10 Minute Writer's Workshop

10 Minute Writer's Workshop

United States

A peek into how great writers conjure and craft their work. From creative rituals to guilty distractions, writers reveal what it really takes to get pen to paper.


Workshop 40: Mario Batali  

Mario Batali is a superstar chef, restaurateur, television star and passionate advocate for simple, regional food. Also passionate about making that food more accessible, he is author or co-author of 7 cookbooks, including his most recent Big American Cookbook. We caught up with him before his appearance at The Music Hall for Writers on a New England Stage and asked him if his cookbook ideas pop up like a timer or simmer below the surface for a while. Episode music by Jahzzar Ad music by Uncanny Valleys This episode sponsored by Blue Apron - use code 10minute for three free chef-inspired meals Bonus! Vladimir Nabokov's egg-boiling instructions, as sent to Maxime de la Falaise for her cooking book in 1972: “Boil water in a saucepan (bubbles mean it is boiling!). Take two eggs (for one person) out of the refrigerator. Hold them under the hot tap water to make them ready for what awaits them. Place each in a pan, one after the other, and let them slip soundlessly into the (boiling) water. Consult your wristwatch. Stand over them with a spoon preventing them (they are apt to roll) from knocking against the damned side of the pan. If, however, an egg cracks in the water (now bubbling like mad) and starts to disgorge a cloud of white stuff like a medium in an old fashioned seance, fish it out and throw it away. Take another and be more careful. After 200 seconds have passed, or, say, 240 (taking interruptions into account), start scooping the eggs out. Place them, round end up, in two egg cups. With a small spoon tap-tap in a circle and hen pry open the lid of the shell. Have some salt and buttered bread (white) ready. Eat. V.N. November 18, 1972”

Workshop 39: Lindy West  

Lindy West, columnist for The Guardian, and author of How to be a Person and Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman. Lindy writes about feminism, social justice, body image, pop culture and, lately, politics. She's a funny and original thinker, and brave. She's been a contributor on several memorable episodes of This American Life - one on "coming out" as fat, another about confronting an internet troll, one of hundreds who'd harassed her online. She's got a bunch of balls in the air - TV and movie projects, an idea for a podcast - but we honed in on the demands of being a columnist. Episode music by Ari de Niro Ad music by Uncanny Valleys

Workshop 38: Victoria (V.E.) Schwab  

Victoria Schwab... VE Schwab... V... the author's name depends on her audience, which, like the dark worlds she builds, is a well-thought out design. Ms. Schwab, we'll say, burst onto the scene in 2011 with The Near Witch. A dozen books later, adult, young adult and middle grade readers have followed her into supernatural worlds, sinister scenarios and richly formed fantasy worlds. A self-described pagan, Victoria managed to survive a happy, independent childhood, with a morbid streak. "I definitely hung my teddy bears from the stair railing, execution-style,” she told Book Page. That slightly twisted imagination has served her well, and she continues to build speculative worlds and cutthroat characters that probe the human capacity to be monstrous to each other - and to the natural world. Her newest novel, A Conjuring of Light, is part three and the culmination of the Shades of Magic fantasy series. We reached her at her home in Nashville via Skype.

Workshop 37: Ottessa Moshfegh  

Ottessa Moshfegh says she writes to explore why people do weird things. The daughter of a Croatian mother and Iranian father, she was a serious piano student who knew she didn't want to be a pianist when she felt the call to write - and not just write, but be bold. We spoke to her before her reading at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass. Episode Music: Kevin MacLeod, "Trio for Piano, Violin and Viola" Credit Music: Uncanny Valleys, "Curious or Disconcerting"

Workshop 36: Caitlin Moran  

Caitlin Moran is the best-selling author of How to Be a Woman, Moranthology, and columnist for the Times of London. She and her sister developed and write 'raised by wolves" --a British television series loosely based on their experience in a family of ten growing up in a tiny subsidized flat in the English midlands. She is also a mother of two, an unapologetic feminist, and really, really funny. Caitlin Moran is now out with Moranifesto, her second collection of columns and essays. The Harvard Book Store sponsored her event at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We caught up with her before she went on stage. She was warm and playful and not at all anxious about going on stage - or writing. Episode Music: "American Weirdos" by Hurry Up Ad Music: "Joy in the Restaurant" by David Szesztay

