Friday, March 30, 2012

Guest Blogger Gina Gort: "Make Some Room In Your Life For Poetry"

I'm thrilled to have the fabulous Gina Gort guest blogging today!  Gina was the first prize winner in the Notable Books reading challenge that I ran on this blog earlier this year.  Take it away, Gina!

Make some room in your life for Poetry
Guest Blog Post by Gina Gort

I was ecstatic when Debbie Diesen sent me an email to inform me that I had won the drawing for her Michigan Notable Books reading Challenge. Like most people I never win anything and signed up because I wanted to read a number of books on the list anyway. So first of all thanks to Deb for hosting such a great contest. Second of all I have already spent my $50 at Literary Life Bookstore, a great little independent in Grand Rapids, MI.

One of the books I agreed to read was Songs of Unreason, the latest poetry collection by Jim Harrison. I have to preface this by saying that I am a poetry fanatic. In fact, poetry saved my life but that's a whole other blog post.

I first was introduced to Harrison by a college friend. And I found his work much like an ex-boyfriend you just can't let go. He can be gruff and brutally honest but he can also say the exact right thing when you need him to and you end up inviting him right back into your life.

In this collection he explores the world in a way only he can and maybe because the old curmudgeon has grown on me over the years or it could be his many references to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (where I grew up) that endear him to me but I found it riveting. There is a certain somber sway to the book that I found much like a lullaby. And even when I am not fully embraced by a certain poem, I can still appreciate the song being sung.

So I would recommend that you find a place in your poetry heart for Songs of Unreason by Jim Harrison. Here is a stanza from River II , that I have been chewing on since I got the book.

Once on our nighttime farm on a moonlit walk
the clouds pushed by a big western wind
became a school of whales swimming hard
across the cold heavens and I finally knew
that we walk the bottom of an ocean we call sky.


* * *
Gina Gort is a contributor on Swagger Writers blog, bookseller emeritus at Literary Life Bookstore and lives, loves poetry.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Book Giveaway Winners!

Winners in the giveaway for a signed copy of The Pout-Pout Fish are:

Susan B
Jennifer R

Winners in the giveaway for a signed copy of The Barefooted, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade (plus optional baby shower Skype appearance) are:


I'll be in touch directly with all winners this week.  If you're a winner and haven't heard from me yet (and/or if I don't have your email address), you can contact me at:  deborah [at] deborahdiesen [dot] com

Thank you to everyone who participated!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Michigander Monday: Mardi Link

I'm pleased to welcome Mardi Link to Michigander Monday!

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

Mardi:  I'm a Michigander through and through! Born in Detroit, graduated from Michigan State journalism school, had my first two books published by a Michigan press, and am a huge Detroit Lions and MSU Spartans fan. Plus, I live within sight of the Grand Traverse Bay and vacation every year at our family cottage on Lake Huron.

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

Mardi:  I'm the author of two historic true crime books, When Evil Came to Good Hart and Isadore's Secret, both published by The University of Michigan Press. When Evil Came to Good Hart delves into the 1968 murder of a Detroit-area family, the Robisons, while they were vacationing in their summer cottage north of Harbor Springs in the picture-perfect town of Good Hart. Isadore's Secret details the disappearance of a Felician nun in 1907 in Leelanau County.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Mardi:  Yes! One I'm very excited about. I just turned in an untitled memoir to Knopf. It's the personal story of how I raised my three sons alone on my little farm here in northern Michigan after a very painful divorce. And, believe it or not, it's funny. Well, OTHER people tell me it's funny. I wasn't laughing at the time, but hindsight is a great place for humor I've found. Especially when looking back at the tough times. I also just won Creative Nonfiction magazine's essay contest on "Anger & Revenge."

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Mardi:  I'll be teaching a workshop on writing the personal essay and also giving the lunchtime talk at "A Rally of Writers" in Lansing on April 14, will be at the Kentwood Branch Library's "Celebrate the Mitten" program on April 21 and presenting at the Michigan Library Association on "Pushing the Boundaries of Fiction and Formats" gathering in Grand Rapids on April 23.

