Episode 42—Roy Peter Clark, America’s Writing Coach on Living Inside the Language, Lowering Standards, and the Meaning of Literacy

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Roy Peter Clark:

“If I live till 90, I hope that year I’m still learning about the craft and still helping in some way.”

“We’re probably going to see new things in it because our autobiography has changed.”

“If you’re literate, you read in certain ways and you write in certain kinds of ways, but it’s the third element people fail to see: If you are a literate person, you have the capacity to talk about [it].”

“Every piece of writing needs a focus, a central idea.”

“It’s my mission to open the door for literacy and good writing wider and wider so more and more people can imagine themselves as belonging to a community of writers, a nation of writers.”

“What good is freedom of expression if we lack the means to express ourselves?” 

“Too often, more research is an excuse for not writing.”

Howdy there, CNFers, hope you’re having a CNFin good week.

I snagged you a great guest this week, luck on my part and generosity on the part of Roy Peter Clark, America’s Writing Coach, scholar, and author of five books on writing in ten years: Writing Tools, The Glamour of Grammar, Help! For Writers, How to Write Short and The Art of X-Ray Reading.

I’m going to repeat that: five books in ten years. I revisit them all the time to sharpen the saw. Each time I crack open, say, Writing Tools, I become better and better.

In this episode you’ll learn a lot about how Roy came to live inside the language, and how those early experiences led him, ultimately, to the Poynter Institute where he coached and influenced a nation of writers.

Maybe the most important takeaway from this issue of #CNF is the amount of mentors and teachers Roy mentions throughout this episode and the influence they had on his development as a writer and teacher. 

I debated whether to break this up into two episodes, but decided to leave it as one whole.

I do hope you’ll share this episode with others, subscribe if you haven’t already, rate it, if you haven’t already, LIKE THE FACEBOOK PAGE, subscribe to my email newsletter, etc, etc…

Thanks for listening, guys, now sit back and enjoy the one and only Roy Peter Clark.

Some of Roy’s columns from Poynter.org:

Trump on quotation marks

On William Zinsser, author of On Writing Well

On Jimmy Breslin #legend

 

 

Episode 41—Jennifer Niesslein, the Full Grown Person behind Full Grown People

Jennifer Niesslein
Jennifer Niesslein talks about what it means to be an editor.

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables:

“I only write when I have something that I really need to figure out.”

“My job is to get the essay to its platonic ideal.”

“I took a personal crisis and made a publication out of it.”

“I wanted to make the magic happen.”

“So much of writing is rhythm.”

Jennifer Niesslein, formerly a co-editor and co-founder of Brain, Child, and currently editor and founder of Full Grown People, joined me on Episode 41 to talk about the art of editing.

Her essays have appeared in Creative Nonfiction, the Brevity blog, Virginia Quarterly, and The Nervous Breakdown.

She’s also the author of Practically Perfect in Every Way.

Why wait any longer? Here’s Jennifer Niesslein.

Episode 40—How to Be Like Mike (Copperman)

Mike Copperman
Essayist, memoirist, novelist, Michael Copperman

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables courtesy of Mike Copperman

“I think the emphasis on process is something you learn in sports. You need to pay more attention to how it is what you’re doing and not what the outcome necessarily is.” 

“To me I’ve got to have my heart in it and I have to have something to say or something at stake.”

“I’ve learned that I have to trust that impulse, which just means sticking with the process and how you would write.”

“What is true that I don’t want to admit both within myself and about the world I’m interacting in?”

“I don’t give anybody a savior story because that wasn’t my story to tell.”

“It was my way of writing myself whole.”

Mike Copperman, author of Teacher: Two Years in the Mississippi Delta (University Press of Mississippi), joined me talk about his book, and how he became a writer. 

His work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, Oxford American, Guernica and many, many others places. Be sure to check out his website for more

Beyond that, all I ask is that you share this episode with people you think will get something out of it and that you quickly rate the podcast. It’ll help me reach more people and get these gifted writers in front of more readers.

