writing

Peggy Wolff

The smell of freshly baked bread can trigger memories of home, especially around the holiday season.

Peggy Wolff is the author of Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie: Midwestern Writers on Food. She’s part of a project called "Little Big Books.” 

krossbow / flickr

No matter the season, if you live in Michigan, water isn't far away.

The Great Lakes. One of Michigan's 11,000 inland lakes. A river, like the Manistee or Au Sable.

Traverse Magazine invited five Northern Michigan women writers to share their thoughts on water. Two of those writers join us today on Stateside from Interlochen Public Radio.

Anne-Marie Oomen grew up on a farm near Lake Michigan. She says that besides understanding from the very beginning the reliance of agriculture on water, she felt related to water in a spiritual way.

Fleda Brown recalls fond memories of summer times spent near Michigan lakes as a child. “Driving up from Arkansas … and getting closer and closer to the lake and the woods, the first glimpse of water I saw through the trees was like miracle,” she said.

* Listen to full interview above.

John H. Riggle / Kristina Riggle

It seems just about every week you can find a news report about a high school teacher being arrested and charged with having sex with a student.

You look at that teacher's mug shot and think to yourself — how does this happen?

Writer Kristina Riggle of Grand Rapids has tackled this very thorny scenario in her newest novel – her fifth. It's called "A Whole Golden World."

Listen to the full interview above.

PCAP / University of Michigan

Just because you've been found guilty of a crime and sentenced to prison, doesn't mean you no longer have a voice, an opinion, something to say.

And that's why each year the Prison Creative Arts Project puts out the call to prisoners all around Michigan: Send us your poetry, your essays, your short stories.

PCAP goes through each submission and selects work to go into its annual Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing.  They're about to release their sixth volume. This one is called "The Sky Is On Fire, After All."

Philip Christman edits the Review, and he's an English Department instructor at the University of Michigan. He joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Robert Turney

This is the week we say farewell to autumn and officially welcome winter. (Unofficially, we can all agree, winter has arrived early and seems to have settled right in for the duration.)

And one of the great pleasures of changing seasons here on Stateside is the chance to welcome back poet and writer Keith Taylor. Taylor coordinates the undergraduate creative writing program at the University of Michigan. But we like to think of him as our Friendly Stateside Reading Guide.

Listen to Keith’s book pics above.

jdurham / mourgeFile

When was the last time you got a hand-written note in the mail?

When was the last time you wrote a note in cursive?

The recently approved Common Core standards don't include a requirement to teach children cursive. That’s prompted a question. Do we need cursive or is it merely an antiquated writing style that’s not all that useful anymore?

Gerry Conti is a neuroscientist and occupational therapist and an Assistant Professor at Wayne State University, and she joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

The prolific author Elmore Leonard died yesterday, but his writing is still here. So are his rules on how to write well.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan State University's Writing Department is testing out a new way to educate its students and, potentially, the masses.

Professors Julie Lindquist and Jeff Grabill are teaching an experimental online course this summer called "Thinking Like a Writer." It is free and open to the public.

Lindquist is quick to admit the downfalls of online classes. They're often large and impersonal, and relationships between students and instructors can be sacrificed for efficiency.

Vimeo

This piece featured on Stateside is part of an ongoing series called The Living Room, curated by Allison Downey.

"There are those for whom fishing is not only a family tradition, but a creative act: Michigan-based writer and fisherman, Pete Markus is in that category. The river and fishing inspire his work. And his writing is a hybrid of fiction and poetry. He's got this tendency to say volumes with just a few words that he repeats over and over again. Words like fish, river and Bob," Downey reported.

