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: Celebrating Imperfections

Aug 12, 2016

Everywhere I look, something needs fixing, cleaning, organizing.  Weeds in the garden, dust balls under the table, papers on my desk.  So, I start in the kitchen, down on my knees with a bucket and sponge, finding cat toys and dried-up broccoli and pretzels.  Lots of pretzels.

But finally, the old hardwood floor shines, really shines—for about an hour.  By suppertime, I can already see a footprint in the doorway.  Mine!  I bang the bucket around on my way to the basement and go pull weeds.

Radio Diaries: Being an Expert

Aug 5, 2016

I need some paint for touch-ups on my kitchen cabinets and my kitchen guy said to take a cabinet door to the paint store.  “Ask them to match it,” he said, “and make sure you get a paint with no catalyst.”

I haven’t a clue about the catalyst part and confess this to the man behind the counter. He frowns and seizes this opportunity to display his expertise—in such technical terms that I’m more confused than ever.

Radio Diaries: B&B Roundup

Aug 1, 2016

“Can you recommend a restaurant?” I ask the woman behind the desk.  “Someplace we can get a cold beer?”  She nods as if this were a familiar question.  My husband and I stand in the lobby of the Super 8 Motel at the western edge of Iowa—after a 500-mile drive in ninety-degree heat.

“The B&B Roundup,” she says, “down Main Street, on your right.”

Radio Diaries: All about Love

Jul 22, 2016

A friend sends me a play list of favorite songs and I slide the CD into my car stereo.  Suddenly, instead of the news, I’m listening to Frank Sinatra.

Instead of driving my car, I’m lying in my dormitory bed at college, singing “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.”  I know all the words and all the feelings by heart—by broken heart.

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

Seasonal Roads is the title of L.E. Kimball’s impressive new book of stories. The title refers to roads that are unplowed and therefore unpassable in winter. Kimball guides you down some of these roads in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – into cabins, forests, and rivers, and into the lives of three women. Author Lisa Lenzo has this review.

National Writers Series: An evening with Brian Castner

Jul 14, 2016

Writer and veteran Brian Castner wanted to write about the war in Afghanistan, but he wasn’t able to get interviews with generals, politicians, or other high-profile figures. So he decided to write the book that only he could write. Brian Castner’s latest book, “All the Ways We Kill and Die,” is about his friend and Traverse City native Matthew Schwartz, who was killed by an explosive device in Afghanistan. The book is an investigation into finding the person who made the bomb that killed Schwartz. Castner talks this hour with actor, author, and fellow veteran Benjamin Busch.

Radio Diaries: Taking Down the Trees

Jul 13, 2016

Too much light is coming in my upstairs window this afternoon.  It’s pouring through an empty space in the sky where two trees used to be.

It took a crew of men a single morning to take down two maple trees in front of our house, trees which had spent a hundred years growing taller than the rooftops.  Now, ragged chunks lie everywhere in the grass, oozing sap and a wild sour smell.

“We were just going to trim out the dead stuff,” one of the work crew said, “but when we got up there, it looked pretty bad.”

Radio Diaries: My Landlord

Jul 6, 2016

When I left my marriage, I moved into a small rental house with my ten-year-old daughter.  The floors creaked and the windows leaked and the oven door wouldn’t stay closed, but I loved the place.  It felt cozy and funky and just the right size for my downsized life.

Then, after I’d lived there about six months, my landlord stopped by to tell me he had a buyer for the house.  “But I love it here,” I said, “and I’m in the middle of a divorce.”


CREEM Magazine began in 1969, sold from the trunk of Barry Kramer’s car. Kramer was the creator and publisher of the magazine, and from that small beginning, it blossomed into one of the top music publications in the world. It was bold in its irreverence, and it launched the careers of some of music’s biggest names — both artists and writers.

Radio Diaries: Mother's Refrigerator

Jun 29, 2016

My mother’s refrigerator was jam-packed—with jam and every other foodstuff that could be crammed onto its shelves.  “Please find me some black olives,” she’d say and I would dive into the chaos.

“We have three jars of black olives,” I would finally announce.  “Two are moldy.”

“Oh, goodness,” she’d say, as if surprised—though she had bought the jars herself.  “Throw them away before your father gets home.”

National Writers Series: An evening with David Ebershoff

Jun 23, 2016

David Ebershoff's novel “The Danish Girl,” is based on the story of a real person, but it’s a fictional book. Ebershoff says he wrote it as fiction to take us inside the character’s heart. “The Danish Girl” is about a Danish man named Einar Wegener who becomes one of the first people to seek out gender-altering surgery to become a woman, named Lili Elbe. David Ebershoff talks with writer David Griffith, who asked Ebershoff if he knew when he was writing “The Danish Girl” that it would interest the public so widely.

Radio Diaries: Friends with History

Jun 22, 2016

The first time Judy and I had lunch, we spoke from the heart.  She was just re-entering the workforce after raising four kids; I was just exiting to have one.  But we didn’t talk much about children.

We talked about ourselves, asking hard questions.  Judy was wondering about leaving her marriage.  I was wondering about leaving my job.  We didn’t know what we wanted—except to become better friends.  That was over 40 years ago and we’re still talking. 

Michigan has a rich history of wonderful writers. Among them are more than a few marquee names, but there are so many more whose works have been put on the shelf and are waiting to be rediscovered.

Jack Dempsey and his brother Dave Dempsey are doing their best to call attention to these unheralded Michigan writers with their latest book, Ink Trails II: Michigan's Famous and Forgotten Authors.

The book brings 16 writers' stories to the forefront to help readers rediscover them or discover them for the first time.

