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The Creative Nonfiction Podcast with Brendan O'Meara
Conversations with the world's best artists about creating works of nonfiction.
Category: Literature
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March 16, 2018 06:46 AM PDT

"Anybody who gets into journalism for fame for fortune or awards right off the bat I write off as an idiot," says Mary Pilon.

So what’s the meaning of this? Mary Pilon again? For one I could listen to 52 episodes of Mary, but when we recorded I spliced the interview in two parts to shorten it and I’m glad I did at this point because my guest this week cancelled. What’s the lesson kids? Get interviews in the can. When I can it’s brilliant. Can’t always happen.

Mary Pilon’s second book, The Kevin Show, is out now. She’s also the author of the bestseller The Monopolists. Her work appears in the New Yorker, NBC, the New York Times, Grantland. She’s been featured in Best American Sports Writing. She’s a boss.

So for episode 91 of The Creative Nonfiction Podcast, the show where I speak to the worlds best artists about creating works of nonfiction, leaders in narrative journalism, doc film, radio, essay, and memoir, and tease out origins, routines, habits, key influences, favorite books and movies so that you can browse those tips and see what works for you, I’m sharing a bit of Mary’s origin story:

How did she become one of those Best 30 Journalists Under 30?
How did she get to the Wall Street Journal and How did she survive her New York Times layoff?
How did she ignite her freelance career?
What’s an anchor gig?
And the best advice she received from the late journalist David Carr.

We dig into all that fun stuff. Pair this episode with Ep. 18 and Ep. 90 and you’ll have the perfect Mary Pilon trilogy.

Little bit of housekeeping: I’m still doing edits for reviews. Give an honest review of the podcast on iTunes—one to five stars, your choice—show me proof, and I’ll coach up a piece of your work of up to 2,000 words. You can also leave an honest rating, which takes quite literally less than 10 seconds to do once you’re in iTunes.

March 09, 2018 06:21 AM PST

"I can't think about writing a big project. It's too overwhelming for me but I can think about a thousand words a day and then this magical thing happens which is you end up with 90,000 words," says Mary Pilon (@marypilon).

Hey, there CNFers, my CNFbuddies, I’m Brendan O’Meara and this is my podcast.

The Creative Nonfiction Podcast is the show where I speak to the world’s best artists about creating works of nonfiction: leaders in narrative journalism, essay, memoir, radio, and documentary film to tease out origins, habits, routines, key influences, mentors, self-doubt, so you can ‘Oh, that’s pretty cool, I’m not alone. I’m not a loser.’ And apply those tools of mastery to your own work.

I welcome back Mary Pilon who hasn’t been on the show since Episode 18, now we’re on Episode 90.

Mary comes back because she has a new book out: The Kevin Show: An Olympic Athlete’s Battle with Mental Illness.” Have you ever heard of Truman Show disorder, where people think they’re on a reality show? Well, Mary’s central figure, Kevin Hall, had that before the movie The Truman Show was even a thing.

Mary does an incredible job with this story and I think you should pull out your preferred method of payment and go buy the book. It’ll be in the show notes along with, what’s this, a transcript from the episode. You’ll go over to brendanomeara.com to see those goodies.

Hey, you know the show needs reviews and ratings, right? If you leave an honest review, I’ll edit a piece of your work up to 2,000 words. Just show me evidence of your review and I’ll reach out. It’s that simple.

This show was produced soup to nuts by me Brendan O’Meara. If you don’t already subscribe to the podcast, go on and do that. If you leave an honest review on iTunes and show me evidence of it, I’ll coach up a piece of your work up to 2,000 words. You give you get.

Also, I have a pretty slick monthly newsletter where I give out my monthly reading recommendations. Just head over to brendanomeara.com, put your email into the Smart Bar up top or the pop up window and you’ll get the next one. Once a month. No Spam. Can’t beat it.

Feel free to say hi to me on Twitter, @BrendanOMeara or @CNFPod, Instagram @BrendanOMeara where I’m showing how I’m making the first issue of CNF Pod Zine. What? A zine? Oh, yeah. And Facebook, @CNFPodcast. Say hi, my friends say I’m a pretty cool guy.

That’s it CNFers, have a CNFin’ great week.

February 23, 2018 08:00 AM PST

"I have to remind myself that I have to be a little nuts to do this. I think all writers have to be a little crazy," says Sarah Minor.

