Madison Heights blogger brings writers together at Rust City Book Con

Rachel Moulden for Digital First Media

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Jackie Morgan established the Rust City Book Con, running Friday through Sunday, Aug. 4-6, at Detroit Marriott Troy, 200 W. Big Beaver Road, Troy. Courtesy of Jackie Morgan

Jackie Morgan, a Michigan book blogger at Literary Escapism, comes from a family of readers.

“I’ve read so many types of books over the years,” the Madison Heights resident says. “I initially started reading historical romances in my teenage years and now I read a lot of paranormal fantasy,” especially by authors Jeanine Frost, Chloe Neill, and Kim Harrison.

Morgan’s passion for books has manifested as an event readers will enjoy. She came up with the idea for Rust City Book Con after her experiences attending book conventions for several years. She has been blogging about books for more than 10 years and that, combined with attending conventions, enabled her to make connections with authors and publishers.

While volunteering at other conventions, many of Morgan’s friends suggested she should create one of her own. She decided to take their advice and Rust City was born to promote local and independent authors.

“When Borders closed it had a huge impact on readers and authors, especially the local ones,” Morgan says. “Borders was one of the big bookstores that constantly promoted indie local authors and when they closed it cut off a venue for authors to promote their works.”

In its second year, Rust City is still a “baby con.” Morgan’s goals are to bring more variety next year, especially sci-fi writers, particularly because the area has many sci-fi conventions. Her goal is no more than 300 attendees, allowing more one-on-one time with the authors.

“This year we have about 40 authors in attendance. A lot of the panels center around face-time with authors that you might not get to see at larger conventions,” she says.

Metro Detroit is a great area for conventions, Morgan says, because of its large population and with Canada so close, it’s convenient for Canadian authors, too.

Attendees of the 2017 convention have a lot to look forward to. Lunch and dinner buffets will make it easier for readers and writers to have access to food without leaving. The full schedule includes many activities.

“Every day there are writer’s workshops, author meet-and-greets, games such a bookish edition of the ‘Match Game,’ and even a charity raffle where attendees can win bookish prizes,” Morgan says.

Unlike other cons, she says the registration deadline is not cut off and those interested can still register. Saturday’s book sale and signing is also open to the public. In exchange, everyone is asked to bring a gently used book to help fill a new Little Free Library to be installed in the community after the event.

Attending authors are coming from Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. Some Michigan authors coming include C.K. Brooke, Rue Allyn, John David and Jenny Trout. All weekend there will be an indie bookstore where attendees can purchase the authors’ books.

Rust City Book Con takes place Friday through Sunday, Aug. 4-6, at Detroit Marriott Troy, 200 W. Big Beaver Road, Troy. Registration is $85 and includes all events and activities through the weekend. For more information, visit rustcitybookcon.com/.

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Herb Boyd surveys the rich history of the city in new book “Black Detroit”

Rachel Moulden for Digital First Media

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Herb Boyd will sign copies of his book “Black Detroit” in Southfield and Oak Park on June 10 and 11. Photo Courtesy of Christopher Griffith

Herb Boyd lives a busy life as an activist, author and academic. He keeps one foot in the classroom by teaching history and culture at City College of New York, and spends the rest of his time writing, researching and demonstrating — which he’s done for the past 32 years.

Boyd has lived in Detroit for more than 40 years. He moved there from Alabama as a small child, months before the race riot of 1943. Reflecting on his childhood, he says Detroit was very different from living in Alabama.

“There was a lot of activity happening,” he says. “We had no television at that time, but once you got out on the street you saw how chaotic the situation was.”

“Black Detroit: A People’s History of Self-Determination” is a comprehensive history of the city starting from the year 1701 all the way up to Detroit’s 2013 bankruptcy. It covers a number of historical events and mixes in elements of the people’s culture. “Detroit is an epicenter of politics, unions, music, sports, urban affairs, and so much more,” Boyd says.

He says his mother, Catherine Brown, is responsible for teaching him all he knows about Detroit and she is embedded in the book. The book also shares experiences he has had living in various places throughout Michigan.

“The gestation period for ‘Black Detroit’ was almost like that of an infant; it took me about nine months to get all of it down and several months of editorial help from my team of women to get it ready for the publisher,” the author says.

