Michigan novelist speaking at event

Published 10:40 am Thursday, May 5, 2016

(Submitted photo)

(Submitted photo)

As the festival itself celebrates a special milestone, the touchstone event of the 25th annual Dogwood Fine Arts Festival will be a momentous event, as this year’s author event will feature two writers sharing the same stage.

Keeping with the Michigan-based theme of this year’s festival, Traverse City novelist Mardi Jo Link and Midwest native poet James Lenfestey — the Poet in Residence of Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel — will be featured in a single event that takes place 7 p.m. Saturday at the Dale A. Lyons Building theater. In what is billed by organizers as a “living room discussion,” the pair of authors will discuss their careers and answer questions from the audience together on stage.

Tickets for the talk cost $25; people can also purchase passes for a reception and book signing after the talk for $15 (tickets for the event are limited).

The 2016 Dogwood Fine Arts Festival takes place May 5-15. For information or tickets, people can contact the festival office at (866) 490-2847.

Upon launching her career in long form writing, Michigan novelist Mardi Jo Link used her years of experience as a crime reporter to deliver tales of some of the state’s most mysterious murder cases.

After a trio of successful true crime novels, the Traverse City writer decided to take on her most challenging project yet — a memoir about her experiences raising her three boys on a century-old farmhouse.

“It was daunting at first. As journalists, you’re trained to take yourself out of the story,” Link said. “It’s ingrained in us to not even use ‘I’ in your stories. It took some effort, but eventually it became very satisfying to turn that reporter’s eye on your own life — even if it felt terrifying sometimes.”

Her transition from crime to her personal life turned out to be a successful one, as her memoir, “Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm,” earned her several awards. The movie rights to the story were eventually purchased by actress Rachel Weisz.

Born in Detroit to a pair of educators, Link grew up mainly in Bay City, though her father’s job took them to places like Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and Flint, she said. While she initially wanted to become a veterinarian during her younger years, her parent’s were always convinced she would wind up as a writer — which eventually turned out to be the case, as she decided to study journalism at Michigan State University.

“I would have liked to have studied more creative writing in college, but I wanted to be practical,” she said. “I wasn’t sure what kind of job a bunch of Shakespeare classes would have gotten me after graduating.”

After graduating in 1984, Link took a job as a crime reporter with Foster’s Daily Democrat, a small family-owned newspaper in New Hampshire. After four years with the paper, she moved back to Michigan after starting a family, working freelance for several publications.

She later founded a magazine, ForeWord Reviews, dedicated to reviewing books from small publishers. The constant exposure to literature convinced Link to take the plunge into novel writing herself, she said.

Drawing on her background in journalism, she decided to write about murder cases in Northern Michigan, writing three true crime novels: “When Evil Came To Good Hart,” “Isadore’s Secret,” and “Wicked Takes The Witness Stand.”

“I love the researching the most,” she said. “Sometimes I have to force myself to stop researching just so I can get around to actually writing about what I’m looking into.”

Her difficult personal experiences in 2005 and 2006 prompted her to decide to create a memoir, figuring it would make a worthwhile story, even if it was just for she and her children, she said.

Based off the success of “Bootstrapper,” Link is continuing to pursue writing about more personal subjects, she said. She is currently researching her family genealogy, in hopes of eventually sharing some of the stories she has learned.

During her talk Saturday, Link will be looking to share tales of some of the defining moments of her career thus far, and to “demystify” the writing process to attendees, she said.

“When you have crafted a sentence that says exactly what you want to say in the exact way you want to say it, nothing else really feels as satisfying,” she said. “It’s taking sentences and making something magical out of them.”