Monday, December 28, 2009

Steven Thomas and Stephen Elliott

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett interviews Steven Thomas, author of Criminal Karma, and Stephen Elliott, author of The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Masochism, and Murder.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: Dec 16, 2009)

Pen on Fire in Paraguay

Paulette is a Peace Corps volunteer who wrote to me a while ago about the podcast of my radio show. I love that she volunteers for the Peace Corps, so I sent her my book as a gift. She just received it. Here's what she says:

Hi Barbara,
The mail lady came to my house and I ran from washing clothes in the back yard to receive your book. Thank you so much! I'm in a rut with writing right now and I think this book is just what I need! I'm so excited to read it.

Here I am in my hammock, which is my favorite spot to pass a Sunday reading and writing and drinking terere, the traditional Paraguayan beverage. The girl in the photo is holding a guampa, the cup you use to drink it. These are cousins of my host family who follow me around like ducklings and only stop to pick up things and say, "Y eso, que es?" (And this, what is it?) Their names are Chiquetita and Chiquetona and I can't tell them apart for the life of me.

My Paraguayan friends think it's amazing that you sent me a book and I do too. Thank you so much!

I'm going to wash some more clothes and listen to your podcast as I always do. Savage Love is for dishwashing and This American Life is for bus trips.

Aguje (thanks in Guarani),

Paulette Perhach

Thank YOU, Paulette, for volunteering in the Peace Corps!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Save the date for T. Jefferson Parker

Pen on Fire Speaker Series presents T. Jefferson Parker and his new book, Iron River.

This monthly salon, hosted by moi, features authors, literary agents, and others involved in the field of writing. Set in the atmospheric Scape Gallery in Corona del Mar, the salon is a mecca for literary devotees who listen to readings, take part in discussions, and attend book signings.

The next one is Tuesday, January 26, 2010 ...... 7 pm

Join our salon on January 26 when we'll celebrate the launch of Jeff's new book.

T. Jefferson Parker is the bestselling, three-time Edgar Award-winning author of 17 novels. His first novel, Laguna Heat, was made into a movie for cable. His new book is Iron River, published by Dutton.

Our salon will take place at:
Scape Gallery
2859 East Coast Highway
Corona del Mar, CA, 92625

$20.00 includes nibbles, sips and cake. Advance tickets are required. Walk-ins are discouraged as seating is limited.

Paying using PayPal is easiest. Once you get there, send payment to

Please register soon as we expect this to be another sold out event (and we hate turning people away).

More details at; click on Speaker Series.

Upcoming is memoirist Dani Shapiro on Feb. 25. On May 15, plan to help us celebrate the publication of the new anthology, Orange County Noir (Akashic Books), in which Barbara, Mary Castillo, Marty Smith, Gary Phillips, and others have short stories.

Past guests include Lisa See, Carolyn See, Norman Ollestad, Susan Straight, Danzy Senna, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, Merrill Markoe, Marty Smith, Sally van Haitsma, Elise Capron, Kelly Sonnack, Debra Ollivier, and Karen Karbo.

Another great letter

This one from a Philly fan, my old home town. Hope I'm not logrolling too terribly much by posting it, but it praises a guest whose work I love.


I just want to tell you that I just discovered your podcast this week, and after several work commutes with it, I'm convinced it's the best thing I can find in iTunes on writing.

I'm a dedicated, aspiring fiction writer (experienced, mid-career professional business writer, but an amateur when it comes to fiction) and the discussion with Bret Anthony Johnston really held some great insights...I've been discovering my own personal revision process through trial and error, and Bret's comments about the pyramid (I believe he credited Frank Conroy) really crystallized something that I had been sensing about rewriting as I've moved down that path of discovery. Pen on Fire is a great mix of writer's talking about writing craft, but through their writing. So many of the other now-proliferating podcasts about fiction are either 1) raw instruction that's not always so insightful, or 2) wandering interviews with celebrities, ostensibly about their writing, but really just selling books or people. I'm finding with your blog that there's just the right mix for writers who love to both write and read - I'm listening to authors talk about books I'm not yet familiar with...and it's holding my interest because of the way the detailed craft discussion is woven in. Really nice. Hope you keep landing such good guests!


Barry Slawter
Philadelphia, PA

Robert Olen Butler

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett interviews Robert Olen Butler, author of Hell.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: Dec 9, 2009)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Memoirists Michelle Maisto and Abigail Thomas

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett interviews Michelle Maisto, author of The Gastronomy of Marriage: A Memoir of Food and Love and Abigail Thomas, author of Thinking About Memoir.

Download audio.

(Broadcast Date: November 11, 2009)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Writers as Plunderers

Over the years I cut out articles and essays from various magazines and newspapers and, along the way, throw some out while others are keepers. Those I keep I sometimes later find in the most unlikely places.

I found this one, "Writers as Plunderers," which ran in the New York Times in 1998, on my dryer in the garage. It's yellowed and brittle, but still timely. I found what the writer said about why we're so fascinated with true stories especially interesting. See what you think.