Why I Write

Why I Write podcast is produced by the National Council of Teachers of English and hosted by C.C. Chapman of "Accident Hash" fame. Why I Write is a bi-weekly podcast similar to Lifehacker's "How I Work" series in which we delve into the topic of writing by talking with authors from variety genres and methods to hear their take on writing and its importance both in their lives and how it should be important in each of ours.
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Nov 29, 2017

We all have those special friends who, when they tell us that we are going to love something, we trust them without question. That is how Justin Dillon came to be a guest on this podcast. A friend of mine knows that my heart and soul is with making the world a better place in any way possible, and that is what Justin’s first book, A Selfish Plan to Change the World: Finding Big Purpose in Big Problems, is all about.

Justin Dillon is an artist, entrepreneur, public speaker, and abolitionist. He is the founder and CEO of Made In A Free World, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending forced labor, human trafficking, and modern-day slavery through increased public awareness, action, and advocacy.

During the podcast, we covered a variety of topics around his theme of our purpose being to help other people. That is a powerful statement to make, but Justin is using his creativity and words to do exactly that with his life. 

In 2011, Justin founded the nonprofit organization Slavery Footprint. Partnering with the US State Department, they launched the site to answer the question, “How Many Slaves Work for You?”

When was the last time six simple words pulled at you so hard as that question? I encourage you to go to the site to find out the answer.

Justin Dillon is living proof that words matter and that when you back them up with action, amazing things will happen.

His work has been covered by CNN, the New York Times, Cosmopolitan, Fox, NPR, the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Fast Company, and others. Justin has spoken at the White House, the United Nations, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and many other venues.

We can’t wait to see how you use words to change the world after listening to the episode.

Nov 15, 2017

New York Times best-selling author Scott Sigler is the creator of fifteen novels, six novellas and dozens of short stories. 

Scott is the co-founder of Empty Set Entertainment, which publishes his Galactic Football League YA series. He lives in San Diego, CA, with his wee little dog Reesie. They’re both diehard Detroit Lions fans.

Oct 31, 2017

Young Bolaji O was a shy child in Nigeria when he fell in love with Spider-Man comic books and the hopeful power of storytelling.

Fast forward to him having children of his own. In addition to reading them books, he also made up stories for them. His wife was always encouraging him to write them down, and after being laid off from his job, he began to do so.

Bolaji O is the founder of Brave Little Heroes Media, a publisher of children's books and mobile games. He specializes in writing humorous and uplifting stories for brave little heroes.

We talked a lot about the familiar topic of needing books to serve as both mirrors and windows. He tries to make sure that every one of his superheroes and books keeps this need in mind, especially when he sets a story in a country that he might not personally know a lot about. He always tries to include lessons that kids can take away beyond his story.

I promised on the podcast that I’d share a link here to my friend’s movie Lemonade that shares stories of people finding inspiration after being laid off. You can also watch the full Lemonade: Detroit online if you wish.

Chatting with Bolaji O is an injection of positive energy! Swing by Brave Young Heroes to learn more about him, his over fifty positive kid superhero books, and his special school visits.

Oct 16, 2017

The very first sentence of Grant Faulkner’s bio reads “As a boy, I spent my allowance on all sorts of pens and paper, so there was never much question I would become a writer.”

Reading that, I knew we were going to have a fun conversation on the podcast.

Among many other things, Grant is the executive director of National Novel Writing Month. If you are not familiar with NaNoWriMo (as it is known by), every November tens of thousands of people from around the world take to their keyboards with the goal of writing a 50,000-word draft of a novel before they flip the calendars to December.

It appears that Grant enjoys challenging himself when he writes because he is also the co-founder of the literary journal 100 Word Story and has published a collection of one hundred 100-word stories titled Fissures.

On top of all the National Day on Writing resources that are available here for you, Grant and his team also provide a NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program that has everything teachers would need to spend the month of November writing with their students. All of this is completely free to those who want to use it.

I should add a special warning to this episode: if you’ve always dreamed of writing a novel, you might not want to listen to this one, because by the end of it your plans for the month of November may need to be changed.

