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Thursday, September 5,2013

Literary backfield in motion

Lansing area writers, artists scramble to Ann Arbor's Kerrytown BookFest

by Bill Castanier

This story was corrected on Sept. 5. Because of an editing error, a quote was misattributed. A quote about Kerrytown should have been attributed to Deborah Diesen.  

Several Lansing-area writers will invade Ann Arbor Sunday as part of the annual 11th annual Kerrytown BookFest.

Authors and book artists with a Lansing connection who have been invited to this year’s festival are children’s authors Deborah Diesen and Ruth McNally Barshaw, rock ‘n roll writer Steve Miller, urban issues writer Edward McClelland and book artist Eric Alstrom.

In all, more than 50 authors and book artists are scheduled to attend this year. Robin Agnew, proprietor of Aunt Agatha’s mystery bookstore and president of the BookFest, said the festival is unique because it includes authors and illustrators on an equal footing.

Agnew tracks the literary talent in the capital region and makes a point of inviting several Lansing-area authors and artists each year. She can’t understand why Lansing and East Lansing don’t have a book festival of their own.

“The area has all the ingredients,” she said. “The university, writers, illustrators and bookstores. But it’s like lightning in a bottle to pull an event like this off.”

Agnew said the Kerrytown BookFest is all-volunteer driven, with no paid staff, so fundraising isn’t a big priority.

Children’s author Ruth McNally Bradshaw grew up in Detroit and lives in Lansing. She, too, would like to see a Kerrytown-style book festival here. “Lansing has a huge literary community,” she said. “There is room for this in Lansing.”

McNally Bradshaw’s newest book, “Ellie McDoodle: The Show Must Go On,” continues a successful series, now five books strong, about the trials and tribulations of a middle-school girl modeled after the author at age 10.

At Kerrytown, she will lead a panel discussion on how a children’s book is published and illustrated. Readers may be surprised, for example, to learn that the author and illustrator of a children’s book may have never met or even talked about the book they’ve created together. She will also conduct a how-to-draw session for young would-be writer/illustrators.

Lansing native Deborah Diesen, a New York Times best-selling author, will unveil her new book, “Picture Day Perfection,” about the dreaded day when school pictures are taken. She promises “an unexpected take on picture-day tales.”

Former Lansing resident Edward Mc- Clelland (aka Ted Kleine) will join another panel of authors to discuss Michigan’s vanishing cities. McClelland’s book, “Nothin’ But Blue Skies,” puts the national wave of urban decay into perspective, drawing on examples like Flint and Detroit. McClelland, who lives in Chicago, has deep Lansing roots. He graduated from Sexton High School, Lansing Community College and MSU.

Steve Miller, a Lansing-based historian of the multifarious music that has emanated from Detroit over the decades, will join a panel of music writers at Kerrytown. He’ll talk about the past 50 years of the Detroit music scene with two other writers who have written about Motown and Iggy Pop. Miller’s “Detroit Rock City” is a memoir of Detroit music told via firstperson interviews with some of the city’s music legends, including Alice Cooper and rock promoter Russ Gibbs.

Another Lansing-area book maven to appear at Kerrytown is Eric Alstrom, who will shine a light on the book arts collection at MSU Special Collections, where he is the chief of conservation and preservation.

Other highlights of this year’s Kerrytown BookFest include former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, author of “Car Guys & Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business”; paranormal and just-strangeauthors Ben Percy and Matt Bell; and mystery writers D.E. Johnson, Cara Black,

Libby Fischer Hellmann and William Kent Krueger. More than 100 exhibitors will sell books and book-related art.

Among the exhibitors are Ray Walsh of Curious Book Store and The Archives Books in East Lansing, who exhibited at Kerrytown BookFest for several years.

He, too, wonders why there isn’t a similar event in the Lansing area. One possible reason, he said, is that Lansing has no venue similar to Kerrytown.

Deborah Diesen likes Kerrytown’s “egalitarian approach and conviviality.”

“The books are the stars,” she said. “It’s not just about well-known authors. Everyone’s on an equal footing. It would be lovely to have a similar event in Lansing, but it would have to find its unique place. It also has to be a grassroots effort.”

The Kerrytown BookFest is at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. All venues are covered. Parking and admission is free. Word to the wise: Zingerman’s deli is one block away.

Disclosure: Author Bill Castanier is a board member of the Kerrytown BookFest. He will be setting up tables, chairs and tables there on Sunday at sunrise, if you have the initiative to join him.

Kerrytown BookFest

11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday 315 Detroit St., Ann Arbor FREE kerrytownbookfest.org



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