Monday, October 15, 2018

Michigander Monday: Anna Clark

I'm pleased to welcome Anna Clark to Michigander Monday!

DebbieAnna, please tell us a little about yourself.

AnnaI'm a journalist who grew up in a little town in the southwest corner of Michigan. My family scraped to get by while I was growing up, and I credit a lot of my fearlessness about work (of all kinds) and my habit of living simply -- critical characteristics for being a full-time freelance writer, it turns out -- to the culture of our household. I went to college at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and I now live in Detroit. I've also lived in Boston and in Nairobi, Kenya, but it's fair to say that I'm well-rooted in the Great Lakes State! Besides writing and reading, I'm enthusiastic about jogging, exploring the outdoors, and playing with my nieces and nephews. This past summer, I've been using The America's Test Kitchen Complete Vegetarian Cookbook as a way to not only eat tasty food but to become a better cook. The more I learn, the more fun it is to be in the kitchen!

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

Anna:  I wrote The Poisoned City: Flint's Water and the American Urban Tragedy, which not only looks at the utter disaster of what happened (and is still happening) in Flint, but also examines how the city became so vulnerable in the first place. It brings together original reporting, history, and narrative to bring the story to life.

Also, I wrote a small book that explores the rich and often surprising literary culture of the Third Coast. It's called Michigan Literary Luminaries: From Elmore Leonard to Robert Hayden, and it was fun excuse to dig up the roots of our great storytellers. I also edited A Detroit Anthology, which is a collection of essays, photographs, art, and poetry. The anthology was a chance to get past the  headlines about Detroit and bring the conversation back to our lived experiences. These are the kind of stories that are shared on porches and in pubs, in cafes and at church picnics -- that is, they are the kind of stories that made me fall in love with Detroit in the first place.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Anna:  Book events are such a fun way to engage with different communities, and I'm excited about all that's coming up! The calendar to date includes Michigan stops in Livonia, St. Joseph, Ypsilanti, Monroe, Grand Haven, Troy, and two particularly exciting programs: the fabulous Flint Literary Festival at the end of October, and the 9th Annual Community Reads program at the Wixom Public Library in November. Wixom is one of six different libraries in southeast Michigan that collaborate on a big annual book program. The Poisoned City is this year's pick, and there are fantastic events all season long -- book discussions, films, workshops, and more -- that pick up on the themes. I'm very excited to join such an engaged group at the final event on November 9.

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

Anna:  Don't make me choose, Debbie! There are too many to pick, but I'll shout out some of my many favorites. In Detroit, John K. King Used & Rare Books, Source Booksellers, and Pages Bookshop all offer radically different experiences for readers. Pages is spacious, brimming with great titles, and is the home of a prowling cat named Pip. Source is cozy, eclectic, and well-curated, specializing in African American nonfiction. John King is so labyrinthine, you actually get a map when you enter the doors. Also, up in Traverse City, Brilliant Books is a destination for me. It always raises my spirits, as does McLean and Eakin in Petoskey. And in St. Joseph, Forever Books (where I used to work!) is a joyful, sunny space that is such an important community hub.

Speaking of St. Joe, my childhood library, the Maud Preston Palenske Memorial Library, right on the Lake Michigan bluff, will always have a place in my heart. And here in the city where I now live, the Detroit Public Library never fails to astonish me with its wealth of books, art, and historic archives. I love writing and reading by the windows in the second floor of the main branch on Woodward Avenue. Plus, DPL gets a big high-five for re-opening on Sundays. Back in 1981, Sunday hours were shut down because of budget cuts. Now they're back at the main library, and newly available at two branches. Joy!

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Anna:  It's one of my many loves, but the Nordhouse Dunes, up near Ludington and the Manistee National Forest, gets a praise song from me. The sounds and sunsets sometimes show up in my dreams.

