Writers & Writing

Author interviews, poetry and storytelling.

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Maude Julien's childhood was so horrible, it's difficult to read about. Her father wanted to turn her into some kind of superhuman, able to withstand any torment without flinching. So he treated her in a subhuman way: He forced her to stay in a dark cellar at night, to meditate on death. He made her hold on to an electric fence, to strengthen her will. She had to wait on him hand and foot. And he kept her from most contact with the outside world for years.

Social media platforms can connect people across the globe — and terrorize people next door.

In a new novel, Ricky Graves is a young man coming to terms with his sexual orientation in a small New Hampshire town. He's tormented by a jerk named Wesley, until Ricky kills him — and then himself.

The news media descend. And after they've gone on to the next sad crime, Ricky's pregnant sister, Alyssa, returns to the town she fled so that she and her shattered mother can get a hold on the terrible event that has taken two lives, and understand the son and brother they loved.

Editor's note: This StoryCorps conversation was difficult to have, and may be hard for some listeners to hear and read.

Greg Gibson and Wayne Lo recently spoke for the first time in person at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Norfolk, a medium-security level prison for male inmates, but the story behind their meeting — how their lives collided and subsequently crumbled — began decades ago.

They acknowledged this at the beginning of their StoryCorps conversation at the prison.

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The writer Elif Shafak tells stories of Istanbul, Turkey, a city she used to call home.

Karen Anderson has been writing weekly essays for IPR for 10 years. Her new book, "Gradual Clearing" is a collection of 120 of those essays.
Windborne Studios

For the last 10 years, Karen Anderson has been writing weekly essays heard on Interlochen Public Radio.

The essays are vivid, personal, and relatable. Karen takes time to notice the little details and experiences of everyday life.

On the next edition of Michigan Writers on the Air:

Jack Driscoll talks about his stunning new collection of short stories, The Goat Fish and the Lover’s Knot;

Sarah Shoemaker reads from her new novel, Mr. Rochester, a story based on Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre;

And Fleda Brown provides an audio essay on Michigan poet Robert Fanning.

Tuesday marked the release of NPR's Book Concierge List, an annual book guide produced by NPR critics, reporters, and member stations.

To accompany that list, Michigan Radio has compiled a list of our book reviews from 2017. 

Check it out below!

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Book Concierge is back and bigger than ever! Explore more than 350 standout titles picked by NPR staff and critics.

Open the app now!

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

In the winter of 1949, a group of judges — including poets T.S. Eliot and Robert Lowell — met to decide the winner of the prestigious Bollingen Prize for the best book of poetry published in the United States the previous year. They gave the prize to Ezra Pound for his collection The Pisan Cantos. Then all hell broke loose.

It's that time of year — Sugar Plum fairies dancing in delight, the Mouse King, a gorgeous Christmas party, a prince, and that instantly recognizable music.

The Nutcracker ballet is a beloved holiday perennial, but Wicked author Gregory Maguire's new novel Hiddensee — which is based on the Nutcracker tale — is not exactly meant for the kiddos. It tells the backstory of the powerful toymaker, Herr Drosselmeier, who gives the Nutcracker to Clara.

Girl Meets Frog Monster In 'Mrs. Caliban'

Dec 3, 2017

This season's secret weapon in literary cocktail banter will be Mrs. Caliban, a peculiar but wonderful and long-overlooked novella by Rachel Ingalls. Originally published in 1983 and seemingly doomed to a dead end ride on the oblivion express, Mrs. Caliban was briefly rescued by an unlikely deus ex machina: The British Book Marketing Council, which in 1986 named it "one of the 20 greatest American novels since World War II." Its 15 minutes in the public eye ended quickly enough, and this strange, unlikely fable once again sank into obscurity.

In the 17th century, the poet John Dryden satirized the deep anxiety around letting women learn the Classics:

But of all Plagues, the greatest is untold;

The Book-Learn'd Wife in Greek and Latin bold.

The Critick-Dame, who at her Table sits:

Homer and Virgil quotes, and weighs their Wits;

Fiona Mozley is one of the literary sensations of 2017. The part-time clerk at the Little Apple Bookshop in York, England was named a finalist for this year's Man Booker Prize with her first novel Elmet.

Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball, wrote a new book on Robert Kennedy, holding the compelling figure up to the light of history. It raises the question: Do voters in the U.S. permit their politicians to change their minds, learn and grow throughout their lives?

Robert Kennedy served as attorney general under his older brother President John F. Kennedy and his successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson. Robert Kennedy also served as senator for New York, until his assassination in 1968.

With virtual reality rigs like the Oculus finally finding their way into people's homes, it's a perfect time to look back on the birth of a technology that almost didn't exist. Dawn of the New Everything is techie guru Jaron Lanier's attempt to explain the origins of VR, both technically and philosophically. He's the perfect person to tell this story, too: Lanier founded a company called VPL Research in the 1980s that sold the first VR development kits to scientists, government contractors, and Hollywood studios.

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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American novelist Christopher Bollen has been awarded this year's "Bad Sex in Fiction" award, in recognition of a sex scene from his novel The Destroyers that read in part: "The skin along her arms and shoulders are different shades of tan like water stains in a bathtub."

The following sentence is a little spicy for NPR, but suffice to say that the narrator compares his own anatomy to a "billiard rack."

Essay: Voices in the Dark

Dec 1, 2017

When I was a child, I didn’t need a nightlight. What comforted me was the sound of my parents’ voices downstairs in the living room. Lying in the dark, I would hold very still and listen. Not for their words exactly, just the soft murmur of conversation.

If I didn’t hear them, I would get out of bed and tiptoe to the door. There, I strained to detect the slightest sound—even the rustle of a newspaper—to confirm their presence.

If everything was silent, I would go to the top of the stairs and call down, “Mom?”

Her musical voice would reply, “Yes?”

The Aspen Institute has unveiled the nominees for its first-ever fiction prize, a potpourri of 20 works plucked from across the world. Novels, short story collections, English-language or in translation — whatever their differences, each of the nominees "illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture," in the estimation of Aspen Words Literary Prize judges.

Ricardo Liniers Siri, known professionally as Liniers, holds a unique position in the broad swath of Latin American culture.

Teen Angst Has A Body Count In 'I Am Not Okay With This'

Nov 30, 2017

Sydney, the teenage protagonist of Charles Forsman's graphic novel I Am Not Okay With This, has all the usual problems of her age group — plus one. And that one problem takes this spare slice-of-life story from merely downbeat to sobering and haunting.

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