Behind the Prose

Behind the Prose


Behind the Prose explores and illuminates the craft of writing and its process through interviews with emerging and established writers. The podcast is released weekly and hosted by Keysha Whitaker. Visit for upcoming guests, news...Show More

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Playing on All 88 Keys: Phillip Lopate, Part 2

28:00 | Oct 16th, 2018

What writing advice can one mine from a two-hour interview with prolific essayist, author, and professor Philip Lopate? If you read the July 2018 issue of The Writer, you learned about Lopate's overall approach and philosophy in "Playing on all 88...Show More

Episode 49: Playing on all 88 keys with Phillip Lopate

46:00 | Aug 20th, 2018

You might recognize the title of this podcast if you picked up the July 2018 issue of The Writer.  In it, you'll find my article on my former grad school writing teacher Phillip Lopate.  I interviewed Lopate last December about his career and in t...Show More

Episode 48: Engineering the short story with author (and engineer) Nick Arvin

1:16:00 | Jan 5th, 2018

In April 2017, I invited author and engineer Nick Arvin to the school where I work. Over two days, he gave several talks on writing, and I recorded one of them: “Nick Arvin and The Short Story.” In this episode, I'm giving you that recording!  Nic...Show More

Episode 47: The Novel, the Novella, and Scott Alexander Hess

56:00 | Nov 27th, 2017

Welcome to this special episode of Behind the Prose. Special, because I bet you didn't think it was coming! More special, because it features former guest, literary historical fiction writer and fellow New School Creative Writing MFA Grad Scott Alexa...Show More

Episode 46: Memoirists Mandy Len Catron and Bob Brody

1:28:00 | Jun 27th, 2017

Today's episode is brought to you by: coincidence. It's how I met both of these great writers. Last year, I covered Bob Brody's essay panel at the American Society of Journalists and Authors for The Writer Magazine. His book Playing Catch with Str...Show More

Episode 45: A discussion with humor writer Adam Rotstein

32:00 | May 15th, 2017

Hey Prosers, I know. I know.  Let's not talk about that lil' missing in action thing. The important thing is that I'm here now and so are you! This episode features a humor writer that I discovered earlier this year on McSweeney's. Adam Rotstei...Show More

Episode 44: Geeta Kothari, author of "I Brake For Moose"

56:00 | Mar 13th, 2017

In this episode, I talk to Geeta Kothari, an English professor and author of the new short story collection I Brake For Moose, out now on Braddock Avenue Books.

Episode 43: Gilli Messer shares how she landed her first clip on McSweeney's

38:00 | Mar 1st, 2017

In this episode, we’re venturing into the land of humor. I discovered actress, singer, and writer Gilli Messer during my daily reading. I loved her piece on McSweeney’s: "Young Couple Shares Vows Amidst State Sponsored Chaos." Listen to learn h...Show More

Episode 42: From the page to the stage with writer Alyssa Sorresso

54:00 | Feb 19th, 2017

I met Alyssa Sorresso at the Creative Nonfiction Writer’s Conference in 2015 (not 2014 as I think I said in the podcast). Alyssa’s essay had just been published in Creative Nonfiction, and she approached me after the magazine’s founder and the “Godfa...Show More

Episode 41: How to be an editor with Plume's Kate Napolitano

23:00 | Feb 8th, 2017

Plume Senior Editor Kate Napolitano recorded this in October 2016, right before my schedule went to hell in a Coach bag, but I'm happy to finally share it with you. A graduate of The College of New Jersey, Kate's got a girl-next-door vibe and she giv...Show More

Get your book life right w/Liz Pryor: Writing advice from the life advice guru

1:19:00 | Sep 3rd, 2016

Liz Pryor, author of the new memoir Look At You Now, kicks off season two of Behind the Prose. In this episode, I interview Liz with one of my new interns, associate producer and co-host Sarah Lorish. If you don't feel like you can write a book and g...Show More

Write This Way: Find and Develop a Niche in Your Writing - LIVE from CNFWC 2016

29:00 | May 29th, 2016

Write This Way: How to Find and Develop a Niche in Your Writing, A Roundtable Discussion Writers are an eclectic group of people and often have a range of interests. This roundtable discussion, moderated by Keysha Whitaker, explores whether writer...Show More

