TV Show

ABOUT WRITING: More Than 100 Episodes About Writing, and Going Strong

The Secret to Luring Prominent Authors to Pleasantville

For 14 years and more than 100 episodes, I’ve been the lucky host of Pleasantville Community Television (PCTV)’s show ABOUT WRITING. I’ve invited star writers to Pleasantville’s public television. I would mix their interviews with those of local talent. There’s quite a lot of local talent. Warren Berger and Terry Bazes are personal favorites, but they are only faces in a crowd. Sir Simon Schama is a local too.

The draw? I would read the book. All the way through. From front to back.

This, apparently, is unusual. Unheard of? Television usually treats a writer like any other celebrity. You could be a magnificent novelist or a serial killer, the correspondent didn’t care. What’s worse, she didn’t even usually crack the book.

I played my advantage well. Looking back now over the list of writers interviewed, I’m dazzled by the lineup. Rob Fleder brought his friend Pete DexterJames Kaplan and Blake Bailey both appeared. And reappeared. We never hosted Tina Brown, but Harold Evans came. Agent Andrew Blauner brought glittering collections of essays about multiple subjects including Central Park, The Bible, and The Beatles. You might categorize Rob Lowe and Debra Winger as “celebrities,” but each produced a splendid book. (See what I previously wrote about my interview with Rob Lowe.)

And the public approved. The episode featuring Rafael Yglesias’s A Happy Marriage was for years the most popular show on PCTV network.

Because I’m human, and therefore corrupt, I appeared on Pleasantville Community Television for every book I published. My sister Susan got the same treatment. This is nepotism pure and simple. Though the rules were not changed. The books were read right through. From front to back.

Some of the best episodes pre-date the PCTV website. Frank McCourt of Angela’s Ashes came twice but his appearances are forever lost. Adam Stone was in the audience to hear my mother read her poem about my father nickering at her breast. For those of us who like to read, Adam is a local hero. He founded The Examiner News, which became our only printed source of local news. [Without Adam we wouldn’t have Martin Wilbur who writes faster than I can think. Without Martin Wilbur I might doubt that Pleasantville existed at all. I might mistake this precious village for another cannabis-induced daymare.]

Under station manager Shane McGaffey, local community television taped the great and the near great. Sir Simon Schama was on the air for an hour, and we didn’t even wait for the Queen of England to knight the guy. Simon’s brilliant, beautiful daughter, Chloe, also appeared on the show. Chloe wrote a stunning piece of history. And yes, I read it front to back.

As generous with his time as he was successful, best seller Lawrence Block traveled up to Pleasantville from New York City. He told of having sent stamped self-addressed envelopes with intrusive questions to top writers when he worked as a columnist for Writer’s Digest. Most did not answer. My father’s response was a single paragraph: “Dear Lawrence Block, I find that I can neither answer your questions nor waste your stamp.”

The pandemic and a crashed website temporarily stopped production of ABOUT WRITING, but a 2023 resurrection is in the works. Read a book you love? Send an email to, or contact Shane at the studio. Maybe you published a worthy book of your own. Remember, though, it must be a book I want to read. From front to back.