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: 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.

National Writers Series: An evening with W. Bruce Cameron

Sep 15, 2017
Tom Haxby

Novelist W. Bruce Cameron says having his first story published at the age of sixteen was the worst thing that could have happened to him. After that first story, it took Cameron 25 more years to publish his first book, “Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.” That book was made into a sitcom on ABC. Since then he’s published 15 more books, including “A Dog’s Purpose,” which was made into a feature film released in January 2017. W. Bruce Cameron talks this hour with WTCM NewsTalk 580 radio host Ron Jolly.

Radio Diaries: Secret of Popularity

Sep 11, 2017

My mother puts the kitchen timer on the piano and sets it for 15 minutes.  I sit on the bench and open my practice book.  First I do scales and then the stupid little songs about snow flakes and rain drops and spring flowers.

When the buzzer goes off, I quit playing and bolt from the piano.  “You could at least finish the song,” my mother says in her disappointed voice.

“I hate practicing,” I say as I open the refrigerator.

Radio Diaries: Another Pair of Eyes

Sep 5, 2017

As we slide the canoe into the Betsie River, I tie a bandana around my hair and pick up a paddle.  The water looks high but before I comment, my husband says, “Water is low; I wonder if they’ve lowered the dam.”

“Water is low?” I wonder, glad I didn’t remark otherwise.  Staring down at the muscular stems of water lilies, I remember Mary Oliver’s poem—how she says the blossoms look perfect but when she gets up close, each has a defect.

Radio Diaries: Quitting

Aug 25, 2017

My mother was in the hospital with internal bleeding.  “They say I have liver trouble from drinking,” she said in a puzzled voice.  “Maybe it was those Pina coladas I had on the cruise.”

I knew it wasn’t the Pina coladas.  Twenty years earlier, as a young girl, I had asked my mother about the wine in the cupboard that disappeared so quickly.  My father told me not to mention it again.

National Writers Series: An evening with Mary Roach

Aug 24, 2017

Mary Roach writes books about science that have a sense of humor. She’s written eight books, including “Stiff,” about human cadavers, and “Bonk,” about the science of sex. Roach’s latest book is “Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War.” She talks this hour with actor and fellow author Benjamin Busch. He asked Roach about her beginnings as an author, writing press releases for the San Francisco Zoo from a trailer next to the gorilla exhibit.

An engrossing book, delicious food, and sparkling conversation. Put all that together in Detroit and you've got the Shady Ladies Literary Society.

Group founder and Detroit-based writer Amy Haimerl, author of Detroit Hustle, and Ashley Shelby, whose novel South Pole Station will be featured at the society's upcoming meeting, joined Stateside on Wednesday.

He was a welcome presence on ESPN and ABC for decades. During his 30 years at ESPN, John Saunders lived every sports fan’s dream job.

But even as this one-time Western Michigan University hockey player rose to become one of the country’s most popular sportscasters, he secretly battled depression – and endured personal traumas that are hard to believe.

Radio Diaries: Knowing How

Aug 18, 2017

I am carrying my old desk lamp into the elegant lighting store, trying to slip past the   crystal chandeliers on my way to the repairs department.  Standing in line, I stare at the clutter of parts I can’t even identify.  “Can I help you?” the man asks.

“I need a new switch,” I say, gesturing at my old lamp.  “When I turn the three-way bulb on the lowest setting, it flickers.”

The man removes the shade and the bulb.  “A 50-100-200-watt bulb is kind of hard on this switch,” he says, “but the switch itself is fine.”  Then he holds my bulb up to his ear.  “Listen,” he says.

On the next edition of Michigan Writers on the Air, Julie Buntin will read from her stunning debut novel Marlena. Heather Shumaker will lead us through the saga of the saving of the Arcadia Dunes.  And Nancy Parshall will a read short story from her prize winning chapbook, Proud Flesh.


Radio Diaries: Home to the Highlands

Aug 11, 2017

As soon as I got off the plane in Glasgow, Scotland, I felt at home—although I’d never been there.  The ruddy, angular faces and thick accents seemed familiar somehow.

Half Scottish on my mother’s side, I yearned to know this place my grandfather had left and longed for.  So when I finished college, I accepted an invitation to visit my friend, Betty, who was spending the summer in the highlands.


Think back to grade school. Remember that one kid who was always disrupting the class? The one who talked out of turn, cracked jokes, and was always getting sent to the principal’s office. In other words, the class troublemaker.

Well, it's exactly those kind of kids who are the subjects of the new book Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children at School. Author Carla Shalaby, a research specialist at the University of Michigan School of Education, spoke with Stateside about the book.

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