Wells Tower on Fiction and Revision

Wells Tower is a literary interviewer's free ride. In two audio appearances from Iowa City last February, the author of the short story collection Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned proves himself to be gracious, forthcoming, funny, and just as verbally rich extempore as he is in print. Tower answers any and all questions about writing with an assiduity that guarantees a satisfying spin for the listener, particularly the listener who craves the stimulating discussion of literary craft. He is serious about language and thoughtful about story, but not Olympian or precious, or coy about the alchemy from life into fiction. The three free podcasts mentioned below are all worth checking out.

A Tower Trio
In these successive February 2010 audio interviews with Sarah Fay at the "Live From Prairie Lights" bookstore (includes video link) and with Joe Fassler for KRUI's "The Lit Show," and in an earlier July 2009 interview with Michael Silverblatt for KCRW's "Bookworm," Tower provides parsable insights on how to balance lyricism, description, and emotion in a story, recounts his efforts to make his stories more morally complex by avoiding the overvilification of "bad" characters, and reads some excerpts. Tower also reveals his penchant for extreme revision: before delivering the manuscript for Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, he made changes as major as swapping narrators and redirecting plots in stories that had already appeared in literary journals. (All of the above links lead to web-based audio; as of now "The Lit Show" Wells Tower podcast is downloadable from an iTunes feed.)

The Metaphor of Process
In Tower's "The Lit Show" interview he cautions that not every character can speak in "perfectly architected quips," and says he sometimes goes back to reduce the cleverness in dialogue (before you hate on this, check out how he's put just enough cleverness in the bullying dialogue in the opening section of "The Leopard," viewable online at The New Yorker). Clever language seems to come to Tower without much effort, and even in off-the-cuff interviews he uses a fresh metaphorical fluency to describe the process of writing. He talks about "high thread-count" sentences, and how using pretty language used to describe pretty things "shorts itself out," and about the necessity of "roughening the surface" of stories, especially ones that are based on real-life anecdotes which have become too smooth from barstool retelling. The 50-minute podcast from "The Lit Show" is the most intimate and craft-intensive of these three interviews, and includes a bonus list of the rich and inspirational Americana he covered in his post-MFA nonfiction assignments for The Washington Post Magazine.

Angsty Teens and Reversed Endings
The 56-minute recording from Wells Tower's February 2010 appearance with Sarah Fay at the "Live From Prairie Lights" series in Iowa City he warms the audience up with a funny anecdote about nude scanning and personal frisking in the Tulsa airport (long before the current TSA brouhaha). Tower also reads from his only female-perspective story from the collection, "Wild America," which demonstrates his alarming ability to transmit the patios, angst, self-deception, and slippery solidarity of two teenage cousins in North Carolina (text of "Wild America" viewable online at Vice). In the interview portion of the recording (about halfway through) he shares the daredevil fact that sometimes when he revises he doesn't even look at the first draft of a story and works off its "inspirational DNA" to germinate a new story. Crikey. He also talks about emotional truth and the "low-amplitude nirvanas" that his characters get to in the stories. Tower prefers short story endings where sympathy swings radically from one character to another, and has an aversion to endings where the pendulum ends right in the middle. Using unusually plain language, he states "I like endings where people think they want something, and then they get that thing, and then it turns that that's the wrong thing."

Language Giddiness and Symbolic Fauna
Tower's publisher sent Michael Silverblatt two earlier versions of the story "Retreat" from Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned as background for this interview with Wells Tower on "Bookworm." The 30-minute recording, in which Silverblatt enthuses over Tower's "narrative extraordinariness" and hypothesizes over the conflict between contemporary minimalist "guy story" editing trends and Tower's maximalist prose instinct. Tower resists the idea that he's been edited down in that way, and talks about liking short stories "with beginnings, middles, and endings, and ideally some sort of turn at the end." He says his private impetus for writing is his enjoyment of language, but he feels there's a certain amount of "narrative and directness he needs deliver" before he can "really let go and riff and sport in the language." Silverblatt makes an interesting comment on the "Ice Age gentlemanliness" of the Viking husbands in the title story compared to the husbands in the contemporary stories (click here to listen to Wells Tower read the entirety of "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned" for the Guardian Books Podcast). Around Minute 18 Silverblatt also offers a psychological theory on the metaphorical role of animals in the stories: that a diseased moose, a poisonous sea cucumber, and a pigeon embryo presage the fate of the humans. Tower seems to find this insight interesting, yet also seems to rebut it by relating that, with the exception of the pigeon, all the animals came to him as anecdotes which he stored like spare parts. A discussion of details in fiction ensues, and the interview winds up where it opened, on the role of revision in Tower's process, and his frantic desire to be a "better, smarter writer." Thank goodness that he came to feel that there's nothing in the finished collection that fills him with "the cold horror" of the unrevised manuscript, and I hope we don't have to wait nine years for the novel-in-progress to appear.


