remarkable talent for light, perspective, and creating images that are true to life and yet child friendly.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Carrie:  I am working on a companion title about how animals adapt to heat. I’ve completed a MG historical novel (whew!) and am querying it now. I have several picture book manuscripts in various stages of development and more ideas than time – like most writers.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Carrie:  Oh my yes. My official launch was at Peter White Public Library on Sunday, October 14, 3-4pm. I will be at Horizon Books in Traverse City to sign on Saturday, November 3 10am-12pm; MooseWood Nature Center in Marquette, Sunday November 11, 2-3pm; McLean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey on Saturday, December 15, 1-3pm. I will travel downstate again after the first of the year and I have a few more regional events in the works (one might include Santa and chocolate – two of my favorite things!).

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore, and/or a favorite Michigan Library?

Carrie:  I love both bookstores in Marquette (Snowbound Books and Book World) for different reasons and appreciate them for being very hardworking resources for our book-loving community.

I’ve spent so much time in the Peter White Public Library’s children’s area that I feel like it is my second home. I adore that they let people eat and drink in there and never shush me – even when I snort at a funny part in my book. Cathy Seblonka, the children’s services librarian, has been so supportive. She read my manuscripts when I first put them on paper and didn’t snicker! She gently told me the truth if something wasn’t working, but also gave me enough positive feedback to keep me going. Years ago and prior to being published, she asked me to participate on a panel for children’s book authors/writers and because she saw me as a real writer, I did too. Her team follows in her footsteps and creates a wonderful environment for children and their adults.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Carrie:  My grandma’s farm in Jonesville where I used to pluck fresh concord grapes off the vine and pop them, warmed by the sun, into my mouth; Nakomis’ Bathtub, a natural granite rock “playground” just off our beach in chilly Lake Superior where we swim when we are brave; the aptly named Gorgeous Trail in Marquette that winds along the banks of the Dead River; Baw Beese Lake in Hillsdale where I grew up waterskiing and riding our snowmobile to Tip Up Festival… so many places and so many memories in Michigan!

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

Carrie:  Fourth of July fireworks in a boat moored in Marquette’s Lower Harbor can’t be beat. The sound echoes off the old iron ore railroad trestle and thumps your chest like a fist. It is a full-senses experience!

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

Carrie:  I continue to be amazed by the Michigan children’s book community. This group of talented writers and illustrators are truly concerned about the success of others -- which is remarkable in a highly competitive industry. It seems the more success we have, the more we help each other.

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

Carrie:  Michigan offers such diversity in natural surroundings, city life, industry, and farming. It is a one-stop shop state!

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"?

Carrie:  I’d be a Michigander if pushed to make a call on it but what about being a “Michiganine” (like Wolverine) or “Michiganite?” I say let’s vote again!

Debbie:  Carrie, we'll add you to several columns!  Thank you so very much for joining us today for Michigander Monday!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Poetry Friday: Another Moon Lune

Another moon lune (seem to be stuck on them lately...).

Morning Moon Meditation
(aka Drinking Coffee on the Porch)

In dark sky,
a bright hammock where
my thoughts lie.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Michigander Monday: Scott Lasser

I'm pleased to welcome Scott Lasser to Michigander Monday!

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

Scott:  I was born in Detroit and grew up in its environs.  About halfway through college I started reading novels--for fun. Saul Bellow had a great line that writers are readers who are moved from admiration to emulation.  That was my path; I started writing.  There came a time when I was in my early thirties, with a wife and son and two degrees and no money, when I decided I would be a Wall Street bond trader.  It was a crazy idea, but I didn't know better.  I figured the worst thing that could happen is that I'd get a book out of it.  So, off to business school I went (where I started my first novel, of course), and then to Wall Street.  I landed a job at Lehman Brothers.  Little did I know how that would turn out.  I ended up working in finance for almost 20 years. (I wouldn't recommend it.)  For the last 12 months I've been trying to make a living as a writer.  We'll see how that goes...

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

Scott:  I've published four novels: Battle Creek (a baseball novel), All I Could Get (that book I got out of Wall Street), The Year That Follows (a 9/11 novel, born out of a meeting I had scheduled in NYC on 9/11/01 with the publisher of All I Could Get), and Say Nice Things About Detroit (a Detroit novel, as you might guess; the world needs more of them).

