Miller Aud-cast Episode 25

Hello everybody, we’re back with our 25th episode of the Miller Aud-cast. I continue to be Marc McKee, managing editor of the Missouri Review, and I’m pleased to be here with you, now, in the 4000th Tuesday to take place in the last two years. It’s an honor today to present the latest finalist in the Humor category for the 2021 Miller Audio Prize, “All My Visits to the GAP, in No Particular Order,” from Marissa Castrigno.

Marissa Castrigno lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, where she’s an MFA Candidate in Creative Nonfiction. She reads for Ecotone Magazine and serves as a contributing editor at Shenandoah. Her work has appeared in PANK, Kissing Dynamite, Memoir Mixtapes, Eater NY, and others.

Stay tuned after the piece for a conversation about it between me and contest editor Bailey Boyd.

Stay tuned for Miller Aud-cast #25, coming soon. Thanks also to the Missouri Review contest editor, Bailey Boyd, and to Patricia Miller, for her generous support for the Miller Audio Prize.

Don’t forget: we’re accepting entries for the 31st Annual Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize, and those who submit during the first two weeks in August will be invited to a special virtual Zoom session with the editors later in August or September. Find out more details about the contest here.

Finally, TMR is open for submissions year-round, and we remain dedicated to discovering and publishing the best contemporary writing in fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Be heard. Give us the opportunity to discover you: subscribe or submit your work today!  Learn more at

Miller Aud-cast Episode 23

Hello everybody, we’re back with the 23rd Episode of the Miller Aud-cast to share with you all “Love Tunnels,” a finalist for the 2021 Miller Audio Prize in Audio Documentary, written and directed by Malgorzata Zerwe and David Zane Mairowitz.

Here’s what they have to say for themselves:

“We are both radio free-lancers, we’ve worked in and for many countries, separately and together, and we like to keep our microphones open and ready whenever we can. In 2011, we found ourselves on a car trip from Denver to San Francisco, lasting about four weeks, and with a stopover in Las Vegas to “legitimise” (not our word) our relationship. Right away we decided to talk to and record anyone along the way who had anything poignant to say about the marriage ritual, among others a Native American Navajo horse-tamer, Colorado Bible-preachers who wanted to marry us in their hotel, as well as a tour guide in Taos who filled us in on D.H. Lawrence’s stormy marriage there. This became our Radio Road Movie, which includes our recordings in Vegas itself, attacked by wedding sharks on the street and embarrassed by a kitschy wedding sermon conducted at the open window of our muddy rental car. The current piece is a truncated version of a longer feature.”

Stay tuned for Miller Aud-cast #24, coming soon. In the meantime, DO NOT SLEEP: submissions are open now for the 2021 Miller Audio Prize. Learn all about it at our website. Thanks also to the Missouri Review contest editor, Bailey Boyd, who joined me for this Aud-cast, and to Patricia Miller, for her generous support for the Miller Audio Prize. Finally, TMR is open for submissions year-round, and we remain dedicated to discovering and publishing the best contemporary writing in fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Be heard. Give us the opportunity to discover you: subscribe or submit your work today! Learn more at

Miller Aud-cast Episode 19

Hello and welcome to Miller Aud-cast, Episode 19. In this episode, we feature “Letter to an Israeli Soldier,” by Emily Franklin.

Emily Franklin’s is the author of more than twenty novels. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Guernica, New Ohio Review, Cincinnati Review, Blackbird, EpochThe Rumpus, and Cimarron Review among other places as well as featured on National Public Radio and named notable by the Association of Jewish Libraries. Her debut poetry collection Tell Me How You Got Here was published by Terrapin Books in 2021.

Find her at:

Twitter:  @efranklinauthor


Stay tuned for Miller Aud-cast #20, coming soon. We hope you’ve been enjoying the Aud-cast, and remember: if they’ve inspired you to record your own creative work, whether in poetry, prose, humor, or audio documentary, submissions are open now for the 2021 Miller Audio Prize. The deadline for this year’s contest is June 15. Learn all about it at our website. Thanks also to the Missouri Review contest editor, Bailey Boyd, intern Olivia Douglas, and to Patricia Miller, for her generous support for the Miller Audio Prize.