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

Mardi:  I fell in love with The Library of Michigan in Lansing when I was researching Isadore's Secret. The parish housekeeper was arrested for the crime and served time but later pardoned by Gov. Grosbeck so I wanted to find out more about her time in prison. That library is such a treasure! I was able to find out not only what her time was like in prison in the 1920s, but even what she ate! And here's a clue: Lots and lots of potatoes! I also like my own branch library on Three Mile Road south of Traverse City. For bookstores my favorites are McLean & Eakin in Petoskey, Horizon in Traverse City, Brilliant Books in Traverse City and Sutton's Bay, and The Cottage Bookshop in Glen Arbor. Booksellers and librarians have been so supportive of my work, I just can't thank all of them enough.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Mardi:  Thunder Bay in Ossineke where the Links have a family cottage and the beach campfires are the stuff of legend, Grand Traverse Bay where my husband and I fish for salmon and cruise, Keystone soccer fields where I have spent untold hours cheering on my sons, and my own little farm south of Traverse City.

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

Mardi:  My family gathers every year for the 4th of July holiday at my grandparents' house on Duck Lake in Whitehall. My grandfather built the house in the 1950s, I spent the summers there when I was growing up. My grandparents are both gone now and my aunt and uncle live in the house but we still all return for the 4th. My cousins from Chicago, my sons from college, my new husband and me, my parents, all of us. I wouldn't miss it!

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

Mardi:  If you aren't from here you can't possibly appreciate how geographically diverse we are. From the industry and live musical and sports entertainment Detroit offers to the solitude of the Upper Peninsula and the amazing agricultural resources in my area around Traverse City, this state is amazing. Truly the U.S.'s high five!

Debbie:  Agreed!  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"?

Mardi:  A Michigander all the way!

Debbie:  We'll add you to the Michigander tally!  Mardi, thank you so much for being here today for Michigander Monday!

For more about Mardi and her books, stop by her web site and her blog.

Also, be sure to check out Mardi's "Secret Cuts: A Cherry Orchard Mystery" project proposal on Kickstart, a proposal for a work of investigative journalism into why 400 cherry trees in Legacy Orchards were sawed through and pushed over last October.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Another birthday! Another giveaway!

Seems like just yesterday we were taking entries for Mr. Fish's 4th b-day giveaway.

Oh, wait, that's still going on!  (Click here.)

Yet here we are at another birthday...

To celebrate, I'm giving away TWO signed copies of the book The Barefooted, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade - but with a catch.  These two books are going to be given away to two individuals who would like to give the book as a baby shower giftAnd, the giveaway includes a Debbie-will-make-a-Skype-appearance-at-the-baby-shower option.

If you are interested in a Baby Brigade book to give as a baby shower gift, plus the option of a baby shower Skype session (either for me to read The Barefooted, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade, or just to say hello), leave your name in the comments.  First two commenters win this giveaway.  Each of the two commenters will receive a signed book, plus the Skype option.

I'm not entirely sure anyone is going to be interested in this, so I'll leave this giveway open until I have two sign-ups.

In the meantime, Happy Birthday to The Barefooted, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Win a signed copy of "The Pout-Pout Fish"

My book giveaway in honor of Mr. Fish's 4th b-day is still going on.  Pop on over to the blog post about it for all the details!  You have until Sunday at midnight to enter the drawing.

And stay tuned tomorrow for yet another book giveaway opportunity!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wednesday Workout Review: Ballet Body Volume 3 - Lower Body

Ballet Body Volume 3 - Lower Body by Leah Sarago is a tough workout!  Perhaps I'm revealing myself as out-of-shape and over-the-hill to say this, but I'll admit that the first time I tried this DVD, I cried uncle 20 minutes in:  I gave up and spent the remainder of my workout time lying in a heap on the floor!  I don't think I've ever done an exercise DVD that's so intense on the legs, especially the thighs.  The good news, though, is that after you've done it a few times, it becomes substantially more manageable.  So don't give up!

The workout is 55 minutes in length.  The first 40 minutes consist of challenging standing moves and some floor work.  If your legs can survive that, the final 15 minutes are spent in a nice stretching series.

My only micro-complaint is that some of the music is a little annoying (like the part that sounds like "Careless Whisper" as sung by The Chipmunks).  But other than that, a great lower body workout!

Other reviews here, and you can head to Leah Sarago's site for more information.  There's also a clip of the DVD available on YouTube.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Michigander Monday: Ron Jolly

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

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

Ron:  I have been hosting the Morning Show on WTCM NewsTalk 580 in Traverse City for 17 years.  I have been in radio and TV since 1983.  My program covers a wide field of topics, from local arts and education, to politics on every level, and a lot of local business news.  I try to feature one author every week, and one local entrepreneur, as well.

