The Nonfiction Podcast
The Nonfiction Podcast digs into the art and science of nonfiction writing. We look at one nonfiction article every episode and break it down, talking with the writers about how they researched, reported, and put their stories together.
info_outline Episode 21: "His American Dream died. His town got over it" by Robert Samuels 08/17/2018
Episode 21: "His American Dream died. His town got over it" by Robert Samuels In this episode, I talk with Robert Samuels about his story for the Washington Post: “.” The story explores what he found when he went to Granger, Indiana one year after a popular local restaurant owner was deported. is a national politics reporter for the Washington Post. His official bio says that he “focuses on the intersection of politics, policy, and people.” It also says that Robert “travels the country to chronicle how the vivacious political discussion in the nation's capital is impacting the lives of everyday Americans.” [Editor's note: that's possibly the best job description I've ever read] Before working for the Post, Robert spent five years at the Miami Herald. He’s a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism and the former editor in chief of the school newspaper, The Daily Northwestern. (Go Cats!)
info_outline Episode 20: "This Is How They Saved Me" by Neda Semnani 08/01/2018
Episode 20: "This Is How They Saved Me" by Neda Semnani “” is writer Neda Semnani's narrative story about how she escaped Iran with her family in 1982, and how close they came to not making it at all. In this episode, I talk with Neda about the unique challenges of reporting her own family history and piecing together what really happened 36 years ago. is a journalist and writer whose work has appeared in various online and print publications, including the Washington Post, New York, LA Review of Books, The Baffler, The Week, BuzzFeed, and Roll Call among others. Her work has also been featured in The Rumpus and This American Life.
info_outline Episode 19: "The Making of a Mexican-American Dream" by Sarah Menkedick 03/24/2017
Episode 19: "The Making of a Mexican-American Dream" by Sarah Menkedick “” looks at how one young woman faces the challenges of assimilation, identity, and acceptance in modern American culture. In this episode, I talk with author Sarah Menkedick about her story and what it says about America in 2017. 's writing has been featured in Harper's, Pacific Standard, Oxford American, Aeon, The Paris Review Daily, Guernica, Amazon's Kindle Singles, and elsewhere. She is the founder of Vela, an online magazine of nonfiction writing by women. Her first book, , is forthcoming from Pantheon on May 2nd.
info_outline Episode 18: "How's Amanda" by Eli Saslow 02/24/2017
Episode 18: "How's Amanda" by Eli Saslow I talk with Washington Post reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner Eli Saslow about his story, “,” which ran in July 2016. The story takes a close, personal look at a woman fighting to overcome drug addiction, and what that struggle means for her mother. writes for the Washington Post, where he covered the 2008 presidential campaign and has chronicled the president’s life inside the White House. He won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for his year-long series about food stamps in America. He has won multiple awards for news and feature writing.
info_outline Episode 17: "Truther Love" by Sabine Heinlein 12/23/2016
Episode 17: "Truther Love" by Sabine Heinlein In today’s show, I talk with Sabine Heinlein about her story, “,” which appeared at Longreads.com in November 2016. is the author of the narrative nonfiction book . Her work can be found in The New York Times, The Guardian, Psychology Today, Poets & Writers, Longreads, and many other publications. She has received a Pushcart Prize, a Margolis Award, a Sidney Gross Award for Investigative Reporting, and fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell and the New York Foundation for the Arts. "Truther Love” looks at the social lives of conspiracy theorists, also known as “truthers,” and how one new dating site is trying to bring them together. Related links: For the article I mentioned in the interview about a Sandy Hook victim's father (but couldn't remember the name of the article or the author), it's here: "" by Reeves Wiedeman for New York Magazine, 9.5.2016. Another good read. And yes, the truther dating site in the story is real. If you're curious about it, or just "awake" and looking for love, .
info_outline Episode 16: "Telling JJ" by John Woodrow Cox 12/09/2016
Episode 16: "Telling JJ" by John Woodrow Cox On this episode, I talk with John Woodrow Cox about his story, “,” which appeared in the Washington Post in September 2015. "Telling JJ” is the story of a 10-year-old girl who is about to learn that she has been HIV positive since birth. The story explores the critical juncture she has reached in life as she is about to learn the truth. is an reporter at the Washington Post. Prior to joining the Post, he worked at the Tampa Bay Times in Florida and at the Valley News in New Hampshire. For a follow-up on JJ, one year later, check out John's follow-up story from August 2016:
info_outline Episode 15: "Fear of the Light" by Amanda Pertrusich 11/22/2016
Episode 15: "Fear of the Light" by Amanda Pertrusich On this episode, I talk with Amanda Petrusich, author of “.” The story appeared in the Guardian in August 2016. It explores the cultural impact of our increasing inability to see the night sky. It asks questions about what it means when generations of people live in places where they can’t see the stars. is a contributing writer for Pitchfork and a contributing editor at The Oxford American. Her music and culture writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Spin, and BuzzFeed. She is also the author of three books about music, including her latest work, “Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records” Related links: Audio version of the Guardian article: "" (Audio longreads podcast, 29:01) Longer, original version of Amanda's article: "" — VQR, July 5, 2016
info_outline Episode 14: "The Tamir Rice Story" by Sean Flynn 11/07/2016
Episode 14: "The Tamir Rice Story" by Sean Flynn On this episode, I talk with Sean Flynn, author of “” The story appeared in GQ Magazine in July. The story looks at the aftermath of the tragic shooting of Tamir Rice in Cleveland on November 22, 2014, and how the system failed to hold police accountable for his death. is writer for GQ. He has also written for Boston Magazine, the Boston Herald, and Parade. Up next week: by Amanda Petrusich, about how it is increasingly hard for most of us to see the night sky.
