Monday, July 30, 2012

Michigander Monday: Patrick Lee

I'm pleased to welcome Patrick Lee to Michigander Monday!

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

Patrick:  I was born and raised in Michigan, and I really like it here about ten months out of the year.  I keep thinking it would be good to go someplace warmer in January and February.  I started writing just for fun when I was a kid.  In my late teens and my twenties I wrote screenplays, and eventually sold two of them.  Neither was produced, but both apparently came very close to it.  I switched to writing books around the time I turned thirty, and have found the day-to-day process of it to be much more up my alley.

Debbie:  We'd love to know about your books!

Patrick:  My first book was called The Girl Who Read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  It begins, "She opened the book and started to read..." and after that it's just that book, verbatim.  There were legal issues.  Sorry--what I've actually written is a trilogy centered on a character named Travis Chase, a mostly ordinary guy who gets caught up in the events surrounding a research accident site in the Wyoming desert.  At the site, a particle accelerator has opened a kind of tunnel to some other location in the universe.  No one can go through the tunnel from our end, and nothing alive has ever come through from the other end, but other things come through: random pieces of machinery and technology built by someone who may be billions of years more advanced than us.  Travis Chase is drawn into the lives of the organization that oversees this tunnel, dealing with the very dangerous things that emerge from it.

The first book, The Breach, was published in early 2010.  The sequels, Ghost Country and Deep Sky, hit the stands in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Patrick:  I'm getting pretty close to finishing my next book now; this one is unrelated to the Travis Chase series.  I probably shouldn't go into much detail about the story, except to say that it has the same tone as my other books: everyday characters faced with very strange circumstances.  I'm hoping it will be on the shelves sometime in mid-2013.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Patrick:  I'm planning to attend the Bouchercon convention in Cleveland this fall.  For the moment there's nothing else on the schedule, though there will be when the next book gets closer to publication.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Patrick:  My all-time favorite bookstore was the Little Professor Book Center in Dearborn, but it closed a few years ago.  Another I really liked, when I lived in East Lansing for a few years, was a used book store called Curious Book Shop.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Patrick:  Anywhere around Grand Traverse Bay.  If I had to pick one place, I'd probably say Charlevoix.  That area probably gets pretty empty in the non-tourist season (which might not be such a bad thing) but I've always loved it in the summer.

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

PatrickThe Coast Guard Festival in Grand Haven is a good time, and I've been to the Cherry Festival in Traverse City a few times.  I can't say I've always attended them, but I've been occasionally and had fun.

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

Patrick:  Here's something probably very few people know about.  Near Port Austin, at the tip of the thumb, there's a place where a thin rock ledge juts out over the water above a drop-off.  Locals call it the thumbnail.

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

Patrick:  I've always heard "Michigander," so I'll stick with that.  Besides, I like that it has a unique sound; the "ian" suffix is used almost everywhere else.

Debbie:  Patrick, we'll add you to the Michigander column!  Thank you for being with us today for Michigander Monday!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Michigander Monday: Tracy Bilen

I'm pleased to welcome Tracy Bilen to Michigander Monday!

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

Tracy:  I’m a high school French teacher and mom of two. I like biking, cross country skiing, and walks in the woods.

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your book, What She Left Behind.

Tracy:  The most fun way to learn more about it is to watch the book trailer:

But here’s the back cover copy too:

“Don’t even think of leaving…I will find you,” he whispered. “Guaranteed.”

Sara and her mom have a plan to finally escape Sara’s abusive father. But when her mom doesn’t show up as expected, Sara’s terrified. Her father says that she’s on a business trip, but Sara knows he’s lying. Her mom is missing—and her dad had something to do with it.

