National Writers Series Announces 2017 Fall Line-up

In its eight years of hosting funny, poignant and sometimes outrageous conversation onstage, National Writers Series has become one of America’s must-stops for authors on national book tours. The tradition of great stories and great conversation continues with our tenth season. Tickets go on sale to the general public on August 11th.

Since it began in 2009, the National Writers Series has presented evenings in conversation, featuring some of the world’s most celebrated and bestselling authors.

This season, we’ll hear new stories from Alice Waters, founder of Chez Panisse and, arguably, the farm-to-table food revolution; Doug Stanton, who writes of a small platoon that survived the Vietnam War but returned home to a bitterly divided country; the lessons learned by the not-so-athletic son of Gordie Howe, and Sebastian Junger, who writes of the lesson soldiers can teach us about human belonging. We end the season with a poet’s rumination on her early childhood and the joys and perils of aging.

Tickets go on sale to the general public at Friday, August 11, at 10 a.m.

Tickets can be purchased at the City Opera House box office, by phone at 231-941-8082 and online at

All events except one take place at the historic Traverse City Opera House located at 106 E. Front Street in downtown Traverse City. Doors open at 6 p.m. with live music, a cash bar and Morsels (at every event, Morsels makes a special delicacy named for the author).

The evenings will also include an audience Q&A and a post-event book signing.

September 17, 7 PM • CITY OPERA HOUSE 

A conversation with…  

Doug Stanton 

and Guest Host Colin Harrison

An ‘Echo’ Heard 50 Years Later: Doug Stanton writes a riveting account of a platoon’s 60-day fight for survival during the Tet and its return home.

 National Writers Series Co-Founder Doug Stanton is the critically acclaimed author of two New York Times bestselling novels: his 2001 breakout work, In Harm’s Way, about the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, and 2009’s Horse Soldiers, named a “Notable Book” by The New York Times and currently in development as a Jerry Bruckheimer-produced film starring Chris Hemsworth and Michael Shannon.

Stanton joins his editor, Colin Harrison, to talk about his new book, The Odyssey of Echo Company: The 1968 Tet Offensive and the Epic Battle of Echo Company to Survive the Vietnam War. When the North Vietnamese began bombarding 36 cities scattered across South Vietnam—an infamous campaign known as the Tet Offensive—the war escalated to previously unmatched heights. Causing major alarm back in the States, it would be a turning point in the public’s tolerance of the war.

Back on the front lines, U.S. and South Vietnamese troops fought for their lives. Of those entangled in the offensive, many perished. Those who returned home were greeted with disdain or disregard.

Now the remarkable story of a small platoon called Echo Company will be told. Stanton conducted first-person interviews with soldiers, traveled to former battlegrounds, and pored over letters sent to and from Echo Company, as well as an abundance of Pentagon reports, photographs, and filmed footage. The story ends with one soldier finding closure in the country where it all began.

Stanton, a Traverse City native, has written on subjects ranging from travel and sports to history and entertainment. His writing has appeared in Esquire, the New York Times, TIME, Men’s Journal, the Washington Post, and Outside Magazine—whose founding editor, Terry McDonell, will take the NWS stage in October. He lectures nationally and has taught creative writing and English at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He and his wife, Anne, have three children and live in Traverse City.

Colin Harrison

Colin Harrison is a bestselling author and essayist, well known for his writing of the sordid underbellies of American cities. Four of his books have been selected as Notable Books by The New York Times Book Review. Harrison, editor-in-chief at Scribner, was an editor at Harper’s Magazine between 1989 and 2001, where he worked with some of contemporary literature’s most illustrious talents including David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, and Sebastian Junger, who joins NWS in conversation on November 15.

Harrison’s novels include Afterburn, Manhattan NocturneBodies Electric, and Risk, which was originally published serially in The New York Times Magazine in 2008. His nonfiction has been published by The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and Vogue. He attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he earned an MFA in 1986.

The event sponsor is Chemical Bank. 

