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National Writers Series

Albert Woodfox - Dec 3


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talks with masterful


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Thursday, Dec 3 • 7:00 pm ET

Albert Woodfox

with guest host Jerome Vaughn

Solitary is the extraordinary saga of a man who, despite spending four decades in solitary confinement for a crime of which he was innocent, inspired fellow prisoners, and now all of us, with his humanity. 

Arrested often as a teenager in New Orleans, Woodfox was convicted of armed robbery and sent to the Angola, one of our country’s most notorious prisons. While behind bars, he joined the Black Panther Party, inpsired by its social commitment and code of living.  He became a leader, organizing food strikes and petition drives to end unjust and illegal prison conditions. While serving his sentence, a white guard was killed on April 17, 1972. Albert and another member of the Panthers were accused of the crime and immediately put in solitary confinement by the warden. Their trial was a sham of justice that gave them life sentences in solitary. Decades passed before Albert gained a lawyer of consequence; even so, sixteen more years and multiple appeals were needed before he was finally released in February 2016. 

A committed activist in prison, Woodfox continues speaking today to a wide array of audiences, including the Innocence Project, Harvard, Yale, and other universities, the National Lawyers Guild, as well as at Amnesty International events. He lives in New Orleans. Solitary has been chosen as:

  • A finalist For The Pulitzer Prize In General Nonfiction 
  • A finalist For The National Book Award In Nonfiction 
  • It was also named as one of Barack Obamas favorite books of 2019 

Guest host Jerome Vaughn is News Director at 101.9 WDET. He joined WDET in 1992 to help chronicle Detroit’s comeback and let people around the world know the truth about his hometown. Vaughn also runs the news internship program, providing opportunities for future public radio producers. He has served as a mentor for NPR’s Next Generation Radio project and is committed to training aspiring public radio journalists. 

Event Sponsors: A Generous Friend of NWS

Literary Sponsor: Grand Traverse Humanists

GRANTORS: Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts

“Wrenching, sometimes numbing, sometimes almost physically painful to read. You want to turn away, put the book down: Enough, no more! But you can’t, because after forty plus years, the very least we owe Woodfox is attention to his story … [Solitary’s] moral power is so overwhelming… Solitary should make every reader writhe with shame and ask: What am I going to do to help change this?” 

~ Washington Post 

Past Events Fall 2020 Season

 Tuesday, November 17 • 7 pm ET

The Thanksgiving Play


A Parallel 45 virtual staged reading, followed by an NWS interview with playwright, Larissa FastHorse.

This contemporary satire explores our beloved national holiday and asks, “how does one  celebrate Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Month at the same time?” In Larissa FastHorse’s 2015 biting satire, this is the question facing three “woke” white thespians tasked with devising an elementary school pageant about the first Thanksgiving while avoiding any culturally appropriative missteps. The play is hilarious, but also delivers thought-provoking dialogue around race and equity.

Larissa FastHorse (Sicangu Lakota Nation) is an award-winning writer and co- founder of Indigenous Direction. Her satirical comedy The Thanksgiving Play was one of the top ten most produced plays in America last season. She is the first Native American playwright in the history of American theater on that list. Her list of nationally produced plays is long and include What Would Crazy Horse Do?, Landless and Cow Pie Bingo, and Average Family.

Parallel 45 Theatre produces cutting-edge interpretations of classic plays, giving familiar stories new life – and fresh relevance – for northwest Michigan audiences. With reinvented classics, new works and imaginative adaptations, P45 seeks to entertain, encourage critical thought, and inspire conversation in the Traverse City community. Every summer, professional theatre artists from around the country and world convene on P45’s state-of-the-art stage at Civic Center Park to perform boundary-pushing works for all ages, rotating daily. During the shoulder season, P45 operates a theatre education program and produces a free play-reading series.

Guest host Cynthia Canty

An Emmy award-winning radio and TV journalist, anchor, and morning personality. Mosrecently, she was host of WUOMprogram Stateside.