Ask an Editor Panel moderated by Ellen Ayoob live from CNFWC 2016

30:00 | May 28th, 2016

Ask an Editor Panel moderated by In Fact Books Associate Publisher, Ellen Ayoob. The panel features Hattie Fletcher, Creative Nonfiction’s own managing editor, and editors Jessica Bylander and Geeta Kothari. Get an insider’s view—our panel of edit...Show More

Structure for Longform Nonfiction presented by Lee Gutkind - LIVE from CNFWC '16

1:28:00 | May 27th, 2016

Last year Creative Nonfiction Magazine and Behind the Prose teamed up to bring you special excerpts from the amazing 2016 Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference (CNFWC).  (Remember Lee Gutkind’s feature panel on how Law and Order teaches story struc...Show More

Episode 36: Erik Deckers and The House That Jack Built (Kerouac, that is)

35:00 | May 18th, 2016

Interviews with Erik Deckers, humor writer, author, and resident #60 of The Kerouac ProjectGeoff Binge of The Kerouac Project

Episode 35: Salon editor Kim Brooks discusses her debut novel The Houseguest

50:00 | Apr 12th, 2016

If you’ve ever wondered how to write an alternating point-of-view historical novel with prose that wields similes like samurai swords, then Kim Brooks’ second appearance on Behind the Prose is for you. Brooks graces the virtual studio a second tim...Show More

Episode 33: Jacki Skole merges memoir and investigative journalism in new book

56:00 | Feb 29th, 2016

For full show page, visit Jacki Skole is an award-winning journalist and adjunct professor of communication. She launched her journalism career at CNN, first as a news writer, then as a producer in the network’s documenta...Show More

Episode 32: Salon editor Kim Brooks goes behind the prose of “Life” essays

59:00 | Jan 30th, 2016

Kim Brooks is the new personal essays editor at Salon, a baton passed on to her from Sarah Hepola. I met Kim (virtually) after I interviewed Sharisse Tracey who had an essay published in Salon. Oh, and by the way, Sharisse Tracey just had another pie...Show More

Episode 31: Washington Post reporter Jessica Contrera schools future journalists

1:01:00 | Jan 12th, 2016

Happy 2016 Prosers! We've been rocking for almost a year now! Check out the very first Behind the Prose with essayist Tavonne Carson. I'm kicking off 2016 with two great episodes. Today's show features reporter Jessica Contrera who works at The...Show More

Episode 30: Author Dinty W. Moore talks process, persistence, and prose

1:09:00 | Nov 20th, 2015

I recorded this episode in September when Dinty W. Moore’s latest book, Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy: Advice and Confessions on Writing, Love, and Cannibals hit the stands. We talk about that book and his classic memoir Between Panic and Desire. I...Show More

Ep#29 Sharisse Tracey reveals how she got bylines on The New York Times and more

1:29:00 | Nov 4th, 2015

This week’s episode goes behind the prose of Sharisse Tracey, a fellow New School Creative Writing Program alum. Sharisse recorded this show in the middle of one of her best writing weeks ever! If you’re not on the email newsletter - why not? - here’...Show More

Humor and the House of Kerouac with author and columnist Erik Deckers

59:00 | Oct 27th, 2015

What do you get if you cross a syndicated newspaper columnist with a business book author on a Pearson imprint with an entrepreneur who owns Pro Blog Service and novelist who's the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando,...Show More

Episode 27: Chasing down the narrative with short story writer Sean Ennis

1:25:00 | Oct 12th, 2015

Let me just start off by saying that after transcribing writer Sean Ennis' interview (Yeah, I'm back on that again!), I've decided that he's the most conscious self-editor I've interviewed this year. As soon as the words leave his mouth, he’s alre...Show More

Episode 26: How to write literary fiction with author Scott Alexander Hess

1:05:00 | Sep 27th, 2015

In this meta-writing hour, author and fellow New School alum Scott Alexander Hess, dissects his use  and balance of language to create scene and character in his latest book, a historical novel, The Butcher’s Son (a literary fiction hell-of-a-work if...Show More

