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Let's Talk Books with Robin Van Auken

Let's Talk Books with Robin Van Auken

By Robin Van Auken
I'm a writer, and I interview other writers, readers, and people who generally love books. I enjoy learning new things and sharing what works, especially in the book publishing industry. On the web at
Let's Talk Books Episode 15: Being Alone
Today I try out a new software platform for recording podcasts, Anchor, and experiment with recording smaller audio clips, transitions, and putting together a show on the fly. I've done this to test the system and to see if I want to use it in an upcoming communications class I teach at Lycoming College. I also discuss an amazing book, "How to Be Alone," by Sara Maitland, a handbook on solitude and why it's important for people, particularly those with introversion qualities. If you're curious, pick up this book and learn how to accept the fact that being with people 24/7 makes you crazy. If you're an extroverted individual, pick up the book so you can understand that loner in your life, and why you really need to give her/him space.
March 09, 2018
Let's Talk Books Episode 014: Interview with Tank Baird
Today I chatted with my good friend Tom “Tank” Baird about his passion for archaeology, and how he's become a local expert on the topic of prehistory and Native American cultures. I met Tank in 2005 when he rolled up to my dig site in Muncy on his Harley Davidson, with his beautiful, blonde wife, Anita, on the back. The two were clad in black leather, on a loud motorcycle, and just a little intimidating. I was teaching people, including children, how to excavate at a public archaeology dig in Muncy at the newly formed Heritage Park and Nature Trail. Tank had read about the public dig in the newspaper and was curious. Soon, he muscled the kids out of the way and became my best pupil. Over the next few months, Tank proved to be the best volunteer a project director could find. His wife, Anita, however, saw a snake at the site and beelined out of there. She would occasionally visit, standing along the road, but her heart wasn’t in it like Tank’s. During the next few years, I talked
March 02, 2018
Let's Talk Books Episode 013: Interview with Steve Altier
Steve Altier is the author of the books for young people, and is best known for his children’s books, the Gabby and Maddox adventure series. Not content with lessons for little ones, he’s written a Young Adult novel, “Lizardville, the Ghost Story,” and he’ll soon release a sequel. Steve grew up in Mill Hall, a small town in central Pennsylvania, on Lizardville Road, so yes, it’s a real place.  He’s given up the snow for life in sunny Florida, and he lives in the Tampa Bay Metro area with his wife, and a herd of cats. The couple reared four daughters and are now grandparents. When he’s not working his day job, or at his desk writing stories, his days are filled with reading, bowling, and spending time at amusement parks. He loves to travel, take trips to the beach, or just laying around the pool, spending time with family and friends. Steve said he’s had aspirations of being a writer since he was young, and he took a journalism course in high school. After graduation, however, he joined
February 23, 2018
Let's Talk Books Episode 012: Interview with Marjorie Maddox
I tried to imagine an early morning drive with poet Marjorie Maddox, whose creative suitcase is crammed with metaphors. I was enveloped in fog, which occluded my vision, on this particular day. My surroundings became the murky sea, and my auto a submarine. The tall, stark silver maples along the roadway became the kelp forests off the coast of California, and the 18-wheeler entering the road from the left became a large, gray whale, which I followed into a labyrinth of coral reefs (the city) teeming with colorful fish (cars) darting back and forth. The entire morning after our chat was spent in a dreamy, soft-focused world of poetry, and it felt good. I felt like I had a special pair of glasses that transformed the world around me, and I couldn't stop jotting down ideas. Last night, I browsed the stacks at a bookstore in Virginia while visiting family, and immediately was drawn to the poetry section. I looked at names on spines and wondered, "Who are these people? How do I know if
February 17, 2018
Let's Talk Books Episode 011: Interview with Melody Johnson
Melody Johnson writes paranormal romance. She’s the author of gritty, urban fantasy stories about vampires, and other unnatural creatures. Melody graduated magna cum laude from Lycoming College with her BA in creative writing and psychology. She credits her time at Lyco, and her writing classes for much of her success. Sage advice from her college mentor encouraged her to look at writing as a long-distance marathon, not a sprint. By writing one page each day, at the end of the year, she has an entire manuscript. With that mentality, she’s written nearly half a dozen novels, and she has more on the horizon. And she’s only 29. Melody is a great example of how anyone - regardless of their age - can develop the traits of dedication and persistence. You can learn more about Melody and her books in the show notes at
February 05, 2018
Let's Talk Books Episode 010: Interview with Mary Woods
