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Kiese Laymon and Deesha Philyaw ponder how to tell true stories and live with success

Over the past few years, Deesha Philyaw and Kiese Laymon have worked their way into the top tier of American writers.

Philyaw’s short story collection “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies” was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2020 and is being adapted into a TV series for HBO. 

Laymon’s book “Heavy” was named one of the 50 best memoirs of the last 50 years by the New York Times, and he’s a recipient of one of those MacArthur “genius grants.”

They’re also longtime friends, and now they’re teaming up for a new podcast called “Reckon True Stories,” which debuts July 9.

They’ll be talking to each other and interviewing other writers such as Roxane Gay and Alexander Chee about all types of nonfiction writing.

The three of us talked about everything from how success — and money — has affected their work, to their first memories of how words changed their lives.

Speaking of language: Philyaw and Laymon do not hold back. There are some four-letter words, eight-letter words and even a couple of 12-letter words in this talk. So if that kind of language bothers you, just know that going in. I promise you, if you want to understand the creative process and the mind of an artist, this is well worth your time.

Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary, On My Mind, which airs every Monday.