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: Special Offer

Jun 23, 2017

The picture on the back of my comic book looked so real.  World War II army soldiers were firing guns and running with bayonets.  Best of all, you could get a hundred for just one dollar!

I didn’t want them for myself but for my younger brother who loved playing “army.”  Bob had a few toy soldiers but he didn’t have a hundred!  I didn’t have a dollar either but I saved my allowance and finally had enough to mail in with the coupon.  When the package finally arrived, it looked pretty small for a hundred soldiers—and then I found out why.

School’s out and summer is at hand. That means it’s time to make vacation plans.

Mission Point Press in Traverse City has your back.

They’re out with a true insiders’ guide to Northwest Michigan, including Traverse City, the surrounding area and Leelanau County.

When it comes to building love and connection between mother and baby, it’s hard to beat the ancient magic of a lullaby.

Those moments holding your baby, singing a lullaby, can live in a mother’s heart long after that baby is grown.

So imagine the extra power of a lullaby you write just for your baby. The Carnegie Hall Lullaby Project at the Flint School of Performing Arts helps young mothers do just that.

Radio Diaries: Sheer-to-Waist

Jun 16, 2017

When I went back to college for a master’s degree, I had no money so I worked at the undergraduate library.  It was nicknamed the UGLI which was the right word—a glass and steel box set down in the middle of all the ivy-covered brick.

But it had one redeeming feature:  You could meet everyone on campus in its big main lobby.  I loved working at the front desk and seeing the world go by.

Radio Diaries: Miss Curry

Jun 9, 2017

Miss Curry was my eleventh grade English teacher, a small woman with thick glasses and fuzzy brown hair.  After class one day, she invited me to join a “Creative Writing Group” and I accepted, although I had no sense of myself as a writer.

There were six of us that evening—six awkward students who didn’t fit in at school but who were welcome in Miss Curry’s living room where we sat in a circle and read our secret poems and stories.

Radio Diaries: Fixing the House

Jun 2, 2017

There’s an old gray house in my neighborhood that I walk past every week.  Pink insulation sticks out where the asphalt shingles are missing.  The people who lived there tore off the screen door and hauled a washer out onto the lawn.  Then they moved out and left a toilet in the driveway.

After that, the house sat empty for a long time but I never saw a “For Sale” sign.  “It has possibilities,” I thought, sounding like a real estate agent.  But I knew it was more than a “fixer-upper.”  It was a “starter-over.”

"Poetry is good food."

That's the lesson award-winning writer Peter Markus has been teaching to kids in Detroit for years.

He taught creative writing in the Detroit Public Schools and he is the senior writer with the InsideOut Literary Arts Project, which places writers in public schools to hold creative writing workshops.

Radio Diaries: Memorial Flags

May 30, 2017

It’s Memorial Day and I’m visiting my parents’ graves at Oakwood Cemetery—a lovely scene of well-kept lawns and ancient trees.  Many families are here and single people, older people—lifting flowers out of cars, enacting private rituals of remembrance.

I sit on the grass and talk quietly with the two people whom I dearly miss—despite our various conflicts.  My father’s simple bronze plaque identifies him as a Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy, World War II.  And next to the stone is an American flag—as there is on every veteran’s grave today.

Marc Goldberg

In 1989, during her sophomore year in college, writer Andrea Petersen had her first panic attack. She was standing in the basement of an academic building at the University of Michigan waiting to sign up for classes.

Radio Diaries: Down to Basics

May 22, 2017

After a day of hiking and canoeing, my husband and I sit by the campfire awhile.  Then, when cold and fatigue get the best of me, I crawl into the tent.  Zipping up my sleeping bag, I review what’s important.

It’s not the same checklist that I have at home when I often fall asleep reviewing what work assignments await me the following day or what’s in the refrigerator for supper.  No, my sleeping bag list is much more basic and carefully prioritized.

Thomas generously gives us the whole messy life. This is deeply satisfying, but you have to pay attention.

Radio Diaries: Convertibles

May 15, 2017

A young man cruises past me in his convertible with the top down and I’m supposed to be impressed.  I’m supposed to say, “Oh, wow, that is SO cool.  I wish I had a boyfriend with a convertible.”