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

Ron:  I authored Northern Michigan Almanac in 2005, and in 2010 I co-authored, with Karl Bohnak (WLUC-TV 6 Marquette Meteorologist) Michigan's Upper Peninsula Almanac.  Both books were published by the University of Michigan Press and Petoskey Publishing.  Both books contain over 500 pages of facts, trivia, statistics and history about northwestern lower Michigan, and the U.P., respectively.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Ron:  No!

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

Ron:  I love McLean and Eakin Books in Petoskey, Horizon Books in Traverse City, and Snowbound Books in Marquette.  As a collector of books, I always visit bookstores whenever I'm out of town.  Favorite libraries include Traverse Area District Library in Traverse City (I am V.P. of The Friends of Traverse Library Group).  The Mackinac Island Library has a nice collection, and a great deck out the back door right on the water!  I'd love to visit the Esper Branch of the Dearborn Library System, but I don't know if it's still there.  That was a favorite place when I was growing up.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Ron:  Mackinac Island! 

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

RonDetroit Tigers baseball games, Detroit Red Wings games, National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, and Northport Dog Parade to name a few.

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

Ron:  Betty Beeby is an 89 year old fireball of an artist, illustrator, writer and historian.  She lives in Eastport between Elk Rapids and Charlevoix.  Her most public work of art is a 50-foot mural of the Mackinac Bridge which she painted in the Mackinac Bridge gift shop on the south side of the bridge.  In the 1980's the mural was covered up with a new wall for the gift shop, but thanks to the work of several of Betty's fans, the wall was removed and now visitors can see her marvelous mural.  She has illustrated several books for Zondervan publishing out of Grand Rapids, she used to provide illustrations for the Captain Kangaroo show, she has written several books about local history, and she is always ready to spearhead a project.  She won a state history award a few years ago.   She has spent a lot of time helping youngsters develop careers in the arts.  She is a great Michiganian!

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

Ron:  We have outstanding beaches, lakes, woods with trails, and very nice small towns in northern Michigan.  I grew up in Detroit and had no idea that Michigan had beaches and clean swimming water.

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

Ron:  Michiganian.

Ron, we'll add you to the Michiganian column!  Thank you so much for being here today for Michiganian Monday!

To learn more about Ron Jolly and his radio show, visit the station's web site or the FaceBook page for his show.  And find out more about his books on the U of M Press site.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Happy Birthday to The Pout-Pout Fish! ...and a book giveaway

On March 18, 2008, the book The Pout-Pout Fish swam into existence.

To celebrate Mr. Fish's fourth birthday, I'm giving away four signed copies of The Pout-Pout Fish.

To enter the drawing for one of the four copies, just leave a comment on this blog post.  You don't have to say anything particular in your comment, but if your comment includes a list of four things bookish (for example, "Four Things I Like About Books" or "Four Books That Have Changed My Life" or "Four Book Characters I'd Love To Have Dinner With" or "Four Books My Kids Love" or even "Four Books I Could Do Without"), I'll enter your name into the hat four times, thus increasing your odds of winning.

If you're a winner, I can sign the book for you or for a recipient of your choice.  I'll ship the book within three weeks of receiving name and shipping info (probably sooner - but I just want to cushion the timetable in case anything wacky comes up).  I'd prefer to keep my shipping to U.S. addresses.

I'll pick the winners on March 26, so you have until midnight March 25th to enter.

In the meantime, copied and pasted below, here's a re-run of a blog post Mr. Fish (that is, The Pout-Pout Fish himself!) wrote for this blog three years ago, on his first birthday.  It's a "25 Random Things About Mr. Fish" post.

I hope you enjoy getting to know Mr. Fish a little bit better on his birthday!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

A big "Hello!" to the above-water-world from yours truly, Mr. Fish!

I’m grateful to Debbie for giving me this birthday present of a guest-blogger spot on Jumping The Candlestick. Very timely, too, because just last week Ms. Clam tagged me for the “25 Random Things About Me” meme.

So here goes, with 25 Random Things About Mr. Fish:

1. I can hold my breath above water for 1 minute and 2 seconds.

2. In high school, I was known as the Class Frown.

3. My favorite human is Jacques Cousteau.

4. For karaoke night, I always sing “I am the very model of the modern major general…” but I substitute the word “blub” for all the lyrics. Blub blub blub blub blub blub blub blub blub blub blub blub blub blub blub blub!

