If you could read an interview with any living writer, who would it be? (Plus prompt)

Last year we rounded up Stephen King, Anne Tyler, Jerry B. Jenkins, Steve Berry, James Patterson, Brock Clarke, Rick Steves, Cory Doctorow, Lee Child, Gregory Maguire, Audrey Niffenegger and more, and this year we’ve featured the likes of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Sue Grafton.

I’m curious: Who would you like to see in a future issue of Writer’s Digest magazine?

Post your picks in the Comments section of the blog… who knows, maybe we’ll track them down for a chat on writing.

And now, back to seeking out the elusive and marvelous author I’ve been pursuing for more than a year—

Cellular Apologies
Feel free to take the following prompt home or post your response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below. By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional around-the-office swag drawings.

A stranger asks to borrow your cell phone. You agree. She turns away and talks on it for a moment, then faces you once more.
“I’m sorry,” she says, eyes red. “I’m so sorry.”
Then, she runs away.

King. Kerouac. Vonnegut. Hemingway. How to write a novel in 2010. An interview with Lawrence Ferlinghetti. A celebration of 90 years. Shiny silver ink. Best issue of Writer’s Digest ever? Click here to check it out.

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21 thoughts on “If you could read an interview with any living writer, who would it be? (Plus prompt)

  1. Sara McNulty

    I would love to see an interview with Ellen Gilchrist. I haven’t heard about any new work in quite a long time. Her books and short stories are excellent, well written, and strange.

  2. Dorraine

    As a side note: I’m joking about Rumi, of course. He’s been gone a good long time,but his poems are still so fresh and relevant. An interview with him would have been primo! 🙂

  3. Dorraine

    Okay, since you’re asking! A poet or two might be nice. Rumi perhaps? Now that would be slick.

    As far as authors, you’ve spotlighted some greats. I’ll throw in my quarters worth, though. Robert Morgan and Paulette Jiles.

  4. Karen Rock

    “Shivaz. Understand me.” I flipped my streaked blonde extensions and smiled brilliantly at my glowing reflection in a Tiffany’s window at Rockefeller Center.
    “I want the new Gucci bag today. Not tomorrow. And for damn sure not next Thursday. I don’t care if Michelle Obama is on the waiting list, no one puts Kenya Kincaid on a waiting list.”
    I punched off my phone and checked out some Manolo Blahniks in a boutique window. Did I have zebra prints in a five inch heel? I shrugged and entered. Either way, those rose petal flats were super cute.
    $3,000 dollars and five pairs of shoes later, I was starting to feel more like myself. That is, until I noticed a homeless man slouched on the sidewalk outside the doorway. What was the world coming to when even vagrants didn’t know their own place?
    “Better call the police darlings,” I commanded the sales help as I stepped over the breathing pile of rags. “You’ve got a waste of a life to dispose of.”
    I wasn’t three steps away when an exotic, well-dressed woman approached me. Normally, I wouldn’t have acknowledged her, but she was so expensively dressed. I didn’t want to be insulting- at least not until I determined her social status.
    “I’m sorry,” she asked in a blend of British and Eastern European tones. “I’ve lost my Blackberry and wonder if I might use yours to contact my driver?”
    I offered up my Blackberry. She held it close to her ear and spoke rapidly in some language I couldn’t identify. So much for private school education.
    She looked carefully at the cross streets, and then, in a strange move, punched in some sort of code before passing back the phone.
    Shockingly, mascara tracks flowed down her wet, expertly made up face. This was getting stranger by the moment. I started to back up.
    “I wouldn’t if I were you.” I froze. She continued. “I’m sorry. But one move and you and Rockefeller Center will be no more.” I looked up at the oversized Christmas tree, its colored lights blurring. Had it always been so beautiful?
    “Excuse me?”
    “You know. Ah. Blown up. I’m sorry. Now I really have to go.” The strange woman hurried off, melting into the crowd before I had a chance to scream for help.
    I looked wildly at the crowd streaming around me. One shove, and I’d be toast. My eyes lit upon the homeless man now swaying against the side of the shoe boutique. He staggered forward and looked as though he were about to careen into me. I closed my eyes. It was all over.
    His gnarled hand gripped the top of my Blackberry with surprising gentleness.
    “Call the police to start the evacuation. I’ve got it from here.”
    I shook my head. Salvation didn’t come this easily.
    “But what about you?” I gasped. “ You’re not going to make it.”
    “It’s my waste of a life,” he smiled crookedly. “Not yours. Remember?”

