Hear-Tell Podcast

True stories and how we tell them, by the MFA Narrative Nonfiction program.

Each Hear-Tell episode features writing from current students, alumni, faculty, and visiting lecturers in Grady’s Low-Residency MFA in Narrative Nonfiction program, directed by Moni Basu.

Equal parts entertainment and education, Hear-Tell explores the literary and journalistic aims of narrative nonfiction. All episodes are hosted, produced, and edited by MFA students and alumni.

Current Season

Hear-Tell Season 2, Episode 8: Nick Chiles (MFA ’22)

In this episode, celebrity ghost writer Nick Chiles discusses the process of writing in someone else’s voice.

Nick, who graduated from UGA with his MFA in 2022, has won nearly 20 major journalism awards, including a 1992 Pulitzer Prize as part of a New York Newsday team.  He is currently writer in residence teaching Feature Writing courses at The University of Georgia.

Nick is also the author or co-author of 22 books, including three New York Times bestsellers he wrote with R&B icon Bobby Brown, civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton and Dallas pastor, T. D. Jakes.  His most recent book, “Act Like You Got Some Sense,” was co- written with Academy Award-winning actor Jamie Foxx.

Environmental picture of Nick Chiles with Grady College in the background.
Hear-Tell Season 2, Episode 7: “Half-Life of a Secret,” Emily Strasser

In this episode, Laurie Hertzel, a distinguished professor of practice in the University of Georgia’s MFA Narrative Nonfiction program, interviewed Emily Strasser about her book, “Half-Life of a Secret: Reckoning With a Hidden History.”

Emily visited Athens in January to speak to our MFA students during their winter residency. In this conversation, she discussed  her 10 years of research and writing about her grandfather’s role in developing the atomic bomb while a scientist in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, home to the top-secret Manhattan Project. She also talked about her growth as a journalist while weaving together family secrets into a narrative that explores the long-term impact of nuclear weapons.


Hear-Tell Season 2, Episode 6: “Bigger Than Bravery,” KaToya Ellis Fleming (MFA ’18)

In this episode, Lookout Books editor and writing professor KaToya Ellis Fleming (MFA ’18) reflects on the work of editing the award-winning anthology “Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic,” which was edited by the late Valerie Boyd, the founder of UGA’s MFA in Narrative Nonfiction program.

Publishers’ Weekly listed “Bigger than Bravery” among their Big Indie books of fall, Library Journal named it one of the best books of 2022 and Foreword Indies named it the Silver Winner for Anthologies. It also won the Georgia Author of the Year Award in the Specialty Book category.

KaToya talks about the wonder of editing writers she admires and the labor of love in completing the project after Boyd passed away. Also in this episode, Lolis Eric Elie, a former mentor in the MFA program reads from his essay, “A Survivor Looks Back;” program mentor and alumna, Rosalind Bentley (MFA ’17) reads from her essay, “Iron and Brass.”

Hear-Tell Season 2, Episode 5: “MisEducated,” Brandon P. Fleming.

In this episode, renowned speaker, nationally acclaimed educator and former debate coach at Harvard University, Brandon P. Fleming discusses his memoir,  “MisEducated,” (Hachette, 2021).  

Brandon, who earned his MFA in 2021 and worked primarily with the program’s mentor Pat Thomas, shares the inspirational story of his transformation from a delinquent, drug-dealing dropout to an award-winning Harvard educator  – all by the age of 27.  

 In this show, Brandon talks about how and why it’s so important to tell the truth when writing a memoir, as well as the best way to navigate family members who not only question why you’re sharing the story but also may not appear in the best light.    

More on Brandon here:  https://bpfleming.com/about-me/


Season 2, Episode 4: “Orange is the New Peach,” James Murdock 

In this episode, poet, educator and environmental writer James Murdock (MFA ‘21) discusses how using poetry, place and the natural world around him informed the reporting and writing of “Orange is the New Peach.” His article was recently featured in Food Stories: Writing That Stirs the Pot, an anthology published by The Bitter Southerner.

Read James’ story, “Orange is the New Peach” in Bitter Southerner

Here are a few of the poets and writers who inspire James that he mentioned during our discussion:

How to be a poet, Wendell Berry 
Matsuo Bashō
Wallace Stegner
Janisse Ray

Hear-Tell Season 2, Episode 3: Shannon McCaffrey and Jan Winburn, “Sanctuary”

In this episode, Shannon McCaffrey (MFA ‘23) and Jan Winburn, Distinguished Professor of Practice, discuss the challenges Shannon ran into while reporting and writing, “Sanctuary,” the love story between a woman named Carol and an elephant named Tarra and their 50- year bond that was published earlier this year in Atavist Magazine.  Shannon’s article was described as “lyrical” by Sunday Longform, in part, because of the many beautifully constructed scenes contained in the narrative, as well as the emotion she was able to evoke from her main character.

Shannon has worked as a journalist for over 20 years and is currently a senior editor at The Atlanta Journal Constitution.  Jan Winburn has spent more than four decades at local, national and global news outlets, working as a narrative editor, writing coach and investigative editor.

Hear-Tell Season 2, Episode 2: “We Create Because We Love It” John T. Edge with Paul Kix

In this episode, Distinguished Professor of practice John T. Edge interviews author Paul Kix about his latest book “You Have to Be Prepared To Die Before You Can Begin to Live,” which chronicles 10 critical weeks of the Civil Rights Movement. From questions on how to keep a story moving forward, to ways to humanize famous historical figures, and how to change the world through narrative this conversation gets to the core of why we write. John T. also asked about Paul’s weekly newsletter, This Week Paul Likes, which offers practical writing advice and inspiration.

Season 2, Episode 1: The Art of Micro-Memoir: Imagine Writing Hummingbirds

Mississippi writer and poet Beth Ann Fennelly, author of the genre-bending Heating and Cooling, spoke at the nonfiction program’s residency in January 2023. She asked students to explore the art of micro-memoir. “What should we do when we can’t figure out how or where to start our story?” she asked. The answer? Start small. Precisely because they are so small, hummingbirds can do things other birds can’t do. In this episode of Hear-Tell, we delve into the art of writing short. You’ll hear Fennelly, Grady’s new MFA program director, Moni Basu and two MFA students, Beth Burch and Colin Donohue read the micro-memoirs that evolved from a writing session led by Fennelly. In the second half of the show, Basu, who took over the program after the death of her best friend and former program director, Valerie Boyd, discusses how starting small can help us to think big.

This episode is hosted by Josina Guess (MFA ’23), produced by Diana Keough (MFA ’21), and edited by Amy Pedulla, a current student in the program.

Season 1

Martin Padgett, “Underneath the Sweet Gum Tree”

Max Blau, “How Jim White Helped His Bluebird Spread Her Wings”

Jasmin Pittman Morrell, “Is That Your Mother?

Kristin Lowe, “The Orchard on a Cloud”

Jeremy Redmon, “December 21 and What Came After”

Current MFA Students Read Short Narratives, Pt. 2

MFA Students Read Short Narrative Essays, Pt. 1

Karen Thomas, “Traveling Graces”

Samantha Bresnahan, “In the Blood, Flowers Bloom”

John T Edge, “My Mother’s Catfish Stew”

Mark Shavin, “Unforgettable: Marriage, Memory and Madness in a Small Southern Town”

Dorothy Lennon, “Coming Out”