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 59—Jessica Lahey Reads “I’ve Taught Monsters”

Jessica Lahey returns to the podcast to read her essay.

By Brendan O’Meara

Hello, friends, fellow CNFers, it’s The Creative Nonfiction Podcast, the show where I speak with the world’s best artists about creating works of nonfiction and the actionable insights they share to help you with your work.

Today I welcome back Jessica Lahey (@jesslaheyof Episode 51 fame, author of the NYT bestseller The Gift of Failure and, most recently, the author of the essay “I’ve Taught Monsters,” which appeared in Issue 63 of the literary magazine Creative Nonfiction.

For this episode, Jess reads the essay in its entirety and she gives a knockout performance. I noodled around with music for a bit, but I couldn’t find the perfect tracks for it, so I just let it stand: Jess simply reading her wonderful essay.

Before we get to her reading I want to ask you something: What are you struggling with? Is there something in your work that’s giving you trouble or are you hitting road blocks? I want to know. Ping me on Twitter or email me. Maybe I can help.

Also, be sure to share this with a friend, leave a review on iTunes if you got any value out of this, and let me know if you dig these author readings.

Also, it’s Saratoga horse racing season and some of you might not even know that I write words too. My first book, Six Weeks in Saratoga: How Three-Year-Old Filly Rachel Alexandra Beat the Boys and Became Horse of the Year came out in 2011 courtesty of SUNY Press. It’s a timeless story about the track and the 2009 season. Want to support me and the podcast? Buy a book! It’s in paperback.

That’s it, here’s Episode 59 as Jessica Lahey returns to read from her essay “I’ve Taught Monsters.”

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!

Episode 53—Jessica Abel and the Power of Creative Focus

Photo by Laurène DuCrocq

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Jessica Abel (@jccabel)

“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.

I came across her kick-ass, 200-page, black-and-white graphic book Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio and reached out to her. 

So in this episode we talk a lot about what makes for great radio/podcasting, how to obtain creative focus, the power of reviewing your projects and processes, and much, much more.

If you dig the show, share it with a friend and leave a review in Apple Podcasts or wherever you found this. The five-star ratings keep coming in and I’d love to have more that way I can reach more people just like you, people who dig what the best artists are doing in the genre of creative nonfiction. 

Thanks for listening!

Episode 51—Jessica Lahey on Hidden Monsters, The Gift of Failure, and Keeping Your Butt in the Chair

Jessica Lahey in the classroom.

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Jessica Lahey (@JessLahey on Twitter):

“Give me everything that was wrong with it and have me learn.”

“I’ve realized that long walks and gardening are a part of my process.”

“Almost always the editor is right.”

“Our tagline is, ‘Keep your butt in the chair and your head in the game.'”

“The work of being a writer means you get words on the page.”

Jessica Lahey, author of the essay “I’ve Taught Monsters,” which recently appeared in Issue 63 of Creative Nonfiction and the NYT best seller The Gift of Failure, came by the show to talk about teaching and getting the work done.

“The work of being a writer means you get words on the page,” Lahey says. “It’s as simple as that. I means you read, you write, and get words on the page.”

We talk about her approach to teaching and language, and also how Stephen King’s On Writing influenced her style. We also talk about what it means to work hard as a writer, a very nebulous term. What does hard work look like?

Dig the show? Give the podcast a nice review. You won’t be alone. Several people have done it, so join them!

Thanks for listening!

Episode 50—Ted Conover’s Deep Dive into Immersion

Author Ted Conover. Photo by Jay Leibold

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Ted Conover:

How could I write a thesis and get out of the library?

What if I’d been a little more cautious? I probably would’ve missed out and I can’t tell you what I’d be doing today. I hate to think about it.

Experience that doubles as research is really cool.

You have to see that team spirit as a tool for learning about people.

When you take notes, you’re writing to yourself. These are notes to the person who’s going to write about this.

If the experience is the raw  material, do I have enough to create a finished product?

For the 50th episode of The Creative Nonfiction Podcast, we had to go big and that’s what we did.

Ted Conover (@tedconover on Twitter), author of so many books (Rolling Nowhere, Coyotes, Newjack) including his latest Immersion: A Writer’s Guide to Going Deep, joined me to talk about why he wrote the book and how he has employed those tactics for the past 40 years.

“The research you do is determinative, right?” Conover says. “It defines what you’re going to be able to write in many ways.”

Thanks for listening. Please share, subscribe, and leave a review on iTunes.