Smithville, Ohio: Storm Krissy

 

krissyBY JENNIFER YOUNG

This essay is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project.

There was an atmospheric shift every time Krissy Peterson walked into the classroom, generally of the variety that sent small animals scurrying for shelter. Krissy was in my 11th grade English class and the meanest, scariest girl in the school. Heavy-set and broad-shouldered, her dirty blond hair typically braided into cornrows, she carried herself with both aggression and pride. Most days she announced her arrival into the classroom by articulating how she had been wronged on that particular day or why she was so angry about [whatever, and anything . . . it changed minute to minute with Krissy].

She stood a few inches taller than me and outweighed me by at least double. On a rare “good” day she might come in and say, in a baby-girl voice, “Ms. Young? I swear I did my homework last night, but I left it in my locker. Can I please go back and get it?” Then maybe I wouldn’t see her for a few days. One day she crashed into the classroom and shouted in a weird baritone, “Yo, Young!! This classroom smells like straight-up ASS!” Krissy had what they call “oppositional defiance disorder,” or ODD, and my God did she live up to it.

She fought about things she didn’t even care about. Sentence-diagramming, for instance. Krissy loved to diagram sentences. She attacked a sentence as though it were her mortal enemy, only to be defeated by her sharpened pencil and her knowledge of the parts of speech. She had no hope of passing English that year, let alone graduating the following, but she diagrammed sentences as though she expected to receive scholarship offers from it.

Krissy was smart, which actually made things worse for her, because she remembered everything. She remembered her own mother breaking both of her skinny legs when she was three years old, and she remembered the sins and shortcomings of every foster parent after that. Now she lived in the Wayne County Christian Children’s Home—an honest-to-God orphanage, for all practical purposes—in this godforsaken rural Ohio town. She once told me she liked this home the best. On her sweet days she’d walk in singing hymns in a clear soprano, and on her worst she was downright psychotic.

One day in the spring I was called to the office during class for an emergency phone call. The shaky voice on the other end was my son’s third grade teacher, telling me that something had happened to him on their field trip to Amish country that day. They didn’t know what was wrong, but he couldn’t breath very well now and the ambulance was on its way. I ran terrified back to my classroom to get my car keys so that I could meet the ambulance at the hospital. I tried to explain to my students, but all I could manage were some disjointed words about my son and not breathing and a hospital. I grabbed the keys from my desk drawer on the far end of the classroom and crossed back to the door, only to be met by Krissy, who’d risen up from her seat and placed herself directly in front of the door. I was far too scared of what was happening to my son to be scared of what Krissy might do to me, but it occurred to me that she was perhaps playing some kind of opportunistic game, or getting ready to tackle me or something.

For a jagged second I froze, not sure if I should try to reason with her or if it would make more sense to dart around her and make a run for it. Then I realized her arms were outstretched toward me. She stood completely still, and she didn’t say a word. I stepped toward her because I didn’t know what else to do, and Krissy enfolded me in a giant bear hug. I hugged her back and then I left.

I didn’t think of it again until later that evening, after my son had been released from the hospital (severe horse allergy, it turned out). His eyes had swollen shut, but the medicine kicked in and by morning his breathing released and he could see clearly again. Sometime during those hours, as my boy deflated and I calmed, Krissy grew back to herself, gathering her fallen scales and spikes around her again.

Jennifer Young is a composition instructor and the Director of the first-year writing program at The University of Akron, in Akron, Ohio. She holds a doctorate from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and her primary academic interests concern the incorporation of a creative nonfiction focus in the composition classroom. She previously taught high school in rural Ohio.

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Michigan Bestseller list for July 2015

For July 2015, Green’s Paper Towns has its fifth consecutive month on the Michigan Bestseller List top ten.  Link’s Wicked Takes the Witness Stand has its ninth consecutive month on the Michigan Bestseller List top fifteen.

Haunts_mac 1) John Green—Paper Towns (Speak) [last month #3]

2) Emily St. John Mandel—Station Eleven: A Novel (Vintage) [last month #2]

3) Lori Nelson Spielman—Sweet Forgiveness: A Novel (Plume) [last month #1]

4) Mardi Link—The Drummond Girls: A Story of Fierce Friendship Beyond Time and Chance (Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group)

5) Daniel Silva—The English Spy (HarperCollins Publishers)

6) Dave Coverly—Dogs are People, Too: A Collection of Cartoons to Make Your Tail Wag (Henry Holt and Co.)

7) Maureen Abood—Rose Water and Orange Blossoms: Fresh & Classic Recipes from My Lebanese Kitchen (Running Press/Perseus Books Group) [last month #5]

8) Ronald Riekki—Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (Michigan State University Press) [last month #10]

9) Mardi Link—Wicked Takes the Witness Stand: A Tale of Murder and Twisted Deceit in Northern Michigan (University of Michigan Press) [last month #6]

10) John Green—Looking for Alaska (Speak)

11) Detroit Free Press—Mr. March (The Free Press/Lansing State Journal) [last month #4]

12) Lori Nelson Speilman—The Life List: A Novel (Bantam) [last month #8]

13) Lisa M. Rose—Midwest Foraging: 115 wild and flavorful edibles from burdock to wild peach (Timber Press)

14) Kate Bassett—Words and Their Meanings (Flux)

15) Leah Thomas—Because You’ll Never Meet Me (Bloomsbury Children’s Publishing)

The Michigan Bestseller List includes 15 participating bookstores: Between the Covers (106 E. Main St., Harbor Springs, www.facebook.com/btcbookstore)Blue Frog Books (3615 E. Grand River, Howell;www.bluefrogbooksandmore.com), Bookbug (3019 Oakland Dr, Kalamazoo; http://www.bookbugkalamazoo.com/), Falling Rock Café & Bookstore (104 E Munising Ave, Munising;www.fallingrockcafe.com), Great Lakes Books & Supply (840 Clark St #1, Big Rapids, www.greatlakesbook.com), Island Bookstore (7372 Main St., Mackinac Island, www.islandbookstore.com), Kazoo Books (407 N. Clarendon St, Kalamazoo; 2413 Parkview Ave, Kalamazoo, www.kazoobooks.com), Nicola’s Books (2513 Jackson Ave, Ann Arbor; www.nicolasbooks.com), North Wind Books (601 Quincy St, Hancock; https://bookstore.finlandia.edu), Saturn Booksellers (133 W Main St, Gaylord, www.saturnbooksellers.com), Schuler Books & Music (1982 W Grand River Ave, Okemos; 2660 28th Street SE, Grand Rapids; 2820 Towne Center Blvd, Lansing; www.schulerbooks.com), and Snowbound Books (118 N 3rd St, Marquette, www.snowboundbooks.com).

