James K.A. (Jamie) Smith is a philosophy professor at Calvin College and the author of many important books, including Desiring the Kingdom, You Are What You Love, How (Not) To Be Secular, and (most recently) On the Road with Saint Augustine. In this episode, Jonathan and Jamie discuss Augustine’s account of human desire and its implications for fiction-writing; the ever-elusive mystery of the self; and the drama of redemption as the re-directing of our deepest loves.
Sarah MacKenzie is the host of Read-Aloud Revival and the author of The Read-Aloud Family. In this episode, Jonathan and Sarah discuss the curious connection between the writer who works in quiet solitude and the family reading aloud together, the instructive power of life’s limitations, and Sarah’s recent forays into writing picture books.
Writers who make Sarah want to write:
- Jeanie Birdsall (The Penderwicks)
- Karina Yan Glaser (The Vanderbleekers)
- Barbara Cooney (Miss Rumphius)
- Sarah Stewart (The Gardener, The Library)
Randall Goodgame is the creator of Slugs & Bugs, a family music and entertainment brand that includes eight albums, two books, and now a television show. It starts streaming on September 27. In this episode, Randall and Jonathan talk about the truth-telling of a childhood perspective, the relationship between silliness and sincerity, collaboration, and the sticking to one’s vision even when the other people in the room know more than you do.
Writers who make Randall want to write:
- J.R.R. Tolkien
- Kate DiCamillo
- Maurice Sendak
Rebecca Reynolds is the author of Courage, Dear Heart: Letters to a Weary World. She is currently “transposing” Spenser’s Faerie Queene for a 21st-century audience. In this episode, Jonathan and Rebecca use the trinitarian paradigm of Dorothy Sayers’ Mind of the Maker (Idea, Energy, Power) to discuss the multitude of influences that together make an artist’s voice, then apply this wisdom with excellent practical advice on how we can better know and tend to our own creativity.
To see Rebecca’s diagrams on general and particular inspiration and the energy cycle, click here.
Writers who make Rebecca want to write:
- Gerard Manley Hopkins
- Wendell Berry
- T.S. Eliot
- George Herbert and John Donne
Mark Meynell has done a lot of thinking about civility and cynicism and the writer’s responsibility not just to win arguments, but to tell the truth. In this episode, Jonathan and Mark discuss the practice of generosity involved in both writing and reading, the virtues and vices of rhetoric, and how fiction and nonfiction persuade us in different ways.
Writers who make Mark want to write:
- Graham Greene
- John LeCarre
- Elizabeth Strout
Dr. Jessica Hooten Wilson, Associate Professor of English at John Brown University, is currently preparing the unfinished manuscript of Flannery O’Connor’s last novel for publication. In this episode, Jonathan and Jessica geek out about Flannery O’Connor, exchange strategies for balancing academic writing and fiction, and discuss how reading poetry has made Jessica a better writer.
Writers who make Jessica Hooten Wilson want to write:
- Gina Ochsner (The Necessary Grace to Fall)
- Michael O’Brien (Father Elijah)
- Leif Enger (Virgil Wander)
- Flannery O’Connor (of course)
Mary Laura Philpott is the author of I Miss You When I Blink, a nationally bestselling memoir-in-essays. Her writing also appears in publications including The New York Times, The Paris Review Daily, The Washington Post, O The Oprah Magazine, and others. In this episode, Jonathan and Mary Laura talk about the unexpected correlations between perfectionism and humor, the fascinating question “Who were you before you wondered who you were?”
Mentioned in this episode:
Jerry Seinfeld: How to Write a Joke
Writers who make Mary Laura want to write:
Joseph Patton is a staff songwriter at Sony/ATV Music Publishing on Nashville’s Music Row. In this episode, Jonathan and Joseph talk about what happens in Music Row writing rooms, the difference between songs that help people remember and songs that help people forget, and the tensions between commercialism and “loving thy listener.”
Karen Swallow Prior is the author of On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books. In this episode she talks with Jonathan about the instructive power of fictional worlds to shed light on our own, how fiction can teach us to love our enemies, and joy as a courageous act of imagination.
Mentioned in this episode:
Shawn Smucker is the author of Light from Distant Stars (among other books). In this episode, Jonathan and Shawn discuss the nitty gritty of Shawn’s writing habits, the unique challenges and rewards of ghostwriting, and how Shawn goes about encouraging and upholding creativity with his family at home.
Mentioned in this episode: Ira Glass on the creative process (2 min. video)