Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


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Episode 348: Counting Crows

This week’s reading is an essay by Elena Passarello about birdsong. But it’s also other stuff! We talk about writing that make you look at the world a bit differently, and writers who can make you care about things you never thought you cared about. In the second half of the show, we discuss a recent Twitter kerfuffle over writing and money and whether publishing a book can (or should) change your life.

The essay we discussed, “Of Singing,” was published in The Iowa Review, but is also available in Passerello’s 2012 collection, Let Me Clear My Throat, from Sarabande Books.

As always, you can listen to the show right here on our site (stream or download below), or check us out in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts.

If you like the show, and you’d like to have some more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes: Book Fight After Dark, where we explore various genres of romance novel, and Reading the Room, where we give writers (and readers) advice on how to live their lives.

Stream or download the episode here:

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Episode 347: Earthquake!

This week we’re discussing a piece of creative nonfiction that really pushes the bounds of the genre, imagining the effects of a California earthquake on animal and plant life, as well as several invented human characters. Daniel Orozco’s “Shakers” appeared in an edition of Best American Essays edited by David Foster Wallace, but is it really an “essay”? 

In the second half of the show, we talk about strategies for running creative writing workshops. When we started teaching, we both adhered to the kinda “free-for-all” model favored in our own grad program, but over the years we’ve begun to experiment with more structured approaches, including tasking small groups with digging into various elements of a story or essay.

As always, you can listen to the show right here on our site (stream or download below), or check us out in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts.

If you like the show, and you’d like to have some more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes: Book Fight After Dark, where we explore various genres of romance novel, and Reading the Room, where we give writers (and readers) advice on how to live their lives.

Stream or download the episode here:

Download Episode 347


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Episode 346: When the Sixties Died

This week we’re continuing our discussion of creative nonfiction by revisiting a classic in the genre: Joan Didion’s essay “The White Album,” which explores the author’s experiences of anxiety and paranoia at “the end of the 60s.” We talk about things we can learn from a master, and how to write essays that will age well. Plus: a Miss Manners column about famous authors snubbing an academic.

As always, you can listen to the show right here on our site (stream or download below), or check us out in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts.

If you like the show, and you’d like to have some more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes: Book Fight After Dark, where we explore various genres of romance novel, and Reading the Room, where we give writers (and readers) advice on how to live their lives.

Stream or download the episode here:

Download Episode 346


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Episode 345: Short and Sweet

This week we’re discussing a series of very short essays by J. Robert Lennon, and talking about how we teach students to write very short pieces that aren’t simply tossed-off and incomplete. Plus: Tom gets angry about a rich book influencer who thinks her pandemic problems are unique and interesting. And Mike runs into his first anti-masker in the wild.

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you’ll get access to three bonus episodes each month, including 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. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We’ve got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

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Episode 344: Who’s the Boss?

This week we’re continuing our ongoing discussion of creative nonfiction by diving into an essay by Hanif Abdurraqib about attending a Bruce Springsteen concert in Jersey and thinking about who gets to romanticize “hard work” in America. Plus: Tom has opinions about Susan Orlean rebranding herself as a fun drunk, and Mike brings you another installment of “The Worst Person in This Month’s Architectural Digest.”

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you’ll get access to three bonus episodes each month, including 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. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We’ve got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

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Episode 343: Grades Are For Squares

This week we’re talking about a second-person essay by Jennifer Murvin that was first published in The Cincinnati Review. We also talk about grading in creative writing classes, and how to arrive at standards that are fair without being either too mean or a pushover. Plus at least one tantalizing blind item!

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you’ll get access to three bonus episodes each month, including 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. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We’ve got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

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Episode 342: Writing About Pop Culture

This week we’re discussing an Alice Bolin essay from The Toast, “A Meditation on Britney’s ‘Baby One More Time,'” which uses the pop star’s music as a jumping-off point for an exploration of loneliness, isolation, and the ways in which we hold ourselves apart from others. We talk about ways that writers can use their pop culture obsessions to get into some pretty interesting personal territory, and how we can get students, in particular, to wade out into those deeper waters, rather than simply writing essays about music they like.

Also: Tom is mad about a writing conference that emailed him, and Mike hate-reads Architectural Digest.

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you’ll get access to three bonus episodes each month, including 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. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We’ve got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

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Episode 341: Back to School

Welcome to our new fall season! Yes, we know that technically it’s not fall, but school’s back in session, and there are some brown leaves on the tree in front of one of our houses (it’s possible the tree is dead). For the next several weeks, we’re going to be delving into the world of creative nonfiction, with a particular eye towards teaching that genre in a classroom. We’re both college professors who have taught both undergrad and grad classes, and this semester we both have occasion to teach some creative essays in our classes.

We’re also interested in exploring the genre lines. What makes something “creative” nonfiction? What all fits under that broad umbrella? And where does creative nonfiction bump up against (and borrow from) other genres?

For this first week, we’re discussing an essay by Joshua Wheeler, “Parachutes,” from Gulf Coast. The essay would later appear in his collection, Acid West.

As always, you can listen to the podcast right here on our site. Or check us out via Apple Podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!), so that you’ll never miss another weekly episode. We’re also in Spotify, Stitcher, and just about any other podcast app you might use (if you can’t find us somewhere, reach out and let us know!)

If you like the show, and would like more Book Fight in your life, please consider joining our Patreon. For $5, you’ll get access to three bonus episodes each month, including 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. How do you talk to a writer whose work you like after a reading? How do you promote your own writing without annoying people? Should you force your spouse or significant other to read your work? We’ve got the answers to these and many other pressing questions.

Until next time: thanks for listening!

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