Finally, TMR is open for submissions year-round, and we remain dedicated to discovering and publishing the best contemporary writing in fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Be heard. Give us the opportunity to discover you: submit your work today!

Miller Aud-cast Episode 4

Hello and happy New Year: this is Miller Aud-cast #4. This time out we feature Vivien Schüetz’s submission in the Audio Documentary category, “Not In the Cards.”

Vivien Schüetz is an independent audio producer from Germany living in Brooklyn. She studied Journalism and Radio Art in Germany and is now an independent radio journalist for German public radio and podcasts. Her microphone gives her the chance to peek into ordinary people’s lives. She is currently working on a documentary about orthodox women in Brooklyn who push boundaries. Find her at or on Twitter @vivienschuetz.

In “Not in the Cards,” we meet Robert, who lost his sight at birth, as he reflects on growing up blind, coming to the realization that he was gay, and what these realities would mean for him. Sometimes hearing him in conversation with his helpers, and mostly hearing from him directly, this is a deeply humane and empathetic listen to a very particular existence: listen on as “Bob” gives us the opportunity to hear what his life is like in his own words.

Thanks to Vivien Schüetz for bringing us this life. Special thanks to Robert, who Schütz wants you to know that you can reach out to, if you like, at harlynn [at] Thanks also to the musicians who contributed to the production of the piece: Colin Stetson / (“And It Fought To Escape”), Blue Dot Sessions / (“Rubber Ball Machine,” “Ultima Thule”), Bexar Bexar / (“Kt”) and The Album Leaf / (“The Light”). Click on the links in the show notes to discover more about them.

Stay tuned for Miller Aud-cast # 5, on its way next week. Thanks also to the Missouri Review contest editor, Bailey Boyd, and to Patricia Miller, for her generous support for the Miller Audio Prize. Finally, TMR is open for submissions year-round, and we remain dedicated to discovering and publishing the best contemporary writing in fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Be heard. Give us the opportunity to discover you: subscribe or submit your work today! Learn more at

What the "Serial" Podcast Teaches Us About Writing Novels

By Michael Nye

“Do you listen to Serial?” is a question I’ve been posing to people almost daily for the last two weeks. I was late to the party—I often am—but now I’m fully caught up and all aboard on this new podcast, a spinoff from This American Life. If you’re unfamiliar, Serial is a new weekly podcast about an old Baltimore murder case. In 1999, a teenage girl, Hae Min Lee was murdered, strangled to death, and her body dumped in Leakin Park. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was convicted of her murder, primarily on the testimony of his friend Jay. The podcast is reported by Sarah Koenig, who takes the listeners, week by week, through the investigation of the crime, the main characters, the evidence, and her own doubts about her work in an attempt to answer this question: was Adnan Syed really the person who murdered Hae Min Lee?

The show is captivating, and online, it’s been discussed the way shows like the Walking Dead or Mad Men are: broken down each week, dissected, questioned, and theories abound regarding what happened and what angle each character is playing. Sometimes, it seems like people forget this is real, rather than a fictive world.

In the 21st century, we don’t just sit back and enjoy: we engage. Sports fans seems as interested in how a team is built (trades, drafts, free agency, etc.) as they are interested in whether or not the team wins. Same is true of our narrative art. Fan fiction, spinoffs, and endless “think pieces” galore. A super fast zip through the we has all sorts of questions about Sarah Koenig, the two biggest wondering if she believes Syed is actually innocent and, either way, what exactly is her relationship with him. The second of this questions is addressed by Lincoln Michel by reminding us that the ethics of journalism into murder cases has been written about, wonderfully, years ago. Given that these are real events, should you be enjoying this podcast as much as you are? Or, have you thought about what it means when “a white journalist stomps around in a cold case involving people from two distinctly separate immigrant communities?

These are just a few of the many pieces about Serial; there are others, perhaps better ones, but hey, how many links can I throw up here in just one paragraph? I have my own to write!

Whatever concerns or worries one has with Serial, it has been a tremendously successful and captivating podcast. A captivating narrative. It hooks you in, gets you eager to listen to the next episode, and keeps you thinking about what you’ve just heard long after the episode is over. Isn’t this exactly what we try to do with novels?

