Editor's note: This article was published in Grand Traverse Scene magazine's Winter 2019 issue. Pick up a free copy at area hotels, visitor's centers, chambers of commerce or at the Record-Eagle building on Front Street. Click here to read GT Scene in its entirety online.

AIDEN’S TREE

by Karen Rieser

A Christmas tree is brought into Aiden’s home with great pomp and ceremony. It lights up the darkness of winter, fills the home with a cold piney scent, glistens with ornaments and is the protector of all gifts beneath it. But, what life does a tree live prior to entering a home? What happens to the tree after it leaves? “Aiden’s Tree” is the story of a Michigan fir — from seedling to Christmas tree to a marker on the Mackinac Ice Bridge and more.

ELEMENTAL: A COLLECTION OF MICHIGAN CREATIVE NONFICTION

edited by Anne-Marie Oomen

A celebration of the elements, this collection comes to us from 23 of Michigan’s most well-known essayists. The essays approach Michigan at the atomic level. This is a place where weather patterns and ecology matter. Farmers, miners, shippers and loggers have built (or lost) their livelihood on Michigan’s nature — what could and could not be made out of our elements. From freshwater lakes that have shaped the ground beneath our feet to the industrial ebb and flow of iron ore and wind power, ours is a state of survival and transformation. In the first section of the book, “Earth,” Jerry Dennis remembers working construction in northern Michigan. “Water” includes a piece from Jessica Mesman, who writes of the appearance of snow in different iterations throughout her life. The section “Wind” houses essays about the ungraspable nature of death from Toi Dericotte and Keith Taylor. “Fire” includes a piece by Mardi Jo Link, who recollects the unfortunate series of circumstances surrounding one of her family members.

MI BAD

by Tom Carr

The Great Lakes State has seen more than its share of sensational crimes in the last couple of centuries. MI BAD shines a searchlight on several of the most jaw-dropping capers and rogues, including:

• A couple of 1880s prostitution procurers who roll drunken lumberjacks for their wages in a whorehouse and bury bodies in shallow graves. The two die drunk and destitute in a freezing shack.

• Baby Face Nelson gets his big-time career start — with an actual baby — in a bank holdup in Depression-era Grand Haven.

• A 1970s cinema-esque escape from Jackson State Prison that falls apart quickly once outside the razor wire.

• Train-robbing brothers who get away with fortunes all over the Midwest, until one of them puts a bullet in the head of a well-liked Grand Rapids cop.

• A 1960s cop and a 2010s fifth-grade teacher break bad.

• Huge posses of armed Michiganders rush out to help — and sometimes hinder — a bank stickup.

• A 19th Century U.P. boomtown finally has enough of a brothel owner beating the women he holds captive.

• Plus many more blood-and-money tales of Wolverine-state intrigue, suspense or just plain awfulness.

NATURE EXPLORERS MICHIGAN WILDLIFE

by Amalia Celester Fernand

Have you ever wondered where frogs go in the winter or how to identify a bird? Do you enjoy taking walks in the woods and want to learn more about the wildlife in your backyard? Kids and adults, this book is for you. Unique coloring pages feature Michigan wildlife with information that is formatted like a guidebook. Find out about animal tracks and scat, life cycles, diet and habitat. Increase your nature knowledge with fun facts, an extensive dictionary, art, science, games and more. Calling all Michigan Nature Explorers: this is your go-to guide for discovering more about your favorite animals.

PITCHMAN’S BLUES

by Jim Kelly

This short story collection offers snapshots of a life:

• A kid is set up by an old uncle to think he’s going to be scalped. Seeing demons in every shadow a few nights later, he’s told by an older cousin it was all a joke, that adults always seem to want kids to go through the same bad things they did.

• Riots and war. Conscription. The fights, the violence no longer just yarns heard late at night. Drafted at 18, he has to decide, will he go halfway round the world to kill people he has no earthly quarrel with?

• Teaching in a tiny mountain town. Some kids, he’s told early on, are just too dumb to bother with.

• Signing on for a salesman’s pay. Hit your quota or hit the road.

SAVING VINCENT

by Chris Convissor

After a divorce and her Mom’s death, Michaela thinks she is doing just fine, until an old friend calls for help. Suddenly she is unwillingly making a trip to her childhood home. Little does she realize what the return to an island stuck in a channel in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula will cost her.