Posted tagged ‘Gretchen Preston’

“U.P. Reader” Brings Upper Michigan Literature to the World

June 8, 2017

In case you haven’t heard yet, there’s a new literary magazine in the U.P. It’s called U.P. Reader and it’s been published by Modern History Press with the cooperation of the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association. In fact, partial proceeds of the sales are returned to UPPAA to help with funding its programming and other author-reader-centered activities. In addition, for every twenty copies sold, one copy will be donated to a UP Library. Already twelve copies have been donated.

The UP Reader contains 28 works of prose and poetry, all by U.P. authors.

The magazine is the brain child of U.P. author Mikel Classen. It will be an annual publication and features the works of UPPAA members, all of whom are U.P.-based authors. This first issue contains the works of:

Mikel Classen, Larry Buege, Deborah Frontiera, James M. Jackson, Janeen Pergrin Rastall, Sharon M. Kennedy, Jan Kellis, Amy Klco, Becky Ross Michael, Elizabeth Fust, Terry Sanders, Tyler Tichelaar, Lee Arten, Roslyn Elena McGrath, Ann Dallman, Christine Saari, Aimée Bisonette, Frank Farwell, Ar Schneller, Rebecca Tavernini, Edzordzi Agbozo, Sarah Maurer, and Sharon Marie Brunner.

Several authors and local publications are already raving about U.P. Reader. Here are some of their remarks:

U.P. Reader offers a wonderful mix of storytelling, poetry, and Yooper culture. Here’s to many future volumes!”
— Sonny Longtine, author of Murder in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

“Share in the bounty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with those who love it most. The U.P. Reader has something for everyone. Congratulations to my writer and poet peers for a job well done.”
— Gretchen Preston, Vice President, Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association

“As readers embark upon this storied landscape, they learn that the people of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula offer a unique voice, a tribute to a timeless place too long silent.”
— Sue Harrison, international bestselling author of Mother Earth Father Sky

“I was amazed by the variety of voices in this volume. U.P. Reader offers a little of everything, from short stories to
nature poetry, fantasy to reality, Yooper lore to humor. I look forward to the next issue.”
— Jackie Stark, editor, Marquette Monthly

“Like the best of U.P. blizzards, U.P. Reader covers all of Upper Michigan in the variety of its offerings. A fine mix of
nature, engaging characters, the supernatural, poetry, and much more.”
— Karl Bohnak, TV 6 meteorologist and author of So Cold a Sky: Upper Michigan Weather Stories

You can purchase U.P. Reader at Amazon or in the U.P. at several different stores throughout the U.P. including in Sault Sainte Marie, Marquette, and Copper Harbor. A list of several of the local retailers selling the book can be found at its website: www.upreader.org.

You can also learn more about the U.P. Publishers and Authors Association at www.uppaa.org.

 

U.P. Book Market to Be Held at Peter White Public Library: Twenty-Two Local Authors to Meet Their Public

June 11, 2016

MARQUETTE, MI (June 11, 2016)—On Friday, June 17, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Peter White Public Library, in association with the U.P. Publishers and Authors Association, will host a U.P. Book Market—the event will be like a farmer’s market, but devoted to the display and selling of books by local authors.

book market posterThe event is the brainchild of Gretchen Preston, Vice President of the U.P. Publishers and Authors Association, and author of the Valley Cats children’s book series. “We are always looking for ways to get the public more interested in reading and local authors, and we also appreciate the support the Peter White Public Library constantly provides to authors, so we thought we’d have an event at the library and raise some money for it. Every author who participates will be making a donation to the library.”

Heather Steltenpohl, Development Director and fellow coordinator of the U.P. Book Market, added, “This event is a such a great showcase of literary talent in the Upper Peninsula.  PWPL is fortunate to have the support of organizations like the UPPAA.  Funds raised at this event will benefit the PWPL’s Annual Fund which helps provide materials and programming.”

The list of authors attending will encompasses the entire U.P. literary scene and beyond. They are: Aimée Bisonette, author of North Woods Girl (Minneapolis, Minnesota), Corey LaBissoniere, author of Land of Enchantas (Houghton), Sharon Brunner, author of Shadow Travelers (Sault Sainte Marie), Larry Buege, author of the Chogan Native American Series (Harvey), Mikel Classen, author of Teddy Roosevelt and the Marquette Libel Trial (Sault Sainte Marie), Deborah Frontiera, author of Living on Sisu (Lake Linden), Jan Kellis, author of Bookworms Anonymous Cookbooklet (DeTour Village), R.E. Kelly, author of The World According to Luke series (Escanaba), Sharon Kennedy, author of Life in a Tin Can (Brimley); Jesse Koenig, author of Brief Perversions (Baraga), L.E. Kimball, author of Seasonal Roads (Newberry), Tim LaJoice, author of Little Whittle: Tale of a White Beaver (St. Ignace), Tamara Lauder, author of Breaking Free Too: Taking a Flight With a Butterfly Toward Self-Discovery (St. Germain, WI), Sonny Longtine, author of Magnficent Mansions and Courtly Cottages (Marquette), Martyn Martello, author of Serial Killer Confessions: Just Friends (Marquette), Paulette Noble, author of the A Virtual Reality series (Escanaba), Rondi Olson, author of All Things Now Living (Munising), Gretchen Preston, author of the Valley Cats series (Chocolay Township), Janeen Pergin Rastall, author of Objects May Appear Closer (Gordon), Richard Smith, author of hunting and wildlife books (Marquette), Tyler Tichelaar, author of The Marquette Trilogy (Marquette), and Lloyd Wescoat, owner of Mudminnow Press (Copper Harbor).