U.P. BESTSELLER LIST

For July 2015, Riekki’s Here has its third consecutive month on the Upper Peninsula Bestseller List top ten.  Airgood’s South of Superior has its fourth consecutive month on the Upper Peninsula Bestseller List top fifteen.

 

1) Ronald Riekki—Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (Michigan State University Press) [last month #2]

2) Robin Sloan—Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel (Picador)

3) Christian Holmes—Company Towns of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (Arcadia Publishing)

4) Emily St. John Mandel—Station Eleven: A Novel (Vintage)

5) Loren R. Graham—A Face in the Rock: The Tale of a Grand Island Chippewa (University of California Press) [last month #3]

6) Bonnie Jo Campbell—Once Upon a River: A Novel (W.W. Norton & Company)

7) Jon Stott—Paul Bunyan in Michigan: Yooper Logging, Lore & Legends (Arcadia Publishing) [last month #6]

8) Ellen Airgood—Prairie Evers (Puffin Books) [tie]

8) Ellen Airgood—South of Superior (Riverhead Trade/Penguin Books USA) [tie, last month #3]

8) John S. Haeussler—Hancock (Arcadia Publishing) [tie]

11) Russell M. Magnaghi—Upper Peninsula Beer: A History of Brewing Above the Bridge (Arcadia Publishing) [last month #13]

12) Todd Clements–Haunts of Mackinac: Ghost Stories, Legends, & Tragic Tales of Mackinac Island (House of Hawthorne Publishing) [last month #8]

13) Duffy Brown–Geared for the Grave: a cycle path mystery (Berkley/Penguin Books USA) [tie, last month #8]

13) Mardi Link—Wicked Takes the Witness Stand: A Tale of Murder and Twisted Deceit in Northern Michigan (University of Michigan Press) [tie]

15) Mikel B. Classen—Teddy Roosevelt & the Marquette Libel Trial (The History Press) [tie, last month #15]

15) Robert Traver—Anatomy of a Murder (St. Martin’s Griffin) [tie]

The Upper Peninsula Bestseller List includes 4 participating bookstores: Falling Rock Café & Bookstore (104 E Munising Ave, Munising; www.fallingrockcafe.com), Island Bookstore (7372 Main St., Mackinac Island, www.islandbookstore.com), North Wind Books (601 Quincy St, Hancock; https://bookstore.finlandia.edu), and Snowbound Books (118 N 3rd St, Marquette, www.snowboundbooks.com).

 

 

 

 

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Toronto, Ontario: Forever the Tourist

BY DARREN BRADLEY JONES

This essay is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project

torontoPeople who live in small towns or smaller cities will almost always question why anyone would ever want to put up with the dense crowds and the bums and the traffic and the garbage and the construction and the expense of living in Canada’s largest city.

We shrug and cite the obvious answers. We talk about concerts and nightlife, having everything at our fingertips, of having a planetary menu available to us, of having access to art galleries and festivals, both musical and cinematic. We brag with a smile that we can afford the high rents because we aren’t burdened with the expense of owning cars. Instead we have an adequate transit system, a reliable bicycle, and cabs like sharks on every corner in constant search of fares. But the truth is that we sometimes forget why we live here, and during those moments of defending ourselves with our rehearsed speeches, in the back of our mind we’re considering how much simpler life would be if we were to move to a small town. What an incredible luxury it would be to have a backyard with nothing but the sound of crickets in our ears while we sit and drink local craft beer, gazing at stars unseen past the light pollution of the city.

For a few weeks now I’ve been asking myself this question. Life has been busy. Too busy to enjoy all that this city has to offer. I’ve been stuck within the three-block radius of my apartment—work and my daughter’s daycare steps away. My wife’s job is a fifteen-minute ride to the financial district and when we have “free time” it’s spent in the park across the street watching our daughter test gravity on the jungle gym and learn the importance of sharing. I’ve been getting cabin fever. My bicycle—faster than transit in the core, cheaper than cabs and less smelly and cramped than the TTC—has been sitting, dusty and unloved and longed for in our building’s bike room for the past month.

We live in a high-rise on the edge of Cabbagetown; a neighbourhood where million-dollar homes with manicured lawns share their postal code with co-op housing and crack dens.

Today I had an uninteresting errand to run on the other side of town and I woke slowly during my ride, clicking my bell in hope of not catching the open door of cars since Little Italy was cramped, the bike lanes occupied by delivery vans and cars under the false impression that hazard lights give them legal immunity. I was twenty minutes early for my appointment and I found a cafe I’d never noticed before where the baristas wear bow ties. I drank a double espresso on the patio while eating a prosciutto and mascarpone croissant still warm from the oven, too distracted by the life of the neighbourhood to read a single page of the book fanned between my fingers.

I went to my appointment then started home.

