Doug Stanton: Author, creator of the National Writers Series in Traverse City

Neal Rubin

The gentleman at the movie went out of his way to tell Doug Stanton's mother, "Oh, you must be so proud of your son."

That would be nice to hear from anyone, anywhere. In this case, Bonnie Stanton of Traverse City was at Lincoln Center in New York, attending the premiere of "12 Strong" — and the friendly moviegoer was Matt Damon.

"We've moved writing from an ivory tower to Main Street," said author Doug Stanton who has helped make Traverse City the literary center of northern Michigan.

A bit later, Mrs. Stanton set her purse down, and the movie's absurdly handsome star, Chris Hemsworth, handed it back to her.

It was a very good night for Mrs. Stanton — and a very good year for her boy.

It had already been a good decade, both for him and for the city he has helped make the literary center of northern Michigan.

Stanton grew up in Traverse City, where he understood that the library was full of mesmerizing books but had no idea how they came to be. In 2010, by then a bestselling writer of non-fiction, he co-founded the National Writers Series, which has brought a parade of nationally known authors, essayists and screenwriters to a city of only 15,479 people four hours from Detroit.

Anna Quindlen, Nikki Giovanni, Lee Child, Elmore Leonard, Harlan Coben, Temple Grandin — they and dozens more have appeared at the historic City Opera House, where people pay money to hear them speak about their craft.

"A great event," said Jodi Picoult, who's come twice. Best of all, Stanton will tell you, it supports the Front Street Writers, a free and rigorous creative writing program for high schoolers from as far away as Mancelona.

"We've moved writing from an ivory tower to Main Street," Stanton said. Meantime, Traverse City is supporting at least nine bookstores — with Stanton prominent in many of them.

The movie "12 Strong" was adapted from his 2009 "Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan." Reissued under the movie's title, the book spent 10 weeks at No. 1 earlier this year on the New York Times' list of paperback bestsellers.

That followed the release of Stanton's Vietnam-set "The Odyssey of Echo Company," described by author and newscaster Tom Brokaw as "a book for all Americans to read."

At the Traverse Area District Library where Stanton used to wander and wonder, "We can't keep his books on the shelf," said librarian Robin Stanley.

He remains both a browser and a supporter, and he's looking forward to seeing something there that's not yet written.

"At some point in the next decade, one of our students will publish their own book," he said, and that won't just be a good day.

It'll be a great one.

Doug Stanton, with his pointer Princess, grew up and continues to live in Traverse City.

Doug Stanton

Occupation: Author, screenwriter, producer and co-founder of the National Writers Series

Education: Bachelor's degree, Hampshire College; Master of Fine Arts, University of Iowa

Family: Wife, Anne Gertiser Stanton; three children.

Why honored: For his writing success and role in making Traverse City the literary center of northern Michigan. 

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