(Yes, this list includes blogs by friends and associates. However, I hope you will agree that any personal bias of mine is outweighed by their undisputed excellence.)
#1 Mittenlit – Bill Castanier is indeed “all about everything literary in Michigan.” A bibliophile of the first order, Bill consumes books the way others savor a gourmet meal. He also attends book readings, gives presentations, interviews authors, organizes literary events and provides writers of all ages sage advice on how to succeed in the beleaguered book industry. But his unique contribution is his dedication to tracking down and verifying authors’ connections to Michigan. A Hemingway aficionado, Castanier blogged about the author’s connection to The Red Fox Inn. Recent blogs have explored Owosso’s connection to the train in The Polar Express, Paris expatriate Ford Maddox Ford ending his career teaching at Olivet and Mark Twain coming to Lansing in 1871 to promote his “new” book “Roughing It.” An almost daily poster, Castanier is building a rich online archive that book lovers, academics and industry professionals have learned to rely on. The best blogs are those where the author is passionate about the topic, and Mittenlit serves as a testament to Bill Castanier’s love of books and Michigan’s rich literary history.
#2 The Todd Heywood blog on RH Reality Check and The Conversation Starts Here – Todd’s blog appears on RH Reality Check, a site devoted to news on reproductive health. Especially in this era of budget cuts, health-care uncertainty and rampant homophobia among legislators, Heywood’s postings provide insights and information on issues ranging from attempts to revisit the state’s gay marriage ban, the disturbing rise in the rate of HIV in Michigan teens and efforts to clarify state law so overzealous prosecutors could never again charge an HIV positive man with terrorism for biting a neighbor during a scuffle. Heywood is a relentless champion for social justice, as well as a skilled writer. The Lansing area is lucky to have him fighting the good fight to make our community a place where everyone is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
#3 Shedding It and Getting It – Rachel Wilkerson is a force of nature. Obese as a teenager, Rachel began eating healthy local food and embarked on an exercise program. By the time I met her in 2005, when she was a sophomore at Michigan State majoring in journalism, Rachel was a svelte and energetic sorority girl who challenged me to help her start blogging. (“You keep telling us about this great online world – how do I get started?”). A prolific blogger since then, Rachel left her job with Elle magazine in NYC this past year, to return to Michigan to launch her career as a food-and-fitness blogger. Posts range from a fabulous recipe for hearthbread topped with roasted garlic (featuring her photos) to her video (below) on whiling away the miles training for a marathon by thinking about sex. (I know this is a list of Lansing favorites, and Rachel lives outside Flint, but, hey, it’s close and I met her at MSU.)
#4 Wild Birds Unlimited – The Wild Birds Unlimited stores in Okemos and East Lansing offer nature-related products, but their blog is a labor of love not a sales tool. A recent post details the story of the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon in 1914 as a cautionary tale about taking care of our wildlife today. Other posts offer tips on buying the right optics for bird-watching and a great tidbit on how far owls can turn their heads. The site offers more than 80 birds of the week, featuring photos provided by visitors. The site reminds us that part of the joy of living in this area is the wildlife outside our windows.
#5 Biggby’s – As web savvy as any business in the country, Biggy’s coffee boasts Biggby Bob, a true Lansing original who visiting franchisee coffee shops. A full-blown website rather than a blog, the colorful and fast-loading Biggby’s site offers customers the chance to sign up for a weekly newsletter with coupons. There’s information for future franchisees, including the Ask Bob feature done in Flash. I also made the mistake of visiting while the site was touting Peppermint Stick Mocha. Excuse me while I put on my coat to head to the nearest Biggby’s to give it a try.
SPECIAL BONUS – Chris Singer’s new Stay at Home Dad in Lansing blog is a wonderful new addition. Chris writes movingly about his love and dedication to daughter Tessa. And he also offers needed much-advice and information to other dads.