Boyd says the way his mother moved them from place to place gave him an opportunity to grow up all over Detroit, meeting tons of friends who provided the essential groundwork for the book.

When looking at Detroit from the past and the present Boyd thinks Detroit continues to be a tale of two cities — one gradually rebounding from a dismal economic period, the other spiraling deeper into the darkness of unemployment and homelessness. But looking toward the future of the city, “Since I’m an optimist I believe Detroit’s future is much brighter than the outlook proposed by many social and political pundits,” he says.

“The people of Detroit have faced much tougher times than the present, and through grit and determination we’ve managed to rebound and make a way out of no way.”

He reflects on his long history of activist work.

“One’s activism emerges from some very strange and unpredictable places. It’s hard to say when a feeling will possess you in such a way that you are moved to action,” he says. He didn’t initially plan on becoming an activist, but became a student leader in college and the next thing he knew he was out marching.

In times where people are becoming more active and vocal about demonstrating beliefs, he offers advice to those who want to get involved with a certain cause: Look toward your family, teachers and friends who get involved in something they believe, and it will make a believer out of you.

Boyd is working on a new book for Third World Press, focusing on the Harlem Renaissance. He’s also in the process of editing several books and submitting essays to a couple of anthologies.

• If you go: Herb Boyd will speak about his book “Black Detroit” at two events next weekend. The first will be at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 10, at the Southfield Public Library, 26300 Evergreen Road. The second will be 2-4 p.m. Sunday, June 11, at the Oak Park Public Library, 14300 Oak Park Blvd.

Local Author Releases Newest Book in Bestselling Mystery Series

By Rachel Moulden for Digital First Media

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Ferndale Author Donald Levin will hold a book launch event Saturday, June 10, at the Lawrence Street Gallery in Ferndale to celebrate the publication of his newest novel “The Forgotten Child.” Photo courtesy of Jeff Pearson

Ferndale author Donald Levin has always had a strong passion for the written word. Originally born in Massachusetts, the writer moved to Detroit as a small child and spent his days weaving together exciting fiction stories. In his thirties, he left Michigan to move to New York where he lived in various cities throughout the state.

There he worked as an adjunct college professor after obtaining his Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo and also worked as a speech writer for the New York State Public Health Commissioner. When he retired from Marygrove College in Detroit, he was Professor of English and Dean of the Faculty. He currently stands as Emeritus Professor of English at the college. After retiring from teaching and writing professionally, he decided that he wanted to focus more on writing for himself and not others.

Writing professionally and academically over the years, Levin didn’t start to write novels until the 1970s. On top of novel writing, he’s also delved into poetry over the years. Some of his poetry works include: In Praise of Old Photographs (2005) and New Year’s Tangerine (2007).

When it comes to poetry and novel writing he says there are striking differences between the two art forms. Poetry has a more intense narrative and can be written in a short amount of time as compared to fiction novels which are more of a long-term project. When it comes down to choosing between the two ultimately, he enjoys writing novels the best. “I like novels (the most) because I can immerse myself in an imaginative world”, says Levin.

Levin has been encouraged by many authors that have inspired him over the years. As a former professor, he is well versed in the classics, but he loves the mystery genre. Some of the writers he enjoys include Henning Mankell, Ian Rankin, and Walter Mosley. “I learned a lot from them (authors) and reading their books have inspired me to write my own books”, says Levin.

Levin says that he is a very diligent writer due to his previous years of professional writing. “As a speech writer, I sometimes had to write eight twenty-minute speeches in a week. I just learned that I had to stay focused and get it done”, he said. Levin does the majority of his writing in the Royal Oak Public Library from 10am to usually 4 or 5pm only stopping to take occasional breaks. At the end of the day he writes a note to himself as a reminder of where to start the new day.

Levin is currently promoting his newest novel “The Forgotten Child”, which is the fourth book in the Martin Preuss mystery series. This series follows a man named Martin who works for a police department and has a disabled son who lives in a group home due to Martin having a full time job and being a widower. The son, Toby, is based on Levin’s grandson Jamie, who also had disabilities and passed away three years ago. Levin wanted to set his series apart from other books in the same genre, by showing the fierce love between a father and son.

