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The Secret Library Podcast

The truth about writing books. By speaking to authors and other book lovers, I'm diving into the mystery that is the book world today. From writing to editing to publishing and all that goes into the creation of a book – all of it is open for discussion on the show.
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Now displaying: 2017
Dec 28, 2017

Anu Partanen never planned to move to the United States.

She was very happy living as a journalist in Finland until she fell in love with an American, and ended up moving to NYC so they could marry and be together.

Once moving here, Anu became even more aware of the advantages her home country had provided: universal high-quality health care, childcare, maternity leave, elder care, and on and on. For the first time, she was presented with bills and policies that didn't make sense to her. As a journalist, she began researching the differences between the US and the Nordic countries, expanding her research to include policies in Sweden, Norway and Denmark as well as Finland. The result was the book, The Nordic Theory of Everything.

I read this book in late 2017, wooed by the topic of social change. I was blown away and immediately knew I had to speak to the author. Our conversation explores the potential impact on writers and people in creative fields and how the way the US treats people could be the reason countless people choose not to pursue a career as a writer. Thankfully, we also find hope in this conversation, as well as actions people can take (in addition to seeking Finnish citizenship) to improve life as a creative professional.

I'm so grateful to release this episode in the last slot of 2017, just in time for us to make big changes that support more and more writing in the New Year. Happy listening!

Dec 21, 2017

Everyone has heard the classic trope write what you love. In some cases, I have felt a bit bullied by this concept. "How am I supposed to know what I love most?" I have wondered. I think the best thing you can do to figure this out is to listen to this conversation with Mark Frauenfelder and listen to how he followed what was fascinating to him and wrote books and articles about these things along the way.

In this conversation we talk about the day job that Mark escaped to write and it is the worst day job for a writer I have yet heard of. In addition, learn about how Boing Boing was founded. The original office space for the zine version sounds like my version of heaven and I'm sure it will to you, too.

Above all, Mark is an incredible role model for making a living from curiosity, enthusiasm, and being willing to dive into a world you don't entirely know yet. His fascination with a variety of topics and being willing to write about them just because he loves learning is both infectious and a great example to the rest of us. If we follow his lead, I think we are in for a lot of amazing books to hit digital and physical shelves very soon.

Dec 14, 2017

A journalist and author of numerous non-fiction books on the Middle East, Malu Halasa has just published her first novel, Mother of All Pigs. Born in Oklahoma, her Jordanian Filipina heritage gave her a unique perspective from the beginning. After growing up in Ohio, she attended Barnard College in New York and now lives in London. From this vantage point, she's taken on the fascinating world of the Middle East and has worked hard to expand the number of voices heard from that area.

Throughout the conversation we explore the tricky thing that is "American Literature." When she first began working on this novel in the 90s, Malu didn't expect to publish it because there didn't appear to be a market in the states for Middle Eastern narrative. People were willing to read non-fiction, but not a novel. As she looked on bookshelves she wondered "where is my family story?" Luckily for us, she wrote it herself.

It is my hope that more people do the same. If a story is missing from the shelves, it doesn't mean it shouldn't be included. We need to challenge the publishing status quo by supporting fiction that expands our boundaries and helps us learn. I hope you are inspired by listening to this episode to think about what story you have to tell that isn't currently getting heard. I can't imagine how many stories we aren't reading that need to be read. If you have a story like this, listen to this episode and then write your story. We want to hear your story, too.

Dec 7, 2017

Sandra Scofield is like a warm hug from writing itself.

For ages, I've loved Sandra Scofield's The Scene Book with its reassuring composition notebook cover and its practical advice about writing great scenes. When I learned that Sandra had a new book about writing coming on, I knew I had to have her on the show. Her latest, The Last Draft, tackles that tricky topic of revision and polishing your work until its ready to be read by others.

I adored talking with Sandra because her approach is so generous and comforting to the writer. She grants permission to explore the world you want to build in your story fully and gently guides us through the process of working through your draft. Those who love analog and stepping away from the computer at points to reflect will feel at home with Sandra.

Nov 30, 2017

David Rocklin found a novel in a photograph.

While researching his first novel about the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, David Rocklin was struck by an image she had taken of the Prince of Abyssinia. The image wouldn't let him go and despite his hesitation and fear in taking on such an enormous topic, he wrote his second novel, The Night Language, anyway.

I am loving discussing how people incorporate history into writing and the ways that novels force us to look at stories different than our own and to do them justice. In addition, those curious about the publishing experience with a small press from the writer's side will enjoy this episode. (For a conversation with a small press, please check out episode 10 with Rare Bird Lit's Julia Callahan.)

