Monday, December 26, 2011

The most touching Christmas gift ever

Here's one Christmas gift I found under the tree on Christmas morning.  I cried.  Brian created a tile that looks like my book cover. So very touching. Homemade gifts are the best, aren't they?

Friday, December 09, 2011

Heather King and Nell Casey

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett interviews Heather King, author of Shirt of Flame: A Year With St. Therese of Lisieux, and Nell Casey, author of The Journals of Spalding Gray.

(Broadcast date: November 23, 2011)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Library-scented perfume

It's true.   Does this mean libraries are on the verge of extinction?  Read more here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Amy Ephron & Karen Karbo, a podcast of the show

Yesterday I was on the show with two writers who are so entertaining and, well,  cool.   Amy Ephron is author of the memoir, Loose Diamonds, and Karen Karbo is author of How Georgia Became O'Keeffe.  (Karen will be a featured author at the Pen on Fire Writers Salon this coming Tuesday, Nov. 15.)

Here you go....enjoy!

Download audio

(Broadcast date: November 9, 2011)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Carole Moore and Stephen Wetta

Marrie Stone interviews Carole Moore, author of The Last Place You'd Look: True Stories of Missing Persons and the People Who Search for Them and Stephen Wetta, author of If Jack's In Love.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: October 19, 2011)

Thank you to fund drive donors

KUCI-FM, where Marrie and I host Writers on Writing, is in the midst of a fund drive. The university continues to cut dollars from our budget, which is laughably minimal as it is. So I especially want to thank the following people for donating yesterday during the show:
Ron Alvarez
Allison Johnson
Bruce Miller
Jennifer Cimaglia
Charles Leister
Sonia Marsh
And a mysterious donor ... for the grand offering of $100.....

Another just came in from one of my favorite suspense writers who's been on the show a number of times: T. Jefferson Parker.

And Sujatha Samy, who listens from the UK.

It's your support that helps keep the lights on. Thanks you guys and goils!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Heidi Durrow and William Todd Schultz

Heidi Durrow, author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky and William Todd Schultz, author of An Emergency in Slow Motion: The Inner Life of Diane Arbus.

Download audio

(Broadcast date: Oct. 26, 2011)

Friday, October 28, 2011

"Despair" by Glen David Gold in The Santa Monica Review

The Santa Monica Review has been arriving in the mail for years since, or just before, its editor Andrew Tonkovich came on the show. In it I've read stories and essays by colleagues, friends, and at least one student. I've always liked the journal. It's literary without being pretentious.

But today, just now, in fact, I was knocked over by a piece in the Fall 2011 issue by Glen David Gold called "Despair." It was originally a talk he gave at Squaw Valley Writers Conference. I've liked Gold's writing since I read another essay by him in an anthology edited by Kevin Smokler that I wish I could remember the name of now. Bookends, maybe?

I want to tell all of the writers I know to read this essay. It's the last piece in the book. Gold talks about how the writing is the thing. The process is the most sacred part of anything we do. You've heard this before, but the sum of all parts of Gold's piece is nepenthean.

I'll back up. I've been writing a chapter on forgiveness for my memoir, Blue Corvair. The forgiveness chapters are short and are sprinkled throughout the memoir. For the current chapter, I started with a quote from a Melissa Bank story. One character tells another that to forgive, all you have to do is decide that's what you're going to do. No reason. You just forgive because you want to move on. I Googled forgiveness with the idea that the first entry that appeared would be the one I'd follow.

It was Wikipedia. Great. What's true, what's made up... I started reading. Forgiveness is good for the health and it's the most elevated was to be, from all religions' point of view. I felt dizzy, and lay down with the journal to finish reading "Despair."

Thank you, Andrew Tonkovich, for publishing Gold's talk, and thank you, Glen David Gold, for your defiantly great prose.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Podcast of Denise Hamilton on the show

Mystery author Denise Hamilton, who wrote Damage Control was on at the end of September. You can listen to the podcast of our conversation by clicking below.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: September 28, 2011)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

tomorrow's show: Todd Schultz & Heidi Durrow

I'm excited to tell you about tomorrow's show. Todd Schultz, author of the Bloomsbury release, AN EMERGENCY IN SLOW MOTION: The Interior Life of Diane Arbus, and Heidi Durrow, THE GIRL WHO FELL FROM THE SKY, published by Algonquin, will be my guests (Weds. 26 October, at 9 a.m. PT).

Tune in at 88.9 KUCI FM if you're in Orange Co, CA, or listen online at iTunes/college radio or

Thanks for listening!


p.s. Tickets have started to go fast for the Pen on Fire Writers Salon with Karen Karbo and Merrill Markoe on Nov 15. Visit Be safe, not sorry (now, where did that expression come from??)!

tomorrow's show: Todd Schultz & Heidi Durrow

I'm excited to tell you about tomorrow's show. Todd Schultz, author of the Bloomsbury release, AN EMERGENCY IN SLOW MOTION: The Interior Life of Diane Arbus (, and Heidi Durrow, THE GIRL WHO FELL FROM THE SKY, published by Algonquin, ( will be my guests (Weds. 26 October, at 9 a.m. PT).

Tune in at 88.9 KUCI FM if you're in Orange Co, CA, or listen online at iTunes/college radio or

Thanks for listening!


p.s. Tickets have started to go fast for the Pen on Fire Writers Salon with Karen Karbo and Merrill Markoe on Nov 15. Visit Be safe, not sorry (now, where did that expression come from??)!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tom Perrotta and Jane Mendelsohn

Marrie Stone interviews Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers and Jane Mendelsohn, author of American Music.

(Broadcast date: September 21, 2011)

Melissa Bank & Leah Hager Cohen podcast posted

Melissa Bank, author of the reissued Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing and Leah Hager Cohen, author of The Grief of Others.

Download audio.

Broadcast date: October 12, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Jessie Sholl on writing memoir

Jessie Sholl, author of Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding, and I talked a bit more after the show about writing memoir.  If you listened to the show, you would have heard some of what's here. If not, here you go!

How did Dirty Secret come about?

After a particularly difficult period in terms of my mother’s hoarding, I joined a support group for children of hoarders; I was shocked by how much shame we all carried because of our parents’ behavior. After all, it wasn’t our shame to carry, nor was it our secret to hold. Yet we all did. I was between projects at the time, so I decided to write about hoarding. By writing about compulsive hoarding and getting the secret out, I hoped to lessen the shame and the stigma surrounding it.

