Monday, April 30, 2012

Michigander Monday: Nina Wright

I'm pleased to welcome Nina Wright to Michigander Monday!

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

Nina:  Hi, Debbie. Thanks for giving me a chance to chime in on Michigander Monday! Although raised just south of the MI-OH border in Toledo, I’ve lived a good portion of my adult life in the wolverine state. That seemed to be my destiny even when I was a kid. From the time I was old enough to take my bike beyond my immediate neighborhood, I rode across the state line into the wide-open Michigan countryside. Little did I know that one day my mystery series protagonist Whiskey Mattimoe would be doing much the same! I’ve lived on a farm in Lenawee County and in the delightful Oakland County town of Lake Orion. Having resided in Ohio, Texas, West Virginia and Florida, I can fully appreciate Michigan’s natural beauty as well as the down-to-earth goodness of folks who call this place home. Michigan will always be a huge part of my heart.

So you want to know a little about me. My professional background is diverse. That’s my way of saying I’ve enjoyed several careers—although none so much as writing fiction and plays. In college I majored in theater and then worked for several years as a professional stage actress. Later I moved on to voiceover work, supplying the narration and character voices for commercials and documentaries. To this day I continue to act and direct, but now it’s a sideline. After earning graduate degrees in teaching English as a second language and English lit, I taught middle school, high school and college. I’ve also worked in public relations and marketing.

Before I began writing novels, I was a working playwright. Writing for the stage is excellent training for writing fiction, particularly for crafting dialogue and strengthening plot points. I teach workshops designed to help novelists sharpen those skills among others. One of my great joys has been seeing my plays produced in theatres around the country. Although my main focus today is on writing novels, I will write more plays. It’s a unique thrill to sit in a darkened theatre surrounded by strangers who are laughing or crying as actors bring my story to life! In 2010, my latest full-length play, On My Boyfriends’ Bicycles (do you spot a motif?), was produced in suburban Chicago.

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

Nina:  I’m the author of the Whiskey Mattimoe mysteries, a humorous cozy series starring a Michigan Realtor and her felonious Afghan hound. Think Janet Evanovich with dogs and a lot of heart.

The series takes place in fictional Magnet Springs, a Lake Michigan resort town that reminds some readers of Saugatuck. I’ve imagined my own kooky village, where tourists occasionally either get murdered or commit murder. Dogs are always involved, whether as accomplices, companions or canine cops. Being in the real estate business gives my amateur sleuth opportunities to meet tourists and snoop, when necessary.

Whiskey (a nickname for Whitney) Mattimoe inherited her Afghan hound Abra from her late husband Leo, who died suddenly. Whiskey and Abra have an uneasy alliance, with Abra inclined to chase every shiny object, including precious gems and designer handbags. She also likes to seduce studly male dogs. In short, Abra is the bad girl of dog fiction.

I recently completed the sixth book in the series, Whiskey and Soda, due out in trade paperback and ebook this spring from Martin-Brown and Ampichellis Publishing. The fifth book, Whiskey with a Twist, left readers wondering whether Whiskey Mattimoe was pregnant by her first husband, Jeb Halloran. Whiskey divorced Jeb years earlier when he cheated on her, and she married a “good” man who is now dead. But she recently rediscovered Jeb’s many charms. The problem for Whiskey is whether she can ever completely trust Jeb. Read the sixth book to find out whether she’s pregnant, and what she plans to do next! Of course, Whiskey bumps into a lot of lethal action along the way.

The series begins with Whiskey on the Rocks, but readers tell me that they can approach the books in any order. I hope to keep writing this series, assuming that readers keep wanting to know what happens to Whiskey and Abra the Afghan hound. In the sixth book, I’ve added a female rival for Abra, a French bulldog named Sandra Bullock. Stay tuned for girl fights.

I’ve also published two urban fantasies, Homefree and Sensitive, about a teenager from Indiana who thinks she’s losing her mind when she begins spontaneously astral projecting back to cities where she used to live. Though very different in tone and content from the Whiskey Mattimoe books, I would like to write more in that series, too.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Nina:  I always have other projects in the works. Next up is a non-Whiskey Mattimoe mystery, a private-eye novel set in Florida that I hope to finish in the next few months. For updates on projects and appearances, I invite readers to follow me on Twitter and facebook.  I’m happy to answer emails from readers, too.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Nina:  I’m still scheduling appearances for the remainder of 2012. Speaking of that, I’m available to teach writing and creative-process workshops at schools, libraries and for other organizations. See my website for more information or contact me if you’re interested in a “custom-designed” workshop. I recently taught middle-schoolers in Chicago how to develop characterizations for an original opera. A few weeks later, I taught busy executives how to master their time and talent in order to write a novel or memoir in a single calendar year.

