Posted by: Joelle Jameson | April 11, 2011

Fictionpalooza: John Cotter and Laura van den Berg

Since last month’s show was so poetry-centric, I’m pleased to mix it up a little with today’s show, which features not one, but two great fiction writers, Laura van den Berg and John Cotter. Join us in our [immensely enjoyable] discussion such time-old questions as where monsters come from, how good writing happens, and who’s the next popcorn.

Three clicks to listen:

1.       Click this link:

2.       Click the little man wearing headphones (under the picture gallery)

3.       Click “4-11-11 show,” and listen from the website.

Laura van den Berg at AWP 2011

I was fortunate that Laura was able to squeeze in a few minutes with me at the AWP conference, which is, as you recall, where I recorded the poems that appear on last month’s episode. Laura has or will soon appear in publications including Ploughshares, Boston Review, Best American Nonrequired Reading 2008, Best New American Voices 2010, and The Pushcart Prize XXIV. Her first collection of stories, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us (Dzanc Books, 2009), was a Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection, longlisted for The Story Prize, and shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor Award. She is currently a teacher in Baltimore.

John Cotter

My second esteemed guest is John Cotter, whose novella, Under the Small Lights , was published in 2010 by Miami University Press. John is also a founding editor Open Letters Monthly, a review website featuring critical work on contemporary novelists, poets, and translators. He is a Boston-based teacher, so luckily, we were able to talk at more length.

I suggest you purchase these books immediately. Both are powerful and palatable. When you’re done devouring those, check out a few of John’s recommendations: Adam Golaski (Color Plates), Elisa Gabbert (The French Exit), Josh Harmon (Quinnehtukqut, pronounced “Connecticut”) and Sarah Goldstein (Fables).

Also: when I was planning the show, I asked Laura for some song suggestions, as I generally do with all guests. She directed me to a playlist she made for the blog largehearted boy as a sort of soundtrack to her writing life. Most of the music on today’s show came from there, and as you hear, it’s a pretty great playlist (and blog), so check it out.


From “Crazy Horse,” Under the Small Lights by John Cotter

From “Where We Must Be,” What the World Will Look like When All the Water Leaves Us by Laura van den berg

From “The Straw Bed,” Under the Small Lights by John Cotter


“Autumn Sweater” by Yo La Tengo

“Edge of the World” by Sam Phillips

“Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl” by Broken Social Scene

“Bizarre Love Triangle” by New Order

Transition Songs:

“Positively Inclined” by Wax Tailor


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