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: 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.

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. 

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