Nov 23, 2017

Lisa Cron is a woman on a mission: she wants to help you write your story so that your reader is glued to the page from the moment they pick up the book. She's going beyond plotting versus pantsing to a new level of story analysis.

We dive into the WHY of your story, and what you hope to achieve by telling it. Lisa is not about the slow exploration and wandering through story options; she wants you to get to the meat right away. If you've felt frustrated and unsure of what the point is of the book you're writing, Lisa will help you plow forward. I can't wait to see what the fire she lights in this episode does for all you writers listening. Get ready for some jet fuel in this one!

Nov 16, 2017

There are genres and then there are subgenres. One of the things I love about speaking with writers across all types of books is learning about the complicated world their books inhabit. In this case, Piper Huguley writes historical black romance, and this sits inside the romance novel world, but in a completely new way.

I was so moved talking to Piper about how she focuses on an era that has been so glossed over, and tells stories that bring the people of the time to life, people who have been forgotten or ignored in our textbooks, and I know you will be, too. Enjoy!

Nov 9, 2017

Since writers can be a fearful bunch, I️ wanted Fran Krause on the show as soon as I️ saw his work. He decided to explore an idea he had to illustrate irrational fears. He started out with his own, but before he finished drawing them, people began submitting theirs. Now-as he puts it- many fears later, his latest book from this project is out.

I️ love this project because reading about these fears made me feel less alone. Even if they weren’t always fears that I️ related to, I️ still felt connected to the people who had them. And there were so many fears that had me laughing with recognition because I️ saw them in myself and the people I️ know.

We spend so much time trying to hide our vulnerabilities- this project is an amazing example of what happens when you put them down on paper instead. Happy listening!

Nov 2, 2017

Steven Tagle wants every writer to know about the Fulbright. 

A few episodes ago, when Patricia Park was on the show, she mentioned something that made my ears perk up: that she had researched the portion of her book that took place in Korea by applying for and receiving a Fulbright Scholarship. For my listeners abroad: You DON'T have to be a US citizen to apply.     

In this episode we explore the practical steps to applying for a Fulbright, how Steven researched which country he chose to apply to, and how the year away impacted him as a person and as a writer. To say I was ready to leap into the application process after this conversation is a massive understatement. I hope you explore these options as well and I can't wait to hear about the books inspired by travel and explorations abroad.    

Show notes with links

Oct 26, 2017

It's almost November and you know what that means...

No- not Thanksgiving- NaNoWriMo! What does that mean, you might ask? It stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it is a crazy 30 days where writers all over the world try to write a 50,000 work draft in one month. 

Just last week, I was in New Orleans with a bunch of amazing people, including Episode #33 Kate Newburg and Episode #39 Tasha Harrison, and it was too exciting not to record an episode together right there in our Air Bnb. We have all done NaNoWriMo numerous times and have worked out what made it successful for each of us (and in some cases, not so successful). If you have been curious about this crazy method of getting a draft done, this episode will take you through all the details, tips, tricks and tools we could think of to help you slam dunk your NaNoWriMo experience. 

Full show notes with links

Oct 19, 2017

Victor LaValle writes good stories.

My husband has been devouring his catalogue of novels with a singular force. 

"This is so good," he announces from his side of the bed. The last few months, when he makes this kind of statement, it has been from inside the world of Victor LaValle. Not only has his fiction seduced Barry, but LaValle has also created a series of comics. The man crush was inevitable at that point. 

It was an interesting challenge to interview Victor and talk about his latest book, as it's one he has edited rather than one he has written. The Best of Richard Matheson is an anthology of stories that shaped Victor at a critical point in his young life when he first started to become a writer. 

This interview goes into the different modes of writing, how editing an anthology happens, but it also touches on practical topics like how to keep writing when a couple has a baby and they're both writers. 

Full show notes with links

Oct 12, 2017

Yes, you read that right. On Tuesdays, Scott O'Connor shows up at my house along with a band of students. 

 

It really is the most incredible good fortune. When I was offered the chance to host a novel writing workshop this summer, of course I said yes. Get to talk about writing with a bunch of fellow writing nerds in my own house every week? Yes please. And, even beyond that, to learn with a teacher who is the perfect blend of encouraging and practical. I'm so so glad he succumbed to my persistent requests to come on the show so I could share all that encouragement with you. 

Show notes with links

Oct 5, 2017

Patricia Park is one of the few writers I know up to taking on Jane Eyre.