I rode back across Dundas for a change of scenery. I rode through little Portugal and saw the new restaurants and shops that had opened there. I stopped to read menus with the promise to bring my wife on a night when we’d have a sitter and few hours to ourselves. I crossed Ossington passed the rows of white movie set cube vans embraced by orange pylons and stopped at the edge of Trinity Bellwood’s to watch hipsters drink tall-boys against trees, chain smoking and talking about Twitter, organic beard oils, or whatever. I rode past the skate park on Bathurst, turning into Kensington Market, past thrift stores and restaurants and bike shops—the streets littered with buskers and families and the weird art kids playing in the park. The stench of fresh fish and Big Fat Burrito burned into my nose. I wanted to park in the market and walk and take my time to enjoy all the graffiti and cultural clutter, but didn’t. I rode over to Spadina to marvel at the congested street markets in Chinatown; raised voices in foreign tongues. Back on College I wove through U of T, gawking at the majestic century old buildings and the bars and the mountainous mirrored hospitals ahead of me on University Ave. I wanted to browse the U of T bookstore or grab a pint on the patio of O’Grady’s. I wanted to grab a coffee and sit with my book on the lawn in King’s Circle or Queen’s Park. At the light, a girl on the bike in front of me spun around, smiling and wiping sweat from her brow. “Do you hear that?” she asked. “It’s so quiet.” And it was. There was nothing but the small sound of a horn solo bleeding from the thin speakers of the hot dog stand across the street—not even the screeching of streetcars rolling across rusted tracks.

I’m thinking: fuck backyards. Backyards are just grass.

At home I hooked up my daughter’s bike trailer, and after my wife met me at daycare, the three of us rode to Riverdale Farm and we ate ice cream and hot dogs at the park’s edge. This city is always changing, always new, and we will always be tourists.

From the balcony of our apartment I can see the stage lights at Dundas Square flickering against the skyscrapers in the core and can hear the roar of the crowd welcoming the band to the stage, the thick kick of a bass drum finding its tempo. Those in smaller towns and cities would consider this noise pollution, but, with my wife and daughter sound in their slumbers, and tonight the first night of NXNE, I decide to hop on my bike to ride down and join the crowd, to yell and applaud and welcome them to our city.

Darren Bradley Jones is a recent graduate of The University of Toronto’s Continuing Studies Creative Writing Program, has published several short stories with a variety of journals, and is working to find a home for his novel while working on a linked story collection. He lives in Toronto with his wife and daughter and rides his bike everywhere. He can be reached at darrenbradleyjones@gmail.com

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The Great Lakes Review’s Great Lakes Poetry Prize announcement

Stolen_imageIt’s with great pleasure that we’re able to read, publish, and reward work by poets writing from or about the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada.

The prize winning poems and honorable mentions will be published in our upcoming Summer issue.

Thanks to contest judge, poet and literary critic Robert Archambeau, to our readers Ellen Jaffe, Elisa Karbin, and Michael Salinger, and to GLR Contributing Editor David Bowen for taking the reins on this, our first contest.

First Place:  

Michael Dunwoody, “Essex County Sonnets, Sort Of”

Second Place: 

Dylan Weir, “Johnny Appleseed Carving His Jawline Into Mount Rushmore”

Third Place:

Terence Huber, “The St. Francis Hotel, San Francisco, Welcomes You”

Honorable Mentions:

Kathe Gray, “Bickford County Swamp, 1872”

Mary Haley, “Dreaming of Ore Boats”

Amorak Huey, “It Occurred to Me Today That I Will Probably Die in Michigan”

Lynn Pattison, “Whose only carved out space is hunger”

Mark Ramirez, “On the Suicide of the Owner of the Cresceus Heights Trailer Park”

Janeen Rastall, “The Source of My Keenness for Winter”

Additional Finalists: Jeffery Bartone, Miriam Bat-Ami, Darleen Coleman, Ethel Davis, Ron Hayes, Tricia Knoll, Susanna Lang, John McCarthy, Timothy McNinch, Arthur Plotnik, Denis Robillard, Claire Scherzinger, Linda Leedy Schneider, and Glen Wilson

 

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Oakland County, Michigan: West Bloomfield Sunset

BY RACHEL WEISSERMAN

This essay is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project.

I once saw a West Bloomfield octogenarian pull an umbrella out of her purse and behead the hood ornament on a man’s Cadillac because he took her handicapped parking spot in front of the Deli Unique, and I once saw a red-headed sandhill crane snatch a Choco Taco out of the hand of a weeping child at the Orchard Lake Yacht Club. I don’t believe in fragility.

west_bloomfieldThere’s a gated development right across the road, and I can catch glimpses of the miniature mansions painted in sepia tone through the wall of white privacy fences and wall of white pines. But there’s a gated development on the nature trail, too. The Orchard Lake Blue Heron Preserve, an acre walled off with split-rail fences instructing humans, wildcats, and snowmobiles to STAY OUT to PROTECT THESE FRAGILE BIRDS. This gravel trail used to be a railroad, these flowerbeds covered in coal clinkers. The beige plastic sign made from recycled materials holds the names of aged society mavens who once held silver-plated forks and knives to dissect fresh-caught whitefish and new fingerling potatoes on the Star Clipper Dinner Train that hummed its way along the edge of the western suburbs here twenty years ago. The tracks rusting, the velvet seats and polished oak of the caboose molding, the same women donated wads and wads of cash to dig up the ties and plant flowers between them. I imagine their diamond rings and carnation pink manicures caked with the bold stripes of Kalkaska Sand, patting clumps of near-extinct native flowers in these decorative beds. Tufted Vetch, Toad Trillium, Wild Blue Phlox, names neatly arranged on peeling laminated placards.

Twenty miles away in Hazel Park where my mother grew up, the houses are honest brick boxes that squat on gridded streets, congregating around vast expanses of cultivated green space. Long-dead urban planners laid out places for the children of autoworkers to play, leveling and banishing wild spaces for sledding hills and baseball parks as regimented and flat as a factory floor. Ten miles away in Brightmoor where my father grew up, those same brick boxes crumble into nothing after years of fire and neglect. Nature takes them back, fronds of unknown ferns sprouting from the melted linoleum of an ex-kitchen floor, maple and oak saplings feeding on the carcass of a rusted-out car, wild pheasant sheltering in the shade of half a collapsed wraparound porch.

