Ypsi event to spotlight local authors

YpsiWrites' upcoming Ypsilanti-Area Authors Reading on May 22 is the organization's latest way to support local writers and readers alike.
Since 2019, Ypsilanti nonprofit YpsiWrites has been providing resources and spaces for Ypsi-area writers to hone their craft and foster community. YpsiWrites' upcoming Ypsilanti-Area Authors Reading on May 22 is the organization's latest way to support local writers and readers alike.

YpsiWrites founder Ann Blakeslee explains that a major part of the nonprofit's mission is to "elevate the voices of writers in the community." She says providing a platform to authors from Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor to share their most recently published works can "attract a diverse readership" and provide opportunities for community members to connect with local writers.

This month’s event will feature Ypsilanti-based writers Dr. Toni Pressley-Sanon and Caroline Huntoon, and Ann Arbor-based author Patrick Flores Scott. The trio will share excerpts from their most recently published works and participate in a Q&A session and conversation with attendees. The free event will take place at the Whittaker branch of the Ypsilanti District Library, 5577 Whittaker Rd. in Ypsilanti Township.
Doug CoombeYpsiWrites founder Ann Blakeslee.
"These three authors have all worked with YpsiWrites in a variety of ways," Blakeslee says. "We are excited to showcase their important work through this event."

Both a middle-grade author and English teacher at Greenhills School in Ann Arbor, Huntoon will read from "Linus and Etta Could Use a Win." Macmillan Publishers summarizes the book thusly: "a hot-headed cynic befriends the new kid — a shy trans boy — when she takes on a bet to get him elected student body president." Huntoon says events like the upcoming reading help to expand a book’s audience of readers, but also combat feelings of isolation that authors can sometimes face.

"Sometimes I have moments where I feel like I’m the only person who’s ever had to endure staring at a page and figure out how it comes together," Huntoon says. "Having moments of connection like this can be very empowering, and serve as a reminder that the world is a little bit wider."
Doug CoombeCaroline Huntoon.
Huntoon was named one of YpsiWrites’ Writers of Ypsilanti 2023, who were all nominated by members of the Ypsi community to highlight the ways they "write for change" and "embody the message of YpsiWrites," according to the nonprofit’s website. They say that the experience of working with YpsiWrites through various workshops and programs with the other Writers of Ypsilanti has been "really positive overall," and that they appreciate the organization’s commitment to inclusivity.

"YpsiWrites is a good reminder of the wealth of energy, talent, and interest that exists in our own backyard," Huntoon says. "I think this group has done a really nice job at providing lots of different ways to get involved, and not gatekeeping the act of writing, which is really wonderful."

Young adult author Flores-Scott will read from "No Going Back," which follows a 17-year-old boy on parole trying to make amends with his mother and best friend, and earn his early release from the juvenile detention center he was incarcerated in. Flores-Scott echoes Huntoon’s sentiment of wanting to be part of a greater community of authors and readers. He says opportunities to meet directly with writers can be just as beneficial to the community as hearing them speak.
Doug CoombePatrick Flores Scott.
"I’ve gone to events where the bigger part of going wasn’t hearing the author speak. It was meeting the people there who are also trying to write," Flores-Scott says. "Someone may make a connection with someone there they didn’t know before who can help them in whatever way through the process, and that may be even more important than whatever gets written."

While Flores-Scott is based in Ann Arbor, he has been working with YpsiWrites extensively while attending Eastern Michigan University as a creative writing graduate student. After hosting the three-part workshop series "Jumpstarting Your Novel" and his work interning for YpsiWrites, he feels that YpsiWrites’ work for the community is helping to build connections between writers and readers, while also teaching valuable writing skills along the way.

"This is an amazing organization trying to connect people with authors and writers that can teach and inspire. I’m so lucky to have fallen into it as a grad student," he says. "The more you attend events like these, the more you see the same faces, and I can’t really survive as a writer without that communal connection."

Pressley-Sanon will read an excerpt from "Lifting as They Climb: Black Women Buddhists and Collective Liberation," in which she explores the lives and readings of six Black women Buddhists and how their experiences shaped her own. She agrees with both Flores-Scott and Huntoon about the isolating aspects of being a writer and the importance of events like this to combat them. She also hopes that attendees are able to learn from the featured authors and the other writers around them.
Doug CoombeDr. Toni Pressley-Sanon.
Pressley-Sanon’s past work with YpsiWrites includes an annual poetry workshop, where participants discuss the work of Black women poets and explore their own poetry through Zoom. While she says that the Zoom workshops are "incredibly inspiring and special" to her, she is excited to meet attendees face to face through this event.

"Having something like this in person is lovely because we get that felt sense of being together and doing something that can inspire us and our community," she says. "This is a really wholesome event which offers people a creative opening in the sense that they can see people who look like them, who are from their neighborhoods, doing this work, and I always think it’s really important to have inspiration from people you can identify with as we venture out into our own endeavors."

The Ypsilanti-Area Author Reading will take place May 22 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at the Ypsilanti District Library Whittaker branch. The event is free to attend. More information about the event and other YpsiWrites events can be found on the YpsiWrites website

"Who knows what kind of ideas you can come up with by listening to other people’s ideas for your own projects?" Pressley-Sanon says. "We can feed each other’s creative spirits, and there’s something about being there and being present that can inspire all kinds of wonderful things."

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.

All photos by Doug Coombe.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.