Episode 65—How to Start Your Own Conference with Hippocamp Founder Donna Talarico

Donna Talarico
Donna Talarico, founder of Hippocampus Magazine and Hippocamp, a conference for creative nonfiction writers, hopped on the pod. Photo credit to Michelle Johnsen.

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables from Donna Talarico (@DonnaTalarico):

“I think what gets to the heart of the story is the ‘why?'”

“You have to treat your freelance business like a business.”

“I would encourage anybody that calls themselves a freelancer to try calling themselves an independent writer.”

“It’s about being organized and creating a solid foundation.”

“It was important for every-day writers to show their stuff.”

“You don’t change things just to change things.”

What’s this? Two episodes in one week? F–k, yeah!

Support for this podcast is brought to you by Hippocamp 2017, a conference for creative nonfiction writers. It’s this weekend, as in September 8th through the 10th.

Hippocamp enters its third year with its main keynote speaker being, ahem, Tobias Wolfe. Hippocamp debuted with Lee Gutkind, then had Mary Karr as an encore. Now Wolfe? Srsly?

So here’s the deal, good ol’ Hippocamp sponsored the Creative Nonfiction Podcast again, but I didn’t run that snazzy new ad because this week’s bonus episode is with Hippocampus Magazine and Hippocamp founder, Donna Talarico, @DonnaTalarico on Twitter, give her a follow… now…

Maybe I should mention that this is the podcast where I speak with the world’s best artists about creating works of nonfiction, leaders from the world of journalism, essay, memoir, radio, and documentary film, and try to tease out their stories and tricks of the trade, so that you can apply those skills to your own work.

Donna brings such a great entrepreneurial sensibility to this episode so if you want to organize your independent nonfiction career, or start a magazine, or start a CONFERENCE, this is your episode, your time to let your freak flag fly.

I’m on my second cup of cold brew and I’m pretty fired up, so I’m just going to come out and ask that you kindly leave a review on iTunes, like this nice five-star gainer from HannahinLA, “Great interviews that provide useful nuggets and inspiration for writers and other creatives.”

If you leave one, maybe you, too, will get a similar shout out. The biggest endorsement the show can get is these reviews, but also sharing it amongst your friends who like to dabble in this kind of work.

Episode 64—Matt Tullis on “Running with Ghosts,” Aging Out of Jealousy, and Bringing a Reporter’s Mind to Memoir

matt tullis, brendan o'meara
Matt Tullis’ new book is “Running with Ghosts: A Memoir of Surviving Childhood Cancer.”

By Brendan O’Meara (@BrendanOMeara)

Tweetables by Matt Tullis (@matttullis):

“To be a great writer, you just have LOVE writing. You have to be passionate about it, so you’re going to do it a lot.”

“When I write a story, I want it to get as big an audience as possible.”

“I don’t have any problem whatsoever with being a shameless self promoter. I know a lot of writers who don’t like to do that.”

“I think some people who are super competitive can also get jealous of people who are more successful.”

“I love it when people who I like and respect and like to read, I love it when their stuff gets big.”

“If you hang around long enough, you’re gonna understand what the story is.”

“I feel good justifying my own survival by telling the stories of those who didn’t survive.”

It’s The Creative Nonfiction Podcast, the show where I speak with the world’s best artists—journalists, documentary filmmakers, essayists, memoirists, and radio producers—about creating works of nonfiction.

Have we got a good one for you today. Episode 64 with journalist Matt Tullis (@matttullis) on Twitter. His first book, Running With Ghosts: A Memoir of Surviving Childhood Cancer published by The Sager Group, tells the story of how Matt got slammed with a form of leukemia at age fifteen, and subsequently what he did what that survival as many of his friends, who had previously been in remission, started passing away as the cancer came back. A couple of Matt’s caretakers, people who spent hours, and weeks, and months ensuring his survival, also died of cancer leaving Matt to wonder why he was spared.

There were several times in this book that burned your host’s eyes, not gonna lie, but Matt honors his life and his friends by turning his reporter’s eye inward, and outward, telling the story of his life and his friends.

Matt is a professor at Fairfield Univeristy and host of Gangrey the Podcast. His work has appeared in SB Nation Longform among many other places.

You’re gonna dig this episode as we talk about what it takes to be a great writer, letting events unfold in the face of preconceived expectations, competition, jealousy, and self promotion.

Stories by Matt

The Ghosts I Run With

Feet of Clay, Heart of Iron

Books Mentioned

Fractals
The Things They Carried
Pulphead

 

Writers Mentioned

Tom Junod
Chris Jones
Kelley Benham French
Wright Thompson
John Jeremiah Sullivan
Paul Auster
William Bradley
Glenn Stout
Tim O’Brien

Episode 63—Bronwynn Dean Talks Marijuana, Gonzo Journalism, and the Power of Performance

Bronwynn Dean’s work-in-progress is titled “Potted,” and she explores the world of marijuana.

