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Thursday, October 2, 2014

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University to declare Michigan 'The State of the Book' with celebratory symposium

Teresa Mathew/Daily
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By Anna Sadovskaya, Assistant Arts Editor
Published October 5, 2012

Known for its mitten shape, automobile industry and Cereal City, USA, Michigan is rarely thought of as a cultural hotspot. Rather than mention noteworthy authors, artists or musicians, people point to their palms when referring to their home state.

In an effort to raise awareness for Michigan’s wide array of creative contributions, Fiction Writers Review and the University’s MFA Program in Creative Writing will co-host a literature convention commemorating the long-standing literary accomplishments of native writers by naming Michigan the “State of the Book.”

The idea behind the symposium began with Jeremiah Chamberlin, Fiction Writers Review publisher and associate director of the University’s English department’s writing program. Chamberlin’s desire for Michigan’s creative recognition stemmed from a desire to influence young minds and help them uncover the writers within.

“I hope that there’s a moment where someone hears one of these 30 authors speak and thinks, as I did as a teenager, ‘that’s what I want to do with my life,’ ” Chamberlin said. “I hope it’s inspiring.”

The event will kick off with an introduction from Pulitzer Prize finalist Dave Eggers, author of best-selling memoir “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,” and co-founder of 826 Valencia, a project developed to help kids and young adults increase their writing skills.

Throughout the day, visitors will be able to walk through the book fair in the lobby of Rackham, a congregation of writers, publishers and editors promoting literature, their works and programs in support of literary acceleration.

“It’s so rare to have 15 of the most important literary presses, literary journals, editors and publishing houses all in one room together in the book fair,” Chamberlin said. “And that’s really where people can wander around, and get a feel for what we’re trying to accomplish.”

At 3:30 p.m., a panel of journalists including GQ Features Editor and Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University, Donovan Hohn, will discuss the future of journalism and what it will mean when everything “goes digital.”

“They want to talk about not just the practical side of what’s going to happen when all this goes digital: is there room for both print and pixel, but also, what’s the hook, the spark that sends a journalist across the world (in search of a story),” Chamberlin explained.

The day-long celebration will culminate in an hour-long keynote conversation with Charles Baxter, award-winning author and former director of the Creative Writing MFA program, and Pullitzer Prize-winning author and Detroit native, Philip Levine. The two, with their combined background and interest in Michigan, will hold a conversation in front of 1,200 individuals, discussing their personal and professional lives.

“Both Charlie and Phil have come out of huge generosity,” Chamberlin said. “The evening will be a conversation, not a Q&A. We really want to give the audience a rare experience of overhearing a conversation between friends, about writing, about life, about politics, about the state of their careers and the roots of their careers.”

Throughout the day, special events will be held, such as the revealing of books and anthologies, author readings and book signings. The symposium looks to entice individuals into the creative world while encouraging and recognizing those that already run in the circle.

“You can’t get more authors, editors and publishers in one space at one time and have that kind of access,” Chamberlin said. “Between the practical side of who you can encounter, what you can learn coupled with the abstract-inspiring element, this should be very interesting.”