writing

Leslie Many

The new book “Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation" includes contributions from 36 "major contemporary writers" including Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Russo and Roxane Gay.

Jack Williams / NET News

In the middle of a cornfield in south-central Nebraska, an oasis of art is growing.

Art Farm, situated off a long dirt road outside the small town of Marquette, started back in 1993 as an artist residency program. Since then, it’s become a one-of-a-kind experience many artists can’t resist.

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

Writer and artist José Faus isn't religious, but when he's looking for comfort, he says the Virgin Mary.

"It is, in a way, a nod to the things I've lost."

He came to Kansas City from Bogotá, Colombia, when he was just nine years old, not fully understanding he was leaving forever. 

"I remember feeling so discombobulated. I really thought, Well, when are we going back home? And it just never came."

Courtesy Tom Shawver

Some people contend that James Joyce's Ulysses is the best novel of the 20th century. I'm not jumping into that debate. But as the annual worldwide literary holiday known as Bloomsday celebrating Ulysses rolls around again, I've made one more attempt to understand the book.

Not by reading it, but by speaking to some local experts.

Howard Simmons / Courtesy Washburn University

Gwendolyn Brooks lived in Topeka for just a few weeks after she was born. But the iconic poet – Brooks was the first African-American writer to win the Pulitzer Prize — still has relatives in Kansas, and they’re ready to celebrate what would have been her 100th birthday.

“I’m very happy and proud when I hear so many people here in Topeka that really had a lot of respect for her and the gift God had given her,” says Carolyn Wims Campbell, Brooks’ first cousin once removed (Brooks and Campbell’s father were cousins).

New America / Flickr - CC

Today, Kansas's newest poet laureate discusses how to find extraordinary meaning in the seemingly ordinary events of our lives. Then, we speak with political journalist and long-time confidant to Hillary Clinton, Sidney Blumenthal, whose new writing delves into the complex life of one of America's great presidents, Abraham Lincoln.

Courtesy Unbound Book Festival

On a recent Wednesday morning at his home Columbia, Missouri, Alex George was ignoring his day job. He’s an attorney and author whose second novel, Setting Free the Kites, was released in February. But on this day he was working on neither writing nor lawyering.

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

In a tiny plane over the Amazon rainforest, Kansas City writer Candice Millard plummeted to what she was sure would be her death.

Every great story starts with an unforgettable opening line ... that's especially true at The Moth. Now, some of the best, most courageous stories you've heard, can be found as chapters in a book, that you can go back to, again and again.

Artistic director Catherine Burns, editor of All These Wonders, joins us as The Moth celebrates its 20th anniversary. 

Guest:

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:

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