16 episodes

Join authors Deesha Philyaw (The Secret Lives of Church Ladies) and Dawnie Walton (The Final Revival of Opal & Nev) for author interviews, book club discussions, and immersive short stories — all celebrating fiction from some of today's most thrilling writers, with an emphasis on spotlighting underrepresented voices. (Photo credits: Vanessa German / Rayon Richards)
Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://ursastory.com/join

Ursa Short Fiction Ursa Story Company

    • Arts
    • 3.6 • 174 Ratings

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Join authors Deesha Philyaw (The Secret Lives of Church Ladies) and Dawnie Walton (The Final Revival of Opal & Nev) for author interviews, book club discussions, and immersive short stories — all celebrating fiction from some of today's most thrilling writers, with an emphasis on spotlighting underrepresented voices. (Photo credits: Vanessa German / Rayon Richards)
Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://ursastory.com/join

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

    Nana Nkweti: ‘I Always Knew I Was Going to Write Stories’

    Nana Nkweti: ‘I Always Knew I Was Going to Write Stories’

    On the Season One finale of Ursa Short Fiction, co-hosts Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton talk to Nana Nkweti, author of the acclaimed short story collection, Walking on Cowrie Shells (Graywolf Press). 

    Nkweti’s story “Dance the Fiya Dance,” performed by Enih Agwe, was featured in Episode 15. 

    Read the full transcript.

    Support Future Episodes of Ursa Short Fiction
    Become a Member at ursastory.com/join.

    About the Author 

    Nana Nkweti is a Cameroonian-American writer, Whiting Award winner, and AKO Caine Prize finalist whose work has garnered fellowships from MacDowell, Vermont Studio Center, Ucross, Byrdcliffe, Kimbilio, Hub City Writers, the Stadler Center for Poetry, the Wurlitzer Foundation, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Clarion West Writers Workshop. Her first book, Walking on Cowrie Shells, was hailed by The New York Times review as a “raucous and thoroughly impressive debut” with "stories to get lost in again and again." The collection is also a New York Times Editor's Choice, Indie Next pick, recipient of starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and BookPage; and has been featured in The New Yorker, Harper's Bazaar, Oprah Daily, The Root, NPR, Buzzfeed, and Thrillist; amongst others. The work features elements of mystery, horror, myth, and graphic novels to showcase the complexity and vibrance of African diaspora cultures and identities. She is a professor of English at the University of Alabama where she teaches creative writing courses that explore her eclectic literary interests: ranging from graphic novels to medical humanities onto exploring works by female authors in genres such as horror, Afrofuturism, and mystery.

    Episode Links and Reading List: 


    “Dance the Fiya Dance” (Ursa) 


    Walking on Cowrie Shells (Graywolf Press) 

    Nana Nkweti’s website


    “Nana Nkweti’s Tales of Cameroonians at Home and in America” (Deesha Philyaw, The New York Times Book Review)


    Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine



    Bloodchild, Octavia Butler


    “The Secret Sci-Fi Life of Alice B. Sheldon” (NPR)


    More from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton: 


    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, by Deesha Philyaw


    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, by Dawnie Walton


    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
    Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://ursastory.com/join

    • 57 min
    Story: 'Dance the Fiya Dance,' by Nana Nkweti

    Story: 'Dance the Fiya Dance,' by Nana Nkweti

    Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton introduce their latest short story pick, Nana Nkweti’s “Dance the Fiya Dance,” from her acclaimed 2021 debut collection, Walking On Cowrie Shells, published by Graywolf Press. 

    Through a series of journal entries, we meet Chambu, a DC-based linguistic anthropologist and “Halfrican” (daughter of a Cameroonian mom and African American dad) who processes a devastating loss while sparking a sexy new romance.

    For content advisories, scroll to the end of the show notes.
     
    The story is performed by Enih Agwe, with music and mixing by Alexis Adimora, and illustrations by Halimah Smith at Artpce. Ursa Executive producers are Dawnie Walton and Mark Armstrong.

    You can read along at ursastory.com/dance.

    Support Future Episodes of Ursa Short Fiction
    Become a Member at ursastory.com/join.

    About the Author 
    Nana Nkweti is a Cameroonian-American writer, Whiting Award winner, and AKO Caine Prize finalist whose work has garnered fellowships from MacDowell, Vermont Studio Center, Ucross, Byrdcliffe, Kimbilio, Hub City Writers, the Stadler Center for Poetry, the Wurlitzer Foundation, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Clarion West Writers Workshop. Her first book, Walking on Cowrie Shells, was hailed by The New York Times review as a “raucous and thoroughly impressive debut” with "stories to get lost in again and again." The collection is also a New York Times Editor's Choice, Indie Next pick, recipient of starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and BookPage; and has been featured in The New Yorker, Harper's Bazaar, Oprah Daily, The Root, NPR, Buzzfeed, and Thrillist; amongst others. The work features elements of mystery, horror, myth, and graphic novels to showcase the complexity and vibrance of African diaspora cultures and identities. She is a professor of English at the University of Alabama where she teaches creative writing courses that explore her eclectic literary interests: ranging from graphic novels to medical humanities onto exploring works by female authors in genres such as horror, Afrofuturism, and mystery.

    More from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton: 


    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, by Deesha Philyaw


    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, by Dawnie Walton


    Content advisory: Partner abuse, pregnancy loss.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
    Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://ursastory.com/join

    • 53 min
    Book Club: 'The Secret Lives of Church Ladies'

    Book Club: 'The Secret Lives of Church Ladies'

    This month marked the two-year anniversary of the publication of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, author Deesha Philyaw’s groundbreaking and award-winning debut short story collection that examined the inner lives of Black women as they navigate relationships, sex, and the church. 