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

Nina:  I’m partial to Aunt Agatha’s in Ann Arbor—a delightful spot to shop for mysteries. As for libraries, I’ve never met one I didn’t love. My favorite these days is the Oxford Public Library in northern Oakland County. Great books, superb staff, stunning aquarium. 

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Nina:  Every beach in Michigan is my favorite place. I love to walk barefooted for hours along Lake Michigan. No doubt my love affair with sand and water started many years ago at Warren Dunes.

I’d like to give a shout-out, also, to professional theatre in Michigan. There is brilliant work on our state’s stages. My favorite theatres include Williamston Theatre (Williamston) and the Tipping Point (Northville) as well as the Purple Rose (Chelsea) and the Performance Network (Ann Arbor).

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

Nina:  As much as I love small-town seasonal fairs and attend as many as I can, I consider every season in this state a miracle and a work of art. I swear that summer is more glorious here than anywhere else on earth with our lakes, beaches and woods. Autumn is crisp and vivid and forever linked in my memory to a return to serious business. Winter, although I grumble about it, challenges our fortitude and our sense of humor. Thankfully, every spring brings a fresh chance at wonder, warm sunshine, and revelry. It’s time now to take a book outside in the sunshine along with your favorite cold beverage.

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

Nina:  That it is a scenic and sensory wonder the whole year ’round. Few people realize that Michigan has more coastline than any other state, including Florida and California. Not to mention all our charming interior lakes; Nepessing in Lapeer County is one of my favorites, by the way.

During my years in Texas, I told folks that I had moved there from Michigan. One day a native Texan replied, “I’ve been to Michigan. Y’all come from the blue and green part of America.”

Debbie:  Love it!  Finally, 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 a "Michiganian"?

Nina:  “Michiganian” may sound more elegant, but I believe we’re all “Michiganders”— strong, friendly folks who love the outdoors, enjoy a good conversation, and know how to do what’s necessary, including shovel snow, swim, and laugh out loud. Thanks for the conversation, Debbie! Enjoy the weather.

Debbie: Thank you, Nina, for joining us today for Michigander Monday!

To learn more about Nina and her books, stop by her website, her blogs, her FaceBook page, or her Twitter feed.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Julie Larios and Lee Wardlaw at No Water River

Renee's No Water River celebration of children's poetry continues!  This week featured:

Julie Larios reading "No Strings Attached"


Lee Wardlaw reading from Won Ton:  A Cat Tail Told In Haiku

Head on over and enjoy!

Poetry Friday: Looking Out

Looking Out

Some days there’s so much to be done,
and you buckle down and you do it, and
you don’t go out.  Luckily it’s chilly, and
the spring sun, which hailed you so
heartily just last week, doesn’t seem so
attractive now, what with the hard
breeze and the patchy shadows from
heavy clouds.  So you buckle down, and
you do it.  And you get a lot done.  Make
headway on that list that’s been
growing and growing, hanging over you
like a plastic sword of Damocles.  You
buckle down, and you just do it, and by
the end of the day you’re nearly caught
up.  So you stretch your shoulders.
Your arms.  You sigh and breathe and
sigh again.  Then you turn your head,
you look out, and you say to yourself,

Those are some really beautiful dandelions.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Michigander Monday: Colleen Murray Fisher

I'm pleased to welcome Colleen Murray Fisher to Michigander Monday!

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

Colleen:  My mother was a teacher and my father was a Detroit Mounted Police Officer.   My parents passed away when I was a child, and my siblings and I were then raised by our aunts and uncles in Marlette—a small city in the heart of Michigan’s thumb.   I earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Michigan State University and have been an elementary teacher in Livonia for fourteen years.  My husband and I reside in White Lake and are the proud adoptive parents of two beautiful, Ethiopian children, Sofanit, 13 years old, and Samson, 5 years old.

