Charity Meets: Alan Cheuse, NPR's "Voice of Books"
You probably recognize the name Alan Cheuse, especially his voice. As NPR’s longtime Voice of Books on All Things Considered, Alan Cheuse has been reviewing books since the 1980s, making every two-minute review as interesting as possible, while keeping the focus on the essence of the book itself.
Cheuse is more than a book commentator, he is a teacher, passionate about charities and giving back, and is an award-winning author of five novels, two collections of short fictions, and the memoir Fall Out of Heaven (please click here for a complete list).
His short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, The Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, New Letters, The Idaho Review, and The Southern Review, among other places. It is safe to say Alan’s schedule is consistently ‘booked’ (get it?).
For example, his stories in An Authentic Captain Marvel Ring were just released, and a new hardcover edition of his 1986 novel The Grandmothers’ Club under the new title “Prayers for the Living” from published Fig Tree Books will be out March 2015. He also teaches writing at George Mason University in Washington, DC, and spends his summers teaching writing at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers in Santa Cruz, California.
We recently had the opportunity to learn just a little bit more about Alan Cheuse, especially his involvement and passion for the Writers in the schools program of PEN/Faulkner Foundation, a nonprofit literary organization that believes in deepening readers’ connection to writing through public events, in-school education, and public promotion of exceptional literary achievement that rely upon the generosity of individuals, foundations, corporations, and government agencies.
Check out the below interview, and you can thank us later for your new summer reading list!
Name: Alan Cheuse
Occupation: Writer, journalist, teacher
Twitter Handle: @acheuse
Facebook Page: Alan Cheuse
What are three words that best describe you? Writer, reader, mortal
Could you describe your business? I read, write, teach.
What is your role, where are you based, and what inspires you most about your work? Teaching allows me to pass on the craft of writing to new generations.
Was there anything in your past that pointed you in the direction you’ve taken? A failure at most other things, and a love of reading.
What experience in your career are you most proud of? Writing and publishing each new book. And seeing former students succeed as writers in their own lives.
What advice would you share with those still in school? Read as much as you can, writer as much as you can, and live as much as you can.
Why is giving back important to you? Passing along the tradition, and not just the craft of making fiction but all of the great, important, beautiful, moving, and entertaining novels, stories, and poetry in our western tradition.
How has giving back helped you? It clarifies my own way of seeing things. I teach stories and novels and always find something new in them that helps my insight as a person and my craft as a writer.
How do you incorporate giving back into your life? My teaches gave to me and I pass it along. I can trace certain extreme techniques back several thousand yes–yes, that’s right, thousands of years.
Which charities are near and dear to you and why? Writers in the schools program of PEN/Faulkner Foundation. I also serve as the fiction editor–gratis–for a couple of magazines that I think are important. Moment, the leading publication of liberal Jewish America, and Rattapallax, an experimental on-line magazine of international poetry and fiction.
When it comes to your own philanthropic efforts, what do you look back and del made the largest impact on those that you set out to help? Trying to teach what seems important to me as a writer, reader, husband, father, citizen.
What is the most creative fundraising idea you’ve come across? I haven’t had it yet.
Most must-attend events? PEN/Faulkner Gala, PEN/Faulkner Awards, Writers in the Schools
What brands do you wear most often? Levi jeans, all-cotton shirts
What is your favorite beauty product? My 9 mo old granddaughter’s bath soap and my 4 and a half year old grandson’s shampoo…
How would you describe your home decor? Berkeley modern, at least that’s the way some friends, old Berkeleyans recently described it. Mainly, I think, because of the paintings on the wall by friends, and the overflowing bookshelves and the stacks of books on the tables–and the large flat screen for movies and news and sports.
What is your secret for hosting a great party? Artists, writers, journalists, and plenty of good wine.
Favorite food: Roast turkey
Favorite cocktail: A rich California zinfandel
Favorite restaurant: The Slanted Door, SF
If you could host a dinner party for 8, who would you invite living or dead? Sophocles, Cleopatra, Chaucer, Tolstoy, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, George Washington, and Chekhov.
Favorite vacation spot: Hawaii, a wonderful place to work, outdoors in season, and then to swim after work.
Do you have any tips for parents? Spend as much time as you do money.
Favorite TV show: The Sopranos
Favorite movie: Citizen Kane
Favorite book: The Odyssey
Favorite apps: Weather Channel, Weatherbug
Favorite workout: Yoga, the treadmill, walking along the ocean in the summer.
Where do you get your news? NPR, New York Times, MSNBC, Fox, Weather Channel