10-minute Writer’s Workshop

One of my favorite new (to me) podcasts is the 10-minute Writer’s Workshop produced by New Hampshire Public Radio I wasn’t aware that NHPR was a thing, but my first experience with them has been delightful and inspiring.

One thing I look for in a podcast is simplicity. Of the podcasts I’ve tried and moved on from, the single biggest turn-off has been a rambling host, which is the product of a lack of singular focus. That lack of focus is probably also the product of an ego-driven effort. One of the things that makes TMWW so great is the simplicity of their format and their strict dedication to focusing wholly on the featured guest.

As the title would indicate, it’s just a 10 minute show. The format is quite similar to that of the closing portion of Inside the Actor’s Studio with James Lipton. But instead of the questions from Bernard Pivot’s Apostrophes, they use a standard questionnaire of their own. It’s remarkable how well it works and how much rich insight, perspective, and inspiration come from the answers to a few quite simple questions.

A big part of the secret to TMWW’s success is the quality and variety of the writers interviewed—Judy Blume, Joe Hill (son of Stephen King), Salman Rushdie, Chuck Klosterman, James McBride, one professional annotated bibliography maker even. Another is the joy the interviewer, host Virginia Prescott, finds in eliciting the responses, because it comes through in the voices of the authors in the form of great eagerness to speak candidly. That joy flows to the listener as well (at least this one). She really does an outstanding job of expressing deep interest in every guest, and it just works impossibly well.

I’ve been amazed at how disparate these writers’ experiences and opinions have been (“I always write in coffee shops” vs. “I don’t understand how anyone can write in a coffee shop” is my favorite). The diversity of advice refreshes the spirit of a listening writer, because it helps to know there is no one way to write or one formula for success. The one common theme echoed in every episode, though, is the essential importance of just writing, and that mantra is bolstered with the encouragement that the writers who succeed are people just like you or me . . . or completely different from you or me. It’s a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it. It has helped me to commit to writing and reading regularly. The above links are to the Spotify version, but it’s also available for free on iTunes.

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