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 Paola Gianturco

Oct 24, 2016

Photojournalist Paola Gianturco’s work with women has taken her around the world, documenting their struggles and success stories. Her latest book, “Grandmother Power: A Global Phenomenon” profiles activist grandmothers from fifteen countries across five continents. The women in Gianturco’s books tell their stories in their own words, accompanied by her photographs. Fellow photographer Tony Demin will talk to Gianturco about her work. And we’ll hear from Jackson Kaguri, founder of the Nyaka AIDS Orphan Project.

How do we respond to betrayal? Where do we turn when our horses bite us, our fiancés sneak into haylofts with other women, our husbands date their college students, our daughters run off with our boyfriends, our brothers place us in harm’s way? These are the kinds of predicaments Bonnie Jo Campbell confronts in her latest story collection, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters.

Irene Miller poses with a dog, during her childhood. She'll share her Holocaust survival story tonight at the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City.
Irene Miller

Irene Miller fled Poland when she was about five years old in order to escape the Holocaust. She and her family dealt with soldiers breaking into her home in the middle of the night, a freezing labor camp, starvation, and more. 

Still, she says she has no bitterness towards those who wronged her.

"I am not angry, I am absolutely not bitter," Irene says. "I feel I have a lot of joy of living and a lot of love to share with others."

Irene Miller recounts her remarkable story in the book, Into No Man's Land. She'll share her story tonight at the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City.

She says it's important to remember what took place, so we can avoid similar situations in the future.

Click here for more information about tonight's event.

C. S. Lewis believed the nuanced imagination was important for perceiving reality.
The Wade Center

C. S. Lewis was a Christian theologian who authored over 70 books, including The Space Trilogy, and The Chronicles of Narnia.

This weekend in Petoskey, the annual C. S. Lewis Festival will celebrate Lewis’ imagination. 

The authors of the book, The Surprising Imagination of C. S. Lewis say he had a nuanced understanding regarding imagination. They Identify over 30 different types of imagination that Lewis recognized and used in his writings.

Mark Neal is one of those authors, and a featured speaker at the festival in Petoskey. He says the nuanced approach to imagination helps us better understand reality. 

"It's this idea that it helps us to see things that, without it, would be unseeable," Neal says.


Radio Diaries: Awake at Night

Oct 14, 2016

My mother told me that when she was a little girl, there were times she couldn’t sleep at night.  “I would lie in bed and imagine that somewhere in the world there must be a single gas station that was open,” she said.  “Then I didn’t feel so alone and could go back to sleep.”

Her story comforted me, too, when I was awake in the quiet darkness.  I could picture that same gas station—the pump out front and a light on inside, with one guy at the desk reading a magazine.  Somehow, the world wasn’t so scary and I wasn’t so lonely.


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Each and every year, more than 230,000 American women will hear the words, “You have breast cancer.”

Of those, some 100,000 will undergo mastectomy and breast reconstruction.

When your world’s been turned upside down by a breast cancer diagnosis, it can be hard to grasp what options are there for you.

Pat Anstett’s new book provides answers, presented through the stories of women who have been handed that breast cancer diagnosis and then followed many different paths in treatment and reconstruction.

Radio Diaries: Closer to the Fire

Oct 10, 2016

It is late in the fall to be camping.  Darkness comes early and brings a creeping chill that penetrates my cotton sweatshirt.  I pull up the hood and lean closer to the campfire.  My husband grabs another piece of wood and lays it across the glowing logs.

“This oak burns real nice,” he says.  “Smells good, too.”  Turns toward me, then. “Say, are you warm enough?”

“Almost,” I say and stuff my hands into my pockets.

Radio Diaries: Leaves for Mildred

Sep 30, 2016

Mildred was a large, middle-aged woman who sat in the back row of my workshop and told me  she had to leave at the break.  “My husband is in the hospital,” she said and I wondered if she was just bored.

Two weeks later, I received a letter from Mildred, a letter that came from Hawaii.  “My husband died that afternoon,” she wrote, “and I sold my house and moved to Honolulu to be near my daughter.”

Hystopia, the first novel of acclaimed Michigan short story writer David Means, is a complex book built around a simple question: what can we do about the trauma that war inflicts on our veterans?  

Radio Diaries: Well-Hung Door

Sep 23, 2016

I live in an old house—and there are some nice things about old houses.  Nooks and crannies, history and character.  There are also other things, many of which appear on a list called “Improvements.”  Last summer, it was a new back door.  The old door was here when my husband and I bought the house 20 years ago—and it had huge claw marks in the wood as if the Hound of the Baskervilles had been trying to get in.


Eileen Pollack's new novel, A Perfect Life, took a while to find a publisher.

The book features a postdoctoral research scientist on a quest to uncover a genetic test for the disease that cut short her mother's life. This medical mystery also features a love story between the protagonist, Jane Weiss, and a man who may also carry the disease, adding human drama to the scientific exploration.

