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Although we’ve both lived in Portland, Oregon for years, I met Margaret through a mutual acquaintance at the Association of Writing and Writing Professionals conference in LA. I was about halfway through with her collection of short stories, People Like You, and I was in love with her characters. They were sometimes lost, sometimes broken, but they were always hopeful in some way. It was quickly apparent to me in talking with Margaret that she was someone inspiring, perhaps especially to me. We both write while working in a field outside of writing, while also raising kids. It can be crazy-making, which is likely why it took three months of planning just to arrange a coffee date. Several months after that, when we met for this interview, it was early in the morning and we were both headed to work immediately after.

Margaret’s book was released by Alterier26 Books in Fall of 2015. It was the winner of the Balcones Prize for Fiction and a finalist for the 2016 PEN Hemingway Award. Margaret’s work has also appeared in The Missouri Review, Oregon Humanities, Swink, Propeller Quarterly and elsewhere. I interviewed Margaret on a sunny morning in a Portland coffee shop.

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Claire Hoffman is the guest on the latest episode of the Otherppl with Brad Listi podcast. Her new memoir, Greetings from Utopia Park, is available now from Harper Books. 

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Listen via iTunes.

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Kirstin Valdez Quade is the guest on the latest episode of Otherppl with Brad Listi. Her debut story collection, Night at the Fiestas, is now available in paperback from W.W. Norton & Company.

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Listen via iTunes.

Jonathan_Evison_This_Is_Your_Life_Harriet_Chance

Listen to this interview with Jonathan Evison, whose new novel, This is Your Life, Harriet Chance!, is now available from Algonquin Books. It was the official August pick of The Nervous Breakdown Book Club.

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Brad Listi talks with author Porochista Khakpour, author of the critically acclaimed novel The Last Illusion.  Listen to the podcast here.

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Leslie Jamison is the author of The Empathy Exams, winner of the 2013 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize. Jamison and her book are currently gaining some much-deserved attention, and we’re fortunate to have had a dialogue with her regarding not only her new book, but also the crafts of cultivating empathy and writing nonfiction.

images (1)She thinks I approached her out of the blue. She thinks I wanted to interview her out of the kindness of my heart. The truth is this: ulterior motives.  I must confess that I’m interested in the convergence of several elements in her work (emphasis on several): exotic locale (China, in this case), the thematic rubbing up against each other of missionary zeal (whether secular missionary zeal as found in Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder or sacred missionary zeal which you’ll find in Virginia’s book) with contemporary mores, and the fact that both Virginia and I showed up a little later than usual on the publishing field, despite our lengthy, lengthy, lengthy histories in writing without an audience. And Virginia and I have the same publisher (Unbridled Books). She sounded pretty interesting to me!

HamidIn the summer of 2011, for a review marking the tenth anniversary of the attacks, I read thirteen novels with 9/11 plots, from Jonathan Safran Foer to  Julia Glass, from Jess Walter to Claire Messud. My favorite was Mohsin Hamid’s Booker-nominated contribution, The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a slim, clever allegory with a large ambition — it wants to make you understand something about the experience of Islamic people in the Middle East and in the United States. Like Hamid, its narrator is a Pakistani who has lived in the U.S. but is now back in Lahore. This speaker delivers the entire story as a monologue over dinner to an American visitor whose voice is never heard but who may have a gun.

I’ve never met Jon Krampner, which is lucky for him because if I ever did meet him I might very well kiss him on the mouth.

Why?

Because I really love his new book, Creamy & Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food, just out from Columbia University Press.

I say this not just as someone who eats a tremendous amount of peanut butter, but as someone who reads a fair number of books. Creamy & Crunchy has what every great cultural history should: a knack for telling the larger story of our country through our shared artifacts.

Krampner’s history of peanut butter is exhaustive without ever getting dry. He lays the facts on thick but keeps the tone playful. It’s one of those books that’s almost shockingly addictive, where you find yourself thinking: Holy crap is peanut butter fascinating! (Note: this is true even for those loonies who turn up their noses at a dollop of Jif.)

Krampner was gracious enough to answer a few questions about C&C for TNB, knowing that many of our readers consume their own weight in peanut butter each month.

I first met Ross Angelella (I just can’t call him by his official author name – J.R. Angelella – because, well, I’ve never called him J.R. and I don’t know anyone else who has, either, but he has good reasons to be called J.R. on his books, reasons which are not revealed in the interview below, but which exist somewhere on the internet and I trust that if you search long enough, you’ll find the story and you will be justifiably moved) in 2007. I’d made the fateful decision to attend Bennington for graduate school and Ross was assigned to be my student mentor. That he was ten years younger than me and was just starting out and I was heading towards the middle of my career and was already running an MFA program seemed a little weird to me (I’d Googled the hell out him, too, so I’d read his LiveJournal and was, well, somewhat concerned that he was a serial killer, but that’s another issue all together). His job was simple: to prepare me for the harsh world of low residency graduate education…which, in this case, consisted of him calling me one evening and telling me to buy one of those foam mattress tops if I wanted to be able to sleep on the prison beds Bennington uses in their dorm rooms. That seemed like an extremely solid and learned piece of advice, so from there we went on to talk about a series of mundane things for about an hour. There were lots of giggles. I think I may have rolled out the word “fucktard” early on, just to make sure he wasn’t one of those people easily offended by my common vernacular. He showed no ill effects, so we pressed on. And we’ve kept pressing on for five years.

Douglas Light: Thanks for taking the time to read my story collection, Girls in Trouble.

 

Roy Kesey: A total pleasure! Now, full disclosure: correct me if I’m wrong, but I think our first contact was back in 2005 when you published a story of mine in Epiphany.

That’s right. I’d forgotten about that. Back in the day when I was working on literary magazines.

Elizabeth Ellen’s Fast Machine is one of the best books of the year. Published by Short Flight/ Long Drive Books, it’s a collection of her strongest work from the past decade. Being a long-time Elizabeth Ellen boy-kitten, I was familiar with a great number of these stories beforehand, but to read them together in one book, back to back, is the type of experience that makes you glow for weeks afterwards.

After he finished college, you could have found Adam Wilson on Route 35, holding a large orange arrow pointing to an open house. Eight years later, you can find Wilson online, in print, and at countless New York literary events. A former editor of The Faster Times and TV blogger for Flavorwire, Wilson has published short stories in The Paris Review, The Coffin Factory, The Literary Review, and The New York Tyrant. His debut novel, Flatscreen, is now out from Harper Perennial.

Susan Tepper is co-author of the novel What May Have Been: Letters of Jackson Pollock & Dori G (with Gary Percesepe), the collection Deer & Other Stories and a poetry chapbook Blue Edge.  She conducts the Monday Chat Interview on the Fictionaut blog, and writes a satirical advice column, “Madame Tishka on Love & Other Storms” at Thunderclap! Press.  FIZZ, her series at KGB Bar in NYC, is a popular reading venue.

From the Umberplatzen is a collection of 48 linked flash chapters that submerge us in the visuals, the smells, the colored vibrancy of love in all its facets. Kitty Kat and M had a love affair in Germany. This slim and evocative novel is told in flashback, a journey that takes us through their memories and intimate snapshots, relived through the letters and gifts that M sends Kitty Kat through the mail.

So, let’s get this straight: your book gets a couple decent reviews and all of a sudden you think you’re hot shit, right?

Um, well, I don’t…

 

Sure you do. I can see it right there.

See what? Right where?

 

I saw a huge sort of aura around you when you walked in, but then I realized it was actually just your ego.

I don’t really know what you’re talking about.