The Ann Arbor Chronicle » Domenica Trevor it's like being there Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:59:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 East Stadium & Packard Wed, 01 Jan 2014 17:22:21 +0000 Domenica Trevor Hugely festive scene in our neighborhood as cheering hockey fans, on foot and in a crawling stream of cars, buses and, just a minute ago, a stretch limo, make their way west on snowy East Stadium to the hockey game.

]]> 0
Packard & E. Stadium Fri, 11 Oct 2013 00:59:00 +0000 Domenica Trevor Caribou Coffee on Packard and East Stadium is closing this weekend “for a few weeks,” and will reopen as a Peet’s. “Now Hiring” sign in the window.

]]> 2
Column: Good News for Book Artists Sun, 26 May 2013 14:16:35 +0000 Domenica Trevor A group of people in this city care so much about the art of making books that they’ve launched a center dedicated to it, one that will pass down an artistic tradition while incorporating cutting-edge technologies to widen its boundaries.

Jim Horton, boundedition, bookmaking, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Printmaker Jim Horton at the boundedition studio on May 16 with his Chandler & Price letterpress, made in Cleveland in the 1930s.

Its founders call boundedition a “member-based community resource for the preservation, practice and expansion of the book and paper arts.” They call themselves its managing members: bookseller Gene Alloway, book artist Barbara Brown, graphic designer Laura Earle, printmaker Jim Horton, and product designer Tom Veling, a retired Ford Motor Co. engineer.

They were moved to act when Tom and Cindy Hollander announced last summer that Hollander’s School of Book and Paper Arts would close its doors after the spring 2013 session. The school operated on the lower level of the Hollander’s Kerrytown store for more than 10 years.

Brown, a longtime teacher of bookbinding classes at Hollander’s, reached out to fellow teacher Horton as well as Earle, Veling and others who met weekly at the open studio there. Serious discussions began in February, Horton says, when “we decided that what we’d done at Hollander’s was too good to give up.”

Earle, whose family has been involved with Ann Arbor’s Maker Works, was instrumental in finding a home for boundedition inside the member-based workshop at 3765 Plaza Drive. Maker Works’ managers were receptive to letting boundedition rent some space, and Brown says Earle, her husband and her son “pretty much built the office singlehandedly” – including a set of modular work tables that can be arranged according to the requirements of individual classes.

Brown credits Earle’s energy and determination for the speed with which boundedition took shape. “It would have happened,” she said, “but Laura made it happen now instead of later.”

Ann Arbor’s community of book artists and book lovers got a chance to look around at a May 16 curtain raiser. Tom and Cindy Hollander were in attendance; Horton reports that they’ve given boundedition “a thumbs up” and Brown says “Tom has really been very supportive.”

An open house is coming up on Sunday, June 2, from 1-6 p.m. “The whole community is invited to come out to see the space,” Horton says, “to sign up for classes, to let us know if they’re interested in teaching classes.”

“We’re really looking for people with innovative ideas for classes, because we think the Ann Arbor community is very rich in skills that you may not get in a lot of other places,” he says. “We’re tapping into that.”

The managing members themselves bring a range of expertise to the project.

Horton taught art and graphic design for 40 years (he’s retired from Greenhills School) and leads workshops in printmaking and wood engraving. He’ll be teaching his first boundedition class before the month is out: Intro to Letterpress will be offered over two evenings on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Brown teaches bookbinding at the University of Michigan and exhibits her work as a member of the WSG Gallery (full disclosure: my husband is also a WSG member). She and Earle, who has run several graphic design companies, will teach a two-day session June 28-29 on how to create books using laser technology.

Alloway, owner of Motte & Bailey Booksellers and former president of the Kerrytown BookFest board, brings “a sense of history and knowledge of the book” to the boundedition project, Horton says. On June 20, he will present “Collecting Books in the Digital Era.”

“And if we need troubleshooting for anything on the tech end, we have a wiz” in Veling, Horton says.

boundedition, bookmaking, Laura Earle, Jim Horton, the Ann Arbor Chronicle

An invitation to the May 16 curtain raiser for boundedition – the work of designer Laura Earle and printmaker and engraver Jim Horton. The text and image are silkscreened onto a plexiglass cover and the book has a Coptic-style binding, one of the techniques taught by Barbara Brown. (Not visible is the back cover – an image of books, engraved on walnut using Maker Works laser technology.)

He says boundedition will be using the summer to introduce itself to the community, flesh out the website and work out bugs in online registration, and prepare the studio for a full program of classes this fall. Also in the offing are an exhibition area and some retail space to sell finished artworks as well as bookbinding supplies, kits for calligraphers, tools for engravers and supplies for three different forms of printmaking: letterpress, lithographic and intaglio.

The business plan is based on a membership structure, with fees that start at $30 a month for students and $40 for the rest of us. Membership gets you access to the open studio and discounts on classes.

The managing members reached into their own pockets for boundedition’s starter funds, with an initial buy-in and monthly dues. “We’re on a shoestring,” Horton says. “Our goal is to break even. If we make some money, fine; but we’re really not looking at profit making.”

Both tradition and innovation will find a haven at boundedition. Horton says there will be teaching roles at for recent U-M graduates – some of them Brown’s students. But like Maker Works, he says, boundedition “in many ways is an educational model that is a glimpse into the future. Old masters have retired … and are mentoring the younger generation.”

As revenue-starved schools continue to drop the arts, skilled trades and other hands-on crafts from the curriculum, it’s increasingly up to the practitioners to pass along their skills – and an appreciation of their value – to students of all ages and stages. The managing members of boundedition are stepping up.

Tillinghast In Town

Poet and travel writer Richard Tillinghast will be reading from his latest book, “An Armchair Traveller’s History of Istanbul: City of Forgetting and Remembering,” at Nicola’s Books on Wednesday, May 29, at 7 p.m. Tillinghast is a former University of Michigan professor who now lives in Hawaii; he returns to Michigan each year to visit friends and family and lead poetry workshops at the Bear River Writers’ Conference (this year, May 30-June 3). His 1995 collection of poems, “The Stonecutter’s Hand,” is a personal favorite.