At any point, did you have any misgivings about writing such personal stuff?

I didn’t at all while I was writing the book. That’s because I have a strategy for when I’m writing nonfiction: I just tell myself that no one is going to ever read what I’m writing, so I can write whatever I want. It’s very freeing. Also, I tell myself that if I go into territory that’s way too personal, I can cut it down when I revise.

Right before the book came out I had pretty major anxiety about revealing all of these parts of my life that I’d kept hidden for decades. Before this book I was not very forthcoming with personal information, even to friends. I was very private and quite shy. (I guess I’m still shy.) Anyway, I’ve been really pleased by people’s reactions to the book and there’s nothing in it that I regret including.
Did you feel a need to allow your relatives read your manuscript?

I did, yes. Especially my mother. I let her read it and said if there was anything she strongly objected to, that I’d take it out. Luckily for me, she said “it’s the truth. Leave everything in.” Also luckily for me, she really likes the book.
Did you work off an outline?

Yes. I first wrote a proposal for the memoir, which was extremely detailed – broken down chapter by chapter and within those, scene by scene. I also included three sample chapters; the proposal was 100 pages long and it was a great roadmap to have as I wrote the book.

You were recently on 20/20, on an episode about hoarders. How did this affect the sales of your book? And how did this opportunity come about?

To be honest, I’m not sure how it affected sales. I won’t find out the sales numbers for that month until March of 2012. What’s that expression? Oh right: publishing is glacially slow. There’s always the Amazon ranking, but that’s more of a general gauge and most of the time isn’t all that accurate.

The opportunity came about because one of the producers read and liked The New York Times piece from May, about how children of hoarders deal with their own homes when they become adults. She contacted me, and things took off from there.

Any tips you have for memoirists?

I highly recommend telling yourself that no one is going to read what you’re writing—even if your book has already sold and you know that someone will read it. It’s just an easy way to trick yourself into writing freely. I also did a lot of brainstorming ahead of time for scene ideas, always keeping in mind the focus of the book. Since memoir usually covers a specific topic or period of time (as opposed to autobiography, which is the story of a life), it’s really important not to veer too far from the focus of the book.

One last thing: a good memoir should be as compelling and as rich as a novel. You could have the most unusual topic and the loveliest writing, but story and plot are still crucial. You still need to make the reader want to turn the page, to see what happens next.


Friday, October 14, 2011


I've been on a mission to declutter.  The place is beginning to look good!  But man, it's a long road. Just when you think you've gotten rid of a bunch--sold, donated, trashed--more pops up.  When I talk about this to friends, I get so many nods and groans of agreement. It's hard to get rid of things--especially in our culture where less is not more--less is less!  I disagree. The more i clear out things I don't love, the more I can focus on that which I do love. Here is a wonderful blog I just discovered that has motivated me to pare down even more. And here's a photo of our new living room and my corner writing desk. I love it!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Marty Smith to speak....

Martin Smith, editor-in-chief of Orange Coast Magazine, will speak about "Writing and Publishing the Personal Essay" on Saturday, October 15, at 11 a.m. (doors open at 10:30). The free event takes place at the Orange Public Library & History Center, 407 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, CA 92866. Sonsored by California Writers Club, Orange County branch, the event celebrates California Writers Week, designated as the third week in October. For more information:

Friday, September 30, 2011

Writing spaces

We're redoing the house--clearing things out, painting--and I find that the more minimal a space is, the better able I can think, and concentrate. So out went the cute vintage plates that hung on the wall, all the photos and knick-knacks and stuff. I'm entering a minimal phase, a monochromatic phase....whites, blacks, blues. Here are two photos of the current state of affairs...where I write and what I see when I look to my left. I'm in the process of buying a desk for that window you see in the second photo.

Where do you write and do you like it to be a cluttered, busy space, or a minimal space,  or something in between?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

West Hollywood Book Fair this coming Sunday

I'll be there, moderating a memoir panel with Emma Forrest, Dan Fante, Matthew Logelin and Amy Ephron.  11:45.  A fun literary day, free, free parking....colorful.... Make a memory.  Join us!

Here's a video.... for your viewing pleasure....and to get you to the fair!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dani Shapiro at the Pen on Fire Writers Salon

Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion, was a guest at the Pen on Fire Writers Salon in February of 2010.  Here is that live event. 

Download audio.  

(Broadcast date: XXX XX, 20XX)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Plot board

I'm not the only writer I know who has trouble organizing her material--especially when you get above a certain page count and revisions start mounting, it can be brutal, keeping track. 

So I created this: A plot board, is what others call it. I've been writing down on a mini-legal pad what's going on in each chapter, but I work better with visuals so here I color coded what's happening in my memoir. The light pink represents the far past. The light pink, the recent past. Little orange slips are photographs, etc.  (I blurred out text on the Post-its....)  If I need to move the Post-its around, I can. What is in ink are the lines of the squares.  What do you do, to organize?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Kim Wyatt and Danzy Senna podcast up

Kim Wyatt, editor of Permanent Vacation and Danzy Senna, author of You Are Free, a collection of short stories, talking with me about--what else?--the woes and triumphs of writing and publishing. 

Download audio

(Broadcast date: 9/14/2011)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Caitlin Rother and Katie Arnoldi

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett interviews Caitlin Rother, author of Dead Reckoning, and Katie Arnoldi, author of Point Dume. Due to technical difficulties, this podcast begins in the middle of Caitlin's interview in which she's reading from her book.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: Jun 15, 2011)

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Pen on Fire Writers Salon with Heidi Durrow and Danzy Senna

Travis, setting up before the event

Danzy reads from You Are Free
In the background, Heidi talks with author Lynda Zussman. In the foreground, Danzy talks with poet Tina Lustig
Danzy, Heidi, and me

Tina, CJ Bahnsen, Heidi, Danzy, Debra Cross

What a great night with two brilliant authors and an intelligent crowd of writers, and readers.  If  you were there, and would like to hear them talk more about their books and writing, each will be on the show--Danzy next week and Heidi at the end of October. Stay informed by getting on the elist. Email penonfire at earthlink dot net and ask to be put on the elist.

Photography: C.J. Bahnsen

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Save the date: West Hollywood Book Fair

I'll be there, moderating a memoir panel at 11:45. I love this event. Free parking, a literary Sunday. Who could ask for more? Info here. Hope to see you!

