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2012 Michigan Notable Book Author Biographies

2012 Michigan Notable Books Author Biographies

Elly Peterson: "Mother" of the Moderates

Sara Fitzgerald was born in Flint, Michigan, and graduated from Bloomfield Hills Andover High School in 1969. She graduated from University of Michigan in 1973 with a degree in honors history and journalism. It was during college that she became interested in the then-developing field of women's history. She has worked for the National Journal magazine, The Washington Post, The Electronic Washington Post and Interactive Services Association. She retired in 2005. She currently serves on the board of directors of OC Inc., the media advocacy arm of the United Church of Christ, and previously served as president of the board of directors of the UCC's Central Atlantic Conference, which covers the mid-Atlantic region. She served on the Redistricting Reform Study Committee of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. Fitzgerald is married to Walter Wurfel, who served as deputy press secretary to President Jimmy Carter, and has a son and a step-son. Her novel, Rumors, was published by Warner Books in 1992.

Everyday Klansfolk: White Protestant life and the KKK in 1920s Michigan

Craig Fox is an independent scholar of American history and culture. Though based in his native Britain, he has travelled widely across the United States, and has spent periods living in the states of Arizona and, more recently, Michigan. He holds a PhD in history from the University of York, and his principal research interest is Jazz Age America. Recent activities include contributions to PBS show The History Detectives, and an article for a forthcoming published collection on activist print culture in the 1920s. Fox currently resides in the northern English city of York, with fiancée Kate.

Fever: Little Willie John, A Fast Life, Mysterious Death and the Birth of Soul

A native of Philadelphia, Susan Whitall moved to Birmingham, Michigan, with her family when she was 10, following her father, an automotive engineer. She graduated from Seaholm High School and then, Michigan State University with a degree in English (senior year emphasis: Poetry, senior year study abroad in English literature at the University of London). She joined Birmingham-based Creem Magazine in 1975. After Creem's famed editor Lester Bangs left for New York in 1977, Susan became editor, one of the few women then or now to be on top of the staffbox at a national rock magazine. In 1983 she joined the Detroit News, and has been a features/entertainment writer and critic there ever since. Her book Women of Motown (Avon) was published in 1998.

Ghost Writers: Us Haunting Them, Contemporary Michigan Literature

Keith Taylor has published ten books of poetry, short fiction, translations, and edited volumes, including If the World Becomes So Bright (Wayne State University Press, 2009). His most recent book is the chapbook of poems Marginalia for a Natural History. Over the years his poems, stories, essays and book reviews have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Southern Review, the Detroit Free Press, and Michigan Quarterly Review, among many others. He has received grants or fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs. He teaches English at the University of Michigan and directs the Bear River Writers' Conference. 

Laura Kasischke has published seven novels, including Eden Spring (Wayne State University Press, 2010), and seven collections of poetry. Her work has been translated widely, and two of her novels have been made into feature-length films. She has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches in the MFA program and the Residential College at the University of Michigan.

Hank Greenberg: The Hero Who Didn't Want to Be One 

Mark Kurlansky was born in Hartford, Connecticut. After receiving a BA in Theater from Butler University in 1970, and refusing to serve in the military, Kurlansky worked in New York as a playwright, having a number of off-off Broadway productions, and as a playwright-in-residence at Brooklyn College. He won the 1972 Earplay award for best radio play of the year. He has had 23 books published including fiction, nonfiction, and children's books.

Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

Michael Moore Michael Moore was born in Flint, Michigan on April 23, 1954. He started in print journalism and was briefly the editor of Mother Jones magazine. His debut film, Roger & Me, became the highest-grossing American documentary of all time. Moore had a short-lived political series called TV Nation and his film Bowling for Columbine, won an Academy Award. Moore lives in Traverse City, Michigan.

In Stitches: A Memoir

Anthony Youn, MD is a plastic surgeon, author, and TV personality. He's been featured on the Rachael Ray Show, CNN, Dr. 90210, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, and many others. He is a frequent contributor to and His blog, is the most visited blog by a plastic surgeon in the United States. Dr. Youn is in private practice in Troy, Michigan and lives in Birmingham, Michigan with his wife and kids. In Stitches is his first book.

