Friday, March 22, 2019

David Wallace-Wells

David Wallace-Wells is the author of The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming.

From his Q&A with Amy Brady for Guernica:

Guernica: Let’s begin by discussing the speed at which climate change is happening, which you say is greatly misunderstood.

David Wallace-Wells: One of the largest and most problematic misunderstandings that we have about climate change is that it’s slow, that it unfolds on a timescale of many decades, or even centuries. Even [climate scientist] James Hansen’s big book about climate change is called Storms of my Grandchildren. But the truth is that half of all emissions produced from fossil fuels have taken place in the last thirty years—an astonishingly short amount of time. I’m thirty-six years old. I remember what it was like thirty years ago. My life contains the whole trajectory of this story that took us from a relatively stable climate to where we are now, on the very brink of climate catastrophe. This has all happened since Al Gore published his first book on warming and since the United Nations established the IPCC report.

Guernica: Do you see our understanding of climate change evolving as its effects grow worse?

Wallace-Wells: There are more people now that understand that climate change is real and happening—quite a lot of people, actually, and the numbers are growing. But what’s not yet clear is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Keely Hutton

Keely Hutton is a novelist, educational journalist, and former teacher. She is the recipient of the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop scholarship at Chautauqua. She has worked closely with Ricky Richard Anywar, the founder of the international charity Friends of Orphans who was a child soldier in Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army, to tell his story in her first novel, Soldier Boy.

From Hutton's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you end up working with Ricky Richard Anywar on Soldier Boy, and why did you decide to write it as a novel rather than as nonfiction?

A: In March 2012, my cousin, John Fay, emailed me about his friend, Ricky Richard Anywar, a man he’d met while working with non-profit organizations in Africa.

Ricky had been trying for over eight years to find a writer to tell the story of his time as a child soldier in notorious warlord Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), but no one would take on the project.

Although Ricky’s story of survival captured my attention, I politely declined John’s request that I speak with Ricky three times. I believed a story as important as Ricky’s deserved both a published author with name recognition and a writer with life experiences similar to Ricky’s. I was neither.

Fortunately for me, my cousin emailed again about Ricky, and even went as far as involving my mother in his push to make the Skype call happen. Finally, I agreed, and Ricky and I scheduled a time to chat.

Five minutes into our first Skype conversation, I was certain of two things: 1. Ricky’s story needed to be told. and 2. even though I still questioned if I was the writer to tell it, I knew I wanted to help Ricky and his work at Friends of Orphans in northern Uganda in any way I could.

I agreed to ...[read on]
Visit Keely Hutton's website.

The Page 69 Test: Soldier Boy.

My Book, The Movie: Soldier Boy.

Writers Read: Keely Hutton (July 2017).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

William J. Burns

William J. Burns is president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2014 after a thirty-three-year diplomatic career. He holds the highest rank in the Foreign Service, career ambassador, and is only the second serving career diplomat in history to become deputy secretary of state. Burns's new book is The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal.

From his Q&A with Isaac Chotiner at The New Yorker:

When you look at the last two years, you could argue that we haven’t had a huge war compared to what we had in previous Administrations, and the world seems to be chugging along. People are angry at us more, but fundamentally things are O.K., and that gives you a certain amount of hope about American foreign policy, even if you have a bad man in the White House. Or you could argue that groundwork has been laid for future problems. How do you view those two options, or am I thinking about it wrong?

I think we’re doing a lot of corrosive damage to ourselves in the world over the last couple of years. I would emphasize that the drift in American diplomacy certainly was not something that was invented by Donald Trump. Throughout the post-Cold War era, I think we oftentimes tended to downplay the importance of diplomacy in the way in which we exercise leadership in the world, despite a number of accomplishments over those years. But I think what we’re doing now is digging a pretty deep hole for ourselves internationally, and what I worry about is that eventually we’ll stop digging, and we’ll climb back to the top of the hole, but we’ll look out at a landscape that has hardened in a number of ways against our interests.

The biggest concern I have is that what Trump has really turned on its head is the notion of enlightened self-interest. And again, we pursued that very imperfectly over the years, and I try to be honest about all the ways in which I got things wrong. But the Administrations of both parties thought we had one thing that sets us apart from lonelier powers like China and Russia, and that’s the capacity to invest in alliances and mobilize other countries, whether it’s to deal with challenges to regional order or big overarching problems, like the one existential problem that faces us today, which I’m convinced is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Ayesha Harruna Attah

Ayesha Harruna Attah is the author of the novel The Hundred Wells of Salaga.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You note that you were inspired to write this novel by your own family history. How did your great-great-grandmother's story lead to your writing the book?