Literary prize

Deadline for Entries: January 31, 2012
For More Information:

Nominations are now being accepted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. Two prizes of $5,000 each are given biennially for works of fiction and nonfiction. Cosponsored by the Stanford University Libraries and the William Saroyan Foundation, the awards are intended to “encourage new or emerging writers and honor the Saroyan legacy of originality, vitality, and stylistic innovation.”

Submit five copies of a novel, short story collection, or work of creative nonfiction published between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2011, with a $50 entry fee. Visit the website for more information, including entry forms, contest rules, and complete guidelines. Go to:

DEADLINE: Please note that entries must be received on or before January 31, 2012.

If you have additional questions, feel free to contact Stanford University Libraries, William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, Green Library, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-6004. Sonia Lee, Saroyan Prize Administrator: , (650) 736-9538.

Thank you for helping us spread the word!

Best regards,
(Ms.) Sam Petersen, for Stanford University Libraries
Tel: 650.854.5575; Email:

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

My UCI critiquing workshop begins Sept. 26

Here's the link to the UCI class I'll be teaching this fall. Writers of novels and memoirs...if you're looking for a critiquing workshop, here's a good place to start.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Justin Torres and Helen Schulman

Marrie Stone interviews Justin Torres, author of We the Animals, and Helen Schulman, author of This Beautiful Life.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: Aug 31, 2011)

Traci Foust and Christina Shea

Marrie Stone interviews Traci Foust, author of Nowhere Near Normal: A Memoir of OCD, and Christina Shea, author of Smuggled.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: Aug 24, 2011)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Literary agent Vicky Bijur & Robert Olen Butler, Part II

The podcast is available, now, with literary agent Vicky Bijur and Robert Olen Butler, for Part II of the interview with him. Part I took place on 8/2/11.  He's author of A Small Hotel.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: August 10, 2011.)

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Robert Olen Butler and Anita Shreve

Listen to the podcast of Robert Olen Butler, author of A Small Hotel (Grove) and Anita Shreve, author of Rescue (Back Bay Books) in conversation with Barbara DeMarco-Barrett.

Download audio.

(The interview with Butler is Part I. Part II will be broadcast and taped on August 10, 2011.)

(Broadcast date: August 3, 2011)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Q&A witih memoirist Glen Retief, author of The Jack Bank

Once you listen to the podcast of my show with Glen (posted yesterday), finish up with reading here. Questions we didn't have time for on the show.

Was the first graf, and the first chapter, always the beginning?  Or did you revise the beginning over and over?

Believe it or not, the answer to both those questions is yes.  Intuitively, I knew I had to start The Jack Bank with those many lessons I remember from childhood about Kruger National Park, where we lived, being a paradise.  A few years earlier, I’d written an essay—“Kitsch and the Art of Wildlife Painting,” published in The Massachusetts Review in 2004—about how much I hated African paintings, because to me they projected a kind of false idealism about animals I actually found very scary as a young kid.  I linked this feeling of falseness to the general sense I had as a boy that something was untrue about the whites-only paradise created by apartheid—smiling black maids, happy gardeners, crime-free streets, and middle-class comfort.  I sensed that this general cheerfulness disguised a very deep racial pain, much as I looked at the pictures of leopards lounging in thorn trees and wondered why the butchered warthogs I saw in the real world never made it onto living-room walls.
          So if the first chapter was going to be about my earliest memories of physical vulnerability, due to dangerous animals, then the opening scene had to be about the illusion that I was immortal and safe, because I lived in an earthly heaven.
          That said, I worked endlessly on all the sentences and paragraphs in that opening, shortening them, pulling out only the most relevant and evocative details, and trying to be true to my recollections.

The title: At what point did you have it (the subtitle as well)?

The title was the first thing I had.  On our podcast I talked about the jack bank as a controlling metaphor for the book—the idea that if we invest in violence and cruelty, it earns compound interest.  Also, that the book came out of an essay called “The Jack Bank,” which I published in Virginia Quarterly Review. It never seemed to me the book could be called anything else.  The memory of that school prefect allowing us to deposit beatings and earn interest on them, and the enthusiasm with which all of us younger boys volunteered to be hurt—this was all just so weird to me, so haunting.  To me, it said more about story of coming to terms with apartheid’s violent side, and my own temptation to solve conflicts with violence—than any other recollection in the book.
          The subtitle merited a bit more discussion.  As we said in the interview, this memoir sits close to the “fiction” end of the journalism-novel continuum.  I gave myself permission to make educated guesses about what happened.  Written in the present tense, the book reads much like a novel.  I briefly talked with my editor as well with the St Martin’s Press lawyers about whether these artistic liberties meant I could no longer call The Jack Bank “memoir.”  They agreed that so long as it was a good faith attempt to recreate the past, and as long as I was upfront in my Author’s Note about my artistic methodology, there wasn’t a problem.  I really don’t have the faintest doubt that this is my personal story rather than that of a fictional character’s, so I stand by the subtitle.
          My editor suggested, “Memoir of a South African Childhood” rather than just “A Memoir,” so as to send a signal to readers about the book’s content.

Re memoir as a editor I spoke with said she thought memoir was replacing the novel as the most popular genre, that as a culture we are so into reality everything, the memoir is the written form of reality shows. What do you think about this?

There may be a grain of truth in the idea.   The novel rose to prominence with the bourgeois nuclear family.  Before the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, almost everyone in Europe would have known all about their neighbors’ lives, as a result of living on top of them in a crowded village.  Street chitchat and evenings around the hearth with family and friends would have provided more stories, which is to say more knowledge of how to deal with life.  But as more people moved into large, middle class, private houses, they needed different forms of storytelling.  The novel allowed them to live vicariously, and thus learn how to cope with life, while preserving their and other middle-class people’s privacy.
The big change came, I think, not with Survivor and Jersey Shore, but in the 1960s and 70s, with feminism, Black liberation, and gay liberation.  Suddenly, privacy wasn’t a source of freedom, power, and privilege anymore.  It provided a screen for women and children to be abused in the home.  It provided a way for society to hold LGBT people in contempt while still enjoying our talents—if your hairdresser is in the closet, you don’t have to grant him any rights.  Ordinary people came to believe the personal was political and should therefore be given voice.  In popular culture, this eventually led to reality TV; in universities, among other things it fed the growth of creative writing programs.  Community, as an alternative to isolated suburban family, made something of a comeback—remember hippy communes and women’s consciousness-raising groups?
          I write out of that intellectual tradition of 60’s style activism—in the book I talk about my years in feminist, socialist, anti-apartheid, and gay activist circles.  Hence my statement in my Author’s Note that I continue to believe in memoir as a social act, because if no one is willing to break the protective veil of silence over individual lives, how will we ever learn from each other?  But it’s important to distinguish literary memoir from Big Brother 8.  The memoirist digs deeper, and tells her story with more artistry, than the housemates talking about kitchen crumbs or bedroom shenanigans.
          Also, novels and memoirs are always going to provide different pleasures to readers.  With memoir comes testimony—someone saying this is an honest attempt to be real.  But with novel comes the extraordinary joy of seeing an author’s imagination ranging free.  That satisfaction will never be redundant.

