Desert Autumn Banner

Organizations to
benefit from local
author’s novel

Interview and photo
by Tina Swiech
The Kenosha Bulletin
November 28, 2001

     Usually, Kenosha Literacy Council executives have to try and figure out who might be willing to sponsor a fundraising event. With author Michael Craft it was different. “This is the first time someone has actually sought us out,” said Jackie Niles, executive director of the literacy council. “And we are very happy he did.”
     On December 1 starting at 11 a.m. Craft will be signing copies of his latest novel at the new Kenosha Public Museum. Proceeds from that event will go towards both the Kenosha Literacy Council and the museum.
     Peggy Gregorski, development coordinator for the Kenosha Public Museum explained while there have been other book-signing fundraisers for the museum, the books have always been penned by science or history writers. “This is different because this is the first mystery novel. I just think it’s great,” she said. “When you have different kinds of activities, you bring in different crowds, and that’s good. Once people come into the museum, they will be back again.”
     The development coordinator gave examples of grandparents who have brought their grandchildren to the natural history and fine and decorative arts museum, only to bring them again. “You can go back, and you may see something the next time that you haven’t seen before,” she said. Gregorski explained money raised from the book sail will go into a fund to complete construction of the building and exhibits.
     For the Kenosha Literacy Council, “This is such a perfect fundraiser for us because not being able to pick up and read a book, to learn from it, or just to escape with it, is really sad,” said Niles. In Kenosha County, some 17 percent of people above the age of 16 are illiterate, according to a 1998 study performed by the National Institute on Literacy, she explained.
     “It’s a win-win situation for the three of us,” said the author “for me, for the museum and for the literacy council.” Craft said he is hoping that with the book-signing event, he can bring increased awareness to the literacy council and the museum. “The museum is a wonderful place that people should come and see,” he said.
     As for the literacy council, he explained he is glad to help them be able to help others. “There are a number of people in Kenosha County that are functionally illiterate,” Craft said. “They can’t read a book. It’s amazing. They can’t write a check or read instructions on a prescription.”
     Niles said there are more than 300 participants in Kenosha County that are served by the literacy council.
     “I wanted this book to debut locally with a bit of a splash,” said Craft. “A lot of people know that I write for a gay audience, but this one, Desert Autumn, is for everyone to enjoy.” The book is first in a new mystery series featuring Claire Gray as its central character. Gray is a single (heterosexual) woman of 54, a theatrical director with a knack for solving murders. She is molded after Craft’s own college theater director.
     Craft has received a number of comments from his readers wanting to know more about Gray. He said with her as the lead character, he is hoping to reach a larger audience. “There are many more women fiction readers than there are men,” he added.
     While he wants to expand his readership, he also wants to maintain his current gay audience, and he anticipates that happening, he explained. The Claire Gray book dovetails with his Mark Manning series, because Gray has made cameo appearances in those books. In fact, in his very first novel, Rehearsing, Gray was the central character. “These books go hand in hand,” Craft said.
     The next Mark Manning book, the sixth in the series, is due out in June 2002.
     Desert Autumn is available for $24.95 at local bookstores including Southport Books in Kenosha and Barnes & Noble in Racine, as well as various chain stores. Or you can simply order a book online by logging onto
     Those interested in becoming a tutor or finding out more about the Kenosha Literacy Council may call 262-654-READ (7323).

© Copyright 2001 by The Kenosha Bulletin, Kenosha, Wisconsin
Reproduced with permission

Click here to return to Desert Autumn detail page.

Click here to return to index of novels.

Click here to return to index of interviews.

Click here to return to main page.