Episode 71—Working Backward with Elizabeth Rush

Elizabeth Rush, Brendan O'Meara
Elizabeth Rush, whose essay “Something Like Vertigo” appeared in Creative Nonfiction Issue 64, joins me on the podcast this week.

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Elizabeth Rush (@elizabetharush on Twitter):

“I’m just a mule. I just show up every day and climb very, very slowly up that mountain.”

“I know writing is about your writing, but it’s also about your networking.”

“My first draft is the Ugly Middle.”

“I feel like I turn to writers to help me solve problems that I’m having.”

Continue reading “Episode 71—Working Backward with Elizabeth Rush”

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 53—Jessica Abel and the Power of Creative Focus

Photo by Laurène DuCrocq

By Brendan O’Meara

 

Tweetables by Jessica Abel’s (@jccabel) #CNFPod episode:

“If you don’t believe it’s something I learned, and if I learned it you can learn it, then you don’t take control, and if you don’t take control you have to live with this stuff.”

“Almost any idea you have could turn into a good idea if you invest in it enough and find what’s at the heart of it.”

“I like to say the Dark Forest is a good sign.”

“The thing that’s going to give you the best chance of having an awesome Tuesday is Monday.”

Jessica Abel is a cartoonist, a teacher, a writer, and a podcaster and her latest book, Growing Gills: How to Find Creative Focus When You’re Drowning in Your Daily Life, is her latest project. Continue reading “Episode 53—Jessica Abel and the Power of Creative Focus”

Episode 48—Roy Peter Clark Redux

By Brendan O’Meara

This week on The Creative Nonfiction Podcast decided to revisit my episode with Roy Peter Clark (@RoyPeterClark on Twitter), this time condensing that two-hour interview and pulling out the best moments.

In it we hear Roy talk about how he learned to swim in the language, the moment he learned the true meaning of literacy, and when research can become crippling.

I’m experimenting with the form and making it more like a mini one-source profile. Let me know what you think. I think it makes for a better overall listen. Ping me on Twitter @BrendanOMeara with thoughts, or to say hi.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple podcast app and on Google Play Music. Leave a rating if you’re feeling extra kind. Those help.

Thanks for listening!

Episode 46—Editor Hattie Fletcher on Seeing Rhythms and the Power of Reading Slush

Hattie Fletcher
Hattie Fletcher, editor selfie

By Brendan O’Meara

Hattie Fletcher Tweetables:

“I spent a lot of time getting at what writers were trying to do with their stories and trying to make stories be the best form of that.”

“If you want to make a print object there’s an obligation to make a nice print object.”

“Editors, I guess, wield power. I don’t know anyone who loves saying ‘no.’ It’s not a personal thing.”

“The best part of my job—and it comes four times a year—is saying ‘yes’ to people.”

“Reading slush is such a great exercise for a writer.”

“I don’t think art that is deliberately mapped out is any less artful.”

Here we are for Episode 46 (!) of The #CNF Podcast with Creative Nonfiction’s managing editor Hattie Fletcher.

If you want to improve your writing and possibly improve your chances of being published in Creative Nonfictionthen this is your episode.

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Thanks for listening!

SpareMin Book Show: Truman Capote on Reading, Style, and Time Between Drafts

By Brendan O’Meara

Truman Capote, one of the master writers of his time and a tragic alcoholic, was loquacious as a speaker and a damn-good listen. Or, if you’re reading Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews edited by Malcolm Cowley, he’s a damn-good listen/read.

In the conversation he had with Pati Hall, Capote talks about his influences, his writing process, and whether style can—or can’t—be learned. For anyone who has read his work and one need look no farther than his opening passage from his nonfiction novel In Cold Blood, one sees the skillful use of language and imagery.

But can a writer learn style, or is it something somehow genetic?

Capote says

No, I don’t think that style is consciously arrived at, any more than one arrives at the color on one’s eyes. After all, your style is you. At the end the personality has to be humanly there. Personality is a debased word, I know, but it’s what I mean. The writer’s individual humanity, his word or gesture toward the world, has to appear almost like a character that makes contact with the reader.

