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annaleighclark
Journalist, writer, educator, blogger, editor; a bookish but outdoorsy sensibility.
Recent Activity
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"All this time I was writing, writing no matter what else I was doing; no matter what I thought I was doing, in fact. I was living almost as instinctively as a little animal, but I realize now that all that time a part of me was getting ready to be an artist. That my mind was working even when I didn’t know it, and didn’t care if it was working or not. It is my firm belief that all our lives we are preparing to be somebody or something, even if we don’t do it consciously. And the time... Continue reading
Posted Jul 6, 2014 at Isak
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Detroit borders the Great Lakes system, containing 21 percent of the world’s surface freshwater. The lakes are the source of the city’s water supply, but a growing number of residents can’t turn on the tap. Longtime subscriber, first-time writer. I've been tearing up periodically since this op-ed was published in The New York Times on the Fourth of July. It is a strange feeling: the story itself is a sad and difficult and maddening one. And yet, the telling of it in this space is a dream come true for me. One thing I appreciated: the rigor of fact-checking an... Continue reading
Posted Jul 6, 2014 at Isak
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Well, then. Life brims. As I've taken a breather from this little corner of the internet, so much has filled up. I don't even know how to begin telling the story of how much work and community has been threaded through the days. It has been breathless and exhausting. The past six months, I have worked harder than I ever have before. But the past few mornings, I woke up feeling glad. There is power and joy in making things, you know? One of the things made: A Detroit Anthology, published this month. Tonight is our book launch. I am... Continue reading
Posted May 31, 2014 at Isak
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This deserves your notice: Detroit 1968, a collection of photographs -- mostly portraits -- from a city at its pivot point. It was originally published in 1972 under the title New American People, which fascinates me. The nameless faces peopling this book are photographed while they are in the midst of something: their work, their families, their breakfast, the business of their lives. At the time, they were understood as the faces of modern America. As the original introduction put it, written by the curator of the Art Institute of Chicago (which exhibited the photos): "All the photographs in the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2014 at Isak
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I wrote for the good folks at Pacific Standard about the 75th anniversary of The Grapes of Wrath -- such a fierce and fearless novel. As the magazine's intro text puts it, "The Grapes of Wrath is still a staple in most American classrooms. Is that because we haven’t yet written anything that does a better job of portraying the devastation of not having enough?" The 1939 New York Times review of The Grapes of Wrath called it “as pitiful and angry a novel ever to be written about America … it reads as if it had been composed in... Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2014 at Isak
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I've had my head down the last few months working on an anthology about and from the city I love. And now it's actually taking shape. It is going to be a real thing. And seeing it just takes my breath away. We debut our cover today, with design by Haley Stone and photography by Amy Sacka of Owen Was Here. We scheduled our Detroit book launch and you and everyone you know is invited! Think: drink, food, stories, music, bonfire. Saturday, May 31 7pm Practice-Space 2801 14th Street Detroit, MI 48216 And most importantly, we've released our table of... Continue reading
Posted Mar 24, 2014 at Isak
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I hear a lot of writers talk about being priced out of New York, San Francisco, and other cities. New creative communities must be created in new places. While I chose Detroit for myself, one of the most interesting and exciting emerging literary cities is Kalamazoo, Michigan. Halfway between Chicago and Detroit, it's home to extraordinary writers, bookshops, academic programs, literary festivals, publishers, readings, journals, and more. In the piece I wrote for today's Detroit Free Press, I was especially interested in the homegrown aesthetic: Kalamazoo’s industrial history is tied to Southern influences because many Southerners migrated north for jobs.... Continue reading
Posted Mar 23, 2014 at Isak
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Houston is one of the most strange and fascinating places I've ever reported on. (That's its Art Deco city hall, above.) In Next City, I wrote about all the surprises I found there -- namely, about how practical progressivism plays out in this old-school climate, a city that basically exists through sheer force of will. Here's a collection of a few passages from the piece: Annise Parker, mayor of Houston, is hurt. She’s limping when we meet in her third-floor office at City Hall, wearing one black shoe and one tan leather slipper fitted around a bandage on her sprained... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2014 at Isak
