Friday, August 29, 2014

Poetry Friday


One last firefly
Blinks in the morning dark.
"Summer's almost over but I'm
Never going to lose my spark!"

crickets and the crickets
carry on on on

Monday, August 25, 2014

Michigander Monday: Benjamin Landry

I'm pleased to welcome Benjamin Landry to Michigander Monday!

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

Benjamin:  I grew up in New England, the son of a registered nurse and a high school history teacher.  My brother and I were both Scouts, so we spent a lot of time swimming, sailing, fishing and camping.  I went to college at Brown University, where I met my future wife, Sara Schaff, in an English literature survey course.  We’re both writers and teachers, now, and we taught in the United States for four years before going abroad to teach in Bogotá, Colombia, and Beijing, China.  We landed back in the U.S. when Sara enrolled at the University of Michigan for graduate school.  In addition to writing poetry, I review poetry collections and keep an occasional blog on my website,

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

Benjamin:  Particle and Wave is structured on the periodic table of elements.  It came to me as a happy accident while I was working as an administrative staff member for the University of Michigan College of Engineering.  Each day, I walked to my office through the long corridors of the engineering complex and passed research posters containing the elemental abbreviations for materials being used in laboratory experiments.  The symbols must have gotten under my skin because I began to sound them out as though they were phonemes.  These sounds led to memories, fantasies and associations that became poems.  So, the structure of Particle and Wave is more linguistic than chemical.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Benjamin:  I have a second manuscript, Mercies in the American Desart, which I am hoping to place in the near future.  ‘American Desart’ is a term Cotton Mather used to describe the wilds of New England, which he considered fraught with mortal—and moral—dangers.  The work is a send up of that idea, with some nods to Transcendentalist traditions.  But, really, there are all kinds of poems in the collection, including a section of poems in response to filmed movements.  I do have a third manuscript in the works, but I’m feeling a bit protective of it, at the moment…

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Benjamin:  I’ll be reading with Sara in Oberlin, Ohio, on September 24th.  It’s really exciting.  We’re often each other’s first reader, but we have never had the opportunity to juxtapose our work aloud in quite this way.  I hope there is a psychologist or two in the room who can give us some insight!

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Benjamin:  Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor is my home base.  The owners, Hilary and Mike, could not have been more supportive in the launching of Particle and Wave.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Benjamin:  Sleeping Bear Dunes is tremendous.  Also, I've whiled away many perfect minutes floating in Pickerel Lake.

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

Benjamin:  Not an event, really, but my wife and I love Eastern Market in Detroit, as well as the DIA.  Closer to home, we have seen some wonderful theater and dance at the Power Center.

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

Benjamin:  I see that you have already interviewed Keith Taylor, and he should be at the top of everyone’s list.  He’s an accomplished poet, a generous teacher and just a nice person.

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

Benjamin:  Michigan sometimes thaws out nicely.  Also, don’t count out Detroit.

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

Benjamin:  Since I wasn't born in Michigan, my predilection should be considered with a grain of salt…but I definitely favor ‘Michigander.’

Debbie:  We'll add you to the Michigander column!  Benjamin, thank you for joining us for Michigander Monday!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Michigander Monday: Andy Mozina

I'm pleased to welcome Andy Mozina to Michigander Monday!

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

Andy:  I grew up in Wisconsin, in a Milwaukee suburb, and spent years in Chicago, Boston and St. Louis before settling in Kalamazoo where I’ve lived with my wife, Lorri, and daughter, Madeleine for the past fifteen years. I teach literature and creative writing at Kalamazoo College and root for Wisconsin sports teams from a distance.

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

Andy:  I’ve written two collections of short stories, The Women Were Leaving the Men (2007) and Quality Snacks (2014), both published by Wayne State University Press. Both collections are about relationships and intimacy and ambition. The characters are usually somewhat deluded men (though I have some female protagonists as well) who make a lot of mistakes. The characters run the gamut from astronauts and metallurgists to lawyers and secretaries to pizza delivery men and cowboys. I also have stories about pop culture figures like Elvis and Santa Claus. The stories try to blend funny/sad. A lot of wrongness.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Andy:  A novel about a divorced harpist taking a symphony audition. It’s about the whole family/career dilemma from the point of view of a guy struggling to be a good father.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Andy:  I’ll be doing readings in Ann Arbor on September 16th, in Grand Rapids on September 25th, in Kalamazoo on October 16, and in Portage on November 2.  Please check out for the latest.

