When I read a book that intrigues me, no matter the genre, I want to know more: who is this writer? What led them to create something so profound? More than craft and publishing stories, I’m here for the in-between: the ways our various identities inform our stories and make us who we are, the ways we transform barriers, borders, and boundaries into art.
Sharyn Skeeter is a writer, poet, novelist, and educator. She was fiction/poetry/book review editor at Essence and editor in chief at Black Elegance magazine. She's taught at Emerson College, University of Bridgeport, Fairfield University, and Gateway and Three Rivers community colleges. She participated in panel discussions and readings at universities in India and Singapore. Sharyn Skeeter has written and published magazine articles. Her poetry and fiction are in journals and anthologies. She lives in Seattle where she's a member of the board of trustees of ACT Theatre. Dancing with Langston was published by Green Writers Press in October 2019.
About the Book:
Carrie, a business manager who always wanted to be a dancer, has two commitments today. She made a promise to her late father to move Cousin Ella, a former Paris café dancer, from her condemned Harlem apartment to a safe place. She’s also committed to catch a flight to Seattle with her husband for his new job. But Cousin Ella resists leaving the apartment where she’s had salons with Langston Hughes. She also has a mysterious gift that she wants Carrie to earn. If she does, a revelation about Carrie’s father and his cousin Langston Hughes will change her life.
Melissa Febos is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir, Whip Smart (St. Martin’s Press 2010), and the essay collection, Abandon Me (Bloomsbury 2017), which was a LAMBDA Literary Award finalist, a Publishing Triangle Award finalist, an Indie Next Pick, and was named a Best Book of 2017 by Esquire, Book Riot, The Cut, Electric Literature, Bustle, Medium, Refinery29, The Brooklyn Rail, Salon, The Rumpus, and others. Her second essay collection, Girlhood, was published by Bloomsbury on March 30, 2021. A craft book, Body Work, will be published by Catapult in 2022.
Judith is a writer who lives in Baltimore, MD, and was born and raised in Africa. She graduated from the University of Cape Town with a BA in Drama and History of Art, working as a professional actor before becoming the arts editor for SAfm at the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Judith joined WBJC shortly after immigrating to the United States in the late 1990s.
She holds an MFA in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts from the University of Baltimore, and is the author of Beyond the Baobab, a collection of essays about her immigrant experience. Her new book, Old New Worlds, is available from Green Writers Press.
Rowena Alegría is Chief Storyteller for the City & County of Denver, founder and director of the Denver Office of Storytelling and the citywide storytelling and cultural preservation project I Am Denver. A 2019 Jack Jones Literary Arts Fellow, a 2019 Vermont Studio Center Fellow and a 2018 Writing by Writers Fellow, Alegría earned an MFA in Fiction from the Institute of American Indian Arts and is a member of Sandra Cisneros’ Macondo Writers Workshop. A career journalist, communications executive and speech writer, she is writing a novel that plays with form and the history of the Southwest.
It was a joy to sit down with Meredith O'Brien to talk about her COVID-era memoir, UNCOMFORTABLY NUMB. We explore her experiences with a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis through her lens of investigative journalism. In our conversation, she uncovers the all-too-prevalent patriarchal notion that women don't know their bodies as she struggles to get her diagnosis.
A Boston area writer, Meredith has authored four books and co-authored one, including Mr. Clark’s Big Band, which won an Independent Publisher Book Award and was a finalist for a Foreword Reviews INDIES Award. She teaches journalism at Northeastern University, where she also serves as a writing coach.
Uncomfortably Numb: a memoir (Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, 2020), author
This medical memoir traces the moment Meredith first experiences what she later learns is a multiple sclerosis symptom, through the two-year diagnostic process, and, ultimately to the other side where she had to make an uneasy peace with the incurable and chronic disease of the central nervous system.
Buy it: The book can be purchased on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Signed copies can be purchased through Tatnuck Booksellers of Westborough, MA. Email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ask your local bookstore to carry it!
