Book Fight

Well, it's the end of March, and finally Mike gets a pick: Ben Lerner's much-celebrated 2011 novel about a poet on a Fullbright in Spain struggling with a series of major and minor existential crises. We talk about poetry and "poetry," people having "profound experiences of art," and what makes writers' identity crises interesting or not. Mike's also got a new installment of Fan Fiction Corner, much to Tom's chagrin. This week we're checking out fan fiction about characters from the literary canon.

For more, visit us online at

And check out Barrelhouse's various offerings at

Also, there's still time to register for our D.C. writers' conference, Conversations and Connections, happening this weekend (April 5th).

Direct download: Ep_57-Ben_Lerner_Atocha_Station.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This week we're answering questions about how to best make use of your limited writing time, and how to jolt yourself into action when you're between projects. How do you pick your next project? How do you generate material when you're not sure what you want to write? How do you choose between a bunch of potential writing projects when you've only got so many hours in the day?

We also revisit the 2010 dust-up over the (apparent) increase of present-tense narration in novels, and whether there's a cultural significance to the rise of the present tense.

For more, visit us online at

Direct download: WritersAsk-BabyDetective.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

We're joined by musician and novelist Wesley Stace (who you may also know as John Wesley Harding) to discuss the first book in Anthony Powell's 12-novel cycle A Dance to the Music of Time. Mike geeks out over meeting one of his favorite musicians, then we talk about Powell's book, Stace's career, and people's general distrust of actors and musicians who write novels. Plus a lightning round featuring cricket, apple pie beds, and Mr. Bean.

Direct download: Ep56-AnthonyPowell_AQuestionofUpbringing.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Lots of websites and conferences claim they'll help you hone your "elevator pitch," but is this a useful skill for a writer? This week we're taking writing conferences, the agent querying process, and potential scams writers should look out for. We also answer a listener question about how to create confident protagonists who don't come off as parodies of confidence. For more--including links to the story of Melanie Mills--visit us at

Direct download: WritersAsk-ElevatorPitchesandCaviarDreams.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

This modernist classic was a listener pick, and also kind of gross. We talk about unlikeable narrators, depravity, stabbing women with forks, and the Spanish Revolution. In our second segment we consider how a writing instructor should respond to unsettling student work, and how to give students creative freedom while respecting the sensitivities of others in the workshop. 

Direct download: Ep_55-G_Bataille_Blue_of_Noon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

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

Direct download: AWPUpdate5.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:33am EDT

Mike gives updates from Philly on what he's doing while not attending AWP, and talks to Lee Klein, author of Thanks and Sorry and Good Luck, about Austrian authors and The Silver Linings Playbook. 

Direct download: NonAWPUpdate1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:45pm EDT

Tom talks with writer (and longtime friend of Barrelhouse) Erin Fitzgerald about flash fiction, fanfic, and unlikeable characters. 

Direct download: AWPUpdate4.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:43pm EDT

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

Direct download: AWP_Update_3.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT