Monday, September 29, 2014

Michigander Monday: Saara Myrene Raappana

I'm pleased to welcome Saara Myrene Raappana to Michigander Monday!

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

Saara:  I’m from Michigan, but I currently live in southwest Minnesota with my husband, our cat, and our coffee pot. I was born and raised in the U.P. (Palmer, Sault Ste. Marie, Suomi Location, Rudyard, etc.), and while I’ve lived and travelled all over since going to college (Wisconsin, Florida, China, Minnesota, etc.), I still think of the U.P. as home. When my husband and I were living in southwest China, I carried everything in a Michigan-map tote bag that I’d bought in the Detroit airport. It was great because whenever someone asked me where I was from, I could point to the right place on the bag, and most people in China know about the Great Lakes, so it was a wonderful conversation-starter. I used it so much that it started to fall apart, so I paid a street vendor with a cart that had a key-duplicating machine and a sewing machine on it to fix the straps.

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your writing and about the forthcoming anthology, Here.

Saara:  I’m really excited to get my hands on Here. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Ron Riekki, the editor, in the past on his last U.P. anthology The Way North, and the man knows how to put together a great book. My included poem, “All I know of white,” is set in Suomi Location (near Negaunee, in Richmond Township). It was originally supposed to be a sonnet, but it didn’t cooperate.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Saara:  I’m working on putting together a manuscript now. I think I’m nearing completion, which means I’ll realize very soon that I need to start all over again. Shechem Press also featured one of my poems in their recent Artist Broadside Series, along with poems by Stephen C. Behrendt and Robert Wrigley [].

Cellpoems [], a poetry journal that I edit, is about to hit its fifth anniversary, so we’re pretty excited to celebrate that. We distribute poems via text message (and then, later, we also publish them on our website), so all the poems are short-short-short—140 characters or fewer, including title and the poet’s name (most poets opt to shorten their names to free up some characters for the poem).
Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Saara:  I just received a grant from the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council to finish my manuscript and embark on The Great Southwest Minnesota Poetry Book Tour, so in the next several months, I’ll be hitting places throughout the 18-county Southwest Minnesota area. The first will be The Attack of the Space Zombies Halloween Party on October 25 in Currie, Minn.—a Halloween-themed, family-friendly art opening featuring work by Minnesota artists David KelseyBassett [] and Jessie White []. I think I’ll do it in costume. I’ll have tour dates on my website [] as they’re confirmed.

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

Saara:  Oh, so many. I’ve always loved Snowbound Books in Marquette. When I was a kid, we’d drive to Marquette to go shopping, and I was always most excited about the comic book store and Snowbound Books. I still get a thrill whenever I get to go.

I also love Aurora Books in Menominee. They’ve got a great poetry selection, and it’s got a beautiful view of the lake.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?
Saara:  Um. All of them? But specifically: Suomi Location. The Goose Lake overlook on M-35 just outside of Palmer, especially in fall. The Calumet Theater in Calumet. Every ounce of Lake Superior.

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

Saara:  I love going ice fishing with my Uncle George and his dog Nakoot. I love going sauna in the winter. I love watching boats go through the Locks in the Soo. The Soo Film Festival every late summer/early fall in Sault Ste. Marie.

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

Saara:  Wow, there are so many; here’s an incomplete list: I love Catie Rosemurgy’s poetry; TheStranger Manual is haunting and hilarious and resonant, as is the recurring character Miss Peach. And Janeen Rastall’s poetry, her new chapbook, The Yellowed House—her gorgeous “When Asked About My Inner Goddess” was recently made into a film []. Mary McMyne’s Wolf Skin is hypnotic and lush and delightful. Julie Brooks Barbour came out with Small Chimes this year; her poems balance delicacy and robustness perfectly. I’m also happily anticipating Lisa Fay Coutley’s first full-length collection, ERRATA, coming out next year. And you can’t go wrong with any of Jamaal May’s poetry; Hum won a mess of awards because it’s beautiful, important poetry about people and machines and the spaces between them. I also do work for Motionpoems, a poetry-film production company, so I had the pleasure of reading and watching the film adaptation of [] Laura Kasischke’s haunting “This Is Not a Fairytale,” and now I can’t get it out of my head. Fiction too! I just got Joseph Daniel Haske’s North Dixie Highway: literary and gritty and engaging. Oh, and everyone should check out Ron Riekki’s U.P. It’s hilarious and heartbreaking, which are my two favorite things for a book to be.

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

Saara:  Don’t forget about the Upper Peninsula! We’re up there too!

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?

Saara:  Yooper! And Michigander. I’m in favor of any moniker that allows me to pretend I’m a migrating bird. Just curious: Which is winning?

