“Write what you know” is the sage advice for any writer, and clearly Michigan author Jerry Dennis believes in such wise counsel. What Dennis “knows” settled in his heart as a young boy in Grand Traverse County who believed that Lake Michigan was where the world began.
The places of our upbringing bear great influence on our lives, and Jerry Dennis has made the very ebb and flow of the Great Lakes define his life’s direction. Well known for his literary works on nature, science, outdoor sports, Michigan waters, and this entire Bountiful World, Dennis has become a respected philosopher in his own right.
In this wonderful podcast Dennis discusses his book, The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas. You can hear the easy rhythms of nature in the cadenced voice of Dennis when fielding questions about his work and his writing process. When asked to briefly comment on the Great Lakes, the author doesn’t rattle back to the old elementary acronym for reference but stuns instead with this heartfelt response.
“The Lakes are like five willful sisters. Each one very different but yet very alike as sisters always are. Lake Superior is the oldest and the orneriest, but also the most beautiful one, the heartbreakingly beautiful one. And Lake Michigan is the sort of tempestuous but also responsible one and Lake Huron is not as responsible and she’s a little colder; she’s got more rocks around her shore and maybe a little more analytical and independent and goes her own way. Lake Erie is a younger one who’s unpredictable and you never quite know where she’s headed, and Lake Ontario is the quiet, younger one who everyone is so curious about because she’s so mysterious.”
Few could provide an off-the-cuff answer quite as eloquently as Dennis, but many are willing to try. As this year’s Bear River Writers’ Conference gears up for its annual gathering at Camp Michigania, Dennis will be on hand to expound upon the topics he so clearly loves and assist others in writing “about this place that is unique in the world.”
Dennis, who lives in Traverse City, will head to Walloon Lake for the Conference that kicks off June 2nd and runs through Monday. “I’ve been on the faculty of Bear River since the inaugural year and most years it is the only teaching I do,” shared Dennis in a recent email. “I have taught at a few other conferences in the past but none have equalled this one for its great people, positive energy, and beautiful setting… I’m proud to be associated with it.”
Unfortunately it’s a touch too late to sign up for the this year’s Bear River Writers’ Conference, which apparently fills up months ahead of time, year after year. The upside is that Jerry Dennis has a new book due out this September. The University of Michigan Press will be publishing Dennis’ forthcoming work, The Windward Shore, which is a meditation on winter on the Great Lakes.
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-Post by Megan Shaffer