Doug Stanton remembers the first time he stood up in front of an audience in Traverse City’s opulent 19th century Opera House to talk about writing.
It felt surprisingly good.
“We talked, we had food, we had a few drinks,’” says Stanton, a Traverse City resident whose two nonfiction books (Horse Soldiers, In Harm’s Way) were New York Times best-sellers. “I think I said, ‘Let’s do this again sometime” — and a month later we were back again with Elmore Leonard.”
That evening in the spring of 2009 was the beginning of the National Writers Series, which brings a steady stream of celebrity authors to this tiny Michigan resort town for “up close and personal” readings and discussions. At least once each month, a prominent writer is brought to Traverse City to present and discuss his or her work in an intimate and relaxed setting with plenty of audience interaction.
“The aim is to have people lean in around the fire of a great narrative, to connect with them,” says Stanton. “And that means having conversation.”
Over the three years since it began, the series has featured more than 50 writers like Mario Batali, Roy Blount Jr., Tom Brokaw, Philip Caputo, Peter Mathiessen, Vince Gilligan, Jodi Picoult, Anna Quindlen, James Bradley, Geraldine Brooks and Natalie Bakopoulos. And it has boosted Traverse City’s reputation as an unusually bookish town: Livability.com has listed it among its Top 10 Cities for Book Lovers, and Publishers Weekly ran a full-page feature entitled “Traverse City is For Book Lovers.”