Visiting the Indies Chapter Seven: Chesterfield Township Library

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The evening of Thursday, December 4, 2014, I participated in a gathering of local authors, hosted by the Chesterfield Township Library.  The event was organized by Alan Dean Naldrett, author of the Arcadia Press’ Images of America Series “Chesterfield Township” and co-author of “New Baltimore.”  He also penned “Forgotten Tales of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.”  Other authors present included Anchor Bay Fifth Grader Garett Derenge with his book, “The Adventures of Iggy the Iguana;”  Roseville High School senior, Nathan Richendollar and his “Sic Semper Res Publica:  The Political Ramblings of a Disgruntled Midwestern Teenager;” Bob Prevost and historical novel, “Mallast;”  Craig Maki and his historical book, “Detroit Country Music;” Bob and Sherrie Allen and their four books on Macomb County history; Nancy Erlich, Linda Champion, and Jim Champlin with their Arcadia Press Images of America Series book, “Fraser;” and Ellen Marie Blend and her works on psychic phenomenon.

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It was a great night meeting members of my new hometown writing and reading community.  Having moved to Chesterfield Township in April, I’ve now had the pleasure of doing book signings at the library in the city where I grew up (Plymouth) and the library in the place I now call home.

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Visiting the Indies Chapter Six: Paperback Writer Books in Mount Clemens, MI

Back in Chapter Three, I participated in Small Business Saturday by supporting independent book seller Used on New Books & More in Mount Clemens.  In 2013, author Sherman Alexie encouraged writers to go out and support the independent book sellers.  Used on New Books & More was my closest, hometown book store, a block over from my law office.

This year, I spent a couple of hours at Paperback Writer Books in Mount Clemens.  The owner, Lisa Taylor, and her husband Davey with his partner business, Weirdsville Records, outgrew the little space on New Street and in August moved a block over to the larger 61 Macomb Street storefront in downtown Mount Clemens.  The move also places the store on the same block as my law office.  Too convenient for this book addict.
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It was another enjoyable afternoon, which sounds redundant because time in a book store is synonymous with enjoyment.

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(The guy below had my back the entire time)
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Visiting the Indies Chapter Five: 16th Annual Writers on the River, Monroe, MI

On November 9, 2014, I was one of 38 authors at the 16th Annual Writers on the River event held at the Ellis Library and Reference Center in Monroe, MI.

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It was a nice event.  Set-up began at 10:30, and authors and members of the library were treated to light lunch prior to opening the doors to the public.  I enjoyed a number of conversations held with other authors and readers, and from my table I also had a nice view of the small river behind the library.  It was also nice spending time with one of my mentors, Kathleen Ripley Leo, who was selling her first novel,  a YA fantasy titled “The Seamless Universe.”

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It is a pleasant experience to meet readers who have an interest in local authors, and visit the library that hosted the event for the community.  It was my first visit to this part of Michigan, having only driven through it en route to somewhere south.  Thank you, Monroe County Library System.

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Visiting the Indies Chapter Four: Plymouth District Library

On Saturday, March 29, 2014, I was a guest at the Local Author Fair held at the Plymouth District Library in Plymouth, Michigan.

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Twenty-four authors, including myself, set up our tables and greeted the public.  It was an interesting two hours as lovers of books and writers cruised the tables.

For me, this was homecoming and home certainly has changed.

I was raised in Plymouth.  My parents still live in the same house they purchased in 1960 which I grew up in.  During the summers away from Bird Elementary School, my sister and I participated in the summer reading program.  The library was referred to at the time as the Dunning-Hough Library.  It was named after Margaret Dunning who, in 1947, purchased the land and property on Main Street to house the Plymouth branch of the Wayne County Library, and Ed Hough, the second CEO of the Daisy Air Rifle company located in Plymouth,  who created the Hough Kimball Foundation which donated massively to the creation of the library.  It was a single floor building in the 1960’s.  The main entrance fronted Main Street, and the kids section was towards the back.  There was a small bike rack where we could chain our bikes if we rode them up to the library at the back entrance.  I remember wandering into the tall adult shelves, looking for books about hockey – 796.6 if I recall my Dewy Decimal System correctly.

The library has changed massively.  The structure is now two floors and a lower level.  The main entrance is in the back.  And plenty of computers which was unheard of in my day.

I know, I know. A public library is not an independent book store. But public libraries have opened their doors to annual “local author fairs” that feature independent authors and small independent publishing houses from the local area.  Furthermore, Plymouth, like a lot of towns, does not have a book store – big chain or small indie.  The Little Professor which used to be just a block away is long gone.  The library, in many towns, is the only source of books to the community.

It was a fun afternoon stepping back into my past, while celebrating the present.

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Visiting the Indies Chapter Three: Used on New Books & More, Mount Clemens, MI

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Sherman Alexie, National Book Award winner and author of over twenty books, issued a letter on September 1, 2013 to authors to become “a superhero for independent bookstores” by spending Small Business Saturday (November 30, 2013) hand-selling books at their local independent bookstore.  When I first saw the letter, I was intrigued, but The Y in Life was not out yet and I wasn’t sure where I could do this, or if even a local bookstore would be interested in doing this.  After all, I’m no Sherman Alexie.

In early November, I saw Used on New Books & More’s owner, Lisa Taylor post on Facebook a link to Alexie’s letter, praising it and commenting that they weren’t going to have a famous author visiting, but that she had recently been published in the local newspaper twice.  That got me thinking.