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Scott:  Yes, of course.  As for books, let's just say I'm working on another.  I've also turned in a movie adaptation (written with Derek Green; see below) of Say Nice Things About Detroit and am working on other projects for the screen.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Scott:  I am reading at the Berkley Book Corner this Thursday (10/11), then making appearances at the Metro Detroit Book and Author Society Luncheon on Monday, 10/15 in Livonia, then another that night at the Warren Civic Center Library. Details are on the events page of my website.

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

Scott:  I'll go with Nicola's in Ann Arbor.  I admit to missing Shaman Drum.  I mean no disrespect to any bookstore.  It's a tough, tough business, and those in it are fighting the good fight.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Scott:  I had a great week this summer in Detroit.  I have fond feelings for Ann Arbor.  My grandfather grew up in Onaway, MI, and as I child I spent many a summer at Black Lake, which I still remember with great love.  And the UP is a world unto itself. A great world.

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

Scott:  I've got to admit, I love football.  I try to get to a game or two in Ann Arbor every year, and to catch the Lions whenever I can.  Likewise, I try to catch at least one Tiger game a year.  Shifting gears, I've heard great things about the Traverse City Film Festival and would like to attend one of these years.  And, I'm open for suggestions.

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

Scott:  My friend the writer Derek Green is someone you should know about.  He's a great writer who, so far, has published only one book, but it's well worth checking out.  New World Order is the title.  He's close to completing another.  He and I have worked on a number of screen projects together.  He comes from Jackson.

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

Scott:  The people.  Trust me: to truly appreciate the forthright, can-do attitudes of Michiganders, you probably need to spend a few years somewhere else.

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"?

Scott:  Puh-leeeeze.  Michigander.  A 'Michiganian' sounds like the member of some weird cult.

Debbie:  Another for the Michigander column!  Scott, thank you so much for joining us today for Michigander Monday!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Michigander Monday Teaser

A heads-up that the delightful Carrie Pearson will have an upcoming Michigander Monday interview here on Jumping the Candlestick.  In the meantime, she's currently on a whirlwind blog tour.  You can learn more about Carrie and her book, A Warm Winter Tail, at the following blogs:

October 1st:  with Robin McCoy at

2nd: Casey McCormick and Natalie Aguirre at

3rd: Sue Heavenrich at

4th: Tiffany at

5th: Anastasia Suen at

8th: Nancy Shaw at

9th:  Darcy Pattison at

11th: Wendy Lawrence at

12th: Jennifer Rumberger at

15th: Deborah Diesen at  (hey, that's me!)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Michigander Monday: Marcia Davis

I'm pleased to welcome Marcia Davis to Michigander Monday!

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

Marcia:  I'm originally a Jersey Girl and made my way to Michigan via Interstate 80 in a 1974 Ford Gran Torino. My destination was Hope College in Holland, Michigan, where, after three changes of a major, I finally graduated with a B.A. degree in English and a minor in French. Thinking I’d actually teach English as a Second Language, I headed off to the School for International Training in Vermont (you know, where they trained the Peace Corps) and did an internship in Veracruz, Mexico, but decided I hate teaching. By luck or fate, I found myself back in Michigan, where I enrolled in a graduate program at Western Michigan University, earned an M.A. in English, Emphasis on Professional Writing, and voilá, I was a writer. And a Michigan Girl.

For 15 years I worked at office furniture manufacturer Herman Miller, Inc., starting in the factory and making my way up to marketing via the test lab and the research group. The year I turned 40 was momentous (read: stressful!): I started a new job in the company as a writer, I got divorced, and I moved to a new house. A couple years later I married my husband, Bill Holm, by eloping to New York City. You can read about it in The New York Times!

In 2009 I started Life Is Fare, a blog for people who are passionate about “happy food”—that is, organic, local, sustainable, and humane. In less than three years it’s had over 90,000 hits.

In 2010 I left Herman Miller to start my freelance writing business called Chez Marcita, LLC and self-published my first cookbook, Nothing to Sneeze At: Main Dishes for People with Allergies, which includes recipes I’ve created or adapted to accommodate my husband Bill Holm’s allergies. During that year I published my first poem, “Kinship,” which appears in the Fall 2010 issue of Driftwood, a Michigan literary publication.

