WRITER l PATTI EDDINGTON
Motown music, Traverse City cherries, and our 3,288 miles of scenic shoreline are all points of pride, but let’s not discount the increasingly impressive literary life of Michigan.
We’ve featured accomplished authors in a past issue. Here are a few more shining – and rising – stars for your consideration.
Jack Ridl, lyric poetry, Saugatuck
His career: Jack and his wife Julie founded the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series at Hope College, where he taught for 37 years, to bring Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners to the city of Holland. More than 90 of his former students are published authors. Now retired from teaching, Ridl speaks, leads workshops around the country, and continues to write prize-winning books.
Career highlights: Well known for his works Losing Season, Broken Symmetry, Practicing to Walk Like a Heron, and, most recently, Saint Peter and the Goldfinch, Ridl’s honors and list of awards are lengthy. He says he is especially proud to have been named the Poet Laureate of Douglas, Michigan, and that in late 2019 a poem from Saint Peter and the Goldfinch was featured in The New York Times Sunday Magazine.
Interesting tidbit: Ridl is a college basketball enthusiast. His father was a Hall of Fame coach who instilled splendid nuggets like “Never feel oppressed by discipline,” “Accept failure and rejection,” and “Learn what it takes; learn the art” in Ridl’s psyche early on.
Kathleen McGookey, prose poetry, Middleville
Her art form: McGookey says she loves prose poetry – essentially poetry without the line breaks – because it is “approachable and it doesn’t ‘announce’ it is a poem.”
Passion for the Mitten: She loves this state and has written pieces set at Sleeping Bear Dunes, South Manitou Island, and Gun Lake.
“I love to walk, and specific details from the landscapes around me sometimes find their way into my poems. I think a reader from Michigan would feel at home.”
Recent work: McGookey released two books in 2019: Nineteen Letters, a limited edition letterpress, hardcover chapbook, published by BatCat Press in May, and Instructions for My Imposter, released by Press 53 in October.
Honors: Her prose poetry has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best Microfiction 2019 and Best Small Fictions 2019.
Michael Zadoorian, literary fiction, Ferndale
Favorite settings: Zadoorian’s beloved Detroit-area stomping grounds.
“I just feel as though it’s very important for me to write about where I’m from,” he says. “I want people who aren’t from here to know what it’s like to be a person from this place, in this time.”
Career highlights: Oprah chose his last work, Beautiful Music, as “one of the best books of summer” in 2018, the same year it won the Adult Fiction category of the Great Lakes Reads program. It was also a Michigan Notable Book in 2019. Zadoorian’s second novel, The Leisure Seeker, was made into a 2017 motion picture starring Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland.
Interesting tidbit: He has a huge Italian fan base and has been featured in Italian Vanity Fair twice. Also, his love and knowledge of music come through on his weekly Saturday night Retro Groove show on Ferndale Radio.
Next up: Set in the “bottomed-out” Detroit of 2009, The Narcissism of Small Differences is the tale of two Detroit-area Gen X creative types, together for years, experiencing an identity crisis as a couple. Watch for it in May.
Wade Rouse, memoir/Viola Shipman, fiction, Ganges
Viola’s origins: Rouse spent several years writing acclaimed memoirs – America’s Boy, Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler, and It’s All Relative – before turning to popular fiction. The Charm Bracelet, The Recipe Box, and The Summer Cottage were authored under the alias Viola Shipman, a name borrowed from his maternal grandmother. Coming from a family of “working poor,” Rouse says writing under his grandmother’s name “is the smallest thank-you I can give her for all she did for me.”
Career highlights: The Charm Bracelet was a 2017 Michigan Notable Book, and The Summer Cottage was the state’s bestselling novel in the summer of 2019.
His love affair with the state: “Michigan is the setting for every novel I write. The beauty of the state – and its people – is featured prominently, and my goal is always to make Michigan as big a character in my work as any of the protagonists.”
Next up: The Heirloom Garden, set in Grand Haven, will be released in April.