  5. Karen Rock

    John Irving Puhleeese- or Margaret Atwood. Both have new books out. In a perfect world, we could get Owen Meany on too- he’s just such a character- how could he be confined to a book?!

  6. Nathan Carriker

    Sorry if this seems unduly dark, especially since this is my first time with stuff like this, but this prompt struck me as having incredibly sinister overtones. I just couldn’t see a happy backstory here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! 😉

    Dennis Millbauer couldn’t believe it. Three flights this week and not a damned one on time. Would the airlines ever get their act together? This one had been looking good, but then the agent announced an aircraft “swap” due to another plane’s grounding. They were now awaiting a new aircraft.

    He paced between the decommissioned phone booths and the ladies’ room, watching alternately “his” old plane as it loaded and taxied away and the other unlucky, anonymous airport people.

    “People watching” had become his grudging new habit in the month he’d been traveling without his new, defective Blackberry. Having declined the “enhanced warranty,” he couldn’t get a loaner, and he couldn’t work without a cell phone, so he’d had to buy a pay-as-you go phone. Times were tough, and now, with this call he was putting off, he’d likely lose another deal.

    “Two, maybe tree weeks, they ship it back to you, Mista Meebaow, good as neew” the Indonesian guy at the cell phone store had told him.

    “I can deal with this,” he thought, “just have to buy a ‘Jihadi special.’ Still cheaper than that warranty thing was.” His livelihood on the line, he bought the store’s cheapest phone and swore he’d stick it somewhere even the hot Indonesian sun couldn’t shine if his wasn’t fixed soon.

    As he turned to pace toward the ladies’ room, a woman came out wearing perhaps the saddest expression he’d ever seen.

    “Jesus, she looks bad.” Healthy dark hair, a thin coat of high-end makeup smudged around her eyes, which had clearly been crying – and not just the workaday my-boyfriend-cheated-on-me kind. This chick looked like someone had killed her cat right in front of her a few days ago and then made her eat it.

    She was a little heavy, like she might have been pregnant recently, carrying the weight so low, but her look was impeccable, right down to the Gucci bag, and Lord, was that a rock on her finger. Somebody’d care if they knew she was in this bad a way, but at the moment, she was fresh out of friends.

    Dennis was still considering all of this and trying to decide whether to speak to her, since she was bearing straight for him and conversation was almost inevitable anyway. Before he could decide, she did.

    “Um, could I borrow your phone real quick?” She sounded like holding herself together for even that sentence was tough. Negotiation was out of the question.

    “Sure, looks like you definitely could use a ‘phone-a-friend.’ Anything else I can do?”

    She didn’t answer; just turned away from him, dialed, listened for a moment, and flipped it closed. She didn’t say a word, nor could the other party have said much to her.

    “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry…” With that, she handed it back and half-ran away, sobbing openly, blending fully into the crowd by the time the wreckage of the plane that was to have taken Dennis Millbauer to Peoria, began raining down.

  7. Martha W

    Tim LaHaye, for sure. While his Left Behind series with Jerry Jenkins was great – I fell in love with his Babylon Rising series. Wish he’d write faster.

    Geoff, typos and all – that was funny. *grin*
    Mark, Nice… as always.


    Sean sat against the wall of the fountain in Grant Park, watching the passersby. They moved like cattle, he thought. He let his head drop with a thud to the cold brick lining his back. Ellie was thirty minutes late. When would he learn?