AL Kennedy Launches Granta Podcast: "The magnificent argument of his blood"

The literary magazine Granta's inaugural podcast features A.L. Kennedy reading an excerpt from her novel-in-progress (Granta iTunes link here). Kennedy begins with that "terrible word"--love--and conducts a sardonic analysis that commingles mouth mechanics and lexicality. She hurtles from there into a syncopated riff on the physical and emotional arc of love affairs and table lamps. Recorded at the British Library in July 2010, the 10-minute podcast includes the atmospheric audio of manuscript pages turning. It stands alone as a prose amuse-bouche: good company for a quick dead-head of late summer roses, or a stroll to the trolley stop.

I'm going to subscribe to the Granta podcast with some interest, as Elizabeth McCracken will be their next reader, and because I like their format: a brief but satisfying chunk of text, read by its author, and recorded with a minimum of fuss.

To read my longer effort to describe the uniquely animate quality of Kennedy's prose, please see my review of her recent story collection, What Becomesat IdentityTheory.com.

If you'd like to listen to a much longer Kennedy podcast, one that includes writing advice, humor, and some dirtyish prose, go to this Litagogo review of A.L. Kennedy's appearance at the Writers at Warwick program  (the Warwick University podcast is dormant, but the links from my post still seem to work). Finally, if you want to listen to her en vivo, and if you can get to Philly on September 30th, 2010, here's a link to the Free Library of Philadelphia's event with A.L. Kennedy and Gary Shteyngart.

FTC Disclosure: I received a free galley copy of What Becomes when I reviewed it. I purchased my other A.L. Kennedy books with my own dosh. Podcasts are free.


Paul Harding Talks Tinkers

Christopher Lydon read Maine-sourced Tinkers three times and then interviewed author Paul Harding in May 2009 for Radio Open Source, almost a year before Tinkers won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, awarded to a work "preferably dealing with American life." Elizabeth Strout's linked stories about Mainer Olive Kitteridge won the same prize in 2009, so now we know that Maine is très Americaine. Lydon's 57+ minutes with Harding offer a generous sampling of Tinkers in the author's voice (five excerpts!), an unstuffy exploration of his neo-Transcendentalism, and also a lively recounting of Harding's itinerant formation as a drummer-writer-teacher-man. You can listen to this episode from Open Source's webpage on Tinkers, or download it for portability by using one techniques from the BBC FAQ page (command+click works on my Mac). The Harding interview episode is no longer listed on Radio Open Source's iTunes podcast feed, but you might want to subscribe to see if Lydon turns up any more Pulitzer Prizewinners early in the race.

A New England Voice
This Tinkers interview reminded me how wonderful it is when literary podcasters invite authors to read their work. As much as I enjoy the New Yorker: Fiction podcast, it's a crapshoot whether the admiring contributor's voice clashes with or enhances the chosen story; other podcasts are too much chat and not enough text. Lydon seems to get the balance right. Here's a guide to the excerpts from Tinkers that Harding reads aloud in this interview:

(Go to Open Source Radio's Tinkers page, and then press the Play arrow, and then use your mouse to drag the gray status bar to the desired audio Minute):

Tinkers Audio Excerpts:
Minute 5:20: Selling "better" soap to turn-of-the-century skeptics.
Minute 9: Backwoods dentistry with a fillip of Hawthorne.
Minute 31:30: The exquisite language of clock parts.
Minute 35:40: Kindness and flirtation for the dying.
Minute 40:40: Manual transmission for the autodidact on Christmas Eve.

The Author's Formation
Interspersed with the readings Harding talks about his New England roots and his fascination with prior generations. He shares a selection of his literary and Transcendental influences, including Carlos Fuentes, Michael Ondaatje, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, the Tyndale Bible, and Thomas Mann. He also recounts his Candide-like entry into the hallowed Writer's Workshop program at the University of Iowa (Minute 23), where he became a disciple of Marilynne Robinson and a fan of Elizabeth McCracken.

