10-Minute Writer's Workshop

Richard Phibbs

Michael Cunningham is best known as the author of The Hours, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, which imagines a fateful day in the life of Virginia Woolf and its modern parallels.

But he's a man of many genres - he's also co-written a screenplay, walked readers through Provincetown, Mass with a travelogue, and turned fairy tales on their heads, as he does in his recent collection of short fiction, A Wild Swan and Other Tales.

Episode Music by Blue Dot Sessions
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This episode, we speak to Roxane Gay, author, essayist, teacher, and all around-superwoman. The author of New York Times bestsellers Bad Feminist and Difficult Women, her latest, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, is a candid and personal account of life inside her body, of weight, trauma, and self-care. We spoke to Roxane by phone from her home.

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Author, outspoken vegetarian, social media abstainer and writing teacher Jonathan Safran Foer is author of three novels: Everything Is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and, most recently, Here I Am, which follows four generations of a Jewish family grappling with identity, connection and disaster. His nonfiction book about factory farming, Eating Animals, was also a New York Times best-seller.

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Ian Rankin is best known for two characters: Inspector John Rebus, the protagonist of now 21 mystery novels, and the city of Edinburgh, whose dark corners come alive in Rankin’s hands. Rebus made his debut in the 1987 crime novel Knots & Crosses. In Rankin’s newest novel - Rather Be the Devil - a retired Rebus returns to a case that has haunted him for decades.

Episode music by Podington Bear
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© David J. Murray / ClearEyePhoto.com

Krista Tippett is probably best known as the host & creator of the public radio program On Being.  But she's also the author of three books that pull from her decades of interviews with a broad variety of thinkers and seekers, exploring the intersections between spirituality, science, and living. The most recent is called Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery & Art of Living.  We spoke to her backstage at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH before a Writers on a New England Stage event.

Music: Podington Bear - "Daydreamer"

Anita Shreve had a small, but devoted following as a literary author when her second novel, The Pilot's Wife was named an Oprah Book Club pick. The recognition propelled her into a New York Times bestselling novelist. Two days after her 18th novel, The Stars Are Fire, was released, she canceled her extensive book tour, later writing on her Facebook page that she would be undergoing chemotherapy.  

This most recent novel uses wildfires that raged through coastal Maine in 1947 as the backdrop for the story of one woman’s extraordinary resilience.

John Scalzi, the Hugo Award-winning author of science fiction both serious and less-so, is also an internet star from way, way back. He is former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, perhaps best known for his Old Man's War series, his blog “Whatever,” and his novel Redshirts, which is currently being developed for television. He joined us in the NHPR studios while on tour for The Collapsing Empire, the first novel of a new space-opera sequence set in an all-new universe.

Episode music by Franco Luzzi

Tana French is the Edgar Award-winning author of the Dublin Murder Squad series. The newest, called The Trespasser, is the sixth in the best-selling, habit-forming series. "It’s taken for granted that anybody who’s read one [Tana French novel] will very shortly have read them all,” wrote Laura Miller in the New Yorker.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

Ben Winters is a little incomprehensible. Not his output, which is consistently great, but his wild imagination and range. He's a teacher, a playwright, an Edgar and Phillip K. Dick Award-winning novelist, he's written children's books, an existential detective series and landed a New York Times bestseller with the Jane Austen-meets-the-kraken mash-up, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

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Mario Batali is a superstar chef, restaurateur, television star and passionate advocate for simple, regional food. Also passionate about making that food more accessible, he is author or co-author of 7 cookbooks, including his most recent, Big American Cookbook.

We caught up with him before his appearance at The Music Hall for Writers on a New England Stage and asked him if his cookbook ideas pop up like a timer or simmer below the surface for a while.

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Lindy West, columnist for The Guardian, and author of How to be a Person and Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman. Lindy writes about feminism, social justice, body image, pop culture and, lately, politics.

She's a funny and original thinker, and brave. She's been a contributor on several memorable episodes of This American Life - one on "coming out" as fat, another about confronting an internet troll, one of hundreds who'd harassed her online.

Victoria Schwab... V.E. Schwab... V... the author's name depends on her audience, which, like the dark worlds she builds, is a well-thought out design.

Ms. Schwab, we'll say, burst onto the scene in 2011 with The Near Witch. A dozen books later, adult, young adult and middle grade readers have followed her into supernatural worlds, sinister scenarios and richly formed fantasy worlds.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

Ottessa Moshfegh says she writes to explore why people do weird things. The daughter of a Croatian mother and Iranian father, she was a serious piano student who knew she didn't want to be a pianist when she felt the call to write - and not just write, but be bold.

We spoke to her before her reading at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass.

Episode Music: Kevin MacLeod, "Trio for Piano, Violin and Viola"
Credit Music: Uncanny Valleys, "Curious or Disconcerting"

Sara Plourde / NHPR

Caitlin Moran is the best-selling author of How to Be a Woman, Moranthology, and columnist for the Times of London. She and her sister developed and write 'raised by wolves" --a British television series loosely based on their experience in a family of ten growing up in a tiny subsidized flat in the English midlands. She is also a mother of two, an unapologetic feminist, and really, really funny. Caitlin Moran is now out with Moranifesto, her second collection of columns and essays.