But I don’t say those things because I had a father with a convertible.  Harold Anderson was the most conservative man imaginable except for his car.  He always drove a late-model Buick convertible in metallic blue or canary yellow.

Radio Diaries: Clay Feet

May 5, 2017

On the first night of the writers conference, a famous poet was at the podium.  Witty and eloquent, he spoke about writing as a sacred calling.  “Art makes the mystery of life deeper,” he said and we all nodded.

Then he picked up his new book to read his glorious poems—and the one that knocked me out was about his wife.  Such love, such devotion!  Ah, to have a husband who wrote you poems like that.  I bought three of his books.

An auto accident leaves a little girl with a shattered leg. She spends the next year bedridden in a body cast, wondering if she'll ever be back in school again, back playing hopscotch with her friends.

At the same time, she and her family are trying to build new lives. They are Cuban Jews who fled Castro's Cuba for a new life in New York City.

Fleda Brown reads from her new book, The Woods are on Fire: New and Selected Poems. And poet, essayist, and fishing guide Chris Dombrowski discusses his memoir Body of Water: A Sage, a Seeker, and the World's Most Elusive Fish.

Radio Diaries: Civility

Apr 28, 2017

When I was growing up, my mother always wore a dress—a housedress for housework and something nicer when she went out.  Women wore hats, too, and so did men—hats with brims that they took off indoors.

Things were different for children, too.  When adults came into the room, we were expected to stand up.  And we addressed them as Mr and Mrs, not by their first names.

Another formality—strictly enforced in my home—was writing thank you notes.  Even before I could write, I learned to print the words “thank you.”

Radio Diaries: Being Loved

Apr 24, 2017

My first year in college I met a fellow who was a couple years older—a good-looking, take-charge kind of guy who made me feel special and cherished.  Soon, he persuaded me to go steady and then began talking marriage.

I was dazzled by his attention—so dazzled that I couldn’t see clearly, couldn’t see him at all—his interests and goals—and whether we were really compatible.  But I convinced myself that I loved him—and much later realized I was only in love with being loved.

Tyehimba Jess was awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for poetry with his collection, 'Olio.' In it, he tells the stories of early African American performers.
Tyehimba Jess

Tyehimba Jess is an African American poet from Detroit. He recently won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for his collection of poetry called, Olio. The poems are inspired by blackface minstrel shows.

Minstrel shows were variety acts – skits, dances, music, comedy, and were popular in the 1800’s and well into the 1900’s. Performers would paint their faces black, and act out routines that often denigrated African Americans.

Radio Diaries: Antique Commode

Apr 14, 2017

In a corner of my living room sits an antique wooden cabinet which we’ve always called the “commode.”  It was originally designed as washstand with an elegant marble top for a pitcher of water and a cupboard underneath for a chamber pot.

Radio Diaries: Run Off

Apr 10, 2017

My husband and I are canoeing the Manistee River in early spring.  This might be our favorite season because the water is high and fast—and there are no bugs yet.  We can still see through the woods and catch a glimpse of deer, beaver, turkeys.

The hard work belongs to Dick who sits in the stern and guides us around fallen trees and through tumbling rapids.  Up in the bow, I only have to keep paddling and keep watch.

Radio Diaries: Security Blanket

Mar 31, 2017

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I have a security blanket.  I suspect that most of us do.  Our parents may have taken away the old flannel rag we carried around and slept with, but we found some kind of substitute. 

It might be corn chips or ice cream or a ratty old sweatshirt, but now that we’re grown up nobody can take it away.  For me, my security blanket is, well, a blanket.  Call it arrested development, but don’t take it away.

It’s no wonder Jack Driscoll has been singled out as one of America’s greatest writers. The ten stories in his new book are elegantly written.

They’re suffused with beauty and mystery and a deep compassion for the rough, yet good-hearted people who live in northern Michigan. 

National Writers Series: An evening with Beth Macy

Mar 30, 2017

"Factory Man” is Beth Macy’s first book. It’s the story of American furniture maker John Bassett the third, and his struggle to keep his furniture company in business in the face of increasing competition from abroad.Macy’s latest book is “Truevine: Two Brothers, A Kidnapping, And a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South.” It’s about two albino African American boys who were kidnapped in Virginia and forced to work in the circus as sideshow freaks. Beth Macy talks this hour with fellow author and journalist John U. Bacon.

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.

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