Monday, October 24, 2016

Michigander Monday: Mary Fox

I'm pleased to welcome Mary Fox to Michigander Monday.

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

Mary:  I grew up in Warren, MI and attended and graduated from Lincoln High School.  With scholarship money and earned money from jobs throughout my high school years and summers, I went to MSU where I obtained my teaching degree and a degree in English.  I taught for 40 years at Fowler High School and earned a Masters degree at CMU.  Toward the end of my career, I also taught part-time at LCC.  During my years teaching, I most liked teaching writing.  When I retired I promised myself I'd finally engage fully with my own writing, so I joined a writing group (Writing at the Ledges) and have worked on my own writing ever since.  Although my spouse died in 2015, I'm blessed with a lovely family and many friends who fill my time with fun and joy. Since I am a voracious reader and have haunted libraries and bookstores all my life, I do volunteer work at my local library, I also love to see plays and live entertainment, swim, walk on our River Trail and play golf.  What makes me most happy?  Spending good time with my kitties and family and friends.  Helping others and just hanging out with family and friends makes a good day.

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

Mary:  My book is a collection of poetry entitled Waiting for Rain. My poems aren't academic exercises.  I like to write for the ordinary person and about the things ordinary people experience. Here is the statement I gave about the book when I put the collection together.  I think it best expresses what I was trying to do in this collection of poems:

“In collecting the poems, I focused on the moments that people live in between life’s more dramatic events—times we are left waiting, resting, hoping, evaluating, mourning, or expecting what might come.  When we wait for rain, we can hope for growth, change or relief but we also can think of rain as interrupting our progress, flooding our plans, or in some other way 'raining on our parade,' as the cliché says.  I wanted poems that captured those reflective moments of life, our reactions, when we step back and look for meaning and enlightenment.”

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Mary:  Currently I'm working on putting together a webpage/blog.  I want a page for my writing that includes several things:  First, I have stories about my two cats--the dynamic duo of Boguy and Goldie.  I'm putting together a year's worth of adventures which I may turn into a nonfiction work later.  Secondly, I want a column on grief and grieving to be part of this page. I think that we do not talk about many of the aspects of grief we face throughout our life.  Death is still a subject with taboos, and then I want a column to explore grief fully.  When I have a year's worth of postings ready, I will launch the site.  Right now I've got quite a few of the cat stories done and some of the writing column started.  I'm gathering topics for the segments on grief, so if anyone has suggestions they can message me through the Writing at the Ledges facebook page.  Writing at the Ledges, my writing group, is also completing an anthology and I will be editing it in October.  We hope to have it out soon.  It is a collection of good short works based on writing prompts the group worked on.  I call this type of book a "cottage" book because it's the type of book I liked to take to a cottage when I was young because stories were short enough to finish in between the other more active stuff.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Mary:  I'm scheduling a poetry workshop at Portland Library in January and plan to be selling books at a couple events in October and November (including St. Mary's in Westphalia Nov. 6).  This is all rather new to me so I think I will learn as I go about how to market books.  I love the writing part but the sales part is all new to me.  So I'm slowly putting together events.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan library?

Mary:  Portland District Library, where I volunteer, is absolutely the best small town library ever.  The town residents and a dedicated group of women worked to raise funds to revamp this old Carnegie library into a modern, dynamic facility and we continue to improve it year by year.  The big push was to add on to the library and modernize its electrical, etc.  The children's library and facilities are therefore wonderful.  Recently a local donor provided funds for an outdoor reading area that is a "fairy" garden for outdoor children's literacy activities.  The whole bottom floor of the library is devoted to children's reading and literacy.  There is a wonderful area on the main floor for teens and areas for meetings and genealogy and business research.  My group, Friends of the Portland District Library, works to provide funds and manpower to upgrade and maintain our lovely library.  It gives my heart joy that we have so many people participating in our activities.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Mary:  I grew up in a suburb of Detroit, so Detroit has a special place in my heart--I love Tiger Stadium, the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak, and Greektown and the Art Museum and many locations hold good memories for me.  I also love Higgins Lake's deep clear water and the West Coast of Michigan in Pentwater and Ludington.  I think I live in the most beautiful state in the nation.

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

Mary:  My absolute favorite thing to do in Michigan?  It's hard to pick but Tiger games rates high, the Detroit Zoo is close behind, and any view of water off our shores makes me happy.  In the Lansing area, I like to wander Old Town and the City Market.  Walking MSU's campus is a treat.  In Grand Rapids, ArtPrize is a favorite.  Mackinac Island is lovely in the spring and fall as well as during "taffy" season.  I never tire of Michigan.

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

Mary:  I like to hang with ordinary people, so spend a day with someone from Michigan and learn about living here.  Whether a Troll or a Yooper, you'll have fun.  They might even teach you Euchre.

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

Mary:  One of the weirdest things I've learned about Michigan is that it has a gigantic salt mine under the Detroit area.  It stretches from Detroit to Dearborn.  The mines closed in the 1980s but the underground "city" still exists.  The other weird thing I know is that the term "hillbilly" was first defined in the Websters as a Michigan farmer.

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?

Mary:  I am a Michigander.

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

Monday, October 3, 2016

Michigander Monday: Katie Kennedy

I'm pleased to welcome Katie Kennedy to Michigander Monday.

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

Katie:  I’m a college history instructor. I used to teach in a fire station. When the alarm rang, the entire class jumped up and ran out of the room. I became an LPN in order to write more accurate medical scenes. I have been lost in Moscow, and rousted by the KGB for sitting in Red Square to eat my ice cream. I have been bitten by a fish.

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

Katie:  I think of Learning to Swear in America as John Green meets Brian Greene. It’s the story of Yuri Strelnikov, a seventeen-year-old Russian physics genius brought by NASA to California to help stop an incoming asteroid. The good news is that Yuri knows how to stop the asteroid--his research in antimatter will probably win him a Nobel prize if there's ever another Nobel prize awarded. But the trouble is, even though NASA asked for his help, not everyone there will listen to him. He's seventeen, and they've been studying physics longer than he's been alive.

Just when he doesn’t need a distraction he meets Dovie, a wise and unpredictable American girl. Being with her, on the adventures she plans when he's not at NASA, Yuri catches a glimpse of what it means to save the world and live a life worth saving.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Katie:  What Goes Up comes out in July, 2017 (Bloomsbury). It’s another contemp/sci fi/action adventure mashup. WGU is set in an infinite universe—which means there are parallel worlds. NASA holds a competition for positions on an elite team dealing with potential alien contact. Rosa and Eddie answer the call—and face a series of tests on Earth, and challenges off it.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Katie:  I’m going to be at NerdCon in Minneapolis in October.

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

Katie:  I’m fond of Snowbound Books in Marquette and Brilliant Books in Traverse City. As for libraries, definitely Dickinson County’s. It’s not big, but the staff is excellent.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Katie:  I lived in the UP—we just moved. The whole place is beautiful—but I’m especially fond of Lake Antoine, Horse Race Rapids, Michigan Tech’s hockey arena, and Michigan House restaurant in Calumet.

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

Katie:  The brilliant folks in Trenary put outhouses on skis and race them over the snow. How can you top that?

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

Katie:  Ki-Wing Merlin (Weaving a Net Is Better Than Praying for Fish) recently moved, but she’s delightful.

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

Katie:  Bring bug spray. And seriously, people should know that Michigan has two peninsulas.

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally, which is the better term: Michigander or Michiganian?

Katie:  Michigander!

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