I could leave these gravel paths and drive down Orchard Lake road, passing frozen yogurt shops and latte joints, gourmet grocers and designer boutiques. I remember this same road twenty years ago when we moved in from Southfield, how we would drive past fields of scrubland where fragile maple trees and sumac fronds were just beginning to sprout from the bare dirt. And then one day they were gone, pubescent forests bulldozed and blonde wooden frames beginning to sprout from the bare dirt. I cried, a nine-year-old in love with unspoiled nature, but the trees weren’t gone forever. Acres of cattails wave between neatly tucked-in suburbs, and every strip mall has a backdrop of verdant oak and tangled vines, guarded by little blue “Protect our Wetlands” signs. Even the smooth concrete walking paths that wend through landscaped subdivisions skirt the edges of precious swamps. I can wander through identically green lawns and I’ll still stumble into little Edens, slices of tree and stream too small for any developer.

Nobody my age really grew up here, save the old families with lakefront property, the stone swimming pools and bay windows I can see glistening from where I hike in the woods. The lakes are Private Access, and I wonder sometimes what it would be like to wake up and look at the water every day, what it would be like to casually dip into something I only see in glimpses from between the trees. To grow up taking the latte shops and nature preserves for granted, instead of seeing them spring up around you; to accept that you live in a world where Coach boutiques and cattail swamps are natural complements to each other, not fervent enemies. Perhaps my parents wanted this for me, this melange of sophistication and environment, instead of the embattled relationship to the wilderness their own landscapes presented them with. Perhaps it’s all about the property values.

Rachel Weisserman graduated from Central Michigan University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Creative Writing, somehow. She ran the Spirit Spit Open Mic in the Woodbridge neighborhood of Detroit for a year and a half starting in late 2012, and owns Elmore Leonard’s breakfast table.

Michigan Bestseller list for June 2015

For June 2015, the largest rise on the Michigan Bestseller List was Spielman’s Sweet Forgiveness.  Green’s Paper Towns has its fourth consecutive month on the Michigan Bestseller List top ten.  Link’s Wicked Takes the Witness Stand has its eighth consecutive month on the Michigan Bestseller List top fifteen.

Here1) Lori Nelson Spielman—Sweet Forgiveness: A Novel (Plume)

2) Emily St. John Mandel—Station Eleven: A Novel (Vintage)

3) John Green—Paper Towns (Speak) [last month #2]

4) Detroit Free Press—Mr. March (The Free Press/Lansing State Journal) [last month #9]

5) Maureen Abood—Rose Water and Orange Blossoms: Fresh & Classic Recipes from My Lebanese Kitchen (Running Press/Perseus Books Group) [last month #1]

6) Mardi Link—Wicked Takes the Witness Stand: A Tale of Murder and Twisted Deceit in Northern Michigan (University of Michigan Press) [last month #3]

7) Elena Delbanco—The Silver Swan (Other Press)

8) Lori Nelson Spielman—The Life List: A Novel (Bantam)

9) Nancy E. Shaw—Sheep Go to Sleep (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)

10) Danny Knobler—Numbers Don’t Lie—Tigers: The Biggest Numbers in Tigers History (Triumph Books) [tie]

10) Ronald Riekki—Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (Michigan State University Press) [tie]

12) Shutta Crum—Uh-Oh! (Knopf Books for Young Readers)

13) Alison DeCamp—My Near-Death Adventures (99% True!) (Crown Books for Young Readers) [last month #12]

14) Ellen Airgood—The Education of Ivy Blake (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Books USA)

15) Ellen Airgood—South of Superior (Riverhead Trade/Penguin Books USA) [tie]

15) Loren Graham—A Face in the Rock: The Tale of a Grand Island Chippewa (University of California Press) [tie]

The June 2015 Michigan Bestseller List includes 16 participating bookstores: Between the Covers (106 E. Main St., Harbor Springs, www.facebook.com/btcbookstore)Blue Frog Books (3615 E. Grand River, Howell;www.bluefrogbooksandmore.com), Bookbug (3019 Oakland Dr, Kalamazoo; http://www.bookbugkalamazoo.com/), Falling Rock Café & Bookstore (104 E Munising Ave, Munising; www.fallingrockcafe.com), Great Lakes Books & Supply (840 Clark St #1, Big Rapids, www.greatlakesbook.com), Island Bookstore (7372 Main St., Mackinac Island, www.islandbookstore.com), Kazoo Books (407 N. Clarendon St, Kalamazoo; 2413 Parkview Ave, Kalamazoo, www.kazoobooks.com), Leelanau Books (109 N Main St, Leland, www.leelanaubooks.com), Nicola’s Books (2513 Jackson Ave, Ann Arbor; www.nicolasbooks.com), North Wind Books (601 Quincy St, Hancock; https://bookstore.finlandia.edu), Saturn Booksellers (133 W Main St, Gaylord, www.saturnbooksellers.com), Schuler Books & Music (1982 W Grand River Ave, Okemos; 2660 28th Street SE, Grand Rapids; 2820 Towne Center Blvd, Lansing; www.schulerbooks.com), and Snowbound Books (118 N 3rd St, Marquette, www.snowboundbooks.com).

U.P. BESTSELLER LIST

For June 2015, the largest rise on the Upper Peninsula Bestseller List was Airgood’s The Education of Ivy Blake.  Brown’s Geared for the Grave, Clements’ Haunts of Mackinac, and Riekki’s Here have their second consecutive month on the Upper Peninsula Bestseller List top ten.  Airgood’s South of Superior has its third consecutive month on the Upper Peninsula Bestseller List top fifteen.

