Writers & Writing

Author interviews, poetry and storytelling.

Jess and Angie are best friends. From the outside, they're everything best friends should be. Jess hangs out at the ice cream parlor where Angie works, and Angie reads every new page of Jess's graphic novel about a girl who fights evil mutants with the help of her reliable best friend. Neither of them talks about the fact that Jess is in love with Angie. It's a truth they won't even admit to themselves.

Irish novelist Roddy Doyle has always had a lot of literary tools in his belt, but the one he's most known for is his sense of humor. His first three novels, The Commitments, The Snapper and The Van, were all laugh-out-loud funny, and even his most serious novel, The Woman Who Walked into Doors, which dealt with alcoholism and spousal abuse, had its (darkly) humorous moments.

American author George Saunders has won the Man Booker prize for his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, a polyphonous meditation on death, grief and American history.

Saunders, widely lauded for his short stories, was considered the favorite to win the award. His novel centers on the death of Abraham Lincoln's beloved son Willie and the night that Lincoln reportedly spent in the graveyard, devastated by his grief and lingering by his son's body.

Nicknames like a real "peasouper" or a "London Particular" make the quintessential foggy day in London Town sound so quaint — an impression that's been intensified in art and literature.

Certainly, the London of Sherlock Holmes would be a lot less mysterious without that obscuring fog. Impressionist painter Claude Monet, who famously depicted the Houses of Parliament shrouded in mist, said that: "Without the fog, London would not be a beautiful city. It is the fog that gives it its magnificent breadth."

Forty years ago, an economics professor in Bangladesh launched what has often been called a revolution. His idea of making small loans available for people who otherwise couldn’t access credit — in this case, mostly poor rural women — caught on internationally.

Using this microcredit model, millions of people in Bangladesh and around the world have started small businesses, and the professor, Muhammad Yunus, was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his efforts to alleviate poverty.

Growing up as a first-generation Chinese-American in Northern California, novelist Amy Tan found herself pulled by two different notions of fate: Her mother was guided by beliefs in curses and luck, while her father, a Baptist minister, was guided by Christian faith.

As a result, Tan says, "I am full of contradictions. ... I am full of wavering questions."

Radio Diaries: Perishables

Oct 17, 2017

A few years ago, I had my old kitchen remodeled and moved everything out of the cupboards into corrugated boxes.  It was an excellent opportunity to evaluate the contents of those cupboards.  “Do I really need two muffin tins?  Do I even need one muffin tin, given the fact that I’ve not made muffins in years?”

When I moved back into a new kitchen, I had a lot more room and a lot less stuff.  And so, I’ve made a careful inventory of all the other rooms in my house and the results are disturbing.

Tom Hanks has heart. It's no news to his fans that empathy fuels his acting — including his back-to-back Oscar-winning portrayals of an AIDS victim in Philadelphia and the endearing hero of Forrest Gump. So it should come as no surprise that empathy also drives his first collection of fiction. While all of the 17 stories in Uncommon Type feature a different antique manual typewriter (Hanks is an avid collector), they are linked by something greater than typewriter ribbons: a decidedly benign, humane view of people and their foibles.

As part of NASA's twins study, astronaut Scott Kelly spent a year in space while his twin brother, astronaut Mark Kelly, stayed on Earth. That year on the space station makes Scott Kelly the American record holder for consecutive days in space. To get through that year, he had a routine.

Richard Wilbur, the former poet laureate and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner renowned for his elegant, exquisitely crafted formal poetry has died at the age of 96.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends an average of eight hours of sleep per night for adults, but sleep scientist Matthew Walker says that too many people are falling short of the mark.

"Human beings are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent gain," Walker says. "Many people walk through their lives in an underslept state, not realizing it."

Amy Tan loves jazz and classical music. "I have a Steinway, which was my life's dream," she says, sitting at her grand piano in the middle of her New York living room. When Tan listens to a piece of music, she imagines stories to go with it, so she always listens when she writes.

They had me at "parmesan pepper bread." There are plenty of cookbooks that delight the eyes with beautiful photography, but the new self-titled cookbook from Zingerman's Bakehouse (and the first proper cookbook from the lauded Zingerman's 10 businesses) in Ann Arbor, Mich., is not a coffee table book.

Written by bakery co-owners Amy Emberling and Frank Carollo, the book does have some mouthwatering images, but its real appeal lies in the no-nonsense recipes that seem like they're just an oven-preheat away from appearing warm and fresh in your kitchen.

