March 24 2010 12:00 AM

Literary events bloom in April all over Lansing



Our literary plates are piled high in the coming weeks with a writers’ workshop, the Michigan Notable Authors event, an antiquarian book sale, and something to really get our forks into: an edible book contest.

The annual Rally of Writers, an all-day workshop, is set for April 10 at Lansing Community College’s west campus. The rally includes programs on everything from writing thrillers to poetry and, according to organizer Linda Peckham, at $70 it is one of the best bargains for aspiring writers in the Midwest. More information and registration material is at

Sixteen breakout sessions with authors, including National Book Award nominee Thomas Lynch (“Apparitions & Late Fictions”), will give tips about writing and getting published.

Local authors Lev Raphael, Judge William Whitbeck and Andrea King Collier will advise writers on constructing and developing characters.

In addition¸ a free event at Schuler Books & Music in the Eastwood Towne Center at 7 p.m. Friday, April 9. covers what authors need to know about how the Internet and social media are changing publishing and writing.

Karen Dionne, who writes thrillers and founded Backspace, an internet writers’ group, said she has attended conferences as an unpublished author, a published author, and as a conference organizer, and always comes away having learned something new and feeling inspired.

“For a writer who works in solitude, the opportunity to gather with other writers to talk about writing, to take workshops from more experienced writers, and to learn about the business from industry professionals is a real treat,” Dionne said.

Dionne is also a featured speaker Friday at Schuler; she’ll talk about why thrillers dominate the bestseller lists.

Lansing area writer Collier, who describes writing as a solitary and isolating pursuit, said, "the rally is a terrific way to connect with other people who are at various stages of this incurable desire to tell a story in some way.

“I will be talking about really taking the writing to the next level. How do you take a good essay and layer it to be as compelling as possible? I am going to be sharing some tips that I have been able to use over the years to find the sweet spot in an essay to make it not just salable, but connectable.”

Okemos writer Raphael, who has written 19 books and is conducting a session on developing the amateur sleuth in mysteries, said the rally is one of his favorite writing conferences.

“It’s small enough for people to get individual attention in sessions," he said, "but large enough to draw important, experienced writers who love to share what they know and help other writers blossom.”

The rally will be a homecoming of sorts for Kelley O’Connor McNees of Chicago and Kristina Riggles of Grand Rapids. Both women are first-time novel ists. McNees grew up in the Lansing area and Riggles received a journalism degree from Michigan State University.

McNees’ book, “The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott,” is an interesting fictional re-creation of a mysterious time in Alcott’s life, and Riggles’ “Real Life & Liars” follows one family during a tumultuous weekend in northern Michigan.

McNees also will double up with an appearance at Schuler in the Eastwood Towne Center at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 11.

Local Michigan Court of Appeals Judge William Whitbeck and McNees will discuss how to use historical research in your writing. Whitbeck’s first book, “To Account for Murder,” is a fictionalized thriller based on the actual killing of a Michigan state senator.

For a second helping, The Center for Poetry at MSU’s Residential College for Arts and Humanities is sponsoring its third annual Edible Book Contest, at 2 p.m., Wednesday, April 8, at Snyder Phillips Hall.

Organizers say entries must be "bookish" through the integration of text, literary inspiration, or form. The entry must be edible, but as center employee Stephanie Glazier stresses, not necessarily “digestible.” All entries must include a placard denoting the title of the book, the creation it represents and/or explaining the literary connection: Think “let them eat cake.”

Awards will be given for best in show, most literate, most creative, most edible and most humorous.

Entries must be brought to the Office of the Center for Poetry at C230 E. Snyder Hall by 1:45 p.m. April 8. For more information, contact Anita Skeen at the Center for Poetry (

Save room on your plate for the Midwest’s largest antiquarian and ephemera show at the Lansing Center on Sunday, April 10, beginning at 9:30 a.m. The event features more than 70 dealers from across the country. For more information visit

And one week later, you can start all over again with the Library of Michigan’s Night of Notables on April 17, which celebrates the top 20 Michigan books and authors of 2009. National Book Award finalists and Notable winners Bonnie Jo Campbell ("American Salvage") and David Small ("Stitches") will give keynote presentations. For more information on the event and to purchase a ticket call (517) 373-4692.