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Bronwynn Dean (@bronwynnhdean):

“Pretty much anyone I interact with is fair game for ending up in a story.”

“Okay, here’s how to get in the facts, but also make it really funny.”

“Having that permission for adventure, I never lost that.”

“You have to see the value in the end product enough to make yourself suffer.”

This episode is brought to you by Hippocamp 2017, a conference for creative nonfiction writers. It takes place in lovely Lancaster, PA, and runs from September 8 through September 10. Spots are still available for the third annual conference, so if you want to check out speakers like Tobias Wolfe and Dinty W. Moore, you better sign up! Hippocamp: Create. Share. Live.

Bronwynn Dean stopped by the podcast to talk about the power of performance and her work-in-progress about the world of marijuana. It’s titled Potted

Her work has appeared in Pitkin Review and Soundings Review. She cites Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe as major influences and I think you’ll dig how she was able to be the only one of about forty writers to land an agent. What went right? What was wrong about the other 39? Good stuff.

Okay, friends, you know the drill: Please leave a nice review over at iTunes and sign up for my monthly newsletter where I give out my book recommendations. It’s short, to the point, no spam. 

Share this with a friend and sit back and enjoy Bronwynn Dean. 

Episode 62—Penny Lane is Her Real Name

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables from Penny Lane (@lennypane):

“You can beg, borrow, and steal, cut corners and set your expectations are low, or say, ‘Fuck that! My time is important and I’m going to pay myself.'”

“I wanted the movie to be a con the way Brinkley conned people.”

“You just have to muddle through.”

“Being a director, your only job is to understand the big-picture goals of the film.”

Penny Lane is a documentary filmmaker whose films include Nuts!Our Nixon, and The Voyagers. The latter got her a nod from Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings

The Voyagers is a gorgeous movie and a love letter of sorts to her then-fiance. Popova writes:

The Voyagers is a beautiful short film by video artist and filmmaker Penny Lane, made of remixed public domain footage — a living testament to the creative capacity of remix culture — using the story of the legendary interstellar journey and the Golden Record to tell a bigger, beautiful story about love and the gift of chance. Lane takes the Golden Record, “a Valentine dedicated to the tiny chance that in some distant time and place we might make contact,” and translates it into a Valentine to her own “fellow traveler,” all the while paying profound homage to [Carl] Sagan’s spirit and legacy.

In this episode we talk about that, but also her longer films Nuts! and Our Nixon, and also about raising the bar of her own ambitions and finding ways to make her work more visible. Anybody who may be hiding in obscurity will find this episode inspiring. 

Documentaries Mentioned

Exit Through the Gift Shop
Grizzly Man
The Gleaners and I

If you can, leave a kind review over on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

Episode 61—Susan Orlean on Writing for an Audience and the Entrepreneurial Nature of a Writing Career

Susan Orlean for Grub Street / New York Magazine

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Susan Orlean (@susanorlean)

“What can I do with the tools I was given as opposed to the tools I was expecting?”

“If a story is just exactly what I expected it would be, I don’t think of that as all that interesting.”

“Entrepreneur, I had the instincts of an entrepreneur.”

“OK, this is how you do it…you make a connection, you think of stories that would work for a bigger audience.”

“In very practical terms, if you’re gonna be a person doing longform journalism, you will be running a small business.”

“Look at it as a business you’re running, but you also happen to be the raw material the business is producing.”

“Each story starts from zero. It never stops being exciting.”

Hello, CNF-buddies, it’s The Creative Nonfiction Podcast, the show where I speak with the world’s best artists about creating works of nonfiction—journalists, essayists, memoirists, radio producers, and documentary film makers—and how you can use their tools of mastery and apply it to your own work.

That’s right, you are in for a treat. Well, let’s face it, you’ve always been in for a treat, but this week you’re in for an Easter basket and Halloween sack all rolled into one verifiably true candy locker.

New York Times bestselling author of Rin Tin Tin, The Orchid Thief, (which was made into the movie Adaptation), Saturday Night, My Kind of Place, The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup, and the children’s book Lazy Little Loafers. She’s a staff writer for The New Yorker (full archive here) and she came by the podcast to share her wisdom and experiences from a career writing deeply reported features. You can find Susan online @susanorlean on Twitter and visit her website Susan Orlean dot com.

