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.

Amy Barritt

Feb 1, 2014

“I know I’ll find a copy,” Amy Barritt says.  “Someone has one.”  She is talking about a book called “The History of Buckley,” a little town south of Traverse City.  Why does she care?  Because Amy has a passion for research and because she’s the Special Collections Librarian at Traverse Area District Library.  “It’s my personal mission to build our local history program,” she says.

Growing up in Kingsley, another little town south of Traverse City, Amy counts as one of her successes finding the records of the Kingsley Farmers’ Coop.  “The building is still there,” she says, “It’s a slice of regional history.”

“Research requires a certain skill set,” Amy says, and lists “tenacity” first.  “It’s the thrill of the hunt and the rush when you find what you’re looking for.”  She also helps other people find what they’re looking for when she staffs the Reference Desk.  “The questions are seasonal,” she says.  “Like gardening in the spring, canning in the fall.  We’re a how-to culture and we like to do it ourselves.”

“I want people to have access to information in whatever way fits for them,” Amy says, “whether it’s at home, standing in the grocery line, or here at the library.”


Drop-Inners

Jan 25, 2014

A good friend is dying and I contact his wife to set up a time to visit.  He and I have shared meaningful conversations and we need one now.  Ten minutes after I arrive, however, a golfing buddy drops in and the three of us chat about local events.

Ten minutes after that, a woman colleague drops in with a bowl of chili.  The four of us chat about local events.  I don’t want to talk about local events; that’s why I set up a time for a private visit.  Then I remind myself it’s not about me.  It’s about my friend and he seems to be enjoying all this attention and affection, lying in a hospital bed in his living room.

I stay an hour and the golfing buddy is still there when I leave.  And I reflect as I’m driving home that the world is divided into two kinds of people:  the Drop-Inners and the Make-an-Appointmenters.  I’m clearly in the latter group.

I wish I weren’t.  All my life I’ve wanted to be more spontaneous, flexible, go-with-the-flow.  But trying to be spontaneous is a contradiction in terms.  In my next life I might drop in on you, but for now—I’ll call ahead.


Writer Jerry Dennis and illustrator Glenn Wolfe talk about the newest edition of their bestselling collaboration, It’s Raining Frogs and Fishes: Four Seasons of Natural Phenomenon and Oddities of the Sky. 

William and Patricia Storrer provide a guided tour of the vineyards and tasting rooms of the Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau County through the pages of their recently published book, Up North Michigan Wines by the Bay.

Fleda Brown reads some of later work of the celebrated American poet, Lucille Clifton.

Eric Hines

Jan 18, 2014

“I’m an advocate for amateurism,” Eric Hines says, “which means you love what you do.”  What Eric does is manage WNMC, the radio station at Northwestern Michigan College.  “Radio is increasingly homogenized,” he says.  “Fewer people are doing adventurous things.  We’re a place for people to do locally-focused radio that isn’t professional.”

“I push on my DJs,” Eric says.  “Don’t make it perfect; make it good.”  By “good,” he means something to engage the audience—which is a very diverse group.  “Our bread and butter is music,” Eric says.  “Jazz, naturally, and also world music—which I love because I grew up in a Puerto Rican neighborhood in South Philadelphia hearing salsa.  In many cultures, music is more than entertainment.  It carries the news.”

“One of our core things is to feature local musicians live in the studio,” he says.  “I’m big on spontaneity and sincerity—and having it go out in the moment with no editing.  I hate perfectionism.”

All this happens with the help of 85 volunteers.  “I’m not a people person,” Eric says, “but I love being with these folks.  They’re plugged into the community and each one has something personal to bring to the air.  A passion.”


Author Benjamin Busch On Al Qaeda's Rebound

Jan 13, 2014
Courtesy photo

Benjamin Busch is a writer, actor and Iraq war veteran. His photography has been displayed at the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City and he has been a featured author at the Traverse City National Writers Series. Today Busch joins other Iraq war veterans on The Takeaway to reflect on Al Qaeda's rebound. The show starts at 2:00pm on IPR News Radio.

Waiting for Perfection

Dec 28, 2013

I don’t know where I first got the message that perfection is a goal.  Somehow, I grew up trying to achieve it.  Trying to get A’s in school to please my dad, trying to look like a movie star to please the boys.  Trying and trying.