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

Andy:  We’ve got some great indie bookstores here in Kalamazoo: Bookbug, Michigan News Agency and Kazoo Books. The proprietors go out of their way to support local writers.

The Kalamazoo Public Library is pretty great, and I love the Reading Room at the Hatcher Library on U of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Andy:  Some of my favorites: Saugatuck Dunes State Park, Beaver Island and Mackinac Island. I couldn’t believe how clear Lake Michigan water is around Beaver Island! The beach there felt downright Caribbean.

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

Andy:  Oberon Day in Kalamazoo is one of my favorite Michigan events. It’s the day that Bell’s Brewery releases their summer beer, Oberon. It comes near the end of March and it means that we have survived, or will survive, the winter.

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

Andy:  Some of my favorite writers are lifetime Michiganders: Bonnie Jo Campbell, Lisa Lenzo, Michael Zadoorian, John Rybicki, to name just a few.

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

Andy:  Aside from the occasional tornado, we are largely free of natural disasters. This creates a very stable environment for homes, industry and recreation. Also, no, it is not possible to see across Lake Michigan.

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

Andy:  As I said, I’m from Wisconsin, so I’m not sure I’m in a position to say. Michiganderianite?

Debbie:  Andy, we'll add a new column!  Thank you so much for being here today for Michiganderianite Monday!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Carrie Pearson's Blog Tour!

I'm very happy to be hosting Carrie Pearson today as part of her weeklong blog tour!  Some of you may recall Carrie from her Michigander Monday interview in 2012 not long after her first book came out.  She's back now with a brand new book.  Let's hear all about it!

Debbie:  Carrie, please tell us about your new book.

Carrie:  A Cool Summer Tail (Arbordale Publishing, March 2014) is a nonfiction picture book for readers ages 4-8 that explores how woodland animals adapt to summer heat. While the content is true to life, the story is told in a fictional style with lyricism, rhyming, alliteration, and imagery.  The book is unique because it is told from animals’ perspectives, and because it compares and contrasts how animals and humans adapt.

A Cool Summer Tail is a companion to my earlier book called A Warm Winter Tail which won a Gelett Burgess Award in the Nature for All Ages category. Christina Wald, the illustrator for both books, created visuals that are authentic but still child-friendly and ask to be explored over and over. We hope each book individually and both books together will provide insights into the amazing world of animal adaptation.

Debbie:  Do you have any upcoming events or appearances scheduled?

Carrie:  I was just at the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum on August 14 for their popular Second Thursday event. I am currently working on a late fall tour of downstate Michigan, but it’s all top secret information so far. I will say it is highly likely you’ll see me as a featured speaker at the Michigan Reading Association annual conference this spring and I’m super excited about this opportunity.

Debbie:  You live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Playing off the theme of your books, please tell us a little about the summers there, the winters there, and how you have adapted to U.P. weather.

Carrie:  I live on the shore of Lake Superior – the largest body of fresh water in the world—that acts more like an ocean than a lake and totally influences our regional environment. We can have more weather patterns in a day than Simplicity could ever create. Changes in weather are typical, and we Marquette-ites know to carry extra clothing whenever we leave our houses. Extremes in temperature are also typical so we can endure winters with very low temps (from December to February 2014, our average temperature was 7.5 degrees F. That is not a typo!) and have a few really hot days (above 80 degrees!!) in the summer. Because the climate can be hostile, I've always wanted to delve more deeply into strategies animals use to survive. Both books gave me the opportunity for this but also the chance to share and celebrate how adaptable animals are. Personally, I've adapted by embracing our climate with mostly good humor. I've never regretted getting outside even if it appears to be too hot or too cold for my own good.

Debbie:  You’re the co-Regional Advisor of the Michigan chapter of SCBWI.  Could you please tell us a little about SCBWI, its impact on your writing career, and what your role is as RA?

Carrie:  Warning! Zealot alert!!

SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) is the richest resource for aspiring and current authors and illustrators in the world of children’s books. The founders, Steve Mooser and Lin Oliver, call SCBWI members “the tribe” which represents their desire to create unity, camaraderie, and support within a difficult environment. SCBWI offers conferences, grants, connections, education…so much that it is hard to describe adequately. (And I’m not usually at a loss for words!) An “RA” or Regional Advisor is a volunteer team leader of a region (our region is upper and lower Michigan). There are 80 regions around the world. My co-RA is author/illustrator Leslie Helakoski and together with our Advisory Committee and special volunteers (like you!), we work to create a positive learning environment for Michigan SCBWI members. We do this through our robust website ( conferences, free regional Meet Ups, webinars, and social media connections.