1) Ellen Airgood–The Education of Ivy Blake (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Books USA)

2) Ronald Riekki–Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (Michigan State University Press) [last month #6]

3) Ellen Airgood–South of Superior (Riverhead Trade/Penguin Books USA) [tie, last month #13]

3) Loren Graham–A Face in the Rock: The Tale of a Grand Island Chippewa (University of California Press) [tie, last month #15]

5) Peggy Christian–If You Find a Rock (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)

6) Steve Hamilton–Let It Burn: An Alex McKnight Novel (Macmillan/Minotaur Books) [tie]

6) Jon C. Stott–Paul Bunyan in Michigan: Yooper Logging, Lore & Legends (Arcadia Publishing) [tie]

8) Duffy Brown–Geared for the Grave: a cycle path mystery (Berkley/Penguin Books USA) [tie]

8) Todd Clements–Haunts of Mackinac: Ghost Stories, Legends, & Tragic Tales of Mackinac Island (House of Hawthorne Publishing) [tie, last month #2]

10) Nancy Coco–All Fudged Up: A Candy-Coated Mystery with Recipes (Kensington)

11) Alison DeCamp–My Near-Death Adventures (99% True!) (Crown Books for Young Readers)

12) Denise Brennan-Nelson–Tallulah: Mermaid of the Great Lakes (Sleeping Bear Press)

13) Russell M. Magnaghi–Upper Peninsula Beer: A History of Brewing Above the Bridge (Arcadia Publishing)

14) Lisa A. Shiel–Forgotten Tales of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (The History Press)

15) Mikel B. Classen–Teddy Roosevelt & the Marquette Libel Trial (The History Press) [tie]

15) Nancy Coco–Oh Say Can You Fudge: A Candy-Coated Mystery with Recipes (Kensington) [tie, last month #7]

15) Joseph Heywood–Harder Ground: More Woods Cop Stories (Lyons Press) [tie]

The June 2015 Upper Peninsula Bestseller List includes 4 participating bookstores: Falling Rock Café & Bookstore (104 E Munising Ave, Munising; www.fallingrockcafe.com), Island Bookstore (7372 Main St., Mackinac Island, www.islandbookstore.com), North Wind Books (601 Quincy St, Hancock; https://bookstore.finlandia.edu), and Snowbound Books (118 N 3rd St, Marquette, www.snowboundbooks.com).

 

 

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Avon Lake, Ohio: A Boy Among Books

The Avon Lake Public Library, courtesy of http://www.alpl.org.

The Avon Lake Public Library, courtesy of http://www.alpl.org.

BY ROBERT MILTNER

This essay is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project.

I arrive by bike at the Avon Lake Public Library, on Center Road, next to Miller Creek near the high school and half a mile south of Lake Erie.  It’s an old two-story house that has been converted into a library.  It has a flat-roofed porch and an addition added on the back.  The house roof is covered in wide horizontal bands of tarpaper that run parallel to the white clapboard siding.  The library sits snug against the flat landscape on the north coast of Ohio.  The men who settled here cleared the pin oaks to plant apple orchards and Concord grape vineyards that sweetened in the late harvest due to the warm autumn temperature of the lake.  In the fall, during the football season, on a cold clear night the air is thick with a scent like grape jam.

The July morning is warm already and it will be hot by early afternoon.  I get off my one-speed bike and push down the kickstand with my right foot.   Mine is the only bike here, on the front lawn, near the large evergreen shrubs.  I leave my tackle box in the front basket and lay the fishing rod and reel across the handlebars.   There are three cars parked in the cinder lot.

I sit on the lowest of the three steps that lead to the porch.  The shoelace on my left Converse sneaker is getting loose and I want to make sure it’s tight.  I untie it, pull the laces, and retie my shoe.  I have shorts at home, but I like my dungarees better.  My dad told me that he didn’t get long pants until he was in high school, so I feel grown up for an eight-and-a-half-year-old boy.  I walk up the three steps to the porch.  To the right of the screen door is an aluminum glider under the windows, its green canvas seat looks well-used by people who sit outside, reading or waiting for someone to check out or return books.

A small bell rings once as I open the screen door to enter and rings again as I close it.  The librarians can hear someone enter from wherever they are on the first floor.  I stand and wait at the oak desk just inside the front room. In my pocket are eight pennies, two for each book, each book two days late.  I’m bringing back Billy and Blaze and Blaze Finds the Trail.  I like the way Blaze is such a smart horse, always helping Billy.  I wish I had a horse.  I can walk through the woods near my house to a farm where they keep a brown horse with a black mane and tail and a miniature horse colored like a Palomino.  I pull grass from my side of the wire fence and hold it out to them.  The larger horse comes over and I pet his nose while he takes the stalks of grass from my hands.  If I bring apples I pick from one of the deserted orchards, the small horse will come for one of those.  I like the way Clearance William Anderson illustrates the books he writes.  I like that he uses his middle name.  I wish the pictures were in color.

The clock ticks.  10:22.  The calendar on the wall says 1957.  Warm air from the west comes in through the screen door behind me, and from the south through the screened window to my right.   On the desk is a deep wooden tray marked Returns.  The Town.  Peyton Place.  Horton Hears a Who. I read that. The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.  What Johnny Can’t Read.  No, that’s wrong.  Why Johnny Can’t Read.  The summer library assistant, a high school girl with a pony tail and dark-rimmed glasses, comes out of the back room.  She puts the pennies in a small box that she puts in the desk drawer.  She returns to the back room without saying a word to me.

I walk past the desk to the staircase that takes me to the second floor, which is the children’s section.  The steps are narrow and the walls close.  It’s dark halfway up.  I emerge from the stairs through what was once a trapdoor, into the low-ceilinged, slant-walled half-story of an attic.  Book shelves line the walls and two back-to-back sets of bookcases run down the center, taking up almost the whole length of the second floor.   It’s like a long playhouse filled with books.  In the winter, because there is no heating duct to the second floor, it is so cold I can see my breath.

It’s hot up here today.  Only the north window opens all the way.  Because the window ropes are broken, the other window, the south one from which the air is moving, is barely held open with an old book.  It’s stuffy and the air is musty with the scent of old books. I see dust motes in the sunlight.  Sweat begins prickling at my temples.  I start walking among the books, feeling sweat dampening the back of my neck by the hairline.

The books in the children’s section are arranged by how well a child can read. The shelf starts with picture books and early readers.  Fun With Dick and Jane.   Lassie and Her Day in the Sun.  The Cat in the Hat.  Curious George.   I move on to the illustrated books where I stop and look for Blaze and the Gypsies. It must still be checked out.  I’ll look again next time. The Lone Ranger and the Ghost Horse. Molly the Rogue.  First Book of Space Travel.  Freddy the Pig and the Baseball Team from Mars. 

