On Laboring

Work—even when it’s a labor of love—is still work. Let’s begin at the writer’s desk. Pull up a chair and join Lorine Niedecker in “Poet’s Work” as she follows her grandfather’s advice to “learn a trade.” Next stop, we’ll travel to farm country. Meet Austin Smith’s “Halverson Brothers,” sworn enemies united by a deep love of the family farm they seek to divide. You tell us: Do work and family mix?

And what of work-life balance? Legendary writer, poet, and wise man Donald Hall—who died just this year—peels back the veil of what makes a great writer in “Life Work”: discipline and devotion. And don’t miss Debra Jo Immergut’s “Happy Valentine’s Day, Mrs. Blumenstrauss,” an essay about how a boss’s private (or not-so-private) life disrupts a professional workplace. “Hello, women rising up against toxic men. I salute you.”

When work falls apart, do you? Krys Lee drops us into the world of “The Salaryman” in this tragic story of a man losing his job, and his humanity. In “Crossing Borders” for Narrative Outloud, this year’s Narrative Prize winner, Javier Zamora, discusses his journey across the United States border from El Salvador, and the ways in which his poetry explores trauma and memory. Give it a listen. Afterward, dive into “Let Him Go On, Mama.” Renée Branum floats us through a love story heavily influenced by a river and the bargemen that work on it. And certainly not to be missed, Narrative’s Lacy Crawford speaks with writer and longtime director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop Frank Conroy in one of his last interviews. The two talk of his lifetime of work: what inspired it, where it’s taken him, and what’s up next.

On this Labor Day weekend, we celebrate the toils and spoils of work.