Episode 25 Bestselling author Susan Shapiro goes behind her genre crossing prose

44:00 | Sep 11th, 2015

In this Behind the Prose exclusive, I interview Shapiro, who was my thesis mentor while I was an MFA student in the Creative Writing Program at The New School, where she's taught writing since 1993 and won a Distinguished Teaching Award. The first...Show More

Part Two: How to write a For Dummies book with Gwen Hernandez

57:00 | Sep 9th, 2015

Hey Behind the Prosers, I know you've been waiting for part two of the awesome interview with Gwen Hernandez, and here it is! In this episode we talk about crafting introductions, how the writing software Scrivener helps "plotters" and "pantsers" ...Show More

How to write a For Dummies book with Gwen Hernandez, Scrivener For Dummies

37:00 | Aug 12th, 2015

Many writers might covet a byline on one of the most popular educational, instructional series ever, the For Dummies line published by Wiley.  But not many can snag that gig. For Gwen Hernandez, her story shows how a writer follows a passion that ...Show More

Episode 22: How to write a novel when you don't know how with Neil Smith

1:41:00 | Jul 28th, 2015

Here's the craft-packed episode you've been waiting for - the exciting and extended episode featuring the award-winning international-selling humble and personable Neil Smith. Neil is the author of Bang Crunch, a wildly successful book of short stori...Show More

Lee Gutkind’s Creative Nonfiction Law and Order Yellow Test Writers’ Prompt

1:02:00 | Jul 12th, 2015

In May, nearly 200 folks descended on the historic city of Pittsburgh to rub writing elbows with authors, essayists, journalists, and editors at the 2015 Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference. Maybe you were there. Maybe you weren’t. If you find...Show More

Episode 20: Writing intimacy, pain, and hope with memoirist Kate Walter

1:00:00 | Jun 27th, 2015

Serendipity. Noun: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: a fortunate stroke of serendipity, a series of small serendipities When I interviewed writer and teacher Kate Walter in the second week of June,...Show More

EP#19 Memoir meet Poetry: Kira Lynne Allen crafts debut book in two genres

28:00 | Jun 14th, 2015

In May, I interviewed author Kira Lynne Allen about her new book Write This Second out now on Prashanti Press. In this episode, Kira explains how she used various strategic moves to recreate voice and pace in her work. She tells you what she thinks o...Show More

Episode 18: Get your grown writer on with editor of Full Grown People

1:00:00 | May 24th, 2015

Hello from Pittsburgh, PA! I'm way past my bedtime and I still have homework to do for Dinty W. Moore's Master Class at the Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference 2015. But the show must go on. And boy is it a show. Jennifer Niesslein, a founde...Show More

Episode #17: Running across genres with Rachel Toor, Part Two

50:00 | May 17th, 2015

It's the most anticipated podcast episode of the season . . . Part Two of Rachel Toor's amazing interview which aired in April. I interviewed Rachel a few weeks ago and we had a great conversation about the magic of fiction. Though On the Road to ...Show More

An intimate conversation with Lee Gutkind, "Godfather" of Creative Nonfiction

1:16:00 | May 4th, 2015

Yes, you read it right. The legendary Lee Gutkind graces the Behind the Prose virtual studio for a chat with yours truly.  In this interview, we discuss everything from what time he goes to bed to how he crafted an overall narrative in a collection o...Show More

Episode 15: Songwriting 101 with Gandhi, a musician with a mission

1:05:00 | Apr 29th, 2015

This episode of Behind the Prose is more like Behind the Lyrics. Indiana-born, New York-based singer/songwriter Gandhi takes us on a journey that starts when he taught himself how to play the guitar and write songs. That was 15 years ago. Today, like...Show More

Episode 14: Rachel Toor, author of On the Road to Find Out

56:00 | Apr 21st, 2015

Though she hesitates to call herself a “writer” (she thinks it sounds self-important), author and columnist Rachel Toor has written her way into a new Young Adult novel and onto my list of writers I want to be when I grow up. You’ll remember I blogge...Show More

Episode 13: A candid convo with Washington Post reporter Soraya N. McDonald

42:00 | Apr 14th, 2015

This week’s episode features a candid conversation with Washington Post reporter Soraya McDonald. In this interview, you’ll recognize right away the wit that shades much of her prose.  Soraya is a graduate of Howard University and began covering the ...Show More

