Monthly Archives: February 2014

Episode 45: The Habit of Art

The WITTScasters’ bi-weekly writing update evolves into a discussion of the habit of art, what it means to be an artist, and the value of impractical pursuits (like sitting around discussing art on a Saturday morning when you could be teaching your dog not to tear strangers’ faces off). Then the boys compare notes on Melanie Hutsell’s story “Celestial Images,” the Judge’s Selection in Still: The Journal‘s 2013 Fiction Contest.

Reading Discussed

  • You can find Melanie Hutsell’s story “Celestial Images” in Still: The Journal.
  • The boys are doing their best to make progress toward their New Year’s resolutions from Episode 42, but this writing thing… it’s hard.
  • Here is just one of many activities that are easier than writing.
  • Bret Lott’s book of essays Letters & Life made Jon yearn for those heady days when he could ruminate for hours about what it means to make art.
  • One book that helped Jon get into an art-ruminating mood was Purdue professor Marianne Boruch’s collection of essays In the Blue Pharmacy.
  • Jon referred to “the habit of art,” a phrase he got from Flannery O’Connor, who got it from Jacques Maritain, who got it from god-knows-who.
  • Brian used to sit around and play guitar when he was young and impractical. It was pretty much like this, except with fewer women and more togas.
  • How can we be expected to engage in pursuits that are enriching for the soul when there are so many episodes of Foyle’s War to stream from Netflix?
  • The targets of Jon’s latest rant were Gone Girl and The Cukoo’s Calling, which may be entertaining but may not be art.
  • If all short fiction collections were as good as Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, Jon would read a lot more short fiction. The stories in Ben Fountain’s book are great examples of work that clearly matters to the author, not just to the characters.
  • This isn’t the first WITTScast episode in which Saul and Patsy by Charles Baxter has come up as an example of fiction done right. Maybe we should just put a permanent link in the sidebar. (And maybe Ben should finally read it.)
  • Among the writers who are said to have retyped their heroes’ greatest works as an exercise in emulation is Hunter S. Thompson, who copied both The Great Gatsby and A Farewell To Arms on a Time magazine typewriter.
  • You can learn more about how Still: The Journal got its name on their masthead page.
  • Cut close on the sides, curly and boyish on top… I think we all know who Melanie Hutsell’s character “Gabe” is based on.
  • Even Purdue grads will admit: Bloomington, IN is a damn fine town.
  • Michael Chabon hates dreams.
  • Rules are made to be broken, and that includes the “no writing dream scenes” rule. Dreams can be effective in fiction, when they’re doneright.

Episode 44: Commitment

Hey. Can we talk for a second? Look, the WITTScasters think you’re a great piece of fiction, and any writer would be lucky to put his name on you. But do we have a future together? Where is this going? Why do we have so many ups and downs? If we can’t get on the same page, should we power through and fight for what we have together, or is it time to go our separate ways?

This conundrum, plus a fantastical story by Michael Baptist, in a very special episode of What I’m Trying to Say.

Reading Discussed