Workshop 35: Jonathan Lethem  

Jonathan Lethem is the best-selling author of Gun, with Occasional Music, Fortress of Solitude, and other novels, including the Naitonal Book Critics' Circle award-winning Motherless Brooklyn. He's known for reanimating and remixing genres - hard-boiled crime novels, post-apocalyptic science fiction, superhero comics and even technicolor westerns. His most recent novel is called A Gambler's Anatomy. It's about a high-stakes competitive backgammon player and con artist - a character who, like Lethem, was raised in the bohemian Brooklyn of the 1970s. Episode music: "Crate Diggin" by Ari de Niro Ad music: "Joy in the Restaurant" by David Szesztay

Workshop 34: Catalog Writer Jeff Ryan  

'In Maine, when we say something is "wicked good" – we really mean it.' That's how LL Bean describes their Wicked Good Slippers, and how we describe Jeff Ryan, who for decades wrote Bean's catalog copy. We spoke to him about finding the story in everyday objects and the tricks of the trade when it comes to copy writing. Jeff Ryan is also the author of Appalachian Odyssey, a memoir of hiking the Appalachian Trail, bit by bit, over 28 years. Episode music: "Auld Lang Syne" by Podington Bear Credit music: "Joy in the Restaurant" by David Szesztay

Workshop 33: Emma Donoghue  

Irish author Emma Donoghue may be best known for Room, her novel written in the voice of a young boy confined with his mother in a single room. It was nominated for a Man Booker prize and made into an Oscar-winning film, for which she wrote the screenplay. Her most recent novel is The Wonder, about a "fasting girl" in 1850s Ireland. Music: Podington Bear - "Evenhanded" Ad Music: David Szesztay - "Joy in the Restaurant"

Workshop 32: Tom Gauld  

Tom Gauld -- a cartoonist, illustrator of comics and covers for the New Yorker and The Believer. His weekly cartoon about the arts for The Guardian newspaper is a wry, often deadpan favorite among writers. He is extremely prolific, author of more than a dozen books of comics, including You're Just Jealous of My Jetpack and most recently Mooncop. The lunar cop is perfectly Gauldian character - doesn't say much, spends a lot of time walking the barren landscape, is pretty lonesome and quaint. Virginia met with Tom before his talk at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just an hour's drive from our studio. The challenge was finding a quiet spot to record in Harvard square...at rush hour. Music: "Feeding Pigeons" - Poddington Bear Ad Music: "Joy in the Restaurant" - David Szesztay

Workshop 31: Colson Whitehead  

A Pulitzer-Prize nominee, Guggenheim fellow, and winner of a MacArthur "genius" grant, Colson Whitehead's new book, The Underground Railroad, was one of the most anticipated works of fiction this year. Virginia caught up with him backstage at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, New Hampshire before a reading with novelist Ben Winters hosted of Gibson’s Bookstore.

Workshop 30: Jodi Picoult  

It’s our 30th episode, this time with the phenomenally successful Jodi Picoult. Small Great Things is her 24th novel - and the ninth straight to debut at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. If Picoult has a "thing" it's writing about thorny ethical issues from the perspective of multiple characters...and a twisty ending! She's written in the voice of suicidal teens, rape victims, a school shooter…but until now, never as a black character and never directly confronting race, privilege and inequity - which most people avoid talking about. We caught up with her in the green room at the Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire before Writers on a New England Stage. Music: “Many Hands” by Poddington Bear Photo: David J. Murray, cleareyephoto.com We are proud to be sponsored by Blue Apron. To receive a free week of meals, visit http://blueapron.com/10minute

Workshop 29: Josh Ritter  

In this episode of the 10-Minute Writer’s Workshop, singer-songwriter, musician and novelist Josh Ritter – who might say writer first, musician second. It was a song that spun into his 2011 novel Bright's Passage. Josh Ritter’s songs draw deeply from the narrative traditions of American and Scottish folk music he studied after dropping out of the neuroscience program at Oberlin. They're little stories of character and place...wild prairies, snake oil salesman, teenage lust, and adults running out of road. Josh describes his most recent album Sermon on the Rocks as “messianic oracular honky-tonk.” We caught up with him at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, New Hampshire, the day it was announced that Bob Dylan would be rewarded the Nobel Prize. So we focused on songwriting... let’s call this the 10-Minute Songwriter’s Workshop. Music: Josh Ritter, "Henrietta, Indiana" (used with permission)