September 24, 7 PM • CITY OPERA HOUSE

A conversation with…  

Alice Waters

and Guest Hosts Jennifer Blakeslee and Eric Patterson 

Combine Equal Parts Trailblazer and Activist; Blend for 45 Years

For those who don’t know, Alice Waters is a national culinary treasure. Her NWS appearance is the culminating event of the debut week, Local Harvest Restaurant Series, which will run Sept. 18-24 (more information is available through Tricia Phelps, Taste the Local Difference 847-809-7643).

The proto-foodie earned her chops as an early champion of food sustainability, opening the legendary Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California in 1971 at just 27 years old. Since its inception, the restaurant has boasted locally sourced, seasonal, and organic ingredients as well as an impressive clientele; among its ranks, the Dalai Lama.

In 1996 Waters planted the seeds (yes, literally) of what would become the Edible Schoolyard Project. A free lunch and food education initiative, what started with a single garden and teaching kitchen today services sixteen school districts and provides 10,000 meals per day.

A bestselling author to boot, Waters’ latest publication, Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook takes readers through the tumult of the 1960s and into the formative years that led Waters to the front of the culinary vanguard. Kirkus Review described the memoir as a peek into “an almost charmed restaurant life that exhales the sweet aromas of honesty and self-awareness.”

Waters has received numerous accolades, including Harvard Medical School’s Global Environmental Citizen Award. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and inductee of the French Legion of Honor. In 2015, President Obama awarded her the National Humanities Medal.

It’s no small luxury to have such an influential figure indulge us with savory tidbits on her activism and inspirations—a discussion certain to leave us craving more.

The event sponsor for this event is Cherry Capital Foods.

About the guest hosts …

Chef Jennifer Blakeslee is the co-chef/owner of The Cooks’ House restaurant in Traverse City. She is a Traverse City native and a culinary graduate of Johnson & Wales University. Chef Jennifer has over 20 years cooking experience. She and Chef Eric Patterson earned one Michelin Star at Andre’s French Restaurant in Las Vegas.

Chef Eric Patterson is the co-chef/owner of The Cooks’ House restaurant in Traverse City. He spent most of his career in Las Vegas. Chef Eric received his culinary education through an apprenticeship under celebrated Michelin star chef Andre Rochat. Chef Eric has 36 years cooking experience and earned one Michelin star with Chef Jennifer at Andre’s French Restaurant.  


A Conversation with …

Terry McDonell

and Guest Host Doug Stanton

An ‘Accident’ Worth a Thousand Words

This special event will give selected audience members the chance to pitch their stories to McDonell, the former editor of TIME.

Counted among his friends have been writers Kurt Vonnegut, Edward Abbey, Jim Harrison, Thomas McGuane, and Harper’s Bazaar editor Elizabeth Tilberis. He’s been pitched to by Steve Jobs and has played golf with George Plimpton and Hunter S. Thompson—on LSD. Terry McDonell is an editor of mythic status. Throughout his career he has held top positions at Rolling StoneNewsweekEsquire and Sports Illustrated, not to mention being a founding editor of Outside Magazine in 1977.

In his new memoir, The Accidental Life, McDonell welcomes readers into his circle of literature and journalism’s elite talents. “Every time I run into Terry McDonell, I think how great it would be to have dinner with him,” writes Jeffrey Eugenides. “Hear about the writers he’s known and edited over the years, what the magazine business was like back then, how it’s changed and where it’s going, inside info about Edward Abbey, Jim Harrison, Annie Proulx, old New York, and the Swimsuit issue. That dinner is this book.”

The New York Times says, “The Accidental Life is intelligent, entertaining and chivalrous. It’s a savvy fax from a dean of the old school.” It’s true that in this book, McDonell remembers journalism’s halcyon days, but it would be mistaken to call him wistful or backward-looking. A co-founder of LitHub, a digital media source for literature, culture, and politics, McDonell maintains his position at the leading edge, even if he is rueful of the information economy’s push for content at the expense of quality.

After all, the man’s motto is “Avoid sameness, shun formula, let it rip.” Those are words to live by.

Guest host is Doug Stanton.

The event sponsor is a Traverse City men’s book club, which prefers to remain anonymous.


