Episode 95—Mike Sager on the Magical Nature of Creating, Suspending Disbelief, and Preaching Beyond the Choir

The legendary Mike Sager talked about his career doing long features for magazines and newspapers.

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Mike Sager (@therealsager):

“That’s the most rare and wonderful element you can have is finding the thing you want to do because then you can just do it.”

“Journalism was a sport. Then it was an art.”

“I have a body of work that’s based on work.”

“I try to have a spoonful of medicine with the sugar.”

“I can’t get on the bandwagon because the bandwagon is gross.”

Hey, today I bring you the incomparable Mike Sager, @therealsager on Twitter. He of The Sager Group. He of the National Magazine Award. He of he talks you listen.

In Episode 95 of the creative nonfiction podcast he talks about his humble start in journalism, suspending disbelief, the power of creating something, and journalism as sport.

His collections of journalism include: The Lonely Hedonist, which includes all new material, Wounded Warriors, The Someone You’re Not, Stoned Again, The Devil and John Holmes, and Revenge of the Donut Boys, which features the iconic profile of Rosanne Barr, a feature that feels timely with the reboot of the show.

Famous articles of Mike’s include “Last Tango in Tahiti,” “The Man Who Never Was,” “I Am Large. I Contain Multitudes,” and about a billion others.

His collections are an education. You wanna be good? You wanna be great? You gotta read Mike’s work, after you listen to this episode of course.

 

Episode 93—The Hidden Life of Life with Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas spoke about her latest book “The Hidden Life of Life.”

By Brendan O’Meara

“What I wanted to do was show the commonality of all life on earth…it seemed important to me that we’re related.” —Elizabeth Marshall Thomas.

You’ll excuse that there’s not traditional intro and outro to this show. You might even prefer it. I’ve had what I can only hope is a MINOR complication with recent oral surgery and don’t want to talk and thus compound the problem at hand. I won’t bore you.

It’s The Creative Nonfiction Podcast, the show where I speak to artists about telling true stories. Leaders in narrative journalism (like Bronwen Dickey), memoir (like Maddy Blais), essay (like Erica Berry), radio (like Joe Donahue), and documentary film (like Penny Lane) talk about their origins, routines, processes, and key influences so you, kind listener, can apply those tools of mastery to your own work.

EMT returns to the show to talk about her new book The Hidden Life of Life: A Walk Through the Reaches of Time (Penn State University Press, 2018).

Carl Safina, author of Beyond Words, writes, “We are lucky to have shared some time on Earth with Elizabeth Marshall Thomas…Reading her is like looking through a telescope and realizing that the brightness you see actually happened long, long ago and has taken all this time to reach your own eyes.”

Dig the show? Leave a review for a review! What’s that? Consider leaving an honest review on iTunes and I will coach up a piece of your writing up to 2,000 words. Reviews are the currency that drives the podcast economy and I’d be thrilled if you added your two cents. Show me proof via electronic mail and we’ll get it done. You give me a minute of your review time, I’ll give you a few hours of mine (that’s how long it takes to read a piece three times and give good notes.) You give you get.

Also, in an effort to be less dependent on social media (@CNFPod, @BrendanOMeara, @CNFPodast, and @BrendanOMeara), my monthly newsletter is the bedrock of my little community here. It’s my monthly book recommendations and what you’ve missed from the world of the podcast. I’d love it if you signed up. Once a month. No spam. Can’t beat it.

Maybe I’ll be able to talk next week. In the meantime, enjoy Episode 93, and if you want to hear far more from Elizabeth, be sure to check out Episode 80 with her.

Episode 91—Mary Pilon’s Freelance Rumspringa and the Best Advice She Got from David Carr

Mary Pilon says, “Anybody who goes into journalism for fame or fortune or awards right off the bat I write off as an idiot.”

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Mary Pilon (@marypilon):

“Anybody who goes into journalism for fame or fortune or awards right off the bat I write off as an idiot.”

“The pipeline has changed.”

“I think it took two years to be comfortable with freelancing.”

Okay, so what’s the meaning of this? Mary Pilon again? For one I could listen to 52 episodes of Mary, but when we recorded I spliced the interview in two parts to shorten it and I’m glad I did at this point because my guest this week cancelled. What’s the lesson kids? Get interviews in the can. When I can it’s brilliant. Can’t always happen. Continue reading “Episode 91—Mary Pilon’s Freelance Rumspringa and the Best Advice She Got from David Carr”

Episode 83—Victoria Stopp on Battling Chronic Pain, Being Disorganized, and Writing in a Camper

Victoria Stopp can’t be…stopped…Sorry. She’s the author of “Hurting Like Hell, Living with Gusto.”

