Thursday, 21 February 2013 09:34

Memoirist Wade Rouse Helps to Celebrate the Voices of Michigan

Written by  Kyle Austin
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Write Michigan Award Ceremony wsg Wade Rouse
Grand Rapids Public Library
March 19, 7 p.m., (616) 988-5400

Had it not been for the sage advice of a Cape Cod innkeeper, Wade Rouse may never have set foot in Michigan. After learning that Rouse and his partner had driven all the way from St. Louis for a vacation, the woman wondered why they hadn't just gone to Michigan instead.

"I said, 'Michigan has beaches?' and she almost slapped me in the face," Rouse said.

After visiting Saugatuck, the nationally recognized memoirist and humor writer decided to make The Mitten home. Rouse has since embraced the state's literary scene, appearing several times at Schuler Books and incorporating various Michigan cities into his traveling workshop, Wade's Writers. Currently, he's involved with Write Michigan, an inaugural statewide short story contest developed by the Kent District Library, Grand Rapids Public Library and Schuler Books.

"Write Michigan gives emerging writers encouragement and most importantly, community support," he said. "Like ArtPrize, it gets folks talking about writing, embracing the work, reading it and promoting it, and that's really what's so vital."

The contest challenged writers of all ages to tell their best short story in 3,000 words or less. After receiving an overwhelming number of submissions, a group of 90 volunteer reviewers whittled the pile down to the top 10 entries from each of the two age groups. Those 20 stories were then examined by both a panel of accredited judges and the general public, who were able to cast their votes online. With the winners now chosen, organizers are focused on the special night that will commemorate the winning authors and celebrate the growing vibrancy of writing culture in Michigan. Rouse's presentation will highlight the event, and all area writers (even those who didn't submit) benefit from hearing this seasoned pro share his wisdom, inspiration, humor and intimate knowledge of the publishing business

Rouse's four critically acclaimed memoirs strike the perfect balance between humor and soul-searching, tackling everything from growing up gay in the Ozarks to dealing with wealthy mothers while working for an elite private school.

"I think the best fiction is typically grounded in some sort of truth in the writer's life, and it's the same in memoir" he said. "It doesn't matter if it's fiction or non-fiction. Reading a good book is like holding a mirror in front of your face. It forces you to take a deeper look at yourself and the world, and hopefully you're changed by what you see."

It's this kind of transformative power that drew Rouse to writing, and despite his commercial success, he's committed to supporting emerging writers by encouraging them to fearlessly express their own unique voice.

"Not that much separates Sedaris from Shakespeare," he said. "We only have so many stories to tell; it's the way we tell them that sets them apart." 

Other Literary Events

Book Signing with Rob Bell
Schuler Books, 28th Street
March 10, 2 p.m., (616) 942-2561

Whatever your religious beliefs, you can't deny that Mars Hill Bible Church founder and nationally bestselling author Rob Bell knows how to create a dialogue. Named one of the 100 most influential people by Time magazine in 2011, the native Michigander has continued to make waves and influence the conversation surrounding contemporary faith. Don't miss this opportunity to get a signed copy of one of Bell's numerous works and meet the man behind the message.

Aquinas College Contemporary Writers Series: Jaimy Gordon
Wege Ballroom, Aquinas College
March 14, 7:30 p.m., (616) 632-8900

In its first installment of 2013, the Aquinas College Contemporary Writers Series welcomes poet, novelist, essayist and Western Michigan University Professor Jaimy Gordon to the stage. With a wealth of writing and teaching experience at her disposal, Gordon will enliven audiences with a dynamic and genre-crossing reading that does justice to the breadth of her literary prowess. For those interested in a more personal interaction, a Q&A style author talk will be held at 12:30 the same day in the college's Wege Center Loutit Room.

Dr. Seuss Storytime Event
Barnes and Noble, Holland
March 9, 2 p.m.
(616) 994-6015

Admit it. You can enjoy the wonderful imagination of one Theodor Seuss Geisel as an adult. But if you're too ashamed to say that you still get inspired by "Oh the Places You'll Go," Barnes and Noble has graciously scheduled an event that provides the perfect cover. Bring your kids, or your inner child, and enjoy readings from Dr. Seuss' memorable books. As an added bonus for adults, there will also be a coffee tasting that explores flavors and styles from all over the world.

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