Mermaids have been swimming through books and movies and people’s dreams through the ages. Wondering why Lake Michigan didn't have its own mermaid, author Linda Nemec Foster, the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College, and Anne-Marie Oomen, an author and teacher at Interlochen’s College of Creative Arts, decided to create one. Their new book, The Lake Michigan Mermaid: A Tale in Poems (Wayne State University Press, 2018), is illustrated by Meridith Ridl.
Foster says mermaids are fascinating because, “For me, it’s that sense of the other self. It’s that sense of the myth that may be real, that we imagine and use in our lives. I think that’s one of the reasons why this book is resonating so much with its audience across ages, through different generations.”
“In terms of the myth, it’s a projection of humanness onto this spirit of the Lake,” Oomen says. “I think we all love mermaids because some inner source of water is the beginning of everything. We want to make a persona of that, create a beautiful creature and have it interact with us. It answers a longing in all of us.”
In a series of poems, The Lake Michigan Mermaid weaves a haunting tale. Oomen writes in the voice of a young girl, Lykretia, whose world is overturned when her family breaks apart and is forced to sell a lakeside cottage. Foster provides the voice of the mermaid, Phyliadellacia, who lives in the depths of Lake Michigan, who brings reason and comfort into the young girl’s life. The book is richly illustrated by the watercolors of Saugatuck artist Meridith Ridl.
“When we approached Wayne State University Press, they accepted the book on the condition that it be fully illustrated, and it needed that,” Foster says. “We went through three illustrators before we found the right one. This isn’t your Disney mermaid. This is a more quiet, reflective tale. There’s no fairy tale ending. But there is rdepemption and reconciliation. We needed something deeper, more abstract, and we found Meridith Ridl.”
Ridl is an artist and an art teacher with a BA from the College of Wooster and MFA from the University of Michigan. She's represented by Lafontsee Galleries in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Foster and Oomen will read from The Lake Michigan Mermaid at This is a Bookstore/Bookbug, 3019 Oakland Drive, in Kalamazoo on Sunday, June 3, at 2 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
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