Jacobson's, I Miss It So: The Story of a Michigan Fashion Institute

Born in Hamrtramck, Michigan, in 1958, into a very inquisitive and humor-loving American family with deep Polish roots, Bruce Allen Kopytek was encouraged by his parents to value faith, family and culture, and taught at an early age to receive an education wherever he could get it. Taken across the country as a youth, by first-generation American parents, to see the wonders of our continent, his early travels included several World's Fairs, which his parents felt would be educational and enjoyable for their family. All of these things influenced his life in many ways. He achieved a couple of degrees in architecture, and attained state licensure in 1990. A music enthusiast, book collector, history buff, and avid ballroom dancer, he also assists in pastoral work at his home parish, St. Lawrence, in Utica, Michigan. Bruce maintains a blog entitled The Department Store Museum and, when not at home, is most likely poking around some very old place in Europe. At home, he is most likely being chased and bitten by a wild pussycat named Bella.

Magic Trash: A Story of Tyree Guyton and His Art

Jane H. Shapiro received a master of clinical social work degree from Michigan State University (MSU). She has worked as a family and child therapist in mental health, schools, private practice, and for the Department of Medicine at MSU. In the last position, she began writing children's books when a mother asked, "Where are the books on von Willebrand disease for children?" During a year in Hawaii, she volunteered at the Waikiki Aquarium and wrote about marine animals. On her return to Michigan, she discovered Tyree Guyton's art while a docent at the university's art museum. Jane now lives in Portland, Oregon.

Much like Tyree Guyton, illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton started her artistic pursuits as a child--drawing on walls and on the side of the kitchen stove. Today she's living her dream of being a freelance artist--sticking to paper instead of walls, though. She has illustrated many children's books, including Scholastic's Ruby series and Let Freedom Sing (Blue Apple Books), which she also wrote. She lives in New Jersey.

Michigan and the Civil War: A Great and Bloody Sacrifice

In addition to various legal articles, Jack Dempsey is a history book reviewer and author of several articles on Michigan history subjects. Jack is vice-president of the Michigan Historical Commission, chairman of its Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, and Chairman of the Michigan History Foundation. He is also a past member of the board of the Historical Society of Michigan, a life member of the Plymouth Historical Society, a regular member of the Ann Arbor and Abraham Lincoln Civil War Round Tables, and contributor to the Civil War Trust. Jack is a partner at the law firm of Dickinson Wright PLLC in Ann Arbor. He and his wife Suzzanne reside in Plymouth.

Misery Bay

Steve Hamilton is the New York Times bestselling author of both the Alex McKnight series and the standalone novel, The Lock Artist. He's one of only two authors in history to win the Edgar Award for Best First Novel and then to follow that up later in his career with an Edgar for Best Novel. Beyond that, he's either won or been nominated for every other major crime fiction award in America and the UK, and his books are now translated into fifteen languages. He attended the University of Michigan, where he won the prestigious Hopwood Award for writing. He currently lives in upstate New York with his wife and their two children.

Miss Martin is a Martian

Colleen Murray Fisher resides in White Lake, Michigan with her husband, Jason, and their two children, Sofanit and Samson. Colleen has been teaching elementary school in Livonia for fourteen years. She wrote and illustrated, The One and Only Bernadette P. McMullen, which was a USA Best Book Finalist. She also illustrated Oh NO! AH Yes!, a Mom's Choice Silver Medal Winner and I Can Dance, Too!, a Mom's Choice Gold Medal Winner. Prior to being selected as a 2012 Michigan Notable Book, Miss Martin is a Martian was named "Best Children's Picture Book" by the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association (MEMSPA).

Illustrator Jared Chapman grew up in Texas before heading to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) to study animation. Shortly after graduation, he and his wife moved to Austin, TX where he worked as an animator while beginning his illustration career. He and his family call Northeast Texas home.

