Lead Editorial Innovator, Vocal. Author, critic, friend, parent, cook. New book: Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling, The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge. Twitter: @EricaWgnr, Insta: @ericawgnr
- Top Story - February 2024
Vocal Book Club: Trust by Hernan Diaz Top Story - February 2024
In Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens (published in English in 2014) we are reminded of how much fiction underpins our lives. Fiction, Harari argues, is one of the great engines of culture. Religion is a story many choose, collectively, to believe: it is the story that creates culture and cohesion. He uses the example of a brand — Peugeot — to enquire how we imbue fictions with significance. What connection can anyone now make between a company founded in the early 19th century with the car manufacturer of today? What does the “Peugeot” symbol on the front of an automobile signify? There’s one answer: a story. Perhaps you buy the car because, at some level, you believe the story.
- Top Story - January 2024
Vocal Book Club: Tom Lake by Ann PatchettTop Story - January 2024
Tom Lake is not your ordinary pandemic novel, though it begins in that strange — and awful — spring of 2020. It is set in northern Michigan, on the cherry orchard belonging to the Nelson family. It interrogates the family’s life and the memories of Lara Nelson, once an actress, as she talks with her three grown daughters. They are Emily, who in time will settle on the farm; Maisie who’s at veterinary school; and Nell who hopes to follow in her mother’s thespian footsteps.
- Top Story - December 2023
Vocal Book Club: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle ZevinTop Story - December 2023
Sadie, Sam and Marx are the central characters of Gabrielle Zevin’s remarkable 10th novel, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow. Sam and Sadie meet when they are 11 years old, in the games room of a Los Angeles hospital. Sam — fervently playing Super Mario Bros — is chronically ill; Sadie’s older sister is dying of cancer. Eventually Sam and Sadie will become game designers of the highest order, their friend Marx a kind of abiding spirit who keeps them together and lifts them to greater heights — even as tragedy strikes.
Introducing the Vocal Book Club
Welcome to the official Book Club of Vocal’s BookClub community! What an inspiring community this is for someone — like me, like all of you — who loves reading and talking about books. Seriously, what could be better? I’ve been really inspired by the stories you’ve posted here and thought it would be great to add something from me, and from all of us on the Vocal team, into the mix.
- Top Story - August 2023
Forget AI: use Scrivener!Top Story - August 2023
I was in despair. I was quite a long way in to researching Chief Engineer, my biography of Washington Roebling, builder of the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a big undertaking: I had to learn about, and gather material on... oh, let's see, shall we? 19th century engineering. The Civil War. The history of immigration to the United States from Europe. Iron and steel manufacture. The history of women's education. I could go on — you get the idea. Now, bear in mind too: I'd written a few books, but nothing on this scale, and the question of how I would organize and order my material was starting to give me sleepless nights. I had a zillion Word documents which I named and renamed, put in this folder or that folder... yikes. I stared at my screen, my heart pounding.
- Top Story - June 2023
An invitation to venture Beyond the Border...Top Story - June 2023
Why listen to a story? You know the answer right away. Because you want to know what happens next — because you want to be swept away — because you want to be taken out of yourself to other worlds, mythical and true. Stories connect us to our deepest selves; at heart, we all know that. It’s why you’re reading this here on Vocal, after all: Vocal is a home for storytelling.
- Top Story - April 2023
When I met Harry BelafonteTop Story - April 2023
It was the spring of 2011 — a dozen years ago, almost exactly — when I met Harry Belafonte at a London hotel. Mayfair; a bright spring day. He had just published his eloquent autobiography, My Song; a documentary about his life, Sing Your Song, was about to be released. I’ve been fortunate enough to interview a great many remarkable people in my time, but spending time with Harry Belafonte was a truly extraordinary experience; and to feel a real personal connection with him, even more so.
- Top Story - September 2022
I love comments and communityTop Story - September 2022
I was 19 years old and I was crying. I had a window seat on a train travelling through the French countryside; a love affair had ended and it hadn’t been my choice. The gorgeous terrain blurring beyond the window seemed to accentuate my heartbreak; I leaned my head against the glass and let the tears flow.
- Top Story - August 2022
Salman Rushdie, New YorkerTop Story - August 2022
Horrifying news is all the more shocking if you yourself were only just talking and laughing with the victim of a terrible attack. Just a few days before Sir Salman Rushdie was gravely injured onstage in Chautauqua, in western New York, I was chatting with him in the lounge of a private members’ club in lower Manhattan, the city that, for the past 23 years, has been the writer’s adopted home. We were a gathering of three — Salman and I and Jeremy Frommer, Executive Chairman of Creatd, Vocal’s parent company and one of my oldest friends. Turns out that Rushdie and Frommer were members of the same club — when I’d discovered that the two of them hung out there, I felt I had to bring these unique people together.
Write Here, Write Now: A Vocal Podcast
When I asked Vocal creator RJ Wade whether she found a commitment to writing early on in her life, or whether the development of her gift was a slower burn, her response was immediate and powerful. “It was right away, and it was full-blown and passionate,” she said of her love affair with the written word.
- Top Story - June 2022
His name is Yip — and it's one you won't forgetTop Story - June 2022
Paddy Crewe’s debut novel is set in northern Georgia and the mountains of Tennessee in the early years of the 19th century. My Name Is Yip is an adventure story, a tale of struggle against great odds, a paean to the power of friendship. Its narrator is unable to speak — and so he learns to communicate with slate and chalk. “My name is Yip Tolroy & I am a mute,” his account begins. “I have made not a sound since the day of my birth, October 2nd, 1815. I will say that my life has been something of a trial but such is God’s wish & so I must tell my story here on the page.”
- Top Story - May 2022
Top Gun: The Lost PilotTop Story - May 2022
Who doesn’t want to be Maverick? In Tony Scott’s Top Gun Pete Mitchell was the epitome of the glorious warrior, as skilled as he was wild. Who doesn’t want to question authority, live beyond the rules, fly too close to the Sun? That’s the catch of course: Maverick is also Icarus, Maverick is Achilles, the hero felled by his own flaw — though it’s his best friend, Goose, who falls from the sky. Cruise, it’s worth noting, has wondered whether a contemporary studio would tolerate Goose’s death, if the movie were made today. “Can you imagine? Today, you’d have a hard time killing Goose,” he has said. “There would be a lot of discussion about killing Goose. You’d go to test screenings, and they would tell us, ‘They hate it when Goose dies! He’s such a likeable character! You’ve got to cut that out of the movie.’”