Of course, we hope that this episode and every episode of the Why I Write Podcast will inspire you and those around you about the importance of writing and teaching writing. If you have suggestions for great future guests, please send us an email today.

Happy writing!

Oct 4, 2017

We all know that books make great gifts. When I fall head over heels in love with a book, I tend to buy copies for people I think will appreciate it and benefit from reading it.

This is how Lynnda Pollio’s book Trusting the Currents came into my life—as a gift from a friend who thought it was needed.

Lynnda was born in rural New Jersey and wandered through childhood feeling like she belonged somewhere else.

As an adult, she moved to New York City and began experiencing life from many new perspectives. After her father died, she heard a voice tell her to go to Sedona, Arizona, and that began a journey into spiritual awakening and the writing of her book Trusting the Currents.

Narrated by Addie Mae Aubrey, Trusting the Currents is a spiritual story of self-discovery—of faith, courage, forgiveness, and the uneasy search for one’s place in life.

Throughout the story her mother remains an unwavering source of love, even when fear and evil shake their lives. Unfathomable loss and rising trust in the “Invisibles” not only transforms Addie Mae’s budding life, but led to my own spiritual awakening.

I don’t want to spoil anything for readers, but you'll discover that the power of books plays a major role in the story. For this reason, as soon as I finished it I gave the book to my teenage daughter and encouraged her to read it.

Find out more about Lynnda and her work at

Sep 21, 2017
Kevin Smokler is a dear friend who changed my world when he asked me to be part of his panel at South by Southwest (SXSW) years ago, and since then our paths continue to cross. His latest book, Brat Pack America: A Love Letter to ’80s Teen Movies, has him visiting the actual locations where many of our beloved movies were filmed. If you enjoy The Goonies, The Breakfast Club, or Back to the Future, this book needs to be added to your must-read list. During the podcast, we discuss his love of writing and why it’s his preferred form of creative expression even though he tinkers with others. Kevin is the author of the essay collection Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven't Touched since High School, and we chat a bit about the books he was assigned to read in school but only appreciated later in life.
Classroom Connection

Kevin's book about "the classics" is written for adults who look back on books they read in school and consider reading them again later in life. Have students write a letter to a future-self about a book they've recently read in school, telling that future-self what the book means to them now and forecasting why it would be a good book for an older version of themselves to read. 

His work has appeared in the LA Times, Fast Company, BuzzFeed, Vulture, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Publishers Weekly, and on National Public Radio. In 2013 he was Book Riot’s first ever Writer in Residence. As a performer, he’s told stories onstage at events in San Francisco, Austin, New York, and Boston. Since 2007 he's been the host of Fray Cafe, SXSW's annual evening of live storytelling, which I’ve had the pleasure of attending as an audience member several times. Every time I chat with Kevin, I learn something new and leave inspired. I hope that after you listen to our conversation on this episode of #WhyIWrite, the same will be true for you as well.
Aug 24, 2017

You may recognize Byron Pitts’s name and face because he has been part of the American landscape for a number of years. He is currently the co-anchor of Nightline and the chief national correspondent for ABC News. In the past, Byron has served as the chief national correspondent for CBS News and contributing correspondent for 60 Minutes.

Byron’s newest book, Be the One: Six True Stories of Teens Overcoming Hardship with Hope, shares the heartbreaking and inspiring stories of six young people who overcame impossible circumstances with extraordinary perseverance. In dark circumstances, these six teens needed someone to “be the one” for them—the hero to help them back into the light. Through stirring interviews and his award-winning storytelling, Byron brings the struggles and triumphs of these everyday heroes to teens just like them, encouraging all of us to be the source of inspiration in our own lives and to appreciate the lives of others around us.

Our podcast conversation covered a variety of topics, including inspiration and the struggles he has faced in his own life with words. When the interview was over, I remember feeling as if I had spent the last hour catching up with an old friend, rather than interviewing someone I had just met.

Byron has received several awards, including national Emmy Awards for his coverage of the Chicago train wreck in 1999 and the attacks of 9/11. He also garnered recognition as NABJ Journalist of the Year in 2002 for his 9/11 coverage.

