Kara Cooney: Making the Ancient Engaging

Kara Cooney

Egyptologist Kara Cooney makes dusty old topics fun.

An associate professor at UCLA’s Near Eastern Languages and Cultures program, she’s a great mix of engaging speaker and public intellectual. My talk with her was one of most fun and smartest I’ve done this year.  For this, all credit to Dr. Cooney as  I felt like my questions veered toward the “Whoa, you really stood in a tomb with a pile of 3000-year-old corpses?” and “Dude, just how dry is Egypt?” variety.

Ok, maybe not quite that bad, but she is whip smart and knows her subject. She also has a passion for it and really seems to enjoy it, a quality I’ve sometimes found lacking in academics. [Early on, one of the worst interviews I ever did was with an academic who couldn't give a single reason for why he'd entered the field and seemed unwilling to speak about the subject at all. You should probably leave the field at that point.]

But back to Kara, check out our YouTube interview or the audio-only version, and then buy her book, The Woman Who Would Be King, about ancient Egyptian ruler Hatshepsut. It will make a great birthday present for that hard-to-buy-for relative who watches the History Channel and PBS.

My gratitude to Ohio State’s Timothy Gregory in the Ohio State Museum of Classical Archeology for opening the museum after hours for this interview. Dr. Gregory is another of my favorite academics!

And yes, giving the location for this interview exposes the lie that is my usual opening to Craft, “From a secret location in room 100 of 540 Jack Gibbs Boulevard.” WCBE is located at 540 Jack Gibbs, but I don’t think it has a room 100.


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Can you Crack a Buckeye?

20141019_115854-1This week’s podcast featured a riddle from The Ohio State University Podcasting Club’s podcast Tough Nut to Crack. First person to solve it (leave comments below) gets the 5 book prize back below (for pick up at 540 Jack Gibbs Blvd):

  • N.W. Gwynne, Gwynne’s Grammar
  • Elizabeth Enslin, While the Gods Were Sleeping
  • Peter Terrin, The Guard
  • Donald Kraybill, Renegade Amish
  • Brian Morton, Florence Gordon


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Nicholson Baker: The next writer of James Bond?

N-Baker-webNicholson Baker is a novelist, humorist, and social critic. His most recent release is The Paul Chowder Chronicles, which brings together two novels about Paul Chowder: The Anthologist and Traveling Sprinkler. Baker received a National Book Critics Circle Award in 2001 for his  Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper, a nonfiction look at the decline of paper-based materials being archived by libraries.

We talked about whether there will be more Paul Chowder books (yes), whether Baker worries about how people confuse him for his character (no), and what genre he’d really like to write (hint: it’s in the post’s title).

Nicholson Baker will be appearing at the Thurber House Evenings with Authors on October 21. Get your tickets now.




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Can you catch the Sex Criminals? You can at CCAD on Oct 23


Matt Fraction (Twitter) writes comic books and won the first-ever PEN USA Literary Award for Graphic Novels. His comic collaborations and solo projects have won Eisners, Harveys, and Eagles, with his signature piece, Sex Criminals winning TIME Magazine’s Best Comic of 2013. Other high profile projects include Hawkeye, The Invincible Iron Man, The Mighty Thor, The Uncanny X-Men, and Fantastic Four, among others. Matt Fraction will speak at the Columbus College Art and Design on Oct 23rd as part of their “Crafting Your Hustle” series, which highlights artists and writers who make a living from their craft.

We talked about comics, inspirations, and why he has to apologize frequently.

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Lindsay Ward, Ohioana Book Festival Featured Author


If you’ve ever seen the design of a Lindsay Ward book, you realize reality is overrated. Ward is an accomplished children’s book illustrator and author who published Please Bring Balloons, When Blue Met Egg, and Pelly and Mr. Harrison Visit the Moon. She illustrated A Garden for Pig, The Yellow Butterfly,  and Star Academy.

During her interview at 2014 Ohioana Book Festival  with Craft summer intern, Kayla, Ward gives us a mental glimpse into her art studio, which is probably unlike most artists’.

Ward knew in her teens that she wanted to become an illustrator. She started illustrating in water color and pastel, but once she graduated from Syracuse University, Ward found a unique voice in cut paper.

Her hobby became collecting vintage paper, and Ward even saved a piece or two from a trip to the dumpster. After some time, this illustrator decided that she had her own stories to tell, and although she never aimed to be an author, writing is now a media she couldn’t live without.