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

Anna:  Every October, my sister, brother-in-law, and two cousins and I run as a relay team in the Detroit Free Press International Marathon. It's a fantastic race that has given us a new beloved family tradition! The five of us live in three different states, so we call ourselves the Long Distance Long Distance Running Club. We keep up a text chain throughout the year about our running habits (among other things). Not only is it a fun way to keep us all connected, but it has propelled all of us to accomplish more as runners than we would have done alone. None of us are exactly natural-born Olympians, but we work hard and, most especially, we have fun. And while we've also run half-marathons and 5Ks together, the Detroit Marathon relay weekend is a mainstay. We come together from all our different towns (those with kids leave them with the grandparents!). We run as a team on a fantastic course that involves crossing an international border twice on foot. We cheer other on, and we enjoy good meals, good coffee and beers, and lots of laughter. We love it!

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

Anna:  We have more coastline than any other state besides Alaska. And anywhere you go in these two peninsulas, you will never more than six miles away from a natural body of water.

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?

Anna:  Michigander, 100 percent.

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

Monday, June 25, 2018

Michigander Monday: Patrick Flores-Scott

I'm pleased to welcome Patrick Flores-Scott to Michigander Monday!

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

Patrick:  I grew up in North Bend, Washington, a small town east of Seattle (and home of the TV show, Twin Peaks). It was a beautiful, dark, wet place to live. My dad was born and raised there and my mom was from Uruguay in South America. They met when he worked there in the Peace Corps. So I grew up in a bi-lingual household. I was a band nerd in high school and theatre major at the University of Washington. I was a public teacher for a lot of years in southern California and in the Seattle area. A few years ago, my wife, Emma, got a great job at UMich so we moved to Ann Arbor from Seattle. I'm currently an early morning writer and a stay-at-home dad to two zany little boys. I'll be back teaching kids as a reading tutor at my sons' school next school year.

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

Patrick:  I was teaching struggling middle school readers when I was inspired to write my first book, Jumped In. I had been a struggling reader growing up so I set out to write a book that might appeal to older students who find it difficult to get through a novel. I based the characters on students and staff I saw every day at that school. The story focuses on two very different boys who try to get through school without being noticed, which they manage to do until they team up for a class poetry slam. One boy tells the story in first-person prose. The other tells his story through poetry. It's a short book, with short sentences and short chapters. The vocabulary is very accessible.  I get reports from teachers that it's been the first completed novel for many middle and high school reluctant readers. Jumped In has its own story to tell, but I'm so proud to have written a book that, for a few students, has launched them the world of novels. Jumped In won the Washington State Book Award for YA and was an NCTE Amelia Walden Award finalist and a nominee/finalist for Michigan's Great Lakes/Great Books.

When my agent started selling Jumped In in the fall of 2009, he encouraged me to get started on a new book. I decided I wanted to write about a family dealing with the big issues of that moment in time. I got to work on a story about a kid, Teodoro, 'T' Avila, whose once-middle class, once happy family has been blindsided by war and job loss and the loss of their new house. T checks out in school and is failing until he reunites with an old family friend, Wendy Martinez, a high school junior who has her act completely together. She's smart and headed to college so, in his junior year, T attempts an academic one-eighty for a shot at love. T needs his family and they need him, but he struggles to overcome and escape a chaotic, depressing home life in order to achieve. The book is called American Road Trip and it'll be out in September from Christy Ottaviano Books at Henry Holt.

Sandwiched in between those two projects, I had a short story come out in a MacMillan YA collection called, I See Reality. My story, "The Good Brother," is about twin brothers who where brought to the U.S. from Mexico by their parents, but at different times. They both think they're eligible for DACA, but it turns out one brother was brought over before the deadline for DACA and the other brother was brought over after the deadline and is now facing deportation. I was writing based on what I felt were the shortcomings of DACA and immigration policy in the Obama era. Times have sure changed.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Patrick:  I'm working on a slam poetry novel (Is that a thing?) about a kid, Antonio, who is being released from a youth prison. He's released on a Friday afternoon. He has a meeting at school with his parole officer and his guidance counselor on Monday morning. He has to make that meeting as a term of his parole. If he doesn't make it, he'll likely be sent right back to prison. The story is about a bunch of craziness with family and old friends that happens between Friday afternoon and Monday morning that threatens to keep him from making his meeting. And may send him right back to prison.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Patrick:  I'll be at the Detroit Festival of Books on July 15th, and the Harbor Springs Festival of the Book at the end of September. Other than that, no firm dates but I'll be working on book launch details in the coming months.