About the writer: Domenica Trevor lives in Ann Arbor – her columns are published periodically in The Ann Arbor Chronicle. The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our columnists and other contributors. If you’re already supporting The Chronicle, please encourage your friends, neighbors and coworkers to do the same. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle.

]]> 4
Column: Literati’s “Moment on the Page” Sat, 20 Apr 2013 19:54:59 +0000 Domenica Trevor In the depths, it is tough to have faith that all things must pass.

I have been cobbling together a living since July 2009, when New York-based Advance Publications shut down Ann Arbor’s daily newspaper. It was a trauma, pure and simple, for me and for many of my colleagues. After almost 20 years at The News and 30 years as a newspaperwoman, my “career” was dead and the newspaper industry eventually would be, too – at least as we knew it. Some really bleak months followed for all of us.

Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor business, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

A crowd showed up for Literati’s first event on Friday evening, April 5. The new downtown bookstore is located at Washington and Fourth Avenue.

One of the ways I pay the mortgage now is with earnings from my freelance editing business. One of my clients was the Michigan Theater, which in 2011 hired me to edit a history of the theater. The manuscript’s author, Henry Aldridge, recently retired from the faculty of Eastern Michigan University; in the 1970s he rallied the community to rescue the Michigan from the wrecking ball and for decades has been one of the theater’s organists.

Over a number of months Henry and I would meet at Biggby Coffee on East Liberty Street and, chapter by chapter, shape his story of how a movie palace built for silent films in the 1920s weathered dramatic shifts in the film industry and the damage done to downtown America by postwar suburban sprawl, to ultimately stand firm as an Ann Arbor cultural landmark. It is an inspiring tale.

After one of our sessions we stood together outside Biggby and glumly beheld the dead sidewalk in front of the newly vacated Borders flagship store – a community institution that the community could not save. The ironies did not escape us.

The loss was especially personal for Henry; the bankruptcy had thrown a young friend of his out of a job she adored. Shannon Alden was a 14-year veteran of Borders with a passion for children’s literature. Henry was prodding her to find another way to use her gifts for connecting with people and sharing her delight in books. He urged me to contact her if only to offer some moral support; both of us had taken a hard blow to our sense of purpose because of a revolution in the economics of reading. Newspapers, bookstores – the Internet was killing them both.

So it is not a little ironic that months of blogging and Facebooking kept us up to date on the city’s much-anticipated new downtown bookstore before Literati officially opened its doors at 124 E. Washington St. on Easter Sunday.

From Blog to Bricks-and-Mortar

Literati Bookstore has come into being thanks to a huge commitment from Hilary Lowe and Michael Gustafson, partners in life and business. It was exciting to see good things start to happen in the space formerly occupied by Rick Snyder’s local campaign headquarters (cue the speculation about karma). I popped in a few times this winter – one day to discover the shelves had gone up, another to observe a woman with a paint roller risking her life atop a ladder placed just so on the stairs leading to the lower level. I met Lowe and Gustafson in the flesh on an afternoon in mid-March. It was a landmark day, too – the scanning of books had commenced!

From a short distance, I spied a stack of copies of “King Leopold’s Ghost” by Adam Hochschild, a really good book about some really awful history. It was then that I got that oh-my-god-it’s-really-happening jolt – an admittedly weird response to the rape of the Belgian Congo. Lowe talked about the 100-some job applications they’d received, with Borders and Shaman Drum alumni heavily represented. She was gratified to have had such a deep pool of available talent from which to choose a staff of a half-dozen or so “book ninjas.” And she (accurately) forecast an end-of-month soft opening.

Out of town for Easter, I paid my first visit to Literati the following Wednesday. The sun shone, but a sharp wind bit at my cheeks and bare hands that April morning as I made my way up Washington Street. I knew what I was looking for: “The Yellow Birds” by Kevin Powers and “Nothing Gold Can Stay: Stories” by Ron Rash. What I found as well was a beautiful space, with quirky vintage tables, chalk-on-blackboard signs and lots of natural light through windows that open on both Washington Street and Fourth Avenue.

Literati Bookstore, Hilary Lowe, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Literati co-owner Hilary Lowe.

Right off the bat I snagged a copy of “The Ancient Murrelet” fresh out of the box – Lowe was unpacking copies of poet Keith Taylor’s new chapbook in advance of his reading at the end of the week. I browsed the fiction, poetry and periodicals filling two long walls on the street level. Downstairs is dim and cozy – that morning a quartet of readers sat around a table, their heads bent … over books, not iPhones! At least a half-dozen customers were checking out the long wall of biography, history and political science and small sections for art, travel, health, gardening, photography and more. Lowe credits Peter Roumanis, an owner of the new Vellum restaurant on Main Street, for guidance in curating the exceptional cookbook selection.

Back upstairs, I resumed my search for “The Yellow Birds” – the author’s name had momentarily fled my head. I glanced around for some help and there, shelving books in the nook devoted to kid lit, was none other than Shannon Alden, one of the select Literati book ninjas! Up until that moment we were merely warm acquaintances; now we threw our arms around each other.

She located “The Yellow Birds.” The Rash collection was on the shelf, right where it belonged. “I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats” – on display near the register – was the perfect housewarming gift for Elvis, my stepdaughter’s kitty, from my own cats Lily and Clementina. Lowe identifies herself as a “crazy cat lady” but you’d know it anyway from a casual look at her shelves. (“Crafting With Cat Hair”? Thursday’s my birthday, friends.)

Shannon handled my purchases. “Of course, you’re going to be a frequent buyer,” she said, signing me up. Another customer was leaving with a big bag of books and some parting advice: “Stay open late during SummerFest; unbelievable crowds.” Then she eyed Shannon: “I remember you!” Another Borders alum, it turned out.

So there we were, in our new downtown bookstore: Shannon back to selling books and me back to buying them. After nearly four years of pinching pennies, I was in the position to spend $77.26 that morning, and another fifty bucks the night of Taylor’s reading. If you don’t think that’s a big deal, then lucky, lucky you. Now get your fortunate self down to Literati today and match it. And then do it next month, and the month after that.