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

Colleen:  My first book, The One and Only Bernadette P. McMullen, was written and illustrated as a homework assignment during my master’s program, but it wasn’t to my publisher until eight years later.  It was named a USA News Best Book Finalist, and is about being proud of who you are and celebrating the differences in others.  Then I illustrated Oh No! Ah Yes! and I Can Dance, Too! which won the Mom’s Choice silver medal and gold medal, respectively.  On a road trip to North Carolina, I wrote Miss Martin is a Martian, a humorous children’s book about a boy who is convinced his teacher is a Martian.  It won the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association Best Children’s Picture Book Award and a 2012 Michigan Notable Book Award.  Most recently I illustrated a book entitled, I Am Stumped! which was written by Dr. Lisa Rivard and released in March.  

Debbie: Other books or projects on the horizon?

Colleen:  My friend, Kathy Hofmeister, and I wrote the first two children’s books in a series on the topic of “worrying.”  We are shopping them around right now.  I also wrote a sequel to Miss Martin is a Martian entitled, My Principal is a Spy.  I am not sure if any of the books will get published, but I can only hope someone will see what I see in them!

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Colleen:  I look forward to attending and signing books at the 2012 Night for Notables reception in Lansing on April 28th.  Then I will be going on a Notable Book Tour.  I will be presenting at the Howell Library--May 15th, the Cromaine Library--June 9th, and the Commerce Library--June 20th.  I will be signing books with other Michigan authors at the Milford Memories Fair and Marlette’s Quincentennial Country Fair Day Celebration as well as at local Barnes and Noble Bookstores this summer.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Colleen:  I just discovered The Next Chapter Bookstore and Bistro in downtown Northville.  It combines two of my favorites—good books & good food!

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Colleen:  My “hometown” of Marlette is a special place for me.   What it lacks in excitement and things to do, it makes up for in warm hearts and kind faces.  Going back there for me is like snuggling up with a cuddly blanket and a cup of hot cocoa on a cold, winter day.

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

Colleen:  I don’t do either often enough, but it’s a toss-up between attending the Michigan State/Michigan football game and attending a really good Tigers game with the family on a warm summer night. 

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

Colleen:  There are too many names to mention, but I belong to a group of fun and talented Michigan authors called the Paige Turner Society.  We meet monthly at Biggby Coffee in Northville to discuss and plan upcoming writing projects and events. 

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

Colleen:  We have beautiful beaches without the salt and sharks, amazing sports teams, and plenty to do year round!

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"?

Colleen:  I would have to say a, “Michigander.”  I was raised to refer to myself as a “Michiganian,” but somewhere along the way I was brainwashed into calling myself a “Michigander.” However, since I’m from the thumb I want to come up with a name for us…Thumbkins?  Thumbers?   Thumbians?
Debbie:  Maybe Thumbiganders?  Colleen, thank you so much for joining us today for Michigander Monday, Thumbkin edition!

To learn more about Colleen and her books, be sure to stop by her web site.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ellie McDoodle - on stage!

If you're in the Battle Creek area on Saturday, be sure to go see the stage play of Ruth McNally Barshaw's Ellie McDoodle: New Kid In School, being put on by Miller College Children's Theater Project.

Performances at 4 PM and 7PM on Saturday, April 21, at the Binda Performing Arts Center on Kellogg Community College's campus.  Adult tickets are $8.00; students K-12 $4.00; children 5 and under are free.  Ruth's got all the details over on her blog.

If you're in that neck of the woods, you should definitely go!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

No Water River: Greg Pincus

The No Water River celebration of children's poetry continues!  The latest installment features Greg Pincus reading his poem "I Went to the Farm Where Spaghetti Is Grown."  Follow the link to see the video; after the video, scroll down for a fun interview between Renee and Greg.

A keep celebrating National Poetry Month!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Michigander Monday: Brenda K. Marshall

I'm pleased to welcome Brenda K. Marshall to Michigander Monday!

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

Brenda:  I’m a native North Dakotan who has lived in ten different states.  I moved to Michigan in 1995.  I teach part-time in the Department of English at the University of Michigan, which leaves time for writing.  Growing up on the northern plains I came to enjoy (if not need) a good deal of space around me to be happy, so I am lucky to have made a home outside of Ann Arbor where I can garden, ride my horses, practice my (not great) woodworking skills, and enjoy the natural beauty that Michigan has to offer.

