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Conversations from the Sun Valley Writers' Conference - 2014

Journalist David Epstein

Marcia Franklin interviews author and award-winning sports journalist, David Epstein.

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Marcia Franklin talks with David Epstein, an award-winning sports journalist who wrote a bestselling book called The Sports Gene. The book delves into the often controversial research on what role genetics plays in the development of athletic talent. It also debunks the ways the so-called "10,000 hour rule" — a claim about the relation between hours of practice in a task and mastery of it — has been applied, particularly to sport.

Franklin and Epstein discuss why he wanted to write the book, the controversies surrounding genetic research, and some of his favorite case studies. Epstein, who was previously a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, now works for ProPublica, a nonprofit journalism center. Franklin asks him about why he wanted to make that career change.

Related Links:
The Sports Gene book site
Author page at ProPublica

Author Yiyun Li

Marcia Franklin talks with Chinese-American author Yiyun Li about her works.

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Marcia Franklin talks with award-winning Chinese-American author Yiyun Li about her works, the most recent of which is Kinder Than Solitude. The novel follows three former friends whose lives are forever entangled by a fatal poisoning one of them may have committed.

Li is also the author of another novel, The Vagrants, and two collections of short stories: Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, and A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, which won a PEN/Hemingway Award, the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, and the Guardian First Book Award. Two of the stories in A Thousand Years of Good Prayers were adapted into films directed by Wayne Wang.

Li, who came to the U.S. in 1996, was originally studying to be an immunologist, but fell in love with creative writing when she was getting her Ph.D. at the University of Iowa. She went on to receive an MFA in creative nonfiction from that institution, and an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

Her spare, beautiful and often dark prose has earned her the nickname of "the Chinese Chekhov." In addition to numerous awards for her short stories and fiction, she's the recipient of a MacArthur "Genius" grant. Her stories and essays have appeared in The New Yorker and the Paris Review. Li is also a contributing editor of A Public Space, a literary magazine. She teaches at the University of California, Davis.

Franklin talks with Li about why she decided to change her career path, the themes in her books, why she only writes in English, and the influence of author and Idaho native Marilynne Robinson on her work.

Related Links:
Yiyun Li's website

Representative John Lewis

Marcia Franklin talks with Rep. John Lewis about the American civil rights movement.

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Marcia Franklin talks with Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), the last of the so-called "Big Six" leaders of the African-American civil rights movement. Lewis was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1963 to 1966, and played a seminal role in some of the most important activities of the movement, including the Freedom Rides, the march from Selma to Montgomery and the March on Washington (at which he was the youngest speaker). He became a United States Representative in 1986.

During their conversation, Lewis and Franklin discussed his emotions on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act, the election of President Obama, what Lewis sees as current civil rights challenges, and his advice to the next generation.

The two also discuss a trilogy of graphic novels called March that he and a staffer, Andrew Aydin, are writing. The series illustrates the congressman's life in the civil rights movement. The first book hit #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers List.

In a Dialogue Extra, Franklin interviews staffer Aydin.

Related Links:
Rep. Lewis' US House of Representatives website
March book site

Dialogue Extra: Andrew Aydin

Marcia Franklin talks with author Andrew Aydin about the comic book series, ‘March.’

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Andrew Aydin, a staffer for Rep. John Lewis. Aydin and Lewis are co-writing a trilogy of comic books about Lewis’ life in the civil rights movement called ‘March.’ The first book hit #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers List. The two discuss why he wanted to document Lewis’ life, what he’s learned, and his own passion for civil rights.

Humorist Dave Barry

Rating: TV-G

Marcia Franklin talks with Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry about Idaho.

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Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry hams it up with Marcia Franklin, as the two talk about Barry's various misadventures in the Gem State — including tree-climbing, snowmobiling and trout fishing — and what he thinks the new motto for Idaho should be.

The two also discuss Barry's wildly successful writing partnership with Ridley Pearson on the Peter and the Starcatchers series. And Barry even serenades Franklin and the crew with an original tune.

Related Links:
Dave Barry's website

Gretel Ehrlich

Marcia Franklin speaks with author Gretel Ehrlich about her works.

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Wyoming resident Gretel Ehrlich is perhaps best known for her writing about the intermountain West, including her memoirs, The Solace of Open Spaces and A Match to the Heart. But the prolific writer has also made numerous trips to Greenland and the Arctic, documenting the changes in both the landscapes and cultures there due to climate change. Her books about that region include This Cold Heaven, The Future of Ice and In the Empire of Ice.

Ehrlich's most recent book, an outgrowth of her love of Japan and Buddhism, is Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami. In the book, she chronicles stories of survival and spirit in the devastation following the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan. Nearly 16,000 people died in the events.

Marcia Franklin talks with Ehrlich about why she was compelled to write the book, as well as her concerns about global climate change. The two also discuss her writing style, which combines personal observations with scientific knowledge, and her love of the American West.