Writers

The Meijer Foundation is giving $500,000 to support the Made in Michigan writers’ series. Wayne State University Press started the series in 2006.

Senior Acquisitions Editor Annie Martin says it’s the biggest grant the organization has ever gotten. She says it's not every day a donor with deep pockets wants to invest in a small-scale university press.

“You can imagine we were dancing in our office,” Martin chuckled.

The annual budget for the Made in Michigan series is $75,000. Martin says the grant will help offset the costs of producing the books. They could publish more books each year, or do more marketing, “I have a million ideas,” she said.

The University Press will get the grant over five years. Martin says the bulk will go into an endowment fund so that it lasts for years.

Technology surrounds us. It seems we’re always connected to something…the internet, cell phones and social media. It can be difficult to unplug sometimes.

As part of the series, Michigan writers will share stories about their relationship to technology.

Today,  writer Wade Rouse tells us about his rather close relationship to his favorite piece of tech.

User farlane / Flickr

Well, summer's over.

Over the course of the last six months, Michigan on the Page has talked with a number of Michigan writers about who, what, why, and most importantly where they write about.

And we heard from writers who work in Southeast Michigan (Christopher T. Leland) and writers who live in Western Michigan (Patricia Clark, Marc Sheehan).

Today, we hear from novelist and short story writer Phillip Sterling about a novel about Michigan which is important to him, one that takes place in Northern Michigan, in Leelanau County.

Michigan author Lara Zielin is taking over the world.

She and three other women writers (and some special guests) are kicking off their Girls Taking Over the World Tour tonight at Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor.

Bonnie Jo Campbell

Bonnie Jo Campbell not only writes great Michigan books, she knows a lot about great Michigan books, too.

Campbell's most recent book, the novel Once Upon a River, earned a profile in Poets and Writers Magazine and was listed on Newsweek's  10 Must-Read Summer Books.

It has received critical acclaim from the New York Times Book Review, the Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, Parade, NPR, and Booklist.

Her previous book, American Salvage, was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Before coming into the studio, we had spoken about Michigan books, and to my surprise Campbell came into the studio with a big box full of books  - books either about the state or by Michigan writers.

We couldn't talk about all of them in the interview, so here's the list of books that Bonnie Jo Campbell brought:

  • How to Fly by Rachael Perry
  • Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open by Diane Seuss
  • Autopsy of an Engine by Lolita Hernandez
  • The Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway
  • Within the Lighted City by Lisa Lenzo
  • The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter
  • Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon
  • Road to Wellville by T.C. Boyle
  • Freshwater Boys by Adam Schuitema
  • The Legend of Sleeping Bear by Kathy-Jo Wargin
  • Eden Springs by Laura Kasischke
  • Laughing Whitefish by Robert Traver
  • Stitches by David Small
  • Of Woods and Other Things by Emma Pticher
  • Michigan's Eastern Massasauga--An Historic Distribution by Tom Beauvais
  • "Brown Dog" by Jim Harrison
  • "Wanting Only to be Heard" by Jack Driscoll
  • "The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit" by Michael Zadoorian

Campbell had a couple of other recommendations, though she didn't bring the books with her: 

  • The Lake, the River, and the Other Lake by Steve Amick
  • The Women Were Leaving the Men by Andy Mozina

We spoke in Michigan Radio's studios about why people are drawn to dark books and what the difference is between why Hemingway's characters hunt and why Campbell's characters hunt. And despite her protest, we think she sounded awfully sophisticated throughout the entire discussion.

Christopher T. Leland is a committed writer.

The author of nine books, Dr. Leland's most recent book includes stories that he began working on when he was 19 years old.

The story collection, Love/Imperfect, was released in April and is part of Wayne State University Press's "Made in Michigan Writers" series.

I spoke with Dr. Leland via phone. We talked about the centrifugal force of cities, the "edge" of small towns, and the seemingly inescapable Michigan stories of Ernest Hemingway.

Brian Short: Welcome Christopher T. Leland to Michigan on the Page. I wanted to start with something I noticed in reading Love/Imperfect, your most recent book. Many of the stories in Love/Imperfect deal with people who either leave or don’t leave the small towns they grew up in. And I was wondering if you grew up in a small town? Did you feel that same kind of gravity pulling at you, trying to keep you there?

