Beth Macy is an author and former reporter at The Roanoke Times. Her latest book is Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America.

“I learned how to interview by delivering papers. I didn’t know it was interviewing, but I would stop and talk to old people who were bored and lonely and have great conversations. I think I learned how to talk to people by delivering the papers. And there’s a certain thing you have to do when you have to collect the money and learn how to negotiate with people when you’re 11. That’s some reporting skills too.”

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Paige Williams is a New Yorker staff writer and the author of The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Betrayal, and the Quest for Earth's Ultimate Trophy.

“I was just sitting in a coffee shop and saw this thing about a Montana dinosaur thief, and thought, oh that’s really interesting, I don’t know anything about that. And I knew nothing about natural history, nothing about natural history museums. I was born and raised in Mississippi. We didn’t talk about that kind of stuff. I grew up in the Baptist church. It certainly wasn’t mentioned there. … It just was a world completely alien to me, which I love. I love going into worlds that I know nothing about, and I like to take them apart and put them back together again.”

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Joe Hagan is a correspondent at Vanity Fair and the author of Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine.

“It’s the story that begins with John Lennon on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1967 and ends with Donald Trump in the White House. In many ways the book takes you there, I wanted it to. It takes you through the culture as it metastasizes into what it is now. It had a lot to do with a sense of the age of narcissism. The worship of celebrity. Jann was very into celebrity, and worshipful of it and glorifying it and turning it into a thing and eventually celebrity displaces a lot of the ideas they originally started with in my estimation. That was a narrative thread that I began to pull in the book.”

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Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change and The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, is a staff writer at The New Yorker.

“I still nurse the idea in my heart of hearts that something you write, that there’s some key to this all. We’re all looking for the skeleton key that’s going to unlock it, and people will go, ‘Oh, that’s why we have to do something!’ I don’t want to say that I completely dispensed with that. I think that’s what motivates most journalists—this information is going to somehow make a difference. On the other hand, I have dispensed a lot of that. Now we’re so deep into all of this. The more you know about climate change and the numbers involved and the scale involved of what we need to do to really mitigate this problem, you know that we’re moving in absolutely the wrong direction. It’s not like we’re moving slowly, we’re moving in the wrong direction. It’s very hard to say anything I write is going to turn this battleship around.”

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Lisa Brennan-Jobs is a New York-based writer. Her new book is Small Fry.

"You find yourself in a whole net, in a constellation of stories, each one connecting to another. It was amazing how much I remembered. Sometimes I meet people and they say, goodness, I can’t even remember what I had for lunch. How can you remember so much? And I think, oh, sit down for a while writing badly and you will remember and remember and remember. Some things weren’t terribly pleasant to remember. And some things were incredibly wonderful."

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Liana Finck writes for The New Yorker. Her new book is Passing for Human: A Graphic Memoir.

"I was drawing since I was 10 months old. My mom had left this vibrant community of architects and art people to live in this idyllic country setting with my dad, and she poured all of her art feelings into me. She really praised me for being this baby genius, which I may or may not have been. But I grew up thinking I was an amazing artist. There weren’t any other artists around besides my mom, so I didn’t have anything to compare it to. There were no art classes around. … I was so shy, so I was just always drawing and making things."

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Rebecca Traister writes for New York. Her new book is Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger.

“I don’t want my experience to be held up as so, ladies, your new health regimen is rage all day. Because the fact is we live in a world that does punish women for expressing their anger, that denies them jobs, that attaches to them bad reputations as difficult-to-work-with, crazy bitches. Because they’re reasonably angry about something they have every reason to be angry about. We live in a world in which black women’s anger is either caricatured and they get written off as cartoons, or regarded as threats and face steep, often physical penalties for expressing dissent or dissatisfaction. When I talk about this, I don’t mean it to be prescriptive, I mean it to be descriptive of a particular experience I had that was extraordinarily unusual but which made me question a premise that I think all of us internalize that the anger is bad for us. I no longer believe that that’s true.”

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Jerry Saltz is a Pulitzer-winning art critic for New York.

“To this day I wake up early and I have to get to my desk to write almost immediately. I mean fast. Before the demons get me. I got to get writing. And once I’ve written almost anything, I’ll pretty much write all day, I don’t leave my desk, I have no other life. I’m not part of the world except when I go to see shows.”

