WNIJ Read With Me

WNIJ's "Read With Me" archive collects dozens of interviews with authors from the WNIJ area -- northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

On the third Monday of each month, Morning Edition host Dan Klefstad talks with an author about their latest book, and asks them to read an excerpt. Many of the interviews below feature an additional excerpt reading captured on video.

We hope you take the time to read the books featured here. And if you talk about them on social media, please use #WNIJReadWithMe.

WNIJ is re-visting the "Read With Me" library for some summer reading. One novel about a coach for the Chicago Cubs, The Clubhouse Thief, seems ripe for a second look with the Cubs leading the National League Central Division. Here's an encore presentation of our interview with author James Janko.

Editor's note: Our original interview with Marnie Mamminga was published in June, 2013. The author returned to the WNIJ studios in July, 2018, to add the video excerpt below.

450 miles. That's the distance Marnie Mamminga's family traveled every summer from suburban Chicago to their cabin in northwest Wisconsin.

Mamminga recalls the cabin, and the long journey it took to get there, in her memoir Return to Wake Robin: One Cabin in the Heyday of Northwoods Resorts.

The Mission to the Stars series about faster-than-light (FTL) travel begins with a family tragedy. Married couple Jeff and Jennifer Bindl are killed while testing the first spaceship designed for FTL speed. When news of the ship's demise reaches Earth, the Bindls' four sons are left to carry on the mission started by their parents through their company Space Tech.

The "Back of the Yards" is a neighborhood near the old Chicago Stockyards. Since the early 20th Century, it housed immigrants who processed meat in the city that Carl Sandberg dubbed "Hog Butcher for the World" in his poem "Chicago."

Author Sandra Colbert grew up in this neighborhood in the 1950s and '60s, when it was largely Polish and Lithuanian. Her book Chicago Bound re-creates the lives of these residents through short stories that capture their grit, prejudice, violence and dreams.

One day you're an attractive secret agent. The next day you can't look into a mirror without feeling disgust. That's the basic premise of Seven-Sided Spy, a Cold War thriller featuring a trio of CIA agents and their KGB counterparts.

This debut novel by Hannah Carmack is our Read With Me selection for April.

Few people know Peter Pan like Andrea Jones. She loves the 1953 animated Disney classic, plus Mary Martin's and Sandy Duncan's portrayals of the flying forever-boy.

She's also deeply familiar with J.M. Barrie's original 1904 play, Peter and Wendy, and the 1911 novelization. So when Universal Pictures released a live-action film in 2003, Jones was skeptical.

"I said to myself, 'Why do we need another Peter Pan retelling'. But I went with my son, who was young at the time," she said.

Not long ago, the waters off Door County, Wis., had a reputation for danger. Door County gets its name from Porte des Mortes -- French for "door of the dead" -- and for good reason; there are dozens of shipwrecks along the peninsula.

The most recent wreck occurred in 1928.

When a poet writes a novel, it's natural to expect the story to include a poem or some reference to poetry. For her debut novel, poet Marydale Stewart uses a 10th Century verse, "The Wanderer," as a symbol for one of her main characters.

Stewart's book, The Wanderers, is our Read With Me selection for December.

There's a phrase that comes up when discussing Southern literature. You might've heard it:

The South is a place; East, North and West are merely directions.

This will make sense to anyone who has read To Kill A Mockingbird or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Authors like Harper Lee and John Berendt take you to places with distinct voices, characters and surroundings. You can hear the accents, feel the prejudice, and picture the unique landscape and architecture.

David W. Berner's latest book is about a song he wrote for his children and his journey to perform it for the first time in public.

Berner's composition, a finalist in a national contest, is the star of October Song: A Memoir of Music and the Journey of Time. His book is our Read With Me selection for November.

For National Literacy Month, WNIJ dug into the archives for one of our more popular "Read With Me" interviews. Today's feature originally aired Oct. 16, 2017.

An episode of the 1960s sitcom Bewitched perfectly describes the author-character relationship, according to Linda H. Heuring.