Thanks for listening!

Episode 39—The Gentleman’s Guide to Arousal-Free Slow Dancing

By Brendan O’Meara

I tried something a little new. Not the reading of the essay part. I’ve done that before on the podcast. I added some serious production value to the reading of The Gentleman’s Guide for Arousal-Free Slow Dancing. 

I added some music in throughout the piece. I think it helps jazz it up without distracting too much. Let me know what you think because I’ll probably invite writers to read essays and try to do something similar each time. 

This essay appeared in Creative Nonfiction No. 62, an issue themed “Joy: Unexpected Brightness in the Darkest Times.”

I also interviewed Kim Kankiewicz and Angela Palm, both represented in this issue.

Thanks for listening!

Episode 38—Philip Gerard and The Art of Creative Research: Passions, Daydreaming, and Daring

Author Philip Gerard, one of the most interesting men in the world.

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables:

“You’ve got to be daring. You’ve got to have that unshakable belief that ‘You know what? Somebody’s gonna publish a book someday. It might as well be me.'” —Philip Gerard

“I don’t really have hobbies. I have passions.” —Philip Gerard

“If I do this enough days in a row, probably I’m gonna get there.” —Philip Gerard

“I found that if I hang with them long enough, they would often tell me something interesting.” —Philip Gerard

“I began realizing there was a significant amount of work that wasn’t on the page, but if you did it, it would be on the page.” —Philip Gerard

“My problem is I’m interested in everything.” —Philip Gerard

“At a certain point the journey is over and you know it.” —Philip Gerard

That enough tweetable quotes for you? 

Philip Gerard, writer and teacher, joined me for 90 minutes of energizing talk about the craft. I had so much fun and left this conversation fired up to pursue a bunch of stories I’ve got stuffed in the drawer.

The Art of Creative Research (University of Chicago Press, 2016) is a deep dive into what it takes to write authentically across all genres. Bottom line: You need to do serious research. 

You need to walk the hills, feel the gun kick back on your shoulder, put on the latex gloves in the archival rooms, and swim in this stuff. 

So what are you waiting for? Get researching! Wait, wait, wait! Listen to this first, then go get your hands dirty.

Episode 37—Angela Palm is a Cartographer? Well, sort of

Angela Palm signs copies of her kick-ass memoir “Riverine”.

By Brendan O’Meara

“I like that [Riverine] is imperfect, because to me it shows I’m trying this style and approach as an artist.” —Angela Palm (@angpalm)

“You still have to start at Word 1, Sentence 1.”Angela Palm

“Getting the music in your head to translate on the page was a very difficult thing for me to figure out.” —Angela Palm

Yeah, podcast!

Let’s keep racking them up, baby. Angela Palm is my guest this week. We talked about her delightful memoir Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere But Here (Graywolf Press). We also dive into her essay “Hierarchy of Needs”, which appears in Issue 62 of Creative Nonfiction.

What else? Be sure to check out Angela’s website for the latest on her work. Also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and Google Play Music. The badges are on the right of the page. 

And from another Graywolf Press author, Paul Lisicky

Episode 36—The Joyful Kim Kankiewicz Writes with Her Ears!

Kim Kankiewicz won best essay for Creative Nonfiction’s Issue 32 contest.

By Brendan O’Meara

“You write in isolation and a rejection doesn’t give you a lot of feedback.” —Kim Kankiewicz (@kimprobable)

“What I have to process is my own thoughts and experiences; does that matter to anybody else? The reason I write is to make connections with other people.” —Kim Kankiewicz

Here we are again, picking them off one by one. 

Kim Kankiewicz’ essay “Rumors of Lost Stars” won Creative Nonfiction’s best essay contest for Issue 32’s theme of “Joy”. It’s an essay about communal acceptance, overreaching, and then personal acceptance and redemption. She threads this around the mythology of three stars. The parallels between the myths and her story make this essay sing.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast. Badges are over there ===============================================>

Also, I could use some reviews. If you dig the podcast, mind throwing me a bone?

