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.

Radio Diaries: Never Give Up

Mar 24, 2017

When my daughter was ten years old, I left my marriage and turned her life upside down.  Sara was furious with me, justifiably furious.   

Often, when she was at her dad’s house, I called to check in with her.  Sara would come to the phone but not talk to me.  So I carried on a conversation as if she were part of it, then told her I loved her and said good-bye.

Radio Diaries: My Father's Dog

Mar 17, 2017

When I was twelve years old, I was finally allowed to get a puppy and my father charged me with full responsibility for her care.  “You won’t ever see me walking a dog!” he said.

She was six weeks old, a black-and-white cocker spaniel whom I named Cindy.  The early days were hard, especially the nights when she whined nonstop despite the ticking clock and hot water bottle we tucked in alongside her.

National Writers Series: An evening with John Donvan

Mar 16, 2017

John Donvan wrote "In A Different Key: The Story of Autism" with co-author Caren Zucker. Donvan is a journalist who contributes to ABC News and Nightline. He's also the moderator for public radio's Intelligence Squared U.S. Donvan talks this hour with writer and mother of an autistic son Cari Noga. She asked Donvan how the story of autism begins.

Radio Diaries: Loose Ends

Mar 13, 2017

I’m having lunch with a friend and ask her about a man we both know.  “What do you hear from Jay?”  She answers matter-of-factly.  “Oh, he died of a heart attack several years ago.”

I can hardly breathe.  Died?  That can’t be possible.  True, he and I had not been in contact recently, but I always assumed we’d reconnect somehow.

Jay was a Christian minister and I a Unitarian.  But instead of disagreeing, we used our differences as a jumping-off place to explore the big questions—in some of the most nourishing conversations I’ve ever had.

National Writers Series: An evening with Daniel Bergner

Mar 3, 2017

Daniel Bergner is the author of five books, including "In the Land of Magic Soldiers" and his latest, "Sing For Your Life," about African-American opera singer Ryan Speedo Green. He's also a journalist who writes for the New York Times Magazine and other publications. Bergner talks this hour with Interlochen Public Radio music host and producer Kate Botello. She asked Bergner how he first heard about Ryan Speedo Green.

When I was in college, I started copying down quotes from books I read—from novels, essays, poetry.  I still have those hand-written notes on yellow legal sheets and they remind me how young I was—how romantic and curious.

Here’s a line from poet Algernon Swinburne:  “I have lived long enough having seen one thing, that love hath an end.”  Oh, the anguish.

But I also needed a career, so I liked this from Emerson’s essay on Self-Reliance.  “Thy lot or portion of life is seeking after thee; therefore be at rest from seeking after it.”

Radio Diaries: Home Movies

Feb 24, 2017

For years, I’ve had a box of home movies in the basement—and finally I borrow an antique projector and set it up in the living room.

“You don’t have to sit through this,” I tell my husband.

“I know I don’t,” he replies and opens a beer.  “Do you want one?”

“Not yet,” I say.

Radio Diaries: Hawaii

Feb 17, 2017

“Honolulu, here I come,” the young man says as our little group of passengers walks through the chilly jet way.  It is an hour before dawn in Traverse City, dark and windy and bitter cold.

Sitting in the plane to Minneapolis, we wait 45 minutes to get “de-iced” by the fellow in the elevated bucket who sends great sprays of white liquid thumping against the wings and windows.

Meanwhile, six rows behind me, the young man in the bright shirt announces, “It’s 82 degrees in Honolulu right now.”

Radio Diaries: Gender Profiling

Feb 10, 2017

I need new bed sheets and decide to go to Bed, Bath & Beyond.  The floor-to-ceiling choices are overwhelming, so I look around for a sales person who can guide me through the process.

But the only sales staff I see are men.  Surely I need a woman to talk to about bed sheets since the domestic arts are our comfort zone.  But after making two circuits of the store, I have to settle for a tall young man.

Michael Delp’s newest collection of poems, "Lying in the River’s Dark Bed", reads like a surreal, post-apocalyptic novel-in-verse.  The characters who narrate the collection, the Dead Man and the Mad Angler, serve Delp’s themes of ecological awareness, spiritual darkness, and political anger well. 