When I first accepted the RA position in June 2013, I worried my writing time would be engulfed by SCBWI duties. It has challenged me to be more efficient with my time, but the rewards are definitely worth it. I’ve met many industry influencers, have the benefit of my RA colleagues’ experiences, and am always growing as a writer and leader through this position.

Debbie:  What are you currently working on?

Carrie:  I’m currently working on patience as I have three books on submission through my agent (two picture books and a MG historical). It never gets easier to wait, does it? My works in progress include at least one and maybe more projects about the ecosystem in the top of the tallest trees in the world and a biographical vignette book about Cuban-Americans who came to the US during Operation Pedro Pan in the early 1960s. (More about this here: I love working where fiction and nonfiction collide so expect to see more from me in this area!

Debbie:  Anything else you’d like to add?

Carrie:  Just a thank you for including me on Jumping the Candlestick and helping me celebrate the release of A Cool Summer Tail. I’m offering a free giveaway of this book and a plush animal featured in it. To be eligible, readers need to leave a comment at each of the stops on the tour. The winner will be drawn randomly and announced on my blog ( on August 19. Good luck!

August 11: Anastasia Suen: Booktalking #kidlit and Nonfiction Monday

August 14: Brittney Breakey: Author Turf

August 15: Deborah Diesen: Jumping the Candlestick

August 18: Jennifer Chamblis Bertman:

Debbie:  Carrie, thank you so much for being here today!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Michigander Monday: Michele Root-Bernstein

I'm very happy to welcome Michele Root-Bernstein to Michigander Monday!  I've known Michele for over a decade, and she's a talented scholar, a marvelous writer, and a wonderful person.  It's great to have her here today to tell us about her new book and her other writing.

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

Michele:  The short answer: I started out as an historian, and I have become over the years an independent scholar in creativity studies affiliated with Michigan State University, as well as a haiku poet. The long answer includes the fact that I've tried my hand at all sorts of writing, including novels, short stories, poetry, creative non-fiction and even children’s picture books. Everything but the creative non-fiction and the haiku has remained in the drawer. But it’s all helped shaped the interests and skills I bring to creativity studies. I think it’s important to try to understand creative processes from the inside out as well as from the outside in.

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

Michele:  My first book grew out of my dissertation work in history, and I would expect only specialists in 18th century theater to have any interest in it. So I’ll spare you.

After that, I began to collaborate with my husband, Bob, on books meant for a much wider reading public. Our first together was Honey, Mud, Maggots and Other Medical Marvels, a fun look at some traditional medical therapies that have made come-backs in modern medicine. In some cases, when antibiotics or surgical debridement fail, nothing works better than honey or maggots to clean out and heal a wound.

Having established that we liked to work together, Bob and I wrote our second book, Sparks of Genius, The 13 Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People. This book pulled together our long-standing fascination with imaginative skills commonly found among individuals across the arts, sciences and other problem-solving professions. We talk about observing, imaging, pattern recognizing, empathizing, dimensional thinking and modeling, to name about half of what we call the “thinking tools.” In creative moments, zoologists may rely as much on empathizing as actors, musicians may exercise dimensional thinking as rigorously as physicists.

Inventing Imaginary Worlds: From Childhood Play to Adult Creativity Across the Arts and Sciences is my newest book, out this June, and one I wrote myself. It’s been a labor of love, literally, since the original inspiration for the work came from watching my children play. There seemed to be so many connections between what children do in their make-believe and what grownups do in their creative endeavors, I just had to investigate further.

I focused on the invention of imaginary worlds, what I call worldplay, a complex form of pretend play that often shows up in middle childhood (ages 6 to 12). Worldplay can go overlooked by adults, because it’s a private activity, either solitary or shared with one or two intimate friends, and much of it goes on in the head, out of sight. I hunted down examples by trolling through biographies and memoirs for records of childhood worldplay in the past, I sent questionnaires to college students and mature professionals, and I interviewed children, too.

What I found is that worldplay is more common than we might think. And it has strong links to creative endeavor in adulthood. Make-believe play throughout childhood and adolescence forges important skills for a lifetime!

Debbie:  Do you have an author website?

Michele:  I do. Anyone interested in learning more about Inventing Imaginary Worlds and the creative value of imaginative play can go to
Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Michele:  Bob and I are planning a book on creative process, or rather, the capacities that enable creative behaviors and outcomes. We’re still in the research and early writing phase, so I imagine the work will take a while.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Michele:  Schuler Books gets my vote. I greatly appreciate the wide selection of books; the used book section; the cafĂ©; and maybe most of all, the incredible support of book clubs.