Aug 7, 2017

Laurie Halse Anderson is a writer known to many of you, but she was unknown to me until I walked into a panel at the 2016 NCTE Annual Convention about censorship and instantly appreciated her frank and blunt manor.

She explained to me on the podcast that “life is short. I don’t believe in hiding the truth.” When I discovered that she is a New Englander at heart, It all made sense.

Laurie is a New York Times–bestselling author who writes for kids of all ages. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous national and state awards, as well as international recognition.

Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists. Laurie was honored with the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award given by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) of the American Library Association for her “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.”

We chatted about her writing process and the long walks she takes when brainstorming. You’ll find interesting the role technology plays in these walks. I sure did.

She shares the story of her second-grade teacher’s role in making her appreciate the power of words, and she lets us know the best book she has read in the last decade.

Even though she was fighting a cold for this interview, we had a great discussion about many different things.

Jul 27, 2017

Several years ago, I was waiting to board a plane in Baltimore and passed the time reading a galley copy of Erika Napoletano’s soon-to-be-released book The Power of Unpopular: A Guide to Building Your Brand for the Audience Who Will Love You (and Why No One Else Matters).

A few chapters in, I found myself having to stop because the writing was good enough that it made me a bit jealous. After texting her to congratulate her on making me feel this way, I dove back in and finished it before landing at home.

One look at Erika’s timeline will showcase that she is far from the stereotypical reclusive writer.

She spent over eight years as an award-winning author, columnist, journalist, speaker, and business consultant before throwing most of it away in 2014 to return to a career in the performing arts.

Erika has been known to speak her mind and isn’t afraid to use adult language when sharing her thoughts.

As you’ll hear on the podcast, she has lived an interesting life and no matter what obstacles she has faced, words and writing have always played a major role.

To get a taste of her honest writing style, here is a piece of her official bio:

Now, you can find her in Chicago living with one dog, one cat, and one man who happens to look like Clark Kent, eschewing the struggling artist life for one that’s fueled by a fierce fire for and communing with others who find their joy in the arts.

Her favorite part of her life is that she spends more time doing things she loves than things she loathes. Learn more about her, preferably on an internet connection without a firewall (and her extensive tattoo collection) at

Jul 6, 2017

I first met author Jeff Goins in the back of a car on the way to the airport in Dallas.

We had both spoken at a large event in Texas and yet somehow hadn’t crossed paths before.

After the typical introductions and discussion of what we were working on, he reached into his bag and politely said, “I don’t usually do this, but I think you would really appreciate my latest book Wrecked based on what you just told me.”

He was right. I loved the book; it was also the book I needed to read at that moment in time.

Jeff is a writer, keynote speaker, and award-winning blogger with a reputation for challenging the status quo. He is the bestselling author of five books, including The Art of Work, which landed on the bestseller lists of USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly, and The Washington Post.

He doesn’t simply love writing. He loves writing to help other people achieve success.

Jeff’s latest book, Real Artists Don't Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age, is full of stories he has collected from a variety of different creative professionals to showcase how anyone can find success creating their art of choice.

We had a great conversation about writing, his days in a band, and being a father. I hope you enjoy listening to it.

Be sure to share this episode and others with anyone you think would love it. iTunes reviews are always appreciated.

Jun 23, 2017

Today we are excited to welcome award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson to the Why I Write podcast.

Our Annual Convention will be happening this November in St. Louis, and we are excited to have Jacqueline as one of our Keynote Speakers.

Register today so that you don’t miss out on any of the amazing content, meetings, and happenings.

Jacqueline is the bestselling author of more than two dozen award-winning books for adults, young adults, middle graders, and children.

Her New York Times bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming won the 2014 National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor Award, an NAACP Image Award, and the Sibert Honor Award.

She rightfully scolded me for not having read it yet. But after we finished recording I bought a copy, and it is waiting for me on my Kindle to read this summer.

Her most recent novel, Another Brooklyn, illuminates the formative time when childhood gives way to adulthood and renders a powerful, indelible, and fleeting friendship that united four young lives.

