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Tough love for literature


AWP 2014: Reports From the Writer-Industrial Complex

While Mike skipped out on this year’s AWP conference, Tom has made the voyage to Seattle, and will be filing periodic updates from inside the belly of the beast. He’ll have recaps of the day’s best and worst events, plus brief interviews with writers and editors. As new episodes drop we’ll update this post. Or you can make it easy on yourself and subscribe to the podcast feed–in iTunes, on Stitcher, or through Instacast or whatever other podcast app you prefer. Then you’ll get each new episode as soon as it’s available.

Special Report #1: Joe Killiany

Tom talks to Barrelhouse editor Joe Killiany about what’s to love and what’s to hate about AWP, writers (and ex-presidents) Joe wants to fight, and beard maintenance.


Download AWP Special Report #1 (right-click, save-as)

Special Report #2: Tom Williams

Tom (McAllister) talks to another Tom (Williams) about his novel, Don’t Start Me Talkin’, what he looks forward to each year about AWP, and conference-goers’ book-buying habits. Barrelhouse editor Dave Housley also jumps onto the mic to ask Tom about slam poetry, and his arm-wrestling prowess.


Download Special Report #2 (right-click, save-as)

Special Report #3: Aaron Burch

Tom talks with Hobart editor Aaron Burch, for some reason.


Download Special Report #3 (right-click, save-as)

Special Report #4: Erin Fitzgerald

Tom sits down with writer and friend-of-Barrelhouse Erin Fitzgerald to talk flash fiction, unlikeable characters, and the complicated worlds of fan fiction.


Download Special Report #4 (right-click, save-as)

Non-AWP Special Report #1: Lee Klein

Mike updates from Philadelphia on what it’s like to NOT be at AWP. Also, he’s joined by Lee Klein, author of Thanks and Sorry and Good Luck, to talk Austrian novelists and The Silver Linings Playbook.


Download Non-AWP Special Report #1

AWP Special Report #5: Katherine Hill

Tom talks with fan favorite Katherine Hill (author of The Violet Hour) about getting old, AWP parties, creepy dudes, dogs, kissing, and confrontational panels.


Download AWP Special Report #5


Episode 52: Michael Wayne Hampton, Romance for Delinquents

This week’s book is a story collection from Foxhead Books, and features small-town characters whose lives have fallen short of their dreams. We talk about the difference between generous and stereotypical portrayals of small-town Southern characters, how to put together a story collection, and why Americans keep shooting each other.


If you’re interested in the workshops we mention on this week’s show: the bad news is the poetry workshop is sold out; the good news is there are still spots available for fiction and nonfiction. You can register here. And check out the Barrelhouse site, where you can order Issue 12, get information about our upcoming books, and register for our annual D.C. writers’ conference (so much Barrelhouse stuff!)

While we’re bossing you around about clicking things on the internet, we’d be remiss not to mention our regular sponsor, Powell’s Books, where you can shop online while supporting an actual brick-and-mortar bookstore. If you use any of the links around our site to get to the Powell’s page, we’ll get a little cut from every purchase you make (whether it’s something we’ve recommended or not). So far those referrals have bought us some much-appreciated beers, and we’re looking forward to more. You read, we drink, everybody wins!

As always, you can stream the episode for free on our site, or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free) and never miss another installment.

Thanks for listening!


Download Episode 52 (right-click, save-as)


Writers Ask: Flash, Revisited

Several weeks ago we lodged some complaints–or maybe just confusions?–about the genre known as “flash fiction.” This week we welcome author Matthew Salesses to help sort us out on the subject. But first we tackle some listener questions: about writing advice we dole out to our students but don’t follow, and books we hate. Plus, Mike’s still mad about losing the 6th-grade science fair, and Tom still carries a grudge against The Decameron, because of a teacher who gave him the finger.

Got a question for us? You can email us, or hit us up on Twitter, preferably using the hashtag #WritersAsk.

As always, stream the episode below, or check us out in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe to make sure you never miss another installment. While you’re there, it would be really cool if you’d leave us a rating, as those things help us reach new listeners. Finally, please support our sponsor, Powell’s Books, a great indie bookstore in Portland that also sells both new and used books online–sort of like the pluckier, less ethically problematic little brother of another site whose name we won’t mention here. If you get to Powell’s through any of the links on this site, including the one just below this post, for every dollar you spend there a little bit will come back to us, to help support the show.

Thanks for listening!

Download Writers Ask: Flash Fiction, Revisited

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Writers Ask: Hurtin’ Feelings and Burnin’ Bridges

To MFA or not to MFA: That is the question. Or, one of the questions for this week’s episode of Writers Ask. With the proliferation of graduate creative writing programs, does the degree bring diminishing returns? How important is it to attend a “top tier” program? What can you expect to get out of the experience of devoting 2-3 years to writing? Will it help you build a career?

Also, we explain our beef with flash fiction, and share our pet peeves about writers and social media. Plus, Tom burns a bridge, and Mike tries to find some life lessons in past failures.

As always, you can stream the episode here, or download the mp3 file. Or, check us out in the iTunes store, where you can download past episodes for free and subscribe, so you never miss another update. While you’re there, please consider leaving us a quick review, which helps us reach new listeners.


Download Writers Ask: Hurtin’ Feelings and Burnin’ Bridges (right-click, save-as)

Please consider helping to support the show–and a great independent book store–by shopping at Powell’s Online. Just click on any of the Powell’s buttons on the site, like the one over in the right-hand column, then shop as you normally would. Anything you buy will throw a little money back our way. Win win!