A: While drawing up our family tree with my father, I learned that my great-great-grandmother had been enslaved in West Africa. I didn’t know much about slavery within the African continent at that point and I wanted to find out more about what that could have looked like and what my ancestor would have gone through.

Q: How did you come up with your characters Aminah and Wurche?

A: Aminah was inspired by my great-great-grandmother, so her spirit was modeled on the closest person to her that I got to meet: my father’s mother. She was a quiet woman, but one could tell that she had a strong spirit.

Wurche was inspired by a line I read in a book called Salaga: The Struggle for Power, by J. A Braimah, which said that princesses from this particular region could choose whomever they wanted to be their lovers, even if the man were...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 18, 2019

Michael E. Mann

Michael E. Mann is a noted climate scientist and Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Pennsylvania State University. From the transcript of his Q&A with Steve Curwood for PRI's Living on Earth:

CURWOOD: So, you're famous research-wise for doing what some folks would call paleoclimate work. That is, you look back at what happened hundreds, thousands of years ago to say what might be happening in the future. Talk to me about that. And why did you become intrigued with that?

MANN: Yeah. So what we did is we used all the natural archives that we could get our hands on: tree rings, of course, tell us something about past conditions related to tree growth -- rainfall and temperature. So we can glean information about climate from the thickness and even the density of the rings in tree cores from sort of continental, extratropical locations. Tropical trees aren't useful for tree ring research. So you're only getting information really from the extratropical continents, and that's not the whole planet, right? So you need to fill in those gaps. Well, we do that by using other data like ice cores, which come from high latitudes or even in some cases the tropics, at very high elevations, like Mount Kilimanjaro or in the Andes. So now you're starting to fill in those gaps. You've got the tropics, you've got the polar regions, then the oceans; well, we can turn to corals. The calcium carbonate skeleton of a coral contains, typically, annual growth rings. And we can look at the isotopes of oxygen in those growth rings; that tells us something about the seawater that that coral was growing in. And so what our project was about was taking this increasingly rich information coming from scientists around the world producing these different kinds of records, and assimilating them into a single reconstruction of past large-scale temperature patterns around the globe. Now to us, the most interesting thing about those reconstructions was what we could learn about the regional patterns of past climate -- the El Nino phenomenon; what happened during the largest prehistoric eruptions. It was those sort of regional patterns that we were really interested in, what they could teach us about climate dynamics. But what ended up becoming by far the single most prominent aspect of that research was what happens when you average over all of the regions, you average away a lot of those interesting details. And you come up with one number for each year, the average temperature of the Northern Hemisphere. And we could plot that back in time. And when you do that, what you see is that it was relatively warm about 1000 years ago. And then we descended into the depths of the Little Ice Age, in the 17-, 18-, 1900s; and then we see this warming spike, of the past century. And it is so sharp that it takes us well outside of the range that we see over the past thousand years. So laid on its side, it looks like, you know, the sports implement that we refer to as a hockey stick. And that's...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Daniel Golden

Daniel Golden is the author of the 2006 book The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges—and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates.

From his interview with Isaac Chotiner for The New Yorker:

Colleges obviously still rely a lot on legacy admissions. Are they relying on it less than a decade or two ago, and might this lessening be causing legacy admissions or the rich and famous to be more desperate to get their kids in by any means necessary?

Actually, regarding legacy admissions, what’s happened in the last couple decades is two contrasting things. The first is that, yes, the percentage of legacies admitted has declined. It’s less of a guarantee of admission than it used to be. On the other hand, the over-all acceptance rate at these √©lite schools has declined even more. So legacy, proportionally, is a bigger advantage than it once was. If you take a typical Ivy League school, maybe twenty or thirty years ago, they might admit two-thirds of legacy applicants. Now they might admit one-third of legacy applicants. But, at the same time, their over-all acceptance rate has probably gone down from between twenty and twenty-five per cent to between five and ten per cent. So, proportionally, being a legacy is even more of an advantage. But, in any particular case, a legacy is less likely to get in than they used to.

Now, the pressures over all are generally working a little bit the other way. They are working for the benefit of donors rather than to their detriment. What’s happened is that other sources of income for universities have stayed level or declined. The percentage of small, grassroots donors—alumni who give a little bit—has declined, and universities are more dependent on big donations, the kind that often carry a kind of admissions tit for tat. Similarly, there hasn’t been big growth in terms of federal funding for research and other sources of income for universities. So universities are actually more dependent on...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Dana Czapnik

Dana Czapnik is a 2018 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow in Fiction from The New York Foundation for the Arts. In 2017, she was awarded an Emerging Writers Fellowship from the Center for Fiction. Czapnik earned her MFA at Hunter College where she was recognized with a Hertog Fellowship. She’s spent most of her career on the editorial side of professional sports including stints at ESPN the Magazine, the United States Tennis Association and the Arena Football League. Her debut novel, The Falconer, will be published by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, in January of 2019. A native New Yorker, she lives in Manhattan with her husband and son.

