About the Staff
Learn more about the people who help make The Writer's Almanac possible.


Joy Biles, Producer

Joy Biles grew up in Florida and Hawaii and couldn't wait to move to a place where flip-flops were not the standard footwear. She took a cross-country road trip in her 20s, and after visiting a friend who'd moved to Minneapolis, she decided to hang around for a few weeks—and ended up staying for the next 13 years and counting. She was nearly 30 when she decided it's never too late to earn a college degree, so she enrolled at the University of Minnesota and majored in English. It turned out to be a good choice for someone who reads dictionaries for fun, and she hasn't looked back since.

She does everything from writing and research, to answering mail and coordinating the schedule, to lining up interviews and searching through stacks of books for that perfect poem. Some of her favorite writers are F. Scott Fitzgerald, Graham Greene, Eudora Welty, Toni Morrison, and Joan Didion. Her favorite part about working on The Writer's Almanac is discovering the many redemptive stories of writers who overcame tremendous odds to publish their work, and, of course, the time spent reading poems. She'd be hard-pressed to name a favorite poet since there are so many, but two poems she never tires of reading are James Wright's "A Blessing" and Elizabeth Bishop's "The Fish."

Noah Smith, Engineer

Originally from South Dakota, Noah Smith attended Minnesota State University in Moorhead, studying the music industry — with an emphasis on audio production and engineering. After graduation, he interned with Hest & Kramer, a music studio that creates soundtracks for TV and radio commercials. There he helped design and build — of all things — robot actors. Since he signed on with A Prairie Home Companion, Noah has had an ever-evolving stack of tasks on his plate, from keeping up-to-date archives of APHC and The Writer's Almanac to making dubs of the programs for guest performers. In his time off, you're likely to find him in his home recording studio, where he mixes music for local bands.

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  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
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