Episodes
This week on The Easy Chair, it’s Family Mad Libs. From our vacation spot in The Hamptons, we play a spirited game of Mad Libs, World’s Greatest Word Game ™. The story we fill in the blanks on is “Let’s Dance”. Joining me is my entire fam- husband Sam, daughter Hannah, son Jake and his wife Jillian Vogel, daughter Rachael and her husband Will Goldstein, daughter Sarah, daughter Eliza and her BF and BFF Dan Licata, and son Micah. It’s hilarious and spontaneous and entirely unedited. Some of...
Published 12/31/19
This week on The Easy Chair, it’s a reprise of “The Gift of the Magi,” the classic short story by O. Henry. This small sweet gem of a tale is generally considered a Christmas story, as well as the iconic illustrative example of irony. I would challenge the limits of these descriptions. This story about love and sacrifice is relevant for any time of year, and the lessons it imparts are not tied to faith, but shared humanity. O. Henry’s story tells what it means to love and sacrifice, and...
Published 12/24/19
This week, it’s Mightier Than the Sword, Holiday Survival Edition, with co-host Stephanie Spaulding! Today we tackle the holidays. It’s a time of gift-giving, holiday parties, and mandatory good cheer. We explore ways to healthily navigate the season. Many of us feel stressed and overwhelmed by the social and fiscal demands of the holidays, and Steph has some great strategies for taking a step back and figuring out how to let go of the social conventions and expectations that no longer serve...
Published 12/17/19
Today on The Easy Chair, my guest is my daughter Rachael, and we talk about her indie folk band, Honey Magpie, and their second album, which they recently finished recording. Their single, “Undecided”, comes out on January 24th, 2020—and trust me, I’ll let you know when it drops! In our fun and freewheeling interview, Rachael talks about the things that delighted and/or challenged her during the making of "Midnight Morning". We also talk candidly about Rachael’s creative influences, including...
Published 12/10/19
Today on The Easy Chair, it's chapter one of my novel that’s been in progress (or arrested development) for quite a spell. I’ve been feeling very connected to Nantucket, the island I love, and prone to the tug of family, past and present. The Point centers on the Folger-Yurofsky family, who’ve been coming to Nantucket all their lives, to a cottage that’s been in their family for decades. Jane and her sister Lucy love the yearly pilgrimage from their lives in Berkeley, California to summers...
Published 12/03/19
This week on The Easy Chair, it’s the iconic short story writer Amy Hempel’s “The Cemetery When Al Jolson Is Buried.” This poignant story is about bearing witness to the final days of a best friend’s life. Full disclosure: I had to record the end four times before I made it through without crying. Also note: there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING even remotely maudlin about Hempel’s story. Like all of her work, it’s brutally, beautifully honest. Tune in to hear this heartbreaking short story...
Published 11/26/19
This week on The Easy Chair, I am happy to share the subversively funny, life vs. art, absolutely all-too-true short story “How to Become a Writer” by Lorrie Moore. Moore’s tone, that of a classic how-to piece providing aspiring writers with a road map of sorts, veers off-course into a very personal narrative of the unique twists and turns of her own writing life. Moore is entertaining and very smart, and the tale she has written is a master satire of most authors' self- absorption and...
Published 11/19/19
This week, it’s the return of Mightier Than the Sword, with my wonderful co-host Stephanie Spaulding! Between one thing and another, it’s been a while since Steph and I have been able to record together, so this feels like an awesome reunion. We talk about the ideas we’ve had about writing and words, and discuss, individually, the beliefs that have stood the test of time and things we have come to see differently. It’s one of my favorite MTTS episodes on record, and I love that we were able...
Published 11/12/19
Today’s Easy Chair episode: “The Patron Saint of Words” with guest poet, artist, radio host, and journalist Karen (K.P.) Ponzio. K.P. reads a very cool article she wrote about the Patron Saints of New Haven project, conceived and rendered by local artist Sara Scranton. With her finger squarely on the pulse of the New Haven art scene, Scranton tapped fellow artists not only to tell about their art, but to be their art in the form of a traditional Patron Saint....
Published 11/05/19
Just in time for Halloween, in this episode of The Easy Chair I read “Popsy”, Stephen King’s dark tale of a child abduction in which the tables get terrifyingly turned. Sheridan, a gambling addict, has taking to kidnapping children for a sinister figure named Mr. Wizard. He finds a young boy who is lost at the mall and lures him into his van. The boy is looking for his Popsy, and when Sheridan reveals that Popsy is not, as promised, waiting for him at a nearby McDonald’s, the boy tells him...
Published 10/29/19
This week on The Easy Chair, I read Margaret Atwood’s c. 1975 feminist short story, “Rape Fantasies”. Chatty narrator Estelle describes talking with her co-workers about their rape fantasies and hers. Their fantasies are the stuff of Hollywood movies and magazines, not at all authentic, in Estelle’s view, while hers are real. Estelle is an honest person, an over-sharer, and as she shares various fantasies, she begins to waver. What she understands about rape and what she can't begin to...
Published 10/21/19
This week on The Easy Chair, I read a funny and thought-provoking short story by the late Roald Dahl, "The Great Automatic Grammatizator." For anyone who has ever wondered if there is a can’t fail writing formula, or if maybe, just maybe, the surest route to publication can be accomplished by computer algorithm- this is the story for you. Young Adolph Knipe has created a computer that can be fed data that will, if his boss Mr. Bohlen allows, make writers and writing obsolete. At the end of...
