Episode 10: Indie Publishing, Michael Chabon, Brit Bennett & More

In the tenth episode of Ampersand, editor in chief Kevin Larimer and senior editor Melissa Faliveno preview the November/December issue, featuring a special section on independent publishing that includes an interview with indie-publishing champion Rob Spillman, and talk to best-selling author Michael Chabon about his writing process and his new novel, Moonglow. The episode also includes readings by Brit Bennett and Devorah Major, Shakespeare on the street, and a prayer for inspiration. 

0:05     Michael Chabon speaks about the magic of writing fiction—or, as he likes to think of it, "the best kind of lying."

1:30     The cohosts discuss the November/December issue, featuring a cover profile of Michael Chabon, the best-selling author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Telegraph Avenue, and a new novel, Moonglow. The new issue also features 5 Over 50, a roundup of authors over the age of fifty who published their debut books during the past year; as well as a special section on independent publishing, including an in-depth interview with Tin House editor Rob Spillman, an argument against the term "slush pile" by Georgia Review editor Stephen Corey, and a critique of submission fees by Laura Maylene Walter. 

3:07     Kevin and Melissa talk about the fictional worlds that Michael Chabon creates in his books, including the one in his new novel, Moonglow, forthcoming from Harper in November. Kevin calls the author at his home in Berkeley, California, and talks to the novelist about his writing process and research: "After my first novel, Mysteries of Pittsburgh, and clearly after Wonder Boys, my second book, I really did move away from writing novels that are clearly autobiographical, or...derived, to one degree or another, from actual personal experience of mine and the farther away I get from that and the more I am writing about characters whose lives are very different from my own, whose paths, whose histories are very different from my own the more the more research I have to do because I need to persuade the reader that they are real people." Chabon also talks about the thrill and the agony of cutting large portions of a work-in-progress. "In the case of The Yiddish Policemen's Union, I threw out a six-hundred-page draft and started over again, keeping about thirty pages of what I had done. It felt horrible, certainly in prospect it felt horrible, but as soon as I did it I was so relieved, and it became clear, fairly quickly, that it was the right thing to have done—although of course I had so much work left to do."

17:25     Kevin recalls a particularly embarrasing moment in high school when he recited one of Shakespeare's sonnets in front of the class, and the cohosts discuss a fascinating project produced by the New York Shakespeare Exchange in which all 154 of Shakespeare's sonnets are performed by different actors in various New York City locations. The pair listen to Devon Glover performance of Sonnet 16 at the Bowery Grafitti Wall in Manhattan.

21:05    Brit Bennett, one of the authors featured in Page One: Where New and Noteworthy Books Begin, reads an excerpt from her debut novel, The Mothers, published by Riverhead Books in October.

26:15    Another Page One author, devorah major, the former poet laureate of San Francisco, reads two poems from her new collection, and then we became, published by City Lights in November. 

30:05    The cohosts look forward to the eighth Poets & Writers Live—our first-ever two-day program—on January 14 and January 15 at the San Francisco Art Institute. The event will feature readings, lectures, multimedia presentations, panel discussions, workshops, and other interactive performances exploring the literary imagination, innovation on the page, writing in multiple genres, and uncommon sources of inspiration. Confirmed readers and panelists include U.S. poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, Jonathan Franzen, Jane Hirshfield, Susan Orlean, Kay Ryan, Ishmael Reed, Benjamin Percy, and many others. (Tickets are on sale now!) To gear up for the big show, Kevin and Melissa listen to a clip from this past January in which Carrie Fountain reads a poem and Kirk Lynn offers a prayer for inspiration at Poets & Writers Live in Austin, Texas.


Ampersand: The Poets & Writers Podcast is a production of Poets & Writers, Inc., and is edited by Melissa Faliveno with assistance from Jonathan Walsh. Music for this episode is provided by Podington Bear, Blue Dot Sessions, Transient, Kathryn Calder, and Little Glass Men. Comments or suggestions? E-mail editor@pw.org.