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Eli Saslow is a Pulitzer-winning feature writer for the Washington Post. His new book is Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist.

“If I'm writing about somebody once for 5,000 words in the Washington Post — someone who's addicted to drugs, say — I am choosing in the public eye where their story ends. Like, that's it. People aren't going to know any more. That's where I'm going to leave them being written about. And of course, that is inherently artificial — nothing ends, their life is continuing. This is just where the narrative ends. I recognize the weight in ways that maybe I didn’t before.”

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Jeanne Marie Laskas writes for GQ and the New York Times Magazine. Her latest book is To Obama: With Love, Joy, Anger, and Hope.

“I hate saying this out loud, but it’s true: I’m really shy. Fundamentally, I'm 100% scared most of the time. I’m scared and wondering how I can not be noticed because I don’t know what to say and I’m shy. If you say I’m a good listener, that's why … I become more invisible so I’m more comfortable.”

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Elif Batuman is a novelist and a staff writer at The New Yorker. Her latest article is “Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry.”

“I hear novelists say things sometimes like the character does something they don’t expect. It’s like talking to people who have done ayahuasca or belong to some cult. That’s how I felt about it until extremely recently. All of these people have drunk some kind of Kool Aid where they’re like, ‘I’m in this trippy zone where characters are doing things.’ And I would think to myself, if they were men—Wow, this person has devised this really ingenious way to avoid self-knowledge. If they were women, I would think—Wow, this woman has found an ingenious way to become complicit in her own bullying and silencing. It’s only kind of recently—and with a lot of therapy actually—that I’ve come to see that there is a mode of fiction that I can imagine participating in where, once I’ve freed myself of a certain amount of stuff I feel like I have to write about, which has gotten quite large by this point, it would be fun to make things up and play around.”

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Jon Caramanica is a music critic at The New York Times.

“I like to interview people very early in their careers or very late in their careers. I think vulnerability and willingness to be vulnerable is at a peak in those two parts. Young enough not to know better, old enough not to give a damn. … The story I want to tell is—how are you this person, and then you became this? Then at the end, let’s look back on these things and let’s paint the art together. But in the middle when your primary obsession is how do I protect my role? How do I keep my spot? How do I keep the throne? I’m not as interested in that personally as a journalist or as a critic. ”

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Jeff Maysh is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. His latest article is "How an Ex-Cop Rigged McDonald’s Monopoly Game and Stole Millions."

“I’ve always looked for stories with the theme of identity and identity theft. I’m very interested in people leading double lives. All of my stories are the same in a sense. Whether that’s a spy or a fake cheerleader or a bank robber or even a wrestler—someone is pretending to be someone they’re not, leading a double life. I find that really exciting. I’m drawn to characters who put on a disguise.”

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David Marchese is the interviewer for New York's "In Conversation" series.

"The thing I like about doing long interviews with people is that each one feels like a totally unique experience to me. It’s not like I go into an interview and already know the arc of the story I’m going to tell, and I’m going to just fill that in the best I can. I have ideas of what to talk about and what the conversation might entail, but it does feel like I’m starting at zero and the conversation can go anywhere.”

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Nathaniel Rich is a novelist and a writer-at-large for The New York Times Magazine. His most recent article is "Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change."

“There’s a huge opportunity with climate change because we talk a lot about the political issue with it, the industry story and the scientific story, but we don’t talk about the human story. And I would say that not only is it a big human story, but it is the human story. ... With every step of the ladder that we’ve advanced, we’re borrowing from our future. I don’t think we’ve reckoned with that in a serious way.”

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Laura June is author of Now My Heart Is Full.

“Parenting wasn’t considered literary fodder for a long time. I think women in particular are raised not to complain. Which is not what I was doing. If you have to boil it down, it’s base emotion. Then you’re complaining about how hard it is. Or, the opposite end, you’re bragging. There’s no in between. Most of my writing is in between.”

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Rukmini Callimachi covers ISIS for The New York Times and is the host of Caliphate.

“My major takeaway that I have come away with in this work is go to the enemy. Talk to the enemy. I think that the way that Al Qaeda and ISIS is typically covered is by reporters who just speak to officials in Washington. ... That’s only one side of the story. And I have learned so much by seeking out their documents, reading their propaganda ... speaking to them themselves.”

