Tag Archives: Michigan

Off Topic Thursday: Michigan

29 Nov

I think everyone is proud of where they’re from. I know I am. I was born in Metro Detroit and after living in southern Indiana for four years, I moved back and I’ve been here ever since. I’m very proud of where I’m from and I’d love to give people an idea of Michigan that’s not a bankrupt murder capital. I mean, that’s not wrong, but it’s not the whole truth.

When I was in fourth grade, we focused on Michigan history. We talked about Detroit (day-twa) founding Detroit and the Native American tribes that were common in this area. We visited Lansing, our state capital, and learned about state government. The summer after that year, my mom took my brother and me on a trip around the state that I’ll never forget. She was intrigued about the things I’d learned that summer. She wanted to see the Mackinaw Bridge, the boat wrecks in Lake Superior, the cherries in Traverse City (TRAV-erse), and the waterfalls in the UP (upper peninsula). So we spent a week driving around the state and seeing all these things. So when my brother started fourth grade, he’d already seen it all.

I’ve been lucky to see the city of Detroit change. When I was young, we didn’t go downtown. No one did. Unless you worked there, you never went and if you did work there, you came home right away. When I came back from college, things had started to change. The crime was better controlled and businesses were starting to see the future of the city. There were desirable things to do downtown. We went for fun and if there was a sports game, we’d go early and grab dinner or stay late and have a drink. Detroit is a rare city with four professional sports teams (Lions, and Tigers and Wings, oh my! [and the Pistons]) so there’s often a good reason to visit. I’ll be graduating from a downtown university soon and I got used to being in the city by myself and enjoying my time there.

The metro area is hugely diverse. The city has a majority African-American population and ten minutes west, in Dearborn, we have a majority Arab population. The high-tech automotive industry draws educated people from around the world. My husband’s high school was 40% East Asian. I went to high school in an area that was so heavily Jewish that we got Jewish holidays off in the public school district. Moving to Indiana, I really missed this diversity and never had appreciated it until it was gone.

I’ve made a point to visit more of my home state now that I have the means to. My husband and I had a wonderful camping vacation in the UP a few years ago. We explored old copper mines and had a campsite right on Lake Superior. My parents have a cottage 20 minutes from Lake Huron and we go up a few times a summer. One of my running goals is to do a race in every county of the Lower Peninsula and I’m making steady progress (though it will take some time!). As much as we’re known for Detroit, a lot of the state is rural and forested. There are a lot of farms and deer hunting is a major past time in the fall.

So I hope I can give some of you a slightly different look at Michigan. We’re not all Eminem and only a small part of our state still doesn’t have clean drinking water (Flint Water Crisis). Not all our cities are bankrupt (just the biggest one) and it’s not always cold. I love my state and every terrible and beautiful inch of it. I bet your hometown is great, too, but I wouldn’t trade Michigan for anything.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Advertisements

My Weekend with Author Tom Mooradian

25 Oct

I’m very fortunate to be related to a published author.  Granted, it’s by marriage to my dad’s cousin, but I’m still claiming him.  His name is Tom Mooradian and his book is called The Repatriate: Love, Basketball, and the KGB.  In short, his book is a memoir of the 13 years Tom spent trapped behind the Iron Curtain in Soviet Armenia after he and 150 others repatriated to the country in 1947. It’s a wonderful story that reads as a fiction novel, but I guarantee you that every word of it is true, or as close to true as memory can serve after 50 years.

Tom and his wife invited us to come visit them for a weekend after attending our wedding and I was ecstatic.  The house they live in is on a beautiful like in Northern Michigan.  My dad’s been visiting it his whole life and I remember many summers swimming in the rocky lake. When Tom’s mother-in-law passed away, Tom and his wife were the natural heirs.

More than enjoying the fall colors, I wanted to see the ‘glamors’ of the life of a writer with a beautiful setting to write in, retired without another job to distract him.  I was curious how he had done what he did.  Tom published his book independently and has sold almost 2000 copies.  He has toured the US with speaking engagements and if you meet an Armenian in Michigan, they probably know or have heard of Tom.

You may be asking yourself “How was it?” Well, I’ll tell you it was much like any other time visiting relatives.  We had tomato soup for lunch, went for a walk, made cake, played board games, watched the MSU v. Purdue game, and went to church.  But the conversations in between is what you’ll really be interested in.  And more importantly, when I saw his writer’s den.

As mentioned, Tom self-published his book.  He also self-edited a lot of it with the help of his wife.  She went through the manuscript and edited it down before the two of them went through it together, getting into arguments about words and other such minutiae.

After the book was released, Tom spent almost half of a year traveling around the United States to give talks about Armenia and the repatriation.  Currently he’s working on the sequel after a trip with his wife in daughter to his old home in Europe.

Between the heartbreaking Tiger’s loss and the UofM win over Indiana (I’m sorry if you don’t care about Michigan sports) I convinced Tom to let me see his writer’s den.  I wanted to see where he would sit to be inspired. I have to say it’s not what I expected. But at the same time, it was.

The sign outside Tom's workspace.

The sign outside Tom’s work space.

Tom’s den was formerly the unattached garage, which I’m pretty sure is now half storage.  His half has a wall full of books; all kinds of books. There were his reference books on the Soviet Union, Armenia, and the Cold War. There were books I’v read and loved including Sara Gruen and Laura Hillenbrand. There was a cot in the corner where spare grandchildren sleep when the masses come to visit. And there was his desk, lined with reference books and reading books, covered in papers and pens all framing his desktop computer. The white desk is nothing special, but it’s all he needs. I was surprised to see only one window looking into the greenery and plain walls. Unlike me, Tom must need minimal distractions to focus. The beautiful red of a Michigan autumn do not inspire chilling tales of Soviet oppression.

Despite the lack of nature inspiration, Tom’s room is exactly as he needs it to be.  Tom has been writing his entire life; first as a journalist and now as an author. He knows what inspires him and where he needs to be to focus.

So, Reader, I will end this with a question to youWhere do you need to be to write? What inspires you? Please leave a comment and let me know, I’m still trying out some different things.

Until next time, write on.