Keeping Time
A rock drummer who toured with a band in his youth and trashed his hearing, Harding makes some interesting comments on the relationship between drumming and writing. "I'm just fascinated by the experience of time, of being in time, and all these characters sort of thinking about time and all that. As a drummer, that's what you do--you're the time keeper." (Minute 45:30) Harding also lays down a useful drum track for writing students: "Write as clearly, and straightforwardly, and precisely as you can about things that are truly mysterious, as opposed to writing obscurely about what proves to be received opinion or cliché." (Minute 50).

Click here to listen to the Open Source Radio interview with Paul Harding.


Downloading Podcasts to Go Go

My apologies for not posting to Litagogo recently--I've had a very sick kid. But she's mostly better, and I have been listening to some great podcasts on our many drives to various medical emporia. It really is worth figuring out how to take podcasts on the road: listening to an interesting author interview or book excerpt is much more sustaining in stressful times than skipping through random radio stations. I rarely have the time or focus to listen to a whole audiobook, but I can and do listen to literary podcasts, which range from 10 minutes to an hour.

How to Download Podcasts to Go from iTunes
Getting podcasts from iTunes is easy and costs nothing. You can download the iTunes application from Apple's site. From within the iTunes store, find a podcast episode that intrigues you (here are my tips for searching for podcasts), or check out my favorite literary podcasters by clicking on the links on the right side of this blog.

1) Once you have iTunes on your computer, go to the iTunes store and find a podcast you like. Select your desired episode (a blue arrow will appear) and click on the little lozenge that says "FREE." iTunes will download the episode into your iTunes "LIBRARY" in the "Podcasts" subcategory. The podcast episode will now reside physically as an .mp3 file on your hard disk, accessible via the iTunes application. You can play it on your computer, or transfer it to your iPod as described below.

2) Connect your iPod to a USB port using the small white cable. iTunes should launch automatically, if you don't already have it open.

3) When your iPod's name (i.e. "Holloway's iPod") shows up on the left gray sidebar under "DEVICES," drag the desired podcast episode title from your LIBRARY "Podcast" listing over to the name of your iPod under "DEVICES." A green + sign will highlight over your iPod name if you're on target. The download swirl will go round & round as the podcast episode is copied from your hard disk iTunes collection to your iPod. It will be stored on your iPod under the "Podcasts" category with the purple halo symbol, and listed under the name of the original Podcaster (i.e. "New Yorker: Fiction").

4) Eject your iPod by clicking on the pyramid symbol to the right of your iPod battery symbol. Wait for the synchronization to finish, and when your iPod screen says "OK to Disconnect" then you can detach it from the USB cable and listen to that episode anywhere you like.

You can automatically synchronize all your iTunes podcasts onto your iPod using the iTunes software; I don't have huge storage space on my iPod, so I prefer to mouse-pick individual episodes, some of which I delete after I listen. I use my hard disk based iTunes LIBRARY as my archive.

(For information on how to subscribe to iTunes Podcasts on a regular basis, and manage your storage settings, please see Apple's podcast subscription instructions.)

BBC Tips on Downloading Podcasts from the Web
Downloading podcasts from the web is a little trickier, especially for a tech-doofus like moi. (If you have access to a teenager, they can probably rip an .mp3 podcast file for you in 5 seconds.) The BBC has an instruction page that I was able to follow (link is below). This is extremely useful unless you like to do all your listening tied to your computer. Some podcasters only make their episodes available on iTunes for a limited time (fie!) but also leave them up on archived web pages, from whence you can manually copy them to your hard disk and from there to your iPod (see above). Many niche podcasts never get podcasted beyond their native web pages, so these BBC instructions on how to download a web-based podcast episode to your hard disk are pretty useful. Once you get the .mp3 file onto your computer's hard disk you can click it to listen, or move it to a portable device. (Saving directly from the web to an iPod is beyond my ken.) The only tricky thing is that iTunes will view the downloaded .mp3 as a SONG, not a podcast. So when you look for it in your iTunes LIBRARY, look under "Music," not "Podcasts." The easiest way to find the podcasts in your Music list is to highlight the Music icon and type a keyword (i.e. author name) into the search box top right. If you can't remember, just search for the text "podcast" within "Music"--iTunes considers "podcast" a genre, like, say, "pop," or "jazz." You can copy these podcast-"songs"to a Playlist, which will make them easier to find on your iPod (see next section).

