Conversations: on community, creativity & craft

I began conducting and then collecting the following radio, online, and print interviews about writing, art and the writing and art life when I accepted the producer/host position in 2005 for WCBN-FM’s Living Writers Show in Ann Arbor, where I’d moved to study for my MFA. I continue to love talking to creative people about their passions and preoccupations. I hope you enjoy!

Live-Broadcast Radio Interviews

The Living Writers Show, WCBN-FM Ann Arbor. Poets & prose writers read from their work and talk about their passions and preoccupations with host-producer, Ashley David. Live broadcasts were engineered by Chaz Berret and aired Wednesdays from 4:30-5:15 p.m. (2005-2007). The roster follows, and recordings of the interviews are provided when available (and as I have time to upload them to the site).

  • Uwem Akpan—fiction writer and Jesuit priest from Nigeria—
    Uwem Akpan, author of Say You’re One of Them (photo credit: Granta.com 11/14/08)

    reads from his work and talks about callings, writing Africa, and the role geography plays in the life a child. (aired:  12/6/06)

    Suad Amiry, author of Sharon and My Mother-in-Law
    Suad Amiry, author of Sharon and My Mother-in-Law
  • Suad Amiry—architect and former Palestinian Minister of Culture—reads from her memoir, Sharon and My Mother-in-law, and talks about the day-to-day of living in the occupied West Bank. (aired:  12/21/05) 
  • Kevin Baker—novelist—reads from his novel, Strivers Row, the final installment of the “City of Fire” trilogy, and talks about Malcolm X, the Harlem riots of 1943, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the Civil War draft riots in New York City and the writing of historical fiction. (aired:  3/8/06) 
  • Neil Bartlett reads from Who Was that Man?: A Present for Mr. Oscar Wilde
    Neil Bartlett, author of Who Was that Man?: A Present for Mr. Oscar Wilde (photo credit: nationaltheatre.org.uk)

    and discusses guidebooks, gay culture, and his life and work as an artist in London. (aired:  9/21/05)

  • Terry Blackhawk—poet, teacher, and executive director of InsideOut Detroit—reads from Escape Artist and talks about confinement and liberation, neo-formalism, and the writers-in-the-schools program she founded and directs. (aired:  4/12/06)
  • Lan Samantha Chang—novelist, teacher, and director of The Iowa Writers Workshop—
    Lan Samantha, author of Hunger (photo credit: Prairie Lights Bookstore, 11/10/06)

    reads from her collection of stories, Hunger, and talks about memory, contemporary mythmaking, and “writing what you know.” (aired:  12/14/05)

  • Billy Collins, former US Poet Laureate, reads from his 8th book of poems, The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems, and talks about death, dogs, diction and other weighty matters. (aired:  10/19/05) 
  • Peter Ho Davies, in a special sneak-peak preview, reads from his forthcoming novel—The Welsh Girl—and navigates a conversation through Nazi characters, national identity, novel-making, and Tom Jones. (aired:  12/20/06)
  • Kwame Dawespoet, playwright, novelist, and director of the Calabash International Literary Festival and the South Carolina Poetry Initiative
    Kwame Dawes (photo credit: AtlantaBlackStar.com)

    reads from Midland and Wisteria and talks about the aesthetics of Bob Marley, the power of art, growing up in Ghana and Jamaica and living and writing in South Carolina. (aired:  2/22/06)

  • Margaret Lazarus Dean reads from her hot-off-the-press first novel, The Time it Takes to Fall, a coming-of-age novel set against the backdrop of the Challenger space shuttle explosion in 1986, and discusses aliens and alienation, the inner and outer space of US innocence, and disasters of various stripes. (aired:  2/21/07)

    Andrew Delbanco, author of Melville: His World and Work
    Andrew Delbanco, author of Melville: His World and Work
  • Andrew Delbancosocial critic and Columbia University professor of humanities and American studiesreads from Melville: His World and Work and talks about the ways in which Melville, who set the standard for the great American novel with Moby Dick, captured the imaginative, social, and political concerns of his day, and why after a century and a half, his work continues to capture ours. (aired:  11/9/05)

    Nicholas Delbanco, author of The Vagabonds
    Nicholas Delbanco, author of The Vagabonds
  • Nicholas Delbanconovelist, essayist, teacher, and chair of the Hopwood Awards committeereads from his most recent novel, The Vagabonds, and talks about crafting a writing life, the responsibility of mentorship, and the Avery Hopwood awards and legacy at the University of Michigan. (aired:  2/8/06) 
  • Jeffrey Eugenides, author of The Virgin Suicides and the Pulitzer Prize winning Middlesex, reads from his work; maps the great American attention span; tackles mutation, metamorphosis, and conflict; and rounds out the confab with a dash of decayed grandeur. (aired:  11/1/06)
    Jeffrey Eugenides (photo credit: Karen Yamauchi)
    Jeffrey Eugenides (photo credit: Karen Yamauchi)

