The Midwest is a long way from Hollywood.
But Michigan poet, author and editor of “The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works” Ron Riekki is seeking to bridge the storytelling gap.
He recently asked some of the the top Michigan-based presses to submit their two best books or short stories in the history of their publishing that should be turned into movies.
The publishers, who have a combined 116 books selected by the Library of Michigan as Michigan Notable Books, combed through their material to submit what they thought would work on the silver screen.
The following were on the final nomination list:
Wayne State University Press: Laura Kasischke’s Eden Springs (2010) and Andrew Mozina’s Quality Snacks (2014).
Michigan State University Press: Robert Traver’s Laughing Whitefish (2011, originally 1965) and Bruce A Rubenstein’s and Lawrence E. Ziewacz’s Three Bullets Sealed His Lips (1987).
University of Michigan Press: Mardi Link’s When Evil Came to Good Hart (2008) and Mardi Link’s Isadore’s Secret: Sin, Murder, and Confession in a Northern Michigan Town (2009).
Thunder Bay Press: Anna W. Hale’s Mystery on Mackinac Island (1997) and Tom Powers’ In the Grip of the Whirlwind: The Armistice Day Storm of 1940 (2009).
Arbutus Press: Nancy Barr’s Page One: Vanished (2007) and Jennifer Sowle’s Admissions (2010).
William B Eerdmans: Diet Eman’s and James Schaap’s Things We Couldn’t Say (1999) and Katie Quirk’s A Girl Called Problem (2013).
New Issues Press: Kevin Fenton’s Merit Badges (2011) and Mandy Keifetz’s Flea Circus: a brief bestiary of grief(2012).
Midwestern Gothic/MG Press: Eric Shonkwiler’s Above All Men (2013) and Justin Machnik’s short story “Marquette” (2013).
Michigan Quarterly Review: Kevin Haworth’s short story “The Scribe” (2009) and Peter Ho Davies’s short story “That Fall” (2011).
The Purple Rose Theatre Company (the theatrical company, started by Jeff Daniels in Chelsea, Michigan, is a bonus to the list): Michael Brian Ogden’s Corktown (2011) and David MacGregor’s Consider the Oyster (2011).
“Producers or screenwriters interested in adapting any of these top nominated works from Michigan’s publishing history should contact the authors and publishers/theater directly to see about film rights,” Riekki said. “They may just find that some of the authors already have the screenplay version in their back pocket and would look forward to collaborating.”
Riekki brought up the example of Jennifer Sowle, who is in the middle of adapting her novel Admissions as a screenplay. Fancy Pants Theater in Kalamazoo has agreed to do a reading once the screenplay is completed.
Writers interested in hearing their work for the stage or screen read aloud can consider submitting to Fancy Pants’s Firstage reading series, http://fancypantstheater.webs.
Riekki hopes other Michigan theaters and production companies will work to put these nominated works into the voices of actors.
“CMU Theatre would be interested in staging something,” said Dr. Timothy Connors of the Central Michigan University Theatre Department, adding, “I’d certainly be willing to look at something for 2016-17 (my next scheduled slot in the directing rotation). Some of my colleagues might also be interested.”