Johnathan Lethem is the best-selling author of Gun, with Occasional Music, Fortress of Solitude, and other novels, including the Naitonal Book Critics' Circle award-winning Motherless Brooklyn. He's know for reanimating and remixing genres - hard-boiled crime novels, post-apocalyptic science fiction, superhero comics and even technicolor westerns. His most recent novel is called A Gambler's Anatomy. It's about a high-stakes competitive backgammon player and con artist - a character who, like Lethem, was raised in the bohemian Brooklyn of the 1970s.

'In Maine, when we say something is "wicked good" – we really mean it.'

That's how LL Bean describes their Wicked Good Slippers, and how we describe Jeff Ryan, who for decades wrote Bean's catalog copy. We spoke to him about finding the story in everyday objects and the tricks of the trade when it comes to copy writing.

Jeff Ryan is also the author of Appalachian Odyssey, a memoir of hiking the Appalachian Trail, bit by bit, over 28 years.

Episode music: "Auld Lang Syne" by Podington Bear
Credit music: "Joy in the Restaurant" by David Szesztay

Irish author Emma Donoghue may be best known for Room,  her novel written in the voice of a young boy confined with his mother in a single room.  It was nominated for a Man Booker prize and made into an Oscar-winning film, for which she wrote the screenplay. Her most recent novel is The Wonder, about a "fasting girl" in 1850s Ireland.

Virginia Prescott

Tom Gauld -- a cartoonist, illustrator of comics and covers for the New Yorker and The Believer. His weekly cartoon about the arts for The Guardian newspaper is a wry, often deadpan favorite among writers. He is extremely prolific, author of more than a dozen books of comics, including You're Just Jealous of My Jetpack and most recently Mooncop.

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A National Book Award winner, Pulitzer-Prize nominee, Guggenheim fellow, and winner of a MacArthur "genius" grant, Colson Whitehead's new book, The Underground Railroad, was one of the most anticipated works of fiction this year.

Virginia caught up with him backstage at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, New Hampshire before a reading with novelist Ben Winters hosted of Gibson’s Bookstore.

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It’s our 30th episode, this time with the phenomenally successful Jodi Picoult.

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In this episode of the 10-Minute Writer’s Workshop, singer-songwriter, musician and novelist Josh Ritter – who might say writer first, musician second. It was a song that spun into his 2011 novel Bright's Passage. Josh Ritter’s songs draw deeply from the narrative traditions of American and Scottish folk music he studied after dropping out of the neuroscience program at Oberlin.

Legal decisions are rarely read for pleasure. And though read, re-read, excerpted and quoted, they are not always "quotable." Clocking in at an average of just under 5000 words, they can sound jargony, pompous and bone-dry in the wrong hands. But what about the right hands? Today's 10-Minute Writers Workshop asks an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States about what goes into writing an opinion.

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The novelist, short story writer and essayist Cynthia Ozick's best known piece of writing is called The Shawl, a brutal, phantasmal story of a woman and two children marching to a Nazi concentration camp. The Holocaust and Jewish identity are recurring topics in Ozick's fiction and criticism. Growing up in the Bronx, she was called Christ-killer, and humiliated for not singing Christmas carols at school.

Karen Kenney

Andre Dubus III's memoir Townie told the story of his violent childhood on the wrong side of the tracks. Writing was his way out, and he's made more than good, with multiple NYT bestsellers, an Oprah’s Book Club pick, and an Oscar-nominated film adaptation (for his novel The House of Sand and Fog). And he gets out there, as a public speaker and writing instructor for graduate programs, seminars and retreats. We caught up with him at New Hampshire Writers’ Project's annual Writers’ Day.

© 2014 Sharona Jacobs Photography

Kelly Link is one of a handful of writers to manage to be wondrous, fantastical and ominous at the same time. As Kirkus says, her work is “like Kafka hosting Saturday Night Live, mixing humor with existential dread.” Her most recent collection, Get in Trouble, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction.  She and her husband manage Small Beer Press.

Rich Fleischman

Essayist, novelist, columnist, sportswriter and former ethicist for the New York Times Magazine, Chuck Klosterman has got a wildly original voice. That makes sense for a guy who's written about glam metal bands in North Dakota, or whether you should hire a detective to trail your spouse. He's author of several best-sellers including Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs and most recently But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past.

David J. Murray, Cleareyephoto.com

Anyone who's ever been an awkward adolescent knows that for decades now, dog-eared copies of Judy Blume's books have been passed around school playgrounds like secrets, or read under the covers after lights out. Her best known books - Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, Deenie, Blubber, and Forever - offered young readers plain language and shame -free stories about periods, bullying, sexual urges and, even 'going all the way'.

Sara Plourde, NHPR

Donald Hall is now 87 and no longer writing poetry, a pursuit he calls "a young man's game" which takes "too much testosterone." But Hall, former Poet Laureate of both New Hampshire and the United States, long ago cemented his place in literary history. In this episode of the 10-Minute Writer's Workshop, Virginia and Sara traveled to Hall's home in Wilmot, NH, to speak to him - getting lost along the way, and, ultimately, finding themselves right at home.

The bestselling author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - and bonafide Charming British Lady - Helen Simonson lets us in on her writing process, her thoughts on sunshine, and the perils of HGTV. Her latest novel, set in 1914, is The Summer Before the War.

aaronmahnke.com

A bona fide podcasting star, Aaron Mahnke has turned his love of the darker side of history into the spooky smash hit, Lore, which he researches and authors.

He's also the author of four thrillers (Grave Suspicion being his latest), a veteran of self-publishing, and handy with an 80s film reference.

Listen to the interview below.

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