Michigan Writers and Writing

Essay: By Chance

Mar 5, 2021

I was telling my husband about a good friend. “I just met her by chance,” I said.

“Who haven’t you met by chance?” he said.

Essay: Big Spruce

Feb 26, 2021

I have a big Norway Spruce in my front yard that’s about twice as tall as the house. From the upstairs bedroom window, I can see its branches and they are always moving.

Essay: Bag of Pretzels

Feb 19, 2021

At the grocery store, I pick up orange juice and cat food and a few other essentials. I’m on my way to the check-out when I see my husband’s favorite pretzels. I know that the bag at home is almost empty and yet I hesitate.

Essay: Aldous Thompson York

Feb 12, 2021

We were seniors in high school with an English teacher named Miss Smith. She didn’t seem to know very much and we were bored, restless, rebellious.

Then, two members of the class approached Miss Smith about giving a special report.

Essay: In Praise of Radiators

Feb 7, 2021

In Praise of Radiators

It’s easy to complain about old houses and I do.  They require endless upkeep—with which we never keep up.  But during the cold weather months, I celebrate one feature of this old house that no home improvement has improved upon:   our ancient, efficient hot water radiators.

Every morning I dial up the temperature and the only sound I hear is a gentle ticking.  No whoosh of dusty air, no clanging along the baseboards.  And when I turn down the heat, my faithful old radiators stay warm for hours.

Essay: Black Squirrel

Jan 2, 2021

After careful scrutiny, the black squirrel figures out how to leap from the spruce tree to our bird feeder.  There, he hangs upside down and empties out the seed at his leisure. 

Meanwhile, the chickadees, finches, and nut hatches watch this invader from nearby  rooftops.  But they make no effort to challenge his authority.

Essay: Angling for the Light

Dec 25, 2020

With all their leaves gone, I can see the bare branches of the oaks and maples in my neighborhood.  Walking these streets daily, I know the trees by heart, how old they are, what colors they turn in the fall.

Now it is winter and I stare into the dark branches which reach upward in a random tangle of twigs.  But I know that it’s not random at all.  Each branch has very deliberately found its way around the others—angling for the light that its leaves need to make food.

Losing Santa

Dec 18, 2020

Losing Santa

I believed in Santa Claus longer than most kids, supported by my older cousin who pretended for my sake while I pretended for hers.  Finally, we confessed to each other and suddenly the magic was gone.  No more reindeer on the roof, no more cookies by the fireplace.

For the next couple of years, Christmas seemed spoiled.  I went through the motions—but now I knew that all the gifts came from my parents and always had. 

Essay: Afraid of Everything

Dec 11, 2020

On a sunny river bank, a deer is sleeping—but when our canoe glides past, she leaps up and bounds into the woods.  We pose no threat to the deer, but she doesn’t know that.  So, she has to be afraid of everything in order to be afraid of the right things.

As I pick up my paddle, I think of how much of my own life I’ve been afraid—mostly of the wrong things.  Afraid of things that never happened or weren’t as bad as I feared.  Or afraid of things that turned out to be wonderful.

Essay: The Human Voice

Nov 27, 2020

I used to keep a daily journal and recently reread a few of them.  In addition to my own voice, I was grateful to hear other people talking—not my version of what they said but in their own words.

There was my dad, saying, “Try and get along.”  What he wanted was for my brother and me to stop fighting.  Other versions were:  “Don’t rock the boat” and “Let sleeping dogs lie.”  Conflict made Dad uncomfortable, so he’d do anything to avoid it. 

Essay: Making Room

Oct 30, 2020

When I was twenty-five, I was single and living in Chicago with a good friend.  I had a job I loved and a boyfriend who loved me. 

Then, in the space of a few weeks, my roommate, my boss, and my boyfriend all moved on, so I called my parents.  “Can I come and stay with you?” I asked, “until I figure out what to do next?”   Of course they’d be glad to have me. 

Essay: Dog Hair Giveaway

Oct 9, 2020

Dog Hair Giveaway

I’m standing in line at the bank and notice the woman in front of me.  She’s looks very professional with a sleek haircut and expensive shoes.  An executive, I think, who is conducting important business.

Then I notice that the back of her trench coat—her elegant, black trench coat—is covered with golden dog hair.  I have to smile, imagining her retriever sitting in the driver’s seat of her car, perhaps even now.

Essay: Disapproving of Ruth

Oct 2, 2020

Disapproving of Ruth

“Have you heard what Ruth is up to now?” my mother said.

“Craziest thing I’ve ever heard of,” my father said.

My grandmother just shook her head.  Ruth was her sister and she’d been doing crazy things forever.  Why, she didn’t get married until she was past thirty and then she married a much older man.  He was wealthy but still—he was 46!

And they went all the way to Alaska on their honeymoon—in 1919, for heaven’s sake!

Essay: Spiders on the Ceiling

Aug 28, 2020

Spiders on the Ceiling 

Sometimes our family rented a cottage for a couple weeks in the summer and nearby was a soda shop with a wide front porch.  My girlfriends and I liked to hang out on this porch where we could watch the world go by and eat our chocolate sodas.

We spent hours sitting at little round tables in wrought-iron chairs, leaning in to gossip and leaning back to laugh.  It was our favorite place to be—and we were there almost every night, feeling comfortable and safe.

Elaine Weiss is a journalist and writer whose latest book is “The Woman’s Hour.” It’s about the struggle to amend the U.S. Constitution to allow women the right to vote. Elaine appeared at a virtual National Writers Series event. She spoke with Traverse City Record-Eagle columnist and teacher, Susan Odgers. In the second half of our program, we’ll hear a discussion with William Kent Krueger talking with Doug Stanton. William is the author of the Cork O’Connor series of mystery novels. His latest book is a stand-alone novel called “This Tender Land.” 


Jun 26, 2020

When my daughter was a baby, everyone remarked that she looked just like her father—which  annoyed me even if it was true.  Then, as Sara got older, people observed that she looked just like me.  I was delighted but Sara was not. “I don’t want to look like you,” she said.  “I want to look like me.”