Thanks for listening!

Links

Kim’s McSweeney’s Internet Tendency story.

People Mentioned

Brian Doyle
Rebecca Solnit
Sonya Livingston

Episode 35—Sybil Baker on Discovery and the Art of Being Different

Sybil Baker, author of “Immigration Essays”.

By Brendan O’Meara

“Different writers are different things to us at different times.” —Sybil Baker (@SybilBaker).

“I think most writers would agree that writing is an act of discovery. We’re asking questions and trying to discover something.”Sybil Baker

Sybil Baker, author of Immigration Essays (C&R Press, 2017) came by #CNF HQ to talk about her new book of essays dealing travel and displacement. And like Paul Lisicky (from Episode 27), she preaches the importance of preserving play in a piece of writing.

We recorded this back in October, so if you expect riffs on immigration courtesy of the Establishment, you’ll find this episode conveniently devoid of such banter. 

Sybil talks a lot about travel and how you don’t have to log miles to see things in different ways. 

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Google Play Music (badges are in the margins or below the post) and share it with a friend or two who may enjoy the conversation.

Thanks for listening!

Episode 34—Tom McAllister on Podcasting, Plowing Through First Drafts, and the Writer’s Need for Urgency

Author Tom McAllister returns to #CNF HQ to talk all things podcasting and writing.

By Brendan O’Meara

“You need some sort of structure because you’re inviting strangers to hear you talk for an hour.” —Tom McAllister (@t_mcallister)

“I said, ‘Oh, shit, I have to learn how nonfiction works!”Tom McAllister

“I hadn’t realized there was this thing sneaking through. Anyone who’s written nonfiction has those. In early drafts you realize, ‘Oh, wait, I thought I was writing an essay about going to night school, but it’s about this other thing.'” —Tom McAllister

Tom McAllister returns!

He has a new book coming out, a novel, titled The Young Widower’s Handbook, and since I haven’t read it yet, we didn’t talk about that, though we did talk about the process of writing it a bit. He also wrote Bury Me in My Jersey (2010), a memoir, which we do touch upon.

We riff on his podcast, Book Fight, which he co-hosts with Mike Ingram (@mikeingram00), and that was fun to nerd out on a few audiophile stuff. But largely we talk about dealing with ugly middles (not those middles, you perverts), making big cuts, and knowing when a piece of writing is done.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or (!) Google Play Music. All you raving Android users can now enjoy what the world now refers to as, “Yet another podcast.” They didn’t say that, but they were saying that about blogs about 10 years ago. The podcast is the new blog. Whatever.

Subscribe to the monthly newsletter for book recommendations and give the podcast a review somewhere. Email me. Tweet at me. I’m here for you.

Why waste anymore time? Here’s my good friend, Tom McAllister.

Books Mentioned

Holy Land by D.J. Waldie
Speedboat by Renata Adler
Body Politic by David Shields

 

Episode 33—Melissa Chadburn Shares All Her Secrets!

Melissa Chadburn, author of “The Readiness Assessment.”

“Being a writer is like you’re always in the hallway.” —Melissa Chadburn

“I am competing against myself in the past.” —Melissa Chadburn (@melissacahdburn)

“With all nonfiction, you need something to hang your narrative on.” —Melissa Chadburn

“I like to have emotional access to my stories.” —Melissa Chadburn

By Brendan O’Meara

Melissa Chadburn stopped by #CNF HQ to talk about her second runner-up  story (judged by Bronwen Dickey) titled “The Readiness Assessment.” 

She entered it in Proxmity Magazine’s first inaugural narrative journalism prize and it’s a good one. 

Melissa noted how fun it was to be edited by Maggie Messitt, a former guest on #CNF. 

We’re keeping the good times rolling, so let’s not waste any more time. Please subscribe to the podcast, share it with someone you think will dig it, and subscribe to my book recommendations newsletter. It’s all free!