I guess it’s not surprising that this last selection in Taylor’s new book of poems resonated:

In the Hard Months

Oh, I wish I could believe
in February that the blood root
will really bloom – for its short moment,
until its petals will be knocked
off by a cold rain – in March,
or that the cone flowers will turn
to seed in September so the finches
can pick them apart in one last
frenzy of summer, or that the poem
will come again, confident
and supple in its moment on the page.

Lowe and Gustafson report that they got lots of generous advice from local book lovers and booksellers, including Taylor – “one of the very first people we met with when we first told some people we were planning on opening a bookstore downtown,” they blogged. “Since then, he’s been incredibly supportive.”

But back in the summer of 2011, he wasn’t optimistic about the future of bookselling in Ann Arbor. Talking in the wake of Borders’ demise, Taylor said he wasn’t sure the local “book culture” was robust enough to support a new independent bookstore and fill the void left by the closures of Borders and of Shaman Drum, in 2009.

Keith Taylor, poet, Literati Bookstore, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Poet Keith Taylor signs copies of his new chapbook, “The Ancient Murrelet,” at his April 5 reading at Literati Bookstore.

What would it take to make a go of it? For starters, he said, “idealism, a lot of 80-hour work weeks, a willingness to be constantly present.” Obviously, Lowe and Gustafson bring all that in abundance. But Literati’s owners are doubtlessly bringing a lot of debt, which brings us to the big issue: They’ve got to make the rent. Even if Faramarz Farahanchi might be the “landlord willing to rent space for less than the going rate” – for Taylor, that’s the bottom line – Literati has to sell a lot of books, every day.

Seasons change by themselves, provided we stay out of the way. Other welcome arrivals need help. Taylor’s poems have their moment on the page because he has a gift – and because he holds up his end of the bargain and takes to pen and paper with some regularity. The Michigan Theater still stands because Henry Aldridge and others like him knew its glorious worth and worked hard and smart to save it. I’ve got money to buy books again not only because of an indecent amount of luck, but because, most days, I show up at my desk.

I ran into Jill Peek, editor and publisher of “The Ancient Murrelet,” in the big crowd for Taylor’s reading on April 5. She observed that Lowe and Gustafson have not only taken a huge financial gamble, but they’re devoting some of the most crucial years of their professional lives to the experiment. A few days later we continued the conversation. “I hope I wasn’t too preachy with my remarks about risk,” she wrote in an email, “but I often feel that in this town, those with UM or institutional affiliations do not necessarily see that what’s new and lively often requires risk-taking. That’s my observation from growing up in what became Silicon Valley.”

Precious time and lots of money – the owners of Literati Bookstore are investing both and we have an obligation to do more than sing their praises for it. They are not going to succeed just because we’re deliriously happy that they are finally here – that Ann Arbor once again has a place downtown where we can go to readings and hold book club meetings and browse while we’re waiting for a table to open or the movie at the Michigan to start. That’s all great, but unless lots of people spend money there, often, it will not survive.

Being an engaged and beloved member of the community is simply not enough.

About the writer: Domenica Trevor lives in Ann Arbor – her columns are published periodically in The Ann Arbor Chronicle. The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our columnists and other contributors. If you’re already supporting The Chronicle, please encourage your friends, neighbors and coworkers to do the same. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle.

]]> 11
Washtenaw & Platt Sun, 27 Jan 2013 23:57:43 +0000 Domenica Trevor At Meri Lou Murray Rec Center: One WCC student is taping another WCC student who is costumed as a mustard-slathered frankfurter and pumping iron, as their girlfriends howl. Cameraman explains it to half-dozen amused weight-room regulars: “It’s for a school project. He’s a lean hot dog.”

]]> 0
Column: Book Fare Sat, 22 Dec 2012 13:46:08 +0000 Domenica Trevor A conversation with Ann Pearlman, who gave readers around the world “The Christmas Cookie Club,” seemed appropriate for a December books column. But, it turns out her 2009 novel isn’t about Christmas. It’s about commitment.

Ann Pearlman, book reviews, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ann Pearlman, in a photo taken earlier this month at Great Lakes Chocolate & Coffee on Jackson Road, where she chatted with columnist Domenica Trevor about her work: “I’m just doing things that are fun.”

Which, coming from the Jewish author of a memoir entitled “Infidelity,” makes considerable sense.

The fictional cookie club is hosted by narrator Marnie, whose day begins with preparations for a dozen friends who will be arriving at her Ann Arbor home that evening with food, wine and a story to accompany the ritual exchange of imaginatively presented cookies – with frequent dance breaks. But she’s also anticipating important news that evening from her older daughter and her husband in San Diego and, in a month, a grandchild from her 18-year-old, whose boyfriend is “a black ex-convict and aspiring rap star.”

Pearlman belongs to a real Christmas cookie club here in Ann Arbor, and reading her bestseller had me fantasizing about how lovely it would be put something like that together with friends whose company I treasure all year round and don’t see as often as I’d like. But then I thought again about the generally sluggish crowd I hang with and how the kinder ones would simply laugh at me. Righto. What say we just meet for pink drinks in January, hmm?

Such a lame crew, I suspect, would mystify Pearlman. Among her commitments: She’s a writer (seven published books). She’s an artist. She’s an adventuresome cook (her latest effort extends to homemade liqueurs). By her own account, the boundary between her family and her friendships is often indistinct.  She has maintained a psychotherapy practice in Ann Arbor even as her writing career became firmly established. And the day we spoke, this mother of three and grandmother of four was looking forward to dancing the night away at the Necto’s Townie Party, despite a lingering cough from a bout of illness that put her off the cookies at this year’s meeting of the club.

‘Sacredizing’ Time

Is she “driven”? Such a harsh word; such a joyless concept. Pearlman calls herself “hyperactive,” but that implies frenzy – movement without purpose. Pearlman gets things done.

Pearlman’s father, she says, “didn’t get to finish his story.” He was in his 40s when he died at home of a heart attack. She was 19; she witnessed it.

“For six months afterward,” she says, “I was wandering around, saying ‘Life is meaningless. Life is meaningless.’ I drove my mother crazy.”

She was obsessed, she said, with the unanswerable question: “How could this amazing, vital man drop dead?”

But then came an epiphany. If life could, indeed, be cut short at any moment, the only way to function meaningfully with the knowledge was to spend “every single day” doing what she loved – “and enough with the bullshit.”

