April 6 2016 10:07 AM

A Rally of Writers features wide range of authors, topics

Successful memoirist Bob Tarte has an important piece of advice for writers: Make your writing memorable. His fourth memoir, “Feather Brained,” will be released later this month. Tarte uses self-deprecating humor to tell his stories, whether they’re about ducks, cats or bird watching. He attributes his books’ appeal to “making myself the most foolish person in the book.”

“My point of view is simple,” he explained. “It’s a guy who doesn’t quite know what’s going on.”

A native of Lowell, Tarte got one of those breaks new authors dream of when his first memoir, “Enslaved by Ducks,” was noticed by The Wall Street Journal in 2012. The book became a best-seller, sharing the list with the likes of Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl.”

In his first three books, Tarte wrote about his clueless — and often hilarious — interactions with the animals who were drawn to his home on the edge of a swamp. “Feather Brained,” which details his quest to become a birder and discover his own rare bird, takes his humorous memoirs to another level.

Tarte will join 12 other authors Saturday for the 29th installment of A Rally of Writers. The all-day event features 16 sessions covering the art and craft of novels, short stories, articles, children’s books and poetry. Authors included in the event include the award-winning novelist and short-story writer Bonnie Jo Campbell, mystery writer/memoirist Lev Rafael, fantasy author Jim C. Hines, children’s writer Deborah Diesen and several other Michigan authors.

Rosalie Petrouske, Grand Ledge poet and adjunct professor at Lansing Community College, will talk on how writers can sharpen their senses and turn their observations into words. Petrouske suggests that authors find a way to get outside and think.

“I always go for walks. I look at rocks. I look at birds. They inspire me,” she said. “My dad, who worked in the U.P. woods, always said my first words were ‘sky’ and ‘water.’ I grew up surrounded by water.”

A proficient photographer, Petrouske often takes her camera with her on walks to record images she may later write about. Her favorite walking path these days is through Grand Ledge’s Lincoln Brick Park, where a prairie restoration is underway.

She considers herself fortunate to have been exposed to nature at an early age, including the times she spent living in a tent during her early summers. Petrouske’s interest in writing started when her father died when she was 16.

“He was the catalyst, she said, “And nature heals.”

Petrouske, who co-founded the Writing at the Ledges writing group, recently published her latest chapbook of poetry, “What We Keep.” The book explores the theme of what’s important in our lives. She starts with the stories of living in the tent and small cabins in the Upper Peninsula, then expands the ideas into a discussion of what we keep in our memory of those before us.

Each year, A Rally of Writers hosts a free “warm up” event the evening before the rally. This year’s event, at Schuler Books & Music’s Eastwood Towne Center location, hopes to take writers outside their comfort zone. Randy Scott, a comic art bibliographer and assistant head of special collections at MSU libraries, will present “From Mickey to Maus,” a look at changes in comic art since the 1970s.

At Saturday’s rally, two speakers — Whitney Spotts of Schuler Book & Music and Linda Angér of the marketing firm the Write Concept — will offer professional advice on what to do after a book is published. Spotts, who coordinates author tours for the bookstore chain, will offer advice on how to promote a book. Angér will coach authors on how to become better presenters at speeches and author events. She says authors need to be “bold and courageous” in their presentations.

“I will teach people how to get up and perform,” she said. “When you create a character, you know their idiosyncrasies and must be able to portray that and put the same image in a listener’s mind when you speak.”

Her major piece of advice on becoming a better speaker and presenter is quite simple and inexpensive.

“I recommend everyone join Toastmasters Club,” she said. “It is the most amazing leadership and speech training available.”

A Rally of Writers

8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, April 9 $100/$70 students LCC West Campus 5708 Cornerstone Drive, Lansing (517) 372-3385, arallyofwriters.com

Rally Warm-up

“From Mickey to Maus” with Randy Scott 7 p.m. Friday, April 8 FREE Schuler Books & Music (Eastwood Towne Center location) 2820 Towne Center Blvd., Lansing

(517) 316-7495, schulerbooks.com