I'm not talking about talent. As well you know, there has been no end of that among the guests on the show. I am talking about the kind of willpower that lead her to spend ten years exploring every nook and cranny of the world of her novel, Re Jane. To give you a preview, this exploration involved winning a Fulbright to go and study in Korea for the middle portion of her novel. Beyond that, she thought she needed to take a detour into another novel that had her learning Spanish at Middlebury and deeply immersed in the Korean community in Argentina only to find the character she was writing about hidden in the pages of Re Jane. So inspiring, you'll love Patricia.

Show notes with links 

Sep 28, 2017

I wish I had been smart enough to come up with Joe Fassler's book idea.

As a fellow interview lover, Joe has been writing the column By Heart for the Atlantic long enough to amass a who's who of interview subjects. You know, people like Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Elizabeth Strout, Michael Chabon, Emma Donoghue, Mary Gaitskill... the list goes on. His topic? What piece of writing inspired you enough that you read it over and over and practically memorized it because it had such an impact on your life. Writers + book talk? Total heaven. And his new book, Light the Dark, assembles his favorite interviews on this topic. 

Not only do I recommend that you listen, I think that anyone wanting to write will adore this book. So many wise words on the process of writing and what makes a piece of writing meaningful. I can't wait for all of you to listen to this one, and to check out Light the Dark. 

Show notes with Links

Sep 21, 2017

Paul McVeigh wrote a story in an afternoon that took twenty years.

How is that possible? We gather images over time, trying to figure out how they fit together. Paul had pieces of a story that didn't quite fit until suddenly, they did. And then the story came out almost all at once in a single sitting. How do you know when it's time to write a story? And how do you know when to give up on an idea? These are questions that have plagued so many writers and my clients. Paul was the perfect person to discuss them with. Having written fiction, theater, comedy, and a writing teacher himself, Paul has a breadth of experience and a sensitivity to this topic that will blow you away. His debut novel, The Good Son won countless awards and becomes a favorite of everyone who reads it.

This conversation was both deep and funny, an incredible dive into the places where writing comes from and how to know when you've got a story that won't let you go. This promises to be one you'll listen to more than once. I have been waiting and waiting to share this one! I'm so glad it's time for you to hear it.

Full show notes post with links

Sep 14, 2017

Gabriela Pereira doesn't think you NEED to get an MFA.

 

However, need and want are two different things. An MFA grad herself, Gabriela realized that many writers struggled with the dilemma of whether to MFA or not to MFA and took her own grad school experience and created a template so others could get all the benefit of the degree with none of the loans, debt and stress that can come along with going back to school. Gabriela is a wealth of information and was incredible generous in sharing that with us on this episode.

If you've ever wanted to take your writing seriously and pursue it with great focus, but believed you don't need to go back to school to become a "real" writer, this episode is going to feel like one giant permission slip. Happy listening and happy writing, for those of you who finish listening and realize you can start writing right now, degree or no degree.

 

Show notes with links | This episode sponsored by the Central Coast Writers Counference

Sep 7, 2017

Scott Stabile has earned the right to share advice.

There are many books out there that share life advice. There are whole sections in bookstores dedicated to this sort of book. But I have not encountered many where I am so willing to trust the advice of the author. It's often hard to imagine that a writer would relate to my life, or understand the particular thing I have been through and that we could connect. 

Scott is an excellent antidote to this belief. His life experience, which includes his parents' murder, his brother's death from overdose, and belonging to a spiritual cult, has more than prepared him to share about the human experience. I loved reading Scott's book and talking to him because his insights on finding happiness felt so generous, given what he's had to overcome in order to find happiness in his life. We talk about how getting vulnerable and raw and specific about your life experience makes you more connected to the reader because the specific opens up to the universal. I love this as it is a lovely shift away from the fear many of us have: that if we write on one obscure topic no one else will understand. Scott is here to tell you that people will relate, and it's worth sharing the dark parts of your story as well as the warm fuzzy ones. I've been waiting to share this episode. I hope you enjoy listening.

Show notes post with links

Aug 31, 2017

We've all been there: podcast bankruptcy. Having so many episodes stacked up in the queue to listen that it feels like the only way to proceed is to give up, delete everything and start over. Not to fear- this August, the Secret Library has your back. catch up on some of my favorite episodes from the show so far, or listen again and learn even more from these incredible guests now that you have more time writing since you last tuned in. I hope you enjoy listening and I'll be back with an incredible new calendar of episodes in September...

Aug 24, 2017

We've all been there: podcast bankruptcy. Having so many episodes stacked up in the queue to listen that it feels like the only way to proceed is to give up, delete everything and start over. Not to fear- this August, the Secret Library has your back. catch up on some of my favorite episodes from the show so far, or listen again and learn even more from these incredible guests now that you have more time writing since you last tuned in. I hope you enjoy listening and I'll be back with an incredible new calendar of episodes in September...