Here's the BBC FAQ link: How do I download an episode of a podcast?

How to Make a Customized Podcast Playlist
I also wanted to give you tips on how to organize podcasts on your iPod, because once you download more than two dozen episodes, it can be hard to find the newer one you added with such anticipation just the other day. You can create a Podcast Playlist using podcast episodes from both your iTunes downloads and your manual web downloads. However, iTunes only seems to recognize playlists as "Music" regardless of content, so your Podcast Playlist will be stored on your iPod under "Music/Playlists." I guess the silver lining to this is you could create a road-trip playlist that mixes songs and podcast episodes...just don't look for it under "Podcasts" when you're done.

1) Connect your iPod to your USB port. If iTunes isn't already open it should open automatically. Your iPod battery will charge while you're managing your lists.

2) Once your iPod name shows up under "DEVICES" on the vertical left light gray sidebar, make sure it is highlighted in royal blue, or click on it to select it. This ensures that the Podcast Playlist you create will be stored on your iPod rather than with your general computer-based iTunes "PLAYLISTS" (these are listed at the bottom of the vertical gray sidebar).

3) Go to the File menu on the top left of your screen (next to the Apple symbol and iTunes) and select "New Playlist." At the bottom of the list under you iPod you will see a blue page with an eighth note and the name "untitled playlist." Click on this text if you want to rename it; I call mine "Recent Podcasts." (If the "untitled playlist" shows up at the bottom of "PLAYLISTS" you can delete it and start over, making sure your iPod name is highlighted when you create the new playlist.)

4) Go up to your LIBRARY and click on a podcast from either your "Podcasts"(iTunes downloads) or from your "Music" listings (manual downloads). Click and drag that podcast episode title (highlighted in royal blue) over to the left gray sidebar until it hovers over your new Podcast Playlist (a green cross will appear) and release the mouse. The transferring symbol will spin until the episode is copied over. It will be stored on your iPod under its original downloaded category ("Podcasts" or "Music"), but the episode will also be playable from within the Podcast Playlist, and easier to find.

Repeat this step until you have as many podcasts as you want on your playlist, and/or mix in songs. You can change the order of the episodes by selecting them and sliding them up and down the playlist. You can delete an episode from the playlist only by selecting the title and hitting the delete key on your keyboard, though it will still be stored under "Podcasts" list on your iPod. Deleting an episode from your iPod's "Podcasts" list (organized by podcaster) will delete it from all playlists at the same time. It will, however, still be stored by iTunes on your hard disk unless you delete it or have established a regular podcast deletion schedule using the iTunes Settings feature.

You can also go back to Step 2 and create more playlists, i.e. "Author Interviews," "Short Stories," "Lectures," etc. etc. I don't think Podcast Playlists take up much memory, because they just "point" to the episode already stored under "Podcasts" or "Music," so you can go crazy with Playlists if you want.

5) Eject your iPod by clicking on the pyramid symbol to the right of your iPod's battery symbol. REMEMBER: Your hand-selected Podcast Playlist(s) will be listed under "Music/Playlists"on your iPod's display screen, along with any regular music playlists you've created. The playlist itself will not be findable under "Podcasts," though any iTunes-downloaded podcast episodes that you transferred to your iPod will also be displayed under the generic "Podcast" list, organized by podcaster. Any web-downloaded episodes you've put on your iPod will also be listed with your songs, under "Music," which makes things interesting when you play your "Music" on Shuffle--the occasional podcast pops up!

I'm sure there are far more clever ways to use playlists, including making "Smart Playlists" with iTunes, but this basic system works well for me. Please see Apple's podcast info if you want to get fancy.

How to Listen to Your iPod on Your Car Stereo
I use a $7 iPod-to-tape-deck adapter with so-so sound but it works fine if the podcast was recorded with reasonable fidelity (usually you have to turn up the volume on both the iPod and the car stereo for it to be audible--be sure and turn the car stereo sound back down before you switch back to radio or the CD player). There are more expensive car radio-to-iPod devices that I know nothing about. Newer car stereos have iPod jacks which work even better. I suggest you look at your car stereo and if there's no iPod jack go to your nearest Best Buy or similar and get their advice. Whatever you use, please resist the urge to manipulate the iPod wheel while driving--it's too fiddly to be safe. Pick a podcast to fit your estimated journey time, or start up your podcast Playlist (see above), and go with the flow. At least you'll be feeding your brain while you drive, for free.


