Events Adam Schuitema is presenting at:
Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters: “Truer Words: Crafting Stronger, More Convincing Dialogue”
Oct. 4, 3-5 p.m.
Kent District Library Writers Conference: “Writing Scenes: The Building Blocks of Fiction”
Kentwood Branch Library
Oct. 24, 9:30 a.m.
For more details, visit adamschuitema.com/events
Adam Schuitema, a Grand Rapids-based author and English professor at Kendall College of Art and Design, released his second novel, Haymaker, back in April via Switchgrass Books. In 2010 his short-story collection Freshwater Boys was published by Delphinium Books — it was named a Michigan Notable Book by the Library of Michigan. This spring he plans to finish writing his third, a story collection called The Things We Do that Make No Sense.
The 40-year-old writer chatted with Revue about his new, politically-charged book and his road to becoming a published author.
When did you first start getting serious about writing, where were you living at the time and what pushed you in that direction?
When I was at Jenison High School I won a couple short-story contests and began to take my writing seriously the first time. You start getting feedback from good teachers who let you know that you might have some talent here and that’s important. It’s something I try to remember with my own students.
You’ve described your new book Haymaker as “a story about best intentions and the freedom of individuals to do good or harm.” Can you elaborate on that?
The story is about these two sides clashing and political ideologies are involved — something we’re all far-too familiar with considering the political divisions in our country. I didn’t want to write a story with my own political agenda. In real life, it’s rare for one side to truly be in the right and the other to be fully in the wrong. I wanted to write a story where everyone felt they were doing the right thing. But I also wanted to reflect the dangers of extremism, of people going too far in their plans and things getting away from them.
The book centers on a Michigan town called Haymaker — where did the idea for this town come from?
Way back in 2004 I heard a story on NPR about the small town of Grafton, N.H. A group of libertarians made up of people from all over the country chose the town as a place where they should all move, to gather their votes together and get a foothold where they could make some political changes — to start making their own political utopia, if you will. But the town wasn’t as welcoming as the group had hoped, and tensions flared. I took that same premise, setting in the fictional town of Haymaker, Mich. And I took the idea of those tensions and really ramped them up for dramatic purposes.
How would you describe the town of Haymaker?
Haymaker is set in the Upper Peninsula on the shores of Lake Superior. It’s got lovely summers, brutal winters, and a tremendous independent streak. But that doesn’t mean it’s fond of outsiders coming in and making radical changes, even in the name of freedom. It’s got more than a few eccentric characters and, like any town anywhere, some of them are pretty noble and some of them are less so.
What are you up to when you’re not writing?
I’m an associate professor of English at Kendall College of Art and Design, so teaching and mentoring is central to my life. I’ve got a wife and daughter, so family’s hugely important. And I follow the Detroit Tigers closely, despite their struggles this year.
What’s some advice you’d offer a rookie fiction author?
Practice training your eye to see the things in the world around you that others don’t see. Great description begins with observation. And train your ear to hear how people really speak, because great dialogue begins with the spoken words around you.