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

Patrick:  I live in Ann Arbor, so this is a tough question. I spend a lot of time in Nicola's with my kids and the folks there have been really supportive of me and Jumped In. They seem to carry just about everything that comes out in YA and kids' books. I love Literati and have to check it out every time I'm downtown. The upstairs cafe is my favorite writing spot in town. Bookbound is a sweet store where the owners are the sellers so it's a great, personal experience.

I love writing in the fireplace room in the new Westgate library. It's super cozy. That whole library is amazing. My regular spot is the Mallets Creek branch, which has great lighting and is so close to our house. We've spent a lot of time at events in the main downtown branch and the kids have done plenty of story times there and at the Pittsfield branch. Those story times were life savers for this dad when the boys were toddlers.  I'm grateful for the libraries as a citizen and for their support as a writer.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Patrick:  Indoors, it might be the Diego Rivera pavilion at the DIA. That place is magical. He hung from those very walls creating that mural! My youngest son, Diego, is a big fan. Outdoors, we love the Mill Creek walk in Dexter and have enjoyed a few weekends at Lake Michigan. We have yet to head to the U.P. Hopefully, this summer we'll get up there.

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

Patrick:  There are no fireflies back home in Washington state. The arrival of the fireflies is a big deal in our Michigan household. My wife and I get as excited as the boys do. We're fans of Ann Arbor's nutty FestiFools and the very inclusive 4th of July parade.

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

Patrick:  I have met wonderful book folks since moving to Ann Arbor. Members of my book club and critique group, writers, public school teachers, Ann Arbor and Dexter librarians... Shutta Crum, Nancy Shaw, Cynthia Furlong Reynolds, Debbie Gonzales, Jeff Kass…these are a few of the folks who represent so many books and poems and articles written and so many kids inspired and taught. At one time or another, I’ve felt welcomed, mentored and inspired by this amazing group.

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

Patrick:  All right, non-Michigan folks: A Coney Island is a diner that serves all the classic American diner stuff. But to truly deserve the “Coney Island” label, it must also serve the Michigan version of a Coney Island-style hot dog. The menu will likely include some Greek options. But if you’re in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area, along with pancakes, eggs and cheeseburgers, your favorite diner or Coney Island might serve Korean food (like bi-bim -bop, kimchi and bulgogi at Bell’s Diner) or Honduran friend chicken and fried green plantains (Antonio’s Coney Island). Do not dismiss the Coney Island, people.

Oh, and Detroit-style thick crust pizza is a thing. It is square or rectangular and the crust contains both very crunchy and very chewy layers. If you enjoy eating pizza with the label “New York” or “Chicago” attached to it, you need to know that Detroit makes a pizza that is second to none.

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?

Patrick:  I’ve been an “ian” my whole life up to now. I’m a born-and-raised Washingtonian. I also spent a stretch as a Californian. Now, I’m enjoying my time as a Michigander.

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

Monday, April 9, 2018

Michigander Monday: Lisa Eldred Steinkopf

I'm pleased to welcome Lisa Eldred Steinkopf to Michigander Monday!

