Monday, March 10, 2014

Trying to Tell the Truth

Moving from the Lumiere Brothers, through Nanook, War of the Worlds, Cinema Verite, personal documentary, and NPR in the 1980s, Transom instructor Scott Carrier traces the ever-changing medium of documentary. Complete with lots of clips and some fascinating perspective on how we tell the truth (while still telling a story), check out his Brief history of documentary forms.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Strange Fruit

On August 7, 1930, two African-American teenagers, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, were lynched by a violent mob in Marion, Indiana. Moved by the infamous photograph taken that night, Abel Meeropol, a Jewish high school teacher in New York City, wrote a protest song entitled, "Strange Fruit." The song soon became a signature of a young jazz singer named Billie Holiday, the unforgettable finale of her live performances, inspiring generations to believe in the power of music and the dignity of the human spirit.
This is the story of an American masterpiece, the song TIME Magazine in 1999 called "the song of the century." But even more, this is a Good Friday story, an Easter Sunday story, a deeply human story of tragedy, defiance, genius, and grace.

Strange Fruit from SALT Project on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Writer's Retreat on a Train, anyone?

Amtrack is now taking applications for writers-in residence on their trains. You can use your train seat as your writing studio and take a trip across the country. Details at This is so tempting, so, as the article puts it, romantic (even if the reality is a lot of sitting in a cramped space.) But hey, you can always look out the window. Why Every Writer in the U.S. Is Now Asking Amtrak for a Free Ride

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sci Fi Call for Submissions

Legendary science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the award-winning "Mars Trilogy," will select the winners of a national flash-science fiction contest.

Three winning stories will be turned into radio plays directed by Gates McFadden (Dr. Beverly Crusher on "Star Trek: The Next Generation"), and dramatized by the Los Angeles-based Ensemble Studio Theater.  Winning entries will be aired on over 175 radio stations across the country on Wisconsin Public Radio’s nationally syndicated show, "To The Best of Our Knowledge." The deadline for submissions is March 1.

The contest was co-organized by "To the Best of our Knowledge," and the Center for the Humanities and Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The three partner institutions will review entries for writing quality, plausibility based on grounding in ‘hard’ science, and their ability to be translated for dramatization on the radio. Kim Stanley Robinson will make the final selections.  Winners will be announced at a symposium on science and creativity at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on April 9, 2014.

Anyone may enter the contest, with one entry per person. Guidelines for authors are:
  • Stories must be set in the near future and draw on the tradition of “hard” science fiction - science fiction that is scientifically plausible. Possible story themes include: communication, energy, computing, robotics, biomedicine, drones, spaceflight, nanotechnology, ecological concerns, food production, reproduction, end-of-life, surveillance, but other themes are welcome.
  • Stories should be 500-600 words – short enough to be read aloud in three minutes and suitable for broadcast on national public radio
  • Stories must be submitted to, no later than 11:59 p.m. CT, March 1, 2014.
Find complete official rules online at:

Why Learning History is Cool

Unlikely simultaneous historical events  FEB 20 2014

A poster on Reddit asks: What are two events that took place in the same time in history but don't seem like they would have? A few of my favorite answers (from this thread and a previous one):
When pilgrims were landing on Plymouth Rock, you could already visit what is now Santa Fe, New Mexico to stay at a hotel, eat at a restaurant and buy Native American silver.

Prisoners began to arrive to Auschwitz a few days after McDonald's was founded.

The first wagon train of the Oregon Trail heads out the same year the fax machine is invented.

Nintendo was founded in 1888. Jack the Ripper was on the loose in 1888.

1912 saw the maiden voyage of the Titanic as well as the birth of vitamins, x-ray crystallography, and MDMA.

1971: The year in which America drove a lunar buggy on the moon and Switzerland gave women the vote.

NASA's Gemini program was winding down at the same time as plate tectonics, as we know it today, was becoming refined and accepted by the scientific community.