  • Robert Fanningpoetreads from his new book, The Seed Thieves, and talks about music, poetry, and death; about writing life, writing art; about the making of a book. (aired:  9/13/06)
  • Vievee Francispoetreads from Blue-Tail Fly, her first book, which was chosen by Poets & Writers Magazine as one of 12 notable debut books for 2006, and discusses writing personae poems, Callaloo, Cave Canem, and literary legacy at the intersection of empire, the Mason-Dixon, and the Detroit poetry scene. (aired:  1/3/07)
  • Jonathan Franzennovelist, essayist, and frequent New Yorker contributorreads from his work and talks about taste, complacency, the “so what” question, and birds. (aired:  11/30/05) 

    Alice Fulton, author of Cascade Experiment (photo credit: Hank De Leo
    Alice Fulton, author of Cascade Experiment (photo credit: Hank De Leo
  • Alice Fultonpoet, essayist, and teacherreads from her new book of selected poems Cascade Experiment and talks about the processes of circling back, beginning anew, and experimentation. (aired:  1/25/06) 
  • Mary Gaitskill reads from her novel, Veronica, and talks about pity, love, and redemption, about the essence of human nature and the places we put it. (aired:  9/27/06)
  • Albert Goldbarth
  • Myla Goldberg, author of the best-selling Bee Season, reads from her newest novel, Wickett’s Remedy and discusses flu epidemics, differential equations, and megalomaniacal antics in art, lit, and life. (aired:  10/25/06)
  • Laurence Goldstein reads from his 4th book of poems, A Room in California, and discusses his work as poet, scholar, teacher, and long-time editor of The Michigan Quarterly Review. (aired:  9/21/05) 
  • Lorna Goodison—internationally recognized Jamaican poet, painter, prose writer, and teacher—reads from her work, and talks about struggle and resistance, patience and fortitude, and about writing from and across cultural heritage. (aired:  1/11/06)
    Lorna Goodison (photo credit: Denis Valentine)

    Linda Gregerson, author of Magnetic North
    Linda Gregerson, author of Magnetic North
  • Linda Gregerson reads from her hot-off-the-press fourth book of poems, Magnetic North, and discusses questions of inequity, locations and occasions of art, and the guiding stars of formal experiment and invention. (aired:  3/7/07)
  • Patricia Hampl reads her poetry and non-fiction and talks about disappearing worlds, the power and weaknesses of first person writing, and the shifting nature of memory. (recorded 9/22/05, aired 10/5/05)
  • Melanie Lynne Hauser reads from her novel Confessions of Supermom and talks about an incredible Swiffer accident, chick lit, and soccer mom stereotypes. (aired:  9/7/05)

    Robert Hershon, Hanging Loose (photo credit: The Brooklyn Rail)
    Robert Hershon, Hanging Loose (photo credit: The Brooklyn Rail)
  • Robert Hershon—poet, editor, and publisher of Hanging Loose Press—reads from his newest book, Calls from the Outside World, and talks about the absurd, the fabulous, politics, Brooklyn, and Rosemary Clooney, and making poems, among other things… (aired:  4/26/06) 
  • John Hodgman: You may know him as The Resident Expert on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, or as The PC Guy on the Mac commercials… You may even know him as the nicest guy you ever shared a cab with to leave a Paris Review party… But around The Living Writers Show, we know him as The Professional Writer who wrote The Areas of My Expertise. He reads from said book on today’s show and discusses hell, fire & damnation; children’s games; and Latin American authors of renown in some circles..and even the decline and fall of civilizations, Rome in the 4th century, and the future of cyborgs on earth. (aired:  10/4/06)
  • Holly Hughes—performance artist, playwright, and teacher—
    Holly Hughes (photo credit: Kelly Campbell)

    reads her work and talks about complacency, controversy, and oh yes, decency, action, art, and the NEA 4. (aired:  3/15/06) 

  • Roy Jacobstein—poet, physician, and international development consultant—reads poems from Ripe and talks about political poetry, writing from outside academia, and wearing multiple hats. (aired:  10/26/05) 
  • Linton Kwesi Johnson—poet, international reggae star, political
    Ashley David with Linton Kwesi Johnson at the WCBN studio

    activist, and Black Panther leader in Britain—reads from his work and talks about civil rights struggles on both sides of the Atlantic and the relationships between dub poetry, reggae, R&B, and rap. (aired:  3/22/06)

  • Heidi Julavits—writer and founding editor of The Believer—reads from her new novel The Uses of Enchantment and discusses victims, predators, adolescent girls, sexuality, and the construction of the self. See also Dora, Freud, the 80s, motherhood, the coast of Maine, crayons, bad coffee, and the making of a magazine. (aired:  11/15/06)
  • Ted Libbey, one of the U.S.’s most highly regarded music critics and commentators as well as the Director of Media Arts Programs for the NEA, reads from his classical music encyclopedia, NPR Guide to Building a Classical Music Library and discusses the nature of including everything (and leaving some things out). (aired:  5/23/06) 
  • John McCain—US senator, 2-time presidential candidate,Vietnam POW, and best selling author—reads from Character is Destiny, and talks about character, inspiration, responsibility, and torture. (aired:  12/7/05) 