In addition to authors selling their books, several children’s authors will participate in activities for younger readers. “Summer is a fabulous time to encourage children to read,” said Preston, “and, hopefully, this event will get them excited about reading just as the school year is ending.”

Local authors Tyler Tichelaar and Gretchen Preston will be at the UP Book Market on June 17th.

Local authors Tyler Tichelaar and Gretchen Preston will be among the many authors at the UP Book Market on June 17th.

The festive event will include additional attractions. Before you can relax with a good book, you may need help relaxing, so Nancy Ring, a massage therapist, will be on site to provide massages. Superior Mobile Koney will be providing culinary delights to book market visitors. Live music will be performed throughout the day, and face-painting will be available for all the young at heart. The musical schedule is: 12:00-1:00pm – Corinne Rockow (musician and storyteller), 1:30-2:30pm – Kerry Yost and Dylan Trost (experimental instrumentals and eccentric, folksy songwriting), and 3:00-4:00pm – Tanya Stanaway (Finnish music).

The event is being held in conjunction with the 19th annual U.P. Publishers and Authors Association Conference, which will take place the following day on Saturday, June 18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Community Room and Shiras Room of the Peter White Public Library. This year’s conference will host several speakers on writing, publishing, and book marketing, including keynote speaker Judith Briles of Aurora, CO, who is nationally known as The Book Shepherd. Those interested in attending the conference can find more information and register at www.uppaa.org

###

Book World Hosts Opportunity to Meet Local Authors

December 11, 2014

On Saturday, December 20, from 1-4 p.m., four local authors will be signing books and greeting the public at Book World in Downtown Marquette. All four authors live in the Marquette-Harvey area, but write about a wide variety of topics.

Author Larry Buege

Author Larry Buege

If you’ve seen the guy in the amorous spotted slug costume promoting the cause for state slug in Downtown Marquette, then you’ve seen Larry Buege. Now you have the opportunity to talk to him about his campaign and get personalized copies of his book Cold Turkey, a futuristic U.P. novel about U.P. statehood and a strange prophecy initiated by the said slug. In addition, Larry will be signing copies of his popular young adult Native American fiction series beginning with Chogan and the Gray Wolf and his many other novels. Check out his website www.LarryBuege.com.

Sonny Longtine, a retired teacher, has spent his retirement researching and writing about the history of the U.P. His first book, Marquette, Then & Now, appeared in time for Marquette’s Sesquicentennial in 1999. He followed it with Michigan’s Upper Peninsula: Life Legends and Landmarks and Courage Burning. Since then, he has found himself wading in blood—figuratively. His latest book, Murder in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, tells the true stories of several U.P. murders, spanning from the 1800s to the present century.

Author Sonny Longtine

Author Sonny Longtine

Gretchen Preston was raised in Portland, Oregon, and worked as a medical social worker, but when she met her future husband, he asked her to marry him and come live in the U.P. at the end of the road and write books. Fortunately for Upper Michigan’s children, Gretchen said, “Yes.” She began telling stories to a neighbor girl she babysat, and those stories then became Valley Cats: The Adventures of Boonie and River, about two cats who are adventurers in the U.P. The book has been followed by two sequels, all beautifully illustrated by Karin Neumann. Gretchen’s purpose is to teach children about U.P. history, geography, and nature, while also entertaining them. Visit Gretchen at www.prestonhillpress.com

UP Authors Gretchen Preston and Tyler Tichelaar

UP Authors Gretchen Preston and Tyler Tichelaar

Tyler R. Tichelaar is a seventh-generation Marquette resident. Although he earned a Ph.D. at WMU and taught for several years, his true love was always fiction and the U.P. so he returned home to write about his roots. The result has been his popular The Marquette Trilogy, My Marquette, the recent play Willpower, the novel The Best Place, about two women who grew up in the Marquette orphanage, and The Children of Arthur historical fantasy series about King Arthur and his descendants—yes, he thinks he’s one of those descendants. Visit Tyler at www.MarquetteFiction.com and www.ChildrenofArthur.com

Lee Laforge, manager of Book World, encourages the public to come visit with the local authors on December 20th. “Local books are a big part of our business here at Book World,” Laforge said. “Both locals and visitors love to learn more about the Upper Peninsula and bring home a piece of the U.P. Books make great gifts for that reason, and also for people from the area who now live elsewhere. Come get a book signed for yourself or someone else and enjoy the holidays.”