It’s not grim, she says: “I’m just doing things that are fun.”

But the creative life is also a serious business. “I ‘sacredize’ time” to write, she says. “Do the most important thing of your day the first thing of the day.” On her blog, Pearlman shares her routine: “The sun wakes me. I grab espresso coffee and sit before my computer.” She writes until noon, at least five days a week. Such discipline, such commitment, brings joy.

Her published books are mileposts of a sort for her personal and professional lives. The first ones were related to her therapy practice: “Getting Free: Women and Psychotherapy” in 1982 and “Keep the Home Fires Burning: How to Have an Affair With Your Spouse,” in 1985. Then came “Infidelity,” a brave account of the pain that marital betrayal inflicted on her grandmother, her mother and – after 30 years of marriage – on Pearlman herself. Thirty-eight publishers rejected the memoir before a fledgling literary house, MacAdam/Cage, published it in 2000.

Her next project was “Inside the Crips,” written with gang member Colton Simpson and published in 2005. The ambitious and acclaimed account of “life inside L.A.’s most notorious gang” also drew Pearlman deep into a subsequent, headline-making drama when Simpson was charged with acting as the getaway driver in the robbery of an $800 earring from a California department store. In what she has described as a devastating experience, Pearlman was subpoenaed by the prosecution to testify at Simpson’s trial; he is serving a life sentence thanks to the Golden State’s insane “three strikes” law.

Pearlman turned then to fiction – “I thought I could say more” – with “The Christmas Cookie Club” (followed a year later by “The Christmas Cookie Cookbook” with fellow “cookie bitch” Marybeth Bayer of Ann Arbor). Her latest, “A Gift for My Sister” (the paperback will be out in February) follows the stories of Marnie’s daughters, Sky and Tara.

A Tale of Two Sisters

Sky, the older one, is cautious and conventional, a law school graduate who married her childhood sweetheart and is raising a daughter. Tara, a gifted musician with sharp edges forged early by her father’s abandonment, has a rising rap career and an intense but uncertain relationship with the father of her young son.

Pearlman says she had a great time writing “Gift.” It gave her a chance to explore the lives of sisters (she has one brother) and, she says, the two distinct sides of her own personality.

“There have never been times when I haven’t made something,” she says. So why would a restlessly creative soul (like Tara) go after psychotherapist’s credentials instead of an MFA?

“I’m Sky!” she replies. “Sky needed to have a job!” And it helped, she says, that even strangers always seemed to find it easy to open up to her: “I was 14 years old, on a bus, and a woman sitting next to me started to tell me all about an affair she was having.” But she offers a deceptively simple purpose for what she does: “People need someone to witness their lives.”

Pearlman is finishing another novel involving characters from “The Christmas Cookie Club” – no dates for publication yet. And she’s also compiling a book of family recipes for her extended clan – a project for which her new tablet is perfect: “I can do it anywhere!”

And of course, she’s reading: “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell, “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, “The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach get enthusiastic mentions; Julian Barnes’ latest novel, “The Sense of an Ending,” gets raves.

Lately, she’s been tackling Lucretius. In comparing several editions, she says, the divergence of the translations was so disconcerting that she thought, “I’m going to read it in Latin and I can translate it myself.”


She says she reconsidered. So let’s presume that Pearlman has chosen a satisfying translation and settled in, maybe with a plate of pecan butter balls and a pink drink. Sometimes pleasure is the greatest good.

The Best Christmas Present Ever?

Plans appear to be in the works for a new downtown bookstore. Huron High grad and former Simon & Schuster sales rep Hilary Lowe and her fiance, video producer Michael Gustafson, pulled up stakes in Brooklyn over the summer and moved to Ann Arbor; they’re looking for a spot to set up shop as Literati. Watch this space for an update.

And Happy New Year.

About the writer: Domenica Trevor lives in Ann Arbor – her columns are published periodically in The Ann Arbor Chronicle. The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our columnists and other contributors. If you’re already supporting The Chronicle, please encourage your friends, neighbors and coworkers to do the same. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle.

]]> 0
Column: Book Fare Sat, 08 Sep 2012 13:05:26 +0000 Domenica Trevor The Kerrytown BookFest’s Community Book Award, which honors local contributions to publishing and book arts, will go to Tom and Cindy Hollander when the festival returns for its 10th year on Sunday at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market.

Cindy and Tom Hollander

Cindy and Tom Hollander. (Photo by M. Morgan)

Chief among those contributions is Hollander’s School of Book & Paper Arts, which for almost 20 years has offered workshops, classes and studio space for book artists (my husband among them) and drawn students and teachers from around the country to Ann Arbor. So there is more than a touch of irony in the timing of Sunday’s award: When the 11th annual BookFest rolls around, the school will be no more.

I talked to Tom and Cindy earlier this week about their decision to close the school at the end of the spring 2013 term. In response to what they describe as diminishing enrollment, they say they are stepping away from one branch of a business that has expanded dramatically from the tiny shop on the second floor of Kerrytown Market & Shops in 1991. Today, the main floor of Hollander’s offers a lavish collection of fine papers and stationery, desk sets, decorative boxes and gifts along with bookbinding supplies; Hollander’s Kitchen Store is upstairs.

“When we opened our store,” Cindy said, “I can say I never heard the word ‘book art.’” But by 1994, she and Tom were teaching workshops and by 2002, they were using the lower level of their Kerrytown space for the Hollander’s School of Book & Paper Arts. Tom gives some credit for that expansion to local book artist Barbara Brown, who in the mid-1990s was leading occasional workshops at Hollander’s while also attending summer sessions at the American Academy of Bookbinding in Telluride, Colo.

“She’d come back after taking these classes,” Tom said, “and she really talked it up” – eventually persuading him to check things out for himself. “I’d been around the next level [of book arts] for long enough that I got interested in more than just business – I was ready for something different,” he said. “I wanted to go to the next level myself.”

Tom Hollander went to Telluride; what followed was a partnership with the academy that brought prestigious AAB faculty to Hollander’s from 2002 to 2006 and national recognition for the expanding Hollander’s operation. The store’s rich inventory of bookbinding papers and supplies deepened, the school’s schedule of classes and roster of instructors expanded and enrollment continued to grow. The Hollanders also were among the original organizers of the BookFest, and served on the board for eight years.

