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.

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