Writers on Writing: The origins of a KUCI Institution

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By Christina Acevedo

Photo courtesy of LA Times

After leaving her job as a corporate lawyer in 2001, Marrie Stone began attending night classes at UCI. There she met author Barbara De Marco-Barrett in an extension course. Soon after completing De Marco-Barrett’s course, Stone was given the opportunity to participate in a private writing workshop that De Marco-Barrett conducted from her home.

This series of events would eventually lead to a partnership between the two as co-hosts on KUCI’s program, Writers on Writing. After devoting two years to De Marco-Barrett’s workshop, De Marco-Barrett asked Stone in 2006 whether she was interested in radio.

Seizing the opportunity to help De Marco-Barrett with her show, Stone underwent training before her first show in January 2007. She has been involved in the radio program for the past eleven and a half years.

“We’re a show about writing for writers. We really focus on the craft, the process, and the nuts and bolts and the publishing aspect of writing,” Stone said.

The program, which airs every Wednesday at 9 a.m., features authors, literary agents, poets, publishers and others involved in writing. In addition to trying to emulate what Stone referred to as “a free MFA program,” the show is also meant to provide authors a space to publicize their work and explain their creative process.

Stone also sees it as a way to encourage reading.

“I am a champion for books and it kills me that people aren’t reading as much as they should be…anything I can do to promote the written word is totally my pleasure,” she said.

Part of what makes the program so enjoyable for Stone is its unpredictability. She also appreciates the chance that it gives her to present authors with questions that she may have about their work.

“I think it’s just the thrill of the unknown. I always come away surprised, no matter how boring the interview sometimes, there’s some element in it that always surprises me, either a connection that I make with the author or…there’s just something revealed that I never saw coming. And it’s different every time,” she said.

As a current freelance writer for the Pegasus and St. Mary’s schools, as well as the Pelican Hill, Orange Coast, and Laguna Beach magazines, in addition to her experience as a short fiction writer, Stone shared that she tries to replicate the narrative structure within her interviews.

“I try to create sort of a narrative arch to the interviews and I try to elicit surprise…a lot of these authors are on book tours all the time so they spout out the same…information they always spout out…I try to knock them off their game a little bit and get them to share something surprising,” Stone said.

The program has provided Stone with helpful advice for her own writing as well on topics such as revision, organizing her work space and dialogue.

“We’re always picking [authors’] brains about what’s most difficult in our own writing…And then I always take those lessons back to my own fiction. And…that’s invaluable,” she said.

Stone has listed Elizabeth Strout, Tobias Wolff, Geraldine Brooks, George Saunders, Wally Lamb and Lois Lowry among some of her favorite guests that have been on the show describing herself as more inclined towards heavier literary fiction, short stories and poetry, Stone finds her and De Marco-Barrett’s interests to be similar but also different.

This has allowed for variation in the guests that they choose.

“She tends to be a little bit lighter. She likes memoir more than I do…It just kind of works out that we rarely are battling over an author,” she said.

Outside of Writers on Writing, Stone takes pleasure in traveling, exercising, spending time with her daughter, trying new restaurants and lifting weights. She mentioned that the program may begin to feature one author during its hour as opposed to two.

De Marco-Barrett says they may also include additional artists who aren’t writers in the future.

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