Connect with Meredith:
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
TW: Violence, Rape, Drugs
David Heska Wanbli Weiden: a name as poetic as his prose and as his book is necessary for us right now. Listen in as we discuss his earth-shattering debut novel, WINTER COUNTS. We talk about Indigenous rights, decolonization, characterization, and how fiction writing has the potential to change policy.
David Heska Wanbli Weiden, an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota nation, is author of the novel WINTER COUNTS (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2020). WINTER COUNTS is a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and has been selected as an Amazon Best Book of August, Best of the Month by Apple Books, a main selection of the Book of the Month Club, and was an Indie Next Great Reads pick.
Weiden is also the author of the children’s book SPOTTED TAIL (Reycraft, 2019), a biography of the great Lakota leader and winner of the 2020 Spur Award from the Western Writers of America. He’s published in the New York Times, Shenandoah, Yellow Medicine Review, Transmotion, Criminal Class Review, Tribal College Journal, and other magazines. He’s the fiction editor for Anomaly, journal of international literature and arts, and he teaches creative writing at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, the MFA program in Writing and Publishing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and the low-residency MFA program at Western Colorado University.
He received his MFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts, his law degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, and his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. He’s an alumnus of VONA, a Tin House Scholar, a MacDowell Fellow, a Ragdale Foundation resident, and received the PEN/America Writing for Justice Fellowship. He’s an active member of the Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Writers of America, and the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers. He’s Professor of Native American Studies and Political Science at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and lives in Colorado with his two sons.
His last name, Weiden, is pronounced “Why-den.” Heska Wanbli is pronounced “Heh-ska Wahn-blee.” His nation, the Sicangu Lakota, is pronounced “See-chon-goo Lah-coat-ah.
WINTER COUNTS Playlist
Listen in as Sarina Prabasi and I discuss the political state of the nation, the effects of COVID-19 on small businesses like Buunni Coffee, the joy and rage of motherhood, and more.
Find and follow Sarina Prabasi:
Buunnii Coffee Twitter
Purchase The Coffeehouse Resistance: Brewing Hope in Desperate Times by Sarina Prabasi:
Barnes and Noble
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When I started reading BLACKTOP WASTELAND in August, on recommendation from a friend, I don't think I realized quite how much S.A. Cosby would reveal about the contradictions and complexities of rural life in the South (U.S), especially for a Black man. In his review of the novel for NPR, Gabino Iglesias wrote, "The most surprising thing about S.A. Cosby's Blacktop Wasteland, which is marketed as a crime novel, is that crime is the least important element in the book." It wasn't the prescribed genre that drew me to his work, it was the fact that I knew he was going to give a voice to a Southern Black experience that I have been hungry for ever since he-who-shall-not-be-named took the highest office in the nation. Nonetheless, it is a remarkable work in the genre and is a well-earned contribution to the American canon of Southern literature.
Listen in as S.A. and I discuss race relations in the U.S., Southern cooking, what it's like to become the peer of our heroes, and how to tell a damn good story.
Find and follow S.A. Cosby:
Purchase BLACKTOP WASTELAND by S.A. Cosby:
Barnes and Noble
Amazon, if you must (but please leave a review!)
Listen in as the wonderful Michele Filgate and I discuss her anthology WHAT MY MOTHER AND I DON'T TALK ABOUT (Simon & Schuster, 2019) on Mother's Day. And Italy, a lot of conversation about Italy. Beyond that, we tackle immense loss, mother figures, the editing process, and more.
Currently, Michele is an M.F.A. student at NYU, where she is the recipient of the Stein Fellowship. Her work has appeared in countless publications including The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Paris Review Daily, Tin House, The Rumpus, Salon, and O, The Oprah Magazine. She teaches creative writing at NYU and is the founder of the Red Ink series.