Now I work at home, where our cats, Moo and Fredsy, rule. Every week I get raw milk from a local farm, make butter and yogurt, and make happy food a priority.

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your book -- and your blog, too!

Marcia:  I started my blog after watching two movies: "Julie & Julia" and "Food, Inc." I always knew I wanted to blog but I wanted it to be a meaningful site with a message, not a focus on me. Both these movies had an impact on me. The first because it inspired me to blog every day. The second because I realized our food system was broken and people needed to know. My blog, Life Is Fare, is based on the premise that you are what you eat. I truly believe if you eat happy food, you'll feel better. At the same time, my husband Bill suffered from allergies to wheat, corn, and pasteurized cow dairy products. Through my blog, and subsequently through my cookbook, Nothing to Sneeze At: Main Dishes for People with Allergies, I try to help people see how easy it is to prepare and eat good food, even with allergies, by making simple adaptations.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Marcia:  I'm working on a novel or a memoir. I haven't decided which genre it will become because, frankly, I don't know if the people involved can handle the truth. Isn't that always a memoir writer's dilemma? But I have a good story to tell, so stay tuned. I might just change the names to protect the innocent.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Marcia:  Nothing is scheduled but I'm often asked to lead discussions about happy food and how to make the most of eating local, organic, sustainable, and humane food. I've done a helluva a lot of research on what's happening with our food system and how to procure happy food in Michigan. We are very lucky to have the resources available to us, even in the Snow Belt!

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

Marcia:  I love my local library (Herrick, in Holland)  but even more I love the Lakeland Library Cooperative that allows me to order books online and pick them up when they're delivered to Herrick. My favorite bookstore is Reader's World in Holland. It's just an old-fashioned, downtown bookstore that's always been open on Sunday even when the rest of Holland was closed down!

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Marcia:  After living in Michigan for about 25 years I decided I was going to stay so I figured I'd better hit every corner of this gorgeous state to get to know it thoroughly. Bill and I took a two-week road trip through the U.P. and hit every part except the very far southwestern corner. I loved Keewenaw Peninsula. It's the first time I'd ever heard of a thimbleberry! The Porkies are gorgeous, too. But my old standby, which I can get to more quickly, is Leelanau Peninsula and Sleeping Bear Dunes, for the camping, the wineries, and the gorgeous lakeshore. I think I'm just partial to Lake Michigan.

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

Marcia:  Being a wine drinker, the Fenn Valley Open House in June is a must-do. I also love camping in Sleeping Bear Dunes when there's a full moon. At Good Harbor Bay you can have a fire on the beach as the full moon rises and it's such a beautiful sight. One time Bill and I attended the Detroit Jazz Festival, which was very cool. I loved seeing Detroit come alive.

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

Marcia:  My new sister-in-law, Debra Wierenga, has written and published some beautiful poetry. And, of course, so has my husband, Bill Holm, a fabulous writer who is also a Book Character in Bob Tarte's animal stories.

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

Marcia:  Michigan is not "the Midwest" in many ways. For one thing, it's not flat. For another, we grow many crops besides corn and soybeans. It's a four-season state and for people who celebrate nature, it's the place to live. There's something about the Great Lakes that make Michigan unique. It should never be lumped in with Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and Iowa as part of the bland Midwest.

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"?

Marcia:  Always a Michigander. Just sounds cool. Animalistic in a way.

Debbie:  Michigander it is!  Marcia, it's been a true pleasure having you here today for Michigander Monday!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Michigander Monday: Glenn Shaheen

I'm pleased to welcome Glenn Shaheen to Michigander Monday!

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

Glenn:  I was born in Canada, but have lived in the United States since I was a teenager. Presently I am a doctoral candidate at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, where I live with my fiancee, the fiction writer Laurie Ann Cedilnik. I also serve on the board of the Radius of Arab-American Writers, Inc., an organization dedicated to the support and promotion of writing by Arab-Americans.