By Brendan O’Meara

“Going toward solitude and away from excuses has really helped me.” —Victoria Stopp

Hey there, CNFers, my CNF buddies, hope you’re having a CNFin’ great start to the new year. Jan 1 is just a day like any other, but we as a culture have assigned supreme import to that day.

If you’re coming here for the first time because your resolution is to listen more podcasts or you want to kickstart projects in the genre of creative nonfiction, then let me tell you the deal: This is The Creative Nonfiction Podcast—hello—the show where I speak with the world’s best artists about creating works of nonfiction: leaders in the worlds of narrative journalism, documentary film, radio, essay, and memoir and try to tease out habits, routines, and origins so that you can use their tools of mastery in your own work. Continue reading “Episode 83—Victoria Stopp on Battling Chronic Pain, Being Disorganized, and Writing in a Camper”

Episode 81—Google as Religious Experience and Trusting Self-Doubt with Rachel Wilkinson

Rachel Wilkinson, whose essay “Search History” won Creative Nonfiction’s Best Essay for Issue 65 Science and Religion, joined me on Episode 81. Photo by Morgan Kayser.

Tweetables by Rachel Wilkinson (@realclownishink):

“Failure is part of the process.”

“It’s kind of like the Internet is everybody’s dad.”

“I think of research as this open-ended, beautiful thing.”

“Research is this vehicle that allows you to follow your interests however long you want to follow it.”

“If you can’t love the grind, you’re doomed.”

For Episode 80 of The Creative Nonfiction Podcast, the show where I speak with the world’s best artists about creating works of nonfiction, I spoke with Rachel Wilkinson, a writer and research based out of Pittsburgh, PA. 

Her essay, “Search History,” won Best Essay for Creative Nonfiction Magazine’s Science and Religion contest for Issue 65. It’s Google as religious experience, how the very act of asking questions is very faith-based, and, if we’re getting grim and dystopian, how this technology, which is getting increasingly sentient, might supplant us some day. #spitoutthebone (Metallica reference for all y’all.)

In our conversation we talk a lot how she crafted this essay and how it hangs on a big idea rather than sheer character drive, David Foster Wallace, The War of Art, the fun of research, embracing failure, and trusting—yes, trusting—self-doubt. 

Self-doubt is my spirit animal. 

Hey, are you digging the show? I’d love it if you subscribed to the show, shared it with a fellow CNFer. Leave an honest review on iTunes and I’ll give you an editorial consult on the house. Just send me a screenshot of your review and I’ll reach out.

Thanks for listening!

People Mentioned

Eula Biss
Maggie Nelson
Claudia Rankine
Leslie Jamison

Books Mentioned

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again
The War of Art
Citizen
Notes from No Man’s Land

 

Episode 78—Louisa Thomas on Problematic Writers, Mercenary Work, and Picking Up the Phone

Louisa Thomas is the author of two books and a recent honoree of the Best American Sports Writing.

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables from Louisa Thomas (@louisahthomas)

“For me, I’m thinking about the writing from the very first second I get an assignment. I’m thinking about tone, and texture, and influences.”

“Sometimes you just have to write things. You do the best you can. You turn it in and you turn the page.”

“A lot of reporters can’t wait to pick up the phone. I will do everything to avoid picking up the phone.”

“I still get off on a great sentence. It’s as simple as that.”

Louisa Thomas joins me this week. She recently made the big book for The Best American Sports Writing for her piece Serena Williams, Andy Murray, and a Political Wimbledon.

In this episode we talk about

  • Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams.
  • Working with Prolematic Writers and How Not to be One
  • Mercenary Writing
  • And what she learned working with New Yorker editor David Remnick
  • How she organizes her titanic feats of research and much more

People are taking advantage of my free hour of editorial work and coaching, about a $50 value. Want in? All you have to do is leave an honest review on iTunes and have it postmarked by the end of December. Send me a screenshot of your review and you’ll be on your way. Reviews validate the podcast and increase its visibility so we can reach more CNFin’ people. I’m not even asking for a 5-star review, merely an honest one because that comes from a more authentic place.

