ADA CALHOUN is redefining journalism, one story at a time.

With a wry smile, shrewd reporting, and exquisite detail, Ada Calhoun distills America’s signature triumphs in music, theater, commerce, activism, politics, and its transgressions-- including drug abuse, prostitution and, yes, slavery, in her latest book St. Marks is Dead. She chronicles the history of three short blocks in New York from when the land was grassy and feral to now, where you can count the number of trees on two hands. It is still feral and Calhoun revels in the beauty and ugliness which emerges as a result. Her affection for St. Marks in the East Village is palpable, as it was the very block she grew up on, but it is her affecting prose which paints a gripping portrait. Even those who loathe New York or history books or are sick of hearing about how hip and edgy the punk era or sexual revolution won’t want to put down this book.

In our interview, which was recorded live at the Writers Guild (WGA-East) in downtown New York, we spoke about her near two decades as a writer. Prolific, if not...