Motor City Shakedown

D.E. (Dan) Johnson, a graduate of Central Michigan University, is a history buff who has been writing fiction since childhood, but had to hit his midlife crisis to get serious about it. His first novel, a historical mystery entitled The Detroit Electric Scheme, was published in 2010 by St. Martin's Minotaur Books. Motor City Shakedown, the first sequel to The Detroit Electric Scheme, was named one of the Top 5 Crime Novels of 2011 by The House of Crime and Mystery, called "extraordinarily vivid" by The New York Times. Dan's third book, Detroit Breakdown, will be published in fall 2012 by St. Martin's Minotaur Books. Dan is married, has three daughters, and lives near Kalamazoo, Michigan.

A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis

Matt De La Pena received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific, where he attended school on a full athletic scholarship for basketball. De La Pe ñ a currently lives in Brooklyn, NY -- he teaches creative writing at NYU and visits high schools and colleges all over the country.

Illustrator Kadir Nelson earned a Bachelor's degree from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York and has since created paintings for a host of distinguished clients including Sports Illustrated, The Coca-Cola Company, The United States Postal Service, Major League Baseball, and Dreamworks SKG where he worked as a visual development artist creating concept artwork for feature films, Amistad, and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.

Once Upon a Car: The Fall and Resurrection of America's Big Three Automakers — GM, Ford, and Chrysler

Bill Vlasic is the Detroit bureau chief of The New York Times, focusing on coverage of the American auto industry. He has been a reporter for more than 30 years, including 17 years at the Detroit News. His new book is Once Upon A Car: The Fall and Resurrection of America's Big Three Automakers, published in October, 2011, by William Morrow. He was previously the co-author of Taken For A Ride: How Daimler-Benz Drove Off With Chrysler, which was named as one of the 75 all-time best business books by Fortune magazine. Vlasic is a winner of the Gerald Loeb Award for excellence in financial journalism, and has been honored many times for his work by the Associated Press and the Society of Business Editors and Writers. He is a graduate of Boston University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. A native of the Detroit area, Vlasic currently lives in Birmingham, Mich.

Once Upon a River

Bonnie Jo Campbell was a 2009 National Book Award finalist and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for her collection of stories, American Salvage, which won the Foreword Book of the Year award for short fiction. Campbell is also author of the novel Q Road and the story collection Women & Other Animals. She's received the AWP Award for Short Fiction, a Pushcart Prize, and the Eudora Welty Prize. Her poetry collection Love Letters to Sons of Bitches won the 2009 CBA Letterpress Chapbook award. Campbell lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan with her husband. She holds a second degree black belt in Koburyu Kobudo, an Okinawan weapons art, and in her spare time gardens and hangs out with her donkeys Jack and Don Quixote.

Songs of Unreason

Jim Harrison was born in 1937, in Grayling, Michigan. He graduated from Michigan State University. Harrison is the author of over twenty-five books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. His writings have appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Playboy, and The New York Times. He has been recognized as a winner of a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Spirit of the West Award from the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association. His work has been published in twenty-two languages. Harrison currently divides his time between Arizona and Montana.

South of Superior

Ellen Airgood runs a small diner with her husband in Grand Marais, Michigan, where she is both the waitress and the baker. She learned most of what she knows about story, as well as about charity and compassion, from waiting tables for 19 years, listening and watching the lives of all her regular customers, young and old. This is her first novel.

Vintage Views Along the West Michigan Pike: From Sand Trails to US-31

M. Christine Byron is the Local Historical Collections librarian for the Grand Rapids Public Library. She is an avid reader of Michigan history and has collected old Michigan tourist memorabilia for over twenty years. Thomas R. Wilson retired from Sears Roebuck and Company, where he held various positions in his thirty-seven year career. He is a dedicated postcard collector and has collected Michigan real photo postcards for over sixteen years. Christine and Tom are married and live with their dogs, Max and Willy, in a 1912 Arts and Crafts bungalow in Grand Rapids.

Wire to Wire

Scott Sparling was born and grew up in Jackson, Michigan, and graduated from Antioch College in Ohio. He now lives outside Portland, Oregon, but is a frequent visitor to Maple City in Leelanau County. Wire to Wire is his first novel. He is also the founder and editor of, the Internet's largest and oldest website about the music of Bob Seger.


Updated 03/29/2012