Actor Tom Hanks has made us believe he can be anyone and do anything on the big screen.

Now he's taking us on a journey on the page: Tom Hanks has written a book.

It's a collection of short stories, with varied subjects: a World War II veteran on Christmas Eve in 1953, a California surfer kid who makes an unsettling discovery. There's time travel. In every story, Hanks sneaks in the machine he's so obsessed with — the typewriter.

It was an improbable story, and yet, it's true. Ron Chernow's 2005 biography of a Caribbean orphan who became a Revolutionary War hero, and then one of the nation's most consequential founding figures, became not just a bestseller but the catalyst for one of the most successful Broadway hits of all time — Hamilton.

In the early 1980s, the BBC approached novelist Kazuo Ishiguro — this year's Nobel laureate for literature – and asked if he would write a television screenplay. He agreed, quit his day job, and wrote The Gourmetan absurdist, gothic satire about hunger in its many dimensions: physical, spiritual and sensual. His exploration of what food means to different sections of society — bread for the poor, a circus for the rich — is as strikingly relevant today as it was 30 years ago.

When Sandra Daugherty's father died unexpectedly at 73, there was no plan. The only thing the family knew was what Grady Ross Daugherty didn't want.

"He was really freaked out about cement liners," said Sandra. "Like this Tupperware container that you get placed in, in the ground. He hated the idea of that. But other than that no wishes. He would say just surprise me. With a twinkle in his eye."

She decided not to choose a standard funeral.

Since the beginning of time, humans have been searching for ways to make ourselves feel better fast. Unfortunately, history has shown that many of those ways — cannibalism, cocaine tooth drops, ingesting heavy metals — left us sick, broke, or both. Yet we keep looking for that fast cure.

'Skinful Of Shadows' Delights Without Reservation

Oct 15, 2017

Fans of Frances Hardinge's Costa Award-winning book, The Lie Tree, will be delighted by this new portrait of a unique corner of British history, seen through the eyes of a girl who is too smart for the comfort of her time and circumstances.

'Lady Killers:' Cherchez La Femme Fatale

Oct 14, 2017

If I were a cheerier feminist — an upbeat, jolly, devil-may-care sort of feminist — I believe I would fall in love with this book. Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History would take its place alongside works about other exceptional females on my bookshelf, gynocentric efforts about Calamity Jane, Queen Boadicea, or Lady Jane Grey, who lost her head after only nine days on the English throne.

For October: 3 Romance Heroes Who Bare It All

Oct 14, 2017

There's one thing romance heroes have in common — whether a brooding duke, a workaholic billionaire or reality TV hunk: They look really good with their shirts off. (Oh, and of course they also move heaven and earth to be with the heroine, once they finally admit their love for her.) These three romances are no exception.

The operating theaters of 19th century England were dirty, crowded spaces where patients screamed and spectators bought tickets to watch life and death struggles.

Surgeons wore blood-encrusted aprons, never washed their hands, and speed was prized over skill, since most patients were awake during surgery in the pre-anesthesia days. Many patients died of infections soon afterward, if they didn't die from shock or blood loss right on the table.

Philip Pullman introduced readers to his alternate Oxford, full of magic and danger, in the His Dark Materials trilogy, beginning with 1995's The Golden Compass. The story of young Lyra Belacqua, her soul-companion Pantalaimon, and their battle against the oppressive forces of the quasi-religious Magisterium became a massive world-wide hit. Now, he's returning to that world in The Book of Dust, which will explore how Lyra came to live in Oxford.

It's not uncommon for comics to be influenced by depression, anxiety or troubled childhoods, but Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon insists his comedy doesn't come from a dark place.

"I was always a happy kid," Fallon says. "I remember there was a report card from kindergarten and the comment from the teacher was, 'Jimmy smiles too much,' which was very interesting. ... I think I would smile even when I was getting yelled at."

National Writers Series: An evening with Alice Waters

Oct 12, 2017
Tom Haxby

Author and chef Alice Waters opened her Berkeley, California restaurant Chez Panisse in 1971. Since then she’s been well-known for preparing locally-sourced, seasonal, organic food and helped inspire the slow food movement. Waters also started the Edible Schoolyard Project, a school gardening effort that now provides ten thousand meals a day. Her book, “Coming To My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook” details her culinary beginnings in the 1960s up through the present day.

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