Episode 12: Chelsey Clammer author of BodyHome

58:00 | Apr 5th, 2015

This week's episode has all kinds of literary good stuff: - a Q&A with Lisa Cron, the author of Wired for Story - a feature interview with writer and editor Chesley Clammer - The Writer's Check-In Visit for the episode ...Show More

Episode 11: Kenny Porpora, author of the memoir The Autumn Balloon

1:27:00 | Mar 29th, 2015

In this week's episode, I talk to author and journalist Kenny Porpora about his debut memoir The Autumn Balloon.  The show also features: An interview with Emily Griffin, Kenny's editor at Grand Central Publishing Writers on Writing Radio Show...Show More

Bad sentences beware of Washington Post nonfiction book critic Carlos Lozada

59:00 | Mar 22nd, 2015

Woe be unto you writer, should you land in a Washington Post article titled “The five worst sentences I read in January.” When I read that post written by the new nonfiction book critic Carlos Lozada, I knew two things. First, I needed to interview L...Show More

NPR Best Books 2014 author Cameron Conaway talks poetry and prose

1:02:00 | Mar 15th, 2015

Author Cameron Conaway is a triple threat. He writes. He teaches. He fights. The latter was literal several years ago when he stepped into the ring as a Mixed Martial Artist but now his battles are on the world stage, raising awareness for preventabl...Show More

Live your best literary life: Writer Joan Dempsey shares how on Behind the Prose

1:01:00 | Mar 8th, 2015

Besides having one of the best writer’s websites I’ve ever seen, Joan Dempsey has successfully merged the craft she loves with a business model that helps others reach their writing goals. On March 8 at 6 PM EST, she joins me on the Behind the Prose ...Show More

Natalie Baszile's Queen Sugar picked up by OWN; Baszile talks craft on 3/1

1:12:00 | Mar 1st, 2015

It is with great Behind the Prose pride that I share awesome news about Natalie Baszile's first novel. Queen Sugar is moving to Oprah Winfrey's OWN network under the helm of "Selma" director Ava DuVernay.  I am proud, but I'm not surprised. Days b...Show More

Sarah Gerard juxtaposes chaos and control to craft narrative in first novel

2:01:00 | Feb 22nd, 2015

*** UPDATE #2 - AFTER THE SHOW *** This episode is filled to capacity with awesomeness. First, you'll hear the rest of Associate Senior Editor Roxanne K. Young's interview about her work at the Journal of the American Medical Association and Dr...Show More

Physician and writer Andrew Bomback discusses writing craft and commitment

1:02:00 | Feb 15th, 2015

UPDATE ---- JAMA PROVIDED FREE ACCESS TO BOMBACK'S ESSAY FOR A LIMITED TIME!! --- THANK YOU JAMA! Think you don't have time to write? Andrew Bomback is a physician and writer (with toddlers and a wife) but he's still managed to write a novel, a te...Show More

This Monstrous Narrative: Writer Aimee Baker weaves three story lines in essay

1:01:00 | Feb 8th, 2015

I've never read Frankenstein. And honestly, I never wanted to. But then I found "This Monstrous Heart" by Aimee Baker. By the time she finished weaving in and out of three narratives in the creative nonfiction essay, I not only wanted to read Mary Sh...Show More

Location, voice, and tone in creative nonfiction with writer Soo Na Pak

1:02:00 | Feb 1st, 2015

This episode of Behind the Prose features an interview with writer and artist Soo Na Pak.  Soo Na Pak lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her essays and prose appear in The Butter;; “Outsiders Within: Writing on Transr...Show More

Go Behind the Prose with Jennifer Genest, fiction and nonfiction writer

42:00 | Jan 25th, 2015

On Sunday, January 25, 2015, Jennifer Genest, MFA will join me on Behind the Prose to discuss two of her recent publications in the genres of fiction and creative nonfiction. We will be close reading and discussing her flash fiction story "Ways...Show More

The Writing Process with essayist Tavonne Carson

37:00 | Jan 17th, 2015

In the pilot episode of Behind the Prose, I interview writer Tavonne Carson who has her MFA from The New School. Tavonne's essay "Closer," which features her unique ability to convey details with rich description, was published in Gastronmica, The Jo...Show More