In Grab Bag Part 2: Grab Harder, we discuss DIAGRAM’s new tarot deck anthology to commemorate its 20th Anniversary, and Elena uses it to give us all a tarot reading. Also: an album Elena wants to nominate for the Essay Prize, we tackle the question of who’s weirder: poets or playwrights, Bonnie mentions her mother’s famous McDonald’s career, we learn the future for ourselves and our podcast, and more!
In Part 1 of our first grab-bag episode, we answer a reader question about memoirs and, in honor of MFA application season, offer unsolicited advice about MFA programs. Also: more regional-accent conversation, an appropriate cocktail, Arlo’s inappropriate song, and more.
½ oz vodka (we used a pint of Prazska Justin’s brother brought back from Poland in like 2003)
Sweet & sour (we made our own: 1 cup mixed lime & lemon juice, 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar dissolved)
Add the liquors to a shaker over ice, shake–spilling a lot of it on your countertop–pour into highball glasses with ice, then top off with sweet & sour and a splash of Coke Zero. Drink too fast while you talk shit about memoirs, then record a double episode by accident.
In this episode, we discuss selections from the 2019 anthology Shapes of Native Nonfiction, co-edited by Elissa Washuta and Theresa Warburton. Also: Elena does Pennsylvania accents, we issue a warning about robots taking over college campuses, we honor Pennsylvania’s contribution to saving democracy with a Philly cocktail, a Philly-themed lightning round, and more!
(Note: we’re posting this week’s episode on Monday because of the election. We’ll return to Wednesdays next week.)
In this episode, we welcome our friend, colleague, and local Victorian expert Megan Ward to discuss Old Ass Essays: what that means, how old we’re talking, and a few examples from the 1830s by none other than Charlie Dickens himself. Also: our spelling bee failures, a special lightning round, a dog in a unicorn costume, and an authentic (sorta) Victorian cocktail that we light on fire!
In this episode, we continue the flash conversation from last week, along with our resident barkeep (not “mixologist”) David. He makes us an essayistic shot, and we all discuss Sex and the City, our shared Italian heritage, the flash equivalents of the drama world, David’s Instagram animal searches, where we’re all absconding for the rest of the pandemic, and, eventually, even more flash essays: Bernard Cooper’s “Live Wire,” and a bunch that Elena put together for a lightning round.
In Episode 6, we discuss very short essays, AKA “Flash,” a term and genre we have mixed feelings about. First we try to figure out what flash means, and then we discuss two (possible) examples: Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” and Scott Latta’s “On Sequencing.” Also: near-death experiences, we continue to demonstrate our ignorance of Canadian geography, Glenn Gould’s appearance in two different versions of Joy Williams’ essay “Hawk,” Squirrel burgers, chicken grease coffee, which Muppets we’d be, and more.
In Episode 5, we welcome Jess Kibler to the show to discuss the Krause Essay Prize, a $10K award given to the best essay of the year, chosen by students in Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program. Jess is currently getting her MFA at the NWP, and is a former student of Elena’s at OSU. We discuss the Krause Award winner for 2020, Keum Suk Gendry-Kim’s GRASS, as well as why and how the judges chose it, Jess’ path to becoming an essayist, other recent nominees (including Elena’s), and a lightning round about Jess’ home state of Oregon.
In Episode 4, we welcome our spouses, David and Bonnie, back to the podcast to talk about movies that might be essays. Also: a very delayed mailbag, a story about three-thousand-dollar Pennsylvania whiskey, Arlo makes a cameo, we all do impromptu Werner Herzog impersonations, penguin suicide, essayistic film moves, and (much) more.
In Episode 3, we talk with our friend and colleague, George Estreich–an essayist, memoirist, poet, and Renaissance man–about how essays turn into books. We discuss our own respective experiences with our books’ origins, as well as examples from books we’ve recently read. Also: writing about children, llamas vs. alpacas vs. emus, Comrade Bunny, collectionists, which Beatles we would be, and the lightning round makes its return.
In Episode 2, we talk about a thorny issue in nonfiction: the fact check. We discuss a recent essay on the subject by Emma Copley Eisenberg in Esquire, among other things relevant and not: our fact-checking experiences, recent controversies on the subject, John D’Agata, facts vs. truth, journalistic standards vs. creative nonfiction standards, Hanif Abdurraqib’s 68to05 project, Sylvester Stallone’s oeuvre, and more.