Radio Diaries: Drying Dishes

Feb 3, 2017

My father wasn’t much of a cook but he always washed the dinner dishes and took pride in his work.  It was my job to dry and put them away.

Sometimes we listened to the ball game on the radio and other times we talked about my homework—which always came after dishes and before television.  One night, I noticed that a plate had some food left on it and I handed it back to my father.

“What’s the problem?” he asked.

“You didn’t get it clean,” I said.

“A good drier never finds food on a plate,” he said.

He teaches young writers at the University of Michigan, and he practices what he teaches.

Throughout the years, Keith Taylor has published short stories, co-edited volumes of essays and fiction, and written powerful collections of poetry.

Taylor joined Stateside to talk about his newest book of poetry, The Bird-while

Radio Diaries: C-Plus Paper

Jan 27, 2017

I was an English major in college and one of my first assignments was a paper on the Nineteeth Century poet, Lord Byron.  I didn’t have a clue what to say about Byron so I used a bunch of scholarly books from the library—and received a grade of C+.

I was stunned.  I’d never received such a poor grade in English before.  This was my major, my specialty, my love!  So I went to see my professor to find out what I’d done wrong.

“You used somebody else’s ideas,” he said.  “I already know what the critics think.  I want to know what you think.”

Radio Diaries: Bigger Self

Jan 23, 2017

In a world of people wanting to slim down, my daughter and I are trying to plump up… not physically but spiritually.  We’ve figured out that the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule and all the other guidelines for goodness can be summed up this way:  Be Your Bigger Self.

You know your Bigger Self.  It’s the self you like best, the generous, loving, open-hearted person that you would like to be all the time.  Instead, your Smaller Self often intervenes.

“I don’t want to go to the anniversary party,” I confess to Sara.

The Grand Traverse Commons were once home to the Traverse City State Hospital. A new memoir written by Jack Kerkhoff tells of his 45-day stay inside the hospital in 1952.
Dan Wanschura

Jack Kerkhoff grew up Traverse City. And he remembers walking past the state hospital as a kid.

“How many times I had scampered up that driveway with my gang, fearful yet curious. How many times we had wandered outside the bleak tower-topped buildings that had iron bars at the windows, and shouted at the men and women behind the bars and giggled over the obscenities they tossed back at us.”


Radio Diaries: When Everything Changed

Jan 13, 2017

I grew up with a neighborhood gang of about a dozen boys and girls, all ages.  We played together every night after dinner and when a vacant lot became a construction site, we made a game out of it—dividing into teams, each side trying to keep the other from climbing out of the hole in the ground.

The hole was deep and it was hard climbing up the sides—and all the while, your opponent was dancing along the edge, waiting to shove you back down.

National Writers Series: An evening with Kyle Mills

Jan 12, 2017

Kyle Mills recently took over writing the Mitch Rapp series of thrillers, created by the late Vince Flynn. “Order to Kill,” his most recent book, is his second in that series. He also writes his own series of political thrillers starring FBI agent Mark Beamon. But writing wasn’t Kyle Mills’s first career. 

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Do women drink beer? It's a dumb question to be sure, but watching any random assortment of beer commercials, one might start to wonder. After all, the vast majority of beer marketing revolves around men: men watching football, men laughing at jokes, men saying "whassup."

To Ginger Johnson, the founder of Women Enjoying Beer, and the author of the book How to Market Beer to Women: Don't Sell Me A Pink Hammerthe tendency of beer marketing to ignore women is not only insulting. It's also a bad business strategy.

Radio Diaries: Take Your Time

Jan 6, 2017

When Bruce arrived to pick me up for a date, I wasn’t always ready.  “Take your time,” he would say and grab a magazine off the coffee table.  And when I came out to greet him, he was always smiling—with no snide remarks or cheap shots.

This was years ago now, and Bruce and I have gone our separate ways—but I remember him fondly, especially when I need five extra minutes.  Nobody else has ever been so generous about my being late.

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