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

Lisa:  I'm Lisa Eldred Steinkopf, The Houseplant Guru. I have always loved plants and nature. I grew up in central Michigan, in a rural area. Our nearest neighbors were my grandparents approximately 1/2 mile away and they were farmers. My three older brothers and I spent a lot of time playing in their barn, climbing the hay bales to the ceiling and playing with the barn cats. We gathered eggs from the hen house and rode our bikes back home. We grew up surrounded by nature, climbed trees, explored and learned to love nature. My one brother has his degree in forestry. My grandma grew many houseplants, and especially had beautiful African violets. My mom also had plants and has a fern that was given to her by my great grandma in 1957 at her bridal shower. I also have a piece of that fern and have had it since 1985 when I was married. I went to Ferris State University (then it was a college), where I met my husband, John, in horticulture classes. We've been married 33 years this June and our oldest daughter is getting married on that day. We are so excited! We also have a younger daughter. My husband's family owns Steinkopf Nursery in Farmington Hills and this is its 87th year in business. I worked there for 15 years and left 4 years ago.

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your book, and other books on the horizon.

Lisa:  I love social media and actually was asked on Twitter by an acquisition editor from Cool Springs Press if I wanted to write a book. I of course said yes, as I had always been a dream of mine to write a book. It took a year and a 1/2 from start to the release date to get the book done. My daughter, Chelsea took the pictures. Houseplants: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Growing, and Caring for Indoor Plants came out last fall.

I do have another book in the works and should be out next summer.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Lisa:  I am going to be at Campbell's Greenhouse in North Branch on April 21st for a program. I am doing a terrarium workshop at Hidden Lakes Garden on April 29th. I will be presenting a program about terrariums at the Blue Water Garden Club in Port Huron on May 7th and I will be at Wedel's Greenhouse in Kalamazoo on May 19th.

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

Lisa:  I love bookstores and whichever one I'm at is the one I love! But, I do love Barnes and Noble in Northville, my closest bookstore, and the one in Ann Arbor. I also love Literati and Nicola's bookstores in Ann Arbor, Schuler Books in Lansing, Horizon Books in Traverse City, King's Books in Detroit, and Black River Books in South Haven. I really can't say there isn't a bookstore I don't love. I also love my local libraries in Livonia, as they have been places my daughters and I have spent a lot of time. We LOVE books! I have so many in my house, my husband thinks the second floor of our home is going to fall in someday. I hope not!

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Lisa:  I don't know that I have one favorite place in Michigan. Our family loves to spend time in and around Traverse City and have many memories from staying there in the summers on vacation. I also love going back to my mom's house near Blanchard, as that is where I grew up. John and I like to go for long drives on Sundays in the summer and we take the back roads and go through countless small towns. I love the rural parts of Michigan and anywhere I am with John is my favorite place.

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

Lisa:  I like to go to any festivals I can in Michigan. There are always antique markets, craft fairs and more going on. I used to go to Loafer's Glory in Blanchard in November for their holiday open house which included a live nativity with real animals and music. They closed a few years ago, but recently announced they will be reopening so I hope that event will be coming back this year.

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

Lisa:  There are a lot of famous people that have hailed from Michigan, including Madonna, Eminem, Tom Selleck, Kid Rock, Steve Wonder, Kate Upton, Christie Brinkley, David Spade, Kristen Bell, Bob Seger, and Jeff Daniels. Tim Allen is also the voice of the Pure Michigan advertisements, which I love.

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

Lisa:  Of course, if you ask somebody where they live in Michigan, the hand instantly goes up and they can point to where they live. We have an upper and lower peninsula connected by the beautiful Mackinaw Bridge, the 5th longest suspension bridge in the world. It opened in November of 1957. My parents were married in July of 1957 and had to take the ferry across the straits to the upper peninsula on their honeymoon. They saw the bridge, of course, but it wasn't open for traffic yet at that point. We are the home of Vernor's pop (not soda) and Little Caesars and Domino's pizza. We love fudge and are famous for it. We also love our cider mills and flock to them by the thousands in the fall to eat donuts, drink cider and pick apples. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore was named Good Morning America's most beautiful place in America. We have over 4,500 miles of fresh water coastline in Michigan. Michigan is a gorgeous state to live in!

Debbie:  Agreed!  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?

Lisa:  I am a Michigander and actually have never heard of Michiganians...