###

U.P. Authors Encourage Holiday Book Giving and Donating through Many Events

November 25, 2014

With the holidays upon us, local authors are actively attending craft shows, holding book signings, and helping to get us all in the holiday spirit. Upper Michigan is home to nearly one hundred local authors as well as being the subject or setting of many other books. Thanks to efforts by libraries, bookstores, and organizations like the U.P. Publishers and Authors Association, more and more people are reading local books and supporting the creation of a U.P. literature.

This year many events are being held in Marquette County where authors will be in attendance to sign or talk about their books. For other author events in Upper Michigan, check with your local library and bookstores.

Visit Larry Buege at the TV6 Christmas Craft Show and find out more about his campaign for the Amorous Spotted Slug for state slug.

Visit Larry Buege at the TV6 Christmas Craft Show and find out more about his campaign for the Amorous Spotted Slug for state slug.

The Holiday Outback Art and Craft Show (the winter version of the popular summer Outback at Picnic Rocks) will be held this year at the Marquette Armory at 1820 Lincoln Ave. on Friday, November 28 from 5-9 p.m. and Saturday, November 29 from 10-6 p.m. Sonny Longtine, author of several U.P. books, will be there selling his newest book Murder in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which explores true crimes that turned quiet U.P. communities into fear-ridden crime scenes.

Tyler Tichelaar will be in booth 251 this year at the TV6 Christmas Craft Show

Tyler Tichelaar will be in booth 251 this year at the TV6 Christmas Craft Show

The TV6 Christmas Craft Show is probably the biggest holiday shopping event in Upper Michigan. This year many authors will be among those in attendance, including Diana Oman, author of the new ABC book for the kid in all of us, My Heart Smiles, which is also illustrated by Colleen O’Hara who will be there with her own book, The Butterfly Woman; Charlie Smith, author of the new novel, 1914, about World War I; Gretchen Preston, author of the Valley Cats children’s book series; Larry Buege, author of Cold Turkey, a series of Native American novels beginning with Chogan and the Gray Wolf, and many other titles; and Tyler R. Tichelaar, author of My Marquette, several U.P. novels, and a historical fantasy series about King Arthur. The TV6 Christmas Craft Show will be held this year on Friday, December 5 from 5-9 p.m., Saturday, December 6 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday, December 7, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. in the Superior Dome in Marquette.

On December 6 at 2:o0pm, Loraine Koski will be giving a presentation at Bethany Lutheran Church in South Republic about PFC Elden Gjers, Republic athletic standout and World War II casualty, and my more than 10 years of research that led to publication her book Eden’s True Army Tales.

Gretchen Preston, author of the Valley Cats series

Gretchen Preston, author of the Valley Cats series will be at the TV6 Christmas Craft Show

Diana Oman will be signing copies of My Heart Smiles at Younkers throughout the holiday season.

Diana Oman will be signing copies of My Heart Smiles at Younkers throughout the holiday season.

Snowbound Books at 118 N. Third Street in Marquette will be hosting its annual Local Authors Day on Saturday, December 13 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Authors in attendance will be Matthew Gavin Frank, author of Preparing the Ghost and Barolo; Loraine Koski, who will be signing her newly released book Elden’s True Army Tales about a local man who fought in World War II; David Lee Nelson, author of River of Iron; Carrie Pearson, author of the children’s books A Warm

Children's author Carrie Pearson will be at Snowbound Books on December 13th.

Children’s author Carrie Pearson will be at Snowbound Books on December 13th.

Winter Tail and A Cool Summer Tail, and Charlie Smith, author of the World War I novel, 1914.

Diana Oman and Colleen O’Hara will also be signing copies of My Heart Smiles at Younkers in the Westwood Mall on December 10 from 11 a.m.-2p.m, December 13, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., December 20 from 11 a.m. to 3p.m. and December 21 from 1-4 p.m.

In addition, many members of the U.P. Publishers and Authors Association are supporting The Gift of Reading Project, organized by the Marquette-Alger Reading Council. The public is asked to donate new books to be given to needy families and adults at Christmas time and throughout the year. New books are also distributed to youth service agencies, public health and dental centers, nursing homes, including the Veteran’s Center, the Women’s Center and Harbor House, Beacon House and other locations. Drop off locations include Peter White Public Library and Snowbound Books. The last day for donations is December 5. Contributions also can be sent to MARC at P.O. Box 1084, Marquette. For more information, call 226-7030.

This year, give the Gift of Reading to your loved ones and those in need by supporting local authors and making sure everyone has a book under the Christmas Tree. For more information about the U.P. Publishers and Authors Association and local author events, visit www.uppaa.org.

