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Headshot of a woman.
Photo by Smeeta Mahanti

Novelist and 2016 NEA Literature Fellow

Novelist and 2016 NEA Literature Fellow R.O. Kwon's first novel, The Incendiaries, was ten years in the making. But that persistence and hard work paid off: the debut novel was named a best book of the year by over 40 publications. It’s a vivid, dark story that deals with faith, loss, a fractured love, and fanaticism. But Kwon herself is anything but dark. Talking about that ten-year journey of writing The Incendiaries, she told me she would wonder, ”Why didn’t I become a dermatologist? I would have been a good dermatologist. I love thinking about skincare.” It’s one of the funny asides that pepper this conversation in which she is also thoughtful about herself and about writing. We find out about the genesis of the book—the loss of her deep Christian faith and her grief over that loss, her deep love for fiction, and her sadness that when she was growing up there were so few Asian-American writers for her to model a career on. Kwon also shares how her love of language tripped up her writing in the novel's early drafts and some of the strategies she used to keep going. It’s a wide-ranging conversation with an engaging, thoughtful, and smart author.

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Mike Rafferty
Photo courtesy of Mr. Rafferty

NEA National Heritage Fellow

Mike Rafferty talks about growing up in East Galway, Ireland, and learning flute playing from his father, as well as coming to America and eventually returning to Irish music in his 50s as both a performer and teacher. [26:37]

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Photo: Courtesy of Mary Rand Hess

Poet, Writer,and Multi-Media Artist

In this week's podcast, poet, writer and multi-media artist Mary Rand Hess takes us into the heart of her collaborations with Newbery medalist Kwame Alexander. Together MAry and Kwame have written two best-selling YA titles Solo, a book that has rock and roll weaving through it and Swing, a book that centers around jazz and baseball. Both tell rich and complex stories of teenage boys trying to grow up in a world they didn't create--and both do it entirely in verse. Mary talks about writing for young adults and kids, what draws her to poetry (she started out wanting to be a rock star!), and making a life as a working writer.

Charles Randolph-Wright
Photo courtesy of Arena Stage

Director

Charles Randolph-Wright talks about directing Lynn Nottage's play Ruined at Arena Stage. [29:39]

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Photo by Justus Poehis

Poet and 2015 NEA Literature Fellow

Her poetry collection Scriptorium illuminate her Appalachian Roots.

Claudia Rankine
Photo by John Lucas

Poet, Playwright

Claudia Rankine discusses her play The Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue. [26:03]

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 Photo: Courtesy of author

Author and NEA Literature Fellow

No one tells stories embedded in Southern Appalachia with more grit or more beauty.

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Photo by Kristina Sherk

Novelist and NEA Big Read author

Surviving the Khmer Rouge and honoring those who didn’t.

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Photo by Laurie Kieth

Cartoonist and Multimedia Artist

Cartoonist and multimedia artist Liz Reed is co-creator with her husband Jimmy of Cuddles and Rage—it’s a world inhabited by food with quirky personalities. Liz calls it “disturbingly cute,” which seems about right. In one-panel cartoons, dioramas, and animated short videos, Liz and Jimmy Reed create work that is cute—but it always has a twist. Take Dr. Taquito—a serial killer of food, who gives cooking lessons—ruthlessly shredding lettuce and chopping tomatoes as the poor vegetable victims try to get away. It’s an unashamedly playful and dark imaginative work. In today’s podcast, Liz takes through the creation and evolution of the singular world of Cuddles and Rage.

Watch video: Cooking with Dr. Taquito: 3 Ingredient Pancakes.

Headshot of a woman.
Photo by Jerris Madison

Vocalist and 2018 NEA Jazz Master

Making music without boundaries.

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