With each day that passes, Sara’s more on edge. Her friends know that something’s wrong, but she won’t endanger anyone else with her secret. And with her dad growing increasingly violent, Sara must figure out what happened to her mom before it’s too late…for them both.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Tracy:  I’m currently working on another YA thriller.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Tracy:  Tuesday, July 24: Baldwin Public Library YA Author Event (with Amy Ackley, Beth Neff, and Lara Zielen) 300 W. Merrill Street, Birmingham, MI 48009

Saturday, Sept. 15 at 1pm (pizza!! / talk / questions / signing): Schuler Books, 1982 Grand River Ave, Okemos, MI

Saturday October 6: Fall Conference SCBWI-Michigan (Downtown Detroit): new author panel

November 1: MAME (Michigan Association for Media in Education) Parade of Authors

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

Tracy:  I like Nicola’s in Ann Arbor because of all the fun author events. The Troy Library is great and the Rochester Hills Library looks awesome from the outside when you’re riding past it on the bike path. (I don’t want to be tempted to check out library books from someplace that’s a bit far from my home, so I haven’t yet been inside).

Debbie:  How about some favorite places in Michigan?

TracyMackinac Island! But if you visit, stay away from the bicycle built for two – it’s not nearly as romantic as it seems. Pretty uncomfortable, actually.

I also love Fayette State Park (because it has a ghost town that you can visit!)

And the Kellogg factory in Battle Creek has a ball pit that kids love to play in (never mind the cereal)

The Cascades in Jackson – a spectacle of light and music! Who knew you could find that outside Las Vegas?

And won’t somebody buy the now defunct Prehistoric Forest in the Irish Hills so I can take my kids there before they get too old? Same goes for Stagecoach Stop.

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

Tracy:  You mean besides the SCBWI fall conference?!

The country music concerts at the Lenawee County Fair (we saw Garth Brooks there before he made it big!)

The bed races at the Onsted Festival.

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

TracyShutta Crum, author of Thunder Boomer (my daughter’s favorite), Fox and Fluff (my favorite) and Mine! (would be our baby’s favorite if we still had a baby!) She was my SCBWI mentor extraordinaire!

Johnathan Rand, Michigan Chillers author who has a shop up north that my son insisted we take a vacation to visit (such fun to see a kid in awe of a bookstore and we got a ride in a tube down the river out of it!)

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

Tracy:  I’m a transplant here -  it’s still really hard for me to say “pop” instead of “soda.” I always feel like a fraud trying to blend in (even though I’ve lived here more than twenty years).

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"?

Tracy:  Michigander sounds right to me!

 Debbie:  Tracy, thank you for joining us today for Michigander Monday!

To learn more about Tracy and her book, stop by her web site, her blog, her Twitter feed, and her FaceBook page.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Eyecare About Reading" Book Drive

Some of you may recall that last spring I ran a Q&A blog post with Jennifer Frances, the force behind the fabulous Bess the Book Bus.  I was also lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet up in person with Jenn and Bess the Book Bus in Detroit last June (photos here; video here).  Bess the Book Bus travels to schools, shelters, and after school programs all across the nation to read stories to kids and to give away books.

VSP Vision Care and Transitions Optical, supporting partners of Bess The Book Bus, are currently running a book drive for Bess The Book Bus along with additional book drives for three communities.  They're also trying to get the word out about the importance of eye health to reading and literacy.  I was asked if I'd be willing to help spread the word about this iniative, and I said "Sure!"  So here's what you might want to know and do:

  • If you don't live in those areas, you can still help!  VSP has a FaceBook page with an "Eyecare About Reading" tab (you can get to the page even if you don't have a FaceBook account).  If you head to that page/tab and promise to take care of your eyes, VSP will donate a book to Bess the Book Bus.

The book drive and eye care campaign will be running now through late August, so over the next few weeks I'll provide you with periodic updates, along with bits of information about eyecare and reading.

In the meantime, head over to the Bess the Book Bus web site to learn more about Jenn and her book-giving efforts, and to the VSP blog entry about the eyecare and book drive campaign.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Michigander Monday: Phillip Sterling

I'm pleased to welcome Phillip Sterling to Michigander Monday!