Sonny Longtine will be at the Outback Holiday Fair on November 28 and 29

Sonny Longtine will be at the Outback Holiday Fair on November 28 and 29

Join Us in Celebrating the 2nd Annual U.P. Authors Day at Marquette’s Westwood Mall

September 24, 2014

UP AUTHORS_2014 POSTERUpper Michigan authors from all ends of the peninsula will gather on October 4, 2014 for the second annual U.P. Authors Day Book Fair at the Westwood Mall. All authors who live in or write about the U.P. are welcome to attend.

Marquette, MI, August 25, 2014—Upper Michigan authors will gather to meet their current and future readers at the first annual U.P. Authors Day event and book fair at the Westwood Mall in Marquette on October 4, 2014.

U.P. Authors Day is an event intended to raise awareness of the rich tradition of writing about Upper Michigan and introduce readers to local authors. The event is the brainchild of Lon Emerick, award-winning author of such favorites as “The Superior Peninsula” and “Paradise, North.” The event is being organized by members of the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association (UPPAA) in coordination with the Westwood Mall.

President of UPPAA and author of “My Marquette,” Tyler R. Tichelaar, said that last year’s event resulted in twenty-three authors attending, which was the single largest gathering of U.P. authors in one place ever held. These authors came from all over the U.P., including Marquette, Ishpeming, Quinnesec, Iron Mountain, Houghton, and Garden. One even came from Texas to attend, and they all either live in or write about the U.P. Gretchen Preston, author of the Valley Cats children’s book series who is helping to coordinate the event, stated, “This event is a real opportunity for readers to meet authors who live in and write about the U.P., some of whom are well-known and others of whom may be new to local readers. The diversity of topics is impressive, ranging from historical fiction and history books to children’s books, fantasy novels, memoirs, romances, and inspirational titles.” Ellen Sargent, manager of the Westwood Mall, adds, “The Westwood Mall is delighted to host this event for the second time. We know both our local customers and area visitors will really enjoy getting to meet the authors, and I think they’ll be impressed by how many talented writers we have right here in our backyard!”

Over fifteen authors will be scheduled to attend the event. Book sale hours will be from 12 noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, October 4th.

U.P. Authors Participate in First Annual Authors & Artists Day in Caspian, Michigan

July 14, 2014

July 10, 2014—Members of the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association will be appearing at the Iron County Historical Museum’s Authors and Artists Day Event in Caspian on Saturday, July 19th. The historical museum’s first ever Authors and Artists Day Event will feature a wide variety of locally written books and other artisan crafts for sale, and artwork highlighting the LeBlanc & Giovanelli Galleries.

IMG_2102

UP Authors, Deborah Frontiera (left), Gretchen Preston (right) and Karin Neumann, illustrator of the Valley Cats book series (center) at the Outback Art Fair, summer 2012.

U.P. native Tyler Tichelaar of Marquette will have available his many local history books including The Marquette Trilogy and My Marquette as well as his new historical fantasy novel, Arthur’s Legacy: The Children of Arthur, Book One.

Children’s author, Gretchen Preston, of Harvey, will showcase her Valley Cats series of beautifully illustrated local chapter books and their accompanying artwork. She will also have audio CDs to purchase of her first book.

Donna Winters, of Garden, and author of the Great Lakes Romances series, will autograph copies of her historical romances set in various locations around the U.P. and Lower Michigan. Donna will also be available to autograph her non-fiction titles: Adventures With Vinnie, the story of the U.P. shelter dog who taught her to expect the unexpected, and Picturing Fayette, a photo book of stunning views taken at the Fayette Historic Town site on the Garden Peninsula.

Bessemer’s Allen Wright will be on hand to sign copies of his new book, titled The Book, which explores the writing of the Old Testament, offering commentary, as well as pondering the reasons why the Bible was really written.

The Copper Country is represented by Deborah K. Frontiera. Deborah will bring a variety of books including: a children’s picture book set on Isle Royale; historical fiction for middle grade readers (and up) set in the Copper Country; a collection of historical photos by J. W. Nara; and a little “outside the box” young adult fantasy trilogy.

Join these U.P. authors in Caspian, Michigan at the Iron County Historical Museum from 1-4 p.m. Central time on July 19th. They will be happy to autograph and personalize purchased books for you. A portion of their proceeds will be donated back to the Iron County Historical Museum for its programming and other expenses.

Come find the next book on your summer reading list, the perfect holiday gift for a loved one, or your new favorite book! Rain or shine, you will find the authors and their books inside the museum waiting for you!