Mary Woods is an artist, a poet, and the author of "The Heart of the Matter,” which guides the reader to becoming wholeheartedly happy. I know Mary through her service work with Beloved Community Council and Heart of Williamsport. We've worked on the HoW project for three years, and it's amazing to see the change of heart she's experienced as the project assistant. HoW's mission is to collect stories from our diverse community, identify what people value, and share this information to guide Williamsport’s future. Developed by the Orton Family Foundation, the Heart & Soul Community program empowers people to shape the future of their communities by improving local decision-making, creating a shared sense of belonging, and ultimately strengthening the social, cultural, and economic vibrancy of each place. It's a fuzzy concept, but after a few years of working together, we think we have it down pat. Mary does, at least. She's been talking to hundreds of people, one-on-one, with intervie
January 31, 2018
Let's Talk Books Episode 009: Interview with Dave Bellomo
Dave Bellomo is a fitness expert, personal trainer, and author. I met Dave about 18 years ago, when he worked as a personal trainer. I continued to work with Dave after he opened his own gym. We had a lot of fun brainstorming and creating fitness books and digital workout manuals. You’ll learn about Dave’s passion for Kettlebells, a unique, simple, yet highly effective piece of exercise equipment. Dave is an expert and has authored two books on the topic. He’s worked with high-level athletes such as martial artists, strongman competitors, and law enforcement professionals, and elite military including members of Homeland Security and U.S. Special Operations. My own son, a former Green Beret, still uses one of Dave’s kettlebells, and considers it one of the best tools to use for tactical training. I’m happy to reconnect with Dave not only because he’s got a lot of wisdom to share, but because I need a jolt of his optimism and encouragement. I’ve been injured for the past year, su
January 19, 2018
Let's Talk Books Episode 008: Interview with Nancy Panko
Nancy Panko has achieved amazing success with her book, “Guiding Missal,” an unusual story about a prayer book that is carried in the pocket of three generations of men as they navigate war. As she held the Military Missal in her hands, Nancy thought, “If only this little book could talk.” Her novel gives the prayer book a voice. Based on actual events, Nancy’s award winning novel is partially narrated by the small Catholic prayer book that George Panko received as he prepared to deploy to the European theater during World War II. A baker turned infantry man/forward scout, Panko left behind his wife, Gladys, and small son, Butch, for several years as he navigated France and Germany, helping the United States and its Allies win significant skirmishes, including the Battle of the Bulge. Throughout his enlistment, George carried the small book in his pocket and read from it, memorizing passages and whispering prayers. Once safely home, George packed the military missal into a trunk and
January 15, 2018
Let's Talk Books Episode 007: Interview with Louis E. Hunsinger, Jr.
Louis E. Hunsinger, Jr. labors for posterity. He does this as a historian, preserving Lycoming County's heritage as a writer for newspapers, magazines, programs, and books. He's the co-author of eight books. His publishing career began with his good friend,  Dr. James P. Quigel, and in 1999, the duo published the paperback, "Williamsport's Baseball Heritage," a photographic narrative about professional baseball, through Arcadia. This book was soon followed up by, "Gateway to the Majors: Williamsport and Minor League Baseball," published by Penn State University Press. For the past 15 years, Lou has been a reporter with Webb Weekly, a free tabloid delivered to more than 58,000 households in Lycoming County. He's earned quite a reputation while with the publication, writing feature articles about people and events. He also has a series, "Through the Years," that reprints historic news from papers of record. Locals also know Lou for his popular "History Shapers" series that ran in the Wil
January 14, 2018
Let's Talk Books Episode 006: Interview with Joseph W. Smith III
Joseph Smith III is a writer and a high school English teacher. He's also author of three nonfiction books that focus on his two favorite topics: The Church and Film. His first book, "The Psycho File," is a comprehensive guide to Alfred Hitchcock’s Classic Shock film. His second book, "Sex and Violence in the Bible," surveys Explicit Content in the Holy Book. It’s a squeamish topic a lot of Christians shy away from. In the book, Joe champions a frank and forthright approach. He’s shopping his new book, "Transparency: A Cure for Hypocrisy in the Modern Church," to a new publisher, and he’s finding that process to be a bit daunting. We talk about the changes in the publishing industry, and how difficult it is to place books with publishers today. We also discuss living in a small town, and the the importance of hometown newspaper, and its role in nurturing writers. We chat about the writing legacy, passed down from father to son, and how his own son has inherited the “writing gene.”
