Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Laurence Gonzales and John Demos

Marrie Stone interviews Laurence Gonzales, author of Everyday Survival: Why Smart People Do Stupid Things and John Demos, author of The Enemy Within: 2,000 Years of Witch-hunting in the Western World.

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(Broadcast date: October 15, 2008)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Raymond Carver on writing fiction from life

Since I read this interview a few days ago, in the Paris Review Interviews, Vol. III, it's stayed with me--especially this excerpt:

Interviewer: Where do your stories come from, then? I'm especially asking about the stories that have something to do with drinking.

Carver: The fiction I'm most interested in has lines of reference to the real world. None of my stories really happened, of course. But there's always something, some element, something said to me or that I witnessed, that may be the starting place. Here's an example: "That's the last Christmas you'll ever ruin for us!" I was drunk when I heard that, but I remembered it. And later, much later, when I was sober, using only that one line and other things I imagined, imagined so accurately that they could have happened, I made a story--"A Serious Talk." But the fiction I'm most interested in, whether it's Tolstoy's fiction, Chekhov, Barry Hannah, Richard Ford, Hemingway, Isaac Babel, Ann Beattie, or Anne Tyler, strikes me as autobiographical to some extent. At the very least it's referential. Stories long or short don't just come out of thin air. ...... Of course you have to know what you're doing when you turn your life's stories into fiction. You have to be immensely daring, very skilled and imaginative and willing to tell everything on yourself...A little autobiography and a lot of imagination are best.

A lil tidbit for you to dwell upon as this year segues into next ...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Diane Leslie

Diane Leslie, author of Fleur De Leigh's Life of Crime.

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(Broadcast date: September 6, 2000)

Friday, December 26, 2008

"Writers on Writing" Holiday Show

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett and Marrie Stone are joined by The Green Room in a special Holiday episode of Writers on Writing. Enjoy music and readings by the cast and crew of the show.

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(Broadcast date: December 24, 2008)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Preeta Samarasan and Dan Ariely

Marrie Stone interviews Preeta Samarasan, author of Evening is the Whole Day and Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.

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(Broadcast date: August 6, 2008)

Wednesday's show: Holiday show with The Green Room

Tomorrow we're having our somewhat annual Christmas show. Marrie and I will be reading from O'Henry and others, and my son Travis' band, The Green Room, will be with us, playing live.

Tune in at 9 a.m. Pacific at 88.9 FM KUCI or listen live at We're also on iTunes at Public Radio.
Travis and I wish you a wonderful holiday.

Photo by Judy Alexander.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Silencing the room

Lately I've been thinking of something that my late friend Barbara Seranella said on my show (it's in one of these interviews). She said when she was reading, to friends or to her critique group (of which I was a member), she didn't want to just hear, "Interesting," or "I like it." She wanted to silence the room.

That's a tall order, I know, and yet I find I've arrived at another crossroads with this novel I've rewritten for the umpteenth time. Who cares? I find myself thinking, and saying. And mostly I'm looking into myself and trying to figure out if I indeed care. The theme of this latest novel has grown stale, and now I'm thinking of shelving the entire thing. (And probably thinking entirely too much, which I always tell my students and writer friends: Stop thinking so much!)

It doesn't help that I receive so very many books in the mail to be considered for the show, and so many of them, while formidable, do not silence the room--especially the self-published books. (I really wish folks wouldn't send me self-published books. There are just not enough filters--editor, copyeditor, proofreader, etc. etc.--to polish the work to a high sheen.)

Yesterday on a long car ride, I found myself saying to Brian and Travis: "I just don't want to waste more paper on something that doesn't silence the room."

Of course they both thought I was outrageous. Writers use paper, Brian said.

True, true.

But still.

When I wrote Pen on Fire, I, in effect, silenced the room. And I didn't care which editor or agent said there were too many writing books on the shelf, I was going to get it out there, no matter what. My students needed it--well, wanted it, anyway--and so there was a greater good.

I'm not sure I have that same drive with this novel. And that drive is what carries you over and through.

As Judith Thurman said on my show in this wonderful interview, it's like the Shawshank Redemption, digging your way through a brick wall with a fork. You've got to be committed to your project this deeply.

