The Y in Life launched at the Troy Community Center in Troy, Michigan on Tuesday, September 17, 2013. If you were unable to attend, the video is of my reading from the book, and a couple of questions from the Q&A session. My son, Colin Kitchen, shot the video and the follow up photos.
The Y in Life is now available through your local independent book store. I’ve included links to four of my personal favorites – Literati Bookstore and Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor and Brilliant Books and Horizon Books in Traverse City;
I was in her city
She was not there
or so I thought.
Saturday, I participated in a photo walk. Held semi-annually in the spring and fall, Bija, a Buddhist teacher from Still Point Zen Temple in Detroit, leads us through the Woodbridge neighborhood of Detroit, south of Wayne State University campus, armed with cameras to capture images of our world. It is, for me, a meditation. Sitting on the cushion, mindful of breath and the current of thoughts flowing through my mind is one way I meditate. This photo walk, and when I isolate images of the instant through photography in general, I find myself in that same, silent space. Aware of my surroundings, my chatting mind goes silent and I see the world differently.
Saturday was a beautiful day in Detroit. Sun and a moderate temperature where a t-shirt and light jacket was perfect attire. And as I had in the previous Buddhist photo walks I’ve taken, a number of interesting images were captured. These are but a few:
It was around 3:30 when we returned to the abbey. We flipped through our photos and added a few more from within the Buddhist temple.
Upon leaving, I felt calm and centered. On such a beautiful day, I didn’t want the feeling to end. I considered parking the car downtown then move about the city to shoot more images. But something didn’t feel right about it. It would have felt forced, almost touristy. Instead, my attention shifted to the book launch of my novel in a couple of days. My first published novel. But not my first published book. And the subject of the first book guided me.
On August 14, 2004, the book launch for Down Through the Years: The Memoirs of Detroit City Council President Emeritus Erma Henderson took place at the Detroit Public Library’s main branch. The five years leading up to this monumental moment passed too quickly. My only regret being that I was too busy with job, law school, and recording, researching and writing Erma’s story to journal my own observations and insights along the way. One of the things I did recall was Erma’s love of Belle Isle. This became my destination.
I had been on Belle Isle only two times previously: once when Erma asked me to drive her around the island in the early part of this century and once for the launch of an anthology which included three of my shorter pieces at the Detroit Yacht Club during a blizzard in February of this year. This would be my first solo adventure, and it did not disappoint.
I stopped at several points along the island where I then stepped out and took in the view. Like Erma and others have told me before, Belle Isle is a gem, with spectacular views of the Detroit and Windsor skylines and the glistening water, sparkling like a river of diamonds. I’d take a photo or two, then take in the sounds and sights silently. It was just like I was back in time, when Erma was alive and I in her home. And across the river stood The Jeffersonian, where her apartment was on the south end of the 28th floor.
I wanted to go back up there, to her apartment, tell her about my novel, listen to her stories and the affirmations she’d want to plant in my head. To do so, however, would seriously confuse the current resident of that apartment. So I got as close as I could. Next to The Jeffersonian is the Erma L. Henderson Park & Marina, where I made the final stop on my day’s photo walk.
The walk through her park from my car out to the sign on Jefferson Avenue is when I told her about the novel. I knew if she were here she would have had one of her many friends read her all 475 pages. Then she’d share her thoughts with me about it. It would have been a fun conversation.
A theme in The Y in Life is how a person’s life can change when someone who had an influence on him is no longer there. Standing in the park, looking up to that 28th floor apartment, I understood how Erma’s trust in me to write her memoirs gave me the confidence in myself to write this novel. I helped her write her story; she helped me write mine.
In one week, I’ll be at the book launch for The Y in Life. It’s been a long road.
The proof arrived on Thursday via UPS, after I had left for bowling. I did not receive it until 10AM Friday when the apartment’s front office opened. It was quite surreal. I opened the package in my car and looked at the cover. Amazing. I felt its weight in my hands, and the burden of the clock ticking away the minutes that I had to read through these 417 pages, red pen in hand, before delivering it Sunday to my publisher at the Kerrytown Bookfest in Ann Arbor.
But of course, I had to show it off around town, first.
There I am, outside BD’s Mongolian Grill in Roseville, where my eager publisher, Diana Plopa met me to see how the paper proof turned out. There was much rejoicing.
Time to get to work. I read through the first 195 pages Friday, and the remaining 222 pages on Saturday, without sacrificing the Columbus Crew match (though really, the way they played, it wasn’t much of a reward!). I read it out loud, to my two Russian tortoises, Uma and Mariska. At times their curiosity brought them to face me as they heard my voice, but eventually they’d slip back into sleep.
Then it was on to Ann Arbor Sunday morning to deliver the proof. It didn’t bleed red ink, but I did scratch it up some. I thought it would be easy to turn over to finally put this novel to bed. The manifestation of something that I’ve written and re-written over the past six years was difficult to let go. But if I didn’t, it wouldn’t become the final version of this story and these characters that have lived with me for quite some time. It was time to release it into the world and allow it to become whatever it becomes.
The Y in Life is no longer in my hands. And in a week’s time, it will be in the hands of readers. I trust that the characters and story willtake the reader on a journey that inspires and entertains.
Meanwhile, I’m working on a new story, with new characters that I am finding fun and interesting to explore.
Two books on the shelf now. One, the fascinating true story about a remarkable woman; the other, the first of many novels within my imagination and various stages of progress. Nine years separate the publication of these two books. The next novel will be published well before 2022. I promise.