But the past couple years have brought some changes to the home front for the Hollanders. They visited their daughter – and grandson Oliver – in Alabama this past Labor Day weekend; that’s a 13-hour drive each way. Their son lives in Washington, D.C.

Their business has seen some changes, too – specifically, they say, a drop in enrollment at the school. While popular teachers are still filling certain paper arts and bookbinding workshops, Tom said, overall student numbers are down and “classes are falling off.”

The school “was a lot of work for me to oversee,” he said. “It always came back to me. And if you’re going to do it, do it right,” he said. “It’s our baby; our name is on it.” And while most of the book arts schools around the country are nonprofits, “we’re not.”

Cindy, whose primary responsibility is running the store, said it flatly: “The full schedule has been a drain.”

The school has drawn customers to the store and its online operation, and Tom acknowledged that the likelihood of a hit to sales of bookbinding papers and supplies was “a consideration” in the decision to close. At the same time, they’ve decided to add art supplies to their inventory – the closing of Michigan Book and Supply earlier this year left local art students without a downtown bricks-and-mortar source for everything from paint to mat board. And they have their hands full with the kitchen store on the third floor – cooking classes will continue.

“We’re not going anywhere anytime soon,” Tom said.

Sign above the entrance to Hollanders School of Book & Paper Arts

Sign above the entrance to Hollanders School of Book & Paper Arts at Kerrytown Market & Shops, 410 N. Fourth Ave. in Ann Arbor.

Since they announced that the spring term would be the last for the school, Cindy said, “there’s been a spike in enrollment.” She and Tom, together and separately, will teach several of the more than two dozen classes being offered in the current fall term.

“We haven’t ruled out offering occasional classes” after next spring, Cindy said, “but not a schedule of classes.” And Tom said he isn’t sure what will happen to the lower-level space and its impressive collection of antique book presses, page cutters, etching presses and letterpress equipment.

With “the right person, the right circumstances, we can still be involved,” Tom said, “but at a less intense level.”

“I’d love to get to the point where we could make things again,” Cindy said. “Maybe we can take some classes.”

Barbara Brown confirmed that Tom Hollander has approached her about offering classes or operating a studio – but in a new location. She said she has had some serious discussions recently with a number of local book artists about what might come after the Hollander’s school closes its doors. A definite path forward hasn’t been mapped, she said: “We really haven’t had time to sort it out.”

But, she said, “Ann Arbor isn’t done with books yet.”

Evidence of that will be on display from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the BookFest. Along with exhibitors that include book dealers, local publishers and printers, and paper and book artists, more than 30 writers will be on hand to talk about their work in panel discussions and presentations throughout the day. (Full disclosure: as he has since 2003, my husband, Alvey Jones, will have a booth at the BookFest.)

“Poetry as It Lives and Breathes,” scheduled for noon in the main tent, looks to cover many of the creative bases: Moderator Keith Taylor and a group of poets will read and discuss their work and a souvenir booklet of their poems will be available – along with the opportunity to create a binding for it.

About the writer: Domenica Trevor lives in Ann Arbor – her columns are published periodically in The Ann Arbor Chronicle. The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our columnists and other contributors. If you’re already supporting The Chronicle, please encourage your friends, neighbors and coworkers to do the same. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle.

]]> 0
Column: Book Fare Sat, 14 Jul 2012 18:35:30 +0000 Domenica Trevor Natalie Jacobs was 35 when she died, suddenly, in January 2008.

Cover of "When Your Song Breaks the Silence"

Cover of "When Your Song Breaks the Silence."

She left behind a novel. And her parents, Stan and Judith Jacobs of Ann Arbor, have published it, in ebook form, as a memorial to her.

“When Your Song Breaks the Silence” is an elegantly imagined life of Austrian composer Franz Schubert, distinguished by an articulate sensitivity and meticulous research. The completed novel’s existence was a surprise to her parents – its subject was not.

When her daughter was 11 years old, Judith Jacobs writes on the website she created for the book, “she wrote a story about the composer as a young child trying myopically – Natalie was also very near-sighted – to interact with his family and surroundings.” A graduate of Community High School, Natalie majored in English literature at the University of Michigan and was still working with the Schubert theme in the mid-1990s; when Stan and Judith traveled to Vienna in 1995 they made a point to visit the house where he died (in 1828, at age 31).

“A lilac bush was in full bloom in front of the building,” Jacobs says. They took a photograph.

A Body of Work Discovered

Natalie continued to write after embracing the more practical art of midwifery, for which she was finishing training in Portland, Oregon, when she died of viral myocarditis – an inflammation of the heart muscle – brought on by a case of flu.

After the Jacobses went to Portland to settle their daughter’s affairs, they gave Natalie’s computer to a friend of hers, who discovered on its hard drive a collection of Natalie’s writings. Among them was the novel.

From the opening chapter:

He is making what he hears into structures that he can understand: the sound of his mother’s voice, the tread of his father’s feet; the intricate melodies of words. Sounds beat down on him relentlessly, sometimes terrifying, sometimes soothing, but always present, even in the quietest room. He imagines he can hear the sounds that the grass in the courtyard makes as it grows. …

He comes to realize that sound is a language that he must learn in the same way that he must learn to read. These patterns mean something, they have secrets inside them. He is starting to understand. And meanwhile the patterns are everywhere: in the sounds of the priest giving Mass, in the sounds of his brother Ignaz practicing the piano, in the sounds of his mother’s murmured words of comfort after he wakes from a nightmare.

Shhh, Vögelein. Geh’ zu ruhe. Go to sleep, love.

I can’t.

It was clear to her, Judith Jacobs says, that the novel “had real possibilities.” A friend suggested she show it to Andrea Beauchamp, assistant director of the Hopwood Awards Program at UM. Beauchamp passed the manuscript along to writer and UM colleague Eileen Pollack (whose most recent book is the novel “Breaking and Entering”). First, though, she took the liberty of reading the manuscript herself; Beauchamp, Jacobs says, told her she “loved it, and cried at the end.”