What are some takeaways? Susan talks about always having an audience in mind, having supreme focus, and needing to see yourself as a business person if you plan on doing this type of work and that it’s actually freeing, not stifling, in order to do the kind of work that excites you and feeds your ambitions.

Before we get to that, I ask that you please subscribe to the podcast, share it with a friend, and leave a rating or, ideally, a nice review on iTunes, like this one from Meredith May. She said, “Real conversations among professional writers about the essence of craft. A behind the scenes look at the way stories come together, from inception to publication, that doesn’t shy away from the truth about the difficulties and triumphs of making a living from words. One of the hardest concepts for my podcasting students to grasp is how differentiate between a story and a topic—this podcast helps them find that X-factor that makes a story sing.”

Wow. Shoutout to that five-star review. If you leave one, I might just read it on the air! It’s time for the show, episode 61 with Susan Orlean!

Episode 60—The Godfather of Creative Nonfiction: Lee Gutkind

Lee Gutkind, Brendan O'Meara
Lee Gutkind, founder of the journal Creative Nonfiction and author/editor of nearly 50 books, stopped by the podcast.

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Lee Gutkind (@LeeGutkind):

“I love the work. It’s my passion. Aside from raising my son, it’s the most satisfying thing I do.

“In many ways the biggest challenge to figure out if you’re gonna be a writer of nonfiction is to figure out what stories you can tell that no one else has told before.”

“You have to select people who want to be written about.”

“The change is everything. The change is the story.”

“The test of any great writer is keeping going and not letting however you see failure as a way of stopping you.”

“We are not writing for ourselves. We’re writing for the bigger world.”

Hey, hey, it’s The Creative Nonfiction Podcast! This is the show where I interview the world’s best artists about creating works of nonfiction: documentary film, personal essay, memoir, narrative journalism, killer profiles, and reportage and dive into the origin story, what makes them great, and how you can apply their strategies of mastery to your own work.

Today’s guest for Episode 60 (!) of The Creative Nonfiction Podcast is none other than the Godfather, Lee Gutkind.

His tagline on his website is Writer. Speaker. Innovator. He’s written or edited 49 books like Almost Human, The Best Seat in the House But You Have to Stand: The Game as Umpires See It, Truckin’ With Sam.

He also founded the lit journal/now magazine Creative Nonfiction, which is an incredible well of great writing. 

What are you gonna learn from this episode? Lee tells you that you need to figure out what stories and YOU can tell that no one else has done before. How to find the people who want their stories told, and how to perservere in the face of untold failure.

That’s a some good, good stuff.

Before we dive into the interview, I ask that you leave a review on iTunes or even just a rating. Reviews are icing on the cake, but the more ratings, the more cred, the more people we can reach. Also, I have an email newsletter that I send out once a month. It’ gives my reading list for the month and what you may have missed from the podcast.

Share this with a friend because I know you’re gonna dig it!

Episode 58—Get 1% Better with Joe Ferraro

Joe Ferraro, Brendan O'Meara
Joe Ferraro is the host of The 1% Better Podcast.

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Joe Ferraro (@FerraroOnAir):

“We need to be shipping more than worrying about the details.”

“Nothing upsets me more than when someone says, ‘I’m too busy.'”

“You’ll hear young learners say, ‘How did you get so good at that?’ And the answer almost always is practice and reps.”

“I’m still trying to get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

“I’m a person who learns an unbelievable amount by talking things out.”

“Who are the people in your damn neighborhood?”

“The art and science of conversation and interviewing is intoxicating.”

Hey, it’s The Creative Nonfiction Podcast (please leave a review!) where I speak with the world’s best writers, freelancers, interviewers, authors, and documentary filmmakers about why and how they go about creating works of nonfiction and how YOU can apply what they do to your work.

Today’s guest is Joe Ferraro (@FerraroOnAir on Twitter), the fourth Joe I’ve had on the podcast (Joe DePaulo, Joe Drape, Joe Donahue, and now Joe Ferraro). Need a Josephine…anyway…

So who’s Joe Ferraro? He’s a teacher and a learner, but above all he’s a leader. He just started a podcast: The 1% Better Podcast. His tagline is Conversations designed to help you get 1% Better. It’s aimed at gradual, continual, rigorous—though not overwhelming—personal improvement.

“If we’re talking about hard work, it’s about squeezing out more of the day,” says Joe. “Nothing upsets me more than when someone says ‘I’m too busy.’”

Joe talks about his allergy for negative people, finding ways to challenge himself, and how after teaching for 20 years, he feels like his best years are still ahead of him. He’s the type of guy that inspires you to take action. He also talks about how he met his good pal Kevin Wilson, who you may recall from Episode 32.