Spain was still a fascist dictatorship when Microsoft was founded.

There were no classes in calculus in Harvard's curriculum for the first few years because calculus hadn't been discovered yet.

Two empires [Roman & Ottoman] spanned the entire gap from Jesus to Babe Ruth.

When the pyramids were being built, there were still woolly mammoths.

The last use of the guillotine was in France the same year Star Wars came out.

Oxford University was over 300 years old when the Aztec Empire was founded.

Original site

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

dogs relieving stress

I had the privilege of doing a radio story on the founder of the local chapter of Therapy Dogs, International. If you'd like to hear a story of how dogs can change a person's life, listen in.

Monday, February 10, 2014

step by step

I must say, writing can feel so slow sometimes. Especially since I have 3-4 projects going on at any one time. You sit down for the morning, you write 1200 words. Hurrah! You congratulate yourself. You feel good all day. You sit down again the next day. You're still on chapter two. There's a looooong way to go.

Thank goodness that the pleasure of writing is in creation and discovery, not the rapid crossing of finish lines. 

Okay, I'm off to crawl through, hopefully, a few more pages.  I have no idea what I'm going to write. I look forward to the discovery...

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Here's the wonderful short, Validation, posted here again by request. It's sure to make you smile!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Emily Recommends: A Ritual to Read Together

Continuing the trend of having my poetry published in the same anthologies as my favorite poet, Naomi Shihab Nye (6 so far? I swear I don't do it on purpose!), I just got my copy of Becca J. R. Lachman's lovely collection A Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford.

It makes me want to read and write more poetry.

That is one of the top compliments you can give to a poetry book, particularly one centered on a premier American poet whose teaching and emphasis on nonviolence inspired so many others. This collection is cleverly assembled of poems in conversation with Stafford's: some are tributes, some play off one or more lines and some (like mine) are linked only in their mutual interests. The result is a ready-made class, oh professor friends. (There's even a study guide with poets' commentary at the end of each chapter.) What fun that would be to teach...

Friday, January 31, 2014

Owl Hat!

I must say, I love the current trend of owl themes for children's stuff. I designed this owl hat for my daughter so she could be an owl for Halloween. (Sounded easier than making a full costume!) The knitting pattern is now for sale here on ravelry.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Winter Farmers' Markets

My radio story on winter farmers' markets aired on WXPR today. One of the pleasures of freelancing for radio (or print) is that you can choose stories that matter to you. I'm proud that my town offers an opportunity to buy locally produced foods (like this goat cheese, above) straight from farmers year round. May more people come!

Monday, January 27, 2014


Sorry I've been delinquent, folks. I've been holed up inside working on radio stories, which is the perfect thing to do in this weather--negative 12 here at noon, with wind chills down to negative 40. Ahh, winter in the Northwoods.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Emily Recommends: Writing Picture Books

I am doing a happy dance over Ann Whitford Paul's thoughtful, clearly written guide, Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide From Story Creation to Publication. The title is apt. Every chapter has an exercise at the end to help you conceive, write, and market and picture book. I'm learning so much. If you've ever dreamed of writing a picture book, read this first.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Writers Beware

Oh dear writers, guard yourselves carefully.

The other night, I was searching through calls for poetry anthologies. I was wandering around on google, checking Poets & Writers and for running across new ideas, though never on these sites have I found journals that pay.

Which is wrong.

But that's an old story, so we'll move on from the importance of writers and poets being paid for their art (and not accepting anything else) to something far worse. It was late, and I was wandering aimlessly, when I found a call from Savant Publications that stopped me still. I actually said aloud, "This is evil." I quote from their "call for submissions" page:

"There is no submission fee. No complementary copies will be issued. Instead, poets agree by submitting one or more poems to purchase ten (10) copies of the anthology at half-off the suggested retail price if any one or more of their poems are accepted for publication."