5. When I was much younger, I wanted to grow up to be a Flying Fish, so I could fly to the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon.

6. I’ve never harbored a desire to drive the bus. I would, however, like to drive the sub.

7. Sometimes I close my eyes and imagine I’m a giant whale, but instead of a spout I blow water out my nose.

8. My birthday is March 18, which makes me a Pisces. I prefer not to tell you how old I am, but I was born in the Year of the Rat. I really wish there was a Year of the Fish.

9. Book I faked reading: The Old Man and The Sea.

10. I used to believe biology was destiny, but a certain shimmery friend of mine has caused me to reconsider that position.

11. I don’t mean to brag, but I can mambo like nobody’s business.

12. Sometimes I swim upside-down and speak backwards, like this: “Sehsif Tseb.”

13. I love card games, except “Go Fish,” which gives me the heebie-jeebies.

14. I do a spot-on imitation of Garrison Keillor. “That’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the swimmers are strong, all the fish are good-looking, and all the minnows are above average.”

15. My least favorite day of the week is “Fry-Day.”

16. I once ordered some Sea Monkeys from the back of a comic book, and they ended up being nothing but Brine Shrimp.

17. My favorite made-up words are “fin-tastic” and “fish-arrific.”

18. Someday I’d like to travel to Australia to find Nemo.

19. I’m a little bit scared of the dark.

20. I collect bottle caps. I’ve got 14,812 of them, but 14,804 are buried under the sand.

21. Once, on a dare, I fin-wrestled a shark.

22. I play slide trombone. I’ve got a great embouchure, but a limited note range.

23. I prefer boxers to briefs, though I don’t know what either one of them are.

24. At night, when it’s very quiet in the ocean, I like to lie on my back and count the star fish.

25. I don’t pout nearly as much as I used to.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

And now, back to Debbie... 

Happy birthday, Mr. Fish.  It's been a great four years!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Henryville School Libraries - Donations sought

On this blog, I try to pass along information that I run across about libraries that are recovering or rebuilding after an emergency situation.  I know that none of us are in a position to give to every institution in need, but if you're able, remember that even a small donation, when combined with other small donations, can make a huge contribution.

Damage done by the tornado in Henryville, IN earlier this month included extensive damage to the school complex and the school libraries.  Efforts are currently underway to rebuild the library collections, and donations are being collected by the neighboring Greater Clark County Schools.

If you would like to make a donation to help, please make your check payable to the GCCS Educational Foundation and reference "Henryville Libraries" in the memo section. Send your donation to Erin Bojorquez, GCCS Educational Foundation, 2112 Utica-Sellersburg Road, Jeffersonville, IN 47130.

(Note:  The informational flyer references both book donations and monetary donations.  But typically in a rebuilding situation, a monetary donation is best.  This prevents duplicate materials and storage issues.)

For more information, click here.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Poetry Friday: Three Spring Lunes

I'm not much of a poet, but I do enjoy playing with words. Lately I've been working a bit with the form of poetry known as the lune.  There are several version of lune poetry, but the one I've been using relies on a 5/3/5 syllable construction.

Without further ado, here are three lunes for a sunny March day:

A warm breeze whispers,
"Come on out.
Write me a love song."

Budding Divas
Emboldened branches
show off their
new accessories.

To translate birdsong,
close your eyes
and give up trying.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wednesday Workout Review: Jillian Michaels' "6 Week Six-Pack"

I've never seen the show The Biggest Loser, so I haven't seen Jillian Michaels in that setting, but over the last couple of years I've tried out several of her workout DVDs.  They're very popular:  the library I use has quite a few of them; others I've tried through Netflix.  And some of them have made their way into my permanent collection.  Jillian Michaels' workouts are challenging, fast-paced (in a good way), full of variety, and effective.  6 Week Six-Pack is no exception

6 Week Six-Pack provides two approximately 35-minute workouts.  In keeping with the DVD title, there's an emphasis on abs, but the workouts incorporate enough cardio intervals that both workouts are good all-round exercise sessions.

They're a convenient length, filling what I perceive as a gap in the workout DVD world:  you can find tons of 10-minute workouts, and plenty in the 45 - 70 minute realm, but the 30-minute workout seems strangely enough to be a rare breed.