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Megan Greenwell is the editor-in-chief of Deadspin.

“I’m the first external hire to be the EIC in Deadspin history, so not everybody knew me or knew anything about my work. I don’t think there was resistance to me being hired, but I do think when you’re coming in from outside, there’s a need to say, ‘Hey, no, I can do this.’ Somebody told me about a management adage at one point: Everybody tries to prove that they’re competent when they first start, and what you actually have to prove is you’re trustworthy. That is something that I think about all the time.”

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Bryan Fogel is the Oscar-winning director of Icarus.

“But there was a long period of time also that none of us were really thinking so much about the film. It was really that we were in a real world crisis. Gregory's life was essentially in my hands.”

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Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah is an essayist. Her 2017 GQ piece “A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof” won the National Magazine Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

“I remember feeling like ‘you’re playing chess with evil, and you gotta win.’ Because this is the most terrible thing I’d ever seen. And I was so mad. I still get so mad. Words aren’t enough. I’m angry about it. I can’t do anything to Dylann Roof, physically, so this is what I could do.”

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May Jeong is a magazine writer and investigative reporter.

“I don’t have kids, I don’t have an expensive drug habit. Everything that I do right now at this moment in my life is to serve the story. That means that sometimes I’m not the best partner. I’m not the best friend. I’m a really terrible daughter probably. If my parents had a satisfaction survey, I don’t think I’d rank really high. I have friends who are buying houses and stuff. I’m very far away from that. What else have I sacrificed? I don’t know. Sometimes I let my body atrophy because I’m on the road all the time. I think I can do it for five more years. I’m 30, so things will have to change.”

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Helen Rosner is a food correspondent at The New Yorker.

“I believe the things that are really important to me are structure over all and—forgive me, I’ve said this on other podcasts before—if I were going to get a tattoo this is what I would get a tattoo of is that it doesn’t matter what you say, it only matters what they hear. It’s my job to make sure the gulf between those two things is as narrow as possible and there’s as little ambiguity between what I say and what you hear. It’s never easy, but it’s certainly easier in the realm of arguable objectivity. To create emotion in a reader requires a huge amount of really thoughtful work on the part of the writer in a way that forces you as a writer to remove yourself from the emotion you’re creating in the reader. If I to set you up for sadness, I have to create emotional stakes. I have to create investment in whoever I’m talking about or whatever the story’s about. The craft of making stakes and setting up a potential downfall, a potential loss, whatever it may be I think is not something you can do well if you’re feeling the feeling you’re trying to create in the reader.”

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Reeves Wiedeman is a reporter at New York.

“I think the main reason I love the job is reporting. And the fact that you get to go out into situations that you wouldn’t otherwise as your job. I’m someone who gets antsy if I’m just on a vacation sitting around. I’d much rather go somewhere weird and kind of have a purpose. So, just feeling like you can kind of go anywhere and see anything and talk to anyone is a pretty cool way to live your day.”

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Elif Batuman is a novelist and a staff writer at The New Yorker. Her latest article is “Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry.”

“I hear novelists say things sometimes like the character does something they don’t expect. It’s like talking to people who have done ayahuasca or belong to some cult. That’s how I felt about it until extremely recently. All of these people have drunk some kind of Kool Aid where they’re like, ‘I’m in this trippy zone where characters are doing things.’ And I would think to myself, if they were men—Wow, this person has devised this really ingenious way to avoid self-knowledge. If they were women, I would think—Wow, this woman has found an ingenious way to become complicit in her own bullying and silencing. It’s only kind of recently—and with a lot of therapy actually—that I’ve come to see that there is a mode of fiction that I can imagine participating in where, once I’ve freed myself of a certain amount of stuff I feel like I have to write about, which has gotten quite large by this point, it would be fun to make things up and play around.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Google Play, and Pitt Writers for sponsoring this week's episode.</p>

Leon Neyfakh is a writer and the host of Slow Burn.

“We didn’t want to be coy about why we were doing the show. We wanted to be up front. We’re interested in this era because it seems like the last time in our nation’s history where things were this wild and the news was this rapid fire and the outcome was this uncertain. That was the main parallel we were thinking about when we started. It was only when we started learning the story and identified the turning points we kept running into these obvious parallels. We mostly didn’t lean into them. We didn’t chase them. There wasn’t a quota of parallels per episode.”

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