While she comes from a writing family, Delia Ephron didn't start her writing career until her thirties. Since then she's made up for lost time, writing and producing screenplays, plays, books for children and adults and movies. Her latest novel, Siracusa, is already being adapted into a film.

These days, political discourse may feature the occasional soaring oratory, but more often, it comes down to talking heads yelling at each other. Maybe what the world needs now is the kind of politics found only in books. As we approach the 2016 presidential election, we take a moment to explore the best books about politics with KCUR's Bibliofiles.


flickr user Peter Musolino

Many teenagers seek out jobs, often for the first time, in the summer. Writer and novelist Thomas Fox Averill was 16 when he started his first job at Mount Hope Cemetery in Topeka, Kansas.

Averill, a writer-in-residence and professor of English at Washburn University, spent three summers as part of the grounds crew at Mount Hope. He told New Letters on the Air host Angela Elam that the experience shaped his life and his approach to writing.

Literature lovers owe a debt of gratitude to industrialist Henry Folger, who assembled the largest collection of William Shakespeare's folios, including the famed First Folio. Without that anthology, "half of his plays would have ended up on the ash heap of history," says author Andrea Mays.

There's always that one friend whose obsession leaks into every conversation. Wendy Perron, dancer, choreographer, and writer, says, "I'd be talking about dance so much that friends would say, 'Just shut up already.'" Despite the advice, Perron has built a career around documenting changes in dance and choreography since the 1970s.

A little more than a year after the Sept. 11th attacks, more than 1,500 cassette tapes were recovered from a house that Osama bin Laden once occupied. Those tapes were vetted then passed from the FBI to CNN, Williams College and then Yale, until someone else took the time to actually listen.


Being scared doesn't make my list of top five emotions. It's not even in the top 20. I actively dislike both roller coasters and horror movies. (In fact, a Donald Duck fire safety video I saw when I was 4 scared me enough that I can still recall scenes from the movie, vividly.) And though I'm not Polyannaish in my reading taste, I'm not a thrill seeker, either. Live radio supplies me with plenty of adrenaline.

So it's saying a lot that the weekend before Kansas author Cote Smith came on Central Standard to talk about the anxiety-laced world he created in his new novel Hurt People, I found myself glued to my seat for hours, heart thumping along to the words on the page.

It's Leavenworth, Kan., in the 1980s. Two young boys. One escaped convict. Two recently divorced parents too absorbed in their own struggles to fully supervise their children. An apartment-complex swimming pool. A mysterious new friend. 

Meet the Leavenworth-born novelist behind this vision.


Pexels / Creative Commons

The con-man may be someone  you want to avoid in real life, but he is a beloved figure in literature. Why do readers and writers love the con artist so? And why is he always a "he"? Lots of reading recommendations, plus the story of a local writer who's not only written about the con-man; he's also been one.


She’s written 21 books which have been translated into 35 languages. Her list of awards — which includes a Presidential Medal of Honor — could practically fill a book itself. Chilean-American author Isabel Allende joins Steve Kraske to talk about her latest book, her inspirations and her eventful life.

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

During Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. last month, he praised the late Thomas Merton as one of four great Americans. Merton was one of the most influential Catholic writers of the 20th century. He spent the last twenty years of his life as a Trappist Monk in a monastery called the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky.

After his death, his writings remained in the public sphere, but it seemed that little else was left from the man who inspired so many. But this summer, hundreds of his items reappeared in Missouri.

C.J. Janovy

Back when he was in college, Mark L. Groves heard something frightening: "None of you will ever be professional authors."

It was his second creative writing class. The first one had been great, with a teacher who gave constructive criticism in a humane way. Now, this second creative writing professor was humiliating him.

Groves had been writing since his fourth-grade class with Mrs. Amos. He still remembers the name of his first story: "Joe Dude Groves vs. Your Monster Here."