“The familiar, whitewashed story of Pilgrims and Native Americans chowing down together gets a delicious roasting from expert farceurs.” ~ Jesse Green, The New York Times

EVENT UNDERWRITER: Al and Susan Cogswell

GRANTORS: The Michigan Humanities Council, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts

Tuesday, Nov 10 • 7:00 pm ET

Bob Giles

Held in collaboration with the International Affairs Forum of Traverse City
with guest host Cynthia Canty

In When Truth Mattered Bob Giles takes you inside the turmoil of the newsroom as bullets exploded at Kent State University, leaving four students dead and nine wounded. Giles was a young newspaper editor of the Akron Beacon Journal on the fateful day of May 4, 1970, when the National Guard fatally shot four college students. The heart-pounding story captures the flash of National Guard rifles and the stress of reporters trying to sort fact from fiction for a horrified world wanting to know why and what happened. Their efforts to reveal the truth — a tragedy that has haunted the nation for 50 years — earned the reporting team a Pulitzer Prize. 

Robert Giles forged his status as one of the legendary newspaper editors in modern American history on May 4, 1970, with his steady stewardship of the Akron Beacon Journal on the day of the shootings. This never-before told account will take you inside the turmoil and drama of the newsroom, the campus of Kent State and the city of Akron. At a time when journalists are under attack from the very highest levels of government, this book is a reminder of why journalism — especially local journalism — is one of the last great guarantors of our democracy.

Guest host Cynthia Canty

Cynthia Canty is an Emmy award-winning radio and TV journalist, anchor, and morning personality in Detroit. Most recently, she was host of WUOMs program Stateside. Now retired, she’s a frequent and popular host of NWS events.

EVENT UNDERWRITER: Al and Susan Cogswell

Event Underwriter:  A Generous Friend of NWS

Literary Sponsor: Dan Edson

Literary Sponsor: Debbie Edson

GRANTORS: Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts

Robert Giles has crafted an absorbing and meticulous story of how one newspaper — The Akron Beacon Journal — told the truth about a national tragedy in a time, like our own, when Americans were deeply divided. Ive never seen a better demonstration of why good journalism matters.  

~ James Tobin, author of Ernie Pyles War: Americas Eyewitness to World War II; professor of journalism, Miami University  

Thursday, Oct 29 • 7:00 pm ET

Alice Hoffman

with guest host Cynthia Canty

In Magic Lessons: A Prequel to Practical MagicAlice Hoffman traces a centuries-old curse to its source. Perhaps youve already guessed — the Owens bloodline began with Maria Owens, the matriarch of a line of the amazing Owens women and men featured in Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic. In the 1600s, Maria was abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learned about the Unnamed Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria had a gift, and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that Maria learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back. 

Hoffman’s work has been published in more than twenty translations and more than one hundred foreign editions. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, and People Magazine. She has also worked as a screenwriter and wrote the original screenplay Independence Day, a film starring Kathleen Quinlan and Diane Wiest. Her teen novel Aquamarine was made into a film starring Emma Roberts. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Kenyon Review, Los Angeles Times and other major publications.   

Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The World That We Knew, Practical Magic, The Rules of Magic, the Oprahs Book Club selection, Here on Earth, The Red Garden, The Dovekeepers, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, The Marriage of Opposites, and Faithful. She lives near Boston.

Guest host Cynthia Canty

Cynthia is an Emmy award-winning radio and TV journalist, anchor, and morning personality in Detroit. She is a frequent guest host of National Writers Series events. Most recently, she was host of WUOMs program Stateside, heard throughout the state of Michigan.

Event Underwriter:  Anne Montgomery

Literary Sponsor: Bonobo Winery

GRANTORS: Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts

Magic Lessons is a celebration of life and love and a showcase of Alice Hoffman’s masterful storytelling.” 

 ~ Simon & Schuster 

Sunday, Oct 18 • 7:00 pm EST

Christopher Haugh & Jordan Blashek

with guest host Neal Rubin

Two friends — a Democrat and a Republican — take a road trip across America and talk politics, the way few would dare. We ride along for the whole journey, listening in on front seat arguments and their conversations with Americans from coast to coast. We also peer outside the car to understand Americas hot button topics, including immigration, mass incarceration, and the military-civilian divide. In this event, Haugh and  Blashek will talk about politics rationally and in real-time as they discuss the making of their new book Union: A Democrata Republican, and a Search for Common Ground. Even better, this event is just days before the  presidential election!  

