Writers & Writing

This is your source for NPR author interviews, recent broadcasts from the Traverse City National Writers Series, and IPR's radio series Michigan Writers on the Air. You can also find NPR authors & interviews here.

Essay: Brown Sweater

Jan 12, 2018

Glancing down, I see a bug on my sweater—but no, it’s just one of a million little balls of wool that have pilled up on this ancient garment. And as I look more closely, I am suddenly and properly embarrassed.

How can I wear this ugly old thing? The cuffs are crusty with food, the sleeves fuzzy with cat hair, and the pockets stuffed with Kleenex. It is the most disgusting sweater on the planet, hands down, and I put it on every day.

Essay: A Place for Myself

Jan 5, 2018

During my first year at a university, I lived in a single room in the dorm. The girls on my hall were fun, but at the end of the day I needed my own space where I could do my homework and play my Frank Sinatra albums.

Still, when the opportunity came to pledge a sorority, I seized it. I thought it was a chance to change my shy, serious self into one of those popular girls—the ones who were gregarious and social and attractive to boys. My friends thought I was crazy.

Sebastian Junger is an author and Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker. His book “The Perfect Storm” was made into a Hollywood movie. Junger’s latest book is “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.” Sebastian Junger is joined by Philip Caputo, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and novelist whose book “A Rumor of War” is considered a landmark of Vietnam war literature. Caputo and Junger talk with retired U.S. diplomat, and political advisor to NATO, Jack Segal. Segal asked Caputo to start the discussion by reading from his book.

National Writers Series: An evening with Murray Howe

Dec 21, 2017

Murray Howe is the youngest son of Gordie Howe, who spent 25 seasons playing for the Detroit Red Wings. Unlike his father and two older brothers, Murray Howe never worked as a professional athlete. Instead he became a doctor, practicing sports medicine. Murray Howe’s memoir is called “Nine Lessons I Learned from My Father.” He talks this hour with Ron Jolly, author and radio host for WTCM NewsTalk 580. Jolly asked Howe what it was like growing up in an athletic family.

Essay: Blizzard Conditions

Dec 18, 2017

I stare out the window at what the weather man calls, “Blizzard conditions.” Heavy snow, strong winds, poor visibility. And I have to admit, it’s just beautiful!

Easy for me to say because I’m standing here in my nice warm kitchen. The storm is wild and wonderful as long as I don’t have to travel. As long as my loved ones don’t have to travel. I review the list and am grateful they’re all at home today or living far south where no blizzards threaten.

Essay: Wooden Elephant

Dec 11, 2017

Some years ago, I traveled to Nepal with seven women and spent some time trekking in the Himalayas.  We also visited a jungle park in the southern part of the country where we rode on elephants, another kind of adventure.

Toward the end of the trip, I began to buy gifts for family, friends and colleagues.  Seeing a small wooden elephant, I thought of my secretary who collected miniature elephants.  Then I bought it for myself, because of the jungle ride.

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!

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?”

National Writers Series: An evening with Doug Stanton

Nov 30, 2017

Author Doug Stanton says we need to start talking honestly about Vietnam. National Writers Series co-founder Doug Stanton is the author of two bestselling nonfiction books, “In Harm’s Way,” about the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, and “Horse Soldiers,” about a U.S. Special Forces team deployed to Afghanistan after 9/11.

Radio Diaries: Treats

Nov 17, 2017

My husband and my cat are waiting up when I get home.  I am late and know my husband has been worried.  As for my cat, I see no evidence that she ever worries about anything.

No, she has waited up because we have an evening ritual.  I throw her some cat treats which she likes to chase.  My veterinarian said they help remove tartar and I’m glad they’re good for something because they smell terrible.

“You must have had a good time,” my husband says.

Radio Diaries: Studying Poetry

Nov 14, 2017

When my granddaughters were about eight and ten, I offered to teach poetry as part of their homeschool curriculum. One afternoon a week we sat around my dining room table to read and write together.

It wasn’t long before Emmy asked, “Why are we reading more boy poets than girl poets?” A teachable moment. Because that’s what I studied in college, I explained. Literature written by white males and taught by white males.

We spent the next year studying African-American and Native American poetry. Followed by  Chinese, Japanese, Latin American. And lots of poetry by women.

