WILL - Focus - November 13, 2013

Reading into children’s books

Is telling a story or being accurate to history important in a children’s storybook? Today on Focus - balancing fact and fiction in literature for very young readers.


(Duration: 51:39)

The cover of Marianne Malone's "The Pirate's Coin," a book in the "68 Rooms" series.

Janet Riehecky’s been fascinated by dinosaurs since she was a little girl; today, she writes books about them. This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Riehecky about writing a children’s book that grounds itself in scientific fact. Riehecky is the author of several children's books, including the series "Killer Animals," which features a variety of creatures found in nature such as scorpions and cobras.

Then, Meadows talks with Urbana author Marianne Malone. Malone has been working on a series of books inspired by the Thorne Room art exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. Although the stories are fictional, she says the books pull from history and are meant to teach about the past. Malone has so far written three books in the series, the latest being The Pirate's Coin.

What were your favorite books when you were little? Did they teach you anything?

Categories: Books and Reading

WILL - Focus - November 04, 2013

Until Tuesday and the UNI High Documentary Project

If you own a pet, you understand the emotional bond that can form between a dog and its owner. This hour on focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Capt. Luis Carlos Montalván about his book “Until Tuesday.”


(Duration: 51:12)

Captain Luis Carlos Montalván and Tuesday

US Army Captain Luis Montalván was a highly decorated member of the US military when he returned home from two tours of duty in Iraq. The trauma he encountered overseas, however, started to take its toll as he settled back into his life stateside. This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Montalván about his struggle to return to civilian life after his time in the service and how Capt. Montalván’s relationship with his service dog “Tuesday,” restored him both psychologically and spiritually.

WILL - Focus - October 24, 2013

Haunted Champaign-Urbana and Illinois author Brandon Massey on writing horror fiction

He was found hanging in a nearby tree in the 1840’s, and now, if you venture out to the cemetery at night, you’ll be visited by a blue orb. Or so the story goes … 


(Duration: 51:26)

The Orpheum Children's Science Museum's theatre is said to be haunted by the spirit of a past projection booth operator.

Storytelling is an art, but telling scary stories is a skill all its own. This hour on Focus, we’ll talk with two people intimately involved with what it means to craft and share a tale meant to thrill, surprise and terrorize.

For the first half of this hour on Focus, Camille Born joins host Jim Meadows to talk about the history behind Champaign-Urbana’s ghost stories. According to some, there’s a blue ghost who haunts Clements Cemetery in Urbana and the spirit of a former police officer killed during prohibition lingers in downtown Champaign. Then, we’ll hear from Illinois native and fiction author Brandon Massey about writing horror stories. Meadows also talks with Massey about his forthcoming novel "In the Dark."

Born is hosting walking tours for the Orpheum Children's Science Museum as a part of their "After Dark" series where she tells several ghost stories on location in Champaign, and the University of Illinois' Spulock Museum is also hosting a ghost story event this weekend. Find more information here.

Read more to see a video of Camille telling a story not heard on air in our studios!

WILL - Focus - October 10, 2013

Fall Reading Recommendations

What’s the best book you’ve read lately? Or do you have a few titles you love and always recommend to other readers looking for their next book? We’d love to hear from you this hour on Focus!


(Duration: 51:20)

books on a shelf

Mary Beth Neebel left her job in the corporate world to start a small, independent bookstore in May 2006, and she’s never looked back. This hour on Focus, we’ll talk with Neebel about her store’s local author book signing series. She invites authors who write about central Illinois or are from this part of the state to do readings at “I Know You Like A Book,” her store based in Peoria Heights, Illinois. We’ll find out about some exciting titles that are new this fall. Kelly Strom, collections manager at the Champaign Public Library, also joins us. She’s got a long list of new titles out this fall that she’s excited to tell us about and has a few recommendations for readers of any age.

Continue reading for a book list!

Categories: Books and Reading

WILL - Focus - September 27, 2013

Author Kim Stanley Robinson on what captivates him about science fiction

Are you a science fiction fan? Today on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with New York Times best-selling author Kim Stanley Robinson.


(Duration: 55:01)

Robinson in August 2005, at the 63rd World Science Fiction Convention in Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Kim Stanley Robinson’s interest in science fiction all started with an orange grove. When he was young, he says he watched southern California suffer what he calls “future shock,” – a process by which the natural landscape was rapidly replaced with apartment buildings and roads. This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Robinson about how this inspires his writing.

We’ll also talk with Robinson about his Mars Trilogy that depicts a society where people have colonized Mars to escape overpopulation and ecological disaster on Earth. We’ll hear how he imagined life on Mars and how he deals with questions of plausibility as he writes about future time.

