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: 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.

Kent Shoemaker

One of the most memorable characters in the novel "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë is Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester. He is a wealthy man who hires Jane Eyre as a governess.

Mr. Rochester is known as the passionate, difficult and mysterious man who falls in love with her in the story. But little is learned about his background in Brontë’s novel. Now, 170 years after "Jane Eyre" was published, writer Sarah Shoemaker tells his story in a new book called "Mr. Rochester."

Radio Diaries: Forecast

Aug 4, 2017

While the rest of the family is still getting dressed, my father has already walked around the motel parking lot for exercise.  Popping back in the door, he says, “Rise and shine; the weather’s fine.”

We already know the weather isn’t fine because we heard the thunder last night and can hear rain pattering on the pavement.  “It’s clearing in the east,” Dad says.

National Writers Series: An evening with Elizabeth Strout

Aug 3, 2017

Elizabeth Strout is a Pulitzer Prize winning author who has written five novels, including "Olive Kitteridge" and "My Name is Lucy Barton." Her latest book is "Anything is Possible." Elizabeth Strout talks this hour with actor and fellow writer Benjamin Busch. Strout told Busch she got started writing from an early age.

Radio Diaries: Claire de Lune

Jul 29, 2017

As a child, I learned to recognize a certain melody whenever it came on the radio because my mother would announce, “That’s ‘Claire de Lune’ by Debussy.”  She never told us why she loved that piece of music—and I realize I never asked.

My mother had a beautiful singing voice and majored in music at college, hoping to pursue a career as a performer.  Traveling to California to find her fortune, she had several impressive offers but didn’t take any of them.

International Affairs Forum-Traverse City

Dexter Filkins is a fearless truth teller and one of the premier combat correspondents of his generation. After spending a decade reporting from the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq, Filkins penned "The Forever War" a definitive account of America’s conflicts and a searing exploration of its human costs.  Filkins spoke with Bob Giles, former Curator of the Nieman Foundation of Journalism at Harvard University.

Filkins spoke in Milliken Auditorium, on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College.

Radio Diaries: Catalpa

Jul 21, 2017

The tree was already huge when we bought the house many years ago, a handsome catalpa that stood beside the back door with an eye bolt sticking out where previous owners might have hooked one end of a hammock.

Two enormous limbs reached high above our house and the neighbor’s house, and its broad leaves provided blessed shade. As the seasons passed, the eye bolt disappeared into the trunk and then bark started falling off.

“But it leaves out beautifully,” I said to the forester who came to look.

Radio Diaries: Blame the Cabbage

Jul 14, 2017

The green cabbage was too big to grip and slid out of my hand, rolling down into the carrots just as the overhead spray came on, misting the vegetables and my shirt.  Finally, I wrestled the cabbage into my cart and onto the check-out counter.

“Wow, a giant,” the woman said.

“Too big,” I said as a puddle formed beneath it.  “And too wet.”

“Blame the cabbage,” she said—and when our eyes met, I knew we were thinking the same thing.  Thank goodness we had something else to blame, something as blameless as a cabbage.

Julie Buntin is a featured author at this year's Harbor Springs Festival of the Book.
Nina Subin

“Marlena” is a novel about two teenage girls and their short but intense friendship.

Cat, the main character in the book has just moved to northern Michigan. She quickly latches on to her neighbor, Marlena, and acquires her habits and friend group.

National Writers Series: An evening with Eric Fair

Jul 13, 2017

Eric Fair worked as a contract interrogator at Abu Ghraib prison in 2004. That year photographs depicting torture at the prison were leaked to the public. Fair was not involved in that incident, but did use interrogation techniques such as sleep deprivation and stress positions. He wrote his book "Consequence: A Memoir" in an attempt to come to terms with his actions in Iraq. Fair talks this hour with Michael Lehnert, a Marine Corps veteran who was the first commander of the Guantanamo prison. Lehnert asked Fair how he came to his current position about the use of torture.

Radio Diaries: Bad Day

Jul 10, 2017

I don’t even notice that I’m getting out of bed on the wrong side until I grab for my socks and shove my toe into the heel.  And I wonder whether I should climb right back in and call it a day… a bad day.

“Hey, don’t be so negative,” I tell myself in my fake-positive voice.  “It’s just a sock.  Get a grip.”  So I get a grip on the coffee pot and manage to slosh it all over the kitchen counter and onto the floor where I soak my socks.  And when I throw the paper towel at the waste basket, I miss.

Radio Diaries: Into the Current

Jun 30, 2017

After so much preparation, we are finally at the river.  My husband slides the canoe into the water and almost before we pick up our paddles, we are swept into the current, gathered in, as if into the arms of a loved one.

Dick and I have been paddling together over thirty years and he taught me how.  I remember how graceful it looked when he showed me, how awkward it felt when I tried it.  Dip, pull, lift, twist in one seamless movement.

National Writers Series: An evening with Greg Iles

Jun 29, 2017

Greg Iles' latest book is "Mississippi Blood." It's the third book in his Natchez Burning trilogy of thrillers. Greg Iles began writing the trilogy while recovering from a traffic accident that almost killed him. Doug Stanton asked Iles to tell him more about "Mississippi Blood."

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