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

Friday, March 16, 2018

A Poem

It's been a while since I've posted any poems, but I'm maybe going to try to get back in the habit.  Or not.  I guess time will tell.  But at any rate, here's a little poem.

Sunshine knocked on the door
and asked to come in
and the yard said,
“Oh, I’m such a mess;
I haven’t cleaned up after the snow
and all that rain,
and then there was that wind
that howled for days, and so much
stuff that blew around,
and I…”
and Sunshine interrupted and said,
“It OK.  I don’t mind a little mess.”
And so Sunshine came in
and brightened up the place.

The music came on and
there was dancing and laughter,
and conversations got rolling
on just about every topic.
After a while,
Sunshine had to step out for a bit,
but everyone was having a good time
so someone said,
“Let’s keep this party going!”
Which they did.
Quite the celebration.

“We should call it something,”
someone suggested.

They all thought this was a good idea,
and it’s such a rare moment
when everyone agrees on something.

And so, in their dancing and laughing,
their speaking and spinning,
in and out and through the magnificent sunshine,
they all agreed again.

And they called it Spring.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Michigander Monday: Annie Spence

I'm pleased to welcome Annie Spence to Michigander Monday!

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

Annie:  I grew up in mid-Michigan, youngest of five children and we were all book lovers. In a family that big and a house that small, I think my mother encouraged reading to give herself some peace. Now I am a librarian and writer in the Grosse Pointe area where I live with my husband, son, and cat, Barbara. Between books and audiobooks, movies, and the host of other material available at my local library (tools, seeds, lawn games, telescope) my home rarely has less than 30 library items in it at once. I cannot go a day without checking something out from the library.

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

Annie:  Dear Fahrenheit 451:Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks is a compilation of letters I wrote to the books I’ve had relationships with throughout my reading life. There are love letters, Dear John notes, and everything in between. And a collection of reading suggestions in the back. I have been both praised and scolded for making my readers’ TBR piles bigger.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Annie:  Yes! I’m working on a novel. Hopefully the more people I say that to, the more motivation to finish. Hold me accountable!

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Annie:  In the upcoming months, I will be in Dearborn Heights, MI; Newport Beach, California, and Mississauga Canada. I’ll be scooting around Michigan this summer as well. Please check my website for updates.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Annie:  I love to wander in John K. King’s used bookstore in Detroit. I could stay there all day and not have seen half of what they offer.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Annie:  Michigan has so much beauty and culture, it’s difficult to settle on one place. Locally, for me, it’s the Fern Room at the Belle Isle Conservatory. It’s beautiful and lush and a warm place to go in the winter. The past few summers, I have been really taken with Ocqueoc Falls up near Rogers City. It’s beautiful and the sound of the falls drowns out all of your thoughts. The falls are fun for kids and relaxing for adults and I always get the feeling everyone there is having the best day.

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

Annie:  Oh there’s so much! Harbor Springs Book Festival, Detroit’s Thanksgiving parade, the Wheatland Music Festival, any event where I can pick up an old book or an elephant ear, preferably both. I also missed the Northern Lights a few years back because I was already in bed and feeling lazy, so I dearly hope I get another opportunity and didn’t squander my one chance.

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

Annie:  The Shady Ladies Literary Society

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

Annie:  I don’t like to give away too much information about Michigan to people who don’t know about it. I still want space for my towel at the beach!

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?

Annie:  Michigander, for sure. I’ve never heard anyone say Michiganian out loud.

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

Monday, February 5, 2018

Michigander Monday: Kelly Fordon

I'm pleased to welcome Kelly Fordon to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Kelly, please tell us a little about yourself

Kelly:  I was born in Washington, D.C. My father was a Republican congressman from Ohio and my mother, a journalist for ABC news. I am an only child and a Democrat. My father was in congress during a period when it was possible to be socially liberal and fiscally conservative, so he was not the least bit dismayed when I turned coat. He always claimed to have joined the Republican party mostly in homage to Abraham Lincoln. He died in 2002, so, unlike the rest of us, he’s been spared a lot of absurdity.