All right, enough of my stupid face, time to hear from Louisa Thomas, thanks for listening.

I also have a monthly newsletter where I send out my book recommendations and what you might have missed from the podcast. Head over to brendanomeara.com to subscribe. There you’ll also find show notes to all the episodes of the podcast. Once a month. No spam. Can’t beat it.

Books by Louisa

Conscience: Two Soldiers, Two Pacifists, One Family—a Test of Will and Faith in World War I
Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams

Episode 73—Patsy Sims on Book Research as Mini-education, Not Giving Up, and “The Stories We Tell”

Patsy Sims
Patsy Sims reporting at a KKK rally for her 1978 book “The Klan.”

By Brendan O’Meara

“The novel I always wanted to write didn’t have to be fiction.”

“What they gave women was pitiful.”

“Sure, you have everything on the tape recorder, but that’s the beauty of it and it’s up to me to be selective.”

“Transcribing is another point of getting this in your head.”

“I guess the lesson there is perseverance. Not giving up.”

Hey, CNFers, it’s The Creative Nonfiction Podcast the show where I speak with the world’s best artists about creating works of nonfiction. I try and tease out the origins and tactics from leaders in narrative journalism (like Susan Orlean), personal essay (like Elizabeth Rush), memoir (like Andre Dubus III), radio (like Joe Donahue), and documentary film (like Penny Lane), so you can apply their tools of mastery to your own work. Continue reading “Episode 73—Patsy Sims on Book Research as Mini-education, Not Giving Up, and “The Stories We Tell””

Episode 70—Erica Westly on Softball and Structure

Erica Westly is the author of “Fastpitch: The Untold History of Softball and the Women Who Made the Game.”

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Erica Westly (@westlyer on Twitter):

“That sense of discovery when you come across a story you had no idea existed.”

“The book project was my last hope for getting to do the type of writing I wanted to do.”

“I’ve kind of learned to live with the self-loathing I think.”

“I try to picture myself telling the story to someone at the bus stop.”

It’s the Creative Nonfiction Podcast where I speak to the world’s best artists about creating works of nonfiction. Leaders in the world of narrative journalism, memoir, essay, radio, and documentary film share their tools and tricks with you so you can improve your own work.

Continue reading “Episode 70—Erica Westly on Softball and Structure”

Episode 68—Peter Brown Hoffmeister on Failure as Fuel, Staying Hungry, and Wolf Naps

Peter Brown Hoffmeister
Peter Brown Hoffmeister, author of the memoir The End of Boys, joins us for Episode 68 of The Creative Nonfiction Podcast.

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Peter Brown Hoffmeister (@pbhoffmeister on Twitter):

“After you’re in it for a while and you actually become better, you realize how bad you are.”

“I think that’s how a writing career starts: You’re just a pathetic little freshman.”

“Being a career writer is all about staying hungry.”

“I guess there are people who write strong first drafts, but that’s not me.”

“If you’re competitive with other writers, it’s not going to be healthy.”

“I don’t feel great at the end of the day if I haven’t written or haven’t read.”

What’s up CNFers, hope you’re having a CNFin’ good week. Continue reading “Episode 68—Peter Brown Hoffmeister on Failure as Fuel, Staying Hungry, and Wolf Naps”

Episode 66—Brin-Jonathan Butler on the Risk of Chess, Obsession with Obsessives, and the Blessing of Struggle

Brin-Jonathan Butler, Brendan O'Meara
Brin-Jonathan Butler sporting Cuban refugee Yasiel Puig’s No. 66.

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables from Brin-Jonathan Butler (@brinicio):

“It was completely surreal, like being in the games room of the Titanic after it struck the iceberg. Nobody gave a shit.”

“Obsession has always fascinated me, whether it’s more a dance with your virtues or your demons.”

“Maybe you have to con your ways into finishing a lot of things in life.”

“My worst ideas happen when I’m sitting at the computer. I need to go for a walk, have a cigarette, or play with my cat.”

Hey, hey, it’s The Creative Nonfiction Podcast, the show where I speak with the world’s best artists—leaders in narrative journalism, essay, memoir, radio, and documentary film—and tease our their stories, tips, and tricks and how you can apply those tools to your own work. I’m your host @BrendanOMeara, Brendan O’Meara in real life. Continue reading “Episode 66—Brin-Jonathan Butler on the Risk of Chess, Obsession with Obsessives, and the Blessing of Struggle”