Be sure to reach out to Joe on Twitter and subscribe to his podcast right away. Whether it’s listening to world class leader Ryan Hawk or how to make the best cold brew coffee, the art of thinking and redefining a restaurant, The 1% Better Podcast will open your eyes to where you can add value to you life and those around you.

Episode 57—Joe Donahue on the Art of the Interview

 

Joe Donahue, master interviewer, visited CNF HQ. Photo courtesy of The College of St. Rose’s blog.

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Joe Donahue:

“It’s not about you. It’s about the guest. The fact is people are there to hear the guest.”

“My job really is to present a person and get to the bottom of them, if you will, and ask questions that hopefully people want answered.”

“There is a jazz mentality, a call and response.”

“The worst thing that can happen is when guests sit down and say, ‘Ask me anything.’ Because they haven’t prepared anything.”

“Once you realize that you have that going with that person and have a report, that call and response, it can be delightful.”

“I made a conscious effort 15 years ago that I wasn’t going to write questions or notes down. I was too concerned about being beholden to them.”

“There’s a little acting to this. Sometimes, even if you don’t, you have to pretend like you give a shit.”

By Brendan O’Meara

You need to understand something, friend. Joe Donahue (@JoeCDonahue on Twitter) has had such a strong influence on how I conduct and listen to interviews, I can’t even begin to explain.

He hosts The Roundtable and The Book Show for WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which broadcasts out of Albany, NY. Joe wanted to be in radio since he was, oh, four years old. That’s focus and that’s passion.

“My job really is to present a person and get to the bottom of them, so to speak,” Joe says, “and ask questions that hopefully people want answered.”

It’s how he asks questions and how thoughtful those questions are that make Joe every bit as strong an interviewer as Terry Gross, Trevor Noah, or anyone, really. 

In this episode you’ll learn how he structures his research, thinks through questions, what he learned from Larry King and Fred Rogers, and why he decided to forego lists of questions and note taking during an interview.

I hope you enjoy this latest episode and I hope you’ll do me a favor and leave a nice review wherever you get your podcasts.

Thanks for listening!

Episode 56—Sonja Livingston Serves Up ‘Ghostbread’

Sonja Livingston, author of the memoir “Ghostbread,” stopped by the podcast to read from her book and to talk about her work.

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Sonja: 

“If I had tried to line together four or five of these [short chapters], it might feel cumulatively too dense or heavy.”

“That’s such a nice thing about writing, isn’t it? It’s exciting for me because I don’t know where the piece is going to go and beyond that I don’t know who it’s going to connect with if it will at all. Sometimes it doesn’t. But when it does, it’s sort of amazing.”

“I don’t really have a plan. I follow the leads of memory and curiosity and go with it.”

“They haven’t tried to kill me, but they haven’t thrown me a party either.”

“The thing that makes an essay work and seem like a miracle is the thing that makes it seem so painful as well.”

Sonja Livingston stopped by The Creative Nonfiction Podcast to talk about her award-winning memoir “Ghostbread.” She was also gracious enough to read from three short chapters. It’s about family and growing up in poverty.

“[My family] hasn’t tried to kill me, but they haven’t thrown me a party either,” Sonja says.

This episode is layered and a bit experimental. I hope it adds a little extra somethin’-somethin’ to the usual interview. If you dig it, let me know on Twitter @BrendanOMeara and I’ll invite others to try something similar.

Sonja talks a lot about her routine and how getting outside helps her write. Also she adds that writing personal essay can feel like a miracle, but can also be very painful. Maybe it’s that in order to write great art, there must be a little bit of blood on the page.

I’d love for you to leave a review of the podcast and to share with folks you think will enjoy it. That’s all I can ask for. Thanks for listening!

People Mentioned

Judith Kitchen
Enda O’Brien
Harriet Scott Chessman
Jerre Mangione
James Joyce
Flanner O’Connor
William Faulkner
Dinty W. Moore

Episode 55—Do Funny Things Always Happen to Nikki Schulak?

Nikki Schulak’s “Dentistry’s Problem Children” appeared in Creative Nonfictions latest issue themed “How We Teach.”

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Nikki Schulak:

“What writer at my age gets to have parents be dead? I don’t have to worry about what they think!”

“I can’t stop. I can’t not write stories.”

I suggest visiting Nikki Schulak’s website and then perusing her extensive archive of essays

In this episode we talk about how stories come to her, how she stays attuned to the world, naked bike rides, and the power of performing for an audience and the validation that ushers.

This is the last episode before my 37th birthday. Wanna give something to me? Leave a review on iTunes. You don’t even have to wrap it. The best part? It’s free and takes less than a minute. Can’t beat that right?

Thanks for listening!