(Insert buzzer sound here.) Writers, beware. You should NEVER submit your work anywhere that requires you to pay for the privilege of being published. (I'm not talking about reading fees, which have become more common among literary journals.) Offering you a discount on books is normal. Requiring you to buy any given number of books is wrong. 

You know what this says? They have no marketing plan and no money for one. Their grand marketing plan, I would imagine, is to cram as many poets as they can onto those pages and expect them alone to generate sales by, I don't know, giving it to their grandmothers. 

Your grandmother is no doubt lovely, but she is not a marketing plan. Dear writers, please avoid.  

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Navigating Stuckness

In continuing my trend of posting new ideas that have changed the way we think, here is a fabulous article from Transom by painter/programmer/producer/storyteller/etc. Jonathan Harris. He's had more careers in 15 years--in more areas--with more success than most rooms full of people.

He writes, during a time when he was recently feeling totally stuck, "I thought of my life as a series of chapters, and I realized that each time I’d been majorly stuck, it meant that a life chapter was ending, and that a new one needed to start — like the stuckness was always a signal indicating imminent change."

And now, to go write another 1000 words on my new novel...

Still on my mind

Just finished Remarkable Creatures, and I'll be thinking about it for a long time. It makes me want to learn and discover.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Emily Recommends: Remarkable Creatures

My parents are the best recommenders of books I know. This one comes through my dad, the geology major: Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species, by Sean Carroll.

I can't put it down.

Well written, quickly paced, Carroll offers us a chapter each on intrepid explorers whose work in different fields of science led us to fill in the missing links in our understanding of how life on this planet evolved. Their journeys takes us to Darwin's Galapagos, to the Amazon, to Java, to the Mongolian plains, to the Rockies--and I'm only half way through. Want to know how someone figured out what killed the dinosaurs? It's in here. And it reads like a novel.

I highly recommend this book, especially if
  • you are fascinated with how new ideas are conceived and introduced to the doubting public
  • are curious and like to learn
  • like real-life adventure stories
  • have a child who wants to spend all of his time poking around outdoors, ignoring much of school (as this was the childhood of most of the explorers.)
Do let me know what you think.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Poem of the Week

An astounding poem by Natalie Diaz, which happens to reference another poem I love by Wislawa Szymborska. This one will stay with you.

Poem of the Week:   
Natalie Diaz  


Why I Don't Mention Flowers When Conversations with My Brother Reach Uncomfortable Silences
Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing
                                     flowers home.

--Wislawa Szymborska

In the Kashmir mountains,
my brother shot many men,
blew skulls from brown skins,
dyed white desert sand crimson.

What is there to say to a man
who has traversed such a world,
whose hands and eyes have
betrayed him?

Were there flowers there? I asked.

This is what he told me:

In a village, many men
wrapped a woman in a sheet.
She didn't struggle.
Her bare feet dragged in the dirt.

They laid her in the road
and stoned her.

The first man was her father.
He threw two stones in a row.
Her brother had filled his pockets
with stones on the way there.

The crowd was a hive
of disturbed bees. The volley
of stones against her body
drowned out her moans.

Blood burst through the sheet
like a patch of violets,
a hundred roses in bloom.

-Natalie Diaz
Used by permission.

From When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon Press, 2012)  

Natalie Diaz grew up in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California, on the banks of the Colorado River. She is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Community. After playing professional basketball in Europe and Asia for several years, she completed her MFA in poetry and fiction at Old Dominion University. She was awarded the Bread Loaf 2012 Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry, the 2012 Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Literature Fellowship, a 2012 Lannan Residency, as well as being awarded a 2012 Lannan Literary Fellowship. She won a Pushcart Prize in 2013. Her first book, When My Brother Was an Aztec, was published in 2012 by Copper Canyon Press. She lives in Mohave Valley, AZ, and directs a language revitalization program at Fort Mojave, her home reservation. There she works and teaches with the last Elder speakers of the Mojave language.

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