Amy Bloom's Chequered Stories

Amy Bloom's new collection, Where the God of Love Hangs Out, offers a confiding tone that adapts well to being read aloud. Characters confess their current imbroglios and reminisce about their former clinches in language that is self-examining, wise, and often ruefully funny. These are stories of grownups whose hearts are still in flux and whose sensuality is not inhibited by age. Bloom brings unusually fresh and evocative language to her makeout scenes, whether the characters involved are midlife or mid-discovery, and she blends the emotional with the physical in a realistically human way. When her characters talk about sex they can be both frank and squirmily funny. One of the podcasts is labelled "Explicit," perhaps because it was originally broadcast on the radio, but the actual text is racier.

Bloom Audio Interview
Bloom was interviewed by the Guardian Books Podcast for London's Jewish Book Week in a tri-author podcast that also features Amoz Oz and Jonathan Safran Foer. Bloom's lively 8-minute interview begins at Minute 23, and if you're short on time I encourage you to fast forward straight there. She talks to Sarah Crown about Where The God of Love Hangs Out as a collection and riffs on the transgressive nature of love. Bloom also displays her wit when questioned about women writers and "the domestic sphere" and rhapsodizes about the particular demands of the short form. You can listen to the Oz, Safran Foer, and Bloom interviews online here or download the podcast (for a while, anyway) from The Guardian Books Podcast on iTunes.

Bloom Profiled in Prose
If you intend to read the collection, I recommend postponing the following link because it gives away too much in advance, but once you've read the stories I recommend checking out this charming profile of Bloom by Emma Brockes for the Guardian.

In-Law Confessions
You can listen to Bloom read the entirety of the multi-stranded title story, "Where the God of Love Hangs Out" at the Guardian Books website (audio runs about 32 minutes). The audio of "Where the God of Love Hangs Out" should also be available for downloading from The Guardian Books Podcast on iTunes for another month or two.

Midlife Makeout
You can also listen to Bloom read a 10-minute excerpt of her story "Your Borders, Your Rivers, Your Tiny Villages" (the title is a line from a Pablo Neruda poem) on this KQED: The Writer's Block podcast from 3/9/2010. For a while you can download the audio from iTunes here. You may also want to read an uncensored excerpt from the same story on Random House's website.

FTC Disclosure: No goods were received for this post. All the podcasts listed are free.


Emily Dickinson's Neural Poetry

The genius of Emily Dickinson persists in her poems' ability to suggest more than they describe--her words and dashes create a near-neurological link between the poet's language and the reader's emotion and thought. The effect of reading her poems is to feel your mind being sparked and expanded by Dickinson's mind, an effect which is both exhilarating and awe-inspiring, and also out of time--Dickinson's poetry does not decay.

The Poet Struts Upon a Stem
In a 2009 conversation about Dickinson with Entitled Opinions podcast host Robert Harrison, the poet and scholar Katie Peterson says that Emily Dickinson considered immortality "the Flood subject, the greatest subject" (Minute 18:30). Later in the podcast (Minutes 47-50) Peter extrapolates Dickinson's "decomposed self" philosophy of immortality from the poem that begins "Of bronze--and blaze--" and which contains the wonderful lines: "'Till I take vaster attitudes--/And strut upon my stem--". (Peterson reads a version of poem #319 from the R.W. Franklin edition of The Poems of Emily Dickinson--the daisies not the beetles version). This podcast is a delightful and illuminating hour of discussion of Dickinson's life and oeuvre, enriched by the eight years Peterson spent writing her award-winning doctoral thesis, "Emily Dickinson and the Selflessness of Poetry." I highly recommend it to any Dickinson fan. (Here's the online link to the Entitled Opinions Peterson/Dickinson podcast, and to the iTunes link here--download it and take it on a Ramble. FYI there's a longish intro; Harrison's conversation with Peterson begins at Minute 3:20.)
erson: Emily Dickinson and and the Selflessness of 
Enough With the White Dress (Grasshopper Enclosed)
Happily the reductiveness of Dickinson's literary persona as a timid spirit in a white dress is decomposing rapidly. The life of the mind is not defined by a room. The force and verve of the poetry itself dispels the notion that Dickinson was unworldly, and according to Lyndall Gordon's new biography, Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds (U.S. pub date June 2010), her family life contained plenty of intrigue, some of it conducted on the black horsehair sofa in the poet's own dining room. Gordon also posits that Dickinson may have suffered from epilepsy, based on documented cases in her extended family and local apothecary records. The stigma of the disease in those times could explain Dickinson's homebodiness, and in any case her extreme social selectivity allowed her to avoid meeting her brother's sofa-consort, Mabel Loomis Todd (the Bounder of Amherst) face-to-face, and she was savvy enough about the affair to fight Austin Dickinson's attempts to give his mistress a parcel of family land. A nice weirdness: in the podcast cited above, Peterson mentions that Dickinson kept sending Todd a poem, ultimately enclosing a grasshopper in the paper (Minute 17:45)--hardly a belle lettre.