“The Forgotten Child”, picks up from the previous novel, “Guilt in Hiding”, in which Martin, newly retired from the Ferndale Police Department, passes his days quietly with his beloved son Toby. When a friend asks him to look for a boy who disappeared forty years ago, the former investigator gradually becomes consumed with finding the forgotten child.

The Martin Preuss series came about from Levin’s interest in the mystery genre. “As a boy, I loved to watch Dragnet and was a consumer of detective/crime fiction”, says Levin. He wanted to tackle the issues of people in society being affected by the extremities of crime and what crime says about the culture/society.

Levin is having a book launch event to celebrate the publication “The Forgotten Child”. The event will be held June 10th at the Lawrence Street Gallery at 22620 Woodward, Suite A in Downtown Ferndale, MI 48220. For more information about upcoming events visit http://www.donaldlevin.com to learn more about his books and upcoming appearances at local events.

Review: John Carpenter’s “Tales of Sci-Fi Vault” Will Give You Chills

Rachel Moulden for The Pit

By: John Carpenter (Writer), Andres Esparza (Artist)

Publisher: STORM KING PRODUCTIONS, INC

Release Date: July 26, 2017

Synopsis: When the moon-bound crew of Gaia stumbles across an enormous alien vessel, more technologically advanced than their own, priorities change. The mystery deepens when the crew discovers the name of the vessel along the hull…

*Vault (#1 of 3) is the first story of John Carpenter’s monthly anthology series Tales of Science Fiction.

Review:

Vault #1 takes its readers into a Sci-Fi space universe that is out of this this world. The story follows the crew of the Gaia as they trespass into an giant alien ship, and soon they find out they’re not alone.

The beginning of the story starts off in the present where they are investigating the alien ship, and then shifts to the past events that led us to that point in the story. We get a small introduction of the crew in Issue #1, and a small glimpse of their personalities. I was hoping to see a more personal background of each character, but the story only gives a general backstory of the crew mission. Hopefully, we will gain more insight into each character as the story moves along.

Usually, I’m not the biggest fan of hardcore Sci-fi stories, but Carpenter’s writing along with Esparza’s artwork has me immediately engrossed in the story. I found his characters to be interesting, the world building was smooth, and the suspense kept me on edge.

Esparza’s artwork felt so realistic, especially the way the characters emotions were drawn, you could feel their evident fear of the unknown and that helped to increased the story’s tension. On top of that, the use of vivid imagery and color, helped to make it a fully immersive experience.

I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen next in this three part series and I highly recommend reading this comic if you like galactic space stories.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Interview: CYRIC Delivers The Joy of Comics to Syrian Refugee Children with “Haawiyat”

Rachel Moulden for The Pit

Recently, The Pit got to “sit down” with A. David Lewis, Founder & President of the organization CYRIC to discuss their Haawiyat project and getting comics into the hands of refugee children.

What is CYRIC and what is its mission?

CYRIC stands for the Comics for Youth Refugees Incorporated Collective, and much of our goal has been built into that name: we want to give free comics to refugee children. It may seem like a small thing – and, certainly, considering what many of them have lost, it may well be. But many of us in CYRIC believe in the power of comics, whether it’s their ability to grant a small respite and escape from the reality around a reader or their capacity to stoke the imagination and emotional centers of its audiences. With so much having been taken from these kids, my team and I want to make something specifically for them and to signal that they matter. Their dreams matter, their traumas matter, and their lives matter. Let this humble comic be some glimmer of what still lays ahead for them.

 

How did CYRIC get started?

Ha, in frustration! That is, I was growing tired of seeing so much in U.S. media about Syria and so little being done for them – in Aleppo, in Idlib, all over the provinces. While informing the U.S. public is important, sure, I was feeling more and more like we remained the “consumers” of these refugee stories, just one more thing taken from these displaced people. As I was following the Twitter feed of 6 year-old Bana Alabed, I felt compelled to offer something back to her and all the children like her. So, I brainstormed a “Bana Comic” with some other interested creators, and that grew into Haawiyat, our first title.

 

What is the Haawiyat project? What is the story about?

Haawiyat in Arabic means “container,” and, like the relief goods that are being sent overseas in huge shipping containers, the comic aims to redeploy Syrian folk lore back to Syrian children. Rather than foist U.S. culture on them, I knew our content needed to be grounded in their home, in the culture that’s been scattered in this diaspora.

