A podcast where writers talk writing.
Minisode: Why Do You Write?
Jul 10 • 4 min
Why it’s helpful to check in with our whys—plus a special request.
Jul 3 • 58 min
Journalist Casey Cep—author of Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee—is on the show discussing the mysteries of Harper Lee, knowing what you need as a writer, and the lines that can be drawn and erased between invention and…
Minisode: Goody Two Shoes Writing
Jun 26 • 5 min
When you’re showing up but not really showing up.
Jun 19 • 46 min
Tommy Orange—author of last year’s fantastic There There—visits WMFA to talk about being a messy writer, creating diverse narratives, and how parenthood made him take writing more seriously.
Minisode: Agent Anxiety
Jun 12 • 5 min
Welcome to the first listener-request minisode! We’re talking about finding the right agent for you.
Jun 5 • 35 min
The fantastic Karen Russell is on the show discussing her new short story collection, Orange World, and developing an “occult sensibility” for shaping your work.
May 29 • 5 min
Slowing down to speed up.
David K. Randall
May 22 • 51 min
Journalist David K. Randall’s new book, Black Death at the Golden Gate, is a gripping work of literary nonfiction about the race to stop the bubonic plague from spreading through San Francisco and beyond in the early 20th century. He and Courtney discuss…
Minisode: Writing Without Writing
May 15 • 2 min
A mini mini from my artist residency () on expanding our ideas of process. Tell me how you write without writing by tagging @cfbalestier and using the hashtag #wmfawrites.
May 8 • 51 min
Susan Choi’s explosive and riveting new novel, Trust Exercise, is out now from Henry Holt. She and Courtney discuss the manipulative qualities of storytelling, the slipperiness of memory, and the advice Susan would give to her younger self as a debut…
Minisode: Choosing Your Mindset
May 1 • 5 min
How do you approach your practice?
Apr 24 • 44 min
Jane Alison’s new book about narrative structure, Meander, Spiral, Explode, is out now from Catapult. She and Courtney discuss breaking narrative convention and how the traditional dramatic arc is and isn’t like sex.
Minisode: Accepting Your Process
Apr 17 • 7 min
How do you feel about the way you get writing done?
Apr 10 • 49 min
Journalist Summer Brennan’s new book, High Heel, is out now from Bloomsbury’s Object Lessons series. She and Courtney discuss her fragmented meditation on feminism and the patriarchy, organizing an extensive research collection, and creating a narrative…
Minisode: Taking Yourself Seriously
Apr 3 • 5 min
It’s foundational to writing—and it’s not always easy.
Mar 27 • 46 min
Morgan Parker’s poetry collections include There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé and Magical Negro, out now from Tin House. Morgan and Courtney talk about representation and misrepresentation, writing into the vastness of black identity, and how…
Minisode: Being a Student
Mar 20 • 4 min
On always learning and the wisdom of beginner’s mind for writers.
MFA Roundtable w. Erica Dawson & Leah Hampton
Mar 13 • 89 min
Should you get an MFA? Courtney talks with special guests Erica Dawson (poet, author, MFA program director) and Leah Hampton (writer, editor, current MFA fellow) about one of the biggest—and most mystifying—decisions a writer can make. Erica Dawson is the…
Season 4 Teaser
Feb 13 • 3 min
Exciting announcements about the new season of WMFA.
Episode 39: Marlee Grace
Dec 19, 2018 • 64 min
Courtney and Marlee Grace, author of How to Not Always Be Working, discuss inner critics, inspirational women, and turning our creativity into money.
Dec 12, 2018 • 12 min
Get curious about it.
Episode 38: Nicole Chung
Dec 5, 2018 • 71 min
Courtney and Nicole Chung, author of the memoir All You Can Ever Know, discuss the missing perspective in adoption narratives, re-examining familial truths, and writing through grief.
Nov 28, 2018 • 10 min
Hearing, heeding, and ignoring inner chatter.
Episode 37: Heather Havrilesky
Nov 21, 2018 • 71 min
Courtney and Heather Havrilesky, author of What If This Were Enough?, discuss cultivating “weird aunt vibes,” owning the artist identity, and finally reaching the place where you write to please yourself.
Minisode: Centeredness, or Surviving Creative Adolescence
Nov 14, 2018 • 13 min
Getting to the place where you know your work.
Episode 36: Liana Finck
Nov 7, 2018 • 61 min
Courtney and Liana Finck, artist and author of the graphic memoir Passing for Human, discuss the work of finding your artistic path, how comics are like poetry, and how Instagram grants her creative freedom.
Minisode: Writing as Relationship
Oct 31, 2018 • 9 min
What’s your relationship like?
