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Bonus Episode: NaNoWriMo 2016

How many words did you write in the past month? Was it fifty thousand? If not, then what’s up with that, slacker? All across this great land of ours, participants in National Novel Writing Month have spent November drafting an entire novel, beginning to end, and what the hell have YOU been doing? Maybe an essay? A couple blog posts? Some tweets? Did you write some nice tweets?

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As long-time listeners know, we have something of a complicated relationship with NaNoWriMo. When we first discussed it, way back in 2012, it made Tom very angry. Though in subsequent years, Tom softened his stance a little. In 2013, Mike even (sort of) participated. What we’ve always enjoyed most is checking in on the NaNoWriMo forums. They’re a real treasure trove of the weird questions people have as they’re trying desperately to finish novel drafts and probably operating on too much caffeine and too little sleep.

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So this week we’re once again diving in, here at the tail end of November, to see what queries our fellow writers have had. What problems they’ve encountered. What things they’ve had difficulty naming. We’ll also see if there’s any update on last year’s theory that the NaNoWriMo forums are really just a clever cover for aliens (or robots) trying to learn how humans behave so they can blend in and eventually enslave us.

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.

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Episode 104: Elspeth Davie, “The Night of the Funny Hats”

This week’s story is a Tom pick, from a collection he stumbled upon in the library and picked up entirely based on the title. As it turns out, Elspeth Davie, who passed away in 1995, was a celebrated Scottish novelist and story writer, though her reputation didn’t much travel outside of the UK, and it would appear she’s been largely forgotten. We talk about the title story from this 1980 collection, in which a group of tourists take a bus trip across the Australian outback.

We also talk about what separates writers who are remembered from those who aren’t. And to what (if any) extent can writers control their own legacies?

In this piece, from the blog Writers No One Reads, Katrina Dixon notes that Davie was acclaimed in her time, and makes a case that she deserves a larger audience. In her obituary from The Independent, Davie is said to be “implacably modest,” never one to seek out fame. The Independent also argues that while she wrote a couple novels, it was her stories that were most notable, if not exactly flashy.

She was perhaps old-fashioned in her approach to writing, content to produce quirky, finely honed gems rather than sprawling sagas. Every word told: it was very often what she left out rather than what she put in that was of note.

In the second half of the show, we take one final dive into the National Novel Writing Month forums, where we may have uncovered a game-changing conspiracy afoot. Hold on to your butts!

As always, we’re happy to hear what you think about the stuff we talked about this week. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: we’re on Facebook, and gradually getting better about posting studio pics and links and such. So come visit us over there, like our page, etc. etc.

You can stream today’s episode by clicking on the little player thingy below, or download the mp3 file to play on your favorite device. Or visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts, where you can download back episodes and subscribe (for free) so that you never miss another weekly installment.

Thanks for listening! And if you like the show, tell your friends!

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Episode 103: Renata Adler, Speedboat

This week’s book is a Mike pick, Renata Adler’s 1976 novel Speedboat, a book that’s been a touchstone to many other writers, including David Shields and David Foster Wallace. The novel received its share of praise when it was first released, but then fell out of print before the New York Review of Books published a new edition in 2013 (along with a reissue of her book Pitch Dark).

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In the first half of the show we try our best to figure out this slim novel, which is made up of a bunch of loosely connected vignettes and essayistic asides. In the second half of the show we talk about Adler’s famous 8,000-word take-down of Pauline Kael, “The Perils of Pauline,” published in the New York Review of Books in 1980.

We also talk about the strange (and ultimately sad) case of Richard Brittain, who in 2014 tracked down and assaulted someone who wrote a negative review of his self-published novel. Previously, Brittain had gained some internet infamy for a very creepy post he wrote on his own website, called “The Benevolent Stalker.” He’s since updated that post to indicate he knows how “deeply disturbing” his behavior was, and that he’s entered therapy.

Finally, we take another deep dive into the National Novel Writing Month forums to see what our intrepid NaNo-ers are fretting about as their month of intense world-building (and word count building!) continues.

As always, we’re happy to hear what you think about the stuff we talked about this week. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: we’re on Facebook, and gradually getting better about posting studio pics and links and such. So come visit us over there, like our page, etc. etc.

You can stream today’s episode by clicking on the little player thingy below, or download the mp3 file to play on your favorite device. Or visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts, where you can download back episodes and subscribe (for free) so that you never miss another weekly installment.

