writing

Baylor University

Not every undocumented migrant crossing our southern border makes it. Remains of those who die in the attempt are found in the open and in unmarked graves. Meet the anthropologist using forensics to return skeletal remains to waiting families. Then KU's Lisa McLendon says "it's all about attitude" when it comes to grammar. Her passion for sentence structure and punctuation led her to write a workbook about it.

Missouri Auditor's Office

Today, bestselling author and political activist Francine Prose shares her thoughts on the importance of the written word. She says the First Amendment is under threat, and explains why what we write counts now more than ever. Then, we speak with Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway, who says certain executive payments the University of Missouri System awards break the law.

Why Two Sci-Fi Creators Call Kansas City Home

Mar 3, 2017
Kansas City Public LIbrary

When you think of the entertainment industry, Los Angeles or New York probably come to mind. But Kansas City?

As it turns out, the City of Fountains is home to two science fiction storytellers who are at the top of their game. Jason Aaron  writes comics for Marvel, and Bruce Branit creates visual effects for several popular television shows. 

Why Kansas City?

Banit was born here, graduated here and wanted to raise a family here.

Paul Andrews / www.paulandrewsphotography.com

On March 20, 1978, William Least Heat-Moon left Columbia, Missouri in a Ford van. The van, which he named Ghost Dancing, would be his home for the next three months.

He was 38 years old. His marriage was falling apart. He'd lost his teaching job due to staffing cutbacks. His decision to get behind the wheel in search of America's stories was part dream, part desperation.

Now that the van is a literary artifact, he has to visit it in a museum. And he's careful not to get behind the wheel. Sitting back in that driver's seat makes him misty eyed.

Universal Pictures

How many times has terrible science kept you from enjoying a sci-fi movie? From hits like I Am Legend to the classic Soylent Green, we explore the science behind these (and other) movies, and how they relate to real life.

Edward C. Robinson III / ECR3.com

A filmmaker from Poland and a former journalist from Kansas hope a combination essay-contest-and-documentary-film-project will help bridge the state's (and the country's) well-documented divides.

That's what happened in Europe and New York state, says Ewa Zadrzynska, the filmmaker who started Poetry Unites in Poland in 2006. 

UMKC

If your body could talk to you about your health, what would it say? Today, we learn about the inner-workings of the human body. Then, we discover what yearbooks, newspapers and personal letters say about the world young women from the Kansas City area lived in, years before suffrage.

Poetry smut queen Patricia Lockwood recently spent some time in her childhood home in Lawrence, Kansas. She joins us to talk about her recent New Yorker article about technology and notebooks, and her new memoir, Priestdaddy.

Courtesy The Kansas City Star

My last encounter with Charles Gusewelle was early in 2015. He was trying to reach me by phone and I was on a weekend getaway to Key West. But I found his mysterious message — we weren’t fast friends, and I had no idea why he was calling — and returned the call. Of course, he was on deadline — this was a Saturday afternoon when I reached him. And the Sunday column he’d drafted was about me. Really?

I found that column this morning after learning that Gus had died, at 83, early Tuesday.

Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Long before Tracy K. Smith was a poet, she was a young girl fascinated by the stars. That fascination was part of what inspired her book Life on Mars, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012.

Courtesy Bryn Greenwood

Lawrence writer Bryn Greenwood’s novel All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is a love story between a grade-school girl and a drug-running biker in his twenties, set on a meth-making compound in the rural Midwest.

With the national Republican Party in turmoil, we look at the unexpected politics of African-Americans in the GOP. Then, whether it's dealing with doctors, dating in one's 70s, or new and unexpected bodily changes, growing older can dismay some folks, but William Novak says laughter is often the best medicine.

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.

Guests:

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.

Guest:

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.

Guests:

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.

Guests:

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.

Guest:

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.

Guests:

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