Were there memoirs you found inspirational or informative as you were writing yours?

So many!  Clearly, my main influences were the more novelistic memoirs. Angela Ashes made me want to write in a filtered child’s voice, where the language and perception is simultaneously that of a young person’s and that of an adult looking back and shaping what the child sees. The Glass Castle showed me what could be done with a brilliant but subtle overarching metaphor.
J.M. Coetzee’s memoir, Boyhood, resonated both in subject matter—he writes about many of the same things I do, like English-Afrikaans tension and the masochistic pleasure white South African boys took in corporal punishment—and in style.  I loved the way he wrote his whole story in third person, present tense.  I almost did the same, except that as a first time author I didn’t think I could get away with third person.  I did use the present tense.  Both formal choices—third person and present tense—are signals to readers that the author is giving himself permission to re-imagine the past.
I didn’t like all of the Afro-pessimism in Rian Malan’s My Traitor’s Heart, but it would disingenuous of me to pretend that memoir didn’t deeply influence my vision of South African culture—both black and white—as being soaked in extraordinary violence, as a result of our strange history.
I read and re-read Vivian Gornick, George Orwell, and Natalia Ginzburg to inspire me to write with the clarity that I think is my literary aesthetic. Fierce Attachments was my model of a “movement memoir” that never became preachy or didactic.  Ginzburg’s classic essay, “He and I,” about the ups and downs of an intimate relationship, was the inspiration for my chapter about Afrikaners.  The chapter title, “Them and Me,” is a nod to Ginzburg.
I love memoirs with poetry and collage in them, like Ondaatje’s Running in the Family  and Nick Flynn’s Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. Books that make fun of the genre help me keep my feet on the ground.  I think of Dave Eggers’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and, even better, Lauren Slater’s Lying.  The latter is a true heartbreaking (and hilarious) work of staggering genius!  You can’t read it and take yourself completely seriously; she reminds us that the act of self-characterization on the page is inevitably a kind of lie or at least oversimplification.

Structure: You had so many topics in your book. Was it a challenge knowing what to keep and what to leave out, and how did you decide how much ink to give each?

There was no system.  It was intuitive.   In my head I was trying to tell a story rather than explore topics, so I addressed topics only to the extent that this felt relevant to my central question, which was: “What did it mean to me to grow up in a culture with an abusive streak?”
          My editor asked for more about faith and about religion, and I agreed with her, so in the final draft I added the section in chapter 7 about losing my Catholicism in comparative religion class.  This narrative does “talk” to the main story in the chapter, where my friend Aubrey is teaching me to take risks that my previous Catholic faith might not have permitted.
          What was harder than leaving out topics was leaving out sub-narratives.  At moments I felt as if I was lying to readers, but really, all I was doing was keeping the book manageable.  For instance, in the second chapter, Kobus van der Walt and I had had a history together.  We’d played together, got along and then annoyed each other—so when he prevents me from entering the hall to see what the Afrikaner Nationalist youth group is doing, there are more emotional layers than I let on to readers.  But I couldn’t figure out how to discuss all this without hopelessly slowing down—and distracting from—the story I was trying to tell in the chapter, so I focused only on the cultural dimension, the fact that this was another way I couldn’t be Afrikaans.  Without making ruthless cuts like this, I don’t think it’s possible to write a coherent autobiographical narrative.

Agents and editors constantly talk about voice, in terms of memoir, that voice is—if not everything, it’s a LOT of why they’re attracted to certain memoirs and not attracted to others. Do you think voice makes a difference whether a memoir will be compelling, or will it always be the big story, the dramatic story, that’s the most compelling?

Yes--voice, voice, voice, that’s what matters—not the big story!
Look, I’m not going to pretend some inherent drama doesn’t help.  As a memoirist I don’t regret my material--the lions outside my tent when I was ten years old, the proximity to a notorious serial killer, and so on.  But as I think I said on the podcast, I feel it’s my voice—a function of hard literary labor—that makes these recollections emotionally compelling.  As mere anecdotes they might be entertaining, but not memorable.  What deepens them is an adult narrator looking back and trying to figure out what they meant.
Some of the memoirists and essayists I most admire—E.B. White, Natalia Ginzburg, Vivian Gornick, Gretel Ehrlich, Philip Lopate—built whole careers on writing about everyday experiences loaded with meanings that would be easy to miss.  Except that these writers noticed.  They meditated on these trivial occurrences—a dinner party, a husband getting irritated if his wife puts on a sweater on an evening that he experiences as hot—and reached tremendous feeling.  That’s perhaps a memoirist’s most important job—simply to live the examined life.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Memoirist Glen Retief podcast just up

Glen Retief, author of the memoir, The Jack Bank, in conversation with me for the entire hour.

Download audio

(Broadcast date: July 20, 2011)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Literary attorney Mark Fowler and Dan Duling

Mark Fowler, New York City-based literary attorney, and Dan Duling, playwright and writer for Laguna Beach's Pageant of the Masters talk with Barbara DeMarco-Barrett about writers' legal issues and writing plays and narration for Laguna Beach's Pageant of the Masters.

Download audio

Broadcast date: July 13, 2011.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dani Shapiro on writing memoir

Dani Shapiro is one of my favorite memoir writers. I loved Slow Motion and Devotion. She's been on the show a bunch (you can access those shows by entering her name in the search box on this page, or here). Here's what she has to say about writing memoir.

Let's talk about structure--again. We've talked about it on the show and in person (when you were here, at the Pen on Fire Salon). The structure of DEVOTION was so compelling with its short chapters spiraling narrative. How did the structure come to you, or did it evolve and surprise you? In other words, had you planned to write a more traditional narrative like SLOW MOTION but it went another way?

