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Wednesday, March 16,2011

Booked up

Annual ’Rally of Writers’ features an array of Michigan authors

by Bill Castanier

Organizer Linda Peckham boasts that A Rally of Writers is the “largest, longest-running writer’s conference in the state.”

“Can you believe it?” she said.


The conference, in its 24th year, features more than a dozen writers, including National Book Award finalist Bonnie Jo Campbell of Portage. Campbell was a finalist in 2009 for her book of short stories, “American Salvage.” Last year, Jaimy Gordon, Campbell’s former professor and mentor at Western Michigan University, won the National Book Award for “Lord of Misrule.”


Local writers speaking at the conference include mystery and non-fiction writer Lev Raphael; Michigan State University creative writing teacher Marcia Aldrich; memoirist, essayist and journalist Andrea King Collier; fantasy writer Jim C. Hines; and children’s book author Deborah Diesen.


Jef Mallett, the author and illustrator of the award-winning comic strip "Frazz," will provide the keynote speech, “Get A Life.”


Peckham said Mallett will emphasize the necessity for a writer to have a life.


“You can’t be a decent writer unless you have something else in your life you can draw on,” Peckham said.


She said Mallett is a perfect keynoter because “if you think of it, he writes short-short stories every day.”


Prior to the all-day writer’s conference (held April 2 at the Lansing Community College West Campus) a Rally Warm Up is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 1 at Schuler Books & Music in the Eastwood Towne Center. Registration for the rally is $70, but the warm-up is free.


The warm-up includes a presentation titled “Words of the Civil War: Kinds of Truth,” which features poet and WMU English professor Daneen Wardrop, Michigan Notable Book Award Winner Paul Taylor (“Orlando M. Poe: Civil War General") and Lansing storyteller Shirley Bradley. This year marks the start of a four-year commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.


At the rally itself, Campbell hosts two sessions on writing and also will present the luncheon program “Questioning the Michigan Writer.”


Her next book, “Once Upon a River,” an unusual coming-of-age story about a Huck Finn-style, sharpshooting Lolita in search of her mother, is scheduled to be published in July.


The Portage author will talk about her writing and conduct a session on the publishing industry.


“I’ve seen the ups and downs of writing, from the tiniest magazines to the hotshot stuff I am doing now,” she says. “We need to keep talking about publishing to help reduce the anxiety."


Campbell is also conducting a writing session on inspiring non-linear narratives, in which the story is told in a non-chronological order, with the possibility of no obvious beginning or ending. Following the Rally Campbell will visit Everybody Reads, 219 E. Michigan Avenue, in Lansing.


“I feel such goodwill toward the Rally and Linda Peckham," she says. "They have done a remarkable job.”


Also attending the Rally are poet and Kalamazoo College writer-in-residence Diane Seuss; Ann Marie Oomen, a teacher at Interlochen and award-winning essayist; fly-fishing expert and naturalist writer Ann R. Miller; Beverly Jenkins, a novelist specializing in African-American life; and Leon E. Hank, author of “Proud Hunters, Proud Yoopers.”


In addition to the writing sessions, the first 10 writers to register can submit a manuscript for review for $25.


’A Rally of Writers’


9 a.m. April 2 Lansing Community College Conference Center, West Campus Registration for the Rally is $70, $50 for students, and $80 and $60 at the door. A special luncheon-only ticket of $15 is available to listen to Campbell’s luncheon presentation. For registration and information go to www.arallyofwriters.com


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