We chatted about her writing and books, but we also discussed what her kids are reading and what advocacy means to her.

She was packing for a weekend away with her family, so I’m thankful she had the time to talk to us for a little while before hitting the road.

Be sure you register to see her at our Annual Convention after listening to the episode.

Happy listening!

Jun 9, 2017

From the moment I first watched A Pep Talk from Kid President to You and heard the classic line, “Not cool, Robert Frost!,” I was a fan of Brad Montague and his writing.

Now, you may not have heard of Brad, but I’m betting/hoping you have heard of his most successful creation so far, Kid President.

But Brad is about more than one amazing project, and we had the chance to talk about all of this on this episode of the Why I Write Podcast.

We, of course, discussed the success of Kid President, but we also talked about his latest venture encouraging everyone to rebel joyfully through the Montague Workshop. This creative studio is on a mission to make media, experiences, and more that are full of wisdom, wonder, and whimsy.

What I love about Brad’s work is that he proves that all it takes sometimes to make a powerful statement is a few, well-chosen words. Watch his video A Balloon’s Story to see exactly what I mean.

May 5, 2017

I’m a self-admitted geek and love technology. So when the words of Daniel Suarez’s writing entered my world, I was better for it.

Daniel writes thrillers that focus on near-future technology and how it may be abused.

His stories target technology that you may have read about but haven’t experienced yet. Think about an autonomous Humvee attacking in Daemon, swarms of drones in Kill Decision, and genetically modified embryos in his newest book, Change Agent.

Daniel Suarez is a New York Times bestselling author who took his systems programming knowledge from working with Fortune 1000 companies and the encouragement of a college English professor to become one the most unique sci-fi writers out there today.

On this episode of the Why I Write podcast, we discuss how feedback on a college assignment was a piece of his publishing puzzle, and why it was important that he thank that professor when his first book hit shelves.

You may not think that writing code for years would help someone write better prose, but Daniel insists that it helps him. He equally credits years of leading campaigns in Dungeons and Dragons.

Daniel has a BA in English literature from the University of Delaware and lives in Los Angeles, California.

You can find out more about him and his work at

Mar 31, 2017

In the days following the Inauguration, I read The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet and instantly knew that I had to have Carmen Agra Deedy as a guest on the podcast.

Born in Havana, Cuba, she came to the US as a refugee in 1964.

Carmen grew up in Decatur, Georgia, where she still lives today. She has been writing books for children for over two decades and shows no signs of slowing down.

Over the course of her writing career, she has been nominated and won a variety of awards.  She is beloved by parents, teachers and children alike.

During our conversation, we discussed a variety of topics. I loved how open, honest, and direct she was. Her passion for story and writing shines through from the very first moments and lasted throughout our conversation.

After you listen to this episode of Why I Write, I encourage you to take another few minutes to watch Carmen’s TEDxCharlottesville talk Imagine a World Without Stories.

You can find out about her upcoming appearances, new books, and happenings on her website.


Mar 7, 2017

Over the course of my life, I’ve crossed paths with a variety of amazing people and one of those is journalist Ellen McGirt.

She is an award-winning business journalist specializing in long form profiles.

Currently, she writes a daily column covering race, culture, and leadership for Fortune called raceAhead. Every day when it arrives in my inbox, I stop whatever I’m doing and immediately read it.

During her time at Fast Company, she wrote a number of high profile cover stories about a variety of people including President Obama, Matt Damon, and Mark Zuckerberg.

We discuss all of this, the important role teachers played in her life, and the cross-country storytelling trip she took in the months following September 11th.

Sit down with us on Ellen McGirt’s back porch on a beautiful spring day  and find out why she writes.

Feb 16, 2017

Almost from the first moment of hitting record on this podcast, one name kept coming up as a must-have guest and that was Sharon M. Draper.

Sharon is a professional educator as well as an accomplished writer. She has been honored as the National Teacher of the Year, is a five-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Literary Awards, and is a New York Times bestselling author, with Out of My Mind staying on the list for almost two years.

On this episode, we talk about the importance of teachers being empowered to teach outside of set curriculums and her desire to have her books read outside of the month of February.

