The full moon must be rising on Sunday September 8 (at least in Ann Arbor at the Kerrytown BookFest) because that’s when a fabulist and a fantasy author meet for a discussion of their new books which are drawing tremendous attention this week.

Fantasy author Ben Percy whose new book “Red Moon” will be reviewed in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review will join fabulist writer Matt Bell whose debut novel was the focus of a two-page spread in the past week’s Publishers Weekly.

Both novels are difficult to catalog or characterize, but both are products of active imaginations which are unnbounded. Percy’s book “Red Moon” is a mixed species love affair played out against the backdrop of a werewolf insurgency set in modern times while Bell’s book “In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods” is the mythological look at what fatherhood means, also set in modern times. What both books have in common is they are disturbing to the psyche.

The discussion between Percy and Bell who know each other will be moderated by Jeremiah Chamberlin, University of Michigan writing instructor, and he will have his work cut out for him. Read more about Percy’s new book in the New York Times here and about Bell’s debut novel in Publishers Weekly.

Also read an interview on here with Bell who is an assistant professor at Northern Michigan University.

A Kerrytown panel

The Kerrytown BookFest has been awarded a Michigan Humanities Council major grant for its annual book festival. The BookFest was awarded $4000 to underwrite the 2013 Kerrytown BookFest which is set for Sunday September 8 in Ann Arbor. Kerrytown BookFest was one of 26 awardees from the more than 70 organizations submitting grant requests. The BookFest is the only book festival in Michigan which focuses on both authors and the book arts.
Robin Agnew proprietor of Aunt Agatha’s mystery bookstore in Kerrytown and president of the BookFest said the Michigan Humanities Council award is an important piece of our funding and it allows us to schedule both authors from Michigan along with authors writing about Michigan.

“Each year we design programs touching on a unique aspect of Michigan’s continuing literary heritage,” Agnew said.

The 2013 theme “Michigan Narratives” includes three panel discussions focusing on Detroit including its music heritage; the city’s automobile heritage and vanishing cities. In addition, several Michigan women authors will fill out a panel on women writing about women and three Michigan children’s authors will discuss how picture books go from inception to publication. An urban pioneering Detroit printer Detroit Signal also will be featured.

The BookFest also includes more than 100 exhibitors selling both new and used books along with exhibitors relating to the book arts. As always, there is a focus on activities for young children including constructing handmade books. Author panel discussions also feature nationally-recognized and award-winning fiction and mystery writers.

Other major sponsors of the BookFest are the Kerrytown Market and Shops, the Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Shop, Zingerman’s, Michigan Theatre, EMU, Sisters in Crime, Michigan Radio and the Observer.

For more information on the grants and supporting the Michigan Humanities Council visit The Michigan Humanities Council is a private nonprofit organization which fosters a better understanding of our state and its people through local cultural, historical and literary experiences. The Council is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Finalists in the 6th annual Kerrytown BookFest book cover contest have been announced.  The contest, open to all Michigan high school students, asks the students to reimagine a cover for a book chosen by the Kerrytown BookFest Board.  This year’s book selection is Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger.  The students were supplied with free copies courtesy of Atria Books.

 Robin Agnew president of the Kerrytown Bookfest said that there were more than 100 entries. 

“Because of the volume and quality of the entries, we chose 10 finalists rather than the traditional five, from work submitted by students at Pioneer and Skyline High Schools in Ann Arbor, and Adams High School in Rochester Hills.  All of the work submitted will be on display from August 30 – September 10 at bookstores throughout Ann Arbor:  Aunt Agatha’s Books, Crazy Wisdom Bookstore, Literati Bookstore and Nicola’s.

The judges this year were the author, William Kent Krueger; publisher Steve Klein from Huron River Press; and artist Domonique Washington-McNish.   

Agnew said, ”A spirited hour and a half judging session resulted in the 10 finalists.  A first, second and third place winner will be announced on the day of the11th annual Kerrytown BookFest, Sunday, September 8, with cash prizes awarded to the winners. This is the sixth year the competition has been held and Agnew said it has grown in number of entries each year.

The 2103 finalists are:

Noe Barrell, Pioneer High School, 9th Grade

Adam Collins, Skyline High School

Shannon Cowley, Skyline High School, 11th Grade

Robert Freter, Pioneer High School, 11th Grade

Joey Graham, Pioneer High School, 11th Grade

Andrea Judd, Skyline High School, 12th Grade

Sarah Maulbetsch, Skyline High School, 10th Grade

Sage O’Brien, Skyline High School, 12th Grade

Avital Smotrich-Barr, Pioneer High School, 10th Grade

Brianna Worthing, Pioneer High School, 12th Grade


Adam Collins

Andrea Judd


Avital Smobrich-Barr


Robert Freter




Brianna Worthing


Sage Obrien


Noe Barrell


Sarah Maulbetsche


Joey Graham


Shannon Cowley

Jay Platt proprietor of West Side Books in Ann Arbor is the quintessential antiquarian book store owner. He can trace his interests in owning a book store back to at least 1970 when he visited Book Row, the legendary New York Bookstores on 4th Avenue.

“It turned on a lightbulb in my head,” Platt said.

“In the back of my mind I always wanted to own a bookshop,” he said.

Platt had graduated from the University of Michigan with an engineering degree in naval architecture and ship design, but knew “he never wanted to do that.”

His interest in boats however did help spur his own collecting interests including nautical books and books on polar exploration along with books by Jack Kerouac. Before opening West Side Books Platt worked at SBS Books on South University, Neds in Ypsilanti and at David’s Book Emporium where he was in charge of the rare books.

When he was ready to take the leap into the book store business in 1975 he used his house as collateral to borrow $3000 to open the store and it’s been at the same location ever since on 113 West Liberty Street in an historic building dating to 1888. Coincidentally, the location was once the home to a German bookseller.

 In 1976, he took another leap and by sponsoring the Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair held annually in the spring at the Michigan Union. He said in the 1970s he was riding the crest of a wave of what he now calls the “slow book movement.” He said since that time (pre-internet) he’s seen the romance driven from the book business.

He recalls at the time that catalogs and the ABE Weekly were the two primary mechanisms for buying and selling book across the country. He distinctly remembers one mimeographed catalog from which he purchased a first edition of Kerouac’s “Town and the City” for $1.50.

Platt also believes that people aren’t as literate as they used to be.

“We’re just less broadly educated,” he said.

“There was a whole generation in the 1970s which helped create the renaissance in the antiquarian book selling business.”

You can imagine that someone who has been in the bookselling business since 1975 has a lot of stories to tell, but one of his favorites was the day a women walked into his shop and asked “Do you have any books by Jack Kerouac?”

As it turned out the woman was “Frank” Edie Kerouac-Parker, Jack Kerouac’s first wife from Grosse Point, Michigan. In their ensuing conversation Platt learned that Kerouac had based the book “Town and the City” on Ann Arbor Michigan rather than his hometown which was commonly believed. Edie Parkerk would later do an event in the store which still ranks as one of his personal highpoints.

Platt was recently selected for the 2013 Kerrytown BookFest Community Book Award for his contributions to the literary life of Ann Arbor. Platt will receive the award at the Kerrytown BookFest which is set for Sunday, September 8 at the Farmers’ Market in Ann Arbor. The BookFest which is in its 11th year features more than 30 authors, book artists and more than 100 exhibitors selling books and book-related items. For more information

Robin Agnew proprietor of mystery bookstore Aunt Agatha’s Books and president of the BookFest said “Jay Platt is the quintessential antiquarian bookseller and has added so much to the literary fabric of the community.”

“He loves books, writing and authors and his zest for the bookselling business can be felt all across Ann Arbor,” she said.

Gene Alloway former Kerrytown BookFest president and owner of Motte and Bailey Books said “Jay goes beyond the call; especially for new booksellers.”

“He is generous with his advice and is an excellent mentor to collectors.”

Most days of the week you can usually catch Jay Platt sitting behind his desk just inside the door of West Side Books where he’s either sorting and pricing books or working the daily New York Times crossword puzzle in ink.