Used on New Books & More and its companion store Weirdsville Records is on New Street in downtown Mount Clemens.  It is just a block away from my office and from the 16th Circuit Court.  Lisa Taylor and her husband Davey have owned the stores for just over two years.  The first time I entered the store shortly after it opened, I recognized Lisa right away as a former Borders manager from the Utica, Michigan store.  In fact, the shelving in Used on New were former Borders book shelves.  After she posted the link to Alexie’s letter, I stopped in and asked if she was interested in having a not-so-famous author be a bookseller for the day on Small Business Saturday.

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Lisa Taylor, owner of Used on New Books with me.

So on Saturday, November 30, 2013, I got to spend four hours as a volunteer book seller at Used on New Books & More.  Along with a wide selection of used books, Used on New carries a few new books by local authors (including The Y in Life).  Weirdsville Records carries vinyl records (and turntables upon which you can play them) and other cool stuff, owned and managed by Lisa’s husband, Davey, who is also known as Sir Graveson of The Sir Graveson Show.

Used book stores are as important as new book stores, and are independently owned.  At new book stores, you can buy the latest titles.  Libraries are a great place to borrow books.  But many books have been read and kept in the libraries of individuals.  And sometimes these readers need to part with them, leaving the loved books homeless.  Used book stores offer a shelter for these books until a new reader finds and purchases them, giving them a new home.  No one likes to see books in recycle bins or worse, the trash.

Needless to say, I had a blast.  Spending four hours in a book store is easy for me.  Doing so while engaging with customers and selling and signing The Y in Life was even more fun.  Surrounded by Borders’ bookshelves and the company of Lisa and Dave Taylor, Used on New Books & More and Weirdsville is a funky place for the reader and music aficionado to enjoy.

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Signing a copy of “The Y in Life” for an adoring fan (and family member – Jill Robertson)

Visiting the Indies Chapter Two: Purple Tree Books in Cheboygan, Michigan

My son-in-law is from the Philadelphia area.  When he and my daughter toured northern Michigan recently, he told her that he had heard of Cheboygan and thought it was a fictional place.

Works of fiction (and nonfiction) have an adorable place to hang out before they are purchased in this real town at Purple Tree Books.  This sparkling amethyst is located in heart of downtown Cheboygan on Main Street, slipping into the place of Log Mark Book Store.  Purple Tree Books opened in late September, 2013, and it has hit the ground running, scheduling Michigan author signings just about every week.  Emily Clare is a wonderful host and a knowledgeable bookseller, having studied her trade at Horizon Books in Petosky.

The changing of the name from Log Mark Book Store, which had been in the community for a number of years, to Purple Tree Books has more meaning than a change of identity.  Emily’s niece was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was six days old.  Purple is the awareness color for this incurable genetic disease, and Emily named the store to enhance that awareness in honor of her niece.  All donations from the self-service coffee provided in-store go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

It was a drizzly, grey afternoon when I appeared on November 9, 2013 after my annual trip to Traverse City for the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan conference.  I signed copies of The Y in Life, met customers, and shared a fun afternoon with Emily and Grey Wolfe Publishing’s Associate Publisher, Diana Plopa.  My first visit to Purple Tree Books was as a guest author to do a book signing and to feed my book addiction.  It is now a must-stop when I make my travels to the northern part of Michigan.

Cheboygan may be a fictional place to those outside of Michigan, but a great true story has begun in this Northern Michigan town, authored by Emily Clare called Purple Tree Books.

Purple Tree Books
334 North Main Street
Cheboygan, MI  49721

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Photo by Diana Plopa
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Photo by Diana Plopa
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Emily Clare, Mike, Diana Plopa
Photo by Christopher Chagnon

Visiting the Indies Chapter One: Brilliant Books in Traverse City, MI

I love book stores.  I especially love independent book stores.  These are businesses where the owners have a true love for their product.  They care about books because they love books.  Their business is focused on their community and the readers within it.  And they are knowledgeable about the vast area of books and authors and publishing houses.

And though Borders had grown to become a large chain before it closed, each store had a knowledgeable staff and it’s own character.  I know.  I tried to apply for a position at the Borders in Novi, but was not qualified to become an employee.  They had a pre-employment test about authors and books and their subjects, which I must not have passed.  As for independence, I could only purchase my annual “Haiku: Japanese Art and Poetry” calendar at the Birmingham store because it was the only one in the Metro Detroit area to carry it.

The current chains are not like that.  My experience of them have been that books are fungible items, and from my observations the staff always rely on the computer to locate the book a customer seeks.

With The Y in Life now released, and as promotional efforts move forward, I’ll be sharing my photos of signing books at these wonderful establishments.

On November 6th, 2013, Brilliant Books in Traverse City, Michigan stocked The Y in Life.  I was in town for a conference so I stopped by to sign the copies they had on their shelf.

Brilliant Books is a relatively new book store in downtown Traverse City.  They have a great selection of books, including a solid bookcase of works by Michigan authors.  They offer a membership club that grants a variety of discounts, and they provide free shipping for orders.  They also provide a Surprise Book of the Month program where, for a fee, they will send you a book each month that, based on your reading preferences, will be a surprise pick by the store.  With the City Opera House just a few doors down and the National Writers Series an event at the Opera House featuring authors, Brilliant Books also has a collection of signed editions available for sale.

Brilliant Books
118 Front Street
Traverse City, MI  49684

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(Special thanks to Jack and Jodie for your kindness and hospitality, and to the store for carrying The Y in Life).