I enjoyed the honesty of our conversation and hearing her hopefulness around the future of kids loving to read.

She also shared the story of how a journal from her family’s past inspired her book Stella by Starlight which won the NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children in 2016.

I was excited to ask Sharon about how her book Copper Sun was selected by the US State Department and the International Reading Association as the United States novel for the international reading project called Reading Across Continents.

Students in the US and Ghana read the book and then visited each other’s countries. Talk about a perfect showcase for the power of literature.  

If you are looking for an author to be part of your National African American Read-In activities, Sharon Draper is a perfect choice. Not familiar with her work and need more convincing? Listen to this episode and I think you’ll have everything you need.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast in iTunes and to leave us a review so that others can see how much you are enjoying the show.


Feb 2, 2017

My path first crossed with David Moldawer’s when he hired my marketing agency to help with a social media push for a book he was working on at St. Martin’s Press.


Since then our paths have continued to cross in a variety of fun ways and today I’m excited that those paths lead him to being a guest on the Why I Write Podcast.


David is based in Brooklyn, New York, and he spent over a decade as a book editor at a slew of New York publishing houses acquiring and editing bestselling nonfiction in the areas of business, technology, health, and memoir.

Today, as an independent writer and editor he is keeping himself extremely busy.


I’m a big fan of his newsletter, Maven Game, because it always gives me something new to think about and his carefully chosen words never let me down.


He also helps aspiring authors find their voice through a variety of ways which you’ll hear about on the show and can find on the Bookitect site.


Being a successful writer is about so much more than having a great idea and David has spent his career helping take an idea and get it on shelves.


Listen and find out more.

Jan 19, 2017

Deborah WilesI need to make a confession to all of you before you listen to this episode.


Before attending the NCTE Annual Convention last fall, I had never heard of Deborah Wiles or read any of her work.


Shocking because I now know all the praise and awards her books have received over the years.


Born in Alabama into an Air Force family and spending her growing-up summers in a small Mississippi town with an extended family full of Southern characters. Today they live on in her stories.


The moment I heard her discussing her documentary novel Countdown and how she supplemented it with playlists, recipes, and biographies, I was intrigued. (It doesn’t hurt that the main character and I share a last name.)


This new approach to writing fiction, but filling it with large chunks of nonfiction, is something I have never seen before and I wanted to have her share it with all of our podcast listeners. I think you’ll find Deborah’s approach to writing and belief in the importance of learning to write your own narrative highly informative.


After you listen to the podcast, give yourself a treat by reading her “life notice” written by one of her characters from The Aurora County Trilogy. I promise, it’ll make you smile.


I wish her books were around when I was being taught English and history. They certainly would have made me enjoy those classes even more.




photo credit: Sonya Sones


Jan 5, 2017

Welcome to 2017!

I hope your holidays were full of smiles, time with loved ones and of course books!

To get the new year off on the right foot, I’m excited to release our latest podcast episode with bestselling author Seth Godin.

Seth’s writing includes talking about purple cows, meatball sundaes, the dip and tribes. He is considered by many to be one of the most inspiring writers in the business and marketing genre.

He believes that words on paper go to a special place in our brains and that physical books will never go away since books don’t beep.

To back this up his latest book, What Does It Sound Like When You Change Your Mind?, comes in at just over 800 pages and almost twenty pounds!

I have a lot of respect for Seth’s work ethic as he blogs almost every single day. When I asked him about it he simply said, “The cost of what we do is we have to show up.”

A solid reminder for all of us as we look at our New Year's Resolutions to be better and do more. We have to show up if we want to get anything done.

This episode is full of knowledge and inspiration to get your year off on the right foot.

Happy New Year and happy listening!

Dec 15, 2016

Nicole Blades sat down to take her LSATs and realized that practicing law was not how she wanted to spend the rest of her life.

She has been putting words to paper since a child and an English teacher encourage her to pursue this career.

All of those moments, combined with a conversation between her and a makeup artist on the set of a horrible talk show made her realize that journalism was the perfect way to be a writer as a career.

