If Sterling Heights’ Local Author Book Sale this year was anything to go by, literary critics should be keeping an eye on the region’s writers.
This year's event formed part of the city's popular Sterlingfest and Jason Groth, from the Sterling Heights Public Library, says hosting the sale is two-fold in its goals.
“First and foremost, we're book lovers,” Groth says. “Providing our residents an avenue to get new and interesting materials is always a plus, but even more so when that material comes from our very own neighbors.”
Jason Groth is proud to see the Sterling Heights Public Library contribute to Sterlingfest.
But the event also strives to level the playing field for budding authors.
“It's hard to get noticed in the publishing industry, particularly if you don't have money or connections,” says Groth. “This event gives up-and-coming authors a chance to engage with the public and get their work noticed.”
Metromode speaks with 5 authors who are worth a closer look:
Katy (L) and Terry Hojnacki have joined forces to write and illustrate a children's book.Terry Hojnacki
Genre: Children's Picture Books (among others)
Hoinacki and her daughter Katy are the writer-illustrator team behind the children’s book “I Can See With My Eyes Shut Tight”, but the author is by no means limited to writing for little ones.
“I’m currently working on a middle grade fantasy adventure with dragons, another picture book, and a psychological thriller,” says Hojnacki.
When Hojnacki isn’t focusing on her characters, she is advocating for local writers. She was the volunteer coordinator for this year’s book sale and leads discussions at the Creative Writers Workshop, a regular meet-up of local authors giving advice about their work. Her dedication landed her the library's Volunteer of the Year Award in 2018 and she shows no signs of slowing down.
“In supporting local authors and illustrators, cities are building community,” says Hojnacki. “We are lucky to have the Sterling Heights Library helping us connect to readers.”
Namou is an award-winning author, journalist and filmmaker who writes about her experience as an Iraqi-born, Chaldean immigrant and spiritual healer. Her book “The Great American Family: A Story of Political Disenchantment” won a 2017 Eric Hoffer Book Award, and her film by the same name won a recognition award at this year's IndieFEST (where high-profile names such as Liam Neeson, George Clooney and Katie Holmes have claimed previous wins).
Namou says with memoir writing, authors get to experience the process of self-discovery and growth, while readers benefit by embarking on the journey with them.
“True life stories tend to bring people together and teach,” she says.
The Sterling Heights resident’s writing has allowed her to work from home, giving her the flexibility to raise a family and care for a wheelchair-bound parent. But that flexibility can come at a cost, she warns.
“The most challenging part of the writing life is having to find creative means to make an income,” Namou says. “Nothing is ever cut-and-dried like it may be with other professions.”
Rebecca Eve Schweitzer
Genre: Zine (Magazine/Booklets)
Schweitzer describes herself as a “word nerd” and dabbles in writing, editing and marketing. Her quirky field guides, such as her “Field Guide to Redacted Romance Novels” and “Field Guide to Birds that Exist in your Imagination”, provide a refreshing take on creative topics and she founded the fashion blog “Fashion Me Fabulous”.
While Schweitzer love her work, she enjoys the community around it just as much. “I have a weekly writing group, a monthly critique group and I try to participate in as many literary community events in the area,” she says.
“Metro Detroit has a rich and wonderful literary culture that inspires me to keep working and keep participating.”
Her biggest tip for budding authors is to start sharing.
“Don’t wait,” she says. “A lot of people focus on the publishing part of writing or feel like they need certain qualifications to writing. All you really need to do is write. Find a critique group or a group of friends to read your work. Take suggestions. Keep writing. Keep sharing. You’ll start to find outlets for your work.”
Genre: Suspense Romance
Blogger and author Hubbard draws from her experience of love, divorce and single-parenting to impart relationship advice on her blog “How to Love A Black Woman”.
“I wanted to create a way for people to talk about what we don’t talk about–communication and intimacy,” says Hubbard. “Especially in the African American community.”
When she’s not busy blogging, and founding websites such as MotownWriters.com, Hubbard writes suspenseful romance reads, such as her novel “Dark Facade” and her “Heart of Detroit” series.
“I write what I love and I’ve had the fortune to have a lot of readers who love them too,” she says.
Hubbard believes it’s important to support local writers, and recognize the potential they have to contribute to Detroit’s economy.
“A literate city is a prosperous city,” Hubbard says. “Readers are buyers, and strengthening the local community revenue should be very important to cities.”
Detroit poet ML Lieber performs his work all over the world. Photo: Mandi WrightM.L. Liebler
Detroit poet ML Lieber says he didn’t chose his genre, rather it chose him.
“I started jotting down thoughts and feelings in the second grade in my text books,” he says. “When I arrived in the fifth grade, my teacher showed us “The Raven” in our literature book. I noticed it had a lot of white space around it, and what I was scribbling did too. That’s when I understood I was writing poetry.”
Lieber, who is also a literary art director, now performs his works around the U.S. and the world. He is the author of 15 books and anthologies, and has won numerous local and national awards. Some of his notable collections include “Heaven Was Detroit: An Anthology of Detroit Music Essays from Jazz to Hip-Hop” and “Wide Awake in Someone Else's Dream”, which features poems written in (and about) Russia, Israel, Germany, Alaska and Detroit.
Despite his wide travels, it’s a moment in San Francisco that has really stayed with him as a writer. Lieber read his poem “Decoration Day” at the presentation of the San Francisco Vietnam War Memorial and says when the event ended, two mothers (whose children had died during active service) approached him, with one commenting: “Everything you said in your poem has been in my heart for the past 30 years.”
“That stopped me in my tracks,” Lieber says. “I thought ‘wow—poems can be very powerful and important’.”