For more information about Authors and Artists Day, contact the Iron County Historical Museum at www.ironcountyhistoricalmuseum.org or (906) 265-2617. For more information about the U.P. Publishers and Authors Association, visit http://www.uppaa.org

July 15 2012 B

UP Authors Gretchen Preston (left), Donna Winters (center), and Tyler Tichelaar (right)

First Annual U.P. Authors Day and Book Fair to Be Held

July 2, 2013

Twenty-One Upper Michigan authors from all ends of the peninsula will gather on July 6, 2013 for the first annual U.P. Authors Day Book Fair at the Westwood Mall in Marquette.

Marquette, MI, July 1, 2013—Upper Michigan authors will gather to meet their current and future readers at the first annual U.P. Authors Day event and book fair at the Westwood Mall in Marquette on July 6, 2013 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

UP AUTHORS_2013 POSTER 2-01U.P. Authors Day is an event intended to raise awareness of the rich tradition of writing about Upper Michigan and introduce readers to local authors. The event is the brainchild of Lon Emerick, award-winning author of such favorites as “The Superior Peninsula” and “Paradise, North” and is being organized by members of the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association (UPPAA) in coordination with the Westwood Mall.

President of UPPAA, Tyler R. Tichelaar, author of The Marquette Trilogy, said that he believes the event is the largest single gathering of U.P. authors ever held. Gretchen Preston, author of the Valley Cats children’s book series and one of the organizers of the event stated, “I continue to be amazed by how many authors are writing about Upper Michigan and Upper Michigan subjects, as well as non-U.P. related subjects who live here. We will have everything from U.P. history books to romance novels, mysteries, children’s books, poetry, and a host of nonfiction titles.” Ellen Sargent, manager of the Westwood Mall, adds, “The Westwood Mall is excited to be hosting this event. We know both our local customers and area visitors will really enjoy getting to meet the authors. I think people might be surprised by the wide variety of works available!”

Besides selling and signing books, several authors will be holding drawings for a chance to win one of their books. Authors in attendance will be: Milly Balzarini, Karl Bohnak, Robert Cook, James Dunn, Debbie Frontiera, Sydney Gionevico, Jerry Harju, Sherri Kauppi, Kevin Kluck, Kathy Kuczek, Corey LaBissioniere, Mel Laurila, Joe Massie, Ida Nord, Gretchen Preston, Richard Smith, Mary Soper, Tyler Tichelaar, M.C. Tillson, Lloyd Westcoat, and Donna Winters.

Come out and meet the authors who write about the place where you live!

###

My Latest Book Events and Buzz for “Spirit of the North”

July 14, 2012

Spirit of the North: a paranormal romance

My new novel Spirit of the North: a paranormal romance is receiving great reviews and publicity. Readers are telling me it is their favorite of all my books, and they love that many of the characters from my first book Iron Pioneers reappear in it. Here are some of the reviews and interviews I’ve done recently:

If you don’t have a copy of Spirit of the North yet, you can get one at my website Marquette Fiction (links are provided there to e-book versions), or you can find me this summer at:

Waterpalooza, a Lake Superior Day Celebration, Mattson Lower Harbor Park on Sun. July 15th from 11-8. I’ll be joined by U.P. authors Donna Winters of the Great Lakes Romances series and Gretchen Preston, author of the children’s Valley Cats series. (Both of them have been interviewed here on my blog in the past)

Outback Art Fair at Picnic Rocks in Marquette, Michigan on Sat. July 28th from 10-6 and Sun. July 29th from 11-4.

Negaunee Senior Center, Negaunee, MI – I’ll be giving a talk about local history on Wed. August 1st at Noon.

Art on the Lake in Curtis, Michigan at the Erickson Center on Sat., September 1st
from 10-5.

And if you feel lucky, you can also try to win a copy of Spirit of North by signing up for the July Reader Views Book Giveaway.

Thank you for reading and have a great summer filled with books!

A Visit with Valley Cats Author Gretchen Preston

May 17, 2012

Today, I am pleased to interview my good friend Gretchen Preston, a fellow U.P. author, who has written the Valley Cats series.

Gretchen is a native of Portland, Oregon. She grew up in a two-parent family with three brothers and one sister. After graduating from the University of Oregon, she went on to graduate school at Arizona State University where she earned a Master’s in Social Work. She worked in Denver, Colorado as a medical social worker on an organ transplant team for many years. Gretchen met her husband Tim, a local Marquette businessman, in April of 2000, when he was visiting a mutual friend in Denver. They married in 2001 and Gretchen relocated to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. After retiring from social work, her goal was to become a published author.

Gretchen Preston, author of the Valley Cats series

Gretchen Preston, author of the Valley Cats series

Tyler: Welcome, Gretchen. Let’s get started by your telling us a little about the Valley Cats series, beginning with the two main characters. What can you tell us about Boonie and River?