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

GlennPredatory is my first book of poems, and won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize in poetry. It was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press last fall. It's an analysis of the way we Americans have come in the past decade to let a fear of destruction consume us, the destruction of our nation, the destruction of our society, or the destruction of love. This fear is an obvious fallacy - it's conceited to think that any of these things would be destroyed in our lifetimes. That's the kind of thinking that the party has to end once we left, but that's almost never true - somebody did a keg stand and made out with a lamp as soon as we got in the taxi!

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Glenn:  I'm working on a second manuscript of poems right now, but it's very nascent. Right now it's about community and how individual responsibilities translate into social duties, though I could cut half the poems tomorrow. The working title is Great Southwest.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Glenn:  My only booked appearance this fall is reading for the Monsters of Poetry series in Madison, Wisconsin on October 12th. Nothing in Michigan until the spring I'm afraid!

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Glenn:  I loved Literary Life in Grand Rapids, but unfortunately they recently shut their doors. In Kalamazoo, Kazoo Books is terrific, and so is Michigan News Agency. Support your local bookstores!

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Glenn:  The dunes at Saugatuck are fantastic, and I love biking the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail - I haven't made it up to the UP yet, but I hear that's gorgeous as well.

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

Glenn:  The first snow is always great! It's usually a surprise, even though you know it's coming, and you've forgotten enough about icy roads, shoveling the driveway, endless cold, etc, that it's sort of pleasant. The 12th snow is not as great.

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

Glenn:  I like poet Hayan Charara, who no longer lives in Michigan, but was born and raised here. I think he counts enough as a Michigander. Or Michiganian? I don't want to get too far ahead of myself on these questions! His books are The Alchemist's Diary and The Sadness of Others.

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

Glenn:  It is phenomenally beautiful here for about 10 months. Also, the amount of farm to table restaurants here is great - I thought I'd lose weight moving from Texas, but, ha ha, no dice. Too many terrific places to eat!

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"?

Glenn:  I've only been a Michigander for a year, so maybe I'm not the right person to ask. I've always said "Michigander" though, and my spell check seems to think the answer is "Michigander," so that's what I'm going with!

Debbie:  Glenn, we'll add you to the Michigander column.  Thank you for being here today for Michigander Monday!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wednesday Workout Review: V. Method Cardio Vusion by Vicki Vara

V.method Cardio Vusion by Vicki Vara is a great workout.  It consists of three segments:  the first, a cardio segment, I would describe as (using a words-starting-with-V theme) “vigorous.”  Deceptively so: Vicki and her two assistants are petite and cheerful, and the 15-minute segment requires only small, light handweights, and yet it’s thorough and challenging.  The next segment, a 17-minute lower body workout, is “vicious.”  Well, not really; but after this segment?  Your. Hips. Will. Hurt.  The final section, at 14 minutes, is “varied.”  Primarily abs and core, but also with some leg work, this section rounds out a workout that’s more challenging than you might expect.

Couple of small quibbles.  First, a very minor (definitely a “might just be me”) issue:  The instructor is wonderful, but at times her voice/enthusiasm veers near the upper boundary of my cheerfulness tolerance.  A slightly more significant quibble (though still not a huge one):  unlike most workout reviews, the instructor doesn’t “mirror” the movements.  When she cues you for your R leg, she uses her own R leg.  Since I’m primarily used to the mirroring approach, this throws me a bit (especially in segment two, where the first few times doing the DVD I ended up facing backwards and couldn’t see the instruction).

But neither of these quibbles gets in the way of a great, thorough, challenging, and invigorating workout!  Highly recommended.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Michigander Monday: Sue Harrison

I'm pleased to welcome Sue Harrison to Michigander Monday!

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

Sue:  I was born in Lansing, Michigan. My family moved to the Upper Peninsula when I was four, and I’ve lived there ever since, except for a brief sojourn in Colorado. When I was 10 years old, my teacher pinned one of my (very poor) poems to the bulletin board, and I decided that if I was good enough for that lofty honor, I was good enough to write books. I started writing regularly and finally had my first novel published when I was 39. (Steep learning curve!) I met the love of my life in first grade when he chased me to the monkey bars. We married when we were 19, put ourselves through college, and when we were 22 began our family. We have a son and daughter, a daughter-in-law and two granddaughters, and another daughter in heaven. I gave my heart to Jesus when I was 5 and faith is still the center of my life. Things I love in addition to my Lord and my family? Walking outside after a hard, cleansing rain. Talking to flowers. Hearing the loud tick of a comforting old clock. Reading a great book in a quiet house. Popcorn at a movie with my husband. Riding a slow horse. Buying a fun pair of shoes. Knitting socks. Jumping into warm, blue water with a scuba tank on my back. Writing, writing, writing!!