I attended Kenyon College and met my husband, Fred, there.  We have lived in Michigan for more than two decades. In a previous incarnation I worked for National Geographic magazine in DC and WDET radio in Detroit, as well as various newspapers and magazines. We have four kids: Jack, Charlie, Megan and Peter. I didn’t write much from 1994-2004 as a result. Remember the Rotor amusement park ride--the one that spins so fast you’re stuck to the wall of the drum as the floor drops out beneath you? That was me--sucked into the parenting vortex for the better part of a decade. Not much time for writing, but I gathered a lot of great material!  In 2004, I enrolled in some creative writing classes at the University of Michigan and after that I was admitted to the Queens Low Residency program where I received my MFA in fiction writing in 2013.

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

Kelly:  Wayne State University published my novel-in-stories, Garden for the Blind, in 2015. I have also published three poetry chapbooks: The Witness, Kattywompus Press, 2016; Tell Me When it Starts to Hurt, Kattywompus Press, 2013, and On the Street Where We Live, won the 2012 Standing Rock Chapbook Contest.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Kelly:  I am currently working on two full-length collections of poetry, a short story collection and a novel. Such an eclectic mix and so many projects swirling—possibly the sign of a mind in disarray.  J

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Kelly:  I have a reading scheduled with Lolita Hernandez and Laura Thomas on March 24th at 2pm at Pages Bookshop. I’m teaching a Poetry and Prose class at CCS in Detroit this winter and hopefully will teach again in the fall. This summer I am also teaching a one-week creative writing camp for kids at CCS from July 9-13. I offer online classes as well. Check out: or

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

Kelly:  Favorite Michigan bookstores include:

Pages Bookshop in Detroit
Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor
McLean and Eakin in Petoskey
Kazoo Books in Kalamazoo
Battle Creek Books in Battle Creek

I am so grateful for the many services our Michigan libraries provide including MelCat and Kanopy. The Library of Michigan chose Garden for the Blind as a 2016 Michigan Notable Book and I was able to tour several libraries throughout the state—they were all stellar!

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Kelly:  Favorite places in Michigan:

Charlevoix in particular, but pretty much anywhere up north.
Hamtramck: 1923 Café.
Midtown Detroit.

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

Kelly:  There are a couple of great conferences in Michigan that come to mind:

Rochester Writer’s Conference
Detroit Working Writers Conference (great organization for writers as well!)
Springfed Arts offers tons of writing classes:

Also, lots of great reading series in and around Detroit:

Eastside Reading Series
The Public Pool in Hamtramck
Poets and Pies
The Farmhouse Reading Series

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

Kelly:  Michigan writers abound!

Aubri Adkins, memoirist and Eastside Reading Series coordinator
Alise Alousi, poet
Terry Blackhawk, poet
Bonnie Jo Campbell, fiction
Desiree Cooper, poet, fiction
Diane DeCillis, poet
Vievee Francis, poet
Cal Freeman, poet
Mel Grunow, nonfiction, memoirist
Lolita Hernandez, fiction
Laura Kasischke, poet, fiction
ML Liebler, poet
Peter Markus, fiction
Dawn McDuffie, poet
Andy Mozina, fiction
Matthew Olzmann, poet
Keith Taylor, poet
Laura Thomas, fiction
Kristine Uyeda, poet
Gloria Whelan, fiction, poet

There are so many more! The more I name, the more I realize I’m likely to forget people. It’s not intentional! We have so many great writers working in this state.

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

Kelly:  I always tell non-Michiganders that I was skeptical when people told me it was “beautiful up north.” Growing up on the east coast, I was partial to the Atlantic Ocean and thought there was no way Lake Michigan could rival it. I was wrong.

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?

Kelly:  Michigander just sounds better than Michiganian to me. J

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

Monday, January 29, 2018

Michigander Monday: Russell Brakefield

I'm pleased to welcome Russell Brakefield to Michigander Monday!

