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 Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Sep 5, 2019

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an activist, scholar, former politician, and author. She’s known for her vocal criticism of Islam. Ayaan’s most recent book is “Heretic: Why Islam Needs A Reformation Now.” Her book “Prey” is coming out in 2020. Ayaan visited Traverse City in 2012 and talked with lecturer, columnist, and former diplomat Jack Segal on the stage of the City Opera House. Jack asked Ayaan to talk about her journey from Somalia to the United States.

National Writers Series: An evening with Karl Marlantes

Sep 5, 2019
Tom Haxby

Karl Marlantes was one of the first ever guests of  National Writers Series in 2010, when he came to talk about his first book, “Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War.” That book draws on Karl’s experiences as a Marine in Vietnam. His latest novel, “Deep River,” is inspired by the history of his ancestors, who immigrated to Washington from Finland in the early 20th century. Karl talks this hour with fellow author and veteran, Benjamin Busch. Benjamin asked Karl to talk about the difficult process of getting his first book published.

Essay: White privilege

Aug 16, 2019

When I was growing up in Grand Rapids in the 1950s, my mother had a “cleaning lady” named Gladys, a soft-spoken colored woman who helped with housework.  I liked Gladys, especially when she made my lunch and cut the sandwiches diagonally.


Essay: Summer Fun

Aug 9, 2019

Walking outdoors on a summer morning, I uncoil the hose and turn on the faucet.  Then I bend to inhale the wet, metallic smell of water pouring out of the nozzle—grateful for things that do not change.


National Writers Series: An evening with Douglas Brinkley

Aug 3, 2019
Tom Haxby

Douglas Brinkley is an author, professor, commentator and historian. He’s written and co-authored dozens of books, on topics as diverse as Rosa Parks, Jimmy Carter, Walter Cronkite and Hunter S. Thompson. Doug’s latest book is “American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race.” He talks this hour with author John Bacon. John asked Doug how growing up in Perrysburg, Ohio made him feel connected to the first moon landing.

National Writers Series: An evening with Daniel Pink

Aug 3, 2019

Daniel Pink specializes in books about business. He has one of the most-viewed TED Talks of all time, “The Science of Motivation,” and he adapted it into a bestselling book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.” Daniel’s latest book is “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.” He talks his hour with Angie Morgan, founder of Lead Star, which is a consulting firm that helps professionals become better leaders. Before getting into business writing, Daniel was involved in politics. For two years, he was the chief speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore.

Essay: Rest Areas

Aug 2, 2019

When I was a kid, our family vacations were often road trips to scenic destinations.  And since this was the 1950s, there were no clean, friendly “rest areas.” provided by the highway department.  Instead, when we needed a bathroom, we had to depend on random gas stations along our route.


Essay: Responses to Suffering

Jul 26, 2019

When my young daughter was diagnosed with cancer, we were all shocked and terrified.  Then, gradually, we found the strength to go forward—and it was a long journey, a hard journey.  Strangely enough, what sometimes made it harder was responses from friends and family and even from health care workers. 


Essay: Post Office Cure

Jul 19, 2019

A cloud is following me around today, casting a shadow on my life.  I feel lonely and discouraged—but when I try to figure out why, nothing comes to mind.  In an effort to get out of the house and out of my self, I take up my list of errands. 


Essay: Meadow

Jul 12, 2019

I stay in the tent until my husband tells me the coffee is perking. It’s one of the few luxuries available out here in the woods. Slowly, I roll out of my sleeping bag and pull on cold blue jeans. Dick has built a small fire and I drag my canvas chair close to the warmth. 


Essay: Lost Scarf

Jul 5, 2019

It wasn’t a fancy scarf, just a strip of red and blue plaid that I wrapped around my neck in the winter.  On really cold days, I pulled the edge up over my nose, enjoying the smell and warmth of wool.


Essay: Holy Places

Jun 28, 2019

It’s almost too warm to jog but I lace up my shoes anyway. There’s no traffic this morning because it’s Sunday and the streets are quiet. The only cars are on their way to church or to the convenience store for coffee and a paper.


Essay: Don't Contradict

Jun 21, 2019

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.” 