Episode 35: Wayétu Moore
Oct 24, 2018 • 69 min
Courtney and Wayétu Moore, author of She Would Be King, discuss diasporic literature, the trouble with magical realism, and how to preserve your relationship with your craft.
Oct 17, 2018 • 8 min
Are you showing up for yourself?
Episode 34: Kat Gardiner
Oct 10, 2018 • 72 min
Courtney and Kat Gardiner, author of Little Wonder, discuss micro fiction, writing and motherhood, and why failure is never failure.
Minisode: On Shame
Oct 3, 2018 • 10 min
What keeps you from telling your story?
Episode 33: Linda Kay Klein
Sep 26, 2018 • 74 min
Courtney and Linda Kay Klein, author of Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free, talk about the power of sharing our stories of shame, being a good steward of each other’s narratives, and her…
Minisode: On Fear
Sep 19, 2018 • 14 min
Feeling it. Acknowledging it. Understanding it. Doing the work anyway.
Episode 32: Erica Dawson
Sep 12, 2018 • 60 min
Courtney and Erica Dawson, author of When Rap Spoke Straight to God, talk about the freedom of poetic forms, reclaiming the black female body, and introducing the women of the Bible to Lil’ Kim.
Episode 31: Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
Jul 25, 2018 • 63 min
Courtney and Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, author of A Kind of Freedom, talk about writing racial inequality, spanning generations, and listening to your inner voice.
Episode 30: Lisa Ko
Jul 11, 2018 • 54 min
Courtney and Lisa Ko, author of The Leavers, discuss complicating the notions of motherhood, why working on your characters is working on yourself, and keeping the faith through seven years of novel drafts.
Episode 29: Robin MacArthur
Jun 27, 2018 • 42 min
Courtney and Robin MacArthur, author of Heart Spring Mountain, discuss the characters that stay with you, rewriting female narratives, and writing without yet knowing what you’re writing about.
Episode 28: Natalie Goldberg
Jun 13, 2018 • 42 min
Courtney and Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones, discuss Natalie’s new memoir, Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home; facing the same old writerly fears; and maintaining writing practice even in the face of cancer.
Episode 27: Silas House
May 30, 2018 • 63 min
Courtney and Silas House, nationally bestselling author of Southernmost, discuss fictionalizing Appalachia, writing belief and doubt, and the question that leads him to a novel’s real plot.
Episode 26: Elizabeth Catte
May 16, 2018 • 58 min
Courtney and Elizabeth Catte, author What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia, talk about writing into emotion—and with political urgency—and sharing vulnerability with your readers.
Episode 25: Robert Gipe
May 2, 2018 • 70 min
Courtney and Robert Gipe, author of Weedeater, talk about chain-smoking notebooks, how first books are like first dates, and all the books you’ll ever write.
Episode 24: Karan Mahajan
Apr 18, 2018 • 52 min
Courtney and Karan Mahajan, author of The Association of Small Bombs, talk about avoiding your deepest material, writing each draft from scratch and how to answer the question “What’s your novel about?”
Episode 23: Leni Zumas
Apr 4, 2018 • 83 min
Courtney and Leni Zumas, author of the new novel Red Clocks, talk about finding your style, fielding comparisons to Margaret Atwood and presenting yourself as a woman writer.
Episode 22: Jamie Quatro
Mar 21, 2018 • 50 min
Courtney and Jamie Quatro, author of the new novel Fire Sermon, discuss desire and faith, how running helps her work, and what challenges women authors face when they write about sex.
Episode 21: Keep the Channel Open + WMFA
Dec 6, 2017 • 72 min
In this special joint episode, Courtney and Mike Sakasegawa—photographer, writer, and host of the arts podcast Keep the Channel Open—talk about podcasting and what they’re working on off the air.
Episode 20: Joanna Scutts
Nov 22, 2017 • 56 min
Courtney and Joanna Scutts, author of the new cultural history The Extra Woman: How Marjorie Hillis Led a Generation of Women to Live Alone and Like It, discuss writing the book you want to read and how the way we talk about our work affects the way we…
Episode 19: Celeste Ng
Nov 8, 2017 • 59 min
Courtney and Celeste Ng—author of Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You—do a deep dive into process: what makes a good beginning, finding the voice, reverse outlining and more. They also discuss writing about identity and the other, and…
Episode 18: Zinzi Clemmons
Oct 25, 2017 • 60 min
What We Lose author Zinzi Clemmons on writing grief, experimental literature and the author who changed her life.
Episode 17: Carmen Maria Machado
Oct 11, 2017 • 55 min
Carmen Maria Machado’s debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, is short-listed for the National Book Award. She joins Courtney to talk about how short stories are like algebra (in a good way), processing life through narrative, and why…
Episode 16: Matthew Newton
Sep 27, 2017 • 57 min
Matthew Newton—author of Shopping Mall, part of Bloomsbury’s Object Lessons series—talks with Courtney about the mall’s place in our culture and his life, balancing memoir and reportage, and the question to ask before starting your next project.