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

Phillip:  I was born in Pontiac but spent the majority of my formative years in and around the Traverse City area (Benzie, Leelanau, Grand Traverse Counties).  After graduation from TCHS, I went “away” for college and other educational and occupational opportunities (Nebraska, Kentucky, Ohio, New York).  Then, by quirk, returned to Michigan permanently in 1987 to take assume a professorship at Ferris State, from where I will retire next year.  I am the father of five:  my four older children, raised in Big Rapids, are now successfully poised in various professions and happy domestic relationships.  My youngest, Graham, is going-on seven years old.  Graham is the child of a brief and somewhat unsettling second marriage; joint custody of Graham is the primary reason why I live where I currently do (Ada) and why I spend nearly one-half of my time playing with Legos, reading, baking cookies, going to the zoo, eating popsicles, and training to be a ninja.

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

Phillip:  My first book of poetry, Mutual Shores, was published by New Issues in 2000.  It was released just before my 50th birthday.  I then published three “series” of poems in chapbook form:  Significant Others (Main Street Rag 2005), Quatrains (Pudding House 2006), and Abeyance (winner of the Frank Cat Press chapbook award 2007).  My first collection of short fiction, titled In Which Brief Stories Are Told, was published in 2011 by Wayne State University Press.  I have also edited an anthology of stories, poems, and essays by former Fulbrighters, Imported Breads:  Literature of Cultural Exchange, as I was twice the recipient of a Fulbright award myself and am duly aware of how my writing has been informed by those foreign experiences. 

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Phillip:  Like every other poet in the United States, I am circulating a couple manuscripts that continue to find themselves in the finalist or semi-finalist categories of book competitions.  I’m also working on a second story collection--what my friends refer to as the “darker” stories.  And compiling, revising, and adding to thirty years of essays and nonfiction to see if they will work as a book.  Up until recently, my family commitments and teaching obligations have placed serious time-constraints on these projects--that, and I’m a slow, methodical writer.  I’m hoping to apply a certain amount of discipline to my “retirement” in order to help move some of these projects along.

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

PhillipGreat Lakes Book and Supply in Big Rapids is a godsend, not only to the Ferris State University community but to several counties of literary wilderness between Grand Rapids and Traverse City.  Lynn Anderson, the manager, is committed to providing access to visiting writers and contemporary literature.  Great Lakes offers an extensive collection of contemporary Michigan literature.  My other favorite bookstore, Literary Life in Grand Rapids, alas!, recently closed its doors.  As for libraries, a person can’t go wrong with any of the branches of the Kent District Library.  My local branch, Cascade, is a good example:  the staff and Friends of the Library there support an incredible number of visiting authors, book clubs, used book sales, activities for different age groups, DVDs . . . And the main branch of the Grand Rapids Public Library hosts several local author events, and has a massive collection of Michigan historical media.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Phillip:  I’m pretty fond of Leelanau County, though probably more so the memory of it now.  There was a wonderful little, somewhat-isolated park on the west side of the strip of little finger above Northport that I used to visit quite often back in the day . . .  I’m not sure it’s still there.  And much of  Benzie County as well.  There was a remote public access we called “Otter Creek” that I think is now a boat-launch site in the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.  That whole stretch of Lake Michigan coast, in fact, from Ludington to Leland.  Many fond memories.  The landscape and locales from there crop up quite regularly in my writing.

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

Phillip:  I try not to miss Poetry Night, which is part of Grand Valley State University’s Annual Arts Festival in the fall.  And for a number of years, I’ve been a regular volunteer--the primary chef(?)--at the annual chicken barbeque/Friends of the Community Library fundraiser hosted by the Sawmill Saloon in Big Rapids.

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

Phillip:  The problem with dropping names is that I’m likely to actually “drop” (as in lose) some.  But a quick shortlist would include authors or literary advocates of one sort or another:  Bonnie Jo Campbell, M.L. Liebler, Jack Ridl, Terry Blackhawk, Anne Marie Oomen, Jack Driscoll, Ron Riekki (in the U.P.), George Dila (Ludington Visiting Writers), Foster Neill (The Michigan Poet), Zachary Tomaszewski (watch out for this young man!).  And Jane Wheeler is not only a fun (though little-known) poet but a terrific horsewoman as well.
Debbie:  Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Phillip:  Michigan has a wealth of literary talent that competes favorably with the East and West Coast establishments.  And, yes, we are part of the Midwest . . . in that sense, it IS a true third coast, or fourth, or fifth (depending on whether one favors Lake Michigan, or Superior, or Huron).