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

Sue:  My first novel, Mother Earth Father Sky, was published in 1990 by Doubleday and was a national and international bestseller. It was selected by the American Library Association as one of 1991’s Best Books for Young Adults, a crossover from the adult market. My other novels include: My Sister the Moon, Brother Wind, Song of the River, Cry of the Wind, Call Down the Stars, and Sisu. My novels have been honored as main selection and featured and alternate selections of the Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Clubs and book clubs in Europe and South America. SISU, a middle reader’s book, was selected as a National Accelerated Reader’s Book. My novels have been published in more than 20 countries and in 13 languages.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Sue:  I’m excited to be writing romantic suspense for the inspirational market. I have two novels currently with my agent, Rachelle Gardner, and look forward to future possibilities for publication.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Sue:  My future appearances include:

Saturday, September 29, 2012 -- International Society for Key Women Educators, Delta Kappa Gamma, Fall Retreat, Bay Mills Community College, Brimley (Michigan) – Talk and weaving demonstration: “Weaving, an historical perspective,” six thousand years of fabrics. Two presentations: 11 – 11:45 a.m. and 12:00-12:45 a.m.

Wednesday, April 25, 2013 -- 6:30 p.m. Dickinson County Library, Iron Mountain (Michigan) Presentation, reading, discussion.

Monday, June 5, 2013 -- Stalwart Presbyterian Women: Ladies Night Out. Northwoods Christian Camp, Pickford (Michigan) – Keynote speech. “All Wrapped Up.” Discovering Your Eternal Gifts.

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

Sue:  I’ve had the privilege of visiting many Michigan bookstores and libraries, and no matter where I am, I find great joy in meeting and talking to the book people who staff those facilities and make it possible for readers and writers to have the joy of living within the glorious stories of books. Whatever bookstore or library I’m in at the moment is my favorite!

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Sue:  Although I love many places in Michigan, from the big cities to the wilderness, my favorite has to be my little hometown of Pickford in the Eastern Upper Peninsula. Pickford is a farming community full of good, honest people, the place where my heart lives no matter where I travel.

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

Sue:  I love any kind of celebration that features the good things that people do.

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

Sue:  Wow, there are so many, but I’m going to highlight a young man who came into my life this past year. Ron Riekki, Upper Peninsula native and author of the bestselling novel, U.P. is the editor of a Wayne State University Press Anthology that will highlight the work of Upper Peninsula authors. He put much time and talent into gathering the stories for this anthology and wrote a grant to put these authors on the road for an Upper Peninsula book tour to small town libraries. He’s won numerous awards for his deep, heart-wrenching and often hilarious stories, poems and plays, and yet his focus is on highlighting the work of others.

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

Sue:  I love that Michigan is a maritime state. The world needs to know about the unique fresh water seas that cradle the state and have a huge influence on its weather, its economy and the mindset of its people.

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"?

Sue:  I hate to mess up your tallie, Debbie, but I usually refer to myself as a Yooper!

Debbie:  Yooper it is!  Thank you, Sue, for joining us for Michigander - er, make that Yooper - Monday!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Michigander Monday: Kenneth Kraegel

I'm pleased to welcome Kenneth Kraegel to Michigander Monday!

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

Kenneth:  I grew up in Mishawaka, Indiana, very near the Michigan border. There was always some mystique about Michigan. It was where people went to go hunting, fishing, skiing, and camping. When you crossed the state line the number of trees doubled and it felt like you were entering a rustic paradise. Now that I live here some of the mystique has worn off, but not all of it. I really enjoy living here.

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

KennethKing Arthur's Very Great Grandson is my first book. The illustrations are done with ink and watercolor, the story is done with the English language. It came out this July from Candlewick Press.