A Fine Line is a novel featuring Sebastian Drake, a former reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

A Fine Line is also the name of Drake's novel, which features Jack Cannon, a cop struggling to keep his job with the Chicago Police Department.

On her "Medicare Birthday," author Marnie O. Mamminga celebrated by swimming to an island in Big Spider Lake near Hayward, Wis.

No easy feat for a 65-year-old.

The lake, where Mamminga spent nearly all of her birthdays, is home to Wake Robin, a cabin her grandfather built in 1929. The vacation home, made of tamarack logs, is the setting of Mamminga's first book Return to Wake Robin: One Cabin in the Heyday of North Woods Resorts.

Pick up The Marvelous Paracosm of Fitz Faraday and the Shapers of the Id, and you might guess it involves psychology with words like "paracosm" and "Id." But the phrase "Shapers of the Id" is a clue that we're about to enter the world of parapsychology -- specifically, shaping an Id with the aim of creating one's own paracosm.

"Every human being is an archeological site. What passes for roots is actually a matter of sediment, of accretion, of chance and juxtaposition."

This quotation from writer and critic Luc Sante is a subtle prompt for us to dig into our own past for clues about meaningful experiences.

For NIU Professor Joe Bonomo, that "archeological site" is littered with music.

Wisconsin Village At Epicenter Of Presidential Campaign, Gay Marriage Debate

This could be the headline of a Leo Townsend article about the conflict in his hometown of Endeavor, Wis.

The fictional reporter might include his efforts to get an exclusive interview with the first openly gay man who's a serious candidate for the White House. Leo might add details about his family's failing farm -- plus his troubled relationship with his father and a secret kept by his younger brother Eddie.

Mike Doyle wasn't in Belvidere on April 21, 1967. The Rockford native was a freshman at UW-Whitewater when an F4 tornado ripped through Boone County.

But Doyle's been living with that twister for years.

His book, The Belvidere Tornado, was first published in 2008. It tells the stories of people who survived the storm, and the 24 who didn't.

When Doyle finished the manuscript, he got up from his desk and walked into the living room.

When Christine Sneed begins a story, she never knows where her characters will take it.

"Usually I'm about halfway through and I still won't know what's going to happen at the end," Sneed says, "but I have some sense of where I'm going."

The award-winning author has the experience to avoid early-draft pitfalls, and shares this knowledge with her students at Northwestern University and Regis University.

The next four years will be very good for poetry.

That's according to Susan Azar Porterfield, who says our nation's current political divisions echo previous tempests, which sprouted an abundance of biting verse.

In 2003, Robert Bly, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and more than 8,000 other poets submitted their work to a global movement opposing the Iraq invasion. The book Poets Against the War collected 262 of those poems.

"You can take the girl out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the girl."

We've all heard this, which is why it's refreshing to find a story that shows the opposite.

Rachel Raines is the protagonist of Small Town Roads by L.B. Johnson, one of our Read With Me selections for this month.

In a story about an alcoholic teen and the twin brother who covers for her, who's the protagonist?

"I have people come up to me and, in some cases, they say alcohol is the protagonist," author Kathleen Tresemer says. But, in an interview with WNIJ, she hints that the twins' co-dependent relationship may be the real main character of her novel, Time in a Bottle.

The book is one of four Read With Me selections for February.

A Pause For Poetry

Jul 22, 2016
Dan Klefstad

Recently, it seems like familiar fault lines are reappearing in American society:

Divisions involving race.

Violence involving police and their local communities.

Concerns about immigration.

Questions about where each of us stands in relation to our neighbor.

Poet Susan Azar Porterfield also has been thinking of this and recorded two poems for WNIJ which speak to this moment.

Aaron Sitze's new book will not help you pass a course in U.S. History. In fact, you'll fail if Sitze's book is the only one you read. But The Andrew Jackson Stories provides an entertaining lesson in Newtonian physics, among other things, and encourages you to keep talking to your plants.

We'll get to those items in a bit. First, Sitze explains his fascination with Andrew Jackson and other famous presidents.

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