In Defense of the Present Tense (from

It’s becoming the most popular verb tense in fiction writing, and this article by Alexander Chee at defends it:

As a part time professional ‘creative writing tutor’, I can say I only ever teach the present tense as one tool among many. I do not urge it on my ‘sensitive and artistic storytellers’, or any of the insensitive ones either. I teach students that verbs are the way they create a relationship for the reader to time, and function a little like the way a horizon line might in a picture. As for using it to dodge the ‘politically dodgy’, well, I can’t imagine teaching anyone that way with a straight face—and so that strikes me as something of a straw man. Or, woman, perhaps.

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Episode 16: Models for a Publishing Future?

In this week’s Critical Margins Podcast, Jason and Kevin discuss models worth following in the future of publishing and the myths that come along with digital publishing. Do we all need to act like we’re publishers in order to succeed? Over at, author Adam Lefton wrote an article titled, “5 Myths About the New Era of Publishing.” Lefton brings up some excellent points about the future of publishing we’d like to discuss today.

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Episode 15: The Sacred and Profane: Reading Naughty Words in Books

Chaucer book

Today, Jason and Kevin look at profanity in books. Do bad words turn you off? Will you keep reading if a book is laced with profanity? And, does profanity matter when reading a book, especially if that book serves a purpose or holds an important place in your life?

A lot of readers dislike profanity in books. But we’re wary of censorship, especially in literature. So-called bad words can often have an enlightening effect on what we read. and profanity in literature has existed for millenia: just go read some chaucer for some examples.

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Episode 14 – The Unwashed Reviews

Literary critics have lorded over the pages of elite magazines for centuries, and in the twentieth century, magazines like the New Yorker and The Atlantic have helped make and break potential new books. But now, we’re in the 21st century. People find books through social media recommendations and user ratings on Amazon and Goodreads. Book review publications have gone belly up or have downsized.

Today, Jason and I look critically at the critics. What can they offer us today, if anything? Do we really rely on professional critics to help us choose what to read?

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Episode 13: How To Find a Place on the Shelf

Book Marketing

All writers have idols, but it’s important to remember that those idols are just human beings. Is it a good move for writers and readers to take their idols off the pedestal and to examine their flaws? What if we try to write better than our idols?

In this show, we explore how to find a place on the shelf. We discuss why it’s important to not idolize our favorite writers, but to instead examine them closely and figure out their best moves.

Show notes:

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Special thanks to Jason and the Beast for our show’s theme song, “Street Preacher.”

Interview with Michael Emmerich, Author of “The Tale of Genji”

Quick: what books pop into your head when you think of classics of world literature? Don Quixote? The Arabian Nights? Why do some books become part of the canon of world literature and not merely beloved of specific nations or cultures? In his new book, The Tale of Genji: Translation, Canonization, and World Literature, Michael Emmerich discusses a classic of Japanese literature that also became one of the books that cultured people at least know about. What does the tale of The Tale of Genji tell us about reading habits and questions of literary prestige worldwide over the centuries and about Japan’s role in the world? I wrote to ask Mr. Emmerich for an interview. He graciously agreed and this is the result.

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