Since my novel (attempt number four!) is working its way through agents’ Inboxes as I write this, the question of what makes a narrative effective is on my mind. And, since my novel is in first person and involves a murder, Serial has naturally got me thinking about how it compares to novels. Perhaps incomplete, but here are a few Serial-novel comparisons that I’ve been thinking about.

Who is the narrator? The answer in Serial is pretty clear: Sarah Koenig. What is less clear is what she is about, what she is interested in, her thoughts on guilty or innocence that sometimes spring to the surface. She’s familiar to any listener of This American Life, and has the educated, pleasantly skeptical, warm personae of public radio.

Novels do the same thing: a voice pulls you in, whether it is in first person or third person. Trust is established. But it can also be undermined. Any writer will tell you that every first person narrator is unreliable, by definition. You can’t always trust third person, can you, Atonement?

Novels have two storylines. Serial has two clear ones: who is the narrator, and did Adnan kill Hay? These are the two most obvious ones, but there are others that would certainly enter your mind as a Serial listener: why would Jay lie, what did the police screw up (if they did), how did the jury convict so fast (two hours), and numerous others … all of which get back to those first two storylines.

In novels, it might not be nearly as neat. But there always seems to be two storylines at work in great novels. In first person, who is the narrator? will always be one (me thinkth), but a great novel might also just run with two narratives on the page, the action, the plot, that keeps the reader going. One should be enough, you might think … but it really isn’t. Any good novel has two strong threads – at a minimum – running through it.

Be a pageturner. The structure of Serial is genius: thirteen podcasts, the first one an hour, the rest a little over thirty minutes. Even if the show doesn’t hang on a complete cliffhanger, there is always a tease to what is coming next, or might be coming next, in just seven days.

Even though your brain loves chapters, it isn’t enough to just slap a new chapter into a novel. There is a logic and reason to it. Serial has structural and temporal constraints, but it’s still excellent at 1. Wrapping up what it said this week’s episode is about and 2. Emotionally leading you into the next episode.

It’s out of your hands. What’s the difference between Hunger Games and all the other YA novels? What’s the difference between Jodi Picoult and other books in the very broad category of “chick lit”? Why was Emma Donoghue’s big hit her seventh book?

I’m sure you could come up with a few reasons, and I’d like nod along and think “Sure, yeah, that might explain it.” But for the most part, there is a shrug and palms turned upwards. Who knows? William Goldman once said “No one knows anything” and he knows quite a bit about writing. Good work flops, bad work hits. Why? Dunno.

There is plenty of criticism of Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch,” which was very popular around this office, for a wide-range of flaws: tortured metaphors, endlessly long, a pedantic ending, and so forth. All of which I thought, yes, that’s true. But I still loved the book. If art was a series of easy formulas and algorithms, anyone can do it. Sometimes the mess is what makes it great.

There Will Be Criticism. A bit of a compendium to the above, but no book or podcast or whatnot is going to be above criticism. Someone will hate it. Someone hates To Kill a Mockingbird. Someone hates Zadie Smith. Someone hates Jimmy Stewart, Kermit the Frog, ice cream, and sunsets (hopefully not the same person: that would be one miserable dude to be around). Nothing is perfect.

There is always valid criticism that might bring a writer back to square one (or, I dunno, draft four). Understanding the difference between genuine, useful responses and vitriol develops over time. We all learn to say “Oh, I hadn’t thought of that” or “That’s just, like, your opinion, man …” when it comes to our writing.

All good artists love other art. At a simple writing level, good novelists read poetry, and vice versa. But writers also love film, music, sculpture, all forms of creativity and thought and questioning. And as a writer, I gravitate toward the journalism and storytelling that gets wrapped together in radio and podcasts. Whatever flaws there might be in the form, I’ll keep listening, and keep borrowing what I learn into my writing. That’s just what we do.

Follow Michael on Twitter: @mpnye

TMR Podcast: Rachel Yoder, "The Thing at the Foot of the Bed" (2009 Finalist)

On this Missouri Review podcast, we present “The Thing at the Foot of the Bed” by Rachel Yoder, a finalist in our 2009 Audio Competition. Look for more audio winners throughout the month of March!

Listen here: .