Radio Diaries: Surprise Flowers

Nov 8, 2017

I look out my front window and see a van from a florist shop pull up across the street.  A man gets out carrying a big display of flowers covered in plastic wrap.  Suddenly my ordinary day begins to sparkle.

Who could be sending me flowers?  It’s not my birthday or Valentine’s Day.  So maybe it’s a surprise.  Maybe it’s a secret admirer.  I laugh out loud at this idea, unable to imagine such an admirer, secret or otherwise.

National Writers Series: An evening with Terry McDonell

Nov 2, 2017

Editor Terry McDonell has worked with some of the most celebrated authors of his generation, but not all of them agreed with his attempts to edit their work. For example, Jim Harrison. Terry McDonell says he was proud to be part of the New Journalism movement in the 1970s and 80s. He's been the editor of many magazines over his career, including Rolling Stone, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and Esquire, and he was the founding editor of Outside magazine.

Radio Diaries: Gradual Clearing

Oct 27, 2017

Under a gray sky, we load the canoe onto the truck, choosing to believe the forecast:  “becoming partly sunny.” But the gloomy weather suits my mood.

“You okay?” my husband asks.

“I feel sort of depressed,” I say.

The wind is sharp as we push off into the Manistee River and I wish I’d worn long underwear. On this late fall day, the water is low but the colors are high. Red and orange and yellow, the oaks and maples stand along the bluffs, shining with their own light.

The last American troops left Vietnam on March 29, 1973.

America's direct intervention in the Vietnam War was at an end, after many bloody years, and 58,220 American lives lost.

Afterward, the nation, and those Vietnam veterans, had a tough time processing and talking about this war that did not end with victory.

Radio Diaries: Someone's Papers

Oct 20, 2017

I open the front door to pick up the newspaper and notice some trash out on the grass next to the curb.  “What is this?” I think irritably as I go out to pick it up.  But it is not trash.  It is somebody’s personal papers—all folded up and soaking wet from last night’s rain.

I carefully unfold them on the kitchen counter and discover a birth certificate, legal papers, credit cards, business cards, and a pile of receipts and notes—all belonging to a young man.

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.

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.

Radio Diaries: Old Words

Oct 9, 2017

There was a time when a browser was someone looking around a store, when a server was someone taking your order, and when Spam was a food you didn’t request.  Nowadays, however, those words are more likely to refer to the Internet.

There was even a time when the word “Internet” was new.  So was email, blog, broadband, download, hashtag.  And while I welcome these new words—and the technologies they describe—it makes me yearn for some of the old words I don’t hear anymore.  Words my grandparents used.

Radio Diaries: Differences

Sep 29, 2017

I once worked in the marketing department of a large organization where I was responsible for advertising and publications.  I loved the creative side of the job—coming up with ideas and copy and design.

I didn’t like the business side of the job—coming up with estimates and costs and budgets.  I’m a word person, not a numbers person.  Which is why I’m always intimidated by people who know their way around a balance sheet.

National Writers Series: An evening with Julia Glass

Sep 28, 2017

Novelist Julia Glass started writing when she was in her 30s. Before that, she was a painter. Julia Glass’s novels include “Three Junes” and “The Widower’s Tale.” Her latest book is “A House Among the Trees.” She talks this hour with fellow writer David Ebershoff at the Traverse City Opera House.

Radio Diaries: Campfires

Sep 22, 2017

It’s the week after Labor Day and my husband and I are camping on the shore of Lake Superior. We come every year at this time for a reunion with his two sisters and their companions.  After busy days, we gather around a campfire.

Tonight, there’s a cold wind off the water and we pull our canvas chairs closer to the warmth.  My husband has cut up a big pile of driftwood which we take turns feeding into the flames.  I watch the smoke rise through the pine trees into a starry sky—and feel deeply grateful for this simple pleasure.

Radio Diaries: Start at the Bottom

Sep 15, 2017

When I moved to Traverse City in 1970, I had a master’s degree and years of experience but I couldn’t find a job.  Desperate to pay the rent, I followed up on a “Gal Friday” position at the local newspaper.

Nobody would use that term today, but back then it described a kind of all-purpose assistant on the bottom rung of the organization.  “Reading proofs, delivering proofs,” the advertising director told me.  “You know you’re overqualified.”  I knew but I needed the work.

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