Walking along the row of books, I hear the floor creak.  Its sound echoes off the low ceiling, like someone saying words aloud.  I stop.  The hot breeze rattles the frame of the window, making a humming sound.  The screen vibrates back like an answering whisper.

Next in line are the chapter books.  Because they are bigger and have their titles on the book spine, I can read the titles without pulling them from the shelves.  My mother has a small bookshelf in her sewing room with three shelves of books.  Grown up’s books.  I took some down to look at because the titles sounded like they’d be picture books.  The Long Goodbye.  The Little Sister.  The Big Sleep.  But there we no pictures.  And they weren’t for kids.

I read each case of chapter books like it is a page of a story, left to right, top to bottom.  I pull out Tales from Shakespeare.  The book makes a cracking sound as I open it.  The illustrations look really old.  Most of the stories are people’s names.  I keep this one in my hand as a move down the row.  Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.  The cover has some kind of submarine.  Now I carry two books.

A fly buzzes around my head.  A bead of sweat rolls into my eye and I feel the salt sting.  My feet are hot and my sneakers feel tight.  It’s too hot to stay and I want to be outside.  The fly is buzzing against the window, bouncing off of it, trying to get out.  I go down the staircase and check out my books.

After I close the screen door behind me, I stand on the porch, feel the wind against my face, neck, arms.  I sit on the glider, set my books next to me.  It’s a hot breeze, but it feels cool after being upstairs.  I stand up and walk to my bike, get my rod and reel, my tackle box.  I carry them in my left hand and hold the two books in my right hand.

Behind the library, past the cinder parking lot, is a wide concrete bridge made from pouring concrete over a huge steel culvert.  It’s almost as long as school bus, through which Miller Creek runs.  Because the yard is flat, the creek is below me, down about ten feet of broken shale from where I stand looking.   It takes two trips to get the books and fishing stuff down to the creek.

The inside of the culvert feels like going into a cave.  Along the one side is a bank of concrete where I sit down.  It’s cool and shady under the bridge.  The scent of muck is strong.  Miller Creek slows and widens here in an under-bridge pool about three feet deep.   Small schools of minnows scatter and dart.  On the other side of the pool, I see a few mud chimneys the crayfish have built.  But what I’m looking for in the water are bluegill, or if I’m lucky, a catfish.

I release the reel on my fishing rod and when the line goes slack I remove the hook from the eyelet at the tip of the rod and free the line.  The red and white wooden bobber gets removed because I don’t want to fish close to the surface for bluegill.   I open my tackle box and use pliers to squeeze an extra lead sinker onto the line so the hook will lie on the bottom where the catfish feed.  I take out a plastic bread bag, reach in, and remove a piece of white bread.  I break off a piece the size of a movie ticket and roll it into a tight ball that I work on to the hook.  I’m ready to fish.

After setting the rod down, I pick up the books I’ve brought down from the library.  Read the titles to myself.   I settle on Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.  I cast my line, watch it sink, loop the slack around my index finger.  If a catfish strikes, I’ll feel a quick tug.  I open the cloth cover of the book and begin to read.

Robert Miltner is Professor of English at Kent State University and he teaches fiction and poetry in the Northeast Ohio MFA in Creative Writing program (NEOMFA).  His prose poetry collections include Hotel Utopia (New Rivers Press Many Voices Project award), Against the Simple (Wick chapbook award), Eurydice Rising (Red Berry Editions award), and And Your Bird Can Sing: Short Fiction (Bottom Dog Press).  His nonfiction is published or forthcoming in Los Angeles Review, Diagram, Mochilla Review, Buried Letter Press, Research for Life (Kent State University), and Silver Apples of the Moon: Art and Poetry (Cleveland State University Press).  Miltner edits The Raymond Carver Review.

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Upper Peninsula and other Michigan writers take their tales on tour

waynorthMichigan writers and sribes with ties to the Upper Peninsula are taking their tales on tour this summer.

There are 31 events with 32 authors including: Ellen Airgood, Julie Brooks Barbour, Kate Bassett, Elinor Benedict, Jennifer Billock, Julie Buckles, Jennifer Burd, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Clara Corbett, Lisa Fay Coutley, Alison DeCamp, Roxane Gay, Sue Harrison, Barbara Henning, Caitlin Horrocks, Charmi Keranen, L.E. Kimball, April Lindala, Beverly Matherne, Amy McInnis, Nancy J. Parra, Jane Piirto, Saara Myrene Raappana, Janice Repka, Vincent Reusch, Diane Sautter, Andrea Scarpino, Laz Slomovits, Heather A. Slomski, Alison Swan, Keith Taylor, Gloria Whelan

The authors will hit 23 cities inncluding: Ann Arbor, Baraga, Beaver Island, Chicago (IL), Calumet, Copper Harbor, Escanaba, Gaylord, Howell, Ishpeming, Kalamazoo, Lake Ann, Mackinac Island, Mackinaw City, Marquette, Munising, Newberry, Northport, Okemos, Sault Ste. Marie, St. Ignace, Traverse City, Wakefield.

Many of the authors were featured in The Way Northwork collected from the Upper Peninsula by Ron Riekki for the Wayne State University Press.

