Chris McCormick at the Ann Arbor Book Fest

. June 1, 2016.

The Ann Arbor Book Festival is my favorite happening in Ann Arbor’s summer months, a celebration of all things literary here in town, with Book Crawls here and in Ypsilanti, a Street Fair and a free Writer’s Conference. The Book Fest, formed in 2003, is running June 16, 17 and 18. The ambiance is so cool and relaxed that the whole family will dig it, and it’s really a nice way to get all ages enthused about reading, literacy and the written word. Thank God we’re still radical enough to support long-successful independent bookstores, like Fest sponsor Crazy Wisdom Bookstore. Other sponsors include the Ann Arbor District Library, the Ypsilanti District Library and the University of Michigan Library System. Sister, if these libraries can’t get you what you want, you’re not spelling it right.

Pointers from a young author

I look forward particularly to meeting and gleaning pointers from America’s hottest young author, Chris McCormick, whose latest work, Desert Boys, has garnered nothing but rave reviews across the country.  It is a series of connected stories and it begins where McCormick grew up, in hardscrabble Antelope Valley in the Mojave Desert, one-hour but cultural eons east of Los Angeles, Capital of the Third World. Desert Boys traces the travels and travails of a protagonist who grew up in the desert, migrated to self-styled civilizations elsewhere, and finally returned changed to a changed place.  

We are blessed that Chris’s journey has now brought him to us. He started at the University of California, Berkeley. He moved here for his Master of Fine Arts degree at University of Michigan Helen Zell writing program. The best thing he learned there? “How to filter and incorporate feedback from others without losing trust in my own vision for the piece I’m writing.” His favorite authors? “Such a long list. Of dead writers, Chekhov. Of living writers, Louise Erdrich and Toni Morrison.” Now he’s teaching writing here and has made quite a home for himself.  

Chris’ A2 favorites

Chris’s favorite bar in town is the Blue Tractor. He says: “This may seem strange for a vegetarian because it’s a BBQ spot but its Smokehouse Amber Ale is my go-to beverage and Tim Longtin is the best bartender in town.” And he loves the Arb. “The Arb is a lovely and crucial part of living in Ann Arbor. It’s the only sunbathing spot with enough foliage to block people’s eyes from my shirtless glare!” (Note to readers: Early to Mid June is the last chance to visit the Arb’s intoxicating Peony Garden at the Washington Heights entrance near Mary Markley Hall.) Great writers always do something besides writing. McCormick told me, “I was a bassist in a ska band in high school, about ten years after ska was dead. But it led me to jazz, which I took pretty seriously into college. I still play music around the apartment, more a nervous tic than anything else nowadays. And I love sports, especially basketball and baseball and golf, and – yes, it’s a sport – professional wrestling. I’m a proud nerd.” Proud he should be, Chris McCormick. Make sure you look him up while you’re enjoying this year’s Ann Arbor Book Fair.

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