Workshop 28: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer  

Legal decisions are rarely read for pleasure. And though read and re-read and excerpted and quoted, they are not always quotable. Clocking in at an average of just under 5000 words, they can sound jargony, pompous and bone-dry in the wrong hands. Today's 10-Minute Writers Workshop asks an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States about what goes into writing an opinion. Justice Stephen Breyer was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1994 and is an exuberant advocate for participatory democracy, animated explainer of the reasoning behind decisions and author of several books. I spoke with Justice Breyer in the green room at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, just before talking with him about his most recent, The Court and the World - American Law and the New Global Realities for Writers On A New England Stage.

Workshop 27: Cynthia Ozick  

The novelist, short story writer and essayist Cynthia Ozick's best known piece of writing is called The Shawl, a brutal, phantasmal story of a woman and two children marching to a Nazi concentration camp. The Holocaust and Jewish identity are recurring topics in Ozick's fiction and criticism. Growing up in the Bronx, she was called Christ-killer, and humiliated for not singing Christmas carols at school. Now 88, her 7th volume of criticism, Critics, Monsters, Fanatics, And Other Literary Essays, was published recently, in July 2016. Ozick's last public reading was 6 years ago, but, happily, we got her on the phone from her home in Westchester County, New York. Photo: Ric Kallaher Music: Podington Bear

Workshop 26: Andre Dubus III  

Andre Dubus III's memoir Townie told the story of his violent childhood on the wrong side of the tracks. Writing was his way out, and he's made more than good, with multiple NYT bestsellers, an Oprah’s Book Club pick, and an Oscar-nominated film adaptation (for his novel The House of Sand and Fog). And he gets out there, as a public speaker and writing instructor for graduate programs, seminars and retreats. We caught up with him at New Hampshire Writers’ Project's annual Writers’ Day. Photo of Virginia & Andre by Karen Kenney

Workshop 25: Kelly Link  

Kelly Link is one of a handful of writers to manage to be wondrous, fantastical and ominous at the same time. As Kirkus says, her work is “like Kafka hosting Saturday Night Live, mixing humor with existential dread.” Her most recent collection, Get in Trouble, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. She and her husband manage Small Beer Press. Photo © 2014 Sharona Jacobs Photography

Workshop 24: Chuck Klosterman  

Essayist, novelist, columnist, sportswriter and former ethicist for the New York Times Magazine, Chuck Klosterman has got a wildly original voice. That makes sense for a guy who's written about glam metal bands in North Dakota, or whether you should hire a detective to trail your spouse. He's author of several best-sellers including Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs and most recently But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past.

Workshop 23: Judy Blume  

Anyone who's ever been an awkward adolescent knows that for decades now, dog-eared copies of Judy Blume's books have been passed around school playgrounds like secrets, or read under the covers after lights out. Her best known books - Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, Deenie, Blubber, and Forever - offered young readers plain language and shame -free stories about periods, bullying, sexual urges and, even 'going all the way'. Judy Blume finally tells her own story with In the Unlikely Event. It’s set in 1952, when three planes crashed into her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey. We sat down with her in the greenroom at the Music Hall in Portsmouth before a Writers on a New England Stage live event.

Workshop 22: Donald Hall  

Donald Hall is now 87 and no longer writing poetry, a pursuit he calls "a young man's game" which takes "too much testosterone." But Hall, former Poet Laureate of both New Hampshire and the United States, long ago cemented his place in literary history. In this episode of the 10-Minute Writer's Workshop, Virginia and Sara traveled to Hall's home in Wilmot, NH, to speak to him - getting lost along the way, and, ultimately, finding themselves right at home.

Workshop 21: Helen Simonson  

The bestselling author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - and bonafide Charming British Lady - Helen Simonson lets us in on her writing process, her thoughts on sunshine, and the perils of HGTV. Her latest novel, set in 1914, is The Summer Before the War.

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