On the Eve of a 50th Episode…

Life Stories: Recent GuestsAs I write this, I’ve posted four episodes of the Life Stories podcast in five days. They’re episodes 45 through 49 of the series, which I launched back at the start of 2012, and I’m a few hours away from going out and recording what will be the 50th interview (but with the 52nd guest), which I’ll post later that same day.

I’ve really enjoyed doing this podcast—interviewing writers has always been one of my favorite aspects of the whole Beatrice thing over the years, and I thought about doing a podcast for a long time, but I wasn’t sure at first whether I’d be able to find a focus tight enough to keep me alert and engaged over the long haul. If I was just talking about “books,” I figured I’d get overwhelmed by all the options, or try to cram too many authors in and flame out. Narrowing the show down to “memoir writers” turned out to be a great move: It’s a specific enough theme that I can always find an appropriate guest, but it’s also a diverse enough theme that I’ve had the opportunity to meet 52 amazing people with radically different, um, life stories.

If you’re reading this shortly after I post it in October 2013, for example, you may have listened to some of this week’s episodes—ranging from a 20-something woman recalling the father who committed suicide before AIDS could ravage his health, or a Pakistani-American journalist whose family saga is linked to the heart of their homeland’s identity, or a former book publicist who’s overcoming some of her most basic, life-limiting fears, or a humanitarian aid worker who’s spent the last decade in some of the world’s most troubled regions. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to be able to introduce people like them (and all the others) to you—or, if you’ve recognized some of the guests, to help you get to know them better. And I’m looking forward to continuing this podcast for another 50 episodes… just for starters.

Thank you to everyone who’s listened to these interviews, whether you’re getting them direct from Beatrice or you’ve decided to subscribe to the podcast through iTunes. If the latter, have you thought about rating and reviewing the series? It turns out that’s actually a big help in getting the podcast in front of other potential listeners—and that helps me reach out to more readers so I can tell them about the great writers I’ve been discovering just as I’ve been sharing them with you.

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25 October 2013 | housecleaning |

Life Stories #49: Jessica Alexander

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Life Stories: Jessica Alexander
photo: Amy Braithwaite

In Chasing Chaos, Jessica Alexander writes about her experiences as a humanitarian aid worker in places like Rwanda, Darfur, and Haiti—and how she and her coworkers coped with what they were facing in those situations, as well as the emotional and psychological difficulties she faced when she came back to the United States. We talk about that in this episode of Life Stories, the podcast series where memoir writers discuss their lives and the art of writing memoir, but we also talk about what she’s observed about the humanitarian aid process and how the resources we send to areas struck by war, famine or natural disaster might be better allocated.

Alexander’s working from New York City these days—and her work includes teaching the next generation of international relief workers; that’s one of the reasons she wrote Chasing Chaos, to provide a ground-level testament to what the life is really like. At some point in your life, she says, you have to assess your priorities: Do you want to focus on the excitement of moving from one hotspot to the next, or concentrate on nurturing stable emotional connections with those closest to you? And yet, she confesses, the urge to jump on a plane and go to the next big assignment can always flare up…

Listen to Life Stories #49: Jessica Alexander (MP3 file); or download this file directly by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click). You can also subscribe to Life Stories in iTunes, where you can catch up with earlier episodes and be alerted whenever a new one is released. (And if you are an iTunes subscriber, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast!)

24 October 2013 | life stories |

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