Debbie:  Saara, Michigander is in the lead, but I'll have to run the numbers to see which is second -- Michiganian or Yooper!  Thank you so very much for joining us today for Michigander/Yooper Monday!!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Halfway point of The Pout-Pout Fish tour!

Dan Hanna and I have been having a wonderful time on our tour!  We still have a week left -- be sure to check out the listing of our upcoming stops.  Hope to see you at one of them!  In the meantime, here are some highlights of Mr. Fish's adventures this past week.

Big, big thanks to Bach Elementary (Ann Arbor, MI), St. Francis Catholic School (Ann Arbor), Nicola's Books (Ann Arbor), Bellerive Elementary (Creve Couer, MO), Henry Elementary (Ballwin, MO), Left Bank Books (St. Louis, MO), White Eagle Elementary (Naperville, IL), Hermes Elementary (Aurora, IL), Anderson's Books (Naperville), The Morning Blend TMJ4 (Milwaukee, WI), Oriole Lane Elementary (Mequon, WI), Kluge Elementary (Milwaukee), Oak Creek Library (Oak Creek, WI), and Boswell Book Company (Milwaukee) for a marvelous week!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Michigander Monday: Jennifer Sowle

I'm pleased to welcome Jennifer Sowle to Michigander Monday!

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

Jennifer:  I've been a clinical psychologist for over 25 years.  I moved to Traverse City about twelve years ago, and I'm in private practice here.  I've always wanted to write fiction, so about eight years ago I took a seminar at the local college and I've been hooked ever since.

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

Jennifer:  My first novel, Admissions (Arbutus Press) came out in 2010.  This year I have a new self-help book just released, The Everything Guide to Codependency (Adams Media).  Until I put it aside to do the non-fiction book, I had a new novel in the works, so I guess it's still in the works!  I'm also trying something new, a screenplay based on Admissions.

Admissions is set in the old Traverse City State Hospital in l967.  I've always been fascinated with this old place so, in a sense, the hospital is one of the characters in my story.  It's the story of a young mother who loses her son, is unable to cope, and ends up in a mental hospital.  The book chronicles her one-year stay there, and how a group of five other patients and a sweet old groundskeeper help her heal. The hospital has a lot of secrets, and one of the big ones is a subplot in the book. 

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Jennifer:  I will be doing a reading and booksigning for both Admissions and my new release, The Everything Guide to Codependency at the Elk Rapids Public Library on Sunday, October 26th at 3:00 pm.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

JenniferHorizon Books is my favorite bookstore because it is in downtown Traverse City which I love so much.  It's one of those bookstores where you can browse to your heart's content, drink coffee, meet an author, have lunch if you can't tear yourself away.  They also have musical performers and other entertainment free of charge.  Horizons has been very kind to me and I've had three book signings there.  I also love Cottage Books in Glen Arbor.  Its history and ambiance and staff are very welcoming.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Jennifer:  My favorite place in Michigan is here in Traverse City where I live.  Twelve years ago, I moved up here from Midland without a job, no family..... I just loved how beautiful it is here and I took a leap of faith.  My life since then has been great. I still have my "real job" as a psychologist a couple of days a week, and my writing keeps my brain moving and trying new things.  I love my friends here and the cultural atmosphere of Traverse City.

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

Jennifer:  It's easy for me to point to my favorite event.  I just recently participated in it -- it's the Traverse City Film Festival.  I have a blog post on the official TCFF 2014 site and my own blog about my TCFF experience.  All the fabulous restaurants, talented musicians and, of course, film people from all over the world make it the most cosmopolitan city up north.  I love the friendliness and excitement during the Festival--it's electric.

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

Jennifer:  We have so many interesting people in this area.  Mario Batali, Michael Moore, Dean Robb, Christine Lahti, those are a few of the  "famous ones."  Doug Stanton, best-selling author, is very active in the Film Festival and has started the Writer's Series here in town.  We have Interlochen where children of famous people go.  One of my favorite artists, Norah Jones, graduated from there.  It's nice to have these well-known people in our town, but mostly we are just a bee-hive of cultural events and like-minded people.  Great dining, fun night-life, and then there's the Bay!

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

Jennifer:  Just since I moved here, Michigan has been discovered!  The film festival is 4th in popularity in the US already, the State Theatre was voted the best theatre "to watch a movie in splendor" by USA Today, the Sleeping Bear Dunes, selected as the most beautiful place in the US!  I'd say to anyone, we have the most beautiful scenery, a relaxed yet also exciting environment, sun, beach, woods, wineries, cherry orchards, dunes, rivers, outdoor fun.  I love it here.

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?

Jennifer:  I'm old school--Michigander.