Find links to her work here:
For my 17th episode, I sat down with brilliant Denver-based poet Andrea Rexilius. Andrea is the author of Sister Urn (Sidebrow, Spring 2019), New Organism: Essais (Letter Machine, 2014), Half of What They Carried Flew Away (Letter Machine, 2012), and To Be Human Is To Be A Conversation (Rescue Press, 2011), as well as the chapbooks, Séance (Coconut Books, 2014), and To Be Human (Horseless Press, 2010). Her creative and critical writing is featured in the following anthologies: Anne Carson: Ecstatic Lyre (U of Michigan P), The Volta Book of Poets (Sidebrow Books), Sixty Morning Talks: Serial Interviews with Contemporary Authors (Ugly Duckling Press), and Letter Machine Book of Interviews (Letter Machine Editions). She is Core Faculty in Poetry, and Program Coordinator, for the Mile-High MFA in Creative Writing at Regis University. She also teaches in the Poetry Collective at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, Colorado.
This episode is very dear to my heart, as Andrea entered into a space of such vulnerability and openness around the life and death of her sister Andrea Erki. We explore loss and grief, the entanglements of living, and the ways in which poetry can create a language of connection where no words could do so before.
Tune in to hear poet, artist, and comic Sommer Browning and I discuss the nature of reality, what makes comedy funny, the meaning of art & life, and what separates humans from animals; you know, just the small stuff.
For my 16th episode, I sat down with my favorite poet on the planet, Sommer Browning. Sommer is a poet and writer living in Denver. Her books include Backup Singers (Birds, LLC; 2014), Either Way I'm Celebrating (Birds, LLC; 2011), Poet-Librarians in the Library of Babel (Litwin Books, 2018), You're on My Period (Counterpath, 2016), and several others. She is the founder and director of GEORGIA, a non-commercial art space she runs out of her garage when it's warm. She works as a librarian at Auraria Library.
For my 15th episode, I sat down with someone who, for me, was a life-changer and a game-changer: poet, essayist, and scholar Adrianne Kalfopoulou. She lives and teaches in Athens, Greece where she currently heads the English and Modern Languages Dept. at Deree College. Lucky for me, she is also a poetry and nonfiction faculty mentor in the low residency Mile-High MFA program at Regis University. She has taught in the Masters Program of the Englisches Seminar at the University of Freiburg, the Graduate Writing Program at New York University, and writing workshops at the University of Edinburgh, and the Aegean Arts Circle on the island of Andros. Her scholarly work has focused on 19th and 20th century American literature, and more recently Ralph Waldo Emerson’s influence on Sylvia Plath's poems.
Listen in as we discuss personal history, immigration in the era of Trump, the importance of voting for a not-so-ideal candidate, pain pornography, letting a piece of writing lie fallow, travel & identity, and so much more. Adrianne is truly a brilliant scholar and thinker of our time, there is something for everyone in this episode -- not to be missed.
Find Kalfopoulou's works below:
Here is her essay we discuss on the episode:
Listen in as the brilliant Cameron Dezen Hammon and I discuss god v. religion, patriarchy, and a whole lotta craft!
For my 14th episode, I sat down with Cameron Dezen Hammon, a writer and musician living in Houston. Her essays, poems, and stories have appeared in Guernica, The Rumpus, Ecotone, The Houston Chronicle, The Butter, NYLON, The Literary Review, Brevity's Nonfiction Blog, Columbia Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Her writing has been anthologized in The Kiss: Intimacies from Writers from W.W. Norton, and My Caesarean: Twenty Mothers on the Experience of Birth by C-Section and After from The Establishment, and honored as notable in The Best American Essays 2017. She earned an MFA from Seattle Pacific University. Cameron is the host of The Ish podcast, conversations from the liminal spaces of life, and co-founder of the Houston-based literary reading series “The Slant.” This Is My Body: A Memoir of Religious and Romantic Obsession is her first book.
The Sopranos, Coronavirus, anti-heroes, really fucking well-rounded characters, male toxicity, being a working artist who has to work, and Anne Carson... a few of the things Laura Bogart and I discuss on The Situation & the Story Podcast. Her gorgeous novel, DON'T YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU, was released today by Dzanc Books. Please check it out! We need to help our community members' whose events have been cancelled due to COVID-19. This is one of my favorite conversations!