Flowers Pressed by the Poet
As a teenager Emily Dickinson compiled a charming herbarium (circa 1839-1846) which now resides in  climatic perfection in Harvard's Houghton Library. You can page through photographs of Emily Dickinson's actual herbarium online, starting with the beautiful tooled green leather cover, or for a reference librarian's ransom, you can purchase a facsimile. The flower at the top of this post, Nigella damascena, also known as "love-in-a-mist" (or as my Glasgwegian pal told me, "f***-in-a-fog"), was catalogued by young Emily and appears on the bottom right of this page (located via earlywomenmasters.net).


Lorrie Moore On Writing

UPDATE: Witty, wry, and pithy June 2010 audio interview with Lorrie Moore (approx. 30 minutes) by John Mullan at The Guardian Book Club. Lots about the role of melancholy and illness in the short story, sense of place, tense, and point of view. Mullan is a great foil for Moore. Highlights: Minute 18: Audience question about Moore's novels prompts interesting comments on her experience of writing A Gate At The Stairs. Minute 22: Moore shares her short story construction method: write the first third, jump ahead to the ending, and then connect them by writing the  middle (fascinating!); the importance of first lines for establishing a voice in stories and novels; and the job of endings, which is "to shine back over the story and give it its meaning."

A Gate At The Stairs
If you'd like to hear Lorrie Moore talk about her novel A Gate At The Stairsand if you're interested in Moore's writing process, you should download Barbara DeMarco-Barrett's October 2009 audio interview with Moore for Pen on Fire's "Writers on Writing" podcast (if it's no longer available on iTunes, you can listen to Moore online at the Pen On Fire archive). The 56-minute conversation provides insight into Moore's Midwestern inspiration for A Gate At The Stairs, and touches on some of the novel's characters and themes without spoiling the plot. I think this is the best of all the audio interviews recorded with Moore during her promotion of A Gate At The Stairs, and it's far from narrow.  She reads an "autumnal scene" from the end of the novel at Minutes 14-18.  (If you'd like to listen to Lorrie Moore read a complete short story, check out the links to "Paper Losses" on this earlier Litagogo post.)

Insider Literary Thrills
There are plenty of vicarious literary thrills in this Pen on Fire podcast, including some chortling over the time Moore's transcendent short story collection, Birds of America (a late 20th century classic), defied its amuse-bouche category and spent three weeks on The New York Times bestseller list (Minute 26), plus a tell-all segment on one of the mysteries of the elite literary universe: how chapters from novels become "stories" in The New Yorker (Minute 20).

Writing Tips from the Virtuoso of Voice
DeMarco-Barrett and Moore both teach writing, and Pen on Fire's audience contains many writers, so there's plenty of craft chat about so-called writer's block, first drafts, the revision impulse, simile and metaphor, plotting and surprise, voice (a very interesting segment at Minutes 12-14), finding time to write as a single mom, the MFA or not-to-MFA question, and the immortal novel vs. short story necessarianisms (Minute 27).

Two-Minute MFA
Here is the heart of Lorrie Moore's MFA advice for free: "Talent is not the problem, the problem is getting kids to work very hard and write about the right stuff, to write about something that is really going to catch fire with them," (Minute 36) and "Never write from something that isn't from the very center of your mind" (Minute 53).

FTC Disclosure:  I received a free copy of A Gate At The Stairs from the publisher when I reviewed the novel for IdentityTheory.com.  The Pen on Fire podcast is free.