When I first started writing DEVOTION I thought the book would have a more traditional structure. I wasn't thinking about SLOW MOTION, per se, but I certainly imagined that that narrative of DEVOTION would unfold in a straightforward manner. But almost immediately, it began breaking up on me. I wrote a small piece, then another, then another. And all the while, I was panicking. I realized that the story was asking to be told in a puzzle-like way, in these pieces, and I didn't know if it could be done. I hadn't read any books that had done it -- which either meant, to my mind, that it couldn't be done, or hadn't been done well. But then, along the way, I read a few books that had had succeeded brilliantly in creating a forceful narrative drive--a compelling story--in these puzzle-like pieces. Annie Dillard's FOR THE TIME BEING was the book that made me think, okay, maybe I can do this. And then, for a while, because I felt I needed more structure within this seemingly loose way of story-telling, I thought I was going to write DEVOTION in seventy-two pieces, because there is a story in the Kabbalah about God having seventy-two names. But this was an intellectual construct rather than an organic idea, and at a certain point, I realized that this self-imposed number, seventy-two, was limiting what I could do. I was writing toward the number seventy-two, holding onto it, rather than simply allowing the narrative to unfold in as many pieces as it needed. And so the book really took off for me when I let go of that artificial construct. It started breaking up into even smaller pieces. I included lists, definitions, brief descriptions that I wouldn't have been able to, otherwise. It was a lesson--one that I learn over and over again--about not imposing ideas from the outside, but rather, allowing structure to develop out of the ideas and narrative of the book, sort of like watching a Polaroid develop. It can only become clear when a writer forges ahead, into the unknown, and then the structure emerges.

Had anyone--an agent, editor--encouraged you to write the memoir using a more traditional structure?

I really didn't show DEVOTION to anyone as I was writing it, other than to my husband, who is my first reader. I find it can be dangerous to get opinions that may have more to do with the marketplace or what people think is selling, while in the midst of the creative process itself. As I said, I was panicking -- but the panic was part of doing the work. I couldn't have written DEVOTION using a more traditional structure, and so I had to go through the struggle of discovering how to tell the story. Outside opinions would have been distracting at best, and quite possibly might have derailed me. That's another thing I've had to learn again and again over the years. To keep the process as internal and private as possible for as long as possible. It's not that the marketplace doesn't matter -- of course it matters, and we all want to sell books! -- but the book can't start there, or there's no hope for it.

In DEVOTION, you found a way to blend your spiritual search, your son's illness, and the struggle with your mother--and more. When you began the book, or prior to beginning, did you know there would be multiple threads weaving throughout?

The multiple threads really ended up emerging from the structure. There was the story of motherhood, of daughterhood, of moving from the city to the country, of my religious upbringing, my spiritual crisis in midlife, my search. I came to think of each of them as a fishing line cast at the beginning of the book, which would then need to be grounded by the end. Each thread needed to have a resolution of sorts. Or to catch a fish, to extend the dubious metaphor even further.

One reason the structure works so well is because each chapter transitions to the next, even if you're writing about a different time and space. How much attention did you pay to transitions?

One of the more challenging but also ultimately very satisfying aspects of working in that way is that I had to wait for the next piece to emerge. I almost never knew where I was going next when I finished a piece. At one point, I referred to the writing of DEVOTION as "death by 102 prose poems." That's what it felt like. The spaces between each piece felt important. I had to breathe, to be patient, to allow the unconscious pattern to emerge. And sometimes I ended up needing to move pieces around so that they fit together more clearly -- but not as often as you'd think. The unconscious has its own coherence, if only we get out of its way.

While memoir is not autobiography, but about a specific time/experience/journey, it can still be difficult knowing what to leave out. Was there a lot you left out? And how did you decide what had to go?

I love this question. What to leave out is at the heart of writing memoir, I think. I'll sometimes meet a writer who is trying to write memoir and is stuck, and that stuckness so often comes out of a feeling that it all needs to go in there, the whole kitchen sink, every story, every year, every memory. And that isn't what memoir is at all. I always try to keep in mind that memoir is an act of story-telling. What is this one story I'm trying to tell? What belongs in this story? I can write other books later about other stories, other aspects of experience or memory. And so what I leave out is dictated by the story I'm trying to tell. There are many aspects of my life that didn't go into DEVOTION, or into SLOW MOTION for that matter, because the books couldn't have supported those other stories. I don't think that's in any way deceitful, or morally questionable, though some readers feel entitled to know everything, and feel somehow cheated if they later find out: oh, she had a half-sister she didn't write about, or, oh, she had a months-long marriage at age eighteen, or whatever. (Those are both real examples.) But I'm not writing autobiography -- I'm writing memoir, and memoir is a story that hews to memory. I never invent anything, ever. But I don't feel like I need to reveal all. It isn't a confession, or a diary.

Dani Shapiro's other recent book's include Black & White (Knopf, 2007) and Family History
(Knopf, 2003). Her short stories and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, Elle, Bookforum, Oprah, Ploughshares, among others, and have been broadcast on National Public Radio. She is a contributing editor at Travel + Leisure and guest editor of Best New American Voices 2010. She lives with her husband and son in Litchfield County, Connecticut.

Writing behind bars

Yet another idea about how to get writing done.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Alethea Black and Robyn Griggs Lawrence

Marrie Stone interviews Alethea Black, author of I Knew You'd Be Lovely, and Robyn Griggs Lawrence, author of Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: Jul 6, 2011)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tamar Cohen and Jane Smiley

Marrie Stone interviews Tamar Cohen, author of The Mistress's Revenge, and Jane Smiley, author of Private Life.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: Jun 29, 2011)

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Susie Bright and Melissa Schroeder

Marrie Stone interviews Susie Bright, author of Big Sex Little Death: A Memoir, and Melissa Schroeder, author of A Little Harmless Obsession.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: Jun 22, 2011)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Our first donation!

A shout out to Ron Alvarez (former NYC cop) who clicked the donation button over on the right side of the screen and sent $$ our way, which I will, in turn, send to our podcast guru Rob Roy. It's because of Rob that the Writers on Writing podcast started up, and it's largely because of him that it functions. When it recently fell off the iTunes radar, Rob put in time to get it going again. So thanks Ron, and thanks again to Rob for all that he does.

Geraldine Brooks and Laura Furman

Marrie Stone interviews Geraldine Brooks, author of Caleb's Crossing, and Laura Furman, author of The Mother Who Stayed.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: May 18, 2011)

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

This morning's show

Join co-host Marrie Stone as she chats with debut author Alethea Black about her short story collection, "I Knew You'd Be Lovely" and Robyn Griggs Lawrence, author of "Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House." 

