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Tough love for literature


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Episode 298: Breakup Stories

This week, we’re continuing our quest for the best stories to use in a creative writing course, with pieces about breakups: Courtney Bird, “Still Life, With Mummies” and “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian. You might remember the latter as “that story that went viral and briefly broke the internet,” spurring hot takes from a bunch of people who seemingly hadn’t read a short story in a very long time.

We talk about how students write about breakups, and what kinds of models these stories might provide for them. We also discuss strategies for discussing both of these stories in class, including how to approach some of the more uncomfortable sex writing in “Cat Person,” and how the online discourse around that story could be interesting–or frustrating–to get into with a creative writing class.

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, or download the mp3 file to listen to later. Or check us out in Apple podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!) and catch up on older episodes. We’re also available on Spotify, Stitcher, or just about any other podcast app. If for some reason you can’t find us in your favorite app, please reach out and let us know!

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you’ll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world’s weirdest–and steamiest!–novels. We’ve also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Thanks for listening!

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Episode 297: Magical Realist Stories

This week, we’re continuing our quest for the best stories to use in a creative writing course, with pieces that incorporate magical elements: “The Healer” by Aimee Bender versus a trio of very short stories by Etgar Keret.

We talk about what the term “magical realism” actually means, and how we introduce it in the classroom. We also discuss ways to open up a fiction class to a diversity of styles and genres while still assuring that students are challenging themselves and trying new things. Plus: Are magicians creeps? And Tom revisits the work of Jim Harrison, mostly out of spite.

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, or download the mp3 file to listen to later. Or check us out in Apple podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!) and catch up on older episodes. We’re also available on Spotify, Stitcher, or just about any other podcast app. If for some reason you can’t find us in your favorite app, please reach out and let us know!

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you’ll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world’s weirdest–and steamiest!–novels. We’ve also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Thanks for listening!

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Episode 296: Second Person Stories

This fall, we’re exploring the canon of creative writing, trying to find the best stories to teach in creative writing classes. Each week we’ll have a different theme, either a craft element or type of story, and we’ll each nominate a story we think works particularly well in the classroom. We’ll pit the stories against each other and by the end of the episode crown a winner.

This week we’ve got two second person stories: “How to Leave Hialeah,” by Jennine Capo Crucet, going up against Lorrie Moore’s “How to Be an Other Woman.”

We talk about the internet logic of the second person, and the closeness it creates between narrator and reader. We also discuss our approaches to teaching second person, especially for students who might initially be put off by it. Also, there’s some cat talk that has nothing whatsoever to do with writing or teaching. But people like cats, right?

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, or download the mp3 file to listen to later. Or check us out in Apple podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!) and catch up on older episodes. We’re also available on Spotify, Stitcher, or just about any other podcast app. If for some reason you can’t find us in your favorite app, please reach out and let us know!

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you’ll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world’s weirdest–and steamiest!–novels. We’ve also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Thanks for listening!

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Episode 295: Unreliable Narrators

It’s a new season on the calendar, and that means a new season of Book Fight. This fall, we’re going to be exploring the canon of creative writing, trying to find the best stories to teach in creative writing classes. Each week we’ll have a different theme, either a craft element or type of story, and we’ll each nominate a story we think works particularly well in the classroom. We’ll pit the stories against each other and by the end of the episode crown a winner.

This week we’ve got Denis Johnson going up against Matthew Vollmer, with two stories featuring unreliable narrators: “Emergency” and “Will and Testament.”

We talk about drug stories, different ways of thinking about “unreliability,” and the difficult guesswork of figuring out what stories students might respond to. Also, the difference between a “good” story and a “teachable” story.

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, or download the mp3 file to listen to later. Or check us out in Apple podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!) and catch up on older episodes. We’re also available on Spotify, Stitcher, or just about any other podcast app. If for some reason you can’t find us in your favorite app, please reach out and let us know!

If you like the show and would like more Book Fight in your life, consider subscribing to our Patreon. For $5/month, you’ll get access to regular bonus episodes, including monthly episodes of Book Fight After Dark, where we read some of the world’s weirdest–and steamiest!–novels. We’ve also recently begun a new series of Patreon-only mini-episodes called Reading the Room, in which we offer advice on how to navigate awkward, writing-related social situations.

Thanks for listening!

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Episode 190: Summer of Selfies, Curtis Sittenfeld (“Show Don’t Tell”)

This week we’re discussing a recently published story from The New Yorker by Curtis Sittenfeld, author of a number of books, including Prep and American Wife. In “Show Don’t Tell,” Sittenfeld turns her attentions to a fictionalized version of the Iowa Writers Workshop, and the anxious first-year students who are awaiting decisions on their funding for the next year.

Since both of your Book Fight hosts are Workshop grads, we take a little stroll down memory lane and compare our own experiences with those of the story’s characters. Though we also attempt to consider the story on its own merits, and we wonder whether it’s one that people outside the writing world would find compelling.

Also: another installment of Millennial M0m3nt. What American industry are the young people killing this week?

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, where you can catch up on back episodes and subscribe (for free!) so you’ll never miss another installment.

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Episode 167: Mary Kubica, Don’t You Cry

Dear Listener,

We are truly sorry about this week’s book pick, which is–how to put this politely?–pretty sucky. The one of us who picked the book understands where he went wrong, and is very contrite about his mistake. It’s been a learning experience! He understands that if he picks a book this bad again, he might be placed on six months of book-picking probation. A tough punishment, yes, but also a fair one.

kubica

We talk about the ways this book disappointed us. We talk about the ways this book disappointed others. Then, in the second half of the show, we introduce a new segment, Unpopular Opinions. It’s lots of fun!

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts. Subscribe, and never miss another installment!

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Writers Ask: Spies Like Us

On this week’s episode we discuss a recent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education—How Iowa Flattened Literature, by Workshop grad Eric Bennet—and whether we agree with the various charges it levels against Iowa specifically and the project of teaching creative writing more generally. We also answer a listener question about how to select the journals to which you submit your work, and whether there are special considerations for as-yet-unpublished writers.

Alternate titles for this episode include: How the CIA Killed My Novel of Ideas, and Dr. Conroy: Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Sensory Details.

Your podcast correspondents, enjoying a winter in Iowa City.

Your podcast correspondents, enjoying a winter in Iowa City.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. Or check us out in the iTunes store (or through whatever podcast app you prefer, like Podcatcher, Stitcher, or Instacast) where you can subscribe for free and never miss another episode. If you want to help support the show, and also a great independent bookstore, please use any of the Powell’s links on our page–if you get to their site from ours, anything you buy will throw a little money our way.

Thanks for listening! We welcome feedback on what we talked about. Feel free to leave a note in the comments, or shoot us an email.

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