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Here are things that happened over the last three weeks: I turned in the 74,000-word manuscript of the Detroit anthology to the publisher I went on a homemade 4.5 day reading/writing retreat in Charlevoix, Michigan (up at the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula: that's Lake Michigan frozen over in the above photo), which included good food and an epic incident involving snow, vehicles, strangers, and being trapped for six hours Through Literary Detroit, I helped host the debut of our new Motor Signal Reading Series, and an unusual book event involving anonymous family secrets and art (and we are... Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2014 at Isak
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American readers are not likely to discover today’s Borges, Neruda, or Kafka until long after they are dead (if ever). I wrote about why for Pacific Standard: When Alice Munro, a Canadian, won the Nobel Prize in Literature, you could almost hear the howl of relief from America’s readers: finally, a winner whose name I know! And, perhaps, whose books I’ve even read! American authors, journalists, and readers have been criticized for being “too isolated, too insular ” about literature published outside our own borders, as a member of the Nobel committee once put it. Americans “don’t really participate in... Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2014 at Isak
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In the literary world, I'm thrilled by the conversations, and especially the action, that the VIDA Count has inspired. It's crucial to elevate and engage with the best writing by women. But I believe the work on the other end is important as well: elevating and engaging the work of writers who have passed on. Maxine Kumin has died at age 88. The writer who told us that all poems are elegies, who wrote of the natural and the strange, who resigned the Academy of American Poets to protest the lack of inclusion of women and minorities, who championed poems... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2014 at Isak
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The best-kept secret about libraries? They are wildly, deeply, and incontrovertibly popular. They are as actively used as ever, if not more. Here's my piece for Pacific Standard in its "You Don't Know America" series ... and below, an excerpt. ...this “amazing decentralized mutual aid” creation, as one librarian described it, was founded on a radical belief that all citizens have a right to information, art, and literature. That these things are not a luxury, but a necessity, is an idea that turned the old elite concept of private libraries and ivory towers on its head. Perhaps it’s no surprise,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2014 at Isak
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For the sake of fun, community-building, and learning to sustain the work we love to do, the new Freelancers Guild of Detroit is calling on all freelance writers, editors, designers, artists, chefs, and other hustlers to join us tonight. The special guest, by the way, is Denise Scally, the CPA who has been imeasurably patient in effectively coaching me (and occasionally talking me down) while I have made a go of full-time freelance journalism for the last four years. See more about our Guild here and here. Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2014 at Isak
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I wrote a story about the Signal-Return letterpress for Printmaking Today, a beautiful British magazine. Perhaps pointedly, the magazine does not have a web presence, so on the off chance you don't subscribe and won't be soon wandering into the printshop in Detroit's Eastern Market (where I took the above photo of their display of the article), I'm sharing my whole story here. And in the spirit of transparency, since this qualifier didn't make it into my piece, Signal-Return has been an extraordinary host of events for my group, Literary Detroit. I also serve on the board of Write A... Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2014 at Isak
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...and I want to ask the people in my community to join us! Or, let me be more blunt: I need your help. I'm proudly on the board of Write A House, which is giving away houses in Detroit to writers, for keeps. It's a radical way to cultivate literary community, support artists, and develop Detroit neighborhoods. It is also a vocational ed program, training city youth in a trade. All skilled writers -- novelists, poets, playwrights, journalists, and both well-published and emerging -- are welcome to apply, and we have a preference for low-income applicants. You couldn't do this... Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2014 at Isak
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I'm honored to introduce KL Pereira's new occasional column: Literary Gothic. Ms. Pereira has become quite an accomplished fiction writer and teacher. She chose the "Literary Gothic" name because "it's evocative, recalling the Grant Wood painting, Poe, and hinting at the underlying darkness found in so much of literature." The column comes in two parts: the first, which appeared yesterday, is a close reading of a work of "gothic" literature. Part Two, which appears below, will detail how to bring the book into the classroom: she'll share her creative ideas for teaching it in an engaging way with emerging writers.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2014 at Isak
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I wish I could tell you the story about when I met KL Pereira. That day blurred in my memory, probably because I didn't yet realize what a stout-hearted, creative, generous, and true-to-herself person I'd just encountered. But as we co-edited a street magazine together in Boston, one that combined "arts and awareness" and was sold by homeless and low-income people on streetcorners and trains, it was my joy to discover her many colors. As we together tried to figure out the thorny issues that came our way -- an article we published appears in another magazine! a vendor is... Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2014 at Isak
