Dan Klefstad

Morning Edition Host & Book Series Editor

Good morning, Early Riser! Since 1997 I've been waking WNIJ listeners with the latest news, weather and other information, with the goal of seamlessly weaving this content into NPR's Morning Edition.

What do I do after the show ends at 9:00? I read. I'm especially interested in literature from the WNIJ listening area, which led me to adopt the "Book Beat" in 2012. Throughout the year, I immerse myself in works written by authors from northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Then I interview these writers for Morning Edition and record them reading excerpts. Interviews and excerpts are available as podcasts in our Book Series archive.

If you're a writer from this area, or have a personal connection to this place, send your book to me at 801 N. 1st St., DeKalb, IL 60115. You can also email a .doc or .pdf to dklefstad@niu.edu. I'm looking for novels, poems, short fiction, memoirs and creative nonfiction. While most of the books I feature come from established presses, I do accept self-published works. Just make sure your manuscript is well edited.

Thanks,

@danklefstad

#WNIJReadWithME

Ways to Connect

Daniel Ng "Room at Pudong Shangri-La, Shanghai / (CC by 2.0)

You're invited to a party at a wealthy person's home. Somehow, you find the master bathroom and stare at a mirror that appears to double as a medicine cabinet.

Do you open it?

Think about the things you can learn about your host just by taking a peek. Of course, there might be nothing more powerful or revealing than Tylenol in there. But you'll never know without opening it.

This is the premise for "Shattered," the final story of our "Three-Minute Fiction" contest.

Jamie Lieberman w/Brenda Puska

The protagonist in our next "Three-Minute Fiction" contest is a familiar one: a retired guy who maintains an immaculate yard and relaxes with a beer after putting the tools in the shed.

While he's past middle-age, he's far from dead. Or maybe you prefer the old "there may be snow on the mountaintop" metaphor. However you put it, he likes looking at women -- especially those younger and more attractive than his wife.

His neighbor mows her lawn on Tuesdays and, lately, does so in a bikini. Our hero sips his beer and watches her, which coincides nicely with our story prompt:

"Trick or Treat" by KOMU News / Flickr

"Don't go in there!"

How many times have you screamed that during a horror movie? Despite your protests, the hapless character opens the door and steps into the dark room or basement or tunnel -- alone.

Today's "Three-Minute Fiction" story has the same premise, but you'll have to read to the end of "The Last Adventure" to see what happens to the hero.

Maria Boynton

In Greek mythology, the god Zeus orders a lesser god to create the first woman on earth. The god charged with this task, Hephaestus, makes a stunning beauty out of water and earth. Her name is Pandora and the Olympians shower her with gifts, including a mysterious jar which, through a translation error, became known as Pandora's Box.

Carl Nelson

Remember last month when we launched our first-ever contest for short fiction? We called it "Three-Minute Fiction," inspired by an NPR contest of the same name.

GK Wuori, a Pushcart-Prize winning author, issued the prompt, and agreed to be our judge. When the deadline arrived on Sept. 20, we had more than 100 submissions.

If you have schizophrenia and depend on supportive housing, you could soon be on the streets again. That's because a program that funded housing for mentally ill people is a victim of the budget stalemate.

Illinois is about to enter its fourth month without a spending plan because Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrat-led General Assembly can't agree on a range of fiscal issues.

As a result, funding ended for the Department of Human Services' Permanent Supportive Housing program.

Carl Nelson

The prompt for WNIJ's first-ever Three Minute Fiction contest is thematic. It's not meant to be the opening line for your story.

But it could be.

Just remember: A three minute story is somewhere between 500 and 600 words, depending on how quickly you read it. So unless you're a minimalist prose superhero, I suggest you don't start with our 20-word prompt.

Day care businesses in Illinois are struggling as a result of the state's budget problems.

Many working parents depend on subsidies for child care. These parents make up a big part of the clientele for day care centers.

That is, until recently.

Christopher Voss

Here's another way to think of the budget standoff: a prison siege.

Christopher Voss is familiar with this scenario, having been a chief negotiator for the FBI. He says inmate rebellions offer lessons for sparring politicians.

"Behind each leader are groups of unruly inmates that are trying to decide who they're going to follow," Voss says.

Hopes for ending the budget stalemate faded even further this week when Gov. Bruce Rauner's office interrupted a news conference called by Senate President John Cullerton.

Cullerton, a Democrat, began by telling reporters that Rauner's budget was unbalanced when it was introduced. But then Cullerton appeared to offer an olive branch, according to Illinois Public Radio's Amanda Vinicky. In front of reporters, he asked the Governor to start over on the budget.

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