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"?

Phillip:  Despite its goosey gender-bias, I’ve always said Michigander.  (What’s a Michiganian anyway?  And is it pronounced with a long or short a?)

Debbie:  I just pronounce it Michigander.  Phillip, thank you very much for joining us today!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Michigander Monday: Carol Farley

I'm pleased to welcome Carol Farley to Michigander Monday!

Carol Farley:

For the first eight years of my life I lived in Ludington and I believed that the rest of the world was located on a very small island in the middle of Lake Michigan.  As I grew older, I realized I had been mistaken, but I still considered Michigan to be the finest place anyone could live.  After college I married an army officer, Dennis Farley, and we began moving hither and yon, settling in five different states and three different countries.  After my husband died, I considered all the beautiful places I had lived and decided Ludington was the best of all.  I am now back living by the shores of Lake Michigan.

As a teenager I worked at the Ludington Public Library and I knew even then that I wanted to write books for kids.  My first book, published in 1958, was written while I was a college student at Western in Kalamazoo.  After that early success, it took eight years before my next book was accepted.  By then I had learned that a writer should write about what she knows, so I made Ludington the setting for Mystery of the Fog Man (published in 1966) and plotted out two more mysteries for the young detectives to solve.   I was then living in Scottville , while my husband served his first tour in Vietnam.

Because I identified with kids who might have a parent absent from the home, I wanted to write a book for them.  Sergeant Finney's Family told the story of a military family whose father was in Vietnam.  After Dennis returned home, he was sent first to Kansas and then to Michigan State, and then back again to Vietnam.  I began thinking a great deal about my own childhood, and I was writing plots revolving around those long ago years.  The Bunch on McKellahan Street focused on eight children growing up during World War II and was written while we lived in East Lansing.  Later we moved to New Jersey, then back again to Kansas, where I wrote several more mysteries, these featuring girl detectives.

My own father had died when I was nine years old. By 1975, when we were stationed in Virginia, I was ready to write a novel about a child whose father dies.  The Garden Is Doing Fine was published in 1977 and is probably the best known, since it won The Golden Kite from The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in California and was honored as the Best Book for Children by the Child Study Association in New York.

In that same year, Dennis had orders for Korea, so our whole family moved to Seoul.  It was an exciting time for our four children, and we all learned a great deal.  I wrote two non-fiction books about Korea and I became fascinated by their alphabet, which was created by the famous King Sejong in 1446. Several years later I retold a legend about that event in The King's Secret, published in 2001.

After two years in Korea, Dennis was sent to head the ROTC department at Central Michigan University, so my family settled in Mt. Pleasant. It was then that  I discovered that the State of Michigan was offering a program for writers to visit schools, so I joined the authors working with the Michigan Council For the Arts, and I was able to visit dozens of schools. This program was a wonderful way to inspire kids to love both reading and writing.  I don’t know whether it still exists, but I know it was worthwhile to all involved.

In the meantime I finished getting my masters degree in Children’s Literature at Central, and I taught correspondence classes.  We soon moved to Higgins Lake, where I happily resided by water once again.  As the years rolled by, I also took on shorter projects, writing short stories for magazines and newspapers.  In 2006, fourteen of the tales I wrote for The LA Times when we lived in Las Vegas were put together and published by Scholastic under the title Solve It!  Now, at age 75, after moving twenty four times and having twenty books and dozens of shorter tales published, I have retired.  I have many happy memories of the hundreds of Michigan kids I visited over the years.  I am honored to know my books have been in libraries in many countries, since several have been translated into other languages. Kids are the best audience of all, because they write letters to authors.  I have saved some of them.

My favorite one consists of just one line:

“I have read your book.  It makes me wonder every day.”

Hurrah for kids who wonder!

Debbie:  Hurrah, indeed!  Carol, thank you so much for being here for Michigander Monday, and for all that you've done to bring wonder to kids through your books!