WXXI AM News

literature

When is the last time you read a short story? Novelist Zadie Smith recently turned to short fiction, publishing her first collection of short stories last month. Is the popularity of the medium on the rise? Why are Smith and other authors turning to short stories?

We discuss those questions with local short story writers and publishers, who share trends in the industry. In studio:

Why do we need diverse books – books written by diverse authors that feature diverse characters?

The question is the focus of an upcoming panel hosted by the Henrietta Public Library. We preview that panel with local authors and a representative from the organization We Need Diverse Books. They help us understand the value and impact of reading diverse books (especially for children), and we explore the current literary landscape. Our guests:

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison died last week at the age of 88. Morrison is perhaps best known for her work, “Beloved,” but her work spans six decades and includes novels, children’s books, plays, an opera, and more. As reported by Time Magazine, Morrison was largely ignored as a writer for about a decade in the 1970s, but that changed and she “widened the nation’s literary canon, serving as its conscience through trying times and establishing herself as the keeper of its marginalized histories.” She was honored with the Nobel Prize in Literature, among many other accolades.

This hour, we’re joined by local writers who discuss Morrison’s life and work, and her legacy reflecting and influencing the lives of black Americans. In studio:

  • Leslie C. Youngblood, author of “Love Like Sky”
  • Tokeya C. Graham, English professor, and founder of “We All Write” black women’s writing consortium
  • Lu Highsmith, program director of LuCreations Production, former leader of the Roc Bottom Slam Poetry team, and member of “We All Write” black women’s writing consortium

Lake Affect Magazine is celebrating 25 years of publication this year. The bi-annual arts and culture magazine highlights the work of Rochester-based poets, writers, photographers, and artists.

Michelle Cardulla is the editor and publisher. She chose to dedicate Lake Affect’s anniversary issue to women – featuring 12 local women who have inspired and impacted the community. We sit down with some of them this hour to hear their stories, and we discuss the state of local publishing with Cardulla. In studio:

  • Michelle Cardulla, editor and publisher of Lake Affect Magazine
  • Jackeline M. Vazquez, firefighter
  • Maria Fischer, field representative for the Public Employees Federation
  • Rosalie M. Jones, artistic director for Daystar: Contemporary Dance-Drama of Indian America
  • Krystle Ellis, director of communications and special events at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Rochester

George Orwell’s dystopian novel, “1984,” was published 70 years ago this week. In a recent piece for the “New Yorker,” Louis Menand writes that unlike other books with similar themes, “1984” has remarkable staying power – “an amazing run as a work of political prophecy” – as it looked at a world 35 years into the future. In 2017, the novel saw a surge in sales and rose to the top of the Amazon best-seller list.

This hour, we sit down with fiction writers and creative writing teachers to discuss why the book’s success continues, and what a dystopian novel written today might predict for a future 35 years from now. Our guests:

Writers & Books has a new executive director. Alison Meyers is a poet and fiction writer who previously led literary non-profit organizations in New York City and Connecticut. She joins Writers & Books in time for the 2019 Ladder Literary Conference, which connects aspiring writers with agents, fellow authors, and publishers.

This hour, Meyers shares her vision for the future of Writers & Books, and we talk to local authors and Ladder participants about Rochester’s role as a literary community, and how literature can shape and respond to politics and societal issues. Our guests:

  • Alison Meyers, executive director of Writers & Books
  • Alex Sanchez, local writer and panelist at the Ladder Literary Conference
  • CaTyra Polland, local writer and panelist at the Ladder Literary Conference
  • Mira Jacob, author and panelist at the Ladder Literary Conference

We explore the literary history of Upstate New York with local blogger Stephen Huff, who visited authors' graves in 35 communities across the state.

He joins us, along with fellow blogger Chris Clemens, to discuss what he learned. In studio:

What should we do when artists misbehave? In other words, when an author, actor, director, or artist does something offensive, acts inappropriately, or steps over the line in some way, should we stop consuming their art? When do we give them a pass?

The founder of Writers & Books, Joe Flaherty, dealt with this question when he was arranging for Philip Roth to visit Rochester. The late writer was considered a misogynist by many readers. But, as Flaherty wrote in an essay on the incident, “you have to separate the writer from his characters.”

What do you think? Should we consume and share the work of Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari, Harvey Weinstein, Philip Roth, and others? Should the work of artists in question stand on its own? Where do we draw the line? Our panel discusses those questions. Our guests:

  • Joe Flaherty, founder of Writers & Books
  • Patti Lewis, local actor, director, and teaching artist
  • Jonathan Ntheketha, senior assistant director of student success and outreach in the Multicultural Center for Academic Success at RIT
  • Bob Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University

Two British newspapers expressed their shock over “thin-skinned, liberal foot-stomping millennials” sympathizing with the monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The newspapers say these “snowflakes” claiming the monster was a misunderstood victim shows how idealistic today’s students can be. It’s just one example in a list of classic works that the newspapers say millennials are misinterpreting. The other titles include “Animal Farm,” “Lolita,” “Lord of the Flies,” and more.

What do you think? Do you agree with the newspapers that these millennials are just “too touchy?” Or are they right, and do their perceptions serve as a Rorschach test for how they view criminal justice, the #MeToo movement, and more? Our guests discuss these questions and the role of classic literature. In studio:

  • Lester Friedman, retired professor and former chair of the Media and Society Program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and co-author of “Monstrous Progeny”
  • Karen van Meenen, senior lecturer in the Department of English at RIT, and coordinator of the Rochester Reads and Debut Novel Series programs at Writers & Books
  • Jamie Rudd, AmericaCorps volunteer for the Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence
  • Katherine Varga, playwright and SummerWrite coordinator for Writers & Books

If you've ever wanted to publish a book, an upcoming conference hopes to help you move from concept to print. Writers & Books' upcoming Ladder Literary Conference will focus on four rungs of the publishing ladder: writing, editing, connecting, and publishing.

Our guests help us preview the conference and answer your questions. Our guests:

  • Kyle Semmel, executive director of Writers & Books
  • Tokeya Graham, writer, and professor of English and philosophy at Monroe Community College
  • Mark Costello, attorney in entertainment law with Boylan Code LLP
  • Amy Bishop, literary agent with Dystel, Goderich & Bourret

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