If you want to get back into reading, there’s a surefire way to start. Pick up a book on your list or one that a friend has recommended (a real page-turner), settle into a cozy spot, and sink into the pages. What else can you do? We sat down with Anne Stanton, executive director of the National Writers Series, who shares her thoughts on finding joy in reading and what to expect with the delightful 2023 author event series.
In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it may seem difficult to find the time to bury yourself in a good book. Your reading list may be overflowing. You may feel burnt out on your go-to genres and books. Maybe you just don’t know where to start or how to get your kids or family members into the habit, as well.
In any case, it’s much easier to get out of a reading slump or back into a routine when you’re connected to other readers and the latest book recommendations.
That’s one of the reasons the National Writers Series was started: to connect communities to impactful books and authors and inspire a new generation of readers and writers.
Over the past decade, the National Writers Series (NWS) has done just that, serving thousands of book lovers and writers across Michigan and beyond. To date, hundreds of bestselling authors have joined the conversation in Traverse City, which the City Commission officially dubbed “Book City.”
With the 2023 spring author series in full swing, Executive Director Anne Stanton reminisces on the impact NWS has had on Northern Michigan and what’s to come. She also understands what it takes to become an avid reader at any age. So, naturally, we had to share her insider tips with you, too!
Here’s what she had to say:
Photo by National Writers Series
Ashlyn Korienek: We live in a fast-paced, screen-filled world where it seems like the art of opening a good book is often overlooked. What advice or book recommendations would you offer to someone who is trying to fall back in love with reading?
Anne Stanton: I would say read what you love, not what you should. I guess that goes without saying. And, try reading a book at night instead of watching TV a few nights a week. Try embracing the rainy days and blizzards and indulge yourself with an afternoon (or an entire day!) of reading. Maybe skip the wine so you don’t get sleepy and give yourself enough time to really get engaged. You need to get a good head of steam on a book, and that’s impossible to do if you’re nodding off and reading only a few pages at a time.
A.K.: When it comes to inspiring young storytellers, NWS has long supported parents and students in the community and beyond. What advice would you give parents on raising a writer or reader?
A.S.: My immediate suggestion is to check out our website and our free creative writing classes (thanks to our donors and grantors). We also offer help to kids writing college essays every fall. Even if your child never becomes a professional writer, having a comfort level with writing will make their academic and professional life much more pleasant.
Each year, NWS hosts a reading competition—Battle of the Books in partnership with the Traverse Area District Library. Kids read together as a team and stretch themselves to read different genres. For the first time in their lives, they will hear someone applaud their reading efforts!
My advice for raising a reader and writer is to read books to your child from infancy up until they reach the age when they politely tell you they can read their own books, thank you very much. My youngest son used to love animal encyclopedias from a very young age, and now plans to major in biology in college, with an emphasis on primate studies. You just can’t imagine the impact of early reading! I would also like to underscore the huge importance of phonics when it comes to reading–your child absolutely needs to be taught how to sound out a word (phonics) as opposed to using a newer strategy in place that asks kids to guess at a word by using cues from pictures or context.
A.K.: NWS has more than a decade of work in introducing our community to world-renowned authors and positively shaping the minds of young writers and readers. What are you most proud of when it comes to the work NWS does?
A.S.: The events are tons of fun, but I really enjoy bringing the mainstage authors to area classrooms to talk about writing and their books—from Alice Waters talking to culinary students to Eric Fair talking about the drawbacks of torturing prisoners to a classroom of criminal justice kids. Anna Quindlen just talked about her own writing life to about 40 students at North Ed. I love these visits.
A.K.: It’s the middle of winter, so now’s the perfect time to cozy up with a good book! What are you currently reading or have on your shelf for 2023?
A.S.: I’m reading a galley copy of The Devil’s Element by Dan Egan. Also, Still Life by Louise Penny, who I’m going to get to Traverse City someday—I hope, I hope!
A.K.: What’s your favorite place in Northern Michigan to cozy up with a book?
A.S.: We have a fireplace in our living room and a gorgeous, comfy couch that we splurged on years ago. Absolute heaven.
Spring Author Events with National Writers Series
The 2023 spring author series is already in motion and there’s a lot to unpack. Here’s what you can expect in the coming months.
February 23 | Alvin Hall
Alvin Hall will discuss his latest book, “Driving the Green Book,” with Jerome Vaughn of WDET. He’s also going to stop by Northern Michigan College, enjoy a lunch especially created for Black History Month, and talk to students and staff.
March 10 | Dan Egan
Pulitzer Prize finalist Dan Egan shares his latest nonfiction work, “The Devil’s Element,” with Patrick Shea, who reports on the environment for Interlochen Public Radio. The International Affairs Forum is an event partner. Stanton describes Egan as “an absolutely mesmerizing nonfiction writer.”
April 12 | Ross Gay
NWS is partnering with Interlochen Center for the Arts for the first time. Ross Gay, whose poems and essays celebrate life’s joys, will delve into the details behind his latest book, “Inciting Joy.” “He inspires us to marvel at what might seem ordinary at first glance but can be the source of elation,” Stanton shares.
May 3 | Jeannette Walls
Jeannette Walls, who wrote “The Glass Castle,” a 5-million book bestseller about her fraught childhood, will discuss her newest novel, “Hang the Moon,” following the story of an unlikely hero.
May 12 | Chasten Buttigieg
Chasten Buttigieg joins his friend and actor Kal Penn to talk about “I Have Something to Tell You,” a young adult adaptation of his memoir about the challenges of growing up gay in Traverse City, learning self-acceptance, his relationship with his husband, Pete, and his hopes for America.
Summer Author Events
Continue the conversation with the National Writers Series this summer. Stanton says there will be three heavy hitters, Geraldine Brooks, author of the novel “Horse;” Nedra Glover Tawwab, a therapist and New York Times bestseller; and Ann Patchett, whose upcoming novel is based in Traverse City.
Raising Readers and Writers
Since its start, the National Writers Series has grown its efforts in supporting parents and young storytellers. From Front Street Writers classes and workshops to scholarship opportunities and the annual Battle of the Books competition, there are plenty of resources to get your kids involved with writing and reading. Check out the full slate of Raising Writers programs.