Each workout starts with a warm-up.  You then go through two circuits of multiple exercises.  The second circuit repeats the first (or mostly so) but at a faster pace.  The two circuits are followed by a brief cool-down/stretch.

The first workout is a bit easier than the second, but there are modifications provided for making the first workout harder or the second easier.  In the second workout, the music gets a bit faster near the end, and Jillian goes into a dramatic you-can-do-it tough-love mode; this can be just the thing to get you through it, or annoying, depending on your mood.

I would definitely recommend this DVD, especially if you're a fan of Jillian's workouts and/or if you're looking for a good half-hour cardio/ab workout.

Other reviews here, here, here, and here, and Jillian Michael's site here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Michigander Monday: Eve K. Sandstrom / JoAnna Carl

Today I'm pleased to welcome Eve K. Sandstrom to Michigander Monday.  Eve writes the JoAnna Carl Chocoholic Mystery series, set in Michigan.

Debbie:  Tell us a little about yourself.

 JoAnna/Eve:  I'm the Grandma Moses of the mystery novel. I didn't make my first sale until I was nearly fifty. And that was a long time back. Despite my love of Michigan, which inspired the settings of the Chocoholic books, I'm a fifth generation Oklahoman. I have two home states, but I vote in Oklahoma. In Oklahoma I’m known as Eve K. Sandstrom, in Michigan I’m JoAnna Carl. My pen name was picked from the middle names of my three kids.

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

JoAnna/Eve:  I write traditional mysteries. Not too much sex and violence, but I'll stick both in there if I think the plot needs it. The Chocoholic books were inspired when an editor asked me to come up with a new and cozy idea, and I thought of my daughter's job, in the business office of a chocolate company. I changed the location and setting substantially, but TenHuis Chocolade is based on the place she worked at that time. The owner and chocolate crew were wonderfully helpful. However, my daughter has since left that company and now works for a chicken wing chain. (My editor says there's not a series in chicken wings.)

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

JoAnna/Eve:  The twelfth Chocoholic book will be out in October. It's The Chocolate Moose Motive. I'm working on the next one now -- working title The Chocolate Book Bandit.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

JoAnna/Eve:  I speak at the Altus, Oklahoma, Public Library April 4, and I'll be at Malice Domestic 24 in Bethesda, Maryland, April 27-29. (I should get out more.)

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

JoAnna/Eve:  Sure. The Singapore Bank Bookstore in Saugatuck, Michigan, run by my pals Judy and Phil Hallisy. I also love Aunt Agatha’s in Ann Arbor.

Debbie:  And a favorite Michigan library?

JoAnna/Eve:  I have a card at the Saugatuck-Douglas District Library and use their Internet facilities a lot, in addition to reading their books. Plus, the Herrick District Library in Holland has simply been super to me. They have a wonderful mystery discussion group, guided by librarian Robin Williams-Voight. (My son is a librarian, and I love libraries and librarians. I also have a daughter who's a CPA, but I couldn't work in a reference to her. And I have a very nice husband who's retired, but works as administrator of a small church.)

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

JoAnna/Eve:  The Sandstrom cottage at Pier Cove, due west of Fennville.

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

JoAnna/Eve:  Michigan doesn't have to do anything; it simply has to exist.

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

JoAnna/Eve:  I've mentioned my bookstore and library pals. Hmmm. We have wonderful neighbors up there. I'll give a plug to one of the best mystery writers, Barbara D'Amato, who splits her time between Holland and Chicago, but is a native of Grand Rapids. Jerry Dennis wrote a fabulous non-fiction book about the Great Lakes, The Living Great Lakes. I've never met Jerry, but his non-fiction is as exciting as any suspense novel. He's a heck of a writer.

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

JoAnna/Eve:  There is no tide on Lake Michigan. Or on any of the Great Lakes. But there are the most gorgeous beaches you can imagine. And the state's fruit crop makes me drool just thinking about it.

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

JoAnna/Eve:  As an Okie, I stay out of this one. I was on a panel with a large number of Michigan writers, and I got a laugh because I circumvented the whole thing by referring to "People who live in Michigan." Loren Estleman then said he called them "Michigoons." I wouldn't dare!

Debbie:  We'll put you in the abstention column.  Eve and JoAnna, thank you for being here today for Michigander Monday!

