Pen On Fire blog

Novelists Swan Huntley and Affinity Konar on Writers on Writing

Debut novelist Swan Huntley, author of We Could Be Beautiful talks with co-host Nicole Nelson about how writing in the first person allows her to explore the space between what a character is telling us and what we know to be true, how she came to the realization that her original ending wasn’t right for the story, and how she discovered her process as an outliner.

In the second half, novelist Affinity Konar, author of Mischling, talks about how her story grew from hearing dialogue in her head between twins, about going “sound-first” into words, and thus being drawn to the word “Mischling” in spite of its ugly meaning and history, and her writing advice to honor your obsessions.

Download audio.
[Note: Swan Huntley’s reading selection was cut down due to audio issues; therefore, her reading starts in the middle of her first chapter, not the beginning.]

(Broadcast date: September 14, 2016)

Memoirist Rob Spillman and lit agent Leigh Eisenman on Writers on Writing

Rob Spillman, author of All Tomorrow’s Parties and NYC literary agent Leigh Eisenman talks with Barbara about the art and craft of writing memoir, Berlin, how being an editor helps or hinders being an author, what agents are looking for, and more.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: Sept. 21, 2016)

Nora Baskin and Alexander Weinstein on Writers on Writing

Young adult author Nora Raleigh Baskin joins Marrie Stone to discuss her new middle-grade novel, Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story.  She discusses survivor’s guilt, unprocessed emotion, how books for young readers can be the best way to explore difficult subject-matter, rules for middle grade writers, and more.

In the second half, Alexander Weinstein joins Marrie to talk about his debut short story collection, Children of the New World.  He talks about experimental fiction, inventive structures for a story, point of view choices, knowing when things aren’t working, as well as a host of practical advice for writers.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: September 7, 2016)

Dana Johnson and Anna Solomon on Writers on Writing

Dana Johnson, author of the short story collection In the Not Quite Dark talks with co-host Nicole Nelson about how her journalism background informs her documentarian approach to writing about place, the value of reversal in constructing tension, and her affection for the short story form.

In the second half, novelist Anna Solomon, author of Leaving Lucy Pear, talks about her process of having a good idea of the story but not overthinking it in the first draft, the various kinds of research that went into writing a story that takes place in the Prohibition Era, the art of motivating coincidence in a story when a lot is at stake, and how a Post-it note that says, “You will fail,” is her key to writing freely.

Download audio.

(Broadcast date: August 31, 2016)

Jennifer Armstrong and Lev AC Rosen with Barbara DeMarco-Barrett on Writers on Writing

Jennifer Armstrong, author of Seinfeldia, and Lev AC Rosen, author of Depth and The Memory Wall, talk with show host Barbara DeMarco-Barrett about their books and the art and craft–and business–of writing.

 Download audio.

(Broadcast date: August 24, 2016)

More on the show at