Debbie:  We'll add you to the Michigander column!  Jennifer, thank you so much for joining us today for Michigander Monday!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Poetry Friday

The thing about a shooting star --
It goes so fast and there you are.
You wonder if you really saw
That bright but fleeting bit of awe.

We do not choose when glory's shown,
Yet still the moment's yours to own.
So do not worry.  Do not think.
Just thank your stars you didn't blink.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Book Tour with Dan Hanna!

Dan Hanna and I will be hitting the road this September for a two-week national tour! We will be visiting schools, libraries, bookstores, and more. We're currently scheduled for the following locations. (Please confirm time and other details with the host venue before attending.) Hope to see you there!

  • Monday, September 15, 7 PM at  Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor, MI - Details
  • Tuesday, September 16, 4 PM at Left Bank Books in St. Louis, MO - Details
  • Wednesday, September 17, 7 PM at Anderson's in Naperville, IL - Details
  • Thursday, September 18, 4 PM at Oak Creek Library in Oak Creek, WI - Details
  • Sunday, September 21 -- Dan only -- 11 AM at WORD in Jersey City, NJ - Details - (I will not be at this event)
  • Sunday, September 21 -- Dan only -- 1 PM at Books of Wonder in New York City - Details - (I will not be at this event)
  • Tuesday, September 23, 4 PM at Blue Manatee Books in Cincinnati, OH - Details
  • Wednesday, September 24, 4:30 PM at Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, GA
  • Thursday, September 25, 11:30 AM at Discovery Place Kids in Rockingham, NC - Details
  • Thursday, September 25, 3:30 PM at Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC - Details
  • Friday, September 26, 5 PM at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC - Details

Monday, September 1, 2014

Michigander Monday: Nancy Barr

I'm pleased to welcome Nancy Barr to Michigander Monday!

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

Nancy:  Although I wasn’t born in the U.P., I've lived here since I was nine so I consider myself a Yooper after thriving through enough winters!  As far as my day job, after ten years as a newspaper reporter and editor at two small U.P. daily papers, I switched to academia in 2007 and now teach technical communication to mechanical engineering students at Michigan Technological University.

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

Nancy:  The “Page One” mystery trilogy is set primarily in the central and western Upper Peninsula and features newspaper reporter Robin Hamilton.  I think of her as a scrappier, smarter, and prettier version of myself when I was around 30!  The plots are not based on any real stories I covered as a reporter, nor are the characters based on real people, but the setting is completely authentic.  Anyone familiar with the U.P. will recognize the locales throughout each book!  They’re published by Arbutus Press and available in e-book format as well.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Nancy:  While I took a five-year break from “fun” writing to work on a master’s and PhD, I've begun work on a new work of fiction set in the early 1970s in the Copper Country, after the last copper mine shut down.  While the plot is still in the very development stages, it will be edgier and darker than my first three books.  I've always been a fan of Stephen King’s work and this book will take a cue from some of his earlier novels.  Of course, it will have a strong female protagonist, though!

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Nancy:  Nothing planned right now.

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

Nancy:  I love any bookstore that makes it a point to support regional authors.  Two in particular are Grandpa’s Barn in Copper Harbor and North Wind Books in Hancock.  As for libraries, my favorite is the Bayliss Library in Sault Ste. Marie.  They have great programming and an enthusiastic community of supporters.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Nancy:  Oh, I have lots of them!  There’s hiking in the Porcupine Mountains in the fall, watching freighters near Copper Harbor or at the Soo Locks in the summer, exploring historical places like Fayette State Historic Park or the old abandoned mines around the Keweenaw, or sitting on the beach at Whitefish Point.

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

Nancy:  The Eagle Harbor Arts Festival in August is awesome, and Michigan Tech’s Winter Carnival is a great way to get outside and celebrate winter via the student-built ice sculptures.

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

Nancy:  This is another tough one; there are so many!  Leslie Du Temple’s children’s books are a treat, Tyler Tichelaar's fiction is unique, and Ron Riekki's a great advocate for Upper Peninsula authors.  We also can’t forget about Steve Parks, Delta County’s prosecuting attorney and a fellow author, who finally convinced the folks at Merriam-Webster to add the word "Yooper" to the dictionary!

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

Nancy:  While industry is important to the state, we have so much more to offer.  We have some of the best scenery in the world here in the Keweenaw as well as one of the best-kept secrets in higher education – Michigan Technological University, which adds so much to the community in terms of diversity and culture.  We also have a thriving arts and culture community, with great writers, poets, painters, and sculptors, especially here in the U.P.

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?

Nancy:  Sorry, neither.  I describe myself as a Yooper from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula!

Debbie:  Nancy, we'll add you to the Yooper column.  Thank you for joining us today for Yooper Monday!