Admittedly, my team and I may left our fingerprints, figuratively speaking, on the stories, but the goal was always to be as faithful a conduit as possible of these native narratives and tales, not their champion. My hope is that Haawiyat gives them a connection back to their home that feels valuable – a reminder of Syria as a place of great history and richness that transcends its current besieged state.

 

Why did you choose Haawiyat to be a comic book rather than a novel?

Well, there are two reasons, but the first one is quite simple: Comics are what I know how to do! I was quite hesitant at first, I confess, but my wife, in particular, encouraged me to see this through; if comics were what I had to offer, then so be it. Moreover, as a comics studies scholar in my professional life, I can testify to the uniqueness of the verbal-visual hybridity that make up comics. Without disparaging prose or music or sculpture or any other expressive medium, I do see comics as engaging both hemispheres of the brain – and for all levels of readers! The images and the words work in tandem with the sequentiality of the panels to light up the minds in a way that, I feel, is inimitable.

 

What was the process of creating Haawiyat like and the process of getting the comic into reader’s hands?

Initially, it was much like the standard process of putting together a comic. I mean, I tend to do a good bit of research for any comic that I’m interested in writing, so the deep dive into Syrian folklore was a familiar maneuver if also an exciting, new field. Add to that the guidance I was given by mental health professionals and on-site relief workers about what themes and story lines would be the most healing for this population. So, after scripting each story into a comics format, I teamed with various collaborators to produce the art, then I turned to lettering professionals and layout experts.

The trickiest part here was getting the translation and the Arabic right, a process we took pains to get right. Wonderfully enough, the folks at Ka-Blam Digital Printing were willing to produce 400 copies of our initial 8-page effort entirely for free, and our partners at NuDay Syria took it upon themselves to get those books to kids’ hands in camps along the Turkish border. In many ways, it was a reasonably straightforward comics-making process, though my eyes watered up in a way they never had before when I saw pictures of Haawiyat being enjoyed by these children.

 

Congratulations on Haawiyat reaching overseas! What are your future goals for this project?

Now with the initial process tested, it’s time to expand Haawiyat and create the comic book I originally had in mind: 64 pages of full-color art with folk lore from all across Syria and its existence. There are so many stories still pouring out of my research and the land’s rich history. We have many new artists joining us and have received some early funding to pay for their services on additional stories. It’s quite exciting to see this move ahead with such force!

 

What future goals does CYRIC have as whole?

In the long-term, I would like to see two things happen, ideally. First, I would like for CYRIC to aid, in addition to Syria, refugee populations from all around the world: Yemen, South Sudan, Myanmar’s Rohingya, and so on. Sadly, I don’t see a day coming where there won’t be refugees fleeing from some land, and no children anywhere deserve to be traumatized by such conflict. Therefore, as the need presents itself, I hope CYRIC can expand to include whatever populations of kids need the attention.

Along with that, CYRIC’s other goal would be to produce comics created by the children we’ve reached. It would be tremendous to help amplify their stories and let their imaginations reach readers not only all across the globe but, perhaps more importantly, also displaced from their shared home. If CYRIC eventually grows to provide children displaced from any country the opportunity to feel valued and empowered through comics storytelling, then it will have fulfilled its larger mission.

 

How can people become involved with/support the Haawiyat project?

The best way right now is to help make our goal of printing and distributing this expanded version of Haawiyat possible by making a tax-exempt donation to our Razoo page. Spread word, share CYRIC’s work, reach out to others. We continue to look for partner organizations and corporations who might share in our goals of supporting displaced kids wherever they are and from wherever they may have come. Every kid deserves a comic book.

To learn more about the Haawiyat project visit: http://syriacomic.com/

Huntington Woods author to discuss her book about disability and inclusion

Rachel Moulden for Digital First Media

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Huntington Woods resident Janice Fialka is speaker and activist who fights for inclusion for people who live with disabilities. Courtesy Janice Fialka

Huntington Woods resident Janice Fialka is a speaker and activist who fights for inclusion for those who live with disabilities.

Fialka is the mother of two adult children, daughter Emma and a son, Micah, who lives with an intellectual disability. As a social worker, she spent 40 years working with adolescents and their families. But while caring for Micah, she refocused on disabilities.

