The Michigan Book Project: November

The Michigan Book Project: November

Upcoming Events & Publications

The enigmatically named local nonprofit 826michigan announces its third-annual festival of one-act plays: Written by students, acted by actors, with oatmeal galore!

If you’ve ever meandered through Ann Arbor, you may have passed Liberty Street Robot & Repair shop. Most people snap a quizzical expression, crease their brow, and keep walking. After all, Apple hasn’t given us a solid functioning home robot yet. Why would we need one repaired? However, this is actually the home base of 826michigan, a nonprofit tutoring and creative writing center for youth in the community. This month, 826 will be presenting their third annual compilation of one-act plays entitled “Five Bowls of Oatmeal”. The breakdown:

Photo Courtesy of 826michigan

WHAT: Five Bowls of Oatmeal: The Return of Oatmeal, a festival of one-act plays
WHO: Young playwrights from 826michigan and actors from The Penny Seats
WHEN: Sunday, November 18, at 3pm
WHERE: Rackham Auditorium, 915 E Washington St in Ann Arbor
HOW MUCH: $5 adults; children and youth under 18 attend FREE

WHY THIS IS SO COOL: This is a beatific project put on that would not be possible without 826 Michigan, the University of Michigan MFA program in Creative Writing and The Penny Seats Theater Company. This amalgamation of Michigan writers and performers provides general focus on exhibiting the literary talent of our youths, encourages a new generation of talented writers, and reminds us all of the mental nutrition found in a bowl of oatmeal. I like mine with brown sugar and raisins.

Go purchase tickets  immediately! To check out 826 Michigan, call (734) 761-3463 or visit their website.

Photo Courtesy of

The Great Lakes Book Project:

Similar names, eh? Well, in all honesty, The Great Lakes Book Project was created first. In many ways our projects run parallel, in that Blake Knoblock, the founder of The Great Lakes Book Project, is hoping to find literature that focuses on the region, specifically, creative non-fiction that directly involves The Great Lakes, while I am focusing on all literature that spawns from Michigan. However, what makes Knoblock’s project remarkable is the devotion to preserving the bodies of water that envelop our state. The project, expected to be published around Christmas, promises to donate the proceeds toward helping preserve The Great Lakes. The project includes a wide variety of writers from the Midwest that all share memories of the most wonderful resource our state enjoys. Why do you think Michigan beer tastes so good? (A wise man once told me good beer comes from good water) Anyway, keep a look out for this collection in the near future, and know that you have the opportunity to read an eclectic variety of writers, as well as donate to the preservation of our state. Admitted disclaimer: I might have a minuscule bias towards promoting this work, as I have a piece included.

Get more information on their website.

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Book Highlight
Steve Amick: The Lake, The River & The Other Lake

Researching 826 Michigan has allowed me to connect a few dots about Michigan’s literary sphere I should have made awhile ago. For example, Steve Amick has a story in this old collection of Ann Arbor writers, the benefits of which went to 826, called Unsquared. While I was browsing around 826Michigan’s website, I realized I had a copy of this collection on my bookshelf. At the time I purchased the collection, I hadn’t realized what a great cause it was supporting. As I browsed through it, I also remembered I had a novel written by Steve Amick, a book I had borrowed at some point from a friend and read a few years back. (Uma, if you read this, I have your book)

This was Amick’s first novel; titled The Lake, The River & The Other Lake, a work that takes place in the mythical city of Weneshkeen, Michigan. While the town may be made up, the Michigan tropes are most certainly genuine, and they demonstrate Amick’s adept and satirical understanding of the esoteric geography of the state. The Lake, The River & The Other Lake includes an astute analysis of Michigan’s fudge-hungry tourists, some witty references to roadside cherry stands, the seasonal nature of the state’s residents, examinations of boating culture, and broad comparisons between the Southern and Northern part of the state. In Weneshkeen, we are exposed to both the comic cheesiness of major economic attractions as well as their importance to the state at large. While in many ways, Weneshkeen is a fugacious getaway for most of its patrons, while the few, tough natives “get born and die” there.

Moreover, Amick’s characters perpetuate endearing, sympathetic personas while exuding hyperbolic focuses: a Native American with a passion for preserving the lake from jet-skiers, a teenage boy with nonstop licentious urges, a retired reverend absorbed by pornography, and a crazed millionaire convinced he purchased an architectural lemon. These characters all seem stuck with tunneled summer focuses, yet the snapshots Amick provides reveal slim, lambent glances into their psyche. Amick provides brilliant, colloquial, accurate descriptions of Michigan’s landscape, despite the fictitious setting.

I’m happy I pulled this book off my shelf for a second read. This Michigan author gives heavy focus to his home state and provides a funny perspective of classic Michiganders. Check it out!

Aram Mrjoian – Feature Writer