Still, the complexities of this plot were sometimes lost on publishers. One even told Pollack that "men don’t read fiction written by women, and women’s book groups don’t want to read something with science in it!"

The Next Idea

I grew up in a suburb of Detroit and went to school where most of the kids looked like me. During the Jewish holidays, teachers didn't assign work because so many of us were absent. There might have been five or six African-American kids in my high school, and no one wore a hijab in public.

I’ve always been curious about the way other people live. My journey as a journalist and author and writing professor has taken me to find common ground in people different from me. I visited a mosque, attended a candlelight service in a Catholic church in Ireland, and spent a plane ride to Israel having a deep, powerful conversation with a Palestinian man going to see his family. As I developed my writing craft, I continued to seek out stories that showed the similarities in people, the beliefs we share, and the customs we have in common.

Radio Diaries: Too Late

Sep 19, 2016

After being gravely ill for several months, my mother was in the hospital in what the doctor called a “terminal coma.”  Her once-lovely face was sunken and gray, her hands motionless.  I sat by her bed awhile but because she was completely unresponsive, I stopped visiting.

Several days later, she died alone.  I felt sorry that no one had been with her but after all, I thought, she was in a coma.  She wouldn’t have known I was there.  And I was a young mother at home with a toddler, trying to juggle responsibilities.

A grandmother in Senegal, Africa. Grandmothers all over the world are highlighted in author Paola Gianturco's new book, 'Grandmother Power: A Global Phenomenon.'
Paola Gianturco

Paola Gianturco travels all over the world, writing books about women and girls. About 10 years ago, she was in Kenya interviewing women for a book she was working on. For some small talk before each interview, she asked each woman how many children she had.

The first woman told Ginaturco she had three, and 10 adopted. The second told her she had 5, and 15 adopted. The next said she had four and 12 adopted. Gianturco says all the women she spoke with answered the same way.

“And I suddenly realized that what they were telling me was that they were raising their grandchildren,” she says. “They had adopted them when their own children had died of AIDS.”

Radio Diaries: Matching Ottoman

Sep 9, 2016

A friend bought a house in an auction and decided to sell the furniture.  “Do you have any overstuffed chairs?” I asked.

“I have overstuffed everything,” she said.

And there it was, an enormous old horsehair chair that was just the sort of thing my daughter could curl up in with a book.

“A steal at seventy-five dollars,” my friend said.  “And the matching ottoman is only fifty.”

I sat in the chair, stroking its great round arms and admiring its carved wooden legs.  The footstool was equally handsome but I didn’t have an extra fifty dollars.

Radio Diaries: Happiness Entire

Sep 6, 2016

There was a time when all I needed to be happy was a box of eight Crayola crayons and a coloring book.  Stretched out on the living room floor, I would color for hours in a state of bliss.

Then, I noticed that Crayola sold a box of sixteen crayons.  It was nice having twice as many colors but it didn’t make me twice as happy.  Finally, the store started selling an enormous box with a flip-top lid that seemed to contain hundreds of crayons—and I got one.

Radio Diaries: First Gift

Aug 26, 2016

I still have my first gift from my first husband—on the occasion of my eighteenth birthday.  It’s a handsome wool sweater with uneven stripes of gray, brown, black and white—and little wooden buttons.  I remember trying it on at a department store and deciding it was too expensive.

Richard bought it anyway.  It was the kind of gesture he liked to make—a quality of generosity.  We’d only had a couple of dates and my mother worried about the appropriateness of such a gift.  In a month, we were going steady.

Radio Diaries: Don't Contradict

Aug 19, 2016

Freedom of speech, while guaranteed in the Constitution, was not encouraged in my home when I was growing up.  I could speak my mind only if I agreed with my parents.  Otherwise, I was told, “Don’t contradict.”

When they offered me an allowance of a dime a week, I objected.  Objection overruled.  When I claimed that an early curfew cramped my style, they said, “Exactly.”

National Writers Series: An evening with Jim and Lynn Kouf

Aug 18, 2016

Jim and Lynn Kouf have helped write and produce many Hollywood films, including Con Air, National Treasure, and Money Monster. Their most recent project together is the TV series “Grimm.” Jim and Lynn Kouf talk this hour with actor, writer, and director Benjamin Busch, who asked Jim how you get started as a writer in Hollywood.

National Writers Series: An evening with Lucy Kalanithi

Aug 17, 2016

When neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with cancer, he decided to write a memoir. He didn’t live to see his book “When Breath Becomes Air” published, but it turned into a New York Times number one bestseller.

His widow, Lucy Kalanithi, helped finish the book after Paul couldn’t continue. Doug Stanton talks this hour with Lucy Kalanithi.

Celebrated regional essayist Kathleen Stocking will read from her new book, The Long Arc of the Universe,

New York Times bestselling crime writer Steve Hamilton will introduce his new Nick Mason series and discuss the publishing business, and Gail Wallace Bozzono will read a selection from her winning entry in the 2016 Michigan Writers Chapbook Competition.

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.