Then how is a style or voice formed? For generations, writers have stolen the styles of their idols and over time—and with much repetition—forged what can be called uniquely their own voice. And how else does a writer come to that realization other than by reading and reading and reading.

Capote, when asked if read a great deal, said:

Too much. And anything, including labels and recipes and advertisements.

A writer need not look to the classics or great literature to find the language dancing. Sometimes a tweet, a Google ad, or the terse nature of technical writing can provide a certain sense of clarity that often gets lost when writers shoot for florid prose, and, it should be said, often miss.

When it came to writing drafts, Capote opted for a pencil, and always wrote in bed. As with any piece of writing, sometimes it needs … time.

After typing out a third draft using a type writer in the lap the way we may use a laptop Capote:

[P]uts the manuscript away for a while, a week, a month, sometimes longer. When I take it out again, I read it as coldly as possible, then read it aloud to a friend or two, and decide what changes I want to make and whether or not I want to publish it. I’ve thrown away rather a few short stories, an entire novel, and half of another. But if all goes well, I type the final version on white paper and that’s that.

This 1959 edition of Writers at Work features William Faulkner, Dorothy Parker, and Thornton Wilder, offering tremendous insights into the minds of writers. Partner any of these interviews with the many that The Paris Review has published online with modern authors of fiction and nonfiction.

I hope you share this essay with your friends and if you like this, be sure to subscribe to my creative nonfiction podcast, #CNF, on iTunes or Google Play Music, where I speak with artists about creating works of nonfiction.

 

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 31—Jen Miller on Freelancing, Tenacity, Running, and Swinging Her “Where’s My Money Bat” (It’s a Thing)

Jen Miller
Jen Miller sits down and talks to me about her freelancing career and her memoir “Running: A Love Story”.

Written by Brendan O’Meara

“Good ideas still find homes.”Jen Miller

“When it gets too easy, I need to challenge myself and make it harder again.” —Jen Miller

What’s this? Three weeks in a row? It’s happening, folks, and thanks for hanging in while I get my feet back under me after the big, cross-country move.

What better way to follow up that sentence than by talking about Jen Miller (@ByJenAMiller), a runner who wrote the engaging, funny, and raw memoir Running: A Love Story (Seal Press, 2016). It’s about running, love, and control and we talk about that and much more.

We also chat about freelancing and some of the more granular details of the business that I think will benefit any freelancer, novice or expert.

Lots of good stuff here. Please go and subscribe to the podcast. Share it with a friend or two or three. I’m trying my hardest to keep it consistent and hopefully it can keep growing.

Thanks for listening!

Episode 30—I read my Pushcart Prize-Nominated Essay “That Pickoff Play”

This great issue of Chautauqua Americana published a ton of great essays.
This great issue of Chautauqua Americana published a ton of great essays.

By Brendan O’Meara

We made it to Episode 30 of the #CNF Podcast! It’s been hit and miss since I started it over three years ago, but the aim is to be more consistent as that’s the only way for it to reach more readers and writers. So go subscribe, if you haven’t already.

I heard somewhere that a podcast has an average run of about seven episodes, yet here we are at Episode 30 of the #CNF Podcast.

That’s on account of the people I hear from who derive some value and entertainment from the interviews. For that I say, Thank you so much. And let’s keep this thing going, let’s try and reach more writers and more readers.

So Episode 30 is a little different than the typical interview format. For this milestone episode—if you’ll indulge me—I chose to read an essay I had published this year in Chautauqua Americana, a literary journal run by Philip and Jill Gerard.

They were gracious enough to nominate this essay for a Pushcart Prize, so without further ado, here’s me reading my essay “That Pickoff Play”.

Episode 29—Pete Croatto, 10 Years a Freelancer (and counting)

Pete Croatto reading the paper.
Pete Croatto reading the paper.

Written by Brendan O’Meara

Pete Croatto stopped by #CNF HQ to talk about freelancing. What prompted this? This blog post right here where Pete talks about ten of the things he learned in his first ten years as a freelancer.

There are so many gems in this episode whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned vet.

I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for listening. Oh, and while I have your attention, be sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

Your buddy,

Brendan