Why not redo Depression-era Federal Writers’ Project? This time, pay writers to document COVID for history

During the Great Depression, part of the New Deal included money for the Federal Writers’ Project, which helped writers, historians, librarians, editors, teachers, and others find work. At its height, the program employed more than 6,000 people nationwide. It helped launch the careers of writers like John Cheever, Ralph Ellison and Zora Neale Hurston. 

Now there’s a proposal for a 21st century Federal Writers’ Project — to fund and sustain the writers and stories about the COVID-19 pandemic. A bill in the House was recently introduced by Santa Monica Congressman Ted Lieu. 

He got the idea from David Kipen, former director of literature at the National Endowment for the Arts. He now teaches in the UCLA writing program and runs the Libros Schmibros lending library in Boyle Heights. 

Kipen tells KCRW he drew inspiration for the project at the onset of the pandemic. He was losing friends to COVID-19, and he saw others were losing newspaper and magazine jobs. He also witnessed the deaths of nursing home residents.

“Many of them [were] dying with nobody to tell their stories. I noticed how facts were, these days, somehow in short supply and up for grabs. And I thought back to the 30s, and how divided the country was then, and all the things besetting us in the middle of the Depression.”

Excerpted from Press Play with Madeline Brand, Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Bennett Purser May. 19, 2021
Continue reading “Why not redo Depression-era Federal Writers’ Project? This time, pay writers to document COVID for history”

Juan Felipe Herrera Interview

New on the Libros Schmibros Podcast, the Juan Felipe Herrera Interview.

Vickie Vertiz has a conversation with Juan Felipe Herrera about his new book of poetry Everyday We Get More Illegal. Written while traveling around the country as the first Latino United States Poet Laureate, his book is dedicated to migrant people and working people. Vickie Vertiz is a poet, educator, and former student of Mr. Herrera’s.

Available on:

YouTube  |  Spotify  |  Apple Podcasts  |  Google Podcasts  |  other platforms

SCHMIBROS Stories, Episode 2: LOSS

We are excited to explore the second Schmibros Stories theme of the year, “LOSS”. Join us in celebrating the voices of five community members that have been gracious enough to share their perspectives on what loss means to each of them. Be sure to check out the our program premiere, as well.

LOSS / PERDIDA part 2 will go live on April 11th and can be viewed here.

Schmibros Stories is a bi-weekly virtual showcase of stories from the community where we will feature 4-5 storytellers that will record themselves from the comfort of their home.

Kim Stanley Robinson Interview

New on the Libros Schmibros Podcast, the Kim Stanley Robinson Interview.

David Kipen in conversation with Kim Stanley Robinson about his work and the work of poet Kenneth Rexroth. Robinson’s new book Ministry for the Future, is a science fiction novel set in the near future, about coping with the effects of climate change in the next 30 years.

Available on:

YouTube  |  Spotify  |  Apple Podcasts  |  Google Podcasts  |  other platforms

Exciting News! A Federal Writers’ Project 2.0 may be coming soon

Our fearless leader and Libros Schmibros founder, David Kipen has been working through channels to put forth the idea of a second iteration of the WPA era Writers’ Project. The original gave us some historical and cultural treasures, and similar socioeconomic conditions exist now… Maybe?!

Here’s a great article, full of historical perspective and details of a possible future, for the Writers’ Project. (Click on the excerpt below to read the full article on the Columbia Journalism Review website.)

The enduring lessons of a New Deal writers project- Jon Allsop - CJR.org

Stay tuned.