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

Brenda:  My most recent novel, Dakota, Or What’s a Heaven For, is literary historical fiction set in late-nineteenth-century Dakota Territory.  It is a tale of desire and ambition in which the lives and schemes of frontier politicians, railroad executives, “bonanza” famers and homesteaders weave a background tapestry to the central story of an emotionally complex young woman, Frances Bingham.  Frances is seduced by the myths of opportunity driving the settlement of Dakota Territory, and dares to dream of a new world in which to realize her unconventional desires.  Providing a counterpoint to the dramatic risks taken by Frances is the generous voice of Kirsten Knudson, the daughter of Norwegian homesteaders.  As Kirsten grows from a voluble girl to a formidable woman, her observations (equal parts absurdity and insight) reveal the heart of the novel.

Dakota, Or What’s a Heaven For is the result of several years of research and writing.  There are some wonderful historical photographs, along with videos and maps, and reviews and interviews on my website:
Dakota received a 2011 Silver Medal for Best Regional Fiction: Mid-West from Independent Publisher Awards, and was a 2011 High Plains Book Awards finalist.  The cover art for Dakota, by award-winning scratchboard artist, Scott McKowen, was recently chosen for display at the Society of Illustrators (juried) annual exhibition in New York.  Scott McKowen also produced (with photographer David Cooper) the book “trailer” for Dakota:

My first novel, Mavis (Fawcett-Columbine/Ballantine, 1996), is about five adult sisters who come together in response to a family trauma.  Buried secrets and dangerous emotions are exposed, revealing truths that are both harrowing and redemptive.

I also have a book of scholarship, Teaching the Postmodern: Fiction and Theory (Routledge, 1992).

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Brenda:  I am at work on another novel, but I am never very comfortable talking about a work-in-progress.  I suppose that’s my North Dakotan reticence in evidence.  But I love talking about the books that are finished and have enjoyed meeting with several book clubs, either in person, or via Skype.

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

Brenda:  I like Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor.  I am lucky to be at the University of Michigan, and to have access to the amazing libraries there.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Brenda:  After only seventeen years in Michigan, I feel like I still have so much to discover.  I always enjoy a good hike in the Waterloo State Recreation Area and the Pinckney Reservation Area.  A camping trip throughout the UP was a highlight, and I have loved my visits (thanks to generous friends) on Lake Michigan.  Canoeing on the local River Raisin is always fun. But honestly, my favorite place in the state to admire the natural beauty and the wildlife is my patio.

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

Brenda:  Before I moved here I had no idea of the geographical diversity of Michigan, and of the recreational opportunities that diversity makes possible.  I’m looking forward to seeing more of this state each year.

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"?

Brenda:  I suppose that since this post is showing up on “Michigander Monday” I’m getting a prompt here, but I think I’ll follow the wise lead of some of your other guests and bow out of this question.  I love living here, but the truth is, if I live to be a hundred years old, I’ll still think of myself as a North Dakotan.

Debbie:  I'm adding a new column to the tally!  Brenda, thank you so much for being here today.

To learn more about Brenda and her books, stop by her website and her blog.  And be sure to check out the book trailer for Dakota, over on YouTube.

Friday, April 13, 2012

I'm at "No Water River" Today

Today I'm a guest on the blog No Water River.  Renee is creating a video library of children's poetry, so (though I'm camera shy) I was happy to film myself reading a poem.  Click the link to go to the post; the video is near the top.  After the video, you can scroll down in the post for an interview with me.

Happy National Poetry Month!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New Poetry Video on No Water River: Laura Purdie Salas

The children's poetry video and interview series continues over on the blog No Water River.

Monday's post features Laura Purdie Salas reading her poem "Hydrophobiac" (a cautionary poem about the one fear that books have).

Click here for the video.  Once you're there, after viewing the video, scroll down in the No Water River post for the interview.

And keep celebrating Poetry Month!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Michigander Monday: Michael J. Sheehan

I'm pleased to welcome Michael Sheehan to Michigander Monday!

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

Michael:  I’m a retired college professor. I taught English in the City Colleges of Chicago for 26 years. Since retirement in 1994, I have volunteered for all kinds of senior citizen endeavors.

  • Until the Traverse Library dumped its freenet, I maintained a web site for seniors for 17 years. You may still view an older example on the Way Back Machine at
  • I have taught basic computer courses to seniors at the Traverse City Senior Center.
  • I have been a member of the Bay Area Senior Advocates, an advisor to the Area Agency on Aging of Northwest Michigan, and a member of the State Advisory Council on Aging.
  • In 2011, Governor Granholm appointed me to the Commission on Services to the Aging, a body that oversees federal funds earmarked for aging programs as they move their way through Michigan. 
Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your books.