Tune in this morning, July 6, at 9:00 a.m. (PT) or online at (or iTunes under college/university radio).  Hundreds of past podcasts can be heard at  

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Arielle Eckstut, David Henry Sterry and Arthur Plotnik

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett interviews Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, and Arthur Plotnik, author of Better Than Great: A Plenitudinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: Jun 12, 2011)

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Podcast is back up

Back from Palm Desert. Saturday. Just musin' about, a lil of this, a lil of that. Our podcast is back up on iTunes, thanks to our podcast guru Rob Roy. Here's the link. You can go there and subscribe--or re-subscribe, and when we upload a new show, you'll receive it in your iTunes podcast library.

This is what summer looks like in our teensy yard.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Away...finally: Rancho Las Palmas

Rituals figure highly in my life, it seems. Put on a certain CD before I start writing, or change the atmosphere somehow, is the first active ritual that comes to mind.

Our annual trip to the desert is another. It's become a family ritual. Every year for so many years--perhaps even since Travis was in first grade--the first week after school is out, we're desert bound. (Don't worry: Nigel and Rosie have company at the house and are being cared for.)

Where we stay has changed, though. Used to be the Korakia (where Brian and I honeymooned), or The Willows, in Palm Springs, but as Travis got older, we started staying at resorts--mostly for the pool (for him).

The last few years we've come to Rancho Las Palmas. It has everything we need: the pool, a Lazy River, a good view from the room, which is what you see here, and an attentive staff, esp. the undisputed champ of guest services, Connie Orsak. She always makes our time here special. Rancho is also across the street from The River, which has restaurants, movies, and a bookstore. Always need a bookstore nearby... Last night after dinner, we walked over to Borders and I bought the New Yorker "The Talk of the Town: Special Issue."

I also tried to talk to an employee about what I read, that Borders was closing stores and were they closing? But he walked away from me, looking sort of angry, saying it wasn't true. A very strange interaction. Travis was watching, shaking his head. We agreed that he was so defensive, it must be true. This morning I Googled it and yes, Borders across the street at The River is slated (tragically!) to close. I hope another bookstore goes in that space. It just won't be the same, The River without a bookstore! We'll have to drive down the street and dine near Barnes & Noble!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Save the date: West Hollywood Book Fair

I'll be moderating a memoir panel at the New West Hollywood Book Fair on Sunday, Oct. 2. I hope I see you there.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Poetry prize

Any poets out there? Read on....

Submissions sought for $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award

Office of University Communications

For Immediate Release
Contact Rod Leveque, Assistant Director, Media Relations (909) 621-8396

June 20, 2011

Submissions sought for $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award
CLAREMONT, California — Claremont Graduate University (CGU) is accepting submissions for the 2012 Tufts Poetry Awards. The awards  — now in their 20th year — are among the richest and most highly anticipated in the world of poetry.

The winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award will receive a $100,000 prize. The award is given annually for a book by an emerging poet who has not reached the pinnacle of his or her career.

CGU is also accepting submissions for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, which carries a prize of $10,000. That award is presented annually for a first book by a poet of genuine promise.

The awards were established in 1992 by Kate Tufts to honor her late husband, poet and writer Kingsley Tufts. Past Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award winners include Robert Wrigley, Tom Sleigh, Linda Gregerson, Matthea Harvey and Yusef Komunyakaa.

Submissions must include eight copies of an eligible book of poetry, a list of previously published work, and a completed entry form. Only books published between Sept. 1, 2010 and Aug. 31, 2011 are eligible.

Entries must be postmarked by Sept. 15, 2011. Winners will be announced in February. The awards will be presented in April.

Send Submissions To:
Kingsley & Kate Tufts Poetry Awards
Claremont Graduate University
160 E. Tenth Street, Harper East B7
Claremont, California 91711-6165

Entry forms and additional information are available at


About Claremont Graduate University

Founded in 1925, Claremont Graduate University is one of the top graduate schools in the United States. Our nine academic schools conduct leading-edge research and award masters and doctoral degrees in 24 disciplines. Because the world’s problems are not simple nor easily defined, diverse faculty and students research and study across the traditional discipline boundaries to create new and practical solutions for the major problems plaguing our world. A Southern California based graduate school devoted entirely to graduate research and study, CGU boasts a low student-to-faculty ratio.
If you would rather not receive future communications from Claremont Graduate University, let us know by clicking here.
Claremont Graduate University, 150 E. 10th St., Claremont, CA 91711 United States

Monday, June 20, 2011

Music and images

A few weeks ago my son Travis said life would be more interesting if there was a soundtrack to accompany our daily goings ons.

So true.

In my case, soundtracks help the writing to move along. This morning I put on The Godfather soundtrack and got to work on my memoir.  It's a trigger and helps to put me in the mindset of the work. It also drowns out (sorta) the sound of the tree trimmers across the street.

I also look at images. When you're working on a memoir, even if you're not including them in the work, images are helpful.  Images help you to remember. Here's one such image.  My brother and me, at our grandmother's house, long ago.

If you're feeling stuck, try a musical ritual. It helps to play the same music for a particular project. Maybe there are a couple of CDs you like. For me, right now, it's this Godfather soundtrack, and Yo-Yo Ma (in particular, his Bach: Prelude Cello Suite No. 1).

If you have rituals that work for you, share!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pen on Fire Salon with Aimee Bender and Michael Jaime-Becerra

The Pen on Fire Writers Salon features Barbara DeMarco-Barrett in conversation with Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake and Michael Jaime-Becerra, author of This Time Tomorrow.

Download audio.

(Event date: June 2010)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The view from behind the board

Dark and moody in the KUCI studio

For my hour in the studio, I turn off the fluorescent overhead, and dim the lights. It's dark, moody, like a bar, only it's not like a bar at all because I'm the only one there--unless my co-host Marrie Stone is there, too--and there's no alcohol, no drunks, and no noise. I wear headphones, and I do my own engineering, so no, it's not like a bar at all. But like a bar, the darkness is comforting, and sitting in the studio, on the phone with an author whose book I liked a lot--or better yet, loved--well, it's one of the best places to be.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Robert Sabbag and Ander Monson

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett interviews Robert Sabbag, author of Down Around Midnight: A Memoir of Crash and Survival and Ander Monson, author of Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir.

Download audio.