So as well as enjoying the holiday and cookie parties and Christmas Eve Mass and hopefully more snow in the mountains, I'm going to spend these next couple of weeks dwelling, and playing around with a few ideas on the page.

What will you be doing? And what do you think about silencing the room? Is this something you think about?


Out at my brother-in-law's, his sweet horse, lovely dog Max, and a snowball tree.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

David Francis and Jon Fasman

Marrie Stone interviews David Francis, author of Stray Dog Winter and Jon Fasman, author of The Unpossessed City.

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(Broadcast date: December 3, 2008)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wednesday's show

On Wednesday's show (12/17), my guests will be photographer Pete Souza, author of "The Rise of Barack Obama," Triumph Books, and Elizabeth Strout, author of the novel "Olive Kitteridge." The show airs at 9 a.m. Pacific, KUCI-FM, accessible via iTunes/public radio.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Writing books

A student asked:

"When do you know when you're ready to write a book?"

Most new writers, I think, start with short pieces--essays, articles, short stories. There's the gratification of starting and finishing. Jumping into a book length manuscript takes a ton of commitment and new writers don't know how committed they are, generally. It's a little bit like running: Before you run a marathon, you will run around your neighborhood, run longer routes, and get in shape before you attempt a marathon.

You may find, in writing short pieces, that you want to say more, that short pieces are, well, too short. That's when you know.

Or you have a burning passion to tell a story that needs more room than a short piece can offer.

My short stories became longer and longer, which is when I knew it was time for a book. I still write short pieces, but I always seem to need a book-length project in the works.

What about you, out there? When did you know it was time? Or do you remain loyal to the short form?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Linda Pastan, Martha Serpas and Lisa Williams

Marrie Stone moderates a poetry panel with Linda Pastan, author of Queen of a Rainy Country, Martha Serpas, author of The Dirty Side of the Storm, and Lisa Williams, author of Woman Reading to the Sea.

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(Broadcast date: November 5, 2008)

Julia Glass on today's show

Today my guest will be Julia Glass, author of I See You Everywhere. Tune in at 9 a.m. Pacific at KUCI-FM, 88.9 in Orange Co., CA. Listen via iTunes at Public radio, or at

Podcasts of past shows can be heard here.

Thanks for listening!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Stephen Baker and Padma Viswanathan

Marrie Stone interviews Stephen Baker, author of The Numerati and Padma Viswanathan, author of The Toss of a Lemon

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(Broadcast date: October 1, 2008)

Publishing biz bailout

Has everyone been reading the paper, listening to the news and the online reports about the publishing biz?

My publisher, Harcourt, now merged with Houghton Mifflin to be Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, has a six month moratorium on buying new manuscripts. Whoa, Nellie,

There's been a shake-up at Random House, too.

Publishing has been circling the drain for some time and the gurgles are becoming louder.

All this talk of bailouts--what about publishing? In my view, books are more important than cars and lots and lots of people are employed in the publishing industry. Why aren't publishers going to Washington?

Maybe I just don't understand politics. If I were a publisher, that's where I'd be headed.

New books are more important (to me) than new cars.

An editor came on my show last year and said too many books were being published, but how could publishers stop publishing--it's what they do: publish books.

If anything should slow down, it should be self-published books. Except for a rare few, I would venture to say no one reads self-published books, except family and close friends. I'm harsh, I know.

Yet, I'm still cranking, making progress on the umpteenth revision of my novel. I can't stop because publishing looks dismal. When I'm writing, I keep those dire reports away.

When I was pushing ahead with Pen on Fire, agents told me writing books didn't sell. Lots and lots of days and nights, sitting alone, being anti-social, writing and wondering if I would ever see the fruits of my labor. I'm here to say it was worth it. A pretty good deal, and a book that's in the 7th printing.

Writers write. What a cliche that's become. And yet it's so very true. You've got to have hope. Writers are a hopeful lot. Without hope, you would put down your pen, close up your computer, and do something else.

Meanwhile, is anybody talking publishing biz bailout, and if not, why not?