Laura is a nonfiction writer who focuses on personal essays, pop culture, film and TV, feminism, body image and sizeism, and politics (among other topics). She is a featured contributor to The Week and DAME magazine; her work has also appeared in The Atlantic, The Guardian, SPIN, The AV Club, Vulture, and Indiewire (among other publications). DON’T YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU is her first novel.
Listen in as award-winning poet and essayist Kathryn Winograd & I discuss her stunning & philosophical essay collection, SLOW ARROW: UNEARTHING THE FRAIL CHILDREN, published today by Saddle Road Press! We delve into death, hidden worlds and histories, the nature of time, her downright brilliance on craft, and much more. This is a special conversation. It felt like I got my own personal craft talk, and now I wish I had had Kathy as another mentor at Mile-High MFA. Enjoy our talk.
For my 11th episode, I sat down with Katharine Coldiron at AWP2020 in San Antonio, TX. I initially had big plans to interview many of our fearless feminist writers on-site, but coronavirus ultimately won out when so many presses and attendees cancelled their trips, and then I came down with a heinous cold that I’m sure had attendees double-taking me during panels. All of it was worth it considering I got to chat with Katharine about her new novella, CEREMONIALS (2020, KERNPLUNKT Press). Katharine's work has appeared in Ms., Washington Post, The Times Literary Supplement, LARB, The Rumpus, and many other places. Find her at kcoldiron.com and on Twitter @ferrifrigida.
(TW: Sexual Abuse, Depression, Suicidal Ideation)
For my 10th episode, I sat down with Kari L. O'Driscoll to talk about her memoir TRUTH HAS A DIFFERENT SHAPE. Kari is a writer and mother of two living in the Pacific Northwest. Her work has appeared in print anthologies on mothering, reproductive rights, and cancer, as well as online in such outlets as Ms. Magazine, ParentMap, The Manifest-Station, and Healthline. She is the founder of The SELF Project, an organization whose goals are to help teenagers, teachers, and caregivers of teens recognize the unique challenges and amazing attributes of adolescents and to use mindfulness and nonviolent communication to build better relationships. You can find her at www.kariodriscollwriter.com. Listen in as we discuss mothering, memory, grief, teenagers, and even Jack Kevorkian.
Be a fly on the wall for my conversation with the brilliant Erin Khar as we dig deep into mental health, addiction, and why we do the things we do, through the lens of her beautiful & painful memoir STRUNG OUT: ONE LAST HIT AND OTHER LIES THAT NEARLY KILLED ME. Her book is out this coming Tuesday, 2/25, so if you don't want any spoilers, don't tune in until after you read!
Erin is known for her writing on addiction, recovery, mental health, relationships, parenting, infertility, and self-care. Her weekly advice column, Ask Erin, is published on Ravishly. Her personal essays have appeared in SELF, Salon, HuffPost, Marie Claire, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, and others. She's the recipient of the Eric Hoffer Editor's Choice Prize and lives in New York City with her husband and two kids.
(TW: Sexual Abuse)
It was like Christmas for me, so it's Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) for you! I'm dropping this episode a day early because I just cannot wait for it to exist in the world. Listen in as Sophia Shalmiyev and I discuss Elizabeth Warren, male and female archetypes in literature, Riot Grrrl feminism, anti-capitalism, immigration, white flight, and the mental breakdowns of memoir, among other things. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did!
Listen in as Eva Hagberg and I talk about her recently-gone-paperback memoir HOW TO BE LOVED: A MEMOIR OF LIFESAVING FRIENDSHIP (2019). In our conversation you can expect the same realness and transparency with which she comes to her writing, a mark of the vulnerability she has cultivated since surviving a brain hemorrhage, heart surgery, and learning to live with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. We take on capitalism, mental health, recovery from alcoholism, writing, reconnecting with the body after physical trauma, and what friendships can look like when you let your guard down and choose to see that folks have been there all along, loving you.
