Saturday, February 28, 2015

Between the Lines: Challenging Amazon

by Zinta Aistars
for WMUK 102.1 FM

Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m., on WMUK 102.1 FM, southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guest: Jerry Dennis.

Dissatisfaction can lead to positive change. When Michigan nature writer Jerry Dennis became frustrated with online bookseller Amazon over its treatment of authors, he sat down with his wife, graphic designer Gail Dennis, and artist Glenn Wolff, to brainstorm.

“We hate bullies,” Dennis writes in his blog. “I was one of 600 authors who signed a full-page letter in the New York Times protesting Amazon’s strong-arm business tactics. As a Macmillan author, I had watched the buy buttons on four of my books, and every other Macmillan title, disappear from Amazon’s website in 2010, when the publisher refused to buckle in to Amazon’s unreasonable price demands. Not long after that, Amazon put a stranglehold on small literary publisher Melville House and nearly drove the house out of business. They used the same tactic this year against the large publishing group Hachette. Jeff Bezos’ oft-quoted statement ‘that Amazon should approach small publishers the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle’ sends shivers down our spines. Maybe publishing a book or two a year that the Bully can’t touch will be satisfying, like slinging pebbles at his forehead.”

The result was Big Maple Press, named after a tree on the Dennis property and devoted to selling books only through independent booksellers. The press opened its doors in 2014 and has thus far printed or reprinted special editions of several of his books, including The Bird in the Waterfall: Exploring the Amazing World of Water, originally published by HarperCollins.

Dennis says being a nature writer goes hand-in-hand with being an environmentalist. Although he also writes poetry and fiction, Dennis is most comfortable writing nonfiction on environmental themes.

He was chosen as Kalamazoo Public Library’s 2015 Reading Together author for his memoir The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas about a six-week journey through all five Great Lakes as a crew member aboard a schooner. It is also a discussion of Michigan’s use—and misuse —of its water resources. Dennis will ...





Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Seniors are Clicking Their Heels Together: There’s No Place Like Home

by Zinta Aistars
Published at Golden Slippers Network
February 22, 2015

In the classic movie, Wizard of Oz, Dorothy clicks together the heels of her ruby red shoes and wishes herself home. In real life, most seniors make that same fervent wish. 

“There’s no place like home,” says Kristin Kolasa, owner and founder of Kindred Spirits Senior Care. “That’s where people want to stay. Home is their place of comfort.” 

Kindred Spirits Senior Care was established in 2011, Kolasa explains, in Northville, Michigan, covering Oakland and Wayne counties. Kolasa had long worked in health care, but when she and her mother Renee helped care for an elderly friend, something clicked. And it wasn’t her red shoes. 

“When Richard passed away, my mother made a comment at his funeral that stuck with me,” she says. “She said, ‘I felt like Richard and I were kindred spirits.’” 

Kindred Spirits—the name fit the concept Kolasa had for what is now a business with 40 employees, offering in-home services to help seniors live at home safely and comfortably: dressing assistance; bathing and showering; meal preparation; light housekeeping; errands and shopping; accompanied doctor visits; transportation, and more. 

“Most importantly, we provide companionship,” Kolasa says. “For medical needs, many of our staff are CNAs [certified nursing assistants], and when needed, we offer hospice support, too.” 

Working with a family begins with a free consultation.  

“We spend a lot of time up front talking with the family about their needs,” says Kolasa. “We’re not a bull in a china shop, taking over. We talk to the family to find out what they need from us. We do with them rather than for them.” 

An elderly client was an example of Kindred Spirits staff making a difference in the life of a senior who felt like no one was listening to him. In his early 80s, he had no family left, and he lived in senior housing. 

“He was an agitated and disengaged man,” says Stacey Tardich, director of community outreach at Kindred Spirits. “He wouldn’t participate in any of the activities at the facility.” 

Kindred Spirits staff helped him shower, shave, change the batteries in his hearing aids (one reason he spoke so loudly), and dress. A new cushion on his wheelchair eliminated his pressure wounds. “We put a cover over his catheter that was hanging from his wheelchair to restore his dignity,” Tardich says. “And we accompanied him to his doctor visits to make sure he understood his doctor’s directions and expressed his needs to his doctor.” 

Perhaps most important of all was that ...

See the full article at GOLDEN SLIPPERS NETWORK.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Between the Lines: Literary Citizenship

by Zinta Aistars

Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m., on WMUK 102.1 FM, southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guest: Lori A. May.

Lori May

When Lori May moved from her native Canada to Detroit she became keenly aware of her need to be involved in her new literary community. May takes the responsibility of being what she calls a "literary citizen" seriously. In fact, during her years living in Detroit (she now resides in the Pacific Northwest), May wrote The Write Crowd: Literary Citizenship and the Writing Life (Bloomsbury, 2015), exploring what it means to be a literary citizen.
“It’s the buzzword right now,” says May. “But literary citizenship goes back centuries to Walt Whitman, the people’s poet, and probably before that. Literary citizenship is how writers and readers engage in the community to the betterment of the community.”
Credit Bloomsbury Press
May says that engagement can happen in several ways. Writers can mentor other writers. Writers and readers can review books as a way of supporting and promoting literature, especially new literature by unknown writers. Local academics can hold literary events. And everyone can shop for books at their independent bookseller.
Even if there isn't an independent bookstore in a 50-mile radius, May says, “That’s the wonderful thing about the Internet. You can shop independent booksellers’ websites. Most offer shipping across the country, and many across the world, so you can still support the independent bookseller.”
May says, “Readers can be the best literary citizens in waiting. It is the reader excited about a literary discovery who ...