2009 Audio Competition Winners Podcast Series Begins

We’ve just posted the first episode in our four-part podcast series featuring the winners of our 2009 Audio Competition. On this episode, we present “Lucy and the Bike Girl” by Hillary Frank, a finalist in the competition. Lucy, a 28-year-old with cystic fibrosis, meets the “Bike Girl,” who has the same disease, in an internet chat room. They are both, against the advice of friends and doctors, trying to get pregnant. They quickly become friends but can never meet in person, because the Bike Girl carries a bacteria in her lungs that is toxic to anyone with cystic fibrosis. This piece is an experiment in combining fact and fiction. The interview tape is all from a real interview; the narration is semi-ficitonal.

Hillary Frank is a freelance writer and radio producer, whose work has aired on This American Life, Weekend America, Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Day to Day, Studio 360, Marketplace, and Chicago Matters. She has won awards for her radio stories from the Third Coast International Audio Festival, the Association for Women in Communications, and the National Mental Health Association. She is the author and illustrator of the novels Better Than Running at Night, I Can’t Tell You, and the forthcoming The View from the Top.

Lisa K. Buchanan reading on KQED's "The Writer's Block"

Lisa K. Buchanan, who was our first runner-up in the voice-only creative non-fiction category of our 2007 Audio Competition, can currently be heard on the KQED’s “The Writers’ Block” reading her winning entry to Opium Magazine’s 2007 “Bookmark Contest” in which authors had to submit a 250-word story that could be printed on a bookmark. You can listen to this episode of “The Writer’s Block” here.

You can also listen to Lisa’s winning entry in our audio competition on our podcast.

TMR Podcast: Audio Winners Series Wrap-Up

We’ve now concluded our podcast presentations of the winners of our 2007 Audio Competition. You can all of the winners are listed below with links to the podcast containing their work. Congratulations again to all of our winners!


Narrative Essay

First place, $1,000: Judith Sloan, “Sweeping Statements” [Listen]

First runner-up: Kris Saknussemm, “Cahoots” [Listen]

Second runner-up: Richard Paul, “Fighting With My Dad” [Listen]


First place, $1,000: Lu Olkowski, “Grandpa” [Listen]

First runner-up and Editors’ Choice Award, $100: Richard Paul, “Shakespeare in Black and White” [Listen]

Second runner-up: Ken Cormier, “The Secret Pianos of Manhattan” [Listen]

Third runner-up: Dan Collison, “Lord God Bird” [Listen]

10-minute play

First place, $500: Kris Saknusemm: “Memory Wound” [Listen]

First runner-up: George Zarr: “Old Dog/Newer Tricks” [Listen]

Second runner-up: Sue Zizza, National Audio Theatre Festivals, “Avian Invasion” [Listen]

Voice-only Literature

Creative Nonfiction

  • First place in Voice-only Literature category and Creative Nonfiction subcategory, $500: Albert Haley, “The Cough” [Listen

First runner-up and Editors’ Choice Award, $100: Lisa K. Buchanan, “All That I Missed” [Listen]

  • Second runner-up: Randolph Jordan, “A Death in the Family” [Listen]
  • Third runner-up: Angela Cervantes, “A House of Women” [Listen]

Flash fiction

First place in subcategory and Editors’ Choice Award, $100: Josh McDonald, “Lost” [Listen]

 First runner-up and Editors’ Choice Award, $100: Jithendria Kumar Aravamudhan, “Memoirs of a Mad Man” [Listen]


First place in subcategory and Editors’ Choice Award, $100: Todd Boss, “To Wind a Mechanical Toy” [Listen]

First runner up: Todd Boss, “Yellow Rocket” [Listen]

Second runner-up: Runner up: Susan B.A. Somers-Willett, “The Golden Lesson” [Listen]

Third runner-up: Eric Torgersen, “Taking Tickets” [Listen]

Fourth runner-up: Josh McDonald, “Women in Strange Trousers” [Listen]

TMR Podcast: Audio Winners Series: Documentary: Dan Collison "Lord God Bird"

On this Missouri Review podcast, we have for you the audio feature “Lord God Bird” produced by Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister, which was the 3rd runner-up in the Documentary category of our 2007 audio competition.

You can listen to this podcast directly here.