Jun 17, 7pm, Dog Ears Books, Northport, with Ellen Airgood

Jun 18, 7pm—Beaver Island library, Beaver Island, with Ellen Airgood

Jun 20, 11:30am-2:30pm—Saturn Booksellers, Gaylord, book signing only, with Julie Brooks Barbour and Sue Harrison

Jun 27, 4-6 pm—Horizon Books, Traverse City, with Kate Bassett, Alison DeCamp, and Caitlin Horrocks

Jun 29, 7pm—Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, with Bonnie Jo Campbell, Caitlin Horrocks, Alison Swan, and Gloria Whelan

Jul 2, time TBA—Beaver Island library, Beaver Island, with Nancy J. Parra

Jul 8, events throughout the day—Mission Point Resort, Mackinac Island, MRA Summer Literature Conference, with Ellen Airgood

Jul 15, 1pm-2:30pm—Munising Public Library, Munising, reading with Elinor Benedict, L.E. Kimball, Beverly Matherne, and host Jane Piirto

Jul 16, 7:30pm–Women & Children First, Chicago, with Bonnie Jo Campbell, Roxane Gay, and April Lindala

Jul 17, 7pm—Bookbug, Kalamazoo, with Kate Bassett, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Alison DeCamp, and Charmi Keranen

Jul 19, 12-2pm—Falling Rock Café and Bookstore, Munising, book signing and reading with Lisa Fay Coutley, Sue Harrison, Barbara Henning, and Alison Swan

Jul 24, 3pm—Mackinaw Area Public Library, Mackinaw City, with Julie Brooks Barbour, Julie Buckles, and Sue Harrison

Jul 25, 1 pm—St. Ignace Library, St. Ignace, with Sue Harrison, Janice Repka, and Keith Taylor

Aug 6, 6:30pm (Central Time for this event)—Wakefield Public Library/Municipal Building, Wakefield, reading with Julie Buckles, Beverly Matherne, and host Jane Piirto

Aug 8, 3pm—Butler Theatre, Ishpeming, with Jennifer Burd, Jane Piirto, and Laz Slomovits

Aug 15, 7pm—Beaver Island library, Beaver Island, with Bonnie Jo Campbell

Aug 16, time TBA—Grandpa’s Barn, Copper Harbor, with Charmi Keranen

Aug 19, time TBA—Calumet Public Library, Calumet, reading and signing, with Jennifer Billock and Charmi Keranen

Sep 17, 6:30pm– Escanaba Public Library, Escanaba, with April Lindala and U.P. Poet Laureate Andrea Scarpino

Sep 23, 3:30-4:30pm, Falling Rock Café and Bookstore, Munising, with Ellen Airgood and Clara Corbett

Sep 23, 7pm—Snowbound Books/Peter White Public Library, Marquette, with Ellen Airgood, Diane Sautter, U.P. Poet Laureate Andrea Scarpino, and Alison Swan

Sep 24, 7pm—Beaver Island Pub Lib, Beaver Island, with Charmi Keranen

Oct 3, noon—Bookbug, Kalamazoo, with Bonnie Jo Campbell signing copies of her new book Mothers, Tell Your Daughters and also Here

Oct 9time TBA—Schuler Books, Okemos, with Kate Bassett, Jennifer Burd, Alison DeCamp, and Keith Taylor

Dec 12, 1-2:30pm—Kazoo Books, Kalamazoo, Author Hop, with Charmi Keranen and L.E. Kimball

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Michigan Bestseller list for May 2015

Mystery_macFor May 2015, the largest rise on the Michigan Bestseller List was Leotta’s A Good Killing.  Green’s Paper Towns has its third consecutive month on the Michigan Bestseller List top ten.  Link’s Wicked Takes the Witness Stand has its seventh consecutive month on the Michigan Bestseller List top fifteen.

1) Maureen Abood—Rose Water and Orange Blossoms: Fresh & Classic Recipes from My Lebanese Kitchen (Running Press/Perseus Books Group) [last month #14]

2) John Green—Paper Towns (Speak) [last month #6]

3) Mardi Link—Wicked Takes the Witness Stand: A Tale of Murder and Twisted Deceit in Northern Michigan (University of Michigan Press) [last month #12]

4) Allison Leotta—A Good Killing: A Novel (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster) [tie]

5) Allison Leotta—Law of Attraction: A Novel (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster) [tie]

6) Richard Sheridan—Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love (Portfolio/Penguin Books USA) [tie]

7) Veronica Bosgraaf—Pure Food: Eat Clean with Seasonal, Plant-Based Recipes (Clarkson Potter)

8) Anne-Marie Oomen—Love, Sex, and 4-H: a memoir (Wayne State University Press)

9) Detroit Free Press—Mr. March (The Free Press/Lansing State Journal)

10) Stan Tekiela—Birds of Michigan Field Guide (Adventure Publications)

11) Jane E. Dutton—How to Be a Positive Leader: Small Actions, Big Impact (Berrett-Koehler Publishers)

12) Alison DeCamp—My Near-Death Adventures (99% True!) (Crown Books for Young Readers) [last month #13]

13) Mardi Link—Isadore’s Secret: Sin, Murder, and Confession in a Northern Michigan Town (University of Michigan Press)

14) John Green—Looking for Alaska (Speak)

15) A.J. Baime—The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm an America at War (Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

The Michigan Bestseller List includes 13 participating bookstores: Bay Leaf Used & Rare Books (79 State Rd, Newaygo; www.bayleafbooks.com), Between the Covers (106 E. Main St., Harbor Springs, www.facebook.com/btcbookstore)Blue Frog Books (3615 E. Grand River, Howell; www.bluefrogbooksandmore.com),Bookbug (3019 Oakland Dr, Kalamazoo; http://www.bookbugkalamazoo.com/), Falling Rock Café & Bookstore (104 E Munising Ave, Munising;www.fallingrockcafe.com), Island Bookstore (7372 Main St., Mackinac Island, www.islandbookstore.com), Nicola’s Books (2513 Jackson Ave, Ann Arbor;www.nicolasbooks.com), North Wind Books (601 Quincy St, Hancock; https://bookstore.finlandia.edu), Saturn Booksellers (133 W Main St, Gaylord,www.saturnbooksellers.com), Schuler Books & Music (1982 W Grand River Ave, Okemos; 2660 28th Street SE, Grand Rapids; 2820 Towne Center Blvd, Lansing;www.schulerbooks.com), and Up North Books (3362 Interstate 75 Business Spur, Sault Ste. Marie; http://upnorthbooks.com/).

U.P. BESTSELLER LIST

For May 2015, the largest rise on the Upper Peninsula Bestseller List was Hale’s Mystery on Mackinac Island.  Campbell’s Once Upon a River has its second consecutive month on the Michigan Bestseller List top ten.  Airgood’s South of Superior has its second consecutive month on the Upper Peninsula Bestseller List top fifteen.

