Why I Write

By National Council of Teachers of English

About this podcast   English    United States

Why I Write podcast is produced by the National Council of Teachers of English and hosted by C.C. Chapman of "Accident Hash" fame. Why I Write is a bi-weekly podcast similar to Lifehacker's "How I Work" series in which we delve into the topic of writing by talking with authors from variety genres and methods to hear their take on writing and its importance both in their lives and how it should be important in each of ours.
In this podcast


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Nov. 29, 2017
We all have those special friends who, when they tell us that we are going to love something, we trust them without question. That is how Justin Dillon came to be a guest on this podcast. A friend of mine knows that my heart and soul is with making the world a better place in any way possible, and that is what Justin’s first book, A Selfish Plan to Change the World: Finding Big Purpose in Big Problems, is all about. Justin Dillon is an artist, entrepreneur, public speaker, and abolitionist. He is the founder and CEO of Made In A Free World, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending forced labor, human trafficking, and modern-day slavery through increased public awareness, action, and advocacy. During the podcast, we covered a variety of topics around his theme of our purpose being to help other people. That is a powerful statement to make, but Justin is using his creativity and words to do exactly that with his life.  In 2011, Justin founded the nonprofit organization Slavery Footprint. Partnering with the US State Department, they launched the site to answer the question, “How Many Slaves Work for You?” When was the last time six simple words pulled at you so hard as that question? I encourage you to go to the site to find out the answer. Justin Dillon is living proof that words matter and that when you back them up with action, amazing things will happen. His work has been covered by CNN, the New York Times, Cosmopolitan, Fox, NPR, the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Fast Company, and others. Justin has spoken at the White House, the United Nations, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and many other venues. We can’t wait to see how you use words to change the world after listening to the episode.
Nov. 15, 2017
New York Times best-selling author Scott Sigler is the creator of fifteen novels, six novellas and dozens of short stories.  Scott is the co-founder of Empty Set Entertainment, which publishes his Galactic Football League YA series. He lives in San Diego, CA, with his wee little dog Reesie. They’re both diehard Detroit Lions fans.
Oct. 31, 2017
Young Bolaji O was a shy child in Nigeria when he fell in love with Spider-Man comic books and the hopeful power of storytelling. Fast forward to him having children of his own. In addition to reading them books, he also made up stories for them. His wife was always encouraging him to write them down, and after being laid off from his job, he began to do so. Bolaji O is the founder of Brave Little Heroes Media, a publisher of children's books and mobile games. He specializes in writing humorous and uplifting stories for brave little heroes. We talked a lot about the familiar topic of needing books to serve as both mirrors and windows. He tries to make sure that every one of his superheroes and books keeps this need in mind, especially when he sets a story in a country that he might not personally know a lot about. He always tries to include lessons that kids can take away beyond his story. I promised on the podcast that I’d share a link here to my friend’s movie Lemonade that shares stories of people finding inspiration after being laid off. You can also watch the full Lemonade: Detroit online if you wish. Chatting with Bolaji O is an injection of positive energy! Swing by Brave Young Heroes to learn more about him, his over fifty positive kid superhero books, and his special school visits.
Oct. 16, 2017
The very first sentence of Grant Faulkner’s bio reads “As a boy, I spent my allowance on all sorts of pens and paper, so there was never much question I would become a writer.” Reading that, I knew we were going to have a fun conversation on the podcast. Among many other things, Grant is the executive director of National Novel Writing Month. If you are not familiar with NaNoWriMo (as it is known by), every November tens of thousands of people from around the world take to their keyboards with the goal of writing a 50,000-word draft of a novel before they flip the calendars to December. It appears that Grant enjoys challenging himself when he writes because he is also the co-founder of the literary journal 100 Word Story and has published a collection of one hundred 100-word stories titled Fissures. On top of all the National Day on Writing resources that are available here for you, Grant and his team also provide a NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program that has everything teachers would need to spend the month of November writing with their students. All of this is completely free to those who want to use it. I should add a special warning to this episode: if you’ve always dreamed of writing a novel, you might not want to listen to this one, because by the end of it your plans for the month of November may need to be changed. Of course, we hope that this episode and every episode of the Why I Write Podcast will inspire you and those around you about the importance of writing and teaching writing. If you have suggestions for great future guests, please send us an email today. Happy writing!
Oct. 4, 2017
We all know that books make great gifts. When I fall head over heels in love with a book, I tend to buy copies for people I think will appreciate it and benefit from reading it. This is how Lynnda Pollio’s book Trusting the Currents came into my life—as a gift from a friend who thought it was needed. Lynnda was born in rural New Jersey and wandered through childhood feeling like she belonged somewhere else. As an adult, she moved to New York City and began experiencing life from many new perspectives. After her father died, she heard a voice tell her to go to Sedona, Arizona, and that began a journey into spiritual awakening and the writing of her book Trusting the Currents. Narrated by Addie Mae Aubrey, Trusting the Currents is a spiritual story of self-discovery—of faith, courage, forgiveness, and the uneasy search for one’s place in life. Throughout the story her mother remains an unwavering source of love, even when fear and evil shake their lives. Unfathomable loss and rising trust in the “Invisibles” not only transforms Addie Mae’s budding life, but led to my own spiritual awakening. I don’t want to spoil anything for readers, but you'll discover that the power of books plays a major role in the story. For this reason, as soon as I finished it I gave the book to my teenage daughter and encouraged her to read it. Find out more about Lynnda and her work at http://lynndapollio.com/