But even when I got an A, my father asked about my other grades.  And when my hair curled just right there was a pimple on my chin.  You’d think I’d figure out that perfection was impossible but instead I just tried harder.

Once or twice, everything came together.  Many years ago I was visiting a boyfriend in California and we were going to a party at the home of some famous Hollywood person.  On that evening, I managed to assemble just the right hair and skin and dress. 

“This is it,” I thought.  “I’m here.”  But as I was stepping down into the host’s sunken living room, I stumbled and fell flat on my rear end.  A bruise the size and color of an eggplant would be the result.  Along with the reminder about perfection.  It’s not only an impossible goal; it’s the wrong goal.  A lesson I’ve been learning—like all the others—imperfectly.


(Editor's note: This story was first broadcast on September 3rd, 2013) 

The mystery of who killed Daisy Zick has been on the minds of police and residents of Battle Creek since January, 1963.  Though at least three people caught a glimpse of her killer, no one has ever been brought to justice for the crime.  

Writer Blaine Pardoe's latest book is called Murder in Battle Creek: The Mysterious Death of Daisy Zick.  He joined Cynthia Canty in the studio to talk about Daisy Zick, her unsolved murder, and the possibility that the killer may still be alive.  

Listen to the story above.

Alan Newton

Sara Paretsky is the author of 16 crime novels featuring her star protagonist, female private eye V.I. Warshawski. In her latest book, "Critical Mass," V.I. uncovers secrets buried in the rubble of World War II. Paretsky spoke with Nancy Baker, who serves as program director of Evanston Scholars in Evanston, Illinois.

This is the week we say farewell to autumn and officially welcome winter. (Unofficially, we can all agree, winter has arrived early and seems to have settled right in for the duration.)

And one of the great pleasures of changing seasons here on Stateside is the chance to welcome back poet and writer Keith Taylor. Taylor coordinates the undergraduate creative writing program at the University of Michigan. But we like to think of him as our Friendly Stateside Reading Guide.

Listen to Keith’s book pics above.

     Strings Attached has become an overnight sensation about the role that great teachers play in setting expectations in our lives. Authors Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynksy joined Interlochen President Jeff Kimpton in the studios of IPR during a recent visit to the Interlochen campus.  In this interesting and revealing interview, these issues are discussed with the authors and two other national figures: Steve Hayden, former Executive Vice President of the world's largest advertising agency Ogilvy Mather, and Dr. Mary Palmer, dean emerita of the Univ. of Central Florida College of Education and one of the nation's top arts education advocates.   

Alan Newton

Nikki Giovanni is a the author of many collections of poetry, as well as works of nonfiction and children's literature. Giovanni's creative output spans more than 40 years and expresses her strong racial pride and respect for family. Her latest book, "Chasing Utopia," is a highly personal combination of poetry and memoir. Our host today is books editor at O Magazine, Leigh Haber.

    

Jeff Salonen

Nov 30, 2013

“When I was in high school I got a job with a construction framing crew,” Jeff Salonen says.  “I fell in love with it, seeing things come together.”  Today, Jeff works for Creative Kitchens in Traverse

Traverse City and he still enjoys seeing things come together.  “I get to know people,” he says.  “Find out what they want—and then design something that makes the dream fit the budget.”

Why kitchens?  “I love to cook,” Jeff says.  “To entertain—and everybody gathers in the kitchen.”  He likes to organize the space so that things are where they should be.  “When you reach for a knife, you find it.”

“Sure, there are computer programs that can design your kitchen,” he says, “but it might not be balanced or functional.  Each customer has individual needs.  I work to build a relationship,” Jeff says, “develop trust, and let the product sell itself.  I’m a people person.  If I make a mistake, I take care of it.”

He admits he works long hours.  “We can be at Disney World and I’ll get a call—and I can tell someone exactly what needs to be done.  I’ve got a big heart and a conscience, so I want people to be happy.”


National Novel Writing Month

Nov 27, 2013

People who dream of writing the next great novel have gotten a little encouragement in November.  It came in the form of National Novel Writing Month. Throughout November, aspiring writers from around the world have been trying to reach the goal of writing 50,000 words. It's a sprint to the finish for a "NaNoWriMo" group in Traverse City as Arts Reporter Brad Aspey found. 

To Last a Shoe

Nov 23, 2013

The shoe repairman glances up as I walk into his tiny shop.