She learned about the relationships parents with disabled children have to industry professionals and established herself as a major contributor to the national conversation about the topic. Her workshops, “The Dance of Partnership” train parents and the professionals who work with them to better understand their challenges and form creative partnerships.

Fialka now is a nationally recognized lecturer, author and advocate on issues related to disability and children.

In her latest book, “What Matters: Reflections on Disability, Community and Love,” Fialka discusses what it takes for families and communities to rise above labels that could signal a lifetime of low expectations and segregation. The book focuses on Micah’s experiences as one of the first students with an intellectual disability to be fully included in Michigan’s public schools.

After high school, Micah joined the new wave of young adults with intellectual disabilities attending college, and won a federal lawsuit that upheld his right to live in a dorm at Oakland University.

“For Micah, his situation wasn’t about having a deficiency, but was more of a civil/human rights issue,” Fialka says. “He’s not ashamed of his disability, he sees it as who he is.”

Today, Micah gives speeches across the country, serves on the U.S. Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, is a teaching assistant in the School of Education at Syracuse University in New York, uses technology to read and write and directs his funding and support needs.

Fialka’s goal for the book is to share what she and her son have learned, offering practical guidance about how to support those with disabilities. She says there are many ways people can learn about those with disabilities.

“There are so many books available about people living with disabilities, it helps to break the silence and open a discussion for questions. You can also research disability history and advocate for inclusion,” she says.

Fialka is working on multiple lectures and promoting the book through the rest of the year. Micah is writing his own book, and he will be featured in an upcoming documentary in 2018. A preview is at the University of New Hampshire website, iod.unh.edu/projects/intelligent-lives.

• Janice Fialka will talk about her book from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, March 26, at Book Beat Book Store, 26010 Greenfield Road, Oak Park. For more about Fialka, visit danceofpartnership.com.

Oakland University dance professor curates The Michigan Five performance

Rachel Moulden for Digital First Media

Greg Patterson of Warren teaches dance at Oakland University. Courtesy Greg Patterson

Gregory Patterson shares his passion for music and dance through the students he teaches at Oakland University.

“I was always interested in dance as a kid, but was more of a sports guy growing up,” says Patterson, a Warren resident and associate professor of dance, who has been teaching at OU for 21 years.

Part of his duties is leading the Michigan Five, a performance highlighting the best dancers from colleges and universities in the state. Created to demonstrate to high schoolers what Michigan colleges offer in their dance programs, it will be at The Berman Center for the Performing Arts at on March 11.

“It’s an exciting idea because dancers are always looking for outside opportunities to perform,” says Patterson who curates the performance.

Participating this year are dancers from the University Of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, Grand Valley State University, Western Michigan University, Wayne State University and Detroit Renaissance High School.

Schools chosen for The Michigan Five are confirmed in October, and their dances are prepared through their classes, usually modern and contemporary works.

This year’s show is dedicated to Carol Halsted, who was a vibrant symbol in the dance world of Metro Detroit. Halsted, who died in late January, founded the OU dance department and went on to become director of dance at Michigan Opera Theatre.

Patterson’s performance career stretches back to high school and college, where he participated in the musicals “West Side Story,” “Hello Dolly” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” He graduated from Bowling Green University with a psychology degree, but after taking some dance classes he decided to pursue it as a profession.

He eventually earned his master of fine arts degree at the University of Michigan and has danced professionally for more than 30 years — as a member of Harbinger Dance Company, Eisenhower Dance, Ann Arbor Dance Works and Rigmarole Dance Company. On top of that, he’s the dance program director and artistic director of Patterson Rhythm Pace Dance Company, which he created in 2000. And he serves as chairman of the Michigan Dance Council, as well as choreographing and assisting with musicals at Oakland University.

Patterson says he’s incredibly fortunate to be involved in so many aspects of dance, but his biggest challenge is always having too much on his plate.

“I just can’t seem to say no when people ask for help,” he says with a laugh.

For Patterson, the most rewarding aspect is “being able to see students I have trained to go on in life and become successful dancers, working with well-known choreographers, and having the opportunity to tour internationally.”

The Michigan Five performance takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 11, at The Berman Center for The Performing Arts, 6600 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield Township. This performance is sponsored by Harriet and Irving Berg. For more information about the show or to purchase tickets call 248-661-1900 or visit theberman.org/.