1) Anna W. Hale–Mystery on Mackinac Island (Thunder Bay Press)

2) Todd Clements–Haunts of Mackinac: Ghost Stories, Legends, & Tragic Tales (House of Hawthorne Publishing)

3) Duffy Brown–Geared for the Grave: a cycle path mystery (Berkley)

4) Melanie Dobson–Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan (Summerside)

5) Kelly O’Connor McNees–The Island of Doves (Berkley)

6) Ron Riekki–Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (Michigan State University Press)

7) Nancy Coco–Oh Say Can You Fudge: A Candy-Coated Mystery with Recipes (Kensington)

8) Nancy Coco–To Fudge or Not to Fudge: A Candy-Coated Mystery with Recipes (Kensington)

9) Steve Hamilton–A Cold Day in Paradise (Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press)

10) Gloria Whelan–Once on this Island (HarperCollins) [tie]

11) Bonnie Jo Campbell–Once Upon a River: A Novel (W.W. Norton & Company) [last month #8] [tie]

12) Steve Hamilton–North of Nowhere: An Alex McKnight Novel (Macmillan/Minotaur Books) [tie]

13) Ellen Airgood—South of Superior (Riverhead Trade) [last month #5]

14) Holling C. Holling—Paddle-to-the-Sea (HMH Books for Young Readers)

15) Loren Graham—A Face in the Rock: The Tale of a Grand Island Chippewa (University of California Press)

The Michigan Bestseller List includes 4 participating bookstores: Falling Rock Café & Bookstore (104 E Munising Ave, Munising; www.fallingrockcafe.com), Island Bookstore (7372 Main St., Mackinac Island, www.islandbookstore.com), North Wind Books (601 Quincy St, Hancock; https://bookstore.finlandia.edu), and Up North Books (3362 Interstate 75 Business Spur, Sault Ste. Marie; http://upnorthbooks.com/).

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Wingfoot Lake, Ohio: Tires, turtles and neo-shamanism in small town Ohio

snapper_turtleBY MATT STANSBERRY

This essay is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project.

I grew up in a bucolic little Ohio Township, less than a mile from a 540-acre lake, created by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in 1916 to create a water supply for its manufacturing operations.

Almost every day in the spring and summer, my younger brother and I rode our bikes to the lake, through our neighborhood, past whispering corn fields planted to the edge of the road.

We sped past the white house with the biting dogs where the farmer had murdered his wife and burned her remains in a barrel; pedaled past the compound of rotting double-wide trailers where the occupants raised a couple dozen goats on a tiny fenced-in plot.

We left our bikes where the train tracks crossed the road, and trespassed on the rails, listening to the frogs and red-winged blackbirds calling in the lily pads. The lake sprawled under the trackbed, under the ballast, spilled even further across the road, a wetland seeping toward our house.

We brought our fishing poles to catch bluegills and crappie and the occasional largemouth bass. We caught bullhead catfish, little olive green slime cats with flopping whiskers. We caught perch, runty and stunted and covered in black spots that suggested mold.

Railroad men had yelled at us from slowly passing trains, warning us for trespassing, but we never considered their threats to be serious or worth heeding. The lake was ours.

The summer after I graduated from Kent State University, the year I thought I was leaving Ohio for good, my brother and I set a trotline on the bank of Wingfoot Lake — five bluegill heads, threaded on barbed hooks, strung along a nylon rope, anchored to shoreline with a metal spike.

The next day we found the line pulled taught, and dragged twenty-five pounds of mud-black snapping turtle to the bank, thrashing in muck, tail and legs flailing as we pulled the cord hand-over-hand.

We prodded the huge and angry reptile into a large plastic tub and took it to our parents’ house.

I was going through a neoshamanism phase, and intended to eat the damn thing and wear its claws around my neck. But my brother and I were a generation removed from eating foraged reptiles and had only the vaguest concepts of what to do next.

We spilled the giant turtle out onto my parent’s backyard, the black rubbery monster wallowing in my dad’s lush grass. My brother goaded the turtle with a broom handle until it violently latched onto the stick, and he stretched its neck out to full extension.  I stood off to the side with my father’s axe raised, and brought it down, chopping its head off in a clean motion.

Then I strung a rope around its tail, and hung it upside down from a tree branch in the woods overnight.

We took to it the next morning with Buck knives and found its headless body still alive.

The snapper clawed my arms as I cut it down from the tree, and then pried its shell apart – jamming the Buck knife between the plastron and carapace, leveraging against its frantic scrabbling. It seemed to grab my wrists as I struggled to pull it apart.

My brother watched as the animal that should have been dead writhed underneath me. I had lost my intention, groping as blindly as the turtle. I grabbed foul sacks of its guts and pulled them free. Its heart beat in my hand, some strange prehistoric physiological quirk that allowed this turtle’s organs to function for hours without connection to its reptile brain.

I cut through mottled, leathery skin and found something that looked like meat attached to the limbs, to the tail. With grim determination, I carved those pieces off the carcass, and placed them in the bowl my brother held out away from his body.

We soaked the pieces in cheap beer, and hours later the golf-ball sized chunks still twitched with some kind of haunted nervous energy. I sautéed the flickering turtle flesh in butter, and threw the pieces into a box of Zatarain’s Jambalaya Mix. We gagged it down, every bite, as penance.

I’d wanted to make turtle soup.

My grandfather had always talked about some recipe he served at his bar on Nimisilla Reservoir in Akron, where guys passed out on their stools after a day at the Firestone Factory, slouched against each other, eating turtle soup at the bar instead of going home.

When the cigarette machine went empty he couldn’t afford to refill it. When the tills came up short, my grandpa had to close the bar.

But he made it sound like you could just cast out, catch a turtle and make a soup.

Matt Stansberry is a Cleveland-based nature writer with three kids and a day job. He used to fly fish. Follow him on Twitter@LakeErieFlyFish. Belt Magazine recently published a collection of Stansberry’s  nature essays, featuring artwork by David Wilson, Redhorse: The Rustbelt Bestiary Volume 1

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