It is about a six-year old named Henry Alfred Grummorson. He is the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson of King Arthur. Henry very much wants to have adventures like his famous ancestor, so he goes off in search of adventure. He encounters a Dragon, a Cyclops, and a Griffin, but to his utter dismay, they all turn out to be friendly! So he heads for the sea where he encounters the Leviathan, who "of all the living beasts is the most to be feared...."

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Kenneth:  I am working on one with my editor and I have two that are waiting for some time to develop.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Kenneth:  Reading at Pooh's Corner in Grand Rapids on September 17 at 10:30.

Reading at The Magic Tree Bookstore in Oak Park, IL on September 22 at 11:00.

Reading at the Barnes and Noble in Mishawaka, IN on September 29 at 2:30.

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

Kenneth:  Pooh’s Corner is an excellent children’s bookstore in Grand Rapids. Schuler Books and Music is a wonderful independent bookstore. They hosted my book launch at one of their stores in Grand Rapids and did a very impressive job.

As for libraries, my favorite library is the Spencer Township Library in Gowen, MI, where my mother-in-law is the managing librarian.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Kenneth:  My wife, son, and I went backpacking on North Manitou Island earlier this summer. We hope to go back soon. It was beautiful. I would also love to go on an extended trip to Isle Royale someday.

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

Kenneth:  Well, ArtPrize is a great event in Grand Rapids. But my favorite events are probably the various fruit seasons - strawberry, cherry, blueberry, peach, and apple. As well a good snow in the winter and an all-night rain in the summer.

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

KennethMarie Catrib has a very popular restaurant in Grand Rapids, before she came here she had a restaurant in Houghton. I don’t know her personally, but I am always impressed with the warmth and joy that she conveys. Plus her food is very good.

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"?

Kenneth:  I have only heard Michigander. So that must be what I am.

Debbie:  Ken, we'll add you to the Michigander tally!  Thank you so much for joining us today for Michigander Monday!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Michigander Monday: Kerrytown BookFest

Michigander Monday has the day off today for Labor Day, so I thought I'd use the slot to draw your attention to the Kerrytown BookFest, happening this coming Sunday, September 9 in Ann Arbor.

It's a fabulous event and I'm thrilled that I'll be a part of the day's activities -- I'll be doing a storytime at 12, with a repeat at 12:30; and at 4 I'll be on a "Path To Publication" panel with Ruth McNally Barshaw, Amy Huntley, and Jennifer Allison, moderated by Sarah Zettel.

For a full activity schedule, click here.  There will be authors, bookmakers, publishers, editors, storytellers, presenters, and more, including:
  • Jennifer Allison
  • Doug Allyn
  • William Anderson
  • Randy Asplund
  • Natalie Bakopoulos
  • Ruth McNally Barshaw
  • Abby Bennett
  • Barbara Brown
  • Jonnie Bryant
  • Trudy Bulkley
  • Jon Buller
  • Brianne Burgoon
  • Benjamin Busch
  • Bonnie Jo Campbell
  • Alyse Carlson
  • Jeremiah Chamberlin
  • Patricia Clark
  • Jim Daniels
  • Nicholas Delbanco
  • Michael Delp
  • Deborah Diesen
  • Jack Driscoll
  • Vicki Engling
  • Loren D. Estleman
  • Dan Ewald
  • Kerrie Ferrell
  • Meghan Forbes
  • Debra Golden
  • Lorna Goodison
  • Joe Grimm
  • Bryan Gruley
  • francine j. harris
  • Alexander Scott Hemenway
  • Haley Hoard
  • Tom and Cindy Hollander
  • Caitlin Horrocks
  • Jim Horton
  • Amy Huntley
  • D.E. Johnson
  • Philip Kadwell
  • W. Todd Kaneko
  • Kate Kehoe
  • Julia Keller
  • Julie Kramer
  • Katherine Larson
  • Annie Martin
  • Peter Morris
  • David Erik Nelson
  • Kelly Nichols
  • Heather O'Neal
  • Chad Pastotnik
  • Ann Pearlman
  • Eileen Pollack
  • Laura Pershin Raynor
  • Stephanie Rowden
  • Hank Phillippi Ryan
  • Diane Seuss
  • Brian Short
  • Kevin Spall
  • Larry D. Sweazy
  • Keith Taylor
  • Bill Upton
  • Tim Wendel
  • Howard White
  • Marianne White
  • Katherine Yung
  • Sarah Zettel
See you Sunday!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Michigander Monday: Ann Ingalls

I'm pleased to welcome Ann Ingalls to Michigander Monday!