(Broadcast Date: May 19, 2010)

An earlier, incomplete version of this show was posted in 2010.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Mira Bartok and Maira Kalman on Writers on Writing

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett interviews Mira Bartok, author of The Memory Palace and Maira Kalman, author/illustrator of In Pursuit of Happiness.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: March 16, 2011)

Monday, June 06, 2011

Catherine Friend and Caitlin Kelly on Writers on Writing

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett interviews Catherine Friend, author of Sheepish: Two Women, Fifty Sheep & Enough Wool to Save the Planet, and Caitlin Kelly, author of Malled: My Untentional Career in Retail.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: May 11, 2011)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Pen on Fire Salon writeup in OC Family

Marcie wrote about last week's salon on the OC Family blog. Here you go: click here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An Evening with fiction writers Katie Arnoldi and Marisa Matarazzo

Last night was another wonderful night at the spectacular SCAPE Gallery in Corona del Mar. The evening renewed my belief that Orange County does indeed want, and need, literary events like this one. We had a full house for these two authors, whom I admire in so many ways. Take a look:

Find more on Katie Arnoldi here and more on Marisa Matarazzo here. If you were in attendance, feel free to post comments below. What did you get out of the evening?

Thanks to Allison Johnson and Travis Barrett for photography.

Friday, May 13, 2011

My friend, the author, Susan Straight sent this to me. Please read:

May 11, 2011

To: Students in the Creative Writing Department, and all UC Students, Their Families and Faculty

From: Professor Susan Straight

I’ve never written a letter to all the students in our department, or to families and faculty, but this is a critical time for us. In my 23 years of teaching at UCRiverside, I have never felt our educational future so threatened.

The cuts in our state budget will deeply affect classes not only in the Creative Writing Department, but in all departments and on all campuses, this fall. The cuts will affect your education (and my ability to teach you in the way that I know is best) and cannot be accepted.

As a state, California is funding developers, financial institutions, private and public corporations, but it is forcing deep cuts onto the premier public university system in the United States. Money is being taken away from the young people and graduate students of all ages who will keep California alive in the coming years. You, the UC students, along with your fellow students in the Cal State University system and the California Community College system, will be the scientists and researchers who invent and test new technologies for everything from computers to crops; you will become the teachers who pass on knowledge necessary for survival; you will become the doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists who will navigate complicated health care futures; and you will become the businesspeople, artists, and yes, the writers the state needs.

In contrast to recent news stories about corruption in government at many levels, what we do here on our ten campuses has been extremely positive for this state. We are truly the future of this large economy. My former students teach people all over the world; they work for magazines and publishers, write books, and work as doctors, lawyers, dentists, ad writers, geologists, entomologists, and research scientists.

But this budget will strip us of faculty, lecturers, TAs, and staff. This means we cannot offer enough classes this fall to ensure that incoming students will likely graduate in four years. (Many of you are already forced to take a fifth year because UC course offerings have been reduced.) It also means that courses which used to have 15 students, and which currently have 30 students, will have 75 students in the fall. Other courses will have 200 students. (In other departments, courses have up to 800 students and more!)

I will go so far as to call it unethical to enroll freshmen students who will not be able to enroll in classes they will need; I will also call unethical the degradation of your education if you are forced to sit in overcrowded classes and not get the individual attention you need from your professors. I love teaching here. I love my students, as many of you know, and everywhere I speak I tell audiences that my students at UCR are the finest in the nation, that you tell stories and write poems and craft essays no other writers in America can. My fellow faculty will attest that you are better than many undergraduate students at Ivy League and private colleges. I’m not flattering you. I’m being truthful. So I want you to write to your Chancellor Timothy White, and your UC President Mark Yudof, and to your state legislators, and let them know how you feel about these cuts, and your education. I want you to pass this letter on to your parents, grandparents, spouses and families, and have them write letters as well, because they are helping you pay for this education, and you deserve better.

You and your families worked hard for years so you could be here. Write your story, tell us what you did before you got here, what your parents did, and what you plan to do with your life with your degree – whatever your major, whatever your career, whether you’ve just arrived or are in graduate school or are working. If you’re in high school and plan to attend a UC, write about your plans. If you’re graduated, let us know what you do.

Professor Michael Jayme suggested this to me, when I felt despair about this budget, and he is a perfect example of our campus excellence. He was my student, many years ago, and now he dedicates most hours of his week to writing comments on your work. We cannot do that if classes are cut and if others are forced to huge enrollments, and if we lose you because of tuition out of reach for most families.

We want to hear your voices. Don’t be silent. Write to your legislators, post on Facebook, write for newspapers, write your stories.


Professor Susan Straight

UC President Mark Yudof:
UCR Chancellor Timothy White:
Senator Bob Dutton:
Rep. Brian Nestande:
Rep. Jeff Miller:
Gov. Jerry Brown:

Postscript - Below is a letter sent to faculty by The President of the University of California, Mark Yudof. I agree with him – we need to be sure your voices, and the voices of your families, are heard.

Dear Colleagues,
We are at a crucial juncture for the University of California. As you know, the proposed state budget calls for a $500 million cut in university support next year — a cut that will significantly impact our academic and research mission, and our service to the people of California.
And there is a real possibility that UC could see an even bigger cut in state funding if California closes the entire $26.6 billion state deficit through budget cuts. 
An all-cuts budget would be devastating to the university and the students and communities we serve, and put at risk our faculty’s research, a critical driver of future jobs and wealth in California. With so much at stake, I wanted to take a moment to share with you some of our recent efforts to advocate for UC.
First, we are telling lawmakers and the people of California that higher education cannot and should not bear an additional burden under an all-cuts budget. Education is simply too important to the future of our state to face further disinvestment. You can view a legislative presentation from Patrick Lenz, vice president of budget and capital resources, here. 

Next, UC and its supporters are making themselves heard in Sacramento and around the state. Since February, thousands of UC supporters have written the governor and lawmakers on UC’s behalf. We also have been a constant presence at the Capitol: On UC Day in March, hundreds of alumni joined us in Sacramento for an event highlighting the university’s contributions to the state and its people. In April, students and campus leaders from UC, CSU and the community colleges met with lawmakers to talk about the importance of affordable, accessible education. And over the next few weeks, I and other UC leaders will be attending Senate Budget Committee hearings to give testimony about the short and long-term consequences of cuts to higher education.
Our advocacy is not limited to Sacramento, however. We have been reaching out to the state’s business community, building awareness and support for the vital role UC plays in California’s economy. We are also taking our case directly to the public. In our Stand Up for UC campaign , supporters are using Facebook to post videos and comments about why UC matters to them and their communities. Robert Reich, labor secretary under President Clinton and a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, is particularly eloquent in describing UC’s important role in creating opportunity and upward mobility for students who come from modest means. You can see his video here. 