To learn more about JoAnna Carl / Eve K. Sandstrom and her books, head over to her web site.  (And while you're there, be sure to check out her page of chocolate lore.)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

M.N. Spear Memorial Library: A Little Helps A Lot

If you haven't run across it yet (I've seen it linked in a bunch of places the last couple of days), the M.N. Spear Memorial Library in Shutesbury, MA has an adorable YouTube video that highlights their current campaign to raise money for a new facility.  Click here to view it.  The ukulele music sets the tone, and if the little girl at minute 1:27 doesn't make you saw, "Aw!", I don't know what will.

The current Shutesbury library is 100+ years old, 900 square feet, and has no running water.  If $1.4 million dollars can be raised by June 30, state funding will kick in 60% funding for a new facility.

For more info, visit

There are always so many wonderful causes to contribute to, and none of us can help them all.  But I think this is a nice opportunity to make a small donation that will have a big impact.  If you're interested, follow the links.

If nothing else, enjoy the ukulele!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Michigander Monday: Oran Hesterman

Photo ©Douglas Elbinger 2010
I'm pleased to welcome Dr. Oran B. Hesterman to Michigander Monday!

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

Oran:  Growing up in Berkeley, CA in the 1960’s gave me a very interesting early perspective on the possibility for change and transformation that has been a foundation for me all my life. I spent my early college years at UC Santa Cruz where I worked with the renowned visionary, Allan Chadwick, one of the first people to bring biodynamic farming practices to the U.S. Together with Chadwick and a cohort of devoted students, I helped to plant extensive gardens and orchards on the UC campus that has evolved into the Center for Agro-Ecology and Sustainable Food Systems that today sponsors one of the most sophisticated agricultural apprenticeship programs in the country.

This experience helped me come to an early understanding that my purpose in life was to protect the earth that nurtures us and to ensure that future generations can have access to fresh, healthy and sustainably grown food. This led me to enter UC Davis, where I received my BS in plant science. Being one who loves to get my hands in the dirt, I started my career as an organic farmer, establishing one of the first sprout businesses in America in 1973. I grew the business enough to sell it to pay for graduate school at University of Minnesota, where I earned my PhD in agronomy/plant genetics and business administration.

After teaching in the Crop and Soil Sciences department at Michigan State University in East Lansing, I co-led the Integrated Farming Systems and Food and Society Programs for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, during which time the Foundation seeded the local food systems movement with over $200 million. Along the way, I played a role in establishing the Michigan Food Policy Council and the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders Group. In 2008, building on 30 years in the sustainable agriculture and food systems field, I founded Fair Food Network (FFN), a national non-profit organization working at the intersection of food systems, sustainability and social equity to guarantee access to healthy, fresh and sustainably grown food, especially in underserved communities.

I am grateful that I had the opportunity to use my passion, education, and commitment to help grow the fair food movement in this state and  throughout the country and bring attention to the need of millions of people who are unable to access the nourishing, healthy food they need on a daily basis.

I currently live with my wife, Lucinda Kurtz, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and thoroughly enjoy the Ann Arbor good food community that is vital and strong and creative. I have a garden right outside my kitchen door where I grow the most delicious and largest greens I have ever seen in the state of Michigan. Come over and try them.

Debbie:  Sounds delicious!  Please tell us all about your book.

Oran:  In recent years, a number of best-selling authors have documented in gruesome detail the dangers of our current food system, but they have either left readers feeling completely hopeless and paralyzed or limited their advice to “eat local,” “eat organic”, or “grow a garden.” This advice is not helpful if, as Chicago Congressman Bobby Rush once pointed out, you can buy ketchup where you live, but no fresh tomatoes. Just as you can’t impact the course of climate change by simply switching to CFL bulbs, you can’t fix the broken food system by simply growing a backyard garden. It requires redesigning our entire food system.

My book, FAIR FOOD: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All, is what I call a toolbook (like a toolbox): in it I aim to provide an inspiring guide to changing not only what we put in our individual refrigerators and on our own plates, but how our food is grown, packaged, delivered, marketed and sold. In Part I, I briefly introduce our current food system, how and why it evolved as it did, and the ways in which it no longer serves us well. Part II describes four key principles a redesigned food system should embody (equity, diversity, ecological integrity, and economic viability) and offers examples of how various individuals and organizations have started to integrate these principles into their enterprises, providing inspiring new models for producers and consumers, businesses and communities. Part III offers a practical guide to how you can participate in collective action to precipitate big changes in our food system, from your kitchen to your community to your state house and the White House.