Ward’s book, Please Bring Balloons, is a great example of her talents and has been honorably mentioned in The Huffington Post. Her works have had popular reviews in The New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly among other publications and reviewers.

If you happen to like visiting the world’s most charming websites, you can get your fill of Ward’s coloring pages, upcoming book events, and sketches on lindsaymward.com. Her website is very kid-friendly and is a good way to preview her brilliant artwork. Listen to the full interview with the sweet and delightful Lindsay Ward

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Improve your Improv: Attend Columbus Unscripted October 8-11


Barbara Allen


Debby Phillips







It’s Columbus’ third annual improv comedy festival, the Columbus Unscripted Improv Festival 2014. Hosted by Columbus Unscripted, the festival will include professional-level improvisational workshops as well as performances by over 15 local improv troupes and nationally acclaimed improvisers, Jamie Campbell, The Stevens Family and Hitch*Cocktails from the Annoyance Theatre Chicago.

Listen to my talk with  Columbus Unscripted performers Barbara Allen and Debbie Phillips and find out about the festival and what kind of secret addiction Debby has developed (hint: it’s related to improv).

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October 10 – Ohio Art League’s One Night

Amy Tillinghast

Got an itch to buy some new art to go with your collection, but you’re not a Wexner? Make plans to attend One Night,  the main  fundraiser event for the Ohio Art League. One Night will happen on Friday, October 10, and you can learn more about it by listening to my talk with Ohio Art League board member Amy Tillinghast, or watching our YouTube video, which features many great images courtesy of the Ohio Art League.

First three people to comment below will receive free tickets to One Night!

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Cynthia Rosi on the Paranormal

Cynthia Rosi

Recently, I sat down with Cynthia Rosi and talked to her about being a spiritual cleanser as part of the Craft Halloween special. You can catch the special on midnight of October 31 or 3 pm on November 1 on the mighty WCBE, 90.5 FM, central Ohio’s NPR station.

She trained as a spiritual healer and has done space clearing to seal a room with light to promote spirits moving to other realms. Her book, The Light Catcher, will be released in October.

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Catch a Code


Brad Henry is a doctoral student at the Ohio State University, working with technology, as well as Director of Technology for eStudent Learning. We sat down to talk about computer programming, technology, and his project with Code.org that encourages students to work with code.

Interested in code? Work in a central Ohio school system? Contact Brad to learn more about his project.

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Polonius: Sword Storage


On my drive into work this morning, I was listening to the amazing Vienna Teng song “Goodnight, New York,” which has these lines:

I’ll see you all on the other side
After I am a different man with different eyes

It got me thinking about the difference between stasis and motion. Are we living out Bill’s “To thine own self be true” or are we always becoming something else?

I can see it either way. Even though the lines are spoken by Polonius, a character whose best use is as sword storage, there’s value to the idea of maintaining your core values, your true inner self. This is the cry of idealistic youth watching their heroes sell out. You hear it behind every use of a punk song to sell beer or cars, after every art masterpiece licensed to hawk shoes. Most ironically, it’s heard when certain businesses proclaim that they “stick to their core principles,” since these principles might seem to be simply “stick it to the customer.” (Hello? Time Warner?)

As I get older (I’ve mentioned that I’m 23 now?), I’m increasingly persuaded by the idea that we’re always becoming, always intaking new data and comparing it against existing structures to see what impact it has on our perceptions. As columnist Sydney J Harris said, “Being yourself is not remaining what you were, or being satisfied with what you are. It is the point of departure.”

Finding points of departure was one of the reasons that I started this blog and the radio show. Although I’d interviewed artists and writers for years, Craft represented a break with certain kinds of interviews and the welcoming of others. No more interviews with people who didn’t want to be interviewed. (One of my worst interviews was with an academic who confessed to being terrified of being interviewed and who showed no apparent interest in her area of study. Awesome.) No more interviews with people who didn’t engage creativity.

This last sentence may seem harsh, but it’s perhaps softened by the realization that I know I can fall into the uncreative category. Every time I end the show with the admonition, “Be creative,” I feel a little like Polonius. How can I not have something more creative to say?

When I said something like that to an artist friend, she responded with “YOU CAN BE ARTISTIC. DON’T RUN FROM IT.” (You know how those creative types like to use all caps.) Maybe it’s time I buy a beret?

So where are you? In your life are you becoming something or are you already there? Are you in process or completed? First person to comment gets 5 books from the Craft library.

Still here? Don’t forget to send me your ideas for the Halloween show

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