Debbie:  And a favorite Michigan library?

Michele:  Michigan State University Library. I can’t leave the confines of my study without it.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Michele:  One of my friends has a cottage on the shores of Lake Michigan. Every summer she invites our book reading group for a weekend book binge. I love it! I also happen to think that the Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids is very special and I try to visit at least once a year.

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

Michele:  Spring. You know, writing haiku is very much a practice of attention, especially attention to nature. Summer, fall and winter get their due, but there’s something about spring that is very optimistic—particularly after way too many months of cloud cover. Many personal favorites among my own haiku focus on the seasonal possibilities. For example:
this morning
it takes the iris to open
Debbie:  Beautiful!  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?

Michele:  Yes. J

Debbie:  Great answer!  We'll put you in both columns.  Michele, thank you very much for being here today for Michigander Monday!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Poetry Friday

I sat on the front porch and watched the Theater of Rain.

"I hope it doesn't last too long," I thought.
"I hope it doesn't flood the street," I thought.
"Or seep into the basement.  Or reveal the structural inadequacies of the roof," I thought.
"I hope it doesn't have a dramatic final act wherein a lightning bolt fells a tree, taking out an innocent bystander watching from her front porch," I thought.
"Perhaps I should have cleaned the gutters," I thought.
"Or gotten around to sorting those old boxes in the basement," I thought.

The Theater of Rain did not care what I thought.
"The show must go on," rumbled the sky.

Later, I thought to applaud

but never did.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Michigander Monday: Dennis Cawthorne

I'm pleased to welcome Dennis Cawthorne to Michigander Monday!

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

Dennis:  I am a lawyer, legislator, chairman of the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, businessman, saloonkeeper-restaurateur, chamber of commerce manager, and carriage driver.  I know the famed Great Lakes destination, its people, and its idiosyncrasies like few other people.  For a great part of each of the last 54 years, I have lived, worked, and played on iconic Mackinac Island.

I am also a world traveler, having visited sixty countries on six continents.  I have served as an official United States delegate to international conferences of government leaders in Moscow, Beijing, and Brussels.  I am a graduate of Albion College (Phi Beta Kappa) and Harvard Law School.

When not on Mackinac Island or travelling world-wide, I make my home in East Lansing, Michigan.  My wife Cynthia and I have two sons and three grandchildren.

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your book, Mackinac Island:  Inside, Up Close, and Personal.

Dennis:  Many books have been written about Mackinac Island, usually focusing on its history, its scenic beauty, or its architecture.  This is not one of those books.  Rather, this book is a nostalgic and candid behind the scenes look at more than a century of Mackinac people and events.  It's part memoir, part history, and part chronicle.  All of it is true.

Mackinac Island is very much a small town, yet each year it hosts over three quarters of a million people and is often the focal point of national and even international media coverage.  It attracts celebrities of every kind as well as masses of "average Americans."  It is the summer home of Michigan's governor, frequently a hotbed of state political activity, and a place endlessly fascinating to those who know it.

For a half century and more, beginning in 1960, I came to know and experience Mackinac intimately.  I did so through the prism of the many roles I played there during those years: carriage driver, chamber of commerce manager, state legislator, saloonkeeper, attorney, legislative advocate and for over 20 years member and chairman of the Mackinac Island State Park Commission which governs 83% of the Island's land area.  Along the way, I built a home, became engaged, got married, and raised two sons there.  Probably I will be buried there.

I have been an eyewitness to- and too often involved in- a host of events that one does not normally associate with Mackinac: murder, political intrigue, a disastrous fire, scandal controversy, hilarity, and high jinks of all kinds, made all the more fascinating by the very fact they happened on Mackinac.

Through it all, I came to know intimately and appreciate Mackinac's rich stew of colorful characters and events, its multiple layers unseen and unknown to casual visitors.  But I have not been a passive observer of Mackinac.  I like to think I also played a role in shaping and impacting the Mackinac Island of today, I hope for the better.

Designed for those who really want to "know" Mackinac from the inside, this is the story of an amazing half century of life and times on an incredible island.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Dennis:  No other books planned.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Dennis:  Several pending.

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

Dennis:  The Island Book Store on Mackinac Island.  The State Library of Michigan.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Dennis:  Mackinac Island, of course.

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

Dennis:  The annual Lilac Festival on Mackinac Island.

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

Dennis:  Most of the people mentioned in the book.

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

Dennis:  What a great scenic state it is!

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

Dennis:  Emphatically a Michigander!

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