By Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli
As all writers eventually discover, writing is a lonely business. Not just the hours spent at a computer, but the aftermath trying to sell the work that has kept the writer busy for months, or even years. As local writer John Mauk notes: Authors cant write and then fall into a hole Authors have to carry their work into the world even when its heavy.
Its because of this carrying into the world that the Michigan Writers organization began a chapbook contest in 2005. Chapbooks tend to be small books issued by poets or essayists for an appreciative readership of like-minded souls.
The three winners of the 2010 Michigan Writers Chapbook contest are John Mauk, English rhetoric professor at NMC, for his short stories, The Rest of Us; Jennifer Sperry Steinorth for her poetry collection, Forking the Swift; and Sarah Baughman for her essays, Growing in Seasons.
What are their thoughts on the writing life?
In a previous life, I was a dog, Mauk says. Whenever I like something, I want to howl back in kind. Years ago, after I finished my PhD in rhetoric, I decided that I was going to read fiction, get my head into something besides theory. Along the way I rediscovered the novelwhat it does, how it pulls you forward and knocks you around. Its taken me years of weird noises, awful guttural hacking, to make a sound worthy of the wind. In short, this is my first formal literary howl.
Of being one of this years winners, essayist Sarah Baughman of Petoskey has this to say: Writing is a fairly solitary act, but ultimately you hope that your words will ring true for others and in some way echo a common human experience.
Baughman says her collection tracks my pregnancy and my sons birth within the framework of Northern Michigans four seasons. Working on this collection has reminded me of the surprises inherent in the writing process.
Poet, Jennifer Sperry Steinorth, a graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy where she majored in dance, is a builder and designer for a small, green-building company in Traverse City. When asked why she writes, Jennifer says, Thats a hard one to answer. We try and make sense. Sometimes the conversations we have are internal, but its easy to get lost in the mind. Wishing to put ones work into the world publicly is like wishing to participate in a conversation that one has been listening to, rapt, knowing full well that one may sound very foolish.
Of being chosen a winner in the Michigan Writers Chapbook contest, Steinorth adds, We are rich to live in a place of such bounty: where exquisite food is produced both for body and the soul. I am humbled and grateful to those at Michigan Writers for providing this opportunity to add my fare to the cart, in hopes that someone may find some sustenance there.
The three beautifully designed and published chapbooks are now out and available from Michigan Writers - www.michwriters.org - and in local bookstores.
Elizabeth Buzzellis new mystery, Dead Sleeping Shaman is now available at local bookstores.