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.

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."

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.

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