Sept. 21, 2017
Kevin Smokler is a dear friend who changed my world when he asked me to be part of his panel at South by Southwest (SXSW) years ago, and since then our paths continue to cross. His latest book, Brat Pack America: A Love Letter to ’80s Teen Movies, has him visiting the actual locations where many of our beloved movies were filmed. If you enjoy The Goonies, The Breakfast Club, or Back to the Future, this book needs to be added to your must-read list. During the podcast, we discuss his love of writing and why it’s his preferred form of creative expression even though he tinkers with others. Kevin is the author of the essay collection Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven't Touched since High School, and we chat a bit about the books he was assigned to read in school but only appreciated later in life. Classroom Connection Kevin's book about "the classics" is written for adults who look back on books they read in school and consider reading them again later in life. Have students write a letter to a future-self about a book they've recently read in school, telling that future-self what the book means to them now and forecasting why it would be a good book for an older version of themselves to read.  His work has appeared in the LA Times, Fast Company, BuzzFeed, Vulture, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Publishers Weekly, and on National Public Radio. In 2013 he was Book Riot’s first ever Writer in Residence. As a performer, he’s told stories onstage at events in San Francisco, Austin, New York, and Boston. Since 2007 he's been the host of Fray Cafe, SXSW's annual evening of live storytelling, which I’ve had the pleasure of attending as an audience member several times. Every time I chat with Kevin, I learn something new and leave inspired. I hope that after you listen to our conversation on this episode of #WhyIWrite, the same will be true for you as well.
Aug. 24, 2017
You may recognize Byron Pitts’s name and face because he has been part of the American landscape for a number of years. He is currently the co-anchor of Nightline and the chief national correspondent for ABC News. In the past, Byron has served as the chief national correspondent for CBS News and contributing correspondent for 60 Minutes. Byron’s newest book, Be the One: Six True Stories of Teens Overcoming Hardship with Hope, shares the heartbreaking and inspiring stories of six young people who overcame impossible circumstances with extraordinary perseverance. In dark circumstances, these six teens needed someone to “be the one” for them—the hero to help them back into the light. Through stirring interviews and his award-winning storytelling, Byron brings the struggles and triumphs of these everyday heroes to teens just like them, encouraging all of us to be the source of inspiration in our own lives and to appreciate the lives of others around us. Our podcast conversation covered a variety of topics, including inspiration and the struggles he has faced in his own life with words. When the interview was over, I remember feeling as if I had spent the last hour catching up with an old friend, rather than interviewing someone I had just met. Byron has received several awards, including national Emmy Awards for his coverage of the Chicago train wreck in 1999 and the attacks of 9/11. He also garnered recognition as NABJ Journalist of the Year in 2002 for his 9/11 coverage.
Aug. 7, 2017
Laurie Halse Anderson is a writer known to many of you, but she was unknown to me until I walked into a panel at the 2016 NCTE Annual Convention about censorship and instantly appreciated her frank and blunt manor. She explained to me on the podcast that “life is short. I don’t believe in hiding the truth.” When I discovered that she is a New Englander at heart, It all made sense. Laurie is a New York Times–bestselling author who writes for kids of all ages. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous national and state awards, as well as international recognition. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists. Laurie was honored with the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award given by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) of the American Library Association for her “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.” We chatted about her writing process and the long walks she takes when brainstorming. You’ll find interesting the role technology plays in these walks. I sure did. She shares the story of her second-grade teacher’s role in making her appreciate the power of words, and she lets us know the best book she has read in the last decade. Even though she was fighting a cold for this interview, we had a great discussion about many different things.
July 27, 2017
Several years ago, I was waiting to board a plane in Baltimore and passed the time reading a galley copy of Erika Napoletano’s soon-to-be-released book The Power of Unpopular: A Guide to Building Your Brand for the Audience Who Will Love You (and Why No One Else Matters). A few chapters in, I found myself having to stop because the writing was good enough that it made me a bit jealous. After texting her to congratulate her on making me feel this way, I dove back in and finished it before landing at home. One look at Erika’s timeline will showcase that she is far from the stereotypical reclusive writer. She spent over eight years as an award-winning author, columnist, journalist, speaker, and business consultant before throwing most of it away in 2014 to return to a career in the performing arts. Erika has been known to speak her mind and isn’t afraid to use adult language when sharing her thoughts. As you’ll hear on the podcast, she has lived an interesting life and no matter what obstacles she has faced, words and writing have always played a major role. To get a taste of her honest writing style, here is a piece of her official bio: Now, you can find her in Chicago living with one dog, one cat, and one man who happens to look like Clark Kent, eschewing the struggling artist life for one that’s fueled by a fierce fire for and communing with others who find their joy in the arts. Her favorite part of her life is that she spends more time doing things she loves than things she loathes. Learn more about her, preferably on an internet connection without a firewall (and her extensive tattoo collection) at erikanapoletano.com.

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