About New Letters On the Air: Writers on Radio


Producer/Host, New Letters on the Air, Angela Elam  (816) 235-1159

Assistant Producer, New Letters on the Air, Jamie Walsh 

Editor-in-Chief of New Letters, BkMk Press and New Letters on the Air, Christie Hodgen

New Letters Assistant Editor, Ashley Wann

BkMk Press Managing Editor, Ben Furnish

BkMk Press Assistant Editor, Cynthia Beard

New Letters & BkMk Press Editor Emeritus & Advisory Editor: Robert Stewart


In 1977, New Letters magazine editor, David Ray, and his wife, the poet Judy Ray--who was originally from England and knew the power of the spoken word from BBC radio--worked with KCUR's station manager, Sam Scott, to develop a half-hour radio show, featuring writers reading from and talking about their works. Originally recorded live in KCUR's studios, New Letters on the Air became one of the first local programs in the country to be offered via National Public Radio's new satellite distribution system in 1979, furthering the magazine's mission to introduce writers and new writing to the world. Judy Ray worked with various members of UMKC's English Department and KCUR on the show, until she began consistently collaborating with KCUR producer, Rebekah Presson, in 1982. Presson eventually became producer and host, taking the show in the direction of the interview format, rather than primarily spoken word, though readings were still a regular highlight within the interviews (as they continue to be today). Rebekah Presson worked with the magazine's then managing editor, Robert Stewart (who also helped launch the show) and editor, Jim McKinley, until she left in the fall of 1995.  Angela Elam was hired as the producer/host in March of 1996. 

The program now stands as the longest continuously-running broadcast of a national literary radio series in the country, with more than 1,300 programs by many of the world’s most prominent writers. In 2009, the NEA and the National Park Service awarded the program a "Save America's Treasures" grant for a several years project that allowed New Letters on the Air to work with Marr Sound Archives to digitize nearly 25 years of reel-to-reel tapes, and to create a new website where shows could be heard by the public. The required match for this grant was generously donated by listeners, writers and members of the UMKC community.

In 2010, New Letters on the Air was a finalist for the New York Festivals International Radio Arts & Culture Award for "The Cruelest Month," a special poetry compilation for National Poetry Month.  New Letters on the Air won a 2011 Clarion Award from the Association for Women in Communications for Women's Issues Radio with "When She Named Fire"--a show about women publishing poetry in America-- and also won a 2013 Clarion Award for Best Radio Talk or Interview Program.

New Letters on the Air, which has also been available as a podcast since 2005, widens the scope of the magazine's mission to promote great literature, both on the page and on the air. Many interns for the program have gone on to careers in both writing and public radio.

The mission of New Letters on the Air, New Letters magazine, and their affiliate book publisher, BkMk Press, is to discover, publish and promote the best and most exciting literary writing, wherever it might be found. We serve readers and writers worldwide, through award-winning broadcasts and other audio systems, print and digital formats. New Letters magazine has won a National Magazine Award, the industry's highest honor, plus multiple Pushcart Prizes, and is often reprinted in Best of anthologies.






Kansas City Literary Events

Coutley, Gaskin & Molberg

Friday, August 21, 2020
Kansas City, Mo.


Our Mission

New Letters, New Letters on the Air, and our affiliate publisher, BkMk Press, stand in solidarity with our black writers, readers, listeners, friends, and community. Read our full statement here.


Individual Issues of New Letters Magazine

To order an individual issue of New Letters magazine, please call 816-235-1169 or visit our online store here.