When author Doug Stanton was growing up in Traverse City, he wondered
if it would be possible to bring nationally-known writers to his
hometown to talk about what they knew. This year, hell make that
dream happen, bringing some of the brightest celebrities of the
literary world to downtown Traverse City.
The National Writers Series, now in its second season, will bring 17
best-selling authors, journalists, and storytellers to town in 2010.
The goal? Raise $50,000 in five years for aspiring writers to pursue
writing in college.
Ive asked the best of the best in American letters to come to
Traverse City and help us, says Stanton. The response to the
year-round book festival, says Stanton, has been fantastic.
Founded in 2009 by New York Times best-selling author Stanton (Horse
Soldiers), Traverse City attorney Grant Parsons, and Northern Express
reporter Anne Stanton, the National Writers Series will bring the
following luminaries to town over the coming year, with dates to be
News anchor and author Tom Brokaw (The Greatest Generation, Boom!
Voices of the Sixties);
Memoirist Mary Karr (The Liars Club and Lit, which was chosen by
the New York Times as one of the 10 Best books of 2009);
Best-selling author and historian James Bradley (Flags Of Our
Fathers and Imperial Cruise);
New York Times and Time magazine book reviewer and best-selling
author Walter Kirn (Lost in the Meritocracy and Up In The Air);
World-renowned chef and author Mario Batali (Food Network Iron
Chefs; Malto Italiano cookbook);
Golden Globe-nominated actor Woody Harrelson (The Messenger and Defendor);
Author, activist, and blogger Colin Beavan (No Impact Man);
Nationally syndicated advice columnist and humorist Amy Alkon (I See
Memoirist Rhoda Janzen (Mennonite In A Little Black Dress);
Washington Post correspondent and Pulitzer Prize-winning author
David Finkel (The Good Soldiers, which was chosen by the New York
Times as one of the 10 Best Books of 2009);
Fresh from Afghanistan and the Pentagon, Washington Post
correspondent Greg Jaffe (The Fourth Star);
Emmy-nominated television producers Betsy Beers (Greys Anatomy
and Private Practice) and Janet Leahy (Cosby, Boston Legal and Life
Novelist, television writer and producer Elwood Reid (What Salmon
Know; D.B.; and CBS Cold Case);
Poet and National Book Award nominated author Thomas Lynch (Still
Life In Milford and the forthcoming Apparition & Other Fictions);
Crime novelist and Pulitzer prize-winning Wall Street Journal
reporter and bureau chief Bryan Gruley (Starvation Lake and the
forthcoming The Hanging Tree);
Naturalist, activist, and two-time National Book Award-winning
author Peter Matthiessen (The Snow Leopard and Shadow Country; Peter
is also a founder of the United States most esteemed literary
magazine, The Paris Review).
Each month a new author will appear in downtown Traverse City for an
up close and personal evening of food and discussion about
literature and storytelling.
To make this happen, Stanton has called on the friends and colleagues
hes met in the course of his national literary career. Hes also
enlisting the help of local supporters to assist with planning,
hosting, or fund-raising efforts, including Horizon Books, Michigan
Writers, City Opera House, Foreword Magazine, FIM Group, Up North 2
TV, the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, Traverse City
Friends Of The Library, book clubs, and numerous businesses and
volunteers. These people are what make the Series happen, says
The Series kicked off in 2009, hosting Stanton as he talked with a
standing room-only audience about his book Horse Soldiers, and was
followed by An Evening with Masters Of Crime, Elmore Leonard and
Peter Leonard, who delighted a packed Traverse City Opera House with
stories about the craft of writing.
All proceeds from Series events are donated to a scholarship fund
established at the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation. I
was helped by a similar grant when I was growing up in Traverse City,
and it meant the world to me, says Stanton.
Stanton says the Series has been long in planning, ever since I was a
teenager, in 1977, and met Jim Harrison in downtown Traverse City, and
he helped guide me on my way as a writer. Were bringing important
writers to town to rub shoulders with young writers. The Series is
dedicated to supporting writers of all ages and experience.
Brokaw, Batali, Harrelson, Karr, and other visiting writers are
waiving their normal public-speaking fees to appear in the series.
Proceeds will fund college scholarships for local high school writers.
Scholarships of $1,000, $500 and $250 will be presented at a multi-day
gala event during the 2010-2011 series. They will be awarded to the
students by a nationally prominent writer, in time for this accolade
to become part of the students college applications.
Weve formed a blue-ribbon scholarship committee -- a panel of judges
-- headed by local writers, says Parsons, and this is going to be a
merit-based, national award. Its our hope that when a young writer
applies to college and lists the Traverse City National Writers
Series Award, it will be part of what propels that writer ahead.
The Series will work with area schools and teachers as the students
submit work in fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Winning entries will
be published in the Dunes Review, one of the best literary journals in
the Midwest. The scholarship program encompasses students in the
five-county area of Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie, Antrim and
AN IDEA IS BORN
Stanton refined the idea of the Series last year during a national
tour to promote Horse Soldiers. Hes presently being asked to speak at
some of the top book festivals in the U.S., and is taking the best
aspects of each and incorporating these into the National Writers
I realized the paradigm for selling books -- and for the culture of
letters generally -- has changed, says Stanton. After my book tour,
I came back to Traverse City, and with my wife, Anne Stanton, and a
few friends, like Louise Marks and Rodger Shomo, and with the generous
support of local businesses and groups like the Friends of the
Library, we mapped out our dream event.
It was one of those Aha! moments. People didnt want to hear writers
drone through a reading. People wanted to meet great writers, ask
questions and share a drink, and writers wanted to entertain. Make it
live is the Series motto. These evenings are like great
conversations at dinner parties.
The death of the written word is widely reported, and its false,
Stanton adds. The world of words is what were bringing to life
Stanton says the year-round festival will showcase all genres of
writing. Well plan a Crime Weekend, featuring the best crime
writers in the country. Well host events with the best young-adult
authors publishing today. Im planning a fascinating Politics &
Prose event with some of the smartest and most literate writers
And well feature poets. I didnt write much prose until I got my
first job writing at Esquire magazine. Before that, Id only studied
and written poetry. As a poet once said, Poetry is the purest form of
Stanton says that literary fiction and non-fiction will also be a
staple of the Series. Walter Kirn, our friend, is a perfect example
of a tremendously successful literary writer who has reached a wide
audience, especially with his novel Up In The Air.
The book festival will also support writers in Northern Michigan by
showcasing their talent and work at Series events. Stanton says this
includes both student writers and writers further along in their lives
who are seriously working at their craft.
In addition to being entertaining, the Series is also designed to sell
books for the authors. We heavily promote the events to a wide
variety of people, and we are committed to keeping these evenings
affordable, says Stanton.
How will it work? Authors will talk for 20 minutes and take part in a
Q&A about their writing, books, and career, followed by a reception
with food and drink. Organizers plan for audiences of 500 people, with
an aim toward selling 200 books to a bookstore reporting to the New
York Times list.
We think the Series will become a premier literary event in the
Midwest, says Stanton.
For more information, or to volunteer, contact Doug and Anne Stanton
at (231) 631-1551. Find Traverse City National Writers Series on
Look for nationally syndicated Advice Goddess and humorist Amy Alkon
at a Valentines Day event at the Traverse City Opera House, February