In the Columbia Journalism Review, I reported on the dismantling of the Cleveland Plain Dealer in a piece which has generated quite a lot of interesting feedback. It begins: As a major reorganization of the Cleveland Plain Dealer takes shape, veteran reporters are adjusting to “backpack journalism,” the division of staff into two companies, a looming move to a new office, and demands to post stories more quickly. At the same time, they are memorializing their old newsroom in striking images that are circulating on social media and in email chains. One such photo was sent to CJR by a... Continue reading
Posted Jan 21, 2014 at Isak
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Spoiler: it was never a choice between saving the city's art or its pensioners. I write about this for Next City: It has become commonplace for cities in crisis to see philanthropists, non-profits and other private organizations filling the void, performing the vital tasks that City Hall can no longer do itself. An especially powerful example was revealed this week in Detroit, which is currently negotiating the terms of the largest municipal bankruptcy in history. In an unprecedented “grand bargain,” nine local and national foundations committed $330 million in a deal to save the Detroit Institute of Arts from being... Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2014 at Isak
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In my first piece for Al Jazeera America, I wrote about a scary day at the beach, the precarity of freelancing, and all these wild emotions I've felt about getting health insurance for the first time in nearly four years. This is the first piece in a long time that caused me to cry while writing it. From the opening: On a warm afternoon in July three years ago, I played in the water at the beach on Belle Isle in Detroit. It was a spontaneous stop after a day of dancing, eating and the energetic company of my friend... Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2014 at Isak
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“You should smell a rat when people talk about reading as a ‘leisure activity.’” Jeanette Winterson said this at a talk in April, which I attended with pen and notebook in hand. But I was too rapt to take notes. In dismissing those of us who speak of reading as a ‘hobby,’ something we wish we had time for or that we save for vacations, Winterson referenced Malala, the 14-year-old shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating for literacy for girls. There are scores of assaults and oppressive laws designed to keep books from certain groups of people.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2014 at Isak
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My first story for NBC News is a dark one. I feel the stakes of this one, and won't pretend I didn't cry during the reporting. Here's how it opens: The air on Heidelberg Street reeked of smoke one recent morning. Char and ash darkened the snowy sidewalks. But the color remained: shocks of red and yellow and blue that polka-dot this blighted east side neighborhood, making it one of the city’s leading tourist attractions. For 27 years, The Heidelberg Project, founded by artist and Detroit native Tyree Guyton, has arranged found objects — tires, televisions, toys — with artful... Continue reading
Posted Dec 18, 2013 at Isak
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I got to talk with the oddball inventor of instant replay, Roger Staubach, Terry Brennan, Rollie Stichweh, and, um, my dad for a story I'm proud to finally share with you. Even Lucille Ball and Lee Harvey Oswald make cameos. Here's how my article for Pacific Standard opens: All Tony Verna wants is a little credit. It’s been 50 years, for god’s sake. Verna may be living a plush life in Palm Desert, California, alongside a shelf packed with Emmys. But trophies don’t matter if no one knows what you did to earn them. “What should it say on my... Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2013 at Isak
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I wrote about this pivotal moment in Pacific Standard, drawing from the remarkable on-the-ground reporting by the folks at the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press -- who are truly doing holy work in chronicling one of the most important American stories of our generation. Here's an excerpt from my #2 in my take: (Dissenters) suggest that the city should first sell its assets—such as artwork in the extraordinary Detroit Institute of Arts—to pay down debt before cutting contracts and benefits. Last week, the city’s largest creditors asked (Judge Steven) Rhodes to order an independent evaluation of the DIA’s prized... Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2013 at Isak
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I wrote it up for Architect Magazine: For the firm's first-ever project in Detroit, SHoP Architects is aiming for nothing less than a Rockefeller Center for the Motor City. Detroit billionaire Dan Gilbert is giving the New York team the opportunity to build just that for an historic two-acre downtown site on Woodward Avenue. “We’re interested in making a building that’s both a catalyst for Detroit’s revival and an iconic addition to the cityscape,” said SHoP principal Gregg Pasquarelli, AIA. “We want it to be a big civic presence.” Besting top-level firms in a global competition, SHoP was hired by... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2013 at Isak