Eva Hagberg’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, Tin House, Wallpaper*, Wired, and Dwell, among other places. She is the author of HOW TO BE LOVED: A MEMOIR OF LIFESAVING FRIENDSHIP (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Feb 5, 2019), and holds degrees in architecture from UC Berkeley and Princeton as well as a PhD in Visual and Narrative Culture from UC Berkeley.
Listen to me and poet/activist ellie swensson talk about her book SALT OF US. We cover everything from the patriarchy of the beat generation, to what it means to live in a white body, grow up queer in the South, and much more. Oh, and poetry, yeah, we talk about the craft a little bit, too. Not to be missed!
ellie recently published her first collection of poetry via Punch Drunk Press. She is a queer, southern ex-pat and earned her MFA from my alma mater Naropa University in 2015. She is the founder and co-director of Bolder Writers Warehouse, a mobile writers’ community resource. Her poems are published in a handful of places you may know, but she prefers her words alive in the mouth and the body.
DISCLAIMER: My editor sucks! (Hint: it's yours truly...) In a couple of short clips, it sounds like I am interrupting my guest, but I most certainly assure you I am not, and if you are ever to come on this show, I will indeed also not interrupt you. (Learning curve, here...) Thank you for your forgiveness.
For my fifth episode, I sat down with Georgia-based writer, Jordan Rothacker, to talk about his latest collection: Gristle: weird tales, published in 2019 by Stalking Horse Press. Rothacker is the author of three novels: The Pit, and no Other Stories, And Wind Will Wash Away, and My Shadow Book by Maawaam. Rothacker attended Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY before going on to receive a Masters in Religion and a PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Georgia. His essays, fiction, poetry, book reviews, and interviews have appeared in The Believer, Heavy Feather Review, Guernica Magazine, LitHub, and many more.
Listen in as Jordan and I discuss the naivety of youth, men writing women, reverse engineering of stories, penis-fencing worms, and much more!
Happy new year! 2020 has already proven to be a whirlwind and we’re only a week in! If you are hoping to take a break from the ever-increasingly frightening and disheartening world news, you came to the right place. For my fourth episode, I sat down with Mary Harpin. She is a Denver-based poet, a medium, and a consultant for global Fortune 500 companies. You can find her work in Terrain, Fourteen Hills, Tinderbox, and elsewhere. We talked about her first full-length collection of poems: SHADOWRISE. To learn more about her work and purchase her collection, check out http://www.maryharpin.com.
Listen in as Mary and I discuss contacting spirits, mass shootings, how the Laws of Physics apply to love, and much more...
(TW: Sexual Abuse)
For my third episode, I sat down with Denver-based novelist Steven Dunn. Shortlisted for Granta magazine’s “Best of Young American Novelists,” Dunn is the author of two books from Tarpaulin Sky Press: water & power (2018) and Potted Meat, which was a co-winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Awards, a finalist for the Colorado Book Award, and has been adapted for a short film entitled The Usual Route, from Foothills Productions. Steven was born and raised in West Virginia, and after 10 years in the Navy he earned a B.A. in Creative Writing from University of Denver. Listen in as we discuss penises on submarines, growing up in poverty, and Ikebana as writing instructor!
In the second episode of The Situation & the Story, I sit down with multi-genre author Hillary Leftwich to discuss her new collection, GHOSTS ARE JUST STRANGERS WHO KNOW HOW TO KNOCK (Civil Coping Mechanisms Press). Our conversation takes some dark twists and turns, similarly to her collection. We not only take on death, grief, loss, and regret, but also how to make the most of your writing and your life. Thanks for tuning in.
Just in time to Give Thanks, I sat down with poet, educator, and creative coach Tara Shea Burke to talk about her recently published collection of poetry, Animal Like Any Other (Finishing Line Press, September 2019). My fellow Libra and I discuss the writing process, the world of academia, what it's like to navigate self-doubt, and writing as women in a patriarchal society.