Christopher T. Leland: Well, yes and no. I actually grew up in middle-sized cities. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, and then in Charlotte, North Carolina, and then in Huntington Beach, California, which is a suburb of LA.

But I think, just as in small town America, there is this center which is centrifugally pulling you toward it. And when I was a kid, actually, we would visit these places. We would go to New York and go to Chicago. But the city was always the place you ultimately wanted to end up.

I mean it was always, it was always what I aspired to. I mean, I’ve lived in New York, I’ve lived in Buenos Aires, I’ve lived in Madrid, I’ve lived in LA, I’ve lived in San Diego (laughs). I’ve lived in Detroit. I appreciate the attractions of the 'burbs and the attractions, actually of small towns. There’s a kind of intimacy and a kind of comfort and, also (laughs), frankly, a kind of edge that comes with these kinds of communities.

At the same time, I mean, what you love about cities is that you wake up one morning and go, I’m really bored with this, and so you can go, walk or drive or take the subway or the tram or whatever, three miles away and be in a different world.

BS: Do you think it’s easier to write in cities?

CTL: Hmm. Maybe not. Because it’s too easy to get away (laughs). As opposed to being trapped where you kind of go, okay, well, if I’m going to escape this then I have to write about it because I can’t just go to southwest (Detroit). I can go to southwest (Detroit) and speak Spanish and eat Mexican or Salvadorian or Peruvian food and feel like I’m away from the Detroit that I know. Whereas, if I’m in Charlevoix, I can’t do that.

BS: I was wondering, with Love/Imperfect, a number of the stories involve war. But the stories generally stick to telling what happened to people either before or after when the men went. Do you think of this book as at least partly a book about war?

CTL: I think, you know, sadly enough, I think for Americans, somehow, whether you’re a soldier or not, certainly throughout the twentieth century and certainly during the last half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, our lives have been so over determined  by war. I can’t think of my adolescence and my college years without thinking of the Vietnam War. I mean, it was a constant presence.

BS: When you think of Detroit or Michigan books, what pops into your mind?

CTL: Inevitably, you go back to (Ernest Hemingway’s) “Up in Michigan.” Everybody has to. I mean, I read that as an undergraduate. And I think my favorite story is the one called “The Light of the World” in which nothing happens.

It’s the one that takes place in the railroad station and they argue about Jack Ketchum and Jack Johnson. They argue about boxing matches and all this as they’re all waiting for a train. And it strikes me in that book as the most complex and ambiguous or ambivalent story in the entire collection. Because the only person who ultimately emerges as honest and admirable is the character who everyone dismisses.

It’s just a great story and I mean it shows you because, poor Hemingway, he gets either lionized or bashed. And, I mean, he’s a wonderful writer. He’s better at stories than he is at novels, as everybody says, but a terrific writer and a terrific influence.

BS: Christopher T. Leland is a professor of English at Wayne State University. He is the author of nine books, the most recent of which is Love/Imperfect. Chris, thank you so much for talking with me today.

CTL: Okay! And one more thing I wanted to make sure I got in. 

BS: Go ahead.

CTL: I’ve taught at Wayne (State University) now for 21 years. I can’t imagine — I think this is true — I can’t imagine a better gig. For anybody out there who is sort of developing ambitions in this direction. If you’re going to teach somewhere, teach at a large urban university where you get everybody. Yellow brown and black and white (laughs). The whole nine yards.

User b talbot / Flickr

Patricia Clark is an award-winning poet, and the former Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids. When I asked her to participate in our web-exclusive “Michigan on the Page” series, Ms. Clark chose a certain author’s first story collection, a writer who—like many recent college graduates—has made her way out of the state to advance her career.

Ms. Clark first encountered Suzanne Rivecca at Grand Valley State University, where she was, Ms. Clark insists, the most talented student she has seen there.

Andrew / Flickr

Welcome to part one of our web exclusive series, “Michigan on the Page.”

Over the following months, we will be talking with writers from all over Michigan about what books they think best represent the state.

Writers, like many of the state’s residents, have all kinds of opinions on what kinds of writing really speak to Michigan and its citizens.

Are there highlights? Tons. Way too many to list. But here’s a short selection of recent and all-time favorites: