On June 2, 2015, 150 years to the day when the Civil War ended, Jeff Shaara, America’s premier novelist about the War, will be onstage at the National Writers Series and in conversation with one of the nation’s best interviewers, Ed Tracy. This night at NWS marks the launch of Jeff’s national book tour for his new novel, The Fateful Lightning, and that’s quite an honor for NWS and Traverse City. This is one evening at NWS not to be missed.

While directing the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago, Ed Tracy pioneered a new and entertaining way of showcasing authors on their book tours. His visit to our NWS stage completes a circle of sorts. During my own book tour visit to the Pritzker, I met Ed, we became friends, and some of that experience at Pritzker helped shape what would become the National Writers Series’ own style of conversation. Ed’s first request of his visiting authors was, “Don’t read from your book.” This may seem small, but most author events involve a lecture, reading, and maybe a Q&A. NWS was founded by authors and their readers on the idea that conversation, and up-close and personal moments where we tell the truth about ourselves, can bridge worlds between authors and readers. We like to say that NWS events are like dinner parties where, at around eight o’clock in the evening, the conversation turns surprising, maybe provocative, and, above all, entertaining.

This is to say that the past – our country’s fascinating past of 150 years ago – will spring to life onstage June 2. Historian John Mitchell, one of Northern Michigan’s own award-winning authors, will welcome Jeff Shaara and Ed Tracy to the Opera House. If you haven’t read it, John’s engrossing book Grand Traverse: The Civil War Era is a must-read for anyone wanting to know how Traverse City’s residents of 150 years ago thought of the world. During that summer of 1865, Traverse City’s own men would start returning from the War to settle down to new and different lives along Front Street. And sometimes, on an evening, as you sit in the Opera House, you can nearly hear those distant footfalls outside those high windows, the clop of horses’ hooves on the street, the bustle of people getting on with the job of making a living. The world was new, and at the same time it was already old, in need of restoration and rest from war.

The night is special for another reason: Jeff Shaara and Ed Tracy will be part of our annual recognition of the NWS Scholarship recipients. To date, NWS awarded more than $35,000 to area high school seniors headed off to college. Many of these young authors have been students in the Front Street Writers Program (FSW), which is a rigorous, for-credit, and free creative writing workshop that we created in partnership with Traverse City Area Public Schools. FSW has been wildly successful and has made an enormous difference in the lives of area students. At this event, we’re going to hear a powerful reading by one of our 2015 Scholarship Recipients. We want to thank for your continuing support!

In short, the night of June 2 at the National Writers Series is going to be one for the history books.

See you at the Opera House,

Doug Stanton, Founder