“When Andrea and Judith first contacted me, I was reluctant to read the manuscript,” Pollack recalled in an e-mail. “I knew that Natalie was young when she died and that she had written the book on her own. In most such cases, the results are amateurish. If that turned out to be the case, how would I convey such a judgment to her parents without adding to their grief? On the other hand, as a parent, I could imagine what it would be like to be left with a child’s manuscript and want the work to reach a larger audience, to live on …. So you can understand how happy I was to discover that the novel was the work of a truly gifted writer.”

Pollack, says Jacobs, “really gave us confidence that we might be able to do something” with Natalie’s manuscript.

A Chapter Is Published

Her first step was to submit a chapter of the novel to about 30 literary magazines. Titled “An die Freude” (“To Joy”), it is Natalie’s retelling of the premiere of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 from the point of view of Schubert, who was in the audience in Vienna that May night in 1824. With Beethoven in view on stage, seated to one side of the orchestra, he absorbs the symphony’s opening measures:

Or had it begun? What was going on? There was just a pianissimo murmur of strings, open fifths, and Franz thought for a moment that there had been some sort of mistake and the orchestra was tuning again …. But then he realized what was happening. It was the primal moment, the chaos before creation, as the other instruments added descending cascades of open fifths, the simplest chords. Franz thought of God moving on the face of the waters, in darkness and silence. And then the music grew, expanded, exploded into a huge statement of the first theme that made him jump in his seat. Behold, the creation of the world!

From then on, he knew he was in the presence of something very wonderful, very new, altogether new. For in no other symphony had music remade the world. And the music around him rose and rose, blossoming into a million fantastic shapes, while he watched and listened, trying to understand even while the music transformed him into a vessel filled with sound, shaking with it …. He was drunk with it, and as it sang through his veins, he forgot it all: his failing body, his failing art, all gone, lost in this vast and wonderful ocean of sound.

He wished he could take it and pull it into himself, make the brilliance a part of himself. The idea of making something as wonderful as this was beyond his comprehension. How did the man do it? How could he possibly be holding this inside him? He looked so insignificant down there, hunched over his score, unaware of the glory all around him.

This is why he’s deaf, Franz thought. He’s been listening to God too much. The thought was absurd and would have made him smile had he not been grinning with elation already.

Many journals “ask for short stories or novel excerpts that can stand alone,” Jacobs found, “and this chapter filled the bill. … I was thinking in terms of finding an agent and a publisher and wanted to establish a track record to show that the work was publishable. There was also the wish to see something of hers in print in a decent magazine, of course, and publishing a chapter of the book might also bode well for publishing the whole thing.”

The Battered Suitcase, a print journal, accepted “An die Freude” by Natalie Jacobs and it appeared in the December 2010 issue. Now, Jacobs says, “people can read it online for all time. It’s too bad she wasn’t there to enjoy it.”

An Alternative: ePublishing

Meanwhile, Pollack had shown the manuscript to her literary agent. When she responded to Jacobs with “a lovely letter saying she liked it a great deal … but didn’t see what the market would be for it,” Jacobs began looking into alternatives.

She did some research into electronic publishing and found that it “looked very respectable.” But, “I had no idea how I would do it,” she says. And “in my online search for help in self-publishing, I learned that there seem to be as many books on the topic as there are actual self-published books.” “The Indie Author Guide: Self-Publishing Strategies Anyone Can Use,” by April L. Hamilton, would eventually become their “bible” for the project; Jacobs calls it “a very sensible, well-written guide – no hype.”

It was around that time that Stan Jacobs, an emeritus professor of atmospheric and oceanic science in the UM College of Engineering, was able to join more fully in the project. He’d read “An die Freude,” Judith says, “but that was really all.” It was three years before her husband could bring himself to read the entire novel: “It just made him too sad.”

Natalie Jacobs

Natalie Jacobs, whose novel "When Your Song Breaks the Silence" was published posthumously. (Photo courtesy of Stan and Judith Jacobs.)

Judith and Stan brought their individual strengths to editing Natalie’s manuscript. Judith was the copy editor; Stan did the fact checking. “It was astounding how much research she did,” Judith says. They checked several Schubert biographies – “it all tracked.” (And, as Pollack notes, “the portrait of Schubert and his contemporaries [is] utterly convincing without seeming too heavily researched.”)

Meanwhile, Stan Jacobs was formatting the manuscript for epublication.

“Judy wrote the description of the book required by the publisher and an afterword describing how it came into our possession,” Stan wrote in an email detailing the process. “She also wrote the front matter – the cover, the title page, the dedication page, and the copyright statement. I was responsible for casting the table of contents in the proper ebook form and for editing the manuscript to conform with ebook conventions.”

Sounding like the scientist he is, Stan advised that “provided that you read the publishers’ guidelines carefully, the process is straightforward.”

He prepared two versions of the manuscript for uploading, one for Amazon Kindle and one for Barnes & Noble’s Nook and other ebook readers. Then (after he “obsessively reread it another time to check for typos”), he used Calibre, the open-source ebook application, “to convert the file into the two most popular ebook formats, Mobi and EPub. I then checked the formatting using an Amazon Kindle and an iPod Touch for the Mobi and EPub versions, respectively.” After final checks of the book’s appearance and epublishing features, they sent it off to Amazon for Kindle and to Smashwords, the distributor for Nook and other ebook readers.

Even an ebook requires a cover. Judith Jacobs is an artist who makes digital fine-art prints. But she is not, she insists, “a graphic designer. So I tried to do something simple.” She researched cover designs at Barnes & Noble, collecting images of appealing book jackets. And she had an image of her own to work with: the photo taken in Vienna in 1995. “It looks the way the book sounds,” she says of the cover she created for her daughter’s book. “It suits both the style and the 19th-century subject matter.”

Natalie had not given her novel a name. “I felt very presumptuous, choosing a title for her book,” Judith Jacobs says, “but I thought Schubert would be OK.”

“When Your Song Breaks the Silence” is taken from the last stanza of “Der Einsame” (“The Hermit”), a poem by Karl Lappe put to music by Franz Schubert:

 Chirp on and on, dear cricket,

in my narrow and small hermitage.

I tolerate you gladly: you do not disturb me

when your song breaks the silence,

for then I am no longer so entirely alone.

