By Erin Crowell
If you thought the National Writers Series (NWS) was just another
festival to draw tourists to Northern Michigan, founder Doug Stanton
would tell you youre wrong.
We spread the series throughout the year, with two to three events
per month, said the New York Times bestselling author of Horse
Soldiers and In Harms Way. (Like other festivals), you could run
a marathon just once in a year; or you could run six miles everyday,
which does a lot more for you.
Stanton is referring to the series that brings bestselling writers
from around the country right into Traverse City and the intimate
setting of the City Opera House an event geared to promoting a
year-round discussion of literature and ideas.
Last years inaugural event allowed audiences to participate in a
dinner table-like discussion with writers such as Mary Karr, author
of The Liars Club; Advice Goddess columnist Amy Alkon; National
Book Award winner Peter Matthiessen; and news anchor/journalist Tom
While last year compiled a roster of serious wordsmiths, the 2011
series looks to be just as impacting; 15 made the trip last year,
while the event plans on hosting 20 writers in 11.
Each author will be on stage either with Stanton or as a guest host to
discuss anything from the development as an author or for a particular
book to influences in the book industry, itself. Each session is
followed by an hour-long Q&A with the audience.
First on the City Opera House stage will be AMC televisions Mad Men
writer-producers Janet Leahy and Lisa Albert, scheduled for Thursday,
Leahy and Albert will provide examples of scripts written for the
award-winning drama and show its process from the page to the screen,
concluding with the actual clip containing the written scene,
according to Stanton.
Other guests include Sarah Brokaw, daughter of Tom Brokaw and author
of Fortytude, Making the Next Decades the Best Years of Your Life
through the 40s, 50s, and Beyond, appearing March 3; Roy Bount Jr.,
humorist and contributor to The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Rolling
Stone, on May 12; and National Public Radio commentator David Sedaris
on Oct. 24, among many others.
Richard Ford is one of the best writers in the country, said Stanton
about the NWS June 2 guest.
Ford, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, earned his book The
Sportswriter as one of Time Magazines five best books of 1986.
BY AUTHORS, FOR AUTHORS
You may be asking yourself, How does Traverse City find itself on the
radar of national bestselling authors?
I called em, Stanton said matter-of-factly.
With 20 years of experience writing for national publications and
best-selling non-fiction, the Traverse City native has developed a
solid web of literary relationships.
The thing is, these authors want to be here, Stanton added. Theyre
saying this is one of the best book tour events on their schedule.
Stanton points to the dwindling advertising funds of literary agencies
and the lack of promotion when it comes to a book tour a main
component in driving book sales (and recognition on the best sellers
Stanton had just come off a 50-city book tour, himself, when the NWS
was just starting to take off.
As an author, I know what I want in a book tour event, he said. We
provide (the visiting authors) with an audience and venue to sell
their books, a list of media in promotion. These include audio/visual
broadcasting and re-distribution by IPR and Up North Media, along with
several radio, print and TV spots.
The event also serves as a function for attendees.
It prompts the audience to learn more about the author, explained
Stanton. Its a creative and transformative experience for other
NEW AND REAL
Its an intimate setting that brings the possibilities of the writing
world into something more substantial, particularly for young writers.
When youre there 10 feet away from that author, it makes (the
publishing) world seem more real, Stanton said.
A driving force of the NWS is its attention to the young writing
community, particularly by providing scholarships to high school-age
children seeking a writing career.
$1,500 will be awarded to a student in the categories of poetry,
fiction and non-fiction. Students must be residents of Antrim, Grand
Traverse, Benzie, Kalkaska or Leelanau counties and attend a public,
private or home school at the 11th or 12th grade level.
Beyond the scholarship, new this year is the NWS working with Traverse
City Area Public Schools to host a creative writer in residence.
A writer will live downtown for a certain period of time and provide
tutoring and readings for area students, said Stanton.
Another new addition this year includes collaboration with the
National Cherry Festival to host an On-the-Beach author event on July
2. Details will be announced later.
While festivals continue to pop up throughout the region, the National
Writers Series has proven it can hold its own as a wide-serving,
creative arts event that goes beyond the three-day hoopla.
Were very excited for this year and are already booking for 2012,
Who knows? Maybe an NWS scholarship winner will be on that City Opera
House stage one day.
The National Writers Series begins with An Evening with the Writers
of Mad Men, Featuring Janet Leahy and Lisa Albert on Thursday, Feb.
3, at the City Opera House, 7 p.m. For more information on future
author events, how to apply for a scholarship and other information,
check out www.nationalwritersseries.org.