The Chills at Will Podcast is a celebration of the visceral beauty of literature. This beauty will be examined through close reads of phrases and lines and passages from fiction and nonfiction that thrills the reader, so much so that he wants to read again and again to replicate that thrill. Each episode will focus on a different theme, such as "The Power of Flashback," "Understatement," "Cats in the Cradle," and "Chills at Will: Origin Story."
Episode 204 with Kara H.L. Chen, Standout YA Writer of Love and Resistance and Crafter of Believable and Relatable and Empathy-Inducing Characters
Notes and Links to Kara H.L. Chen’s Work
For Episode 204, Pete welcomes Kara H.L. Chen, and the two discuss, among other topics, her early reading and constant desire to write, the ways in which law has affected her writing, YA and its pull for her, seeds for Love and Resistance, and salient themes and related real-world issues from the book like racism and anti-Asian hate, cliques and social media and high school culture, and keeping a book fresh in the world of rapidly-advancing technology.
Kara H.L. Chen grew up near Cleveland, Ohio, where she once had to shovel snow off her car with a plastic trashcan. She now lives on the West Coast with her husband and daughters, and is learning how to use an Instapot. She has undergraduate degrees in English and economics, a J.D., and a MFA in fiction. She has used her economics degree exactly once, when she tried to make a joke about marginal costs and marginal returns. It did not go well.
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Nerd Daily Interview
At about 2:25, Kara discusses languages and reading and writing in her early days
At about 4:00, Kara relates the ways, subtle and not, that Taiwanese spoken in her family makes its way into her writing
At about 5:00, Pete and Kara geek out about their kids reading the new generation of The Babysitters’ Club and Kara discusses books and writers that influenced her-including more recent ones by Anthony Doerr, RF Kuang, Shawna Yang Ryan, and Ann Liang
At about 8:15, Kara responds to Pete’s asking about how her path in law and other life experiences dovetailed with writing for a profession
At about 9:30, Pete wonders about using different parts of the brain in writing for law and writing YA
At about 11:00, Kara speaks to the times in which she felt pulled/pushed into writing a novel/writing in general
At about 11:45, Kara shares her experience with representation and mentorship and care from Jen Ung
At about 14:15, Kara traces her interest in writing YA
At about 17:10, Kara talks about the years of work and querying that led to the book’s publication and the affirming feedback she’s received
At about 18:45, Kara gives a little summary of the book and discusses seeds for the book
At about 20:10, Pete cites important lines from the book’s beginning and Kara talks to protagonist Livvy’s ideas of school as a type of combat
At about 21:40, The two discuss Mitzi’s “in crowd” and microaggressions that come from the group, including an inciting incident when peers make racist comments
At about 23:00, Kara responds to Pete’s laying out some early and formative experiences in Livvy’s family
At about 25:10, The two discuss the light touch and lack of patronizing that makes Livvy’s mother a loving one, and Kara emphasizes the importance of the mother as a mentor figure and one who bridges generational/cultural gaps
At about 29:45, The Nerd Net and Livvy’s budding relationships are traced
At about 31:15, Peter, a pivotal character is discussed, in his purity, and Pete wonders if we or Kara should feel sorry for Mitzi due to some misfortunes
At about 34:30, Kara talks about the “Ocean’s Eleven” crew and the connections between Griff and Livvy and how the crew balances each other out and how Livvy is herself challenged in her assumptions about others
At about 37:18-39:43, Kara speaks about the racism in the micro-the book-and talks about how its subject matter has evolved over time and unfortunately been in line with a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes
At about 40:00, Kara and Pete discuss the universality of the book and how to chart the quick changes in technology
At about 41:12, Kara talks about the spoken word venue in the book and its connection to ideas of self-expression
At about 44:05, The two discuss feelings of “something else” and its connection to the adolescent years and racism in Livvy’s case
Episode 203 with V.V. (Sugi) Ganeshananthan, Master Craftswoman of Tender and Gutting Storylines and Characters, and Author of the Modern Classic, Brotherless Night
Notes and Links to VV Ganeshananthan’s Work
For Episode 203, Pete welcomes VV Ganeshananthan, and the two discuss, among other topics, her early reading and writing and the ways in which Tamil has influenced her English writing, formative and transformative writing and writers, the ways in which her podcasting influences her writing and vice versa, the writing that resonates with her college students, and the towering achievement that is Brotherless Night-background and seeds for the book, cultural subtleties and nuances featured in the book, the complicated ways in which various groups interacted in the Sri Lankan conflicts, writing tenderness into such darkness, and the ways in which the storyline affected VV emotionally.
V. V. Ganeshananthan (she/her) is the author of the novels Brotherless Night, a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and Love Marriage, which was longlisted for the Women's Prize and named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post. Her work has appeared in Granta, The New York Times, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading, among other publications.
A former vice president of the South Asian Journalists Association, she has also served on the board of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and is presently a member of the boards of the American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies and the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop. The National Endowment for the Arts, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, Yaddo, MacDowell, and the American Academy in Berlin have awarded her fellowships. She has served as visiting faculty at the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan and at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and now teaches in the MFA program at the University of Minnesota, where she is a McKnight Presidential Fellow and associate professor of English. She co-hosts the Fiction/Non/Fiction podcast on Literary Hub, which is about the intersection of literature and the news.