Michael:  Over the years, I have written 10 books. The first two were novels directed at teenage boys: In the Shadow of the Bear and The Cry of the Jackal (Avalon Books). The next three were college textbooks: Handbook for Basic Writers and Workbook for Basic Writers (Prentice-Hall), and Words! A Vocabulary Power Workbook (Harcourt Brace). The next book was the Word Parts Dictionary—my favorite—which is now in its 2nd edition (McFarland& Company).

The last three are based on my weekly radio program about the English language. It airs every Tuesday morning from 9:00 to 10:00 EST on AM-580, WTCM, in Traverse City. It can be heard live online at, where you can also hear podcasts at any time. These books are Words to the Wise, More Words to the Wise, and On the Lamb in a Doggy Dog World (Arbutus Press).

Excerpts from my books and questions from my program frequently end up on my twice-weekly blog about language, Wordmall.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Michael:  I’m working on the fourth book based on Q & A from my program, which has been on the air for eleven years. Every three years or so, I find that I have collected enough material for a new book. I also have a couple of mystery novels on the far back burner.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Michael:  These days, most of my appearances are in Lansing and have nothing to do with writing.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Michael:  We are blessed in the Grand Traverse/Leelanau region with many locally-owned bookstores. We have Horizon Books and BrilliantBooks in Traverse City, Cottage Book Shop in Glen Arbor, Leelanau Books in Leland, and Dog Ears Books in Northport. I visit them all periodically, and they have all been great in holding book signings.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan library?

Michael: I love the Leland Library, which is just as much a social hub as a repository of knowledge. I used to frequent the Traverse Area District Library more when they hosted my web site. It’s a model of a modern library. And then there’s the Osterlin Library at Northwestern Michigan College. But I must admit that I lean very heavily on the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary in my research. Wild card searches rule!

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan? 

Michael:  You can’t live in this region and not fall in love with Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. In fact, I have a view of it from my deck. My wife and I haunt the place looking for spring and fall mushrooms. 

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

Michael:  The National Cherry Festival is always a delight, especially when the Blue Angels are featured. I have a soft spot in my heart for the annual Senior Expo, the Senior Empower Day, and the annual SeniorCitizen Spelling Bee. And all the local farmers markets are a simply wonderful way to buy local products and maintain a healthy diet.

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

Michael:  We have wonderful writers and artists up north. Doug Stanton, Mardi Link, and Fleda Brown are outstanding writers. There is an organization, Michigan Writers, that fosters young writers and aspiring older writers. And Michael Moore has made the Annual Traverse City Film Festival a must-see for people all over the world.

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

Michael:  I think many outsiders visualize deer camps and sled dogs when they think of northern Michigan, but what left me breathless when I moved here was the scope and quality of the music available. InterlochenArts Academy is hyper-catnip for classical musical lovers, as is the world class Traverse Symphony Orchestra. We also have the Dennos Concert series in Traverse City, the Manitou Music Festival in Glen Arbor, the programs from the Northport Community Arts Center, and the Suttons Bay Jazz Fest.

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"?

Michael:  I prefer the term Michiganian, but folks who were born here will never call me anything but Permafudgie. (A fudgie is the local name for tourists.)

These terms have come up on my program, Words to the Wise. Senator Abraham Lincoln was the first to use the word Michigander. He used it to insult a Michigan politician whom he considered to be as silly as a goose. Michiganian is the term officially preferred by the State of Michigan.

Debbie:  We'll add you to the Michiganian tally.  Michael, thank you very much for being here today for Michiganian Monday!

Be sure to check out Michael Sheehan's blog, Wordmall.  And hear his "Words to the Wise" segments on the radio, WTCM 580 AM (Traverse City), Tuesday mornings 9 - 10 A.M. EST; "Words to the Wise" podcasts are also available online.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

No Water River

I've been out of town and offline for a week, so I'm behind on sharing these; but I hope you'll enjoy heading over to Renee LaTulippe's blog No Water River for the first two installments of her No Water River Poetry Month 2012 celebration.

Renee is creating a video library of poets and authors reading poems that they have written.  I'm pleased to be one of a dozen or so authors who will have a poetry video up on No Water River this month.  So far in the line-up have been:

Kenn Nesbitt reading "My Hamster Has a Skateboard"


Amy Ludwig Vanderwater reading "Spring Sheep"

Please follow the links and head on over for some poetry!!  And after each video, be sure to scroll down and read the interview with the author.