Episode 15: Nick Riggle
Sep 13, 2017 • 46 min
Season two is here! Nick Riggle—skater, philosopher and author of the new book On Being Awesome—talks about his theory of awesomeness, how hard it is to write clearly, and how some of his favorite projects have been reactions to creative dissatisfaction.
Special Episode: Readings by Glenn Taylor, Jeremy B. Jones & Rebecca Gayle Howell
Aug 30, 2017 • 65 min
I had an incredible experience at my first Appalachian Writers’ Workshop this summer, and I’m excited to bring you three readings recorded live at AWW: novelist Glenn Taylor, nonfiction writer Jeremy B. Jones and poet Rebecca Gayle Howell. WMFA is back…
Season Two Announcement
Aug 16, 2017 • 1 min
Here’s what’s coming up for WMFA—and how you can help.
Episode 14: Jennifer Haigh
Aug 2, 2017 • 62 min
Jennifer Haigh’s novel Heat and Light won a 2017 Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She and Courtney discuss writing about Appalachia, how writing a novel is an exercise in empathy, and why no one knows where her writing…
Episode 13: Rachel Khong
Jul 19, 2017 • 52 min
Rachel Khong is a writer and former Lucky Peach editor whose debut novel, Goodbye, Vitamin, was just released by Henry Holt. She and Courtney discuss Rachel’s fascination with memory, when to go to grad school and the weird world of ambient sound…
Episode 12: Hanif Abdurraqib
Jul 5, 2017 • 60 min
Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic whose work bridges personal experience and popular culture, covering everything from Ric Flair to the erasure of memory. He and Courtney discuss the deeper meanings of pop culture, writing as a…
Episode 11: Julie Buntin and Gabe Habash
Jun 21, 2017 • 66 min
Married writers Julie Buntin and Gabe Habash have both just released their debut novels, Julie’s Marlena and Gabe’s Stephen Florida. We talk about how they created these works, what drew them to their protagonists, and what it’s like to live with another…
Episode 10: Garth Greenwell
Jun 7, 2017 • 62 min
Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You, discusses being a poet novelist, the language of desire, and why he writes first drafts by hand.
Episode 9: Yesenia Montilla
May 24, 2017 • 49 min
New York-born Afro-Caribbean poet Yesenia Montilla talks about writing the immigrant and the American experience, walking around with your two-weeks’ notice in your pocket, and why poetry is like a puzzle.
Episode 8: Jack Cheng
May 10, 2017 • 56 min
The author of See You in the Cosmos, a middle-grade novel, talks about editing our own narratives, presenting complex issues to kids, and how he raised $24,000 on Kickstarter to publish his first book.
Episode 7: Esmé Weijun Wang
Apr 26, 2017 • 52 min
Esmé Weijun Wang, author of The Border of Paradise: A Novel, discusses writing with limitations, career “up-leveling,” and that time she tossed an entire novel draft.
Episode 6: Jason Diamond
Apr 12, 2017 • 45 min
Jason Diamond, author of the memoir Searching for John Hughes, discusses the helpfulness of failure, visiting famous authors’ graves and analyzing your past.
BONUS Mini Episode: Talking Class + Art with Rebecca Gayle Howell
Apr 5, 2017 • 10 min
In this bonus mini episode, we discuss class and art—and the attitudes about both that we bring to creative work—with last week’s guest, Rebecca Gayle Howell.
Episode 5: Rebecca Gayle Howell
Mar 29, 2017 • 60 min
Rebecca Gayle Howell is on this week’s episode to discuss the art of listening, writing and faith, and creation as resistance.
Episode 4: Tanwi Nandini Islam
Mar 15, 2017 • 44 min
This week, we talk to Tanwi Nandini Islam, author of Bright Lines, about exfoliating fear from your mind, giving yourself permission, and claiming your authority as a voice of your culture.
Episode 3: Juan Vidal
Mar 1, 2017 • 44 min
This week, we talk to Juan Vidal, author of the forthcoming book Rap Dads, about being a creative loner who loves collaboration, using music to tap into the subconscious, and never giving up on the ideas that move you.
Episode 2: Taylor Larsen
Feb 15, 2017 • 34 min
This week, we talk to author Taylor Larsen about writing without ego, engaging with your characters, and the surreal experience of debut authorship.
Episode 1: Emily St. John Mandel
Feb 1, 2017 • 55 min
Before the huge success of Station Eleven—which was a finalist for the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award and won the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Toronto Book Award—Emily St. John Mandel wrote three novels published with small presses.…
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