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Episode 19 – Kevin Smokler


Kevin Smokler is a dear friend who changed my world when he asked me to be part of his panel at South by Southwest (SXSW) years ago, and since then our paths continue to cross.

His latest book, Brat Pack America: A Love Letter to ’80s Teen Movies, has him visiting the actual locations where many of our beloved movies were filmed. If you enjoy The Goonies, The Breakfast Club, or Back to the Future, this book needs to be added to your must-read list.

During the podcast, we discuss his love of writing and why it’s his preferred form of creative expression even though he tinkers with others.

Kevin is the author of the essay collection Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven’t Touched since High School, and we chat a bit about the books he was assigned to read in school but only appreciated later in life.

Classroom Connection

Kevin’s book about “the classics” is written for adults who look back on books they read in school and consider reading them again later in life. Have students write a letter to a future-self about a book they’ve recently read in school, telling that future-self what the book means to them now and forecasting why it would be a good book for an older version of themselves to read. 

His work has appeared in the LA Times, Fast Company, BuzzFeed, Vulture, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Publishers Weekly, and on National Public Radio. In 2013 he was Book Riot’s first ever Writer in Residence.

As a performer, he’s told stories onstage at events in San Francisco, Austin, New York, and Boston. Since 2007 he’s been the host of Fray Cafe, SXSW’s annual evening of live storytelling, which I’ve had the pleasure of attending as an audience member several times.

Every time I chat with Kevin, I learn something new and leave inspired. I hope that after you listen to our conversation on this episode of #WhyIWrite, the same will be true for you as well.