From Czapnik's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Falconer, and for your character Lucy?

A: I’ve always known I wanted to write a bildungsroman about a young woman like Lucy. I’d never read about a female athlete in literary fiction and I think the experience of being a woman in a space that’s been traditionally occupied by men is a way to open the door to writing about gender and navigating womanhood.

I also knew I wanted her to be a young woman who is open to the world, even as she’s often times questioning it. My favorite young male characters are ones who are searching for their own philosophy and grappling with the injustices of the world. I wanted to write a book that creates the space for a young woman to have that same experience.

I also was interested in writing about New York in the early ‘90s, just before the money started to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 15, 2019

Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman

Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman is the author of Sounds Like Titanic: A Memoir. Her recent writing has appeared in McSweeney's, The New York Times Magazine, Brevity and Hippocampus. She holds a BA in Middle Eastern studies and an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and a PhD in English from the University of North Texas. She teaches creative writing at Northern Kentucky University, where she recently won the Outstanding Junior Faculty Award. In her spare time she enjoys cooking (Italian), dancing (Beyoncé), and dreaming up clever Halloween costumes (Large Hadron Particle Collider).

From the transcript of Hindman's NPR interview with Scott Simon:

SIMON: You were in an orchestra that played music on tour 2002 to 2006, but the music you played was not what the audience heard.

HINDMAN: That's right. I am a pretty good, amateur high school violinist. But when I performed for this orchestra, the microphone in front of me was off and a CD recording of a much more talented violinist was being blasted towards unsuspecting audiences.

SIMON: "Sounds Like Titanic" because the music sounded like...

HINDMAN: "Titanic" (laughter).

SIMON: ...Like the theme from the film "Titanic," right?

HINDMAN: Yes, absolutely - the 1997 film. Yes.

SIMON: But it wasn't that music.

HINDMAN: Yes, I think a few notes shy of whatever copyright infringement that would be.

SIMON: And you identify this person always as a composer. And I guarantee you, I have been all over the Web trying to figure out who this is, as I'm sure any reader would, because this - you guys performed a series of concerts for PBS over the years.

HINDMAN: Yes, that's correct. Yeah.

SIMON: So why do you...[read on]
Visit Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Sounds Like Titanic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Mike Winchell

Mike Winchell is the author of Electric War: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Light the World, a new book for young adults. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write about Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and George Westinghouse, and how would you describe the dynamic among them?

A: To be honest, nonfiction wasn’t really on my radar initially. I had always written fiction, but after shopping a couple projects with my agent we had a conversation and she recommended I explore writing nonfiction.

She saw something in my writing that indicated my voice would translate nicely to narrative nonfiction. I must admit, she was right. I took to it immediately.

The Gilded Age is such a fascinating time period because our country was spreading its wings when it came to science and invention. I knew a decent amount about the war of the currents already, but as I started delving deep into my research, I knew this was a story that needed to be shared with young adults.

I think young people are only told about “the great Thomas Edison” in the typical classroom, and I feel it’s important to share the true story with them. If ever there was a man who was corrupted by competition and cutthroat capitalism, it was Thomas Edison.

The fire in his eyes with regards to his main competitors, Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse, became a raging inferno. Edison stopped at nothing to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

William Boyle

William Boyle's new novel is A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself.

From his Q&A with Gabino Iglesias at Southwest Review:

Gabino Iglesias: Your work is tied to the atmosphere, accents, and psychogeography of New York City. Do you rely on memories and knowledge acquired by living there or do you research everything you write about?

William Boyle: Mostly memories and knowledge, which is why I tend to stick to the places where I’ve lived and spent the most time. This book is set in the part of Southern Brooklyn where I grew up and where my family still lives (as all of my books are), but it also moves to the Bronx neighborhood where my wife’s family is from and then outside the city to a Hudson Valley town where her family now lives. I’m back home often, so occasionally I’ll do something that resembles research to make sure I’m getting a place right or to map things out or even just pick up details, but mostly I’m digging up things I remember or relying on things that have been burned into my memory. The voices are always there.

GI: A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself subverts the mob narrative by focusing on the women who live on its periphery. That said, you have a series of narratives about Cosa Nostra members in the book, including their deaths. Why did you decide to make the three main characters women trapped in and, in some ways, shaped by this context?

WB: The book was always going to be about...[read on]
Visit William Boyle's website.

My Book, The Movie: Gravesend and The Lonely Witness.

The Page 69 Test: Gravesend and The Lonely Witness.

Writers Read: William Boyle (September 2018).

--Marshal Zeringue