Pete Markus is a 2012 Kresge Literary Arts Fellow, who teaches writing in Detroit Public Schools. Producer Zak Rosen spent time fishing and talking with Markus on the Detroit River. You can listen to the audio above.

cityNnature / flickr

Written by Jack Nelson

baseball-fever.com

Written by Katie Caralis

It's been more than 13 years, but I can still hear the voice of the man who spent my childhood selling peanuts outside Tiger Stadium. “Threee dollas innsiiide, ooone dolla heeere!” My dad always bought the one-dollar peanuts knowing half the shells would be empty, just like the half-empty seats, the Tigers being a losing team for most of the '90s, and the half-empty city, Detroit on the decline. Beaming, Dad would take my excited hand and lead me across the long bridge, over the broken glass and potholes, passed the burned-out buildings, up the winding blue ramp and inside the park we knew was magic, inside the city we knew was beautiful.

Katie Caralis is one of the winners of Michigan Radio's One Minute Michigan Story Writing Contest. Allison Downey read the story.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Written by Timothy Kooy

Throw out the nostalgic native story about a mother protecting her cubs and Sleeping Bear Dunes is a fiery heat trap.  My family and I set off on a leisurely hike across the picturesque, gently rolling dunes.  The sun blared down on the sand dune inferno, and what had begun as leisure quickly morphed into hellish wandering.  We had our map and we had our destination, but the scorching sun never ceased.  Like a family of desert nomads we wandered up and down the zillion hills.  Finally, at the bottom of THIS dune we saw the perfect oasis, the cool blue gaze of Lake Michigan inviting us to quench our sweltering, sweat-dripping bodies.

Timothy Kooy was one of the winners of Michigan Radio's One Minute Michigan Story Writing Contest. Keith Taylor read the story.

Kyle Norris

Seven years ago, political science professor Ron Stockton was mentoring a student from Poland who was struggling with a writing assignment. So Stockton told her to imagine she was writing a letter to her great-grandchildren describing her life here as an immigrant. The student loved the idea, got super excited, and spread the word about Stockton’s technique.  

Groundcover News

If you walk around downtown Ann Arbor you may have spotted people selling something called Groundcover News. The paper is what’s known as a street newspaper. That means homeless people sell the paper for $1 and they make a profit on every issue they sell. 

Groundcover News has articles about all kinds of topics written by the staff and other volunteers. But a growing number of the articles are being written by homeless people.

Every week on What’s Working, we take a look at people and organizations that are changing lives in Michigan for the better.

The Luella Hannan Memorial Foundation in Detroit has been around for 75 years. People who work at the foundation describe it as a center for creative aging, an opportunity for seniors to learn new ways to creatively express themselves as they grow older.

Christina Shockely, host of Michigan Radio's Morning Edition, spoke with Rachel Jacobsen, the community development coordinator at the foundation.

Jacobsen said that proactive aging allows seniors "to exercise the more creative parts of their minds and bodies in ways that help them age well and also, hopefully, continue to develop into old age."

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.

Fiction Writers Review

Jeremiah Chamberlin wears many hats.

He is a published writer whose work has appeared in Glimmer Train, Flyway and Michigan Quarterly Review, and he is writing an ongoing series about independent bookstores for Poets and Writers.

Would-be writers can take part in a workshop this weekend. Groundcover News is hosting the event Saturday, March 26 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Groundcover is a monthly paper in Washtenaw County that focuses on poverty and homelessness and many of its writers are struggling with those issues.

The workshop is geared toward people who have written for the paper, but anyone can attend.

Freelance writer Vickie Elmer is teaching the class. She says the idea is to have more voices, telling more compelling stories.

The workshop happens at the First Baptist Church in Ann Arbor. Cost is $20, but admission is free if participants promise to write two future articles for the paper.

Russ Hicks

Russ Hicks has recently experienced the death of his spouse and the loss of his job of 22 years. The thing helping him cope, is his writing. Two big changes recently happened to Russ Hicks.

Courtesy Russ Hicks

Two big changes recently happened to Russ Hicks. His wife Carol was diagnosed with cancer and passed away.

“I tell you right after Carol died I was completely rudderless and almost berserk. There was a time, a week afterward, at work where they said ‘you 'gotta go home and we'll drive you home!'”

Shortly after that, Hicks got laid off from his job of 22 years at a factory warehouse.

“And so here I am, within a year’s time I’d lost my wife and my job.”