TRAVERSE CITY — A new year means new authors — and they’ll bring everything from mysteries and motivation to major historical dramas.

The Traverse City-based National Writers Series kicks off 2019 with punk-turned-motivational-author Jen Sincero on Jan. 16. The show is already sold out.

The list also includes Marie Benedict, Tommy Tomlinson, Nancy Thayer and Doug Brinkley.

“It’s a fun lineup — it’s a little bit lighter but with extensively popular authors,” said NWS Executive Director Anne Stanton.

The series, started by Stanton and her husband Doug in 2010, brings dozens of authors to the City Opera House for discussions each year. Proceeds support scholarships and youth reading programs.

NWS features motivational authors as a first this year with Sincero and Tomlinson. Sincero’s evening talk focuses on, “You Are a Badass Every Day,” a guide to creating — and sticking to — daily routines.

“She’s very sassy and she’s funny,” Stanton said. “New Year’s is when everybody’s making resolutions to achieve goals.”

Two hailed Michigan mystery authors, Bryan Gruley and Steve Hamilton, share their works — and each others’ — on June 27.

Gruley, a journalist and author of “Bleak Harbor,” will interview Hamilton, an acclaimed author, and vice versa. The evening should start with the authors introducing their works and end with an audience Q&A.

“I think it’s gonna be a great night,” Gruley said. “I expect I’ll learn something.

“And any excuse to get up north is a good one.”

Gruley is the author of the “Starvation Lake” trilogy, set in a fictional town modeled off Kalkaska and Bellaire. “Bleak Harbor,” set in southwest Michigan, is his first departure from that series.

Gruley’s a returning author, having guest-hosted two past NWS authors.

“They bring really interesting people, great crowds,” he said. “It’s a great event.”

Gruley jumped at the chance to get involved again, and asked longtime friend Hamilton to come along.

Hamilton is best known for his Alex McKnight series, which follows a private investigator based in the Upper Peninsula’s Paradise.

“I think he’s the draw here — he’s written a lot more books,” Gruley said. “He’s great at making these really interesting, fluid characters you can relate to, or at least sympathize with. They have flaws, they’re human.”

Before that double interview, former Detroit Free Press sports reporter Keith Gave discusses his book, “The Russian Five,” on March 8.

Keith Gave, a former Army translator, played a key role in the defection of the Russian Five, who came to Detroit from the Soviet Union to play for the Red Wings in the late 1980s. He covered the Wings for the Free Press, and recalls difficulties the team faced — rumors swirled that the team planned to seek players from behind the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain.

“The difficulty was that the Iron Curtain still stood,” Gave said. “How do we get these guys out of the Soviet Union to America, to Detroit, into Red Wings uniforms?”

Gave proved the answer. He had the connections and the knowledge — Red Wings officials asked him to pass a secret message to the players.

“I was, ethically, on thin ice,” the longtime reporter said. “I told him, ‘I wanna be the first phone call when they come over here. First interview, first dibs on everything.’”

Young readers aren’t left out. The Battle of the Books — a face-off of book knowledge that encourages fourth- and fifth-graders to read — joins the series again with a March 17 battle finale.

Children’s author Grace Lin joins the event as keynote speaker.

Stanton said she’s excited to host Lisa Scottoline, author of “Someone Knows,” and Mary Benedict, an author of several women-focused history novels, on May 30.

Mark your calendar

Tickets for National Writers Series events are on sale now for NWS Friends, and public sales open Jan. 11.

Tickets for the first event, Jen Sincero on Jan. 16, are sold out. Tickets for Tommy Tomlinson on Feb. 13 can be purchased by the public now.

See ticket prices and more information at

Recommended for you