Now that we've gotten ourselves past Memorial Day, nice lazy weeks of summer reading beckon. Packing supplies for a day at the beach has to include a book. Here's a great suggestion for a beach read: The Charm Bracelet by Viola ShipmanIt's perfect because it is set in the fictional Michigan beach town of Scoops. 

Radio Diaries: Fred, the Actor

Jun 15, 2016

I met Fred at a fraternity party—a big burly guy with a handsome face and a deep voice.  Deep and dramatic—and I knew before he told me that he dreamed of being an actor.

On our first date we rode his motorcycle 20 miles from campus to an old cider mill.  With a gallon of cider and a bag of greasy donuts, we tramped the fields while Fred stood on stumps and proclaimed lines from Shakespeare.

Then we headed to the football game where Fred stood up in the stands to proclaim more Shakespeare.  “The play’s the thing!” he cried.

Radio Diaries: Eating Out

Jun 8, 2016

When I was growing up in Grand Rapids, my family sometimes went to dinner at a German restaurant called the “Schnitzelbank.”  Before the meal, my parents enjoyed having a “cocktail”—while my brother Bob and I finished off the basket of bread.

It was good dark German rye with whole seeds and hard crusts, unlike anything we ate at home.  When the waitress finally came, our father would say, “Order whatever you want,” and we did, forgetting we were already full.

Radio Diaries: Bad Mother

Jun 1, 2016

“Mom, can I have this?” my daughter asked.

We were browsing in a toy store and Sara had picked up one of those little wooden animals with jointed legs that move when you push on the base.

“No,” I said.  “You’d be bored with that in ten minutes.”

Like a good daughter, Sara put it back on the shelf.  Like a bad mother, I put it out of my mind.  Years later she told me how this experience had affected her.  “I was just crushed,” she said.

“I really said that?” I asked.

“You really said that,” she said.

Tom Carr

Are you a fan of a good murder story? If so, you’ll find plenty of well-known murder cases all around Michigan.

Northern Michigan author and journalist Tom Carr has gathered up a bunch of them in his new book, “Blood On the Mitten: Infamous Michigan Murders.” The book takes a look at Michigan murder cases all the way back to the 18th century.

You may know Carr as a former reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle and a contributor to IPR News.

Radio Diaries: Serving Your Country

May 25, 2016

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 my father signed up—knowing he’d be called up—and served with the Navy on an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific.  Dad never talked much about the hardships—about the kamikaze pilots that targeted his ship, about the crash landings of our own planes, about preparations for an invasion of Japan.

Instead he talked about discovering macadamia nuts in Hawaii, about fooling the censors when he wrote my mother that they were heading to the Elysian Fields.  This Greek term for paradise meant he was coming home.

The Mad Angler, himself, Mike Delp will read from his new collection of poems, Lying in the River’s Dark Bed: The Confluence of the Deadman Poems and the Mad Angler Poems.

Petoskey-based writer Stewert James will be here to talk about his trilogy of political thrillers set in northwestern Michigan.

Fleda Brown will provide a commentary on American poet Amy Gerstler.

Radio Diaries: Lilacs in Bloom

May 18, 2016

When I see lilacs in bloom, I have to stop.  Sometimes it’s out in the country where enormous old bushes grow beside abandoned barns.  Sometimes it’s in the alleys of my neighborhood where they grow beside garages that used to be stables.

These orphan bushes that nobody waters or prunes are—once again—lavish with their gifts.  And I stop what I’m doing to admire the rich colors—dark purple, rosy pink, palest violet, brightest white.  I lean into the moist clusters and inhale that honey lavender smell.

Poet Mike Delp addresses a men's gathering in Cedar, Michigan. He recently authored a new collection of poetry called, 'Lying in the River's Dark Bed.'
Dan Wanschura

On a recent Saturday evening in Cedar, Michigan, about 40 guys are gathered in the home of Jeff Smith, the editor of Traverse magazine. The night is centered around beer and poetry. The beverage of choice is from the recently opened Lake Ann Brewing Company. The poet is Mike Delp.

Mike Delp has a new book titled Lying in the River’s Dark Bed. It’s what he calls the confluence of the Deadman and the Mad Angler— characters he’s has been crafting for years.  


Radio Diaries: Death of a Neighbor

May 11, 2016

I am scanning the obituaries in the local paper when I see the name of a neighbor—someone who lived not far from me.  I didn’t know she was ill and am saddened by her death.

We weren’t friends, really, but I knew her name and a little about her work and family.  This is a small town and if you live here long enough, you run into a lot of people.  She and I had crossed paths a few times.

Radio Diaries: Alternative Medicine

May 4, 2016

Sometimes when I was visiting my grandmother, she would take me with her to Dr. Dursom’s house.  He was a retired chiropractor, she explained, who still gave what she called “adjustments” to friends of the family for one dollar.

I didn’t know what an “adjustment” was and Dr. Dursom scared me a little—a big man with a tall brush cut who smoked cigars.

While my grandmother went upstairs with the doctor, I sat in the parlor with Mrs. Dursom, a kindly woman with tight gray curls—who offered me lemonade.

Radio Diaries: Visibility Unlimited

Apr 27, 2016

I’m in the boarding area, waiting for a flight to Phoenix.  On an overhead computer screen I preview the weather at my destination city where visibility is described as “unlimited.”  I’ve never heard that said about Michigan.

It’s late winter in my world where the visibility is particularly limited—not only by constant cloud cover but by snowbanks in my back yard as high as my head.  I’m eager for something different—something warm and spacious.