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 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.

Nathaniel Philbrick is a renowned scholar and a champion sailor who has a passion for history and the open water. He's the bestselling author of books such as "In the Heart of the Sea" and "Mayflower." Philbrick was a guest this May at the National Writers Series in downtown Traverse City. He sat down with Rich Fahle to talk about his latest book "Bunker Hill," about the Boston battle that ignited the American revolution.

Nathaniel Philbrick is a renowned scholar and a champion sailor who has a passion for history and the open water. He's the bestselling author of books such as "In the Heart of the Sea" and "Mayflower." Philbrick was a guest this May at the National Writers Series in downtown Traverse City. He sat down with Rich Fahle to talk about his latest book "Bunker Hill," about the Boston battle that ignited the American revolution.

On the June Michigan Writers on the Air, Elizabeth Buzzelli will talk about her new mystery, Dead Little Dolly, and National Book Award winner Gloria Whelan will read from her new collection of short stories, Living Together. At the end, Fleda Brown will provide a commentary on poet Patricia Clark. 

Author Mardi Jo Link says she an unlikely memoirist. She’s not a celebrity, she didn’t climb a mountain, and yet a major New York publisher has just released 50,000 copies of her book.

Holding On To Her Home
The Big Valley, that’s what Mardi Jo Link calls her farmhouse and property in Grand Traverse County. It’s where she raised her three boys.

On the May Michigan Writers on the Air, a single parent battles to preserve her family's way of life on her Traverse City-area farm. Mardi Jo Link talks about her forthcoming memoir, Bootstrapper. This book isn't out yet but it's expected to get hype from booksellers across the nation.   Poet, river guide, and writing teacher, Chris Dombrowski, reads from his new book, Earth Again.  Matthew Wiliford, Director of the Interlochen College of Creative Arts, outlines this summer’s workshops for adult writers.

Gillian Flynn started as a film critic at the age of 7 when her father showed her movies like Alien and Psycho. As an adult, and after writing for 10 years as a television critic, she was laid off. She began a new career writing her first novel in 2007 titled Sharp Objects. Flynn was a guest this month at the National Writers Series in downtown Traverse City. She sat down with host Doug Stanton to talk about her new book Gone Girl

This month on Michigan Writers on the Air, two distinguished poets, our own Fleda Brown and Vermont’s Poet Laureate, Sydney Lea, will read from their newly published collaboration, Growing Old in Poetry: Two Poets, Two Lives.

The Story Of An Escape From North Korea

Apr 9, 2013

Shin Dong-Hyuk escaped from a North Korean labor camp. A camp where he expected to die young. Blain Harden tells the story about Shin’s escape in his most recent book, Escape from Camp 14. He was the guest earlier this month at the National Writers Series in downtown Traverse City. He spoke with Jack Segal, a former U.S. Department of State official. 

Today on the National Writers Series, host Doug Stanton sits down with Chip Johannessen. Johannessen is the executive producer and writer of Showtime’s award-winning television show “Homeland”. And this past year, “Homeland” made television history when it did something no other show has done in 25 years: it won four out of five of the major drama awards at the Emmys.

On the March Michigan Writers on the Air program, Traverse City based writer Cari Noga will read from her stunning debut novel, Sparrow Migration. Then Aaron Stander will having a phone conversation with writing guru, Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones. They will be talking about her newest book,The True Secret of Writing. At the end, poet and essayist Fleda Brown will provide a commentary on contemporary American poet Connie Wanek.

On the February Michigan Writers on the Air program, outdoors and adventure writer Joan Young will be talking about and reading from her book, North Country Cache. Then three well-known members of the northern Michigan arts community, Jerry Dennis, Glenn Wolff, and Chad Pastotnik, will discuss their collaborative project, A Trout in Winter. At the end, poet and essayist Fleda Brown will provide a commentary on contemporary American poet Dzvinia Orlowsky.

Buzz Bissinger’s bestseller Friday Night Lights became a hit TV series. Now he has a new book. It’s called Father’s Day. It tells the true story of the author’s twin sons – one who earned his Master’s Degree – the other who struggles with unremitting learning disabilities to this day. Buzz Bissinger is visiting Traverse City for the National Writers Series and he’ll be our guest on Points North.

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