Wanna help the podcast? Leave an honest review on the iTunes, send me proof, and I'll coach up a piece of your writing of up to 2,000 words OR give you a fancy transcript of any single episode of the podcast you like. That was easy. Let's go.

It's that time again, what's up CNFers, my CNF-buddies, this is The Creative Nonfiction Podcast and I am your radio-handsome host Brendan O'Meara. This is the show where I bring you talented creators of nonfiction—leaders in narrative journalism, essay, memoir, radio, and documentary film—and tease out origins, habits, routines, influences, books, mentors—so that you can pick some of their tools of mastery, add it to your cart, and checkout free of charge.

That sounds fun, right?

This week I bring you Episode 89 with Sarah Minor, @sarahceniaminor on Twitter and @sarahcenia on Instagram). She is a professor and a writer and her essay "Threaded Forms: Decentered Approaches to Nonfiction," looks to knitters, stitchers, and quilting bees to discover new and subversive models for writing memoir. 

In this episode we talk about:

Visual Essays
How boredom dictates her direction
Losing voice and finding it
And the ever-present battle of dealing with social media
Let's do this.

Okay, if you go over to brendanomeara.com you'll be able to sign up for my monthly reading list newsletter that has book recommendations and what you might have missed from the world of the podcast. Once a month. No spam. Can't beat it. 

You can say hi to me on Twitter and Instagram @BrendanOMeara. @CNFPod is the podcast Twitter page and @CNFPodcast is the Facebook page. You'll find me hawking over those territories all the time. 

I am done. Have a CNFin' great week, friends.

February 16, 2018 08:15 AM PST

"It's usually when you stop trying so hard that something happens," says Rachel Corbett, a New York-based writer and author.

Hey, there CNF-buddys, I’m comin’ at you live from my shiny new digs. New house up in Eugene and I’ve got a nice little office I can call my own. There’s no foam on the walls yet, so please pardon the audio, but we’re making strides to be the best.

Part of that is me shutting the front door and getting the hell out of the way. I still haven’t quite figured out a way to completely edit myself out of these interviews. But I’m working on it. Don’t worry…

Rachel Corbett joins me this week for Episode 88 of The Creative Nonfiction Podcast, the show where I speak with the best artists about creating works of nonfiction, leaders in the world of narrative journalism, essay, memoir, radio, and documentary film where I try and tease out origins, habits, routines, mentors, key influences, so you can apply some of their tools of mastery to your own work.

Rachel is a freelance journalist whose work appears in a few rags you might have heard of: The New Yorker, the New York Times, etc. She’s also the author of You Must Change Your Life, The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin. She is @rachelncorbett on Twitter.

Rachel hits on some key points about carving out your own niche
How things come easier when you stop trying so hard
Listening vs. talking
Getting away from the work so you can come back refreshed.
And the power of being dumb and defeated (some of us were born this way).

Stay tuned to the end of the show for some incentivized calls to action. In the meantime, here’s my conversation with the brilliant Rachel Corbett.

February 09, 2018 06:00 AM PST

"I like to start from the present," says Hope Wabuke. "It's vibrant and visceral and has these questions that are lingering throughout time but we can access them."

Okay, let’s rock and roll, this is The Creative Nonfiction Podcast, the show where I speak with the world’s best artists about creating works of nonfiction, I’m Brendan O’Meara, hey, hey, leaders in the world of narrative journalism, memoir, essay, doc film and radio share their origins, stories behind the stories, habits, and routines so you can apply their tools of mastery to your own work.

Let’s talk to Hope Wabuke this week for episode 87… She’s @hopewabuke on Twitter and at hopewabuke.com. Hope is a poet, though she knows it, and her essay “The Animal in the Yard” is one of six 2018 Pushcart nominations for Creative Nonfiction Magazine, no we’re not a couple, but our friends tells us we like each other.

I had a real hard time cutting this interview down, something I do to all of them, because she is so wise and illuminating throughout, that I left it largely untouched. She talks about the:

Global African Diaspora
Starting from the present as a place to explore the past
Nonlinear narratives
How her parents escaped genocide in Uganda to start a new life in America
And empowering the marginalized
And what it means to be a watcher

Dig the show? Consider leaving an honest rating, or, for 60 seconds of your time, an honest review. Reviews help embolden and widen the community we’re building here at CNF HQ. If you leave a review I’ll offer up a free editing sesh for up to 2,000 words. You usualy have to pay double for that in Vegas, Cotton.