Aug 17, 2017

We've all been there: podcast bankruptcy. Having so many episodes stacked up in the queue to listen that it feels like the only way to proceed is to give up, delete everything and start over. Not to fear- this August, the Secret Library has your back. catch up on some of my favorite episodes from the show so far, or listen again and learn even more from these incredible guests now that you have more time writing since you last tuned in. I hope you enjoy listening and I'll be back with an incredible new calendar of episodes in September...

Aug 13, 2017

We've all been there: podcast bankruptcy. Having so many episodes stacked up in the queue to listen that it feels like the only way to proceed is to give up, delete everything and start over. Not to fear- this August, the Secret Library has your back. catch up on some of my favorite episodes from the show so far, or listen again and learn even more from these incredible guests now that you have more time writing since you last tuned in. I hope you enjoy listening and I'll be back with an incredible new calendar of episodes in September...

Aug 3, 2017

We've all been there: podcast bankruptcy. Having so many episodes stacked up in the queue to listen that it feels like the only way to proceed is to give up, delete everything and start over.

Not to fear- this August, the Secret Library has your back. catch up on some of my favorite episodes from the show so far, or listen again and learn even more from these incredible guests now that you have more time writing since you last tuned in.

I hope you enjoy listening and I'll be back with an incredible new calendar of episodes in September...

Jul 27, 2017

Kameron Hurley is a marvel.

 

The first thing I noticed about Kameron Hurley is how incredible her laugh is. She has a laugh that dares you not to join in, to enjoy the conversation and what she has to say. I hope you enjoy it, because I did- I absolutely adored it. Kameron is a two-time Hugo award winning writer and yet, she still holds a solid day job. This is the truth of a writing career, even one as well-awarded and Kameron Hurley's.

I so enjoyed talking about what it was like to dive into the underpinnings of geek culture and write an essay about it, as well as what it does to your awareness to write about a society whose rules you have created entirely yourself, only to discover that you're still playing into tropes and social expectations of your own world. Kameron and I dig deep into what being a feminist writer means and what the process of breaking down your writing does when you try to subvert convention. It was so fun to explore with such a self-aware guest. I know you'll learn a ton from her. Happy listening!

Full Show Notes with Links

Jul 20, 2017

Megan Hannum is about to help you face your first draft without fear.

 

Have you ever been writing away, actually building some momentum in your writing only to have these sorts of fears creep in: "Is there enough detail? I'm only writing plot, how is anyone going to know what anything looks like??" Or perhaps yours is "I need to do a LOT more research before I write this. I have no idea what the dating customs of medieval Mongolia actually are. Guess it's back to the drawing board for the next six months."

I have suffered from these fears, as have the members of the Coffeeshop Writer's Group and when Megan joined us recently as a guest expert, we all started to feel a lot less freaked out by simply getting on with a draft knowing that everything will not be answered the first time around. 

I had Megan on to talk about what you should worry about in the first, second, and final drafts of a project, and what you can set to the side for each of these drafts until the next time around. Finally, we talk about when it's time to get an editor involved and what you should look for when seeking one. 

This promises to be an episode you can return to again and again as you progress through your projects. I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. And... woohoo for 60 episodes! I cannot believe we've gotten to such a big number. Thank you all for listening and supporting the show. It means so much that this project makes you as happy as it makes me. 

 

Full show notes here

Jul 13, 2017

J. Ryan Stradal's hit novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest came out in 2015.

Most often, we hear from writers right when their book has just come out. They go on book tours and radio shows and NPR, if they are well-connected. I have been thrilled to talk to writers in this stage of the process, but the longer I work on this show, the more curious I am about the other parts of the writing journey- before the book is finished, or after it has gone out in the world and taken on a life of its own or, as in this case, when one book has sailed and the next has not yet fully formed. 

J. Ryan and I talk about the impact of Kitchens and what it's been like writing a new book. He's still in the middle and making big decisions about structure and isn't at the point of sending a finished manuscript off to the publisher. This next book is still becoming, and so the conversation is looser, more organic. I like that about this episode- we can't talk in easy platitudes when the book is still a possibility and things could still change. For those of you mucking around in the messy middle, this episode will be right for you. It's not an easy thing to write a book. What I learned from this talk was that, even if you've completed one book and done extremely well by it, the next book will still be an entirely new experience. I find this hopeful, since it's easy to walk away from things that become predictable. After talking to J. Ryan, I'm even more confident that writing never will. 

 

Show Notes | This episode brought to you by the Story Intensive

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