    "Excuse me?" The lilting melody of a stranger’s voice broke into the mire of his thoughts.

    He turned his face upward to stare into softest brown eyes he’d ever seen. "Yes?"

    "Could I borrow your phone?" The lilt was now accompanied by a wobbly smile. Like she wasn’t quite certain of something.

    He studied her for a moment. Wavy blonde hair framed a pixie face, full lips nestled under a pert nose. Her skin was pale but the dusting of freckles gave her a sun kissed look. Blindly he stretched out his hand. "Here."

    She took the phone he held out for her and quickly dialed a number. Within minutes of starting the conversation her entire being began to tremble. She turned to Sean, eyes rimmed red. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

    And she rushed away.

    He leapt to his feet, determined to catch her. Before he could even move a step, cold reality splashed over him.

    "Who was that?" A harsh demand came from behind. He cringed as the judgment raked across his nerves. Had he thought this woman was his future?

    "I don’t know. You’re late, Ellie. Again." He kept his back to this one, kept the other in his sights as she collapsed on a bench by the iron sculptures.

    She sniffed. "I had to get my nails done."

    Sean turned to face her, taking in the too-tight clothing and platinum blonde hair. Was anything about Ellie real? "You know, I think we’ve run our course."

    Her eyes narrowed, pinning him with the hatred there. "What?"

    "Tell everyone you dumped me. But don’t call me again." With her profanity ringing in his ears, he walked away from his past without a single regret.


    He sat carefully on the seat next to her, not wanting to startle her. "My name is Sean."

    "So?" Her defiance came on a hiccup, defeating the desired effect.

    He grinned. "Yours would be?"


    "Well, Karen. I am honor-bound as a citizen of the great Windy City to offer my assistance. Is there something you need help with?"

    She raised teary eyes to look at him. "Why do you care?"

    Sean reached over and skimmed his fingers down her arm. He had to touch her. "Honestly? You seem to be in need of a friend… and a cup of coffee."

    She turned her head to follow the trail his hand made until he linked their fingers together. The beginning of a smile curved the corners of her mouth. "You’ll not take no for an answer will you?"

    He tugged her up and looped an arm around her to tuck her close to his body. "Nope. Besides, I have to keep you close. You still have my cell phone."

  8. Mark James

    Writer I’d love to see interviewed in WD: Neil Gaiman
    Geoff: That was good. Made me laugh out loud.

    Must be a newbie. After a century on the job, I could tell one a mile away. “And I should let you borrow my cell phone cause, why?”

    The girl in the red mini-dress and black patent leather spike heels bit her red lips, smoothed her hair back. Her make-up was perfect, like a cover girl for those magazines in supermarkets. “I need to make a call.”

    “Got that. Where’s your phone?”

    She looked past me, to the Saturday crowd down on the first floor of the mall. “Lost it.”

    She shifted from one foot to the other. I saw she wasn’t just a newbie; she was a kid, all dressed up. “Where’s the party at?”

    “What party?”

    “You tell me. You’re in the mall, strolling in shoes with heels high enough to be stilts, and fixed up like you’re going to your senior prom. What gives?”

    Her face flushed deeper red than her dress. “I’ll ask someone else.”

    I grabbed her arm before she could get away. “Here.” I held my phone out.

    She took it, stood there looking at me. When she saw I wasn’t going anywhere, she turned her back on me, walked away.

    I only saw her dial one digit, and it was too high on the keypad to be ‘O’. Definitely a newbie. I waited a couple minutes before I stopped her. “Hey. Who’d you call?”

    She turned around so fast, she almost fell off the stilts she was wearing. Her eyes were all red, like she’d been crying the whole time her back was to me. “I’m sorry,” she said. “So sorry.”

    She slipped her shoes off, jumped over the banister. No one in the crowd saw her land on her bare feet and take off like a track star.


    I caught up with her in the parking lot. She was picking glass and rock out of her feet. “It still hurts when you do stupid stuff,” I said.

