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: 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.

On the next edition of Michigan Writers on the Air author Maureen Dunphy will discuss her new travel book Great Lakes Island Escapes. The book is published by Wayne State University Press. 

Grand Marais, Michigan, based writer Ellen Airgood will read from her new middle grade novel, The Education of Ivy Blake (Penguin).

Also, writer Bill O. Smith and illustrator Glenn Wolff will provide some background on their new book, Four A.M. December 25.

How do we talk about Detroit?

In the 80's and 90's, the focus was on crime and urban decay. Detroit was the "Murder City." Today, the narrative is one of possibility and resurgence.

But both of those depictions were largely imposed by outsiders, and were, at best, incomplete.

Radio Diaries: Uneventfulness

Jan 2, 2017

Several years ago, I heard a woman give a talk about a trip to Greenland where she lived with the Inuit people, traveled by dog sled, ate raw seal meat.  It wasn’t the kind of vacation most of us would choose—but for her, it was life-changing.

Not as a triumph of endurance but because she learned so much from the Inuit.  “They are peaceful,” she said.  “And they don’t talk much, only when necessary.  There is no personal ownership; they share everything.”  The list of what she learned was long but the one that struck me was this:  “The Inuit strive for a life of uneventfulness.”

National Writers Series: An evening with Ann Patchett

Dec 30, 2016

Ann Patchett is the author of novels such as "Bel Canto," "State of Wonder," and "The Patron Saint of Liars." Her new novel "Commonwealth" draws heavily on the experiences of her life. The narrative shifts back and forth from past to present, and from California to Virginia--the Commonwealth of the title. Patchett talks this hour with actor and writer Benjamin Busch. He asks Patchett why her books haven't been made into movies.

Radio Diaries: Tell Me About

Dec 27, 2016

My mother loved Christmas.  The decorating began early and covered every available surface—holly on the banister, stockings on the mantel, candles on the tables.  My father used to joke that the electric bill went down because we lit the house with candles.

She baked, too, and I helped.  First, there were little loaves of cranberry and pumpkin bread, plus little fruitcakes, which we gave as gifts.  Next were the endless batches of sugar cookies cut into stars, reindeer, snowmen, Santas—and elaborately decorated.  I made myself sick on frosting.

A children's book can be filled with wisdom and a message that resonates with readers of all ages.

That is certainly the case with Traverse City-based writer Bill O. Smith's new children's book Four a.m. December 25.

It is the story of a very special gift for a little girl.

Transcription of the book review: NOLA Gals by Barbara Rebbeck, published in 2015, honored the ten-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and received five major awards in Young Adults categories. This year Rebbeck wrote a play for young people called Turbulence. It was based on her own novel.

Radio Diaries: Smell of Soap

Dec 16, 2016

Now it’s likely that Neutrogena soap is still good for my skin, but I use it because of the smell—slightly medicinal and piney.  More than anything else, that familiar smell evokes my college years.

Leaning over one of the sinks in my dormitory bathroom, I would suds up my face, moving my fingers around in little circles like my mother taught me, rinsing thoroughly and patting the skin dry.  Then, in the unforgiving fluorescent light, I would examine my complexion for blemishes.

National Writers Series: An evening with Jodi Picoult

Dec 15, 2016

Jodi Picoult has written ten New York Times number one bestsellers, including her latest novel, "Small Great Things." It was inspired by the real-life experience of an African American nurse working at a Flint hospital, and deals with issues of prejudice, race, and justice. Picoult talks with Detroit News columnist Neal Rubin, who asked her when she knew that writing would work out as a career.

Radio Diaries: Nature Was Unforgiving

Dec 9, 2016

On the last weekend in February, my husband and I went canoeing.  The sky was blue and the weatherman promised temperatures “in the forties.”  Spring was right around the corner, we said, but we couldn’t find the corner.

Instead, the two-track was drifted deep and Dick had to pull the canoe over snow for a mile down to the Betsie River.  The wind was strong out in the open marsh and we paddled hard against it.  “Doesn’t feel like the forties,” Dick said.

Radio Diaries: Sentient Beings

Dec 2, 2016

A Native American wise man told me that they believe there are spirits in all things, in animals and trees and plants.  “We can commune with everything,” he said.

