Eric Schlosser

BERKELEY — On a gorgeous spring morning, Eric Schlosser, investigative journalist and author of "Fast Food Nation" — the expose of the fast-food industry and how it manipulates customers to buy food that isn't good for them — is speaking to his latest audience: preteens and teenagers. Schlosser's new book, "Chew on This: Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food," has just come out, and he and co-author Charles Wilson are testing the waters, giving a presentation to 600 kids at Martin Luther King Middle School.

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Donald Hall

WILMOT, N.H. — "There were times when I thought I'd never be published," Donald Hall was saying, just days after learning, by fax, that he had been named poet laureate of the United States. "Times when my reputation sank." After his 1978 collection "Kicking the Leaves," some critics argued that it was poignant to read a poet who had once shown such promise.

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Alice Munroe

MINUTES from the shores of Lake Huron in western Ontario, three towns form an isosceles triangle, bounded by no more than 50 kilometers, that Alice Munro's readers may know well. Wingham (pop. 2,885) is where the author was born in 1931. Clinton (pop. 3,000) is where she now lives with her husband, geographer Gerald Fremlin, in the house in which he was raised. Goderich (pop. 7,500) — Munro calls it "the most beautiful town in Canada" — is the setting for much of her work. Here, where the mansions are dun-colored, the squirrels are black and the geese look slightly predatory, Munro and Fremlin take their constitutionals along the lake. It is a town with two dry cleaners, an evocative and imposing set of grain elevators, a restaurant called Bailey's and a used bookshop. "We don't get many of Alice's books," says the woman behind the counter in the bookstore. "Which is a good thing. It means no one wants to get rid of them."

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Susanna Moore

SUSANNA MOORE writes the way Frida Kahlo painted. Bits of bone; quite a lot of blood; beating hearts; serious, beautiful women (often in white dresses); and in the margins of her extremely visual novels: gorgeous flowers and dark horsemen in black capes.

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Ron Carlson

RON CARLSON is waiting for the cable guy. It's been more than a week now and he's trying a cowboy tactic, quietly saying exactly when he'll be available — something like staring a bull in the eyes to mesmerize it. Four months in Southern California and he's become the cable-guy whisperer.

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Grace Paley

THERE are career writers, authors whose every move seems to further their art or their marketability. Then there are the others — writers whose haphazard publications indicate the existence of equally important identities. This past Mother's Day, in South Strafford, Vt., Grace Paley, the 84-year-old poet, short story writer, activist, feminist, mother and grandmother, is a poster girl for the latter path.

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John Nichols

TAOS, N.M. — John Nichols can't stop writing. He often produces 10, 20, 30 drafts of a book, some more than 1,000 pages long. Nichols saves them all and frequently returns to things he started decades ago. Threads of stories surround the writer like milkweed seeds with their gauzy fibers. His little adobe house in Taos is full of books and other projects. Overflow goes to one of several storage lockers.

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Mary Oliver

USED to be, if you telephoned the poet Mary Oliver, her partner Molly Cook would invariably answer. She'd ask you to hold on a moment, feign footsteps and return to the phone as Oliver, making no pretense at a different voice (editors across the country routinely played along). Cook was, for many years, Oliver's agent. Oliver, everyone understood, was a bit of a recluse. She needed nature and solitude to create her poems. "Writers must … take care of the sensibility that houses the possibility of poems," she wrote in "A Poetry Handbook." Cook, who died in 2005 of lung cancer, at 80, was the sociable one.

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Bill McKibben

Bill McKIBBEN'S writing — part art, part essay, part journalism with more than a smidgen of harangue — has framed the thinking on environmental issues for more than a generation. Two new books out this spring, "The Bill McKibben Reader: Pieces From an Active Life" (Henry Holt: 446 pp., $18 paper) and "American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau" (Library of America: 1,050 pp., $40), will impress on the reader how calmly, if not always quietly, he has illuminated paths to the future, thinking alongside us about what might be possible, even as information hurtles toward us, technology blinds us and being human seems to mean something entirely different than what any of us would consciously want.

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Alexandra Fuller

PINEDALE, WYO. — ALEXANDRA FULLER is driving south from Jackson Hole toward Pinedale to visit the oil patch where 25-year-old Colton Bryant, fourth generation Wyoming oil worker and the subject of Fuller's "The Legend of Colton H. Bryant" (Penguin Press: 204 pp., $23.95) worked and died. On Valentine's Day night 2006, Bryant fell 26 feet from the catwalk around an oil well's conductor pipe. She is listening to Neil Diamond singing "Forever in Blue Jeans," one of Bryant's favorite songs. "Who the hell listens to Neil Diamond?" Fuller asks, turning it up to hear the lyrics: "Money talks, but it can't sing and dance."

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Jayne Anne Phillips

BOSTON — Falling in love with a writer requires commitment; the long haul, thick and thin. They get old, you get old. The relationship waxes and wanes. Most readers can recall times of perfect synchronicity — when the book was the necessary enzyme, the catalyst, the missing piece. "Black Tickets," Jayne Anne Phillips' first collection of stories, published in 1979, was, for more than one earnest English major, such a book.

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Reynolds Price

RALEIGH, N.C. — Spring is impossibly verdant in Raleigh, so lush it's steamy. The path to the door of Reynolds Price's house in the woods is scattered with beechnuts. Tree frogs babble, the screen door slams, somewhere in the pond outside the kitchen an old snapping turtle raises its head. It's hard not to think of the song "Copperline" which Price wrote with his friend and fellow North Carolinian, James Taylor.

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Tracy Kidder

BRISTOL, MAINE — Tracy Kidder's 2003 book, "Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World," inspired legions of young people to go out and do something for the poor and disenfranchised. It also lighted a fire under donors — the checks came pouring in to Farmer's Boston-based organization, Partners in Health, which builds medical clinics in poor communities around the world.

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Nicholson Baker

SOUTH BERWICK, MAINE — For a private writer, Nicholson Baker has caused his share of flaps. Wasn't it his novel "Vox" that Monica Lewinsky gave to President Clinton? Didn't his article "Discards" point the finger at librarians who threw away card catalogs and back issues of newspapers? What about his last book, "Human Smoke," which portrayed FDR and Churchill as warmongers? Just this summer, from the Quaker farmhouse here where he lives with his family, he wrote a piece about the Kindle that has had many readers screaming, "Luddite!" Just goes to show: You can take the literary anecdote out of the man, but you can't take the man out of the literary anecdote.

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Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins, best known as the author of "The Selfish Gene" (1976) and "The God Delusion" (2006), is at the Atheist Alliance International Convention in Burbank to discuss his new book, "The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution" (Free Press: 470 pp., $30), but he can't get from one banquet hall to the next without someone asking to take a picture with him.

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John McPhee

PRINCETON, N.J. — There's a fault line opening in John McPhee. After 28 books and countless essays, he is giving us, bit by bit, a more personal sense of who he is. In a recent, beautiful piece for the New Yorker, he combined an essay on pickerel with memories of his father's death and a lasting image of his father's bamboo fishing rod. The piece took many readers by surprise — not the style, which was the same seamless combination of carefully chosen details and information, but the presence of the author, blinking in full glare. According to McPhee, who turns 79 next month, he was as surprised as anyone to find himself hooked by memories, exposed.

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