The novel is available for Amazon Kindle. The Smashwords edition is now on the lists at Barnes and Noble Nook StoreApple iTunes Store, Kobo, and soon to come at Sony.

About the writer: Domenica Trevor lives in Ann Arbor – her columns are published periodically in The Ann Arbor Chronicle. The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our columnists and other contributors. If you’re already supporting The Chronicle, please encourage your friends, neighbors and coworkers to do the same. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle.

]]> 2
Column: Book Fare Mon, 16 Apr 2012 19:45:27 +0000 Domenica Trevor Laurence Thomas isn’t the world’s best salesman. Really – trying to get this guy to talk about Third Wednesday, the literary journal he edits, was like pulling teeth. You’d think he was a poet or something.

Third Wednesday

Cover of the Winter 2012 edition of Third Wednesday, a literary journal edited by Laurence Thomas of Ypsilanti.

As it turns out, all you need to know about this well-kept secret can be found in its pages.

Thomas – who is a poet, as well as an essayist and a writer of fiction – was born in Ypsilanti 85 years ago. A Hopwood Award winner for essay and poetry at the University of Michigan in the early 1950s, he had a teaching career that took him as far as Uganda, Saudi Arabia and Costa Rica before he returned to his hometown, where he lives today. Third Wednesday was an outgrowth of a monthly poetry group and of his friendship with the late Dearborn Heights attorney and magistrate Michael J. Barney, who was also a published poet and founder of Gravity Presses (lest we all float away) Inc.

Barney, “a regular attendant” of the group, Thomas says, had begun publishing through Gravity Presses a local literary magazine called Now Here Nowhere. Only a handful of issues came out of the project before Barney became ill (he died of cancer in 2006). Third Wednesday picked up where Now Here Nowhere left off, Thomas says, and is in great part an homage to Barney’s memory.

From his home office, Thomas corrals the input of associate editors both local and far-flung (one of them lives in Tajikistan!) who review submissions of poetry, fiction and visual art to produce a quarterly collection. Third Wednesday casts a wider net than did its predecessor and draws submissions – “two or three a day,” Thomas says – from around the country as well as Michigan. The current issue – Winter 2012 – publishes poets from Ann Arbor to Sofia, Bulgaria.

Third Wednesday pays its contributors with a copy of the issue and a token honorarium: $3 to $5. Design editor Paul Kingston “insisted on paying a stipend,” Thomas says, “and he’s proved to be right. (Contributors) feel like professional writers when they receive the money. And some of them tear up the check – that helps us out.”

The journal sponsors an annual poetry contest; poet Philip Dacey judged this year’s entries, which are published in the current issue. The three winners – Chris Lord, Adella Blain and Phillip Sterling – all hail from Ann Arbor. Each issue of Third Wednesday includes a featured poet – sometimes well known (David Chorlton was featured in Fall 2011) but usually, Thomas says, “chosen from our contributors who show skills and ideas we want to promote.”

What do the editors look for? “It’s based on our studies of poetry, keeping up with what’s current,” Thomas says, “and looking for that tingle when we receive work that seems new, vibrant and beautiful.”

“We like publishing well-known names,” he says, “but our greater interest is in finding exciting work by those not yet established or with local reputations but not yet known nationwide.”

Along those lines is work from InsideOut Literary Arts Project, which also appears in every issue. The Wayne State University project places professional writers (many of them with roots in UM’s creative writing program) in Detroit public schools, where they lead workshops for students. Here, from Third Wednesday’s Fall 2011 issue, is a particularly fine example by an anonymous participant in a workshop for teen writers held at the Ruth Ellis Center in Highland Park:

What it’s like to be a black gay man

(for those of you who aren’t)

It’s holding your tongue when you want to sing

It’s straightening your wrist

deepening your voice

It’s asking a man a question

xxxxxxwhile asking a different question

It’s a signal it’s a stop light

It’s a hustle, one drink too many

a puff of smoke

It is opening your mouth

xxxxxxand a purse falling out

It’s a street corner

xxxxxxIt’s a fix. It’s a prayer

to be held to be driven

xxxxxxto be rode

It’s finally an open door

xxxxxxWelcoming you in

xxxxxxWelcoming you out

You can get more information about Third Wednesday online, including submission guidelines. You won’t find the journal’s current work on the site, however. The most recent issue can be found in good, old-fashioned paper and ink: subscriptions are $30 a year and copies are sold at Nicola’s Books in the Westgate shopping center and WSG Gallery on Main Street (full disclosure: my husband is a member of the gallery).

Sold Everywhere But Borders

Cover of "Sold Everywhere But Borders" by Rebecca Van Der Jagt.

Upcoming Events

Rebecca Van Der Jagt had been on the job at the Borders bookstore in Ramsey, N.J., for one month when the word came down from corporate in July 2011: Liquidation. In “Sold Everywhere But Borders,” Van Der Jagt has written an employee’s account of the grim last days of a beloved bookstore. She’ll be in town to sign copies at Biggby’s Coffee on Liberty Street at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 21; an emotional gathering of the Borders diaspora is a pretty sure bet.

Author Christopher Paul Curtis will be at Nicola’s Books at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 26. His latest book for children, “The Mighty Miss Malone,” is based on a character his readers met in “Bud, Not Buddy,” Curtis’ widely acclaimed 2004 novel set in Depression-era Michigan. “Bud, Not Buddy” won the Coretta Scott King Award and a second Newbery Medal for Curtis; the first was for his 2000 debut novel, “The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963.”

The 35th annual Ann Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair is Sunday, May 20, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Michigan Union ballroom. A visit is well worth the $5 admission, which benefits UM’s William L. Clements Library.

Honors for Kasischke, Hoffman

Two works featured in this column have gone on to wider recognition in recent (and not so recent) months. In March, Laura Kasischke’s “Space, in Chains” was awarded the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. Kasischke, a novelist and poet who lives in Chelsea, is a professor at UM’s MFA program in creative writing.

And back in November, Andrew J. Hoffman and his memoir “Builder’s Apprentice,” published by Huron River Press, were honored with a Connecticut Book Award. Hoffman is the Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at UM’s Ross School of Business and the School of Natural Resources and Environment.

