writers and writing

Essay: Gramma's Sewing Basket

Jan 22, 2021

Every Sunday afternoon, our family visited Grandpa Anderson who lived alone.  The adults would sit and talk while my brother and I looked at books.  On the table next to Grandpa’s chair was a large round wicker basket with a pattern of blue and green beads on the lid.  It was Gramma Anderson’s sewing basket.

Essay: Finding Oak Street

Jan 15, 2021

It was a useless day.  Or, more accurately, it was a day on which I was feeling useless.  Questioning my value, my purpose.   No matter where I turned, nothing turned up.  No redeeming virtues, no significant contributions.  My life seemed like a series of wrong decisions and wasted effort. 

Essay: Calling Nanna

Jan 15, 2021

“Would you call Nanna for me?” my mother asks but it’s not a question. 

“I’ve got homework,” I say.

“It’ll just take a minute,” she says.  Mom is in the kitchen getting dinner ready but that’s not the reason she wants me to call.  She’s already talked to her mother a dozen times today and it’s my turn.

“I don’t know what to say to her.”

“You don’t have to say anything.  Just ask how she is.” 

So I dial Nanna’s number, Glendale 82978, and she picks up on the first ring.  ‘Hi, Nanna.  How are you?”

National Writers Series: An evening with Albert Woodfox

Jan 5, 2021

In 1971, Albert Woodfox was sent to Angola prison for armed robbery. A year later, Albert was put in solitary confinement after being convicted of killing a guard. He was innocent of this crime, but stayed in solitary for 43 more years. After finally being released in 2016, Albert wrote a book about his experiences in prison, called “Solitary: Unbroken by Four Decades in Solitary Confinement.” Albert appeared at a virtual National Writers Series event and spoke with news director for radio station WDET, Jerome Vaughn.

Essay: Waiting for my Life

Dec 4, 2020

Waiting for My Life

Years ago I found a book of poems by Linda Pastan with the title, “Waiting for My Life.”  How did she know?  I’d been waiting for my life forever.  Waiting for an answer, for an affirmation.

If only I could find the right book or have the right conversation.  Meanwhile, I kept busy with daily activities, convinced that my real life, the one with significance and purpose, would eventually arrive.  Pastan’s poem described it this way:

Yaa Gyasi was born in Ghana, and her family moved to the United States when she was two years old. Her birth country figures prominently in her two books, “Homegoing,” and her latest, “Transcendent Kingdom.” Yaa appeared at a virtual National Writers Series event. She spoke with Detroit’s director of arts and culture, Rochelle Riley. In the second half of the program, Kate Walbert’s writing often focuses on women’s lives, like her novel “A Short History of Women,” and her latest collection of short stories, “She Was Like That.” Kate appeared at a virtual National Writers Series event.

Essay: Add Sugar

Sep 18, 2020

When my mother cooked sweet potatoes, she put them in a casserole dish with miniature marshmallows on top.  When she baked acorn squash, she scraped out the seeds and put in butter and brown sugar.  She added white sugar to fresh strawberries and fresh peaches and lots of other fresh fruit. 

And because I was a kid, I thought this was the way to eat.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I ate fruits and vegetables by themselves—and of course, I discovered that they taste pretty great without any additional anything. 

Essay: Acting the Elder

Sep 11, 2020

A group of young people is gathered in my back yard for a potluck supper.  One by one and two by two, I talk with the guests. 

One couple tells me about their honeymoon, a backpacking trip to Europe.  “Madrid was the best,” the husband says.  “We saw an exhibit of Picasso and it was awesome.”

I ask about career plans and his wife says she is undecided.  “I’m studying economics and sports medicine,” she says. 

Essay: A Lot of Fire

Sep 4, 2020

I’m standing at the jewelry counter waiting to purchase a battery for my watch.  At the other end of the counter is an old woman talking to the salesman about her wedding ring.

“I want to wear it,” she says, “but it doesn’t fit right.”

She lays her left hand on the counter, a lovely hand with long fingers which are twisted with arthritis.  The salesman gently helps her slide the various sizing rings over her knuckle.  Beside the old woman is a middle-aged woman whose features identify her as a daughter.  She catches my glance and we share a smile.

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.

Essay: Leaky Faucet

Aug 22, 2020

When I walk into the bathroom at Brimley State Park, I hear water running in the shower.  I assume someone is getting clean, but after I’ve washed my face and brushed my teeth, the water is still running and no one has emerged.  



Peering around the corner, I discover that the shower head is dripping steadily and I try to twist the knob tighter.  No luck.  Not my problem, I think, but maybe I’ll mention it to someone.

