The 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Adventures

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Building a "Blue Economy" in the Great Lakes Region?

While on my hikes, I don't just explore the long stretches of sandy beach. Nope. I have hiked the most industrialized corridors on the lakes and connecting rivers.

I hiked through the south side of Chicago, through Whiting and Gary, Indiana on my first hike.

And through Toledo and the entire length of the Detroit River -- including River Rouge, Ecorse, and the city of Detroit -- on my hike last year.

Industry on the Maumee River (which flows into Lake Erie)

The Rouge River flows into the Detroit River

These abandoned industrial sites are slowly being cleaned up, and reclaimed for new uses. An old factory in Milwaukee is undergoing a transformation and starting a new life as a hub of innovation.

"Now [the factory] is getting a makeover and a new mission. It will reopen this summer as a hive of business experimentation swarming with scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. They'll share a lab where new technologies can be tested. Office suites will host startup companies, including one devising a system for cultivating algae as biofuel, another producing a type of pavement that lets rainwater seep into the ground instead of flooding sewers.
The center is part of a broader effort unfolding across the Great Lakes region to regain lost prosperity by developing a "blue economy" — a network of industries that develop products and services related to water, from pump and valve manufacturers to resorts offering vacations along redeveloped lakeshores."

Abandoned industry on the Detroit River

  I like that. A new "Blue Economy" based on the abundance of fresh water in the region. Water that has been taken for granted for so long may now be the economic engine for a bit of a renaissance.

Abandoned building on the Detroit River

It's certainly time that we respect these waters and the abundant life that teems within these vast lakes when we care for them.
And if we build a part of our economy around these waters, maybe respecting our Great Lakes will even be the prevailing attitude within this new industry.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Taking My New Book ON THE ROAD!

This past weekend found me travelling south to Louisville to take part in
The Celebration of Recently Published Alumni
at Spalding University.

It was my honor to read along with
the talented alumni pictured below.

From left to right, Chris Mattingly, Loreen NiewenhuisSandi Adams HutchesonAnn EskridgeCharlotte Rains Dixon, and Dave Harrity

On my way back north, I stopped in at several 
indie bookstores along the way.  

Karen's Book Barn in La Grange, KY

Books-N-More Wilmington, OH

I love visiting these unique stores that serve as a gathering place for their communities. I had great conversations with the owners and tracked down some books I'd been wanting to add to my library! 

Blue Jacket Books, Xenia, OH

I plan to return to these stores to have events in the coming months, so look for my books here and check HERE for my full book tour schedule.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Amazon is Evil

If you know me or my books, if you've met up with me on the lakeshore or hiking path or while I'm touring with one of my books, our conversation may have touched on the future of books or the importance of indie bookstores in our discussion of the Great Lakes. As an adventurer who has explored over 2,000 miles of the Great Lakes shoreline, I love talking to people about these vast waters encircling my home state of Michigan. 

And as an author (and avid reader), "bookish" topics 
are important to me, too.

I am encouraged in these conversations as more and more people are coming to understand the value of our Great Lakes and the importance of independent bookstores. These lakes are essential to life in the Midwest (almost 40 million people get their drinking water from them), and indie bookstores are vital to keeping literature rich and diverse. 

The Great Lakes nurture life, recreation, commerce, industry.
Our indie bookstores nurture our communities, pay into the tax base, are gathering places for discussion, and play an important role in launching new writers. 

Am I pushing the parallel too far? I don't think so.

People ask me how I got my book to be on the shelves of Barnes & Noble stores (B&N). The answer is that indie bookstores sold so many copies (my first book was on the Heartland Indie Bestseller List for several weeks in 2011) that B&N began stocking it. B&N will stock what SELLS because the big chain is interested in SELLING. They call their workers BOOKSELLERS. There's nothing inherently wrong with that business model, but the primary focus of this model is to stock books that will sell, not seek to enrich the book world by what they stock.

Indie bookstores want to sell books, too, but the people who own and work at these stores also tend to LOVE books. 

I was at Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord, Michigan on my book tour this month, and doing book reviews to post in the store and online was part of the job description for the workers there. READING was part of the job. I've seen listings for postiions in indie bookstores that read, in part, "...candidate must be well read..." (in an ad for a job at Women & Children First Bookstore, Chicago). I've seen indie bookstore people greet patrons with exciting news about a new book they know the patron will love because they've had long conversations with that person about books. Book conversations. 

Now, I titled this essay "Amazon is Evil" and haven't even gotten around to talking about yet. Let me first say that all the good things that the indies give to their communities (and even B&N supplies on some level), Amazon does not provide. They will not donate books for a fundraiser in your community or pay into the tax base. They don't provide jobs (in general) near you. 

But beyond being contrary to the smart-headed "Buy Local Because the Money Stays in Your Community" philosophy, has pushed their business model toward one of being a predatory marketer ("scan the barcode in the store and see what Amazon sells it for" sales pitching), a bully toward suppliers including publishers (they delisted some publisher's books if the publisher dared to disagree with Amazon's discount pricing [article HERE in New York Times), and -- Amazon's most recent move -- they've purchased (article HERE) in order to market directly to the reader using GoodReads data and to push readers toward the Kindle.

From the New York Times: Inc., with a market capitalization of $117.48 billion, is the largest company in the Internet and Catalog Retailing sector. 

I don't have a problem with big businesses, but I do have a problem with a big business that actively tries to crush small businesses or actively bullies other sectors of the publishing world.

The consumer has the real power in this equation, though, because it is YOUR dollar that these businesses are competing for. 

I released my new book, 
to select indie bookstores 8 weeks prior to putting it into distribution  (where can access and sell it). If you're going to purchase my book -- or any book -- I encourage you to think about the importance of indie bookstores.

Go HERE for a complete listing of indie stores that have the early release edition of my book.

And thank you for your 
time, thoughtful consideration, and comments.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Tales from the Book Tour!

I caught up with store owner Laurie Russell 

 at the Nature Connection

I do love a good ART HOP, and Kalamazoo had a wonderful hop this past Friday.

I signed many copies of my new book at Kalamazoo's Nature Connection

Do you seek out stores that carry items made in the U.S.? Concerned about buying local? The Nature Connection carries an inventory of unique items that are overwhelmingly manufactured in the U.S. (~80%). And 4 out of 10 items in the store are made in Michigan! They have some of the most unique gift items and toys for kids there along with a section of Michigan-themed gifts and books.

Saturn Booksellers, Gaylord, MI

The next day I drove north to Gaylord, Michigan, for a book-signing at Saturn Booksellers.

Smiling at Saturn!

This wonderful indie bookstore had me set up in the front of the store to welcome readers and talk about our Great Lakes!

My book is available ONLY at select indie bookstores through the end of May. Look HERE for full list of stores.
It will be available everywhere books are sold on June 1, but please support your local indie bookstore!