About the writer: Domenica Trevor lives in Ann Arbor and can generally be found reading on third Wednesdays. Her columns are published periodically in The Ann Arbor Chronicle. The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our columnists and other contributors. If you’re already supporting The Chronicle, please encourage your friends, neighbors and coworkers to do the same. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle.

]]> 0
Column: Book Fare Sun, 23 Oct 2011 13:30:37 +0000 Domenica Trevor The upcoming trifecta of other-worldly holidays – Halloween, All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day – are the perfect frame to showcase a pair of new literary treats from local authors. (A neat trick, no?)

Cover of "Ghost Writers"

Cover of "Ghost Writers"

“The Sin-Eater: A Breviary,” Thomas Lynch’s latest collection of poems from Paraclete Press, presents this world and the next according to Argyle, an insurance policy incarnate for unabsolved offenses and, Lynch writes, “the mouthpiece for my mixed religious feelings.”

“Ghost Writers: Us Haunting Them,” part of the Made in Michigan Writers Series from Wayne State University Press, serves up a dozen ghost stories – some fiction, some true in their own way – from some of the state’s finest writers, many of them from the Ann Arbor area. Laura Kasischke (“Space, In Chains” and “The Raising”) and Keith Taylor, whose next poetry collection, “Marginalia for a Natural History,” comes out next month, are the editors as well as contributors.

Taylor, who teaches English at the University of Michigan, and “Ghost Writers” contributor Elizabeth Kostova (“The Historian,” “The Swan Thieves”) will read from the collection at Zingerman’s Roadhouse on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the sixth annual Vampires’ Ball, a benefit for Food Gatherers. (Hunger. In Washtenaw County. In America. Sin? Horror story? This theme is definitely hanging together here.)

Scary Stories

The standout in “Ghost Writers” is “Not Even Lions and Tigers,” Steve Amick’s wryly funny tale of enforcer Harry Bennett driven mad by the “haints” of strikers and organizers he bloodied in the service of Henry Ford (though, he’d insist to his disappointed ma, “he was in his office for most of it”). As he exhibited so well in his novel “Nothing But a Smile,” Amick is just great at nailing place and period with the energizing element of utterly authentic speech. His Bennett flings off sentences studded with gems like “whorebath,” “hoohaw” and “cooked up the wheeze” (translation: authored the joke). Plus, we get some local history: Harry Bennett, born on Ann Arbor’s Wall Street; stepson of an early member of UM’s engineering faculty; a frustrated artist who raised Wyandotte chickens on his Geddesburg estate. Now you know.

With “Ghost Anecdote,” Kasischke again gives us a story of a bad-ish girl, a dead mom and suburban vice and again leaves us marveling at her lethal skill with the lightning-bolt detail (and, again, imagining she would have been a blast to cut class with in high school). Nicholas Delbanco’s “Pier Road” offers a meditation on what vanishes from a place and what remains: “What are we haunted by, and why?”

Anne-Marie Oomen’s “Bitchathane” introduces us to “spider ghosts,” via the red-haired narrator’s Aunt Toots and in the Upper Peninsula, where women in steel-toed boots do construction work alongside their husbands, have their hearts broken and, sometimes, pieced back together in a tight package of revenge. And this captivating story introduces me to Oomen’s wonderful voice, and will lead me to check out her latest collection of essays, “An American Map” (from Wayne State University Press, 2010).

Scary stuff aside, it’s fun just to do some Michigan sightseeing in the pages of “Ghost Writers.” Greenfield Village. Harbor Springs. At the Detroit Institute of Arts, the up-north high school teacher in Taylor’s “The Man at the Edge” encounters Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry panels – they “all looked as if they pictured disembodied organs of the female reproductive system.” And it’s the place – Michigan – as much as the theme of haunting, of a present given deeper meaning by an undead past – that makes this collection worth the read.

Cover of "The Sin-Eater"

Cover of "The Sin-Eater"

“The ghosts in Michigan, perhaps like ghosts everywhere, seem to stay close to home,” the editors observe in the preface. And to this Taylor’s daughter, Faith, gets off a good one: “‘Well, good for the ghosts! At least they still call it home.’”

The Sacred and Profane

The next generation adds a special dimension as well to “The Sin-Eater.” To accompany “a couple dozen poems, a couple dozen lines each,” are a couple dozen truly fine photographs taken in Ireland by Michael Lynch, the poet’s son. (Another son, Sean, contributes a watercolor.)

Both Milford, Michigan, and Moveen in County Clare are home to Lynch, in whose magnificent “Walking Papers” Argyle made his first appearance. As with “Ghost Writers,” place and the dicey transition to an afterlife are central themes in “The Sin-Eater.” It is medieval (in sensibility if not in time) Ireland, where for a loaf of bread, a bowl of beer and six pence Argyle will squat beside a laid-out corpse, “eating sins and giving souls their blessed rest.” Like any working stiff, there are gigs he prefers more than others:

Maybe steady work with nuns whose vices

were rumored to go down like tapioca.

But no, those clever ladies lived forever

and for all their charities would starve the man

who counted for his feed on their transgressions.

No, most of Argyle’s work comes from rank-and-file sinners, whose resentful mourners may suspect a racket but will cover all the bases nevertheless. And he catches it from both sides. In “Argyle in Carrigaholt,” the “grinning” sin-eater gets chewed out by a prelate “famous for / the loud abhorrence that he preached against / adherence to the ancient superstitions.” But Argyle harbors his own contempt for those “who do a brisk trade in indulgences / and tithes and votive lamps and requiems.”

Cruelty toward the defenseless turns his stomach, and more than once he finds himself in profound solidarity with wronged innocents who succumb to the deadly sin of despair and are denied “requiem or rosary.” This refusal of official mercy is at the heart of two of the collection’s most powerful poems: “Argyle’s Ejaculations” and “He Posits Certain Mysteries.”

The father’s words and the sons’ images create a haunting whole. “The Sin-Eater” is a beautiful work of art.

About the writer: Domenica Trevor lives in Ann Arbor and can be scary when she sets her mind to it. Her columns are published periodically in The Ann Arbor Chronicle. The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our columnists and other contributors. If you’re already supporting The Chronicle, please encourage your friends, neighbors and coworkers to do the same. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle.

]]> 0