Author Steve Amick visits library

Written by David Green.

steve-amick By DAVID GREEN

Ann Arbor author Steve Amick never wanted to write about his home state of Michigan. Too commonplace, he figured. But his first published novel that’s gaining wide acclaim is nothing but Michigan—page after page of Wolverine State details that residents recognize and savor.

“I used to keep Michigan out of my writing intentionally because I thought it was so pedestrian. Everybody’s doing that,” he told a crowd Thursday night at Morenci’s Stair Public Library Annex.

“But when the manuscript started getting passed around New York City, they said, ‘It’s so exotic.’”

That surprised Amick, but he was delighted.

“I’d been writing every day and not making any money off it. I’ve written a lot of novels that never saw the light of day. I might be working on three of them now.”

The one that finally made it—“The Lake, the River and the Other Lake”—was just written for fun, he said. After all, who would want to read about life in a small resort town on Lake Michigan?

Lots of people, apparently, and not only those who know the joys of summer days Up North. Critics from across the nation have responded very favorably to Amick’s story.

One member of the Morenci audience told Amick that she really enjoyed the development of his characters.

“There were so many of them,” she said, “and they all seem like people we know. Were they based on people you know?”

Absolutely not, Amick answered, although recollections of people he’s known seep into his mind. Only one incident in the book—a property line dispute—bore any semblance to  an actual event of his past, and the people involved.

Amick spoke about the importance of telling his characters’ stories, of how it broadens his perspective of personalities different from his own.

“I really tried to walk around in other people’s shoes,” he said, “to look at others’ points of view. As a novelist, it gives you the opportunity to really listen to other people. Writing about these people forces me to try to empathize.”

Amick was questioned about a segment of the novel that causes many readers to react with disgust. He was asked why the passage was even included.

“I can’t stress enough that I wasn’t driving this train,” he said. “All I did was report what happened in my brain.”

He said he can’t really take credit for  making it happen.

Amick said he knows that writers sometimes get into a state of mind where the words just come pouring out.

“I’ve heard about it happening,” he said, “but I’ve never experienced it like that before. I got up from the table and I was surprised myself. It’s really a right brain thing.”

Amick spoke about the excitement and trepidation of the novel becoming a movie. He really hopes the filming takes place in Michigan.

If not, he at least wants the producers to visit the state. It’s important for them to see what Michigan looks like. A sunset over Oregon, for example, doesn’t look like a sunset over Lake Michigan.

The novel, with the big lake to the west and a smaller inland lake nearby, pretty well fits the territory around Manistee, he said, although his fictional community has none of the physical characteristics of Manistee.

He’s excited about showing the world the beauties of Michigan’s Up North, but that prospect also causes some concern. It’s like the urge to keep silent about a secluded beach.

“Part of me wants to hide it from everyone,” Amick said.

“Are you moving to Hollywood?” an audience member asked.

No chance, he answered.

“I’ve lived in Los Angeles and I hated it.”

• Amick’s novel is one of 20 books chosen as the Library of Michigan’s 2006 Michigan Notable Books. His visit to Morenci and other libraries in the state is sponsored by the Library of Michigan Foundation, the Michigan Humanities Council and several other organizations and businesses.
  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016