Bookish: A Celebration of Books

Jun 27, 2016

We're trying something a little different today on the show. In nine short chapters, we present the life cycle of a book -- the cliff notes version. You'll hear tales, tips and anecdotes on all sorts of odd parts of the process - from pitching a publisher to crafting the perfect blurb, and everywhere in between.

So whether you're an aspiring writer, an avid reader, a constant procrastinator, or an audiobooks aficionado - there's a little something for everybody.  

Listen to the full show:


So you want to write a book – a memoir maybe.  But you’re staring at a blank page wondering where to start. One way to get the juices flowing? A prompt. Leaf Seligman teaches at Keene State College, and author of A Pocket Book of Prompts. And yes – it is literally pocket-sized.

Leaf has been collecting these prompts for years – she sees writing as a way to stir reflection and better understand the self. But a good prompt can also turn into something greater – a poem, or a memoir, or maybe even a novel.   


Maybe coming up with an idea isn’t your problem – maybe you’ve had an idea for a novel floating around in your head for years – maybe your first draft is already finished!  Now for the most intimidating part – pitching your idea to a publisher.  Well, we asked you to send in your 150 word book pitches – and in turn, we sent them to Michelle Brower, a literary agent with Zachary Shuster Harmsworth.  She picked her favorite three out of the bunch, and offers tips on what to do and not to when pitching your book.

Related: How to Pitch a Book Agent


In addition to hosting Word of Mouth, Virginia also hosts a podcast called the 10-Minute Writer’s Workshop – where she speaks with writers of all stripes about their process. She asks the same questions every time – because it’s interesting to understand how different writers approach their craft.  For example, few authors have the same editing process – they have different preferences about where to write, about how to do a first draft, on what makes a good editor - but nearly every author featured on the podcast agrees on one thing: The Internet is a terrible distraction.

Related: The Bookshelf


If you want to stay on task, maybe you need a different set of tools.  To make the case for an old-fashioned approach to avoiding distractions, Producer Taylor Quimby spoke with Rob Greene, an author, a teacher at Nashua High School South, chair of the New Hampshire Writers Project, and typewriter collector.


Imagine this: the book is done. The advance is spent. All that’s left are a few ancillary details – ancillary details that may inspire more agita than you could ever imagine.

In 2015, Max Wirestone was getting ready to release his debut novel – The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss – when he found himself facing what may be the most awkward part of the publishing process: The author photo.


With millions of books to choose from, many people look to others when deciding what to read.  That’s why we have book reviews, book clubs, bookstore staff picks, and blurbs.  Supposedly, the first blurb was written by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1855 and published the following year on the spine of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.

Whether or not these endorsements do much in the way of selling books is up for debate – but publishers aren’t likely to give up the practice any time soon. Still there’s one man who blurbs more books than just about any other– so much so, that he’s gained something of a reputation. A.J. Jacobs is a promiscuous blurber and author of The Year of Living Biblically, The Guinea Pig Diaries, and Drop Dead Healthy.


Over the past few years, we’ve had the privilege of watching our colleague Brady Carlson make the journey from public radio host to published author – from his weekend research trips, to conversations about publishers, to potential book jacket design.  His literary debut, which blurb-king A.J. Jacobs called “the funniest and most entertaining book about death you’ll read this year,” is called Dead Presidents: An American Adventure into the Strange Deaths and Surprising Afterlives of Our Nation’s Leaders. 

After it was published in February, Brady embarked on a journey few writers get to take nowadays – a national book tour. 


Katherine Kellgren has narrated more than two-hundred and fifty of audiobooks, and has won a number of Audie awards over the years – those are like the Oscars, but for audiobook narrators.  Or the Grammys?  Either way, she’s a big deal in the audiobook world. She’s done kid’s books, historical fiction, young adult, and science fiction. It’s just that sort of job that makes you have to ask, how does one become an audiobook narrator?

Related: What to Read Now: Summer Book Show 2016


Word of Mouth is produced by Molly Donahue, Logan Shannon, Jimmy Gutierrez, Senior Producer Taylor Quimby, and Executive Producer Maureen McMurray. The views expressed in this program are those of the individuals and not those of NHPR, its board of trustees or its underwriters. Word of Mouth is a production of New Hampshire Public Radio.  The End.

We want to see your shelfies! Follow this link to see ours and then share your own!