Jordan  Blashek is a businessman, attorney, and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, serving two combat tours overseas. He holds degrees from Yale Law School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and Princeton University. Now based in New York, he invests in entrepreneurial efforts to grow the American middle class as a part of Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative.  

Christopher Haugh is a writer from Kensington, California. He graduated with highest honors from the University of California, Berkeley, attended Oxford University and started speech writing as an intern in the Obama White House and the U.S. Department of States Policy Planning Staff, where he served as a speechwriter to the Secretary. In 2018, he graduated from Yale Law School and is based in the San Francisco Bay area and New York.  

Guest host Neal Rubin

Neal Rubin is an American cartoonist and writer. He is currently a columnist for The Detroit News and writes the nationally syndicated comic strip Gil Thorp. He spent 15 years as a feature writer and columnist for the Detroit Free Press.

Event Sponsors:  Apache Trout Grill & Grand Traverse Pie Company


Literary Sponsor: Luba Melnyczuk-Childs, Realtor ®

GRANTORS: Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts

Union takes readers on a deeply personal journey through the heart of a divided 

nation. (They) discover an instinct to endure and improve that is shared by the left, the right, and the ever-narrowing center…” 

         ~ Bob Woodward, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author 

Tuesday, Oct 6 • 7:00 pm EST

Kate Walbert

with guest host Shannon Kleiber

From Kate Walbert, the highly acclaimed National Book Award nominee, comes She Was Like That, a dazzling, career-spanning collection of new and   selected stories. In these twelve deft, acutely funny and often heartbreaking stories, Kate Walbert delves into the hearts and minds of women. Her   characters are searchers, uneasy in one way or another. They yearn for connection. They question the definitions assigned to them as wives, mothers, and daughters; they seek their own way within isolated, and often isolating, circumstances, reveling in small, everyday epiphanies and    moments of clarity. 

Kate Walbert is the author of six previous books of fiction: His Favorites; The Sunken Cathedral; A Short History of Women, a New York Times Book Review 10 Best Books of the Year and finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Our Kind, a National Book Award finalist; The Gardens of Kyoto; and the story collection Where She Went. Her work has appeared in The New YorkerThe Paris ReviewThe Best American Short Stories, and The O. Henry Prize stories. She lives with her family in New York City.


Guest host Shannon Kleiber

Author, producer of To the Best of Our Knowledge, a former Washington Post staff writer and columnist, and author of two non-fiction books, The Dinner Club: How the Masters of the Internet Universe Rode the Rise and Fall of the Greatest Boom in History, and On My Honor: Real Life Lessons From Americas First Girl Scout.   

Literary Sponsors: The Ladies Library, LLC, and Nancy & Kent Walton

GRANTORS: Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts

In this evocative collection, the love of women for their children can provide salvation or a trap. Or both, at the same time. Walbert captures maternal love and its moments of grace with an unusual combination of restraint and rhapsody. 

 ~ The New York Times, Editors’ Choice 

Wednesday, Sept 23 • 7:00 pm EST

Yaa Gyasi

with guest host Rochelle Riley

Transcendent Kingdom is Yaa Gyasi’s stunning follow-up to her critically acclaimed national bestseller, Homegoing. Just published, it is an instant New York Times bestseller landing at No. 3 on the list.  It is a powerful, deeply layered novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama.

The protagonist, Gifty, is studying the neural circuits that trigger addiction for her doctorate at Stanford University, hoping that her painstaking studies on rats can ultimately help humans. Her interest is intensely personal. Gifty’s brother, whom she adored as a child, died of an overdose of Oxycontin. Gifty is left alone with her mother, an immigrant from Ghana, who sinks into depression and can barely leave her bed. Now a graduate student, Gifty seeks answers in the lab while grappling with her childhood faith, which she had abandoned.

Gyasi was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville,   Alabama. She holds a BA in English from Stanford   University and an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop, where she held a Deans Graduate   Research Fellowship. She lives in New York City. 