National Writers Series: An evening with Marie Benedict

Jun 15, 2019
Tom Haxby

Marie Benedict is a former lawyer who’s written ten novels. Her latest book, “The Only Woman in the Room,” is a work of historical fiction about the actress from the golden age of Hollywood, Hedy Lamarr. In addition to her acting career, Hedy was also an inventor. In the 1940s, she created a radio guidance system that eventually led to the development of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology. Marie Benedict talks this hour with journalist and director of arts and culture for the city of Detroit, Rochelle Riley.

Alan Newton

Lynne Olson, Elizabeth Berg, and Elizabeth Letts all join Writers Series co-founder Doug Stanton on the stage of the City Opera House to talk about their work. Author and journalist Lynne Olson is known for her books about history, especially World War II. Her latest is “Madame Fourcade’s Secret War.” Elizabeth Berg writes novels, such as “Open House” and “The Story of Arthur Truluv.” And Elizabeth Letts writes books of non-fiction and historical fiction. Her latest is about “Wizard of Oz” author Frank L. Baum’s wife, Maud Baum. Doug asked each author to describe their latest book.

Essay: Disappointed Life

Jun 14, 2019

When I was in college, I read a novel by Saul Bellow called “The Adventures of Augie March,” the story of a young man growing up in Chicago.  Augie had a kind of bold optimism, inspired by a woman who’d survived the London bombings during World War II.  


Essay: Cucumbers Don’t Like Me

Jun 7, 2019

“I like cucumbers,” my grandmother used to say, “but cucumbers don’t like me.”

I wondered what she meant by this but I was too embarrassed to ask.  At our house, cucumbers were part of every meal during the summer.  I loved them and, as far as I could tell, they loved me back.

My grandmother said other things I didn’t understand.  Sometimes she announced that she had slept well as if it were a special occasion.  I always slept well and couldn’t figure out why she didn’t do the same. 

Essay: Another Pair of Eyes

May 31, 2019

As we slide the canoe into the Betsie River, I tie a bandana around my hair and pick up a paddle.  The water looks high but before I comment, my husband says, “Water is low; I wonder if they’ve lowered the dam.”


Essay: Turtles in the Sun

May 24, 2019

Before the snow melts from the woods, before the buds swell on the branches, my husband and I drag our canoe into the river. Bundled in layers, we paddle hard to warm up, lifting our faces to the sun.


Essay: What Kind

May 17, 2019

As a little girl, I often went to play at friends’ houses and my mother sent me out the door with firm rules about being polite—which began with please and thank you.  Next, she insisted we call all adults by their Mr. and Mrs. names.

Essay: Scattered Clouds

May 10, 2019

I sit at the kitchen table with my husband before dinner. We’re drinking a beer and eating pretzels and talking about the day. And while we’re talking, I look over his shoulder out the window where gray-bellied clouds are moving across a blue sky. 


Essay: Looking Back

May 3, 2019

“The first time I saw your mother,” my father liked to say, “I knew I was going to marry her.’” He was sitting in church choir at the time and my mother was coming in late to practice. Late on purpose so that she would be noticed. It was a fairytale beginning, my parents’ marriage. 


On this edition of Michigan Writers on the Air:

Author Heather Shumaker will discuss her debut children’s book, The Griffins of Castle Cary,

Veteran women’s fiction and romance writer Tanya Anne Crosby will read from and talk about her newest novel, Everyday Lies,

And Fleda Brown will read some stunning shipwreck poems by Michigan writer Cindy Hunter Morgan.

Listen to the whole episode below:

Essay: Leaving Home

Apr 26, 2019

It began with me sleeping overnight at my grandparents’ house. They lived close by, so it didn’t feel like being away, or not very far away. The next step was sleeping overnight at my best friend’s. Everything about Bonnie’s house was different:  late bedtime, unlimited candy, noisy furnace. 


National Writers Series: An evening with Lisa Scottoline

Apr 25, 2019
Halle Meyers

Lisa Scottoline is known for her legal thrillers, including the Rosato and Associates series, about women who are partners at a law firm. She's written thirty-two novels, and her latest book, "Someone Knows," is a stand-alone novel that tells the story of five teenagers whose lives are shattered after a dangerous prank goes wrong. Lisa also writes a weekly column for the Philadelphia Inquirer with her daughter.

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