    Raymond McDaniel, author of Saltwater Empire (photo credit: The Poetry Foundation)
    Raymond McDaniel, author of Saltwater Empire (photo credit: The Poetry Foundation)
  • Raymond McDaniel reads from his forthcoming second book of poems, Saltwater Empire, and talks about Dixie-fried poetry, predicting the future, and redemption. (aired:  11/2/05) 
  • Ken Mikolowski
  • Sean Norton reads from his first book of poems, Bad with Faces and talks about journey, renunciation, and style. (aired:  10/12/05) 
  • Patrick O’Keeffe reads from his collection of linked novellas, The Hill Road, and, in his first interview about this debut collection, talks about Ireland, change, loss, and finding his subject. (aired: 9/14/05)
  • Julie Orringer—widely celebrated for her fiction and recently transplanted to Ann Arbor—reads from her work and explores literal and metaphorical jet lag, the lit-life versus the writing-life, and the drive to create worlds that others may inhabit. (aired:  1/17/07)

    Eileen Pollack, author of In the Mouth (photo credit: U-M Dept of English)
    Eileen Pollack, author of In the Mouth (photo credit: U-M Dept of English)
  • Eileen Pollack—novelist, creative non-fiction writer, journalist, and teacher—reads from the forthcoming collection of stories, In the Mouth and talks about truth and lies, literary vogue, and the business of writing (and learning to write). (aired:  11/23/05)
  • Richard Rhodes—Pulitzer prize-winning author—reads from his most recent book, John James Audubon: The Making of an American and talks about birds, conservation, expansion, the making of a country, and nuclear disarmament. (aired:  5/3/06) 
  • Jim Shepard—novelist, teacher, and “patron saint of the mal-adapted”—reads from his novel Project X and talks about adolescent boys, growing up, and being a writer-parent. (aired:  12/08/06)
    Jim Shepard, author of Project X (photo credit: Barry Goldstein)
    Jim Shepard, author of Project X (photo credit: Barry Goldstein)

  • Samuel Shimon—writer and co-founder of Banipal, the magazine of Modern Arab Literature—reads from his autobiographical novel An Iraqi in Paris and talks about life as a homeless intellectual on the streets of Paris, Hollywood movies vs. the French New Wave, and how Iraq is “like a dish of Spanish paella.” (aired:  11/29/06)

    Keith Taylor, author of Guilty at the Rapture
    Keith Taylor, author of Guilty at the Rapture
  • Keith Taylor—poet, prose writer, critic, and teacher—reads from Guilty at the Rapture, just out from Hanging Loose Press, and talks about the poetry bug, poetry worlds, genre bending, and the call of the whooping crane. (aired:  4/5/06) 
  • Richard Tillinghast—poet, critic, teacher, performer, and “Leonard Wiggins” in a James Atlas novel—reads from his work, and covers the usual bases: Southerners to Puritans, social movements to poetry. (aired:  11/16/06)

    Ari Weinzweig, founder of Zingerman's Family of Businesses and author of the Guide to Good Eating
    Ari Weinzweig, founder of Zingerman’s Family of Businesses and author of the Guide to Good Eating
  • Ari Weinzweig—food & business writer and founding partner of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses—reads from his Guide to Good Eating and talks about globalization, consumption, community…and of course, American food. (aired:  3/29/06)
  • Colson Whitehead—MacArthur Fellowship and Whiting Award recipient and Pulitzer Prize finalist—reads from his newest book, Apex Hides the Hurt, and talks about snakes, beetles, co-conspirators, and the color line. (aired:  4/19/06)
  • David Wojahn—poet—reads from his work and discusses regionalism and the location of literary heart, the difference between Junior Parker and Elvis, and the implications of gussying up the plain and painful. (aired:  2/7/07)

P.S. The show is still alive and well and currently hosted by T Hetzel. You can listen live on WCBN-FM or subscribe to the podcasts on iTunes.

Online Text-based Interviews

  • In February 2012, I was profiled for The University of Georgia’s “Amazing Students” column on UGA.EDU. Check it out here.

    Sean Hill, author of Blood Ties & Brown Liquor (photo credit: Minnesota Prairie Roots)
    Sean Hill, author of Blood Ties & Brown Liquor (photo credit: Minnesota Prairie Roots)
  • Sean Hill, poet and author of Blood Ties & Brown Liquor, and I chatted by email in the early months of 2011 about his work plus origins, wanderings, reconciliation, and the evolution of a student-run multicultural journal—in the Reconciliation issue of Mandala Journal. Check it out here.
  • José Romelo Lagman, photographer, and I chatted by email in April 2010 about rooted cosmopolitanism for Mandala Journal Blog. Check it out here. And, while you’re at it, check out his photo-essay, “Rooted Cosmopolitanism.”

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