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Richard Ford says he writes by first gathering “little bits and pieces.”
It’s a technique that has served the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist well, and it’s one he employed while writing “Between Them: Remembering My Parents.”
Ford said, “Just a few short years after my mother died in 1981, I wrote her memoir.”
However, when he decided to add his father’s memoir to the mix. It became more complex. Ford’s memory of his father, a travelling salesman who returned home only on weekends, wasn’t as sharp. He died when Ford was 16.
“When I thought of consolidating the lives of my parents, after all — I did have two parents — it took a decade for my memory to accumulate little flecks of this and that,” Ford said. “My memory of him wasn’t as easily accessed.”
Ford said he then used a technique he has often used when faced with a problematic situation.
“I used oppositional thinking and reversed it so his absence is part of his presence,” he said.
The technique allowed Ford to tell the story of a loving family while providing insight into the culture of American families from the ‘50s onward.
Ford, who graduated from Michigan State University, told City Pulse from his home in East Boothbay, Maine, that he is looking forward to returning this coming weekend as the keynote for the annual Night for Notables.
The City Pulse Book Club meets the first Thursday of each month, 7 p.m., at Schuler Books & Music in the Meridian Mall. April’s selection is “Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63,” by Taylor Branch. The book is the first of a three-part series on the Civil Rights Movement. Upcoming books include “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” by Joan Didion (May) and “Bobby Kennedy,” by Chris Matthews (June).
The ceremony will be held at the Library of Michigan Saturday.
Books will be available for purchase and authors will be signing.
Ford will be joined by fellow Notable Author Monica McFawn Robinson, author of “Bright Shards of Someplace Else,” for a conversation on writing.
Each year, the Night for Notables recognizes 20 authors who are either from Michigan or who have written about Michigan during the previous year.
Coincidentally, one of this year’s winners, Sridhar Pappu, author of “The Year of the Pitcher: The End of Baseball’s Golden Age,” is a former student of Ford’s.
Other winners this year include notable names such as Jack White, who wrote the children’s book “We’re Going to Be Friends,” and Hank Meijer, author of “Arthur Vandenberg: The Man in the Middle of this American Century.”
In “The Year of the Pitcher,” Pappu follows superstars Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals and Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers. Pappu revisits the year 1968, when the world seemed to be noticeably spinning off its orbit with the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy.
It was also the year the Tigers beat the Cardinals in one of the most dramatic World Series to date.
1968 was the last year pitchers dominated the game and there were none better or personally more different than Gibson, who boasted a 1.12 earned run average, or Mc-Lain who won 31 games.
Gibson was seen as an intimidating angry pitcher who didn’t have much use for the media.
“He had one purpose: to win.” Pappu said.
“McLain was about building his brand beyond endorsements by becoming a famous organist,” Pappu said. “In addition to being disconnected with the youth culture, McLain hurt a lot of people in his personal life, going out of his way to antagonize those around him.”
McLain would later go to prison for embezzling pension funds from Peet Packing Co. in Chesaning.
Pappu tells the intriguing story of baseball and its players during the “live ball era,” when the mound was lowered, and the strike zone altered to make it a hitter’s game.
One week later, authors, both accomplished and budding, will join for a daylong writers workshop where more than 20 writers, including three Michigan Notable Book authors, will make presentations and conduct workshops on the art of writing.
Linda Peckham, one of the original founders of the Rally of Writers, will present a program on writing clear sentences and taking the wordiness out of writing.
“My contention for many years is the way English grammar is taught is not useful to writers,” she said.
2018 Michigan Notable Book Award Winner Karen Dionne will present a workshop on the six steps to writing “un-putdown-able” suspense novel. It’s a topic Dione knows well, considering her book the “The Marsh King’s Daughter” sold for more than $1 million dollars and will be made into a film this summer.
Desiree Cooper, whose book “Know the Mother” won a 2017 Notable Book Award, will explain how writers can pitch stories to newspapers and magazines, along with tips on writing Flash Fiction.
John Smolens, whose book “Wolf’s Mouth” won a 2017 Notable Book Award, will answer the question of why we write novels anyway in one of the 16 overall workshops.
Night for Notables April 7 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Library of Michigan 702 W. Kalamazoo Ave. $50 for hors d’oeurves and beer and wine
Rally Warm-Up “Storypalooza”
April 13 7 p.m. Schuler Books in Meridian Mall.
Rally of Writers April 14 9 a.m. to 4:20 p.m.
Lansing Community College West Campus
5708 Cornerstone Dr. Lansing $100 at door, $85 in advance $60 Student at door, $50 in advance
Sridhar Pappu & Peter Morris
April 7 2 p.m. Delta Township District Library 5130 Davenport Dr., Lansing Free