    On Episode 14 of Ursa Short Fiction, Dawnie Walton digs into the stories with her co-host Philyaw, and gets some hints on what might be in store for the characters as Philyaw and Tessa Thompson are adapting The Secret Lives of Church Ladies for HBO Max. 

    Philyaw’s collection won the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the 2020/2021 Story Prize, and the 2020 LA Times Book Prize: The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. Philyaw is a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow and the 2022-2023 John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi.

    Get the full transcript here.

    Episode edited by Kelly Araja.

    From Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton: 


    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, by Deesha Philyaw


    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, by Dawnie Walton

     
    Support Future Episodes of Ursa Short Fiction
    Become a Member at ursastory.com/join.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
    Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://ursastory.com/join

    • 1 hr 25 min
    Member Bonus: Ask Deesha and Dawnie Anything!

    Member Bonus: Ask Deesha and Dawnie Anything!

    Thank you Ursa Members for your support! As a special bonus episode for our subscribers, co-hosts Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton answer your burning questions about the craft of writing and storytelling, and finding that creative spark.

    To access this episode, become an Ursa Member by subscribing in Apple Podcasts. Every membership comes with a 3-day free trial.

    Got a question for Deesha and Dawnie? Leave us a voicemail: https://www.speakpipe.com/ursa

    Or send us an email at hello@ursastory.com.

    Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s Creative Journey from Lawyer to Award-Winning Writer

    Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s Creative Journey from Lawyer to Award-Winning Writer

    Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton are joined by Maurice Carlos Ruffin, author of the short story collection The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You. That acclaimed 2021 book includes “Ghetto University,” the story we featured previously on the show. 
    Ruffin talks about the inspiration he takes from his native New Orleans, and his journey from a “three-piece suit-wearing, BMW-driving lawyer” to putting all of his energy into becoming a writer and telling the stories he was meant to tell.
    Read the full transcript.
    About the Author 
    Maurice Carlos Ruffin is the author of The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You, a New York Times Editor’s Choice that was also longlisted for the Story Prize. His first book, We Cast a Shadow, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the PEN America Open Book Prize. Ruffin is the winner of several literary prizes, including the Iowa Review Award in fiction. A New Orleans native, Ruffin is a professor of Creative Writing at Louisiana State University, and the 2020-2021 John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi.
    Episode Links and Reading List: 


    “Ghetto University” (Ursa) 


    The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You (One World, 2021)


    We Cast a Shadow (One World, 2020)


    “Leaving the Law Behind for My Dream Job” (Oldster, 2021)

    About Maurice Carlos Ruffin


    Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s newsletter 


    New Stories from the South (edited by ZZ Packer, 2008)

    More from Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton: 


    The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, by Deesha Philyaw


    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, by Dawnie Walton

     
    Support Future Episodes of Ursa Short Fiction
    Become a Member at ursastory.com/join.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
    Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://ursastory.com/join

    • 59 min
    Story: 'Ghetto University,' by Maurice Carlos Ruffin

    Story: 'Ghetto University,' by Maurice Carlos Ruffin

    A professor in New Orleans loses his job and resorts to a new line of work – mugging tourists in the French Quarter. 
    “Ghetto University” is a short story by Maurice Carlos Ruffin, featured in his 2021 collection, The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You.
    Listen to the story here, and read along at ursastory.com/ghetto-university 
    Then come back next week for Ruffin’s in-depth conversation with Ursa Short Fiction co-hosts Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton. 
    About the Author 
    Maurice Carlos Ruffin is the author of The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You, a New York Times Editor’s Choice that was also longlisted for the Story Prize. His first book, We Cast a Shadow, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the PEN America Open Book Prize. Ruffin is the winner of several literary prizes, including the Iowa Review Award in fiction. A New Orleans native, Ruffin is a professor of Creative Writing at Louisiana State University, and the 2020-2021 John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi.
    Episode Links and Reading List: 


    “Ghetto University” (Ursa) 


    The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You (One World, 2021)

    About Maurice Carlos Ruffin


    Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s newsletter 


    Story Credits
    “Ghetto University”
    Written by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
    Performed by Allan Thomas
    Directed by Adetola Abdulkadir
    Sound Design and Mixing by Alicia Qian
    Illustrations by Anthony Santagati
    Music: “Zizu de Calp,” Blue Dot Studios
    Executive Producers: Dawnie Walton & Mark Armstrong
     
    Support Future Episodes of Ursa Short Fiction
    Become a Member at ursastory.com/join.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
    Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://ursastory.com/join

    • 30 min

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5
174 Ratings

174 Ratings

snowstorm 09 ,

Nice and Flowy

This is honestly great to listen to while doing chores or work because it’s nice and flowy. It’s not to deep or traumatic. You get to imagine being part of the story and witnessing everything yourself. I highly recommend.

MsAlderman04 ,

The class you wish you’d gotten to take in college

This podcast is the class I wanted to take in college but didn’t get to because it didn’t exist yet. And now I get to just soak it in and deep dive with no tests or timeline! I’ve already learned so much about black short stories. The first episode introduced me to (way late, I know) Gloria Naylor and ZZ Packer among so many others and now I am reading everything by them I can get my hands on. I was already a huge fan of Philyaw’s Church Ladies and now love Walton’s Opal and Nev. Having them as teachers through podcast is such an amazing gift. I subscribe monthly because their work deserves it. The members-only book clubs are amazing.

Cameron_BC ,

Love this podcast

These conversations and stories are so insightful and uplifting. I’m so happy that this exists.

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