January 05, 2018
Let's Talk Books Episode 005: Interview with Lorena Beniquez
Lorena Beniquez, a writer, photographer and a filmmaker, and the author of a new book, Lost Coal Country of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Published by Arcadia, the book is part of the Images of Modern America series, so it’s part history, part photographic art, and part travel guide. Lorena visits many places in her book, including the site of the last coal breaker in America, scheduled for demolition soon. She also visits the spooky village of Centralia, abandoned 50 years ago when the the coal beneath caught fire. The fire continues and will burn for hundreds of years. Lorena writes about John Stella, an unsung hero who saved dozens of miners during the Knox Mine Disaster. Through shared stories , interviews and research, Lorena captures history of the anthracite region. She’s the great granddaughter of a coal miner, she’s discovered her own family’s story. Perhaps it will inspire you to learn your own family’s story and how it IS America’s history. From Lorena's AMAZON page: "Lost C
December 15, 2017
Let's Talk Books Episode 004: Interview with Mike Reuther
Mike Reuther is a journalist by profession, but he never stops writing. Most mornings, before he heads to work at the daily newspaper, where he reports on government, politics, health care, crime, sports and general news, Mike works on his novels and self-help books. A non-nonsense and prolific writer, he has 18 books he’s self-published since 2011. Mike ReutherHis fictional characters are complex characters who find themselves in difficult situations, often with the odds stacked against them. One of his most memorable characters is Homer Newbody, in the novel “Nothing Down: The Short Baseball Life of Homer Newbody.” A young man with amazing talent, Homer loves baseball. He tells a sportswriter he’d play for nothing, an off-hand comment that polarizes the people in his life. His fan base loves him for his honesty and down-home values; his teammates resent him for casting a negative light on their own salaries and motivations for playing. Toss in romance, a near-career-ending injury an
December 03, 2017
Let's Talk Books Episode 003: Interview with Alivia Taggliaferri
Alivia Tagliaferri is an author, publisher, producer and documentary filmmaker. In this interview on Let's Talk Books with Robin Van Auken, she discusses her book, Beyond the Wall: The Journey Home. Listen to Alivia discuss her work with Ironcutter Creative, as a writer, author and filmmaker. Learn about her struggle to complete her novel, in the wake of her beloved father's death. She spent countless hours researching the Vietnam and Iraq wars, interviewing veterans, reading books, studying government files, and browsing blogs for inspiration and authentic voices. Beyond the Wall: The Journey Home is a gift for anyone who has been impacted by war, in particular veterans with post traumatic stress. As a daughter, sister and parent of veterans, this book is close to my heart. From Alivia's AMAZON page: For Dennis Michaels, a Vietnam combat veteran waging an invisible forty-year battle with survivor's guilt and PTSD, life changes when he mentors an Iraq War veteran undergoing rehabil
November 24, 2017
Let's Talk Books Episode 002: Interview with Tonya Anderson
Tonya Anderson, founder of An Exquisite Life, is a guest on the Wholehearted Author Podcast, speaking with Robin Van Auken about about her spiritual journey, shamanism, and finding the joy in living. She's the author of One More Day, about overcoming suicidal ideation. Please enjoy!
November 19, 2017
Let's Talk Books Episode 001: Interview with Diane Langley
Diane Langley, author of "Life Changes..." is a guest on the Wholehearted Author Podcast, speaking with Robin Van Auken about about Diane talks about writing for a newspaper and how her essays lead her to write the book. Please enjoy!
November 19, 2017