Gretchen: Boonie and River are two housecat adventurers. The stories are set in our U.P. backyard. Boonie is the older and wiser cat. He is an experienced outdoorsman. After all, Boonie was named after the human, frontiersman, Daniel Boone. River is more timid. His over-protective mistress doesn’t allow him to wander. The cats meet at the Valley pet parade one summer afternoon. After joining forces, the new friends proclaim themselves the “Valley Cats.” The short stories wind their way through the U.P. seasons. The cat-pals go on many adventures including; taking a walk in the winter woods, exploring a shoreline cave and stowing away on a fishing boat. The stories are spun with humor and a gentle style making the text entertaining to kids of all ages. Boonie and River learn about friendship, experience the death of a friend, and trip over life’s hazards.

Currently, there are two completed books in the Valley Cat series. “Valley Cats: The Adventures of Boonie and River is 103 pages. It is the first book in the series. The sequel, “More Valley Cats: Fun, Games and New Friends” is 143 pages. The hardcover books have 14 fun-filled chapters. Each short story is accompanied by a Karin Neumann full color illustration. The books do not need to be read in order. The second book picks up where the first book left off. The characters and setting are re-introduced for new readers.

Tyler: Rather than writing a full-length book, you’ve written several stories in one volume. What is the benefit of that in your opinion?

Gretchen: Full-length books are intimidating to new readers. Short stories are more accessible. Chapter books are more reader-friendly. We all remember when we advanced from reading primers to chapter books. The chapters stand alone and do not need to be read in order. The colorful illustrations rouse interest in the accompanying story. Children can browse through the books and choose a story which attracts them. The Valley Cat books are written at a fifth grade reading level. Although, accomplished second graders are enjoying the books. Written and punctuated to be read aloud, my books are perfect for lap-time with your favorite child as well as bedtime reading.

Tyler: How is the second book More Valley Cats different from the first one?

More Valley Cats

More Valley Cats: Fun, Games and New Friends

Gretchen: “More Valley Cats: Fun, Games and New Friends” is forty pages longer. The inside cover is decorated with a map of the Valley enabling readers to follow along with the action. Like the first book, it has a glossary in the back pages making it easy for young readers to look up unfamiliar terms. New characters join the Valley Cat fun when Buddy Boy is adopted from the animal shelter by Big Tim to rid his boat shop of mice. River struggles with accepting a new cat-sister into his family. A batch of orphaned kittens is found in the woods when the Valley Cats are searching for a lost softball. The introduction of these new cat characters expands the Valley Cat antics. The older cats teach the kittens about life in the Valley, the kittens explore their world and relationships become more complex. The cats learn about jealousy, and how to share. Boonie, River and Buddy learn the consequences of knowingly breaking the rules when they venture into the forbidden boat shop. New settings are introduced when Boonie and River tag along on a hike over the ridge where they have never gone before. Little did they realize their adventure would take place in a leaky boat! New friends come to the Valley. Two new human characters are introduced. When a blind professor moves into the vacant house, Boonie learns about blindness. Danny the prankster comes to visit and the cats learn about jokes from the teenage boys.

Tyler: I’m a big fan especially of how you’ve introduced U.P. natural history, places, and culture into your children’s books. Will you give us some examples of what you consider educational moments in your books?

Gretchen: I purposely weave “learning moments” into the text. For example, in the story “Out All Night,” the cats stay out all night during the Perseid meteor showers. Readers learn about shooting stars, the constellations in the August U.P. night sky and how a firefly makes its light. Local plants, animals and the terrain are described in detail in every story. Native birds and their calls ring through the pages. The Valley Cats spend a lot of time observing their world. The cats mistakenly identify the sound of spring peepers for baby birds in trouble, in “Baby Bird Lullaby.” The history of pasties, a local delicacy, is described in “High Meadow Hike.”

Tyler: How did you first get started writing the Valley Cats series?

Gretchen: I made up the first few stories when my five year old friend asked me to tell her a story. Boonie is her cat and River is a neighbor’s cat. I just started spinning a tale about two cats who were adventurers. I used activities that my young friend and I had done when we played in our Valley through the passing seasons. These became the first Boonie and River adventures. I use my life in the Valley as storylines. My characters are my real neighbors and animal friends. The stories write themselves, through me.

Tyler: So the Valley is a real place? Where is it? And how do your neighbors and friends feel about being included in your books?

Gretchen: The Valley lies in the hills which rise gently above the south shore of Lake Superior. Valley Road is a half mile dirt road with only a few family homes. It empties into the deep woods where several of the Valley Cat adventures take place. The actual location is in Chocolay Township, but my setting can be anywhere in the Upper Midwest…wherever your imagination takes you!

Valley Cats: The Adventures of Boonie and River

Valley Cats: The Adventures of Boonie and River

The Valley Cat series chronicles our life as neighbors. The Valley children do not age as fast in my books as they have done in real life. The stories stop time in a sense. The children of the Valley will always be kids amongst the pages. They are all looking forward to reading “their stories” to their own children someday in the future. It chronicles their childhood, a hardbound diary of our time together. The Valley neighbors are very much a part of my story creation. When I get a storyline idea, I consult all of the human characters. I meet with them and we chat about my idea for the story of which they are a part. I always use real life storylines. I am really not that creative; I just live in a cartoon and write about it! I ask questions to fill in my story ideas. Then, get their verbal permission to create the story. I balance the stories between the characters in hopes that each real life character has his or her “Moment” to be a main character. Of course, for the minor children, I discuss it with both the child and the parents.