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

Ann:  My ninth grade English teacher said I had absolutely no talent for writing. I'd like to catch up with her today and let her know I'll have 16 books in print next spring and over 200 poems, short stories and meditations. So there, Sr. Elaine.

It wasn't until I got to Michigan State that my confidence was restored in my ability to write. I'd like to thank whoever that professor was who said I could. If only I could remember his name....

I can hang a spoon on the end of my nose and can make a decent brownie, if I say so myself.

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

Ann:  My first book is Little Piano Girl, the childhood story of Mary Lou Williams, the First Lady of Jazz.  Houghton Mifflin published that in 2010. This past May, Pilgrim Press released Worm Watching and Other Wonderful Ways to Teach Young Children To Pray.  Next summer, Grosset and Dunlap will release Ice Cream Soup, a picture book about a crazy mess in the kitchen.

I have a wonderful agent, Karen Grencik at Red Fox Literary. Having her represent my work has been a delight. She's kind and caring and has such good professional sense. Can you tell I'm a fan?

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Ann:  Right now, I am writing 13 read aloud stories for Core Knowledge. Just finished two--one on Jackie Robinson and another on Ruby Bridges. As a former elementary and special education teacher, I think of myself as a "life-long learner." I love the research it takes to put a piece together. (I taught in Lansing, Michigan).

I have eight books on manners, thank you very much, coming out this month. Child's World is the publisher for those. I had two books on Language Arts instruction come out in January (Seth and Savannah Build a Speech and Isabella and Ivan Build An Interview -- Norwood House), and have two coming out on World Traditions (Child's World). I have done a bit of writing for Capstone--Books for English Language learners.

My agent is sending around a couple of books--one on the Underground Railroad and another on Will Rogers. Cross you fingers, please.

I write lots and lots of poems. Mostly sell them to Highlights but also to other publishers. I'm always surprised and delighted when I get that contract in the mail.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Ann:  This fall I'll be speaking at the MOSCBWI's fall conference in Lindenwood, MO--near St. Louis. I'll be sharing what I know about writing nonfiction. I'll also be critiquing picture books at KSSCBWI's fall conference in October. Am looking forward to spending time with many new and established writers.

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

Ann:  My favorite library is the Dearborn Library on Michigan Avenue. My dad took me there numerous times as a child. I so loved the doll house in the Children's section. Can someone tell me if it's still there?

Bookstore? I've never met a bookstore I didn't like.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Ann:  I am wild about Traverse City--lots of trips there as a child. My grandparents are buried there.

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

Ann:  Family reunions. We have had them in South Haven (great!), Plymouth (great!), at Greenfield Village (great!), in Canton (great!). I have seven siblings, six living, and about a hundred other assorted relatives. We put the "fun" in dysfunctional.

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

Ann:  Everyone has a good story to tell.  I don't think I have a favorite.

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

Ann:  Michigan has the world's best blueberries, cherries, peaches, apples, did I say blueberries? can't beat the lakes but I'm pretty sure everyone knows about them.

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"?

Ann:  I have always considered myself to be a Michigander. Rather like the sound of that. Like to think tourists might like to "take a gander" at all Michigan has to offer. Am still doing that myself.

Debbie:  Another mark in the 'gander column!  Thanks, Ann, for joining us today for Michigander Monday!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Michigander Monday: Amy Ackley

I'm pleased to welcome Amy Ackley to Michigander Monday

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

Amy:  I’ve lived in Michigan all my life.  I grew up on White Lake in Highland, Michigan, earned my undergraduate degree at Oakland University and my graduate degree at Central Michigan University, and have lived in Brighton with my husband and daughters for the last thirteen years.

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

Amy:  My debut young adult novel, Sign Language, was drawn from the loss of my dad to cancer when I was a teen, and is set in my hometown of Highland, Michigan.  Sign Language was published by Viking Juvenile in August 2011 after winning the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for YA Fiction.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Amy:  My second YA book, tentatively titled Never, Ever Land, is a work of contemporary fiction based on J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.  I am represented by New York literary agent Jennifer DeChiara.  Publication news forthcoming!  In the meantime, I am working on two new manuscripts, both young adult fiction, and have more ideas than I have time to write!