As with most writers, her career path was not a straight line. She has worked at Essence Magazine, ESPN and Women’s Health. She also has an ongoing successful freelance writing career.

Her latest novel, The Thunder Beneath Us, is now on bookstore shelves and we had a great conversation about the cover and wondering how and if it might change when the book hits International markets.

Listen in as we discuss literature censorship, the role of race in writing and her desire for more “reflective writing instead of diverse writing.” An idea that opened my mind in multiple new directions and one that I think will do the same to you.

Nicole and I both believe that we need stories and art more than ever.

A few links referenced in the show that you’ll want to be sure to visit once you are done listening.

Thank you for making the first months of this show a success and we’ll see you in 2017 with more great episodes.

Happy New Years and Happy Writing!

Dec 2, 2016

Matthew Ebel has always enjoy playing with his imaginary friends and as he grew older he went from simply talking to them, to sharing their voices with the world.


Currently based outside of Boston, Matthew is a singer songwriter who’s playful lyrics and powerful piano playing has entertained listeners around the globe. He has written a book, turned it into an album and continues to push the boundaries of technology to help make his writing better.


He was one of the first to embrace the podcasting scene back in 2005 and quickly became a fan favorite. His songs not only inspire, but also entertain.


Matthew discusses how all writing is challenging, but when you need a melody to fit a certain rhythm or to rhyme just right, it adds a new level of complexity that makes songwriting a bit harder.


One moment writing passionately about how This Song Will Have to Suffice for his partner and the next playfully singing about why Everybody Needs a Robot.


He answered the call for this year's National Day of Writing call by sharing this video so you get to see him in addition to hearing him on the podcast.



One of the goals of this podcast is to highlight writers from a variety of mediums and genres. Matthew might be the first guest on the show that you can support in iTunes, but I have a feeling he won’t be the last.

Nov 17, 2016

Fiction writers often feel a special connection to the characters they create.

Science Fiction and Fantasy author Katina French told us matter of factly, that she writes because the characters in her head won’t leave her alone otherwise. That by putting the words on the page it is the only way she can get them to shut up.

Like many writers, Kat doesn't have the luxury of writing fiction full time (yet). She has had a successful career in the copywriting, community building and marketing fields.

Kat proudly shared with us that she has been a paid writer since she was eighteen years old and that she knew she wanted to be a writer since she was five years old.

Recent works include "The Clockwork Republics Series," a set of steampunk retellings of classic fairy tales, as well as the space adventure serial Belle Starr.

Listen to hear why finding a writing group was so important to her and why she loves the challenge of writing short form flash fiction.

Nov 3, 2016

Jonathan Fields is a parent, entrepreneur and writer. He lives a purposeful life and loves sharing stories of others who do the same through his Good Life Project.

He was so committed to ensuring that his third book How to Live a Good Life was the book he (and his publisher) wanted it to be that Jonathan wrote three complete manuscripts before the book hit shelves and nightstands earlier this month.

We chatted about his belief that writing is an even more important skillset for our children than it was for us. He also shared his wish that more people would write with the intent of improving.

Do you agree? Are you committed enough to your words to start over from scratch not once, but twice, if the book wasn’t “it” yet?

Jonathan is committed to mastering the craft of writing and I hope our conversation will inspire you to be as well. He shares a well of knowledge from his experiences and you get to benefit from it.


We'd love to hear your feedback about the podcast, you can get in touch with us here:


Oct 20, 2016

“You Can Write.”

Those were the three words spoken by a ninth grade English teacher to set Brad Meltzer on the path to being a New York Times Bestselling author.

Known for his Washington, DC area thrillers and children’s “I Am…” books, Brad’s life was turned upside down when his father lost his job at thirty nine.

Losing everything forced them to move and his dad proclaimed “We are going to have a do-over of life.”

Brad is thankful for rule breaking teachers like his Miss Spicer who look out for kids who need help. They create the most powerful thing out there: ideas.

Listen to the inaugural episode of the Why I Write Podcast and find out about his love of Superman, writing speeches for the President and what happened when he went back and said, “thank you” to Miss Spicer.