Before the books go to print, all the human characters are given a final draft of the story for approval, and have the opportunity to view the accompanying illustration in which they are characterized. After they have read and approved the story, I have them each sign a legal release form giving me permission to use their name and character likeness. I am totally respectful of my characters’ privacy. There are two characters who did not feel comfortable with me using their true-life likeness, so, Karin used another person’s image for that character’s illustration. In only one case a character did not feel comfortable with me using his/her real name. We compromised on using that person’s middle name for the character’s handle. My neighbors think that it is fun to be in the books. It gives them a sense of local stardom. My readership is always thrilled to meet the “real” characters and have their book signed by them. I have some really funny stories about my Valley Cat characters being recognized in public. Honestly, I have more problems of not adding new characters. Everyone wants to be in the books. I am leery to add too many new characters. I think too many characters gets confusing. It is my intent to concentrate on developing the existing characters and limit new ones.

Tyler: Tell us about the illustrations. How do you and illustrator Karin Neumann work together?

Gretchen: I send Karin my story rough drafts as I complete each story. We discuss what would be the most appropriate illustration for each short story. Sometimes we have to compromise to accommodate printing requirements. Each story has one full color illustration. Black and white illustrations are placed on pages to fill empty space. We design the horizon covers together. It takes good communication between author and illustrator to be successful. Illustrators cannot read the author’s mind, so I must be very clear when I am describing my vision for her drawings. Karin and I are partners. We have great respect for each other and have developed a warm working relationship.

Tyler: Gretchen, I know you are visually impaired. Will you tell us about your low vision and how it affects your writing process?

Gretchen: I have a juvenile onset form of macular degeneration. I had normal vision until the fifth grade. I still have some useable sight, but I do not see well enough to have a driver’s license, read street signs or access printed materials. I do my writing on my laptop computer which is equipped with a low vision software product called, “JAWS.” This stands for “job access with speech.” It talks to me while I type. With special keystroke commands I can read my documents by letter, word or line. I have found these features very helpful when pacing my story. It is easy for me to hear when a sentence needs to be edited. Hearing the words helps my flow and makes my stories easy to read aloud.

I had the opportunity recently to be interviewed for a podcast regarding my low vision and how it affects my world. For those who are interested, visit http://www.freedomscientific.com/FSCast/episodes/fscast065-april2012.asp. It is podcast #65, April 2012 with Jonathan Mosen.

Tyler: You often visit schools and give presentations to children. What do you find fulfilling about those events?

Gretchen: I have hosted Young Authors programs in Marquette County the last two years. I have been a presenter at school career days and was awarded a “Home Town Hero” award at one local school. The students are thrilled to meet a “real” writer. It’s really fun to hear their reviews of my work. They make me feel like a super star. The Valley Cats are developing a fan base. Kids are already clambering for the next book. I donate a fair amount of books to school and public libraries. It is not always about selling books. My books are timeless and my fan base is being refreshed on an ongoing basis. I want kids to identify with my characters and the situations they encounter. Some of my stories are just for fun and others have life lessons or educational components. Too much learning and not enough just plain fun will not keep a young reader’s attention. So, I mix it up! The most fulfilling part of writing children’s books is the feedback I get from the kids, their parents and teachers. I had a mom buy a book for her disabled son at a book signing. She told me that her son had checked the first Valley Cats book out of the public library three times and was always reluctant to return it. She grinned when she told me how thrilled her son would be finally to get his very own copy. It is these moments that make me forget the endless hours of editing, production headaches and my financial outlay.

Tyler: Do the children give you many ideas for your books?

Gretchen: I have a “child editor.” Each story is proofread in early rough draft form. I get feedback from a kid’s perspective. My child editor has given me great ideas and feedback. I always ask young readers what is their favorite story and why. I am pleased that so far, each story has its fans. This leads me to think that my stories have something for everyone to enjoy. People often tell me stories about their own cats. Occasionally they will ask me to write them a story about their pet. I have a collection of “Cat Tales” which will be published in the future. I get my ideas for the Valley Cats stories from actual events that have occurred in our Valley. I do stretch the truth a tad.

Tyler: Gretchen, I know you’re busy working on the third book in the series. Can you give us a little preview of what it will be about?

Gretchen: “Valley of the Cats: Earth, Wind and Sky” is filled with Earth science. Old friends return to the Valley and the whole gang goes boat camping on Grand Island. Chapter One is “Snowflakes in the Mirror.” It is a story about the concept of infinity. In another story, “Hippie Hollow” the cats happen upon a music festival in the woods. Illustrations include the Northern Lights, cumulous clouds and the Lake Superior shoreline.

