|Z (left) and Bonnie Jo Campbell (right)|
But at 2 p.m., hottest and steamiest part of the day, I pulled my hair up and clamped it so it wouldn't touch my neck, put real clothes on, and went out. Into the July day. Woosh, was it hot. Yet how many times does a terrific new novel get published by someone you know? I mean really terrific. I was out to show my support, rub elbows with Bonnie Jo Campbell, and get my copy of Once Upon a River, hot off the W. W. Norton presses, signed by the author.
Oh, but anything for you! And for this incredible group of literary stars in Kalamazoo. We've been saying it for years now, asking: what's in the water? How is it that Kalamazoo has so much artistic talent, busting at the seams with it, writers and artists earning acclaim. A recent article in the Detroit Free Press took note, too, publishing an article called Michigan's West Side A Hot Spot for Writers.
Able to make it into the newly renovated door and lobby, complete with tinkling water fountain, of Bell's Eccentric Cafe (we are good at art here, but also good at brewing excellent beer), I started to have my suspicions of one of the reasons. The place was brimming and bustling with Bonnie fans. Gloria Tiller of Kazoo Books had a long table set up along one side, and it creaked under the weight of books written by local authors.
So maybe that was it. That was why and how this unique Kalamazoo literary and artistic lushness happens: we mill and we elbow rub and we show up at each others' events to show our support. We care. We share. We do what we can to promote each other. We drink our cold brews together, we sweat in unison, and we are there to offer a toast when any among us sees success. We bolster each other on the down dips, too.
I'm thinking that much good karma has to have an effect.
"There she is, there's the author," Gloria points me in the direction of Loreen, standing by the water fountain. I buy the book ... I can't resist this type of story, woman bonding with nature, a voyage in solitude, and make it a local story, and I'm there. I head for Loreen with my copy of her book to introduce myself.
Another connection is made. I am very much looking forward to this read. My favorite Great Lake is Lake Superior, but she, native of Battle Creek, has bonded to the closer Lake Michigan, walking all the way around it to settle the upheaval of a "mid-life crisis." I make mental note to return to this for a future issue of The Smoking Poet. This would make an excellent author interview ...
|Andy Mozina (left), Michael Loyd Gray (right)|
And there's Susan Ramsey, whose book has recently been accepted for publication, and I have already had a taste of her remarkable talent. I can hardly wait. Oh fun, there's poet Colleen Little. And I talk to Cheryl Peck, too, who is facing up to challenges, hearing that teeth-gritting response from her agent and potential publishers: "Great writing, but how to market it?" That, I think, may be just the kind of challenge we might discuss at that writers' roundtable ...
I go in for a hug with poet Elaine Seaman, but we both pull back ... it's too hot, too hot for hugs, so we make the motions only and laugh. Time for a cold one instead.
|Elaine Seaman (left), Susan Ramsey (right)|
I've read and reviewed the advance review copy, but Bonnie tells me there were some 2,000 changes made to that copy before the final one went to print. "Typos, surely?" I widen my eyes. But she says no, not all, some cuts made, some additions. Ah, well then, I will have to read it again!
And that's just fine. I head back to my car, baking in the sun, several books under my arm, all inscribed. These are the joys of old fashioned books, I think, as I place them carefully on the passenger seat. They can be inscribed by the authors. E-books, alas, cannot. These will now be added to my shelves of literary treasure. Awaiting many, many long and lovely hours of reading, falling into the wonderful stories of my Kalamazoo area neighbors.
I imagine long and lazy summer days ahead, too hot to move, too hot to do anything ... but read, holding the garden hose in a high arc to spray cool water on the petunias, let the robins dance, and read, read ...