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

Russell:  I grew up on the West Side of the state, near Grand Rapids. I studied poetry and world literature at Central Michigan University as an undergraduate. I received an MFA in poetry in 2011 from Michigan Helen Zell Writers’ Program and taught at Michigan for many years. I write poetry and teach college writing courses. Sometimes I sell books.  Sometimes I play the banjo. I like reading, hiking, biking, skiing, live music, and mopeds. I've live in Michigan almost my entire life, though I'm in Denver right now teaching at the University of Denver.

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

Russell:  My first collection of poetry Field Recordings is due out in March from Wayne State University Press as part of their Made in Michigan Series. Field Recordings uses American folk music as a lens to investigate themes of origin, family, art, and masculinity. The book is anchored by a long poem that tracks the famous ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax on his 1938 journey through Michigan collecting music for the Library of Congress. So the book is about Michigan history, landscape, and music, but it is also about how those things have affected my own voice and personal history. In addition to that, I was recently included in a few anthologies of writing; one about Isle Royale and one about the Upper Peninsula. I have new poems coming out this year including work in Bomb, The Literary Review, The Southeast Review, and Shallow Ends.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Russell:  I'm working on several projects right now, but mostly I've been excited just to sit down and write poems about whatever digs its hooks into my brain on that day. I loved working to finish a book, but being done is also very liberating for my writing process. I am working on a book of poems about the national parks, which may or may not ever see the light of day. For me, writing and researching about the national parks has simply been a way to feel proactive in a time of imminent environmental disaster.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Russell:  I'm doing quite a few readings to promote the new book in the spring. I'll be at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference in Tampa in March. I'll also be launching my book in Michigan in April. I'm reading at Third Man Books in Detroit on April 5th, Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor on April 6th, and I'll be in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo after that. I'm also doing several readings in Colorado at the end of April. I play banjo in an acoustic music project called winter/sessions as well, and we have a few shows scattered throughout the spring. I have information about readings and other events at my website

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

Russell:  I worked for three years at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, and it is my favorite bookstore. The booksellers there (past and present) are like family to me. It also happens to be objectively the best bookstore in the country, with an amazing curated selection of books, great coffee, and really incredible events. I'm looking forward to launching my book there in the spring.  I'll also give a shout out to the Yankee Clipper Branch Library in Grand Rapids, where my mom used to bring me as a kid. Back then I think I was mostly interested in King Arthur and Mad Magazine, but it was a formative place for me nonetheless.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Russell:  There is a secret beach in Northern Michigan that I love. I can't tell you where it is, but take my word that it is breathtaking. I also love the U.P, especially the Pictured Rocks area, Copper Harbor, and Isle Royale.

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

Russell:  The Harvest Gathering, put on annually in Lake City by the Earthwork Music Collective, has been an important event for me for many years. My favorite Michigan band (I think we can still claim them) is Greensky Bluegrass. They host a weekend at Bells Beer Garden in June and a festival in Northern Michigan each summer, both of which are incredibly inspirational events, and are a sort of family reunions for me. Also an important Michigan event for me, the first snow that is so big it shuts down traffic so you can walk down the middle of the empty streets at night.

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

Russell:  Oh there are so many. Poets. Musicians. Plus too many other amazing farmers, artists, builders, teachers, etc. to name here. A few Michigan writers that really helped me along: Keith Taylor, Raymond McDaniell, Laura Kasischke, Robert Fanning. I'll plug the Earthwork Music collective again, especially Seth Bernard and my good friend Mark Lavengood, two musicians who are fighting the good fight.

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

Russell:  It is as cold as you think it is, but the summers make it all worth it. The contrasts in the seasons is a good metaphor for many aspects of what makes this state what it is and also a good test in how to practice gratitude and perseverance.

Debbie:  Gratitude and perseverance - that would be a great state motto!  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?

Russell:  Michigander is of course the only right answer to this question.

Debbie:  Agreed!  (Oops - so much for my impartial tallying... :)  We shall add you to the Michigander column.  Thank you for joining us today for Michigander Monday!