Tyler: Gretchen, will you tell us about your website and where else we can find copies of the Valley Cats books?

Gretchen: My publishing company is Preston Hill Press. Books and illustration prints can be purchased directly from my website, www.prestonhillpress.com. Book sellers are listed on my “Where to Buy” page. I prefer to have my books placed at independent bookstores and gift shops. I have placed books for sale at places where kids frequent, The U.P. Children’s Museum, the Marquette Maritime Museum and ice cream stores. I have also placed my books at non-traditional book selling locations, including veterinarian offices and pet stores. I have books offered as “thank you gifts” for our local National Public Radio station fundraising events. Valley Cats books are available throughout the U.P. and northern Michigan.

Gretchen Preston speaking at the U.P. Publishers and Authors Association Conference April 2012

Gretchen Preston speaking at the U.P. Publishers and Authors Association Conference April 2012, and wearing her cat jacket.

Tyler: What if people want to meet you in person? Do you have any events you’ll be attending this summer or Christmas season?

Gretchen: Both Karin Neumann and I will be at the Outback Festival in Marquette the last weekend in July. I am currently negotiating appearance dates in June at the Moosewood Nature Center on Presque Isle. There may be opportunities for UPPAA members to sell books in Michigamme at their summer farmer’s and artists markets. No dates for their markets have been announced, but I will let everyone know the upcoming dates and times. I will be in Curtis selling books with you, Tyler, at their Art Fair on September 1st. Karin and I both plan to be in attendance at the WLUC TV6 Holiday Crafts show the first weekend in December in the Superior Dome in Marquette. Consult our “Coming Events” page on the website where appearances are posted. The list is updated as appearances are confirmed. I am always willing to talk about or sell books. I donate to silent auctions and community fundraising events. I can be contacted via email at prestonhillpress@gmail.com or by telephone at 906.360.7608.

My summer goals include producing the Valley Cat series as a CD. It will be locally audio recorded. Additionally, the books will be produced in Braille for blind children. We are also discussing converting them into an e-book.

Tyler: Thank you, Gretchen, for the interview. It’s been a real pleasure. I’ll be looking forward to reading that third book.

Book Review: More Valley Cats by Gretchen Preston

May 16, 2012

The following book review first appeared in the Marquette Monthly, December 2011 and is reprinted with permission.

Watch for my interview with U.P. children’s author Gretchen Preston coming soon!

 

More Valley Cats: Fun, Games and New Friends

Written by Gretchen Preston; Illustrated by Karin Neumann

Boonie and River are back in More Valley Cats! And this new book has all the fun and adventures readers came to expect from the first book of this series Valley Cats: The Adventures of Boonie and River (see December 2010 MM review); this second book also introduces several new friends, both human and feline, and plenty of adventures, fun and games.

Author Gretchen Preston does a marvelous job of balancing her stories and characters with real-life issues children will relate to and learn from. For example, the book begins with a new cat, Buddy, coming to the Valley. Boonie and River instantly befriend him, but then one day when River sees Boonie playing alone with Buddy, he feels jealous, has a temper tantrum and tells Boonie and Buddy to get out of his yard; fortunately, River soon learns how to have more than one friend. Other educational stories include a new human neighbor, Winslow, who is blind; the cats learn about blindness, reading Braille, and also watch Winslow save the day by rescuing a lost kitten in the woods because his enhanced hearing allows him to hear the kitten’s cries.

All the stories are set in the Valley, a special neighborhood of families and friends in Upper Michigan; as a special bonus, the book’s end pages have been turned into a map of the Valley. The cats’ adventures introduce U.P. history and new words to children, ranging from the history of the pasty to the Perseid meteor showers. Many new words like “nocturnal” and “caboodle” are included in a glossary at the end.

Of course, humans and their antics are always interesting and educational to cats. Boonie, River and their friends learn a lot from their human companions, including how to play pranks on three boys, how to stay safe while beekeeping, and the rules to the strange game of baseball.

More Valley Cats brings to life the U.P.’s seasons, and full page colored illustrations throughout make readers pause and marvel over nighttime meteor showers, rainbows that highlight autumn leaves, and scenes of boating and enjoying a very green summer.

A couple of my favorite stories tell of how Boonie and Congo kindly escort a mouse out of their house, and an adventure in a leaking boat. But my favorite story has to be “Road Closed” when the power goes out in the Valley and everyone gathers to spend the night together, stay warm, and play games.

More Valley Cats is broken into fourteen fun stories, short enough to read aloud at bedtime, or for children ages eight to eleven to read on their own. In the back of the book, Preston thanks her readers and promises, “If you all keep reading…we will keep writing and drawing!” Preston and Neumann are currently at work on the third Valley Cats book.

For more information, visit www.PrestonHillPress.com