A conversation with…  

Daniel Gerber

And Guest Host Michael Delp

A Visionary’s Everyday Lyricism 

The celebrated poet Dan Gerber is the author of over a dozen books of poems, short stories, literature, and fiction. His poems have been lauded for their placid and perspicacious observations of small and ordinary wonders, leaving his readers breathlessly more attuned.

Gerber has long believed in the power of writing as an exchange rather than a stronghold. In 1968 he co-founded the literary magazine Sumac with his friend and collaborator Jim Harrison. Though its production ceased after four years, its influence was abiding. Sumac was a beacon of eclecticism amid an era of tribalism in literature. Aiming, from the start, to be free of preconceptions about what a “Sumac” poem should be, according to Gerber, the magazine had one single criteria for its selections: “only that it seemed to us a good poem and a worthy addition.”

Annie Dillard has called Gerber “one of our finest living poets.” ForeWord magazine has likewise sung its praises, saying, “Dan Gerber’s poems are quick, graceful, alert to their surroundings, and rarely wasting a motion.” His most recent volume of poetry, Sailing Through Cassiopeia, published in 2013 by Copper Canyon Press, was critically applauded for its incisive and timeless lyricism.

Gerber’s poems and essays have appeared in The New YorkerThe Nation, Poetry, and The Michigan Quarterly Review and have been selected for publication in The Best American Poetry. Nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, Gerber received The Mark Twain Award in 2001 and was The Michigan Author Award recipient in 1992. His book A Primer on Parallel Lives was awarded the Michigan Notable Book Award by the Library of Michigan in 2008.

Gerber is a Michigan native and graduate of Michigan State University. He is also a former racecar driver. As a journalist, Gerber traveled extensively, particularly in Africa. He lives with his wife in Santa Ynez, California.

Guest host Michael Delp retired from the Interlochen Arts Academy, where he was the director of creative writing for many years. He is the author of numerous collections of prose and poetry, with his most recent collection of short stories being Lying in the River’s Dark Bed: The Confluence of the Deadman and the Mad Angler (Wayne State University Press, 2016). He is also the mentor and advisor to the Front Street Writers Program in Traverse City, which operates under the auspices of the National Writers Series. He lives in Interlochen with his wife, Claudia, and splits his time between there and Reeling Waters, his cabin on the Boardman River.


A Conversation with Murray Howe

And Guest Host John U. Bacon

A poignant look at a luminary through his son’s eyes

In Nine Lessons I Learned from My Father, Murray Howe’s upcoming memoir about his hockey-legend dad, Gordie Howe, the author shows readers the man behind the hockey mask.

Over the course of his twenty-five-season NHL career playing for the Detroit Red Wings, Gordie Howe set numerous records. Of the 21 consecutive seasons he was a top-ten leading scorer, he was the top scorer for ten. Gordie was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1971 and received the NHL’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.

In his book, Murray remembers his personal hero, who also happens to be a national hero, as a man of great principle and a wellspring of generosity. He recounts the outpouring of admiration that followed his dad’s passing, an experience that demonstrated the full greatness of his father—not the legend, but the person of deep integrity, at once a luminary and a common role model.

The youngest of Gordie’s three sons, Murray Howe practices radiology as the head of Sports Medicine Imaging at Toledo Radiological Associates in Ohio. Unlike his brothers, he didn’t inherit his father’s athleticism. He aspired to his dad in other ways. In Nine Lessons, the author considers the true significance of greatness, stepping back from the hockey all-star to pay tribute to the ordinary goodness of an extraordinary man. That man just so happened to be “Mr. Hockey.”

Guest host John U. Bacon met Gordie Howe at Detroit Metro Airport when Bacon was still a high school hockey player. He’s since enjoyed a long evening of stories with Gordie’s son Mark, an NHL Hall of Famer, and wrote Howe’s obituary for National Public Radio. Bacon worked the better part of two decades as a writer, public speaker, radio commentator, college teacher, and high school hockey coach.

He has authored or coauthored eight books on sports and business, including Walgreens: America’s Corner StoreCirque du Soleil: The SparkBo’s Lasting Lessons: The Legendary Coach Teaches the Timeless Fundamentals of Leadership, which hit The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal’s Business Best Seller lists. He then researched and wrote a trio of books covering big-time college football from the inside out: Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College FootballFourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College FootballEndzone: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football. All three were New York Times best sellers.