Her previous book, Homegoing, was winner of several awards, including: 

  • Winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award
  • Winner of the NBCCs John Leonard Award
  • Shortlisted British Book Award – Debut of Year
  • A New York Times Notable Book
  • A Washington Post Notable Book
  • One of the Best Books of the Year: NPR, Time,  Oprah.com, Harpers Bazaar, Mother Jones, Esquire, Elle, Paste,    Entertainment Weekly, the  Skimm, PopSugar,   Minneapolis Star Tribune,  BuzzFeed, The Guardian, Financial Times,   San Francisco   Chronicle 
Guest host Rochelle Riley

After nearly 20-years as a columnist for the Detroit Free Press, Riley stepped into a new role as executive director of Arts, Culture and Entertainment for the City of Detroit. She is author of   The Burden: African   Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery, which   garnered rave reviews, and co-author of the upcoming   That They Lived, a collection of essays about  famous African Americans. 

Literary Sponsor: Mission Point Press

GRANTORS: Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts

“… It is a novel for all times. The splendor and heart and insight and brilliance contained in the pages holds up a light the rest of us can follow.  

~ Ann Patchett 

Sunday, Sept 13 • 2:00 pm EST

Ruth Ware

with guest host Megan Miranda

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Turn of the Key and In a Dark, Dark Wood returns with another suspenseful thriller set on a snow-covered mountain. One by One   begins with a corporate retreat that turns tense when one shareholder upends the agenda with a contentious buyout offer. As tension mounts, a devastating avalanche leaves the group cut off from all access to the outside world. When hours pass without any sign of rescue, the chalet grows colder, panic sets in, and the group dwindles further… one by one. 

Ruth Ware is an international number one bestseller. Her thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood, The   Woman in Cabin 10, The Lying Game and The Death of  Mrs  Westaway have appeared on bestseller lists around the world, including the Sunday Times and the New York Times. She is published in more than 40 languages. She lives on the south coast of England, with her family. 

Guest host Megan Miranda

Megan Miranda is the New York Times bestselling author of several novels, including The Last House Guest, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, and young adult novels.  A graduate of MIT, she lives in North Carolina with her family. Her newest novel, The Girl from Widow Hills, is a riveting story of psychological suspense about a young woman plagued by night terrors after a childhood trauma who wakes one evening to find a corpse at her feet.

Event sponsor:  Bubbling Babes Book Club of Old Mission

Literary Sponsor: Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home

GRANTORS: Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts

Ware does what she does best: Gives us a familiar locked-door mystery setup and lets the tension and suspicion marinate until they reach fever pitch. Another win for Ware… Simply masterful. 

~ Kirkus 

Thursday, Sept 10 • 7:00 pm EST

Chasten Buttigieg

with guest host Elon Cameron

In his moving, uplifting memoir, I Have Something to Tell You, Chasten Buttigieg recounts his journey to finding acceptance as a gay man. He recalls the tough times growing up in Traverse City, his coming out after graduation and how he’s healed after revealing his secret to his family, friends, community, and the world. There’s a happy ending on this story—meeting his boyfriend, Pete, whom he would marry and who would eventually become a major Democratic leader.

Buttigieg was born and raised in Traverse City, Michigan. A thespian, two-time 4-H blue-ribboner, and decorated member of the high school bowling team, he received his bachelor’s degree in theater and global studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and his master’s in education from DePaul University. He has worked as a busboy, dog walker, nursing assistant, waiter, cashier, bartender, and most recently a middle school drama and humanities teacher. He lives in South Bend, Indiana, with his husband, Pete, and their two rescue dogs.

Guest host Elon Cameron

Elon Cameron has over 25 years of organizing experience, and co-founded Up North Pride, the largest participant-driven LGBTQ+ March in Michigan. She is a powerful force for good, a writer, artist, healer and mystic.

Event Underwriters: Ward and Mary Bevans Gillet

Literary Sponsor: Talking Heads

GRANTORS: Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts

I Have Something to Tell You is an inspiring story about Chasten’s journey of self-discovery… This must-read memoir is a refreshing voice that gives hope to a new generation of political leaders.”

~ Dr. Jill Biden

Thank you to our Grantors

These events are made possible, in part, by generous grants from the Michigan Council of the Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Michigan Humanties Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.