    She made like she was gonna run again. I flew behind her, so when she turned around, I was already there. She backed up. “All I did was make a phone call.”

    Her mascara was running. “You don’t need make-up anymore. Just think it, and you’ll look how you want.”

    “It’s that easy to tell?”

    “I’m guessing about a month. Maybe two?”

    She wiped at her face, left black streaks. “I called my house. I know we’re not supposed to contact loved ones, but – – ” She looked up at me. “I just wanted to hear my mom’s voice, you know?”

    “You’re making it harder on yourself.”

    “I didn’t make it home from my prom. First time I ever wanted to hear mom yell at me.” She tried to laugh a little, but it turned into a sob. “She couldn’t hear me.”

    “Nobody in that world can hear you anymore, Casey.”

    “How come you know my name?”

    “Guardian. And you committed a Forbidden Act.”

    Her shoulders sagged. Her wings drooped. Fresh black tears spilled down her face. “Now what?”

    I healed her feet, fixed her make-up, and put my arm through hers. “Let’s go to McDonald’s. Good place to talk about eternity, and other stuff that doesn’t make the papers.”

  9. Geoff Hoff

    William Goldman, Orson Scott Card and Neal Stephenson in that order.

    Writing Prompt:
    She had sad eyes and unkempt hair.

    "Can I borrow your phone for a moment?"

    I had just finished a call to my office, so it didn’t seem too much of a bourdon. She thanked me and turned away slightly as she dialed, then briefly chatted. The call took no more than fifteen seconds, then she handed it back to me.

    "I’m sorry, so sorry," she said, her eyes turning red, then turned and ran.

    Odd. I looked down to see what number she had dialed. It was my office. She’d hit "redial". Even odder, I thought, and called my assistant again.

    "Harold, did someone just call you?"

    He sounded cold. Very unusual. He was usually the friendliest person in our office, helpful and funny.

    "There aren’t any messages," he said and hung up.

    As I drove to the office, I got madder and madder. A random act of kindness and now I have to clean something up, and I don’t even know what it was. My driving became more and more aggressive. Luckily, I wasn’t far from the office, but I did nick the car against the concrete post right next to my parking space. That didn’t make me any happier.

    The ride up the elevator ride up was excruciating. Harold was typing when I got to his desk. He looked up blankly and took the headphones off. I could hear his foot come off the pedal of the Dictaphone machine.

    "Did a strange lady call here?" I said.

    He just stared at me.

    "What did she say?"

    He breathed in. It was obvious he was having trouble not clenching his jaw.

    "She said that she was the one you are having the affair with."

    Everything stopped. I’d been married for a little over a year. I’d never strayed during our marriage nor our courtship. It had never occurred to me. My mind was racing, trying to find ways to defend myself against this outrageous accusation. I stammered some nonsense syllables, then clamped my mouth shut.

    Harold burst out laughing.

    Confusion burst up my spine and spilled into the skin of my face, which must have turned dark red. Confusion and anger. I didn’t say anything, because I wasn’t sure anything I could say would be appropriate for the a boss to say to his assistant.

    Harold picked up the phone.

    "It worked. Come on out."

    The lady, the one who had borrowed my phone, came out of the office kitchen. Her eyes were no longer sad. She had a merry glow about her, her face seemed flushed, but proud.

    "This is Margaret," Harold informed me. "We’re in acting class together."

    I hate Los Angeles, I thought.

    "We were conducting a Guerilla Theatre exercise," Harold continued, "to see if we could effect a total stranger. This weekend, I’m tailing her husband."

    I went into my office to call personnel. It will be hard training a new assistant. Harold was such a good typist. I hope Margaret’s husband divorces her.

  10. Beth Bartlett

    Terry Pratchett. I would love to read an interview with him. Heck, I’d love to DO an interview with him, but I’d probably be gobsmacked and stunned silent…after Douglas Adams’ passing, he’s the only writer alive that leaves me starstruck with his talent.


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