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 Peter Heller

Feb 22, 2018

Author Peter Heller has had a lot of real-life adventures, but he says the biggest adventure of all came when he started imagining Hig, the protagonist of his first novel. “The Dog Stars” is about a man who survives a flu pandemic that killed most of humanity. Before “The Dog Stars,” Heller wrote non-fiction books that document adventurous expeditions. He’s been a long-time contributor to Outside Magazine, Men’s Journal, and National Geographic Adventure. Heller’s latest novel is called “Celine.” Heller talks this hour with Ron Jolly, author and radio host for WTCM NewsTalk 580.

Essay: Peak Experience

Feb 16, 2018

We climbed steadily for four days and set up camp at 10,000 feet to rest before our descent. Deep valleys fell away into shadow while the white peaks of the Himalayas stood out along the horizon.

At a distance from our tents stood a tiny stone hut—a Buddhist place of worship—with a single prayer flag fluttering from a tall pole. I stepped through the low door and laid marigolds on the rough altar.

While most of our group of seven women wanted to relax, a few of us decided to hike to 13,000 feet the next day. Surely, we could see more if we stood higher!

Librarian Annie Spence knows what it’s like to love a book so much she has to write it a love letter. She also knows what it’s like for a break-up letter to be in order.

Her letters to books fill the pages of her own new book Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks.

Essay: Inheriting the Couch

Feb 12, 2018

I have an old Victorian couch which belonged to my grandparents. It has blue velvet upholstery and a curved wooden back. Although its delicate little legs look too small to support it, the couch has proved remarkably sturdy.

As a young girl, I sat on this couch with my grandfather, my feet just reaching the edge of the cushions. He read poetry to me and showed me his big books of art reproductions.  The couch wasn’t blue then but covered in a beige fabric that scratched my bare legs.

Essay: Free Spirit

Feb 2, 2018

It was the end of the nineteen-sixties—that decade of conflict and liberation—and I was  working in Chicago.  Young and single, I enjoyed being on my own, being a free spirit.

Then a boyfriend asked me to visit him in California.  Ray was renting a house west of Hollywood where he and his roommates were waiting for their “big break.” Everyone I met seemed to be waiting for a big break—as an actor, a director, a screen writer.

Essay: Dime Store

Jan 26, 2018

A few months ago I was out on my bike and stopped at the Ben Franklin store on Eighth Street for some stickers and yarn.  It reminded me of the dime store I knew as a kid, the one we always called “June’s” because my mother’s friend worked there.

While my mom chatted with June, I browsed around in the back where the kids’ stuff was:  trading cards, jacks, marbles, crayons, coloring books, furnishings for a doll house.  And since I  had very few dimes, I looked long and hard before I put my money down.

Essay: Caretaking

Jan 22, 2018

Last summer, my husband had a serious heart operation and was in the hospital for a week.  While visiting him there, I marveled at the efficiency of the staff—doctors, nurses, attendants, food servers, custodians.  Everyone so capable, courteous, upbeat.

Then Dick came home from the hospital and it was me.  Just me, the primary caregiver.

“You’ll have to do everything,” a friend told me—and everything turned out to be more than I had imagined.

Essay: Brown Sweater

Jan 12, 2018

Glancing down, I see a bug on my sweater—but no, it’s just one of a million little balls of wool that have pilled up on this ancient garment. And as I look more closely, I am suddenly and properly embarrassed.

How can I wear this ugly old thing? The cuffs are crusty with food, the sleeves fuzzy with cat hair, and the pockets stuffed with Kleenex. It is the most disgusting sweater on the planet, hands down, and I put it on every day.

Essay: A Place for Myself

Jan 5, 2018

During my first year at a university, I lived in a single room in the dorm. The girls on my hall were fun, but at the end of the day I needed my own space where I could do my homework and play my Frank Sinatra albums.

Still, when the opportunity came to pledge a sorority, I seized it. I thought it was a chance to change my shy, serious self into one of those popular girls—the ones who were gregarious and social and attractive to boys. My friends thought I was crazy.

Sebastian Junger is an author and Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker. His book “The Perfect Storm” was made into a Hollywood movie. Junger’s latest book is “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.” Sebastian Junger is joined by Philip Caputo, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and novelist whose book “A Rumor of War” is considered a landmark of Vietnam war literature. Caputo and Junger talk with retired U.S. diplomat, and political advisor to NATO, Jack Segal. Segal asked Caputo to start the discussion by reading from his book.

Essay: Blizzard Conditions

Dec 18, 2017

I stare out the window at what the weather man calls, “Blizzard conditions.” Heavy snow, strong winds, poor visibility. And I have to admit, it’s just beautiful!

Easy for me to say because I’m standing here in my nice warm kitchen. The storm is wild and wonderful as long as I don’t have to travel. As long as my loved ones don’t have to travel. I review the list and am grateful they’re all at home today or living far south where no blizzards threaten.

Essay: Wooden Elephant

Dec 11, 2017

Some years ago, I traveled to Nepal with seven women and spent some time trekking in the Himalayas.  We also visited a jungle park in the southern part of the country where we rode on elephants, another kind of adventure.

Toward the end of the trip, I began to buy gifts for family, friends and colleagues.  Seeing a small wooden elephant, I thought of my secretary who collected miniature elephants.  Then I bought it for myself, because of the jungle ride.