Also, I have a monthly newsletter where I send out my reading, doc film, and podcast recommendations, as well as what you might have missed from the world of the Creative Nonfiction Podcast. Lots are joining, so why don’t you?

Once a month. No Spam. Can’t beat it.

February 02, 2018 08:15 AM PST

"My best advice to people who want to write in any capacity is just do it. Get started. It doesn't matter where you publish," says Noah Strycker, author of Birding Without Borders.

My guest today for Episode 86 of the Creative Nonfiction Podcast is Noah Strycker, author of Birding without Borders: An Obsession, A Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World.

This is the show where I speak to the best artists about creating works on nonfiction: leaders in the worlds of narrative journalism, memoir, essay, radio, and documentary film where I tease out origins, habits, routines so that you can apply those tools of mastery to your own work.

You’ve already heard how Noah connects with these lovely little critters and knowledge of them runs deep. His quest t see the most birds in a single year yielded a world record of over 6,000 birds touching every continent. In this episode he talks about:

How he got so obsessed with birds
How he chose which scenes stayed in the book vs. which ones got cut
Not being a very fast writer
And not overthinking the process of writing

The bookstore I work at, Tsunami Books in Eugene, OR, has several signed first printings of Birding without Borders. Visit tsunamibooks.org, click on shop in the tool bar, and add as many BWBs in your cart as you like. Free shipping anywhere in America. Not bad for a signed first printing if you ask me. The link will also be in the show notes.

I have some goodies to offer, but I’ll wait until the end of the show, please enjoy Ep. 86 with Noah Strycker.

Dig the show? I’d love it if you subscribed wherever you get your podcasts and leave an honest rating or review on iTunes. If you do, and you send me a screenshot of that review, I’ll edit and coach up a piece of your writing of up to 2,000 words. You give you get. People have been redeeming this and I think they’re happy, and I know I’m pleased with the response and candor of the reviews.

Also, I’ve got this pretty slick email newsletter that goes out at the start of the month. That’s right, just once a month. In it you’ll find my monthly book recommendations, documentary films recs, and what you might have missed from the world of the podcast.

The podcast and the newsletter is my little way of building a community around telling true stories. I hope you join in.

That’s it for this week. Till next time, have a CNFin’ great week, friends.

January 26, 2018 08:40 AM PST

“To be sincere is to be powerful and creative nonfiction allows me to do that, to be sincere," says Jamie Zvirzdin.

Hey CNFers, hope you’re having a CNFin’ good week.

It’s The Creative Nonfiction Podcast, the show where I speak to the world’s best artists about creating works of nonfiction: leaders in the world of personal essay, memoir, narrative journalism, documentary film, and radio and try to tease out origins, habits, and craft so you can experiment with any cool nuggets you hear.

Today’s guest was the runner up in Creative Nonfiction’s “Science and Religion” contest from Issue 65. It’s Jamie Zvirzdin and her essay “Shuddering Before the Beautiful”: Trains of Thought Across the Mormon Cosmos details Jamie’s conflict with the Mormon church and her ultimate break from it, but doing it in a very empathetic way. There’s no vindictiveness in the story. She just lays it all out there. So we dig into that a bit.

In this episode you’ll also learn:
Her Fragment Heaven and Graveyard Hell
How she’s really analog when it comes to scheduling
Her addiction to learning
And lots of influential books and writers

I think Tom Petty said, “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus!” So here’s my conversation with the great Jamie Zvirzdin.

January 19, 2018 08:21 AM PST

Hey there CNF buddies, hope you’re havin’ a CNFin’ great week. What fuels you? What gets your engine revved up? What makes you redlined? For me it’s an interview and, dare I say, a riff…

It’s the Creative Nonfiction Podcast, the show where I speak to the world’s best artists about creating works of nonfiction, leaders in the world of narrative journalism, memoir, documentary film, radio, and essay and try tease out the origins and habits so that you can apply those tools of mastery to your own work.

For Episode 84, I welcome Adam Valen Levinson. Adam’s a smart guy, a real smart guy, and he’s written the wonderful book “The Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah: Fear and Love in the Modern Middle East.”

Flip the book over and here’s a blurb from Buzz Bissinger, “Adam Valen Levinson is too young to have written a book this good: eloquent, analytical, funny, sad.”