If you share my passion for the university, if you agree that it represents California’s truest and best idea of itself, please consider joining our advocacy efforts. Send a letter or call your legislators; sign up to become a UC advocate or connect to your campus advocacy network. If you use social media, visit the Stand Up for UC page on Facebook and post a comment or video.
Your active participation can help protect this great institution, and this great state. 
With best wishes, I am, 
Sincerely yours,
Mark G. Yudof

KUCI Fund Drive is on

Our fund drive started last week and goes through the weekend. It's how we keep the lights on, basically. The university does little to support KUCI and we're dependent upon tax-deductible donations. Marrie and I are volunteers, and have been as long as the show's been running.

I want to thank the following people for calling in a pledge or sending a check, in the name of "Writers on Writing":

T. Jefferson Parker
Susan Straight
Debbie Gaal
Allison Johnson
Nicole Nelson
Lynn Gibson
Charlie Leister
Adele Peters
Sonia Marsh
Sue Zarrinkelk
Mary Camarillo

If you'd like to donate, you can do so online at Follow the links to the Fund Drive and please indicate that you listen to the show. And if you do, let me know so I can list you here.

Again, thanks for your support.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sarah Porter and Gayle Forman

Marrie Stone interviews Sarah Porter, author of Lost Voices, and Gayle Forman, author of Where She Went.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: May 4, 2011)

Joshua Kendall and Darin Strauss

Marrie Stone interviews Joshua Kendall, author of The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster's Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture, and Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: Apr 27, 2011)

Olga Grushin and Stewart O'Nan

Marrie Stone interviews Olga Grushin, author of The Line, and Stewart O'Nan, author of Emily, Alone.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: Apr 13, 2011)

Monday, May 02, 2011

Victor Infante and Kim Dower: Poetry Month

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett interviews Victor Infante, author of City of Insomnia, and Kim Dower, author of Air Kissing on Mars.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: April 20, 2011)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

This Morning's Show


Join co-host Marrie Stone as she talks with biographer Joshua Kendall, author of "The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster's Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture" and novelist and memoirist Darin Strauss, author of "Half a Life."

Tune in this morning, April 27th, at 9:00 a.m. (PT) to KUCI, 88.9 FM in Irvine or listen online at

Thanks for listening!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

An Evening with Katie Arnoldi and Marisa Matarazzo

Join us on Tuesday, May 17, when our authors will be Katie Arnoldi and Marisa Matarazzo.

Visit the Salon page for more info, and to register.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Amy Alkon and Tracy Ross

Marrie Stone interviews Amy Alkon, author of I See Rude People: One Woman's Battle to Beat Some Manners Into Impolite Society, and Tracy Ross, author of The Source of All Things: A Memoir.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: Apr 6, 2011)

Ruta Sepetys and Alina Tugend

Marrie Stone interviews Ruta Sepetys, author of Between Shades of Gray, and Alina Tugend, author of Better by Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: Mar 23, 2011)

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Literary Orange 2011

On an upbeat, this coming Saturday is Literary Orange, an all day fest of writers, that will take place once again at UCI. It's cheap, you get a continental breaky, lunch, and afternoon refreshments, and it's fun. I'm moderating a fiction panel and Marrie Stone, my co-host on Writers on Writing, will moderate a memoir panel. Here's more info. (Today online registration ends.) Hope to see you there.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Back from the funeral: Sam DeMarco 1946 - 2011

Back from a long five days in Pennsylvania at my brother's service and visiting with family. Difficult for a couple of reasons. When you have a complicated history with a sibling, some might imagine it's easy to see that sibling off. It's anything but. I loved my brother. We shared so many good times, and although we were born many years apart, we shared a history. The difficulties we encountered don't take away from the love, and that makes it complicated, esp. for family who knew what we went through. Friends have been the most understanding, and for that I'm grateful. My brother was cremated. The box on the table is my brother. The cemetary you see here is in Lansdale, PA, where my mother and the relatives are buried.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sam DeMarco RIP

My brother Sam passed away today. Here we are, with our mother, many moons ago. I love you, Sam.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dori Ostermiller & Memoir Panelists Lisa Catherine Harper and Katherine Ellison

Marrie Stone talks with Dori Ostermiller, author of Outside the Ordinary World and, in the second half hour, moderates a memoir panel with Lisa Catherine Harper (A Double Life: Discovering Motherhood) and Katherine Ellison (BUZZ: A Year of Paying Attention).

Download Audio.

(Broadcast Date: March 9, 2011)

Jo-Ann Mapson

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett interviews JoAnn Mapson, author of Solomon's Oak.

Download audio.

David Vann

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett interviews David Vann, author of Caribou Island: A Novel.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: February, 2011)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Jessie Sholl

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett interviews Jessie Sholl, author of Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: March 2, 2011)

Allison Brennan and Alisa Bowman

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett interviews Allison Brennan, author of Kiss Me, Kill Me: A Novel of Suspense and Alisa Bowman, author of Project: Happily Ever After: Saving Your Marriage When the Fairytale Falters.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: February 2, 2011)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tomorrow's Show: Ruta Sepetys and Alina Tugend

Join co-host Marrie Stone as she talks with Ruta Sepetys, author of "Between Shades of Grey" and, in the second half hour, Alina Tugend, author of "Better by Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong."

Tune in at 9 a.m. PT on Wednesday, March 23rd, at KUCI-FM 88.9 in Orange County, CA, or listen online at or at iTunes-News/Talk radio.

Thanks for listening!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

A writer's resource

Check this out. Lots of great writers' resources.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Tomorrow's show: Jessie Sholl, author of Dirty Secret

Tomorrow my guest will be Jessie Sholl, author of the memoir: "Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean about her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding."

Tune in at 9 a.m. PT at KUCI-FM 88.9 in Orange County, CA, or listen online at or at iTunes-News/Talk radio.

Thanks for listening!

Jill Bialosky and Linda Gray Sexton

Marrie Stone interviews Jill Bialosky, author of History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life and Linda Gray Sexton, author of Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: January 26, 2011)

Maira Kalman

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett interviews Maira Kalman, author of And the Pursuit of Happiness.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: December 14, 2010)

Caroline Leavitt and Christina Meldrum

Marrie Stone interviews Caroline Leavitt, author of Pictures of You and Christina Meldrum, author of Amaryllis in Blueberry.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: February 16, 2011)