info_outline Episode 13: "13, Right Now" by Jessica Contrera 10/12/2016
Episode 13: "13, Right Now" by Jessica Contrera This week, we look at “,” written by Jessica Contrera for The Washington Post in May 2016. “13, Right Now” explores how teenagers use social media and the mobile web, focusing one 13-year-old girl who lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C. It’s part of a series of stories in the Post — “The Screen Age” — which focuses on kids today who “have never known a world without smartphones and social media… what it means to grow up in an era where learning, flirting and hanging out all happens on screens.” is a staff writer at the Washington Post. Another must-read by Jessica Contrera: More stories from the “Screen Age” series in the Washington Post:
info_outline Episode 12: "The Minecraft Generation" by Clive Thompson 07/28/2016
Episode 12: "The Minecraft Generation" by Clive Thompson On this episode, I talk with Clive Thompson, author of “,” which appeared in the New York Times Magazine. It explores the phenomenon of the third-best-selling video game in history — a game that has more than 100 million registered players. Thompson looks at the cultural, intellectual, and psychological meaning of Minecraft’s popularity. He and I talk about how he approached the task of understanding and explaining the massive impact of this game on millions of children. is a longtime contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired. He is also the author of .
info_outline Episode 11: "My Autistic Brother’s Quest for Love" by Danielle Bacher 07/12/2016
Episode 11: "My Autistic Brother’s Quest for Love" by Danielle Bacher This week, I’ll be talking with Danielle Bacher about her story for Esquire: “." She explores her brother's challenges in finding a relationship that can last. has written for Rolling Stone, Esquire, Vanity Fair, Maxim, Men's Journal, GQ, Billboard, and LA Weekly.
info_outline Episode 10: "My Son’s Mystery Medical Condition and Our Family’s Brave New World" by Taylor Harris 06/10/2016
Episode 10: "My Son’s Mystery Medical Condition and Our Family’s Brave New World" by Taylor Harris This week, we take a look at ““ written by Taylor Harris for Narratively. is a writer and stay-at-home mom living in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, The Toast, Babble, and other publications. Next week: We stay focused on family with a look at “” by Danielle Bacher for Esquire. A great read — check it out.
info_outline Episode 9: "Coyote Bros" by Flinder Boyd 05/20/2016
Episode 9: "Coyote Bros" by Flinder Boyd “” by Flinder Boyd is about three hard-partying young men from Corpus Christi, Texas who made a small fortune smuggling illegal immigrants into the United States. Flinder and I talk about how he found this story and put it together for Rolling Stone. is a former professional basketball player who played 10 years in Europe. His writing has appeared in The Classical, Sports on Earth, Fox Sports, Newsweek, and BBC online. His story "" appeared in "The Best American Sports Writing 2014." Up next week: "" by .
info_outline Episode 8: "The Revolutionary Routine of Life as a Female Trucker" by Jessica Ogilvie 05/09/2016
Episode 8: "The Revolutionary Routine of Life as a Female Trucker" by Jessica Ogilvie This week we look at “," written by Jessica Ogilvie for BuzzFeed in March 2016. She profiles Melissa Rojas, a third-generation trucker who drives thousands of miles every week. We talk about how it went and what she learned along the way. is a regular contributor to LA Magazine, Playboy and LA Weekly. Her writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, VICE, The Hairpin, Complex, Conde Nast Traveler and LAist.
info_outline Episode 6: "Fight" by Dan Barry 04/19/2016
Episode 6: "Fight" by Dan Barry This week, we look at “," written by Dan Barry for The New York Times in March 2016. “Fight” tells the story of two fighters who faced off for their first professional boxing match, and the tragic result that followed. We talk about what it took to put together the story of what led both men into that ring, and what happened to the one who survived.
info_outline Episode 5: "The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous" by Gabrielle Glaser 03/28/2016
Episode 5: "The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous" by Gabrielle Glaser "" looks at AA (and related treatment programs for alcohol and drug addiction) and asks tough questions about whether it works as well as many believe, and if there are better, more effective alternatives. I talk with author Gabrielle Glaser about the challenges of reporting and writing about this controversial topic.
info_outline Episode 4: "A Million Little Boxes" by Oliver Roeder 03/21/2016
Episode 4: "A Million Little Boxes" by Oliver Roeder "" looks at the 39th Annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and the battle between two of the greatest puzzle solvers of all time. I talk about the story with writer Oliver Roeder from FiveThirtyEight.com
info_outline Episode 3: "The Long Fall of Phoebe Jonchuck" by Lane DeGregory 03/14/2016
Episode 3: "The Long Fall of Phoebe Jonchuck" by Lane DeGregory This week’s episode looks at “The Long Fall of Phoebe Jonchuck,” by Lane DeGregory for the Tampa Bay Times in January 2016.
info_outline Episode 2: "The Wreck of Amtrak 188" by Matt Shaer 03/07/2016
Episode 2: "The Wreck of Amtrak 188" by Matt Shaer This week’s episode looks at “,” written by Matt Shaer for the New York Times Magazine in January 2016.
info_outline Episode 1: "The Lonely Death of George Bell" by N.R. Kleinfield 02/29/2016
Episode 1: "The Lonely Death of George Bell" by N.R. Kleinfield "" tells the story of a man who died, alone, in his apartment in Queens, New York, and wasn't discovered until nearly a week later. It looks at what happened next, how people were affected by his death, and lastly, what we know about the life of George Bell.