With my book I hope to move individuals from being conscious consumers to engaged citizens, ensuring that healthy, sustainably-raised food is accessible and affordable to everyone. Want to be inspired? The final chapter of the book is a list of fair food “solutionaries” beyond those mentioned throughout the book. Want to get involved? This chapter has evolved into the Fair Food List ( We encourage organizations already involved in the fair food movement to submit an entry. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum between conscious consumer and engaged citizen, there will be at least one organization on the list that can use your time, talent, and resources to grow the good!

Debbie:  A wonderful list and an empowering, important book!  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Oran:  We are excited about the paperback version of the book becoming available in June of 2012 – we have updated a lot of the statistics and parts that talk about the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization in Congress. Numerous universities, colleges, and even an elementary school have picked the book up for use as a text – we expect that the availability of a paperback will grow that number significantly – and based on the requests of the reading groups that have contacted us, we’re including a discussion guide.

As I continue to give book talks around the country, we at FFN continue to implement and gather data about innovative projects ( and replicable models that grow a fairer food system – all this with an eye to having an effect on the Farm Bill discussions that will be taking place this year. Foremost among our projects is Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB): we encourage low-income shoppers to use their federal food assistance benefits (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) at participating farmers’ markets, where we double their money up to $20 for Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables. In this way we support both small and mid-size farmers and those who most need access to fresh produce.

Debbie:  Great program!  Upcoming appearances?

Oran:  I just gave talks about Fair Food at Emory University in Atlanta on February 2 and at Books & Books in Coral Gables, FL on February 6. I will be in New Orleans on March 18, Los Angeles, March 22, and Jacksonville, FL on April 20. You can keep up with the book events on our website (

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Oran:  In Ann Arbor, my favorite bookstore, beyond a doubt, is Crazy Wisdom. It does what I believe a good community bookstore has the potential to do – bring the community together with many stimulating programs and opportunities for discussion and enlightening conversation. In Lansing, I like Schuler’s Bookstore, and in Traverse City, I frequent Horizon Bookstore that has a great selection of Michigan authors.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Oran:  I love the Leelanau Peninsula. We have a little home on the lake in Omena and sail our Pearson 27 from the Suttons Bay Marina. I love sailing around the Grand Traverse Bay over to Charlevoix, Petoskey, and Harbor Springs.  The bicycle ride from Omena over the rolling hills and through the cherry orchards of Northern Michigan to Leland on the other side of the peninsula is truly a spectacular way of spending a warm Michigan summer day.

Debbie:  Such a beautiful part of the state!  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Oran:  We just love summer in Michigan, with all the many music, art, and food festivals, particularly the Ann Arbor Arts Festival, which always comes at the absolute hottest week of the summer.  But then in the winter, we always look forward to the Ann Arbor Folk Festival.

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

Oran:  I think of some extraordinary leaders and creative folks in the Michigan food movement like Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig who created Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, Dan Carmody, Executive Director of Detroit’s Eastern Market, and Jackie Victor, who created the successful Avalon Bakery in inner city Detroit. I am also a potter and love meeting and chatting with other Ann Arbor-area artists and craftspeople. We have so many hidden gems of talent in Michigan!

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

Oran:  Northern Michigan is an undiscovered paradise of undisturbed coast-line and fresh, clear blue, clean water. I’m always amazed at the pristine beauty of the northern part of our state and stand at the lake’s edge every summer and compare it to the blue waters of the Caribbean, just a bit colder.

Michigan is a wonderful place to live and work. The people of Michigan are down to earth, good people with healthy values of respect and consideration. I especially enjoy living in Ann Arbor, with its exciting intellectual stimulation and the wide variety of arts and cultural activity it attracts.

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"?

Oran:  I’m definitely a Michigander.

Debbie:  We'll add you to the Michigander tally!  Oran, thank you so very much for being here today!

To learn more about Dr. Hesterman's book, Fair Food, stop by the book's site, and then head over to the Fair Food Network site, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

And the winner is...

A big thank you to everyone who participated in my Michigan Notable Books Reading Challenge!  I hope you have enjoyed your selections and are looking forward to reading much more MichLit in the months to come.

Now, for the announcement you've all been waiting for:  Winner of our grande prize is...  Gina G!

Congratulations, Gina.  And thanks again to all of you!