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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Now displaying: 2017
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!