Still not impressed? Peter Theroux said, “A fabulously written primer on the darkest countries in the world—or not so dark, as Valen Levinson shows with his toolkit of sharp sociology and brilliant humor.”

Well, I feel inadequate. Here’s a little more about Adam from his dust jacket bio: He is a journalist and travel writer whose work focuses on human stories in conflict areas. His work has appeared in numbers outlets, including VICE, the Paris Review, Al Jazeera, and Haaretz. He is an affiliate of the Middle East Institute in Washington DC and a Fellow at the Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale University, studying humor as a key to cultural understanding.

Damn. I make donuts and talk to people.

Okay, so here’s that part where I ask you that if you dig the show, consider subscribing and sharing it with a fellow CNFer. Leave an honest rating on iTunes, which takes a few seconds, or leave a rating and a review and in exchange, I’ll coach up a piece of your work, up to 2,000 words. That’s the deal. That’s like a $100 value once I’m all done because I read things three times and mark things up like it’s my job.

January 12, 2018 09:10 AM PST

"Going toward solitude and away from excuses has really helped me," says Victoria Stopp.

Hey there, CNFers, my CNF buddies, hope you’re having a CNFin’ great start to the new year. Jan 1 is just a day like any other, but we as a culture have assigned supreme import to that day.

If you’re coming here for the first time because your resolution is to listen more podcasts or you want to kickstart projects in the genre of creative nonfiction, then let me tell you the deal: This is The Creative Nonfiction Podcast—hello—the show where I speak with the world’s best artists about creating works of nonfiction: leaders in the worlds of narrative journalism, documentary film, radio, essay, and memoir and try to tease out habits, routines, and origins so that you can use their tools of mastery in your own work.

I’m Brendan O’Meara.

For Episode 83 of the podcast, I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Victoria Stopp. You can find her on Twitter @victoriastopp or at her website victoriastopp.com. Her book Hurting Like Hell, Living with Gusto: My Battle with Chronic Pain, published by McFarland, tells the story of how she became mired in chronic pain after a traumatic neck injury. The book goes into great detail about her journey and how low and powerless it made her feel. Spoiler alert: she’s here to talk about it.

In this episode we also talk about being super disorganized, finding solitude, how writing keeps pulling Victoria back even after she tried giving it up.

Dig the show? Share this with a friend and consider subscribing. I ask that you leave an honest rating or a review on iTunes. Ratings take five seconds; reviews about a minute. 2018 is all about growth and having ratings and reviews helps with visibility.

Did you know that I have a monthly newsletter? It’s true. I send it out on the first of the month and it contains my book recommendations for the month as well as what you might have missed from the world of the podcast. Once a month. No Spam. Can’t beat it.

Also consider leaving an honest review over on iTunes. You’re already doing a lot by listening, but if you can spare a minute or two I’d deeply appreciate it.

You can follow me on Twitter @BrendanOMeara and the podcast now has its own Twitter account @CNFPod. It also has a Facebook page, so if you want the full immersive Creative Nonfiction Podcast experience, be sure to Like or Follow all the channels.

January 05, 2018 03:46 AM PST

Hey, there CNFers, Happy New Year. It’s 2018 and we’re gettin’ rollin’ here for the biggest, baddest year for The Creative Nonfiction Podcast.

And what is the Creative Nonfiction Podcast? It’s the show where I speak to the world’s best artists about creating works of nonfiction: leaders in the worlds of narrative journalism, documentary film, radio, essay and memoir, and tease out the habits and routines so that you can apply their tools of mastery to your own work.

I’m Brendan O’Meara.

And to kick off the New Year, I’m actually not interviewing anyone because I’ve been traveling around creation at significant personal cost to see family and friends on the East Coast. So Episode 82 is me reading “The Language of the Gods,” my essay for Chris Arvidson’s and Diana Nelson Jones’ collection of baseball essays in “The Love of Baseball: Essays by Lifelong Fans.”

The essay does have some footnotes, something I used to love, but am starting to have mixed feelings about, so when the footnotes appear, you’ll hear me say FOOTNOTE and I’ll read it followed by END FOOTNOTE. They’re not too disruptive.

This is gonna be a big year, so if you dig the show, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, share it with a friend, and leave an honest review on iTunes. I’m extending my offer to edit a piece of your work up to 2,000 words and an hour of my time just for leaving a candid review. Just send me a screenshot of the review when it posts and I’ll reach out.

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