WILL - Focus - August 27, 2013

Encore: Reading with Pictures

Do you love comics? Have you ever learned anything from them? Today on Focus, we’ll listen back to a conversation how comics can help kids learn.


(Duration: 51:30)

Reading with Pictures cartoon saying "Comics Out Loud."

University of Illinois Assistant Professor Carol Tilley has always felt strongly that kids need comics. And she’s not the only one. This hour on Focus, we’ll listen back to a conversation with Tilley about how comics played a huge role in her childhood and why she thinks it’s so upsetting that they are less widely available and more expensive than they once were. Award-winning graphic novelist and nationally syndicated cartoonist Josh Elder also joins us. He’s creating a new series of graphic textbooks for elementary and middle school teachers. We’ll talk with him and Tilley about what sets comics apart and why they’re useful in the classroom.

Do you love comics? Have you ever learned anything from them? Maybe you oppose the idea of teaching comic books… Tell us your story!

WILL - Focus - August 20, 2013

The Science Delusion

Why is there something instead of nothing? What is our purpose on earth? Depending on which camp you’re in – science or religion, you’ll have a much different answer to these questions. But when did that dictomy develop and why do they have to be at odds with each other? This hour on Focus, Jack Brighton talks with Curtis White about his new book “The Science Delusion.”


(Duration: 51:42)

Curtis White

Illinois State University English Professor Emeritus Curtis White has spent much of his career writing fiction, but he’s recently released his newest book “The Science Delusion,” a non-fiction work devoted to investigating the way we think about the intersection between science and religion. This hour on Focus, Jack Brighton talks with White about what the two camps can learn from each other. Can science resolve our questions about the origins of the universe, the basis of morality and the source of creativity? Is it wrong to say science can’t?

This hour on Focus, we also talk about “scientism,” atheism, and religion’s influence on scientific research. Do you have faith in the unseen? Or do you have to see it to believe it? We want to hear from you this hour! Tweet us @Focus580 or find the show on Facebook.

White is also author of the book “Memories of My Father Watching TV and Requiem. His Book, “The Middle Mind: Why American Don’t Think for Themselves” was an international best-seller and his essays have appeared in Harper’s Magazine, Orion and Playboy.

WILL - Focus - August 19, 2013

Encore: The Humanity Project

How do you define human decency? Can you comfort the miserable; is that even possible? This hour on Focus, we’ll listen back to a conversation Jim Meadows had with New York Times Best-Selling author Jean Thompson about her new book “The Humanity Project.”


(Duration: 50:41)

The Humanity Project book cover

In her new book 'The Humanity Project,” Urbana based author Jean Thompson confronts circumstances and questions plaguing many in the US in a post-recession era. This hour on Focus, we’ll listen back to a conversation Jim Meadows had with Thompson about her new novel, what inspired the story and why it was a story we wanted to tell.

This hour we'll meet Sean, a wayward carpenter whose bad luck turns even worse; Linnea, who has survived a school shooting and is living in California with a father she barely knows, and Mrs. Foster, a wealthy cat lady who starts "the Humanity Project" to help out a few whose luck has run out.

Categories: Books and Reading

WILL - Focus - July 30, 2013

Encore: Julia Sweeney

As a parent, how do you talk to your kids about the birds and the bees? That very conversation inspired Julia Sweeney’s new book “If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother.” This hour on Focus, we’ll listen back to a conversation she had with Jim Meadows earlier this year.

Former Saturday Night Live cast member Julia Sweeney is known for both her infamous character “Pat” and her solo performances. Since her days on SNL, she’s toured as a one woman show exploring love, cancer, family and faith in “God Said Ha!,” “In the Family Way” and “Letting Go of God.” In her most recent book,  “If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother,” she confronts parenting and what it was like for her as a single woman to adopt her daughter, Mulan. This hour on Focus, we’re listening back to a conversation she had with Jim Meadows about the book and the embroidered pillow that inspired it. 

We also talk with her about “Pat” and her career as a comedian and performer.

WILL - Focus - June 26, 2013

Issues Facing Public Libraries

The weeding of thousands of non-fiction books at the Urbana Free Library has created controversy over transparency in libraries. This hour on Focus, we’ll talk about how libraries are curated, what role they play in community and some of the challenges they face due to strained government budgets.


(Duration: 51:07)

The Urbana Free Library

What services do you expect from your public library? Do you want a library to be like a book store, with only newer books and lots of cutting edge technology, or would you rather have a library with extensive collections of books published across several decades? This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Carol Tilley and Kathryn La Barre of the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science about the challenges public libraries face as many make the transition into the digital age. 

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