Bacon is publishing two books this fall: Playing Hurt: My Journey from Despair to Hope, coauthored with the late John Saunders of ESPN. The book tells Saunders’ life story in dramatic detail. His second book is coming out November 7:  The Great Halifax Explosion, which recounts the largest manmade detonation prior to Hiroshima. In 1917 a ship laden with explosives sailed out of Brooklyn’s harbor for the battlegrounds of World War I; when it stopped in Halifax, Nova Scotia, an extraordinary disaster awaited.

Bacon teaches at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and at the University of Michigan, where the students selected him for the 2009 Golden Apple award, given annually to the University’s top teacher.


A Conversation with …

Sebastian Junger

and Guest Host Doug Stanton

Nov. 15, 2017

War and Peace in a Fractured America

Sometimes success is a perfect storm. In Sebastian Junger’s case, success is The Perfect Storm. After penning his 1997 nonfiction novel about the crew of the Andrea Gail fishing boat, it became an international bestseller, was adapted into a Hollywood film starring George Clooney, and, it’s worth noting, contributed to the explosion of an eponymous household phrase.

The book led Junger to be nicknamed “the new Hemingway” and sparked a new public enthusiasm for adventure non-fiction. An internationally acclaimed journalist, best-selling author, and Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker for his 2010 film Restrepo, Junger returns to the National WritersSeries to discuss his most recent book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.

The New York Times described Tribe as “part ethnography, part history, part social science primer, part cri de coeur” and “one of [this election season’s] most intriguing political books.” In it, Junger takes a close look at the fractured domestic state to which American veterans make their homecoming. His ethnographic study investigates the tribal instinct of humankind and delves into queries on war, trauma, and—as its subtitle promises—belonging.

Junger last joined the National Writers Series in 2011. His work often deals with the encroachment of chaos on ordinary life. A contributing editor at Vanity Fair, Junger has won the National Magazine Award and the Dupont-Columbia Award for broadcast journalism and received critical acclaim for his stunningly crafted nonfiction books.

Guest host is Doug Stanton.

The event sponsor is Grand Traverse Resort & Spa


A Conversation with …

Nikki Giovanni

and Guest Host Fleda Brown

Giovanni is a poet, activist, mother and professor.

An American icon and an Oprah “Living Legend” Nikki Giovanni’s poetry has spurred movements and inspired songs, turned hearts and informed generations. Frequently anthologized, Giovanni’s poetry expresses strong racial pride and respect for family. Her informal style makes her work accessible to both adults and children. “I come from a long line of storytellers,” said Giovanni in an interview, gaining her appreciation for her African-American heritage from her outspoken grandmother. Her early exposure to the power of spoken language has influenced Giovanni’s career as a poet, particularly in her propensity towards colloquial speech.

With A GOOD CRY: What We Learn from Tears and Laughter (release date October 24) Nikki Giovanni returns to NWS with what may be her most intimate collection, recalling the violence that permeated her parents’ marriage and her early life, and how she came to live with the grandparents whom she credits with saving her life.  She also reveals the joy and peril of aging, and pays tribute to the poets, thinkers and students that hold court inside her mind and heart—including her good friend Maya Angelou, and the many years of friendship, poetry, and kitchen-table laughter they shared before Angelou’s death in 2014.

Giovanni is the author of 27 books and the recipient of seemingly countless honors and awards including a Grammy nominee for The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection. Several magazines have named her Woman of the Year, including Essence, Mademoiselle, Ebony, and Ladies Home Journal.

In addition to collections such as Re: Creation (1970), Love Poems (1997), and The Collected Poems of Nikki Giovanni (2003), Giovanni has published several works of nonfiction, children’s literature and recordings.

Her new collection Chasing Utopia: The Hybrid is her first in four years.

Between 1970 and 2003, she received nearly one hundred awards and honors, as well as nineteen honorary degrees. She has been given keys to more than a dozen cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami, and New Orleans. Since 1987, she has been on the faculty at Virginia Tech, where she is a University Distinguished Professor.