Published 10/14/19
This week, on The Easy Chair, I read the conclusion of “The Fat Girl” by Andre Dubus. Louise has graduated college and now weighs less than her goal weight. She has morphed from fat to thin in less than a year, and suddenly, the world opens up to her in ways she never imagined. The gifts within her reach are the spoils of her self-deprivation, and all she has left to do is claim them. This is, after all, the American Woman’s Dream. Or is Louise just a stranger in a strange land? This is an...
Published 10/07/19
Today on The Easy Chair, I read Part One of “The Fat Girl”- a stunning short story by Andre Dubus. Louise has been fat since childhood, furtively secreting away stashes of chocolate candy, which she eats at night, in bed. Then, her college roommate, with the best of intentions, intercedes. After a year of self-denial, Louise’s life changes. She gains the love of her mother and pride of her father, the admiration of friends, acquaintances, and strangers, but through self-sacrifice and weight...
Published 09/30/19
This week on The Easy Chair, it’s Mightier Than the Sword, with my wonderful co-host Steph Spaulding. We’re both back at work in the classroom, and…drum roll, please…so far, we are DOING A-OKAY. Steph’s got a new approach that she shares with us that involves the word joyful, and I’m teaching in what just might be the best school in the world, with the most aspirational group of young writers imaginable. We talk about teaching and dress codes and swearing, and also review a couple of books...
Published 09/23/19
This week on The Easy Chair, it’s the conclusion of Joyce Carol Oates’s stunner of a short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been”. Arnold Friend has shown up at fifteen-year-old Connie’s screen door, behind which she’s home alone. Suddenly what seemed like a chance encounter at a popular summer hang-out turns into something sinister, something infinitely darker. Arnold just wants Connie to go with him. That's all. But is it? Connie's consciousness shifts, and she is suddenly no...
Published 09/16/19
This week on The Easy Chair, I read the first half of Joyce Carol Oates's brilliant, twisted short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been.” Connie is a fifteen-year-old girl from a small town, newly aware of her beauty, newly boy-crazy, awakening to life and the pleasures it offers the young and, even more abundantly, the beautiful. It’s summer, and Connie is a regular at all the local hangouts...along with the mysterious Arnold Friend. Her parents and sister leave one Sunday...
Published 09/09/19
This week on The Easy Chair, I read two funny and fabulous essays by author Anne Lamott from her seminal book on writing and life in general, Bird By Bird. Lamott is smart, self-deprecating, witty, and wise, and what she has to say about the process of writing, about life as a writer, and about just being human is not only enlightening, but genuinely useful. These two essays, “Short Assignments” and “S****y First Drafts”, will inspire anyone who is even just thinking about writing to get...
Published 09/02/19
This week on The Easy Chair: “Mary”, second of a two-part series by master storyteller Saul Fussiner. Like last week’s “Shane”, “Mary” is set largely in Ireland. A decade has passed, and Saul and his new wife have stopped in Fahan while on their honeymoon. (The Irish owner of the Connecticut estate /wedding venue was so moved by their ceremony that he invites the couple to visit his ancestral home and meet his family). Saul’s story lands at the four-way intersection of sacred, tribal,...
Published 08/26/19
This week, I’m joined by writer/storyteller Saul Fussiner. It’s been a minute since Saul has been on the podcast, and the story “Shane” is from Saul’s series of stories connected by times spent in Ireland, “I’ve Heard Those Drums All My Life.” "Shane" is set in the Ireland of the '80s, when Saul and his girlfriend accidentally visit the wrong town in the bittersweet last days of their relationship. Saul’s stories, traced by memory and anchored in precise cultural, musical, and just plain...
Published 08/19/19
This week, it’s a breezy tribute to the joys of summer reading on Mightier Than the Sword! Co-host and fellow educator (yes, that’s right … I’m headed back to the classroom in September, and you’ll hear about that on the podcast) Steph Spaulding and I weigh in on a few of the books we read over the summer. We offer some critical analysis, what worked and what didn’t, in terms of plot, pacing, and character development. We also pay tribute to the sweet end of summer, and the fresh start of a...
Published 08/12/19
This week on The Easy Chair, I read to you the short story “The Knowers” by Helen Phillips. Imagine a world in which every person can decide to find out the date of their death- but they can’t know the circumstance surrounding it. Would you even want this knowledge? What if you were lovingly, decades-long married to someone who emphatically didn’t want to know to date of your demise? How would you live your life…and face the date of your death when it rolled around? This is a fascinating,...
Published 08/05/19
This week, it’s another Mightier Than the Sword, with co-host Steph Spaulding. In this episode, we discuss perfectionism, procrastination, and how both behaviors are the downfall of many a good writing practice. Steph describes herself as a recovering perfectionist, while I was once an aspiring perfectionist. Procrastination is something we both still wrestle with, or have learned to accept, when it comes to writing and life, but perfectionism must be abandoned in the interest of getting work...
Published 07/29/19
This week on The Easy Chair, I read a devastating short story by Stephen King: “The Last Rung on the Ladder.” This is absolutely not your typical Stephen King horror story, and it's a tale that you should definitely listen to along with a tall glass of iced tea on one of these hazy summer afternoons. Narrator Larry recounts the story of the long-ago day from his childhood on his family's farm, when he was playing with his kid sister Kitty, taking turns jumping from the top of their...
Published 07/22/19
This week on The Easy Chair, I read a classic short story, which is a tribute to storytelling. “The Open Window” (by Saki, c. 1914) is about Framton Nuttel, a gentleman seeking a place to stay so he can regain his health, which has been compromised by a number of things, including frayed and fragile nerves. Enter Vera, the very creative niece of Mrs. Sappleton, whose home Mr. Nuttel might like to take a room in. Apparently a terrible tragedy has taken place. Apparently there’s something not...
Published 07/15/19