Thanks for listening! And if you like the show, tell your friends!

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Episode 101: James Tate Hill, Academy Gothic

This week’s book was the winner of the Nilsen Prize for a First Novel, sponsored and funded by Southeast Missouri State University. James Tate Hill‘s book is both a detective novel and an academic satire, set at a small private college where the dean has either killed himself or (more likely) been murdered.

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We try our best to talk about the book without giving away any plot spoilers. We also talk about the conventions of detective novels, and the vagaries of academic life.

In the second half of the show we’ve got a new installment of Raccoon News, which this week features some historical raccoon news. Plus we pay another visit to the NaNoWriMo forums to answer questions about how college kids talk, what tweens are like, and how to make friends.

As always, we’re happy to hear what you think about the stuff we talked about this week. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: we’re on Facebook, and gradually getting better about posting studio pics and links and such. So come visit us over there, like our page, etc. etc.

You can stream today’s episode by clicking on the little player thingy below, or download the mp3 file to play on your favorite device. Or visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts, where you can download back episodes and subscribe (for free) so that you never miss another weekly installment.

Thanks for listening! And if you like the show, tell your friends!

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Episode 100: Dennis Lehane, “Until Gwen”

This week we continue our theme-less fall experiment with a story by Dennis Lehane, the writer of the novels Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River, among others. The story, “Until Gwen,” was first published in The Atlantic and is included in Lehane’s collection Coronado.

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We talk about crime writing as a genre, stylized dialogue versus overly stylized dialogue, hookers and blow, Boston catch phrases, and Lehane’s advice on making it as a writer, which includes never saying no to Clint Eastwood.

In the second half of the show we pay another visit to the forums for National Novel Writing Month to see how Nano-ers are handling the challenge this year. What music are they listening to? What characters can they not think up names for? What are they putting into their Nano jars?

As always, we’re happy to hear what you think about the stuff we talked about this week. You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: we’re on Facebook, and gradually getting better about posting studio pics and links and such. So come visit us over there, like our page, etc. etc.

You can stream today’s episode by clicking on the little player thingy below, or download the mp3 file to play on your favorite device. Or visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts, where you can download back episodes and subscribe (for free) so that you never miss another weekly installment.

Thanks for listening! And if you like the show, tell your friends!

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Episode 74: Greg Baxter, A Preparation for Death

In keeping with our fall theme, this week we’re discussing a memoir about failure: Greg Baxter’s A Preparation for Death, which recounts the author’s unraveling after failing to sell his first novel, moving to Dublin, and getting divorced. “Traditional autobiography is composed after the experience has passed,” Baxter writes in the memoir’s preface. “I wrote this book in the very panic of the experiences that inspired it.”

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A March 2013 New Yorker essay called Baxter’s book “grim reading,” and said there was “much to dislike” about it. Since Mike is interested in the line between honesty and self-indulgence in memoir writing, and also often likes writing that’s polarizing, that skewering was enough to make him pick it up, and then foist it upon Tom.

We’ve also got another installment this week of Raccoon News, and another dip into the NaNoWriMo forums. Yes, we know it’s December, but we gave NaNoWriMo pretty short shrift this year.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the little player thingy below. Or download the mp3 file. You can also visit us in the iTunes store, or through just about any of the available podcast apps, where you can subscribe (for free) and never miss another episode.

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We always welcome your feedback on what we talked about on the show. You can email us, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the episode post. Thanks for listening!

 

Also: please take a minute to vote for us in The AV Club’s Best Podcast of 2014 poll. 


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Episode 72: Ravi Mangla, Understudies

This week’s book is a Tom pick, and was also the runner-up to The Silver Linings Playbook in last year’s donor voting. Ravi Mangla’s Understudies came out earlier this year from San Francisco-based Outpost 19. You can read a brief excerpt on the Outpost 19 website.

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Also: It's November, which must mean it's National Novel Writing Month. This week we dig into the NaNoWriMo forums to see what the participants are struggling with: how to name alligators and horses, gas masks for animals, living in a clock tower, and a world where houses are sort of like computers or something?

You can stream the episode right here on our site, by clicking on the little player thingy below. You can also visit us in the iTunes store (link below) where you can catch up on back episodes and subscribe (for free) so you never miss another installment.

As always, thanks for listening to the show, and helping to spread the words to your literature-loving friends. If you’ve got feedback for us, we’re happy to hear it. You can email us, Tweet at us, or just leave a comment here on the site.

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