“I’m having my kitchen remodeled,” I say, “and when the guys pulled the cabinets off the walls, they found this in the rafters.”  I haul a leather boot out of my backpack.  “I’m hoping you can tell me something about it.”

“It’s old,” he says with a half-smile.  “Probably fifty years.  Star brand or Wolverine.”  I’d noticed that the boot had been re-soled and re-heeled, rather crudely.  

“Did those repairs himself,” the man says.  “Everybody had their own last.”  I don’t know what he means.  “L-A-S-T,” he says and points to the metal form of an upside-down shoe anchored to his bench.  “Don’t you wonder how the boot got into the rafters?” I ask but the repairman isn’t interested in that part of the story.  He is showing me some old lasts on a shelf, attached to stumps.

“Used them to last a shoe,” he says, turning the word into a verb.  I think about how people used to try hard to last things.  Today, almost everything is disposable.  And I leave his shop wishing we could last more of what we have—boots, clothes, computers,  friendships, marriages.  All of it.


National Writers Series

Journalist David Finkel talks about war and the ongoing effect it has on those who fight. Finkel is a staff writer at the Washington Post and the author of two books about the war in Iraq, from the point of view of those who fought in it. "The Good Soldiers" follows the lives of soldiers on the front lines in Baghdad. In his latest book, "Thank You For Your Service," Finkel revisits these solders' lives after coming home.

Jamie Ford is the author of two novels, "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet," and his latest, "Songs of Willow Frost." Both take place in Seattle, where Ford grew up. His books are informed by the city's history, and also his feelings of melancholy toward his childhood home. On this program for the National Writers Series, Jamie Fordtalks with host Rich Fahle about why he's so attached to telling stories from this particular place.

On the October Michigan Writers on the Air program, Alex George talks about his international bestselling book, The Good American.

Then Fleda Brown reads from her new collection of poems, No Need of Sympathy.

In the final segment, retired attorney Berkley Duck introduces his first work of crime fiction, The Grapewine.

Michael Paterniti says the greatest storyteller he ever met is a cheese maker in the small Spanish village of Guzman. Paterniti's latest book is called The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and World's Greatest Piece of Cheese. For a previous book, Paterniti ended up on a cross-country road trip with Albert Einstein's brain in the trunk of the car. His literary non-fiction has appeared in magazines such as Outside, Rolling Stone, and Esquire. He spoke with Doug Stanton at the Traverse City Opera House.

On the September Michigan Writers on the Air, we celebrate the life of Elmore Leonard by rebroadcasting an interview with Elmore and his son, Peter, first aired in June of 2009.

In the second segment of the program, Mary Elizabeth Pope reads from her sizzling new collection of short stories, Divining Venus.

In the final segment, Fleda Brown reads some of the engaging work of poet Maurice Manning.

Benjamin Percy’s critically acclaimed novel "Red Moon" began as a 6th grade report on werewolves.

"You know, I received a B-minus on this paper,” he told a crowd at the City Opera House in Traverse City. “Which is one of the many reasons it feels so good to say--you know, to hold this book in my hands and say, 'In your face, Mrs. Ziegenhagen!’" 

Temple Grandin says too many kids with autism are coddled, that teachers and parents sometimes don't realize what their kids are capable of.

"Half the people in Silicon Valley have got some degree of Asperger's," she says.

In this episode from the Traverse City National Writers Series: Temple Grandin talks about growing up in the 1950s with autism, and how she gained a foothold in a traditionally male field. She has revolutionized the slaughterhouse industry.

She's also a prolific writer. Her most recent book is "The Autistic Brain."

On the August Michigan Writers on the Air, Scott Craig reads from The Story Next Door, a book adapted from his radio series on Classical IPR. Then Ellen Stone talks about and reads from her prize-winning chapbook, The Solid Living World. At the end Fleda Brown provides a commentary on contemporary American poet Thomas Lux.

Jason Matthews worked as an intelligence officer in the CIA for 33 years. Now retired, he's the author of a novel called "Red Sparrow," a fast paced spy thriller that draws on his life with the agency. Matthews was a guest this May at the National Writers Series in downtown Traverse City. NWS founder and New York Times bestseller Doug Stanton sat down with Matthews to talk about his debut novel and the exciting life of intrigue that led up to it.

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