Daniel Handler and Brian Selznick are royalty when it comes to children's literature. Handler is the mastermind behind Lemony Snicket, and Selznick wrote The Invention of Hugo Cabret​, which became a Martin Scorsese film. They talk with Steve Kraske about ideas, writing and imagination.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Eighth Street Tap Room, a bar at 8th and New Hampshire in Lawrence, Kansas, hosts poetry readings each month in a dimly lit basement. As poets take the stage, they're cast in a reddish light, with gold streamers as backdrop.

Sunday's event started with a short open mic session, and then three featured poets. The final reader of the night: Hadara Bar-Nadav, an associate professor of English at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Andrea Johnson is a Kansas City native, now studying English, creative writing and music up at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.

She wrote this piece after graduating from high school, when she and a few of her friends were facing long-distance relationships as they headed off to college.

Class issues can be all over the headlines, even when the word 'class' never appears. So says Kansas writer Sarah Smarsh. A quick breakdown of recent headlines through the lens of class in Kansas.


Several months ago, KCUR asked “artist types” to tell us how parenting changed their art. Artists from across the region shared their stories about trying to find the time to be creative, while also juggling careers and the responsibilities of parenthood. 

It's clear from the responses that becoming a parent can dramatically change how artists commit to their craft.

Our city is teeming with people who dream of writing that novel... someday. If those aspiring writers decided to turn their literary dreams into reality, where would they begin? Our guests offer advice and personal stories in honor of National Novel Writing Month.


Paul Andrews

Portrait Sessions are intimate conversations with the compelling personalities who populate our area. Each conversational portrait is paired with a photographic portrait by Paul Andrews.

"I am the bone of the bone of them that live in trailer homes."

Kate Hiscock / Flickr, Creative Commons

With eaters taking an interest in food extending beyond recipes, food writing is gaining a voracious audience. Food can be a character, or a source of potent metaphor. It can also tell us something important about ourselves and our society. Kansas City experts offer insights and recommendations.

Guests and their recommendations:

Cat Neville, founder, Feast Magazine

Sergio Troncoso

Sergio Troncoso writes books dealing with the communities we belong to and the borders that surround us. Every summer he crosses his own borders from his home in New York to teach creative writing to local high schoolers, at the George Caleb Bingham Academy for the Arts.

KU Gunn Center For The Study Of Science Fiction

Every year at the University of Kansas, the faithful and talented gather at the intersection of reality and imagination. What brings the most outstanding in their field to Lawrence? The study and writing of science fiction. On Friday's Up To Date, guest host Suzanne Hogan looks at The Campbell Conference, a local conference which brings writers and fans together.

Grep Hoax

The following content may be offensive to some. Discretion is advised. 

"Rape Joke," "Live Nude Dads Read The Sunday Paper," and "The Cum Queens of Hyatt Place" are just the tips of the iceberg when it comes to poet Patricia Lockwood's absurdity.

Writer Ray Bradbury was an American icon. His work straddled genres, uniting the seemingly-disparate worlds of science fiction and high literature, haunting readers' imaginations with side shows, skeletons, bright stars, the dark skies of space, solitary front porches and late night train whistles. 

Writing can be a solitary pursuit, and that can mean the tricks of the trade remain quiet

Remembering KC Writer Tom Ryan

Aug 29, 2012

He's here forever, but gone for now, succumbing to a sudden heart attack.

There's no debating that a good non-fiction book can bring life to overlooked history.  But when everything's been told about that event....or you have an idea for an "alternative" history, where to turn? Historical fiction.

New Approaches to Teaching Postsecondary Writing

Jan 18, 2012

First up on Thursday's Central Standard, a look at new approaches to helping students write at a postsecondary level. We discuss a new framework that fosters what’s called “habits of mind” and is gaining wider use, even in light of the current teach-to-the-test mentality in school systems across the nation. We're joined by Professor Linda Adler-Kassner, President of the Council of Writing Program Administrators and Director of Writing Program at UC-Santa Barbara.

A Memoir of Farm and Family

Dec 27, 2011

Growing up on a farm made Jo McDougall a poet. She remembers walking around barefoot, and taking in the sights and the sounds of her families rice farm in - no, not Asia - but in rural Arkansas. She points out that many people may not realize that rice is grown in the US, and Arkansas is the largest rice-producing state in the country.