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 52: Louise Penny  

Louise Penny was well into her forties when she published Still Life, the first in what has become the wildly popular Armand Gamache mystery series. The novels are set in Québec, where Gamache is Chief Inspector of the provincial police force. They are meticulously plotted, part police procedurals, part exploration of human nature - and the precarious balance between good and evil. Louise Penny is now out with the thirteenth in the series, Glass Houses.

Episode Music by Dana Boulé.

Workshop 51: Howard Axelrod  

Howard Axelrod was a junior at Harvard when an accident left him blind in one eye. The loss left him feeling shattered and isolated, eventually leading to a two-year stint living in the solitude of the Vermont woods. His memoir from that time is called The Point of Vanishing, named one of the best books of 2015 by Slate, The Chicago Tribune, and others. 

Workshop 50: Alice Fogel  

Alice Fogel is Poet Laureate of New Hampshire, and the author of six collections of poetry, including Interval: Poems Based on Bach's Goldberg Variations. Her most recent work is A Doubtful House. 

Episode Music by Little Glass Men

Workshop 49: Michael Cunningham  

Michael Cunningham is best known as the author of The Hours, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, which imagines a fateful day in the life of Virginia Woolf and its modern parallels. Nicole Kidman won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf in a film adaptation of the book.

But he's a man of many genres - he's also co-written a screenplay, walked readers through Provincetown, Mass with a travelogue, and turned fairy tales on their heads, as he does in his recent collection of short fiction, A Wild Swan and Other Tales.

Episode Music by Blue Dot Sessions
Ad Music by Uncanny Valleys

Workshop 48: Roxane Gay  

This episode, we speak to Roxane Gay, author, essayist, teacher, and all around-superwoman. The author of New York Times bestsellers Bad Feminist and Difficult Women, her latest, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, is a candid and personal account of life inside her body, of weight, trauma, and self-care. We spoke to Roxane by phone from her home. Episode music by Blue Dot SessionsAd music by Uncanny Valleys 

Workshop 47: Jonathan Safran Foer  

Author, outspoken vegetarian, social media abstainer and writing teacher Jonathan Safran Foer is author of three novels: Everything Is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and, most recently, Here I Am, which follows four generations of a Jewish family grappling with identity, connection and disaster. His nonfiction book about factory farming, Eating Animals, was also a New York Times best-seller. Episode music by Broke For Free Ad music by Uncanny Valleys

Workshop 46: Ian Rankin  

Ian Rankin is best known for two characters: Inspector John Rebus, the protagonist of now 21 mystery novels, and the city of Edinburgh, whose dark corners come alive in Rankin’s hands. Rebus made his debut in the 1987 crime novel Knots & Crosses. In Rankin’s newest novel - Rather Be the Devil - a retired Rebus returns to a case that has haunted him for decades. Episode music by Podington Bear Ad music by Uncanny Valleys

Workshop 45: Krista Tippett  

Krista Tippett is probably best known as the host & creator of the public radio program On Being. But she's also the author of three books that pull from her decades of interviews with a broad variety of thinkers and seekers, exploring the intersections between spirituality, science, and living. The most recent is called Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery & Art of Living. We spoke to her backstage at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH before a Writers on a New England Stage event. Music: Podington Bear - "Daydreamer"

Workshop 44: Anita Shreve  

Anita Shreve had a small, but devoted following as a literary author when her second novel, The Pilot's Wife was named an Oprah Book Club pick. The recognition propelled her into a New York Times bestselling novelist. Two days after her 18th novel, The Stars Are Fire, was released, she canceled her extensive book tour, later writing on her Facebook page that she would be undergoing chemotherapy. This most recent novel uses wildfires that raged through coastal Maine in 1947 as the backdrop for the story of one woman’s extraordinary resilience. Music by Tyler Gibbons Ad Music by Uncanny Valleys Find Anita Shreve on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/anitashreve/

Workshop 43: John Scalzi  

John Scalzi, the Hugo Award-winning author of science fiction both serious and less-so and an internet star from way, way back. He is former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, perhaps best known for his Old Man's War series, his blog “Whatever,” and his novel Redshirts, which is currently being developed for television. He joined us in the NHPR studios while on tour for The Collapsing Empire, the first novel of a new space-opera sequence set in an all-new universe.

Workshop 42: Tana French  

Tana French is the Edgar Award-winning author of the Dublin Murder Squad series. The newest, called The Trespasser, is the sixth in the best-selling, habit-forming series. "It’s taken for granted that anybody who’s read one [Tana French novel] will very shortly have read them all,” wrote Laura Miller in the New Yorker. French wrote her debut novel, In The Woods, in the long stretches between parts as a stage actress in Dublin. That theatrical training - understanding people from the inside out - may well be the edge that sets her books apart from other mysteries and police procedurals. The search for the killer becomes entangled with a search for the self, or as Miller put it, "in most crime fiction, the central mystery is who is the murderer? In French’s novels, it’s who is the detective?” Music by Podington Bear Ad music by Uncanny Valleys

Workshop 41: Ben H. Winters  

Ben Winters is a little incomprehensible. Not his output, which is consistently great, but his wild imagination and range. He's a teacher, a playwright, an Edgar and Phillip K. Dick Award-winning novelist, he's written children's books, an existential detective series and landed a New York Times bestseller with the Jane Austen meets the kraken mash-up, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. His most recent novel, Underground Airlines, imagines an alternative American history - and present. The civil war never happened, and slavery is legal in four southern states under protection of the Constitution. Underground Airlines is an ingenious work of speculative fiction that at times seems chillingly plausible. It landed on several top ten lists in 2016...from Fresh Air contributor Maureen Corrigan to the BBC. We caught up with him at the Capital Center for the Arts in Concord, NH before interviewing him and The Underground Railroad author, Colson Whitehead. Episode music by Podington Bear Ad music by Uncanny Valleys

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"

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