Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Books · Sterling‘s stories 4/11/11
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Sterling‘s stories 4/11/11

Glen Young - April 11th, 2011
Sterling’s Stories: Delving into the heart of Northern Michigan… briefly
In Which Brief Stories Are Told
By Phillip Sterling
Wayne State University Press
By Glen Young
Phillip Sterling believes that although Northern Michigan is part of “the Midwest,” there is a sensibility in the Great Lakes state that separates us from our neighbors.

“It’s somewhere between Hell and Paradise. Not only is it geographically true, but I think it says something about the tendency toward exploring the extreme in celebrating American culture,” Sterling says about the competing tendencies of Northern Michigan.
“We’re called Midwestern but we’re not Midwestern in the sense of say Indiana or Illinois. We’re thought of as North, but we’re not North in the way of say Minnesota.”
Sterling is the author of the newly released “In Which Brief Stories Are Told.” He says our region’s connected separateness is a recurrent theme in the 15 stories that make up his new book, recently published as part of the “Made in Michigan Writers Series” from the Wayne State University Press.

Sterling, who lives in Cascade near Grand Rapids, grew up in Traverse City, graduating from TC Senior High in 1969. He has been teaching writing and literature at Ferris State University for 24 years.
His stories, several of which are set in the Grand Traverse region, combine Sterling’s practiced poetic perspective with keen observations.
Examples abound, such as in the story “An Account in Her Name,” narrated by a woman whose sister Edie went missing years earlier. The narrator returns to Beulah, where she is to meet with a local banker to settle an account still open in her missing sister’s name.
The story’s central question, posed rhetorically near the conclusion, begs to know, “What does it mean to save a person’s life? At what cost?” Sterling’s narrator grapples with the knowledge she did not save her sibling and thought the sisterly bond is still, if more thinly than before, intact.
Sterling says the settings are reminiscent of his own past. “My dad did own a restaurant, and my sister was a lifeguard at Beulah Beach,” as is true in the story. “My father bought a cottage because my grandmother owned a cottage on Platte Lake,” he says.
The story’s tension, created out of the narrator’s belief that she never completely knew her own sister, is however, fictional. “There are place details that are accurate,” Sterling says, but like any credible fiction writer, he propels his memories into inventions.

The recipient of Fulbright Lectureship awards, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Sterling is better known as a poet, having published several volumes of verse. He admits he had to put poetry aside while working on this collection.
“This past summer, when I was working through this book, revising it, I was not writing poetry.”
He adds that the process works both ways. “When I was working on the books of poetry, I was not writing fiction.”
“In Which Brief Stories Are Told” represents decades of Sterling’s fictional efforts. “A couple of them date back 20 years,” he says.
When he determined to publish a book of fiction, Sterling sought guidance in a variety of ways.
“I started to read more contemporary fiction, and that was influential in seeing how the styles have changed,” he says. He admits he had some initial concerns. “I kept finding that my stories were not along the lines of what a lot of the presses were publishing.
“I’d published a few here and there over the years,” he says of the stories in his collection. “It was a winnowing process… I essentially collected everything I had and started sending them out.”
The editors at Wayne State recognized a thematic connection, and suggested the book be considered for the Made In Michigan Series.
Sterling admits that the long gaps between his work on particular stories were a concern. His work on this collection has made him a better, more efficient, writer, he believes. “I notice it more in terms of drafting. I can catch the things I might change in story more quickly than I would have five or six years ago.”

Phillip Sterling and Interlochen’s Michael Delp will be reading and signing books at Horizon Books in Traverse City on April 27 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. They will participate in a literary discussion at the City Opera House, as part of the National Writers Series, on April 28 at 7 p.m. For more information on tickets call 231-342-0611, or visit www.nationalwritersseries.org
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