Stateside: Before you turn the page on 2020, check out this year in Michigan books | Michigan Radio
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Stateside: Before you turn the page on 2020, check out this year in Michigan books

Dec 24, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted plans for many writers, particularly debut authors whose first books were scheduled for release in 2020. But plenty of Michigan writers--and independent bookstores--managed to find unique, socially distanced ways to connect with readers this year. “We’ve received messages from people as far away as upstate Maine to the edge of Washington state to the Southwest,” said Janet Webster Jones, owner and operator of Source Booksellers in Detroit.
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Today on Stateside, a look at the year in books. We check in with an independent bookstore in Detroit about what 2020 has meant for their business. Also, Detroit nightly news anchor and children’s book author Devin Scillian discusses how satisfying stories can effectively broach delicate topics with kids. Plus, our longtime literary contributor Keith Taylor talks us through some of his favorite Michigan releases in 2020.

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Listen to the full show above or find individual segments below.

“Change was upon us”: A Detroit independent bookseller on transforming their business model amid an uncertain year

  • Janet Webster Jones is owner and operator of Source Booksellers in Midtown, Detroit.
  • Alyson Jones Turner is Jones’ daughter. She’s an educator and also works at Source Booksellers.
  • They spoke with Stateside about what it was like shifting their business to a new, online order-based model amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite all the uncertainty this year has brought, Jones says closing the store was never a possibility.
  • “If you close, it’s hard to start again. And we’ve been in business—this is our thirty-first—well, almost thirty-second year, I guess, of bookselling in Detroit, and so I never considered that,” she said. “But I knew we were changing and doing things differently.”

High-tech Christmas elves and bereaved tortoises: Devin Scillian on the inspiration behind his children's book protagonists

  • Devin Scillian is a nightly news anchor for WDIV-TV in Detroit, as well as a successful children’s book author.
  • He spoke with Stateside about books in his Memoirs series like the holiday-themed Memoirs of an Elf and the recent Memoirs of a Tortoise, which relates the story of an 80-year-old tortoise whose human companion passes away. Scillian says that he wasn’t initially sure the serious subject matter belonged in the light-hearted Memoirs series.
  • “My editor wanted me to have faith and a little more confidence in the people who have read the other Memoirs books that they would be open to this idea, too,” he said. “And I do think it’s kind of an important topic to explore with kids.”
  • To hear more about Scillian’s children’s books, listen to his additional conversation with Stateside here.

Curling up with a good book this holiday season? Try these 2020 new releases, says writer Keith Taylor

  • Keith Taylor is a writer, critic, and a retired lecturer in English and Creative Writing at the University of Michigan.
  • He spoke with Stateside about some of his favorite reads from 2020, his recent experience writing on Isle Royale, and what he’s missed most during this often isolating year.
  • “I thought I was sick of poetry readings. I've been to thousands of them over the years,” Taylor said. “You sit with five or fifteen other people, maybe 50 or 500 if it’s somebody famous in some big auditorium, and you sit there and you listen to a poor, fragile human being say words that they’ve spent a long time thinking about. And you all sit there together, and sometimes it’s silly and sometimes it’s stupid, and sometimes it’s just deeply meaningful, and I just find that I miss it all.”