On this edition of Michigan Writers on the Air, we explore living and writing during COVID-19.  Writers Anne-Marie Oomen, Jerry Dennis, Lynne Rae Perkins, Ellen Airgood, Anne Stanton, Karen Dionne, and Fleda Brownshare their thoughts and some of their current work.

Essay: Wisdom by Heart

Aug 14, 2020

Since college, I’ve been collecting quotes from various sources—novels, newspapers, friends, strangers—looking for wisdom, insights, affirmations. 



In the early years, the quotes were mostly about romantic love—which often ends badly, which is what makes it romantic.  Lines of poetry helped me survive the heartbreak, such as these from Edna St. Vincent Millay: “I know I am but summer to your heart/And not the full four seasons of the year.”



Essay: My Dad Knew

Jul 31, 2020

When I was growing up, summer vacations were often two-week road trips to scenic destinations.  Our family of four would stay together in motels and eat in restaurants—which seemed exciting at first.  After a few days, however, I wasn’t feeling well—with a stomach ache and no appetite.


Essay: Lost Causes

Jul 24, 2020

My first husband called himself a “box salesman” and started his own company, selling corrugated packaging.  Some of my savings helped launch this enterprise and I very much wanted it to do well.  Thus, as a supportive partner, I learned to call the product “corrugated,” not “cardboard.”


Essay: Grilling Out

Jul 17, 2020

“What is that thing in the driveway?” I asked my mother.  It looked like a little flying saucer with a round metal body and four spindly legs.

“It’s a charcoal grill,” she said.  “Dad’s going to cook hamburgers on it tonight.”

I was guessing that Dad didn’t know about this yet.  None of us knew anything about charcoal grilling which was something my mother had heard about on television.

Essay: A Ride Home

Jul 10, 2020

When I was a little kid, I spent Saturday afternoons at the movies with my friends.  Somebody’s parents would drop us off at the theater and we would sit through two Westerns and a dozen cartoons, passing boxes of jujubes and milk duds up and down the row.

Essay: Fences and Neighbors

Jul 3, 2020


Our neighbors have put a fence around their yard. They have a good reason, wanting to protect their toddler from wandering into the street.


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.”

Essay: Change of Perspective

Jun 19, 2020

When I was young, my parents showed me photos of themselves when they were young and I would laugh and shake my head.  How old-fashioned they looked!  My mother’s hair with its elaborate artificial waves, her hats and gloves and fancy dresses.  My father’s three-piece suits with striped ties and the classic fedora that he wore everywhere—except indoors.


Essay: Boy on a Swing

Jun 12, 2020

I walk by a school and see a boy on a swing.  Not a little boy but a young man of about sixteen, swinging in broad arcs—up and down, up and down.  He is all by himself on the playground and I wonder what has prompted him to get back on a swing.  Then I remember that I did the same thing, not so long ago.

I wanted to feel it again, the soaring magic of tilting up into the sky, of leaning back and pumping myself higher and higher until I am sure I’ll go right over the top.  Until I am sure I will catapult myself onto a cloud.  

Essay: Adagio Power

Jun 5, 2020

I am stirring onions in a frying pan when I hear a piece of music on the radio.  It has a brooding, soaring melody that seems to express all the joy and sorrow I have ever felt.


Turning off the onions, I sit down at my kitchen table to listen, convinced that this music has the power to change my life, to supply all the missing pieces, to redeem the losses and renew the dreams.

And I am poised with pencil and paper to get the title and composer:  “Adagio for Strings,” the announcer says, “by Samuel Barber.”

Essay: Glimmer of Hope

May 29, 2020

Somewhere in the midst of the pandemic, the local newspaper published a survey, asking readers what they were missing most—things like restaurants, bars, theaters, barbershops.  Nowhere on the list was what I missed most:  my local library.



Sure, I wish I could stop in at J&S Hamburg or Sleder’s Tavern.  And even more, I wish I could get a haircut.  But if I had to choose, I’d rather have a book.

Essay: Yoga Teacher

May 22, 2020

When I walk into my yoga class, I notice that there’s a different teacher and I’m immediately upset.  Where is our regular instructor?  Who is this substitute?  Why weren’t we told?  Maybe I should just leave.



The new instructor introduces herself as Laura and offers no explanation.  Instead, she invites us to sit cross-legged on our mats and center ourselves.  Center myself?  Impossible!  I’m churning with irritation.

Essay: Windbreaker

May 8, 2020

Many years ago, my husband gave me a blue nylon windbreaker—very simple and lightweight, with side pockets and a hood.  I loved that jacket and wore it everywhere—jogging, camping, canoeing, and just hanging out on the back porch.  I had washed it a hundred times and it always came out looking like new.