Then I heard a Buddhist speaker say that they believe there is awareness in all things. “We discover that everything is awake,” she said.

And I try to grasp how it might feel to live with the awareness that everything else has awareness?  That the chair I’m sitting on and the book I’m reading are alive in their own ways?

National Writers Series: An evening with Margaret Atwood

Dec 1, 2016

Margaret Atwood is the author of many bestselling novels such as "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Cat's Eye." Her latest books include "Hag-Seed," which is a retelling of Shakespeare's play "The Tempest," and "Angel Catbird," a graphic novel featuring a cat-bird superhero. Margaret Atwood starts off telling Doug Stanton more about how she came to write "Angel Catbird."

We all fail sometimes. No exceptions. 

It's often hard to admit, but failure is an essential part of the human experience. 

That's what Failure:Lab is all about.

Radio Diaries: Scars Leave Scars

Nov 18, 2016

I have a scar on my face, under my right cheek bone.  Not very large, maybe an inch long.  I never notice it because I’ve never seen my face without it.

I was about five years old when I pulled my little wagon several blocks from my house to ride down a long, steep hill.  Just as I pushed off, my friend Tommy jumped on behind me—and we ran off the sidewalk into a rusty barbed-wire fence.

Radio Diaries: Making a Statement

Nov 18, 2016

“Clogs are in this season,” a colleague said to me, “so you’re in fashion.”

“That’s always my goal,” I replied, thinking that I have probably never been in fashion and certainly not on purpose.  In fact, I wasn’t aware that I had bought clogs.  I picked out these slip-on shoes because they were comfortable.

This all happened a while ago now but for a brief time, my feet were stylish.  As for the rest of me, well...  “It’s the L.L. Bean look,” I say if called upon to identify my philosophy of fashion.  I’m not called upon often.

Michigan Bookmark is a series that features Michigan authors reviewing Michigan books.

"Bob Seger's House and Other Stories" is a masterful anthology of short fiction by some of Michigan’s best living writers. The settings of the stories include the frozen landscape of the Upper Peninsula, a drug house in Detroit, a suburban office cubicle, and the top of a Ferris wheel at a rural county fair. The characters range in age, from an unborn child, to a 90-year-old war veteran, to a ghost well over a century old.

The stories in this diverse anthology, edited by Michael Delp and M.L. Liebler, are presented in many forms. There is an allegory, a fable, historical fiction, and even a Western-style tall tale. Magical realism transports us to the heavens and plain, old-fashioned realism grounds us to the Earth.  One hilarious story includes lines of script-like dialogue that the main character, a frustrated playwright, creates only in her head. A short, short story, less than a page long, packs more punch, word for word, than any story I’ve ever read.

Radio Diaries: Live Music

Nov 7, 2016

After camping for three days in the rain, we decided to go into town for supper.  The town was Munising, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and the restaurant was the Falling Rock Café & Bookstore.  All we wanted was a dry place and some good food.

The bonus was live music!  A dozen gray-haired musicians were sitting in the front window of the funky, high-ceilinged old building—playing their hearts out.  Fiddles, guitars, mandolin, dulcimer, bass, ukulele, piano.  Scottish, Irish and Celtic tunes—one after another while we tapped our feet and ate our sandwiches.

National Writers Series: An evening with David Maraniss

Nov 3, 2016

Pulitzer-prize winning journalist David Maraniss says he was inspired to write his latest book after watching a now-iconic Chrysler commercial. David Maraniss was born in Detroit and is now an associate editor at the Washington Post. He’s written biographies of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Vince Lombardi, Roberto Clemente, and others. His newest book, “Once in a Great City,” traces the heyday of Detroit and its decline. He talks with fellow journalist John U. Bacon. David Maraniss starts out explaining more about how he decided to write “Once in a Great City.”

Radio Diaries: Brother & Siter

Oct 31, 2016

Last summer, my brother took me sailing on Lake Huron near where he lives.  When Bob struggled to haul up the sail, his voice held an edge of panic.  “Oh, oh, this isn’t good.”  Panic that I instantly recognized because we both tend to catastrophize about things.  

Of course we do.  We grew up in the same family where problems were often denied, rarely solved.  Later, drinking a beer in his back yard, we talked about this tendency—and other issues we’ve dragged with us from childhood.