Karen Anderson has been writing weekly essays for IPR for 10 years. Her new book, "Gradual Clearing" is a collection of 120 of those essays.
Windborne Studios

For the last 10 years, Karen Anderson has been writing weekly essays heard on Interlochen Public Radio.

The essays are vivid, personal, and relatable. Karen takes time to notice the little details and experiences of everyday life.

On the next edition of Michigan Writers on the Air:

Jack Driscoll talks about his stunning new collection of short stories, The Goat Fish and the Lover’s Knot;

Sarah Shoemaker reads from her new novel, Mr. Rochester, a story based on Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre;

And Fleda Brown provides an audio essay on Michigan poet Robert Fanning.

Tuesday marked the release of NPR's Book Concierge List, an annual book guide produced by NPR critics, reporters, and member stations.

To accompany that list, Michigan Radio has compiled a list of our book reviews from 2017. 

Check it out below!

Essay: Voices in the Dark

Dec 1, 2017

When I was a child, I didn’t need a nightlight. What comforted me was the sound of my parents’ voices downstairs in the living room. Lying in the dark, I would hold very still and listen. Not for their words exactly, just the soft murmur of conversation.

If I didn’t hear them, I would get out of bed and tiptoe to the door. There, I strained to detect the slightest sound—even the rustle of a newspaper—to confirm their presence.

If everything was silent, I would go to the top of the stairs and call down, “Mom?”

Her musical voice would reply, “Yes?”

National Writers Series: An evening with Doug Stanton

Nov 30, 2017

Author Doug Stanton says we need to start talking honestly about Vietnam. National Writers Series co-founder Doug Stanton is the author of two bestselling nonfiction books, “In Harm’s Way,” about the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, and “Horse Soldiers,” about a U.S. Special Forces team deployed to Afghanistan after 9/11.

Radio Diaries: Treats

Nov 17, 2017

My husband and my cat are waiting up when I get home.  I am late and know my husband has been worried.  As for my cat, I see no evidence that she ever worries about anything.

No, she has waited up because we have an evening ritual.  I throw her some cat treats which she likes to chase.  My veterinarian said they help remove tartar and I’m glad they’re good for something because they smell terrible.

“You must have had a good time,” my husband says.

Radio Diaries: Studying Poetry

Nov 14, 2017

When my granddaughters were about eight and ten, I offered to teach poetry as part of their homeschool curriculum. One afternoon a week we sat around my dining room table to read and write together.

It wasn’t long before Emmy asked, “Why are we reading more boy poets than girl poets?” A teachable moment. Because that’s what I studied in college, I explained. Literature written by white males and taught by white males.

We spent the next year studying African-American and Native American poetry. Followed by  Chinese, Japanese, Latin American. And lots of poetry by women.

Radio Diaries: Surprise Flowers

Nov 8, 2017

I look out my front window and see a van from a florist shop pull up across the street.  A man gets out carrying a big display of flowers covered in plastic wrap.  Suddenly my ordinary day begins to sparkle.

Who could be sending me flowers?  It’s not my birthday or Valentine’s Day.  So maybe it’s a surprise.  Maybe it’s a secret admirer.  I laugh out loud at this idea, unable to imagine such an admirer, secret or otherwise.

National Writers Series: An evening with Terry McDonell

Nov 2, 2017

Editor Terry McDonell has worked with some of the most celebrated authors of his generation, but not all of them agreed with his attempts to edit their work. For example, Jim Harrison. Terry McDonell says he was proud to be part of the New Journalism movement in the 1970s and 80s. He's been the editor of many magazines over his career, including Rolling Stone, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and Esquire, and he was the founding editor of Outside magazine.

Radio Diaries: Gradual Clearing

Oct 27, 2017

Under a gray sky, we load the canoe onto the truck, choosing to believe the forecast:  “becoming partly sunny.” But the gloomy weather suits my mood.

“You okay?” my husband asks.

“I feel sort of depressed,” I say.

The wind is sharp as we push off into the Manistee River and I wish I’d worn long underwear. On this late fall day, the water is low but the colors are high. Red and orange and yellow, the oaks and maples stand along the bluffs, shining with their own light.

The last American troops left Vietnam on March 29, 1973.

America's direct intervention in the Vietnam War was at an end, after many bloody years, and 58,220 American lives lost.

Afterward, the nation, and those Vietnam veterans, had a tough time processing and talking about this war that did not end with victory.

Radio Diaries: Someone's Papers

Oct 20, 2017

I open the front door to pick up the newspaper and notice some trash out on the grass next to the curb.  “What is this?” I think irritably as I go out to pick it up.  But it is not trash.  It is somebody’s personal papers—all folded up and soaking wet from last night’s rain.

I carefully unfold them on the kitchen counter and discover a birth certificate, legal papers, credit cards, business cards, and a pile of receipts and notes—all belonging to a young man.

Radio Diaries: Perishables

Oct 17, 2017

A few years ago, I had my old kitchen remodeled and moved everything out of the cupboards into corrugated boxes.  It was an excellent opportunity to evaluate the contents of those cupboards.  “Do I really need two muffin tins?  Do I even need one muffin tin, given the fact that I’ve not made muffins in years?”

When I moved back into a new kitchen, I had a lot more room and a lot less stuff.  And so, I’ve made a careful inventory of all the other rooms in my house and the results are disturbing.

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