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Amy:  I list events on my website:  You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter (@amyackley73).

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

AmyNicola’s Books in Ann Arbor is very supportive of Michigan authors and hosts fantastic events for both well-known and debut authors from around the country.  The owner and staff are incredibly fun, knowledgeable, and helpful people, and the bookstore is so cozy and yet carries a wider variety of titles than the bigger chain stores. 

The Book Beat in Oak Park is another favorite.  The Book Beat was recently awarded the prestigious Pannell award for promoting literacy in young people, and the owners are also very supportive of Michigan authors.

As for libraries, I’d have to say that the Highland Township Library has the coolest, most welcoming staff, and they host great events for both young people and adults.
Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Amy:  The Leelanau Peninsula, hands down.  My brother owns two cottages in Glen Arbor and lets me sneak up when he has a rare vacancy.  Leelanau has everything for an outdoorsy girl like me – lots of places to hike, bike, kayak and canoe – and I believe has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world.  A couple of years ago, while hiking the South Manitou Island I climbed to the top of the perched dunes and knew it would be the perfect setting for the Peter Pan book that had been trying to form in my mind.  Suddenly everything came together – Leelanau Peninsula’s lakes, sand dunes, shipwrecks, Indian reservation - it was Neverland come to life.  I’m so excited to get Never, Ever Land into the hands of my fellow Michiganders, and hopefully get the stamp of approval.

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

Amy:  Nothing compares to autumn in Michigan.  I love the changing colors, the crisp air, picking apples and eating fresh doughnuts and cider at local orchards.  My favorite thing to do is take my kids to Crossroads Village in Genesee County where they can trick-or-treat, see a magic show, and ride the Huckleberry Ghost Train.  A rule in my house is that no one is allowed to get too old to dress up in costume for Crossroads Village.

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

Amy:  Since my book was released last summer I’ve met some fantastic authors and was surprised to find so many that live here in Michigan!  I recently participated in an author panel with three Michigan-based young adult authors that I was so glad to meet: Lara Zielin, author of Donut Days, The Implosion of Aggie Winchester, and The Waiting Sky, Tracy Bilen, author of What She Left Behind, and Beth Neff, author of Getting Somewhere.  I was thrilled to connect with others that write for young adults.

Darci Hannah, author of The Exile of Sara Stevenson and The Angel of Blythe Hall, is an amazing author of historical fiction and just the funniest, sweetest person.  She’s a great speaker and a popular book club pick and blogs on behalf of her dog, Barkley, otherwise known as The Yard Panda (

Ellen Airgood, author of South of Superior (a Michigan Notable Book) and middle grade novel Prairie Evers, runs a diner in Grand Marais with her husband and is a refreshingly down-to-earth, talented author.

I appreciate the arts in all forms.  Thanks to my daughters, when I’m not writing I am surrounded by music and dance, and I’d love to draw attention to the Michigan Dance Project, a non-profit professional contemporary dance company based in southeast Michigan.  Kathy King, founder and director of the Michigan Dance Project, is a creative, fun, and inspiring person who is passionate about strengthening the dance community throughout Michigan.  Check out their upcoming events:

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

Amy:  In Michigan, we drink “pop”, not “soda”. We buy it at a “party store”, and never throw away the “empties” – you can use the cash to fill up your tank to drive “Up North”, where most of us vacation.  If you’re going all the way to the “U.P.”, where the “Yoopers” live and you can buy “pasties”, you drive across “The Bridge”.  To travel internationally, you can take “The Lodge” to “The Tunnel”.  During construction season (otherwise known as not-winter), you may have to exit the freeway.  If you have to detour and a left turn is not permitted, don’t worry; you can take a right and then a “Michigan Left”.  If you need a visual of any of this I could show you on my hands.

Also, we love the Lions, no matter what.

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"?

Amy:  Michigander, though it makes us sound like a regional breed of male geese.

Debbie:  Amy, thank you for being here today for Michigander Monday!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012