Buy Brotherless Night
"Terrorist to Whom"-New York Times Review of Brotherless Night
Listen to the fiction/non/fiction Podcast
At about 3:00, VV discusses her busy and productive schedule
At about 4:00, VV responds to Pete wondering about her early relationship with language
At about 5:20, VV reflects on Brotherless Night bering referred to as having a Tamil feel, and expands on how the language of Tamil may figure in to her English
At about 8:15, VV speaks about early reading and literary influences
At about 10:30, Pete gives a pop spelling quiz
At about 11:15, VV discusses formative writers and works that put her on the path to becoming a writer, as well as an unforgettable visit from Gregory Maguire
At about 14:00, VV talks about the secret clubs she wasn’t (allegedly) part of at Harvard
At about 15:15, VV outlines the ethic and style of the podcast she cohosts with Whitney Terrell
At about 17:30, VV talks about the writers and writing that resonates with her college students, including the work of Carmen Maria Machado and Yiyun Li
At about 19:45, VV responds to Pete’s question about working on Brotherless Night for 20 years (?!), and she shares seeds for the book, including a class with Ethan Canin
At about 22:30, VV describes the emotional impact the book had on her
At about 24:00, Pete runneth over with compliments for the novel
At about 24:55, Pete speaks on the book’s Prologue and highlights meaningful lines at the beginning
At about 26:15-29:45, Pete wonders about the usage of only an initial for a main character, K, and VV gives some insight
At about 29:45, VV describes the ways in which Sasha looks at K
At about 32:15, The two discuss the town of Jaffna and ist makeup and early scenes involving a pivotal political rally
At about 34:20, VV gives background on Jaffna, how political Sashi’s family was and why she decided to set the novel there
At about 37:30, VV respond
Episode 202 with Dennis J. Sweeney, Reflective and Persistently Profound Thinker and Craftsman of Poems Both Abstract and Concrete and Author of You’re the Woods Too
Notes and Links to Dennis Sweeney’s Work
For Episode 202, Pete welcomes Dennis Sweeney, and the two discuss, among other topics, Dennis’ early relationship with books and almost-averse view of nature, some formational and transformational writers and writing, DFW and his outsized footprint, the power of small press poetry and other resonant books for Dennis and his students, as well as salient themes in his poetry collection, like patriarchy, emptiness versus fullness, isolation, change, retreat and escape in the modern world.
Dennis James Sweeney is the author of You’re the Woods Too and In the Antarctic Circle, as well as four chapbooks of poetry and prose, including Ghost/Home: A Beginner’s Guide to Being Haunted.
His first book, In the Antarctic Circle, won the Autumn House Rising Writer Prize and was a Debut Poetry Book of 2021 in Poets & Writers, as well as a finalist for the National Poetry Series and the Big Other Book Award. His second book, You’re the Woods Too, is a Small Press Distribution bestseller and a finalist for the Deborah Tall Lyric Essay Prize.
His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in Ecotone, Ninth Letter, The New York Times, The Southern Review, and Witness, among others. Formerly a Small Press Editor at Entropy and Assistant Editor at Denver Quarterly, he has an MFA from Oregon State University and a PhD from the University of Denver.
His writing has been supported by residencies from Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, I-Park Foundation, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. He is the recipient of a Fulbright grant to Malta.
Originally from Cincinnati, he lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he teaches at Amherst College.
Buy You're the Woods Too
“You’re the Woods Too by Dennis James Sweeney
Review by Xander Gershberg” for Mayday Magazine
At about 2:55, Dennis talks about his early reading and writing, exploring “fantastical” worlds, and
At about 4:35, Dennis follows up on some of his early reading experiences, including reading his fellow bandana-wearer David Foster Wallace and he expands on revisionism
At about 6:50, Pete shouts out Wallace’s amazing “A Supposedly Fun Thing…” and the two discuss maximalism and minimalism and Wallace’s place among white male writers who have often been excused for wrongdoing
At about 8:00, Dennis talks about how some enjoyable reading differed from Wallace’s
At about 12:15, Dennis talks about retreat and escape and implications
At about 13:00, Dennis shouts out some favorite contemporary writers that thrill and challenge him, including Emilia Gray and her AM PM, Lynn Xu, Sawako Nakayasu, Toni Morrison, and Billy-Ray Belcourt
At about 15:00, Dennis discusses Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Petina Gappah, and other writers whose resonates with her students
At about 16:25, Dennis responds to Pete’s questions about searching for muses
At about 18:20, Pete and Dennis discuss changes in life and writing life with the advent of fatherhood
At about 20:00, Dennis breaks down the title’s pronunciation and origins of the collection
At about 22:35, Pete cites Erica Berry’s work and asks Dennis about the natural setting of Oregon that inspired his work
At about 23:30, Dennis expands on moss and its importance and symbolism while citing Gathering Moss by Robin Kimmerer
At about 26:00, Is Dennis a believer in birds not being real??
At about 26:20, Dennis responds to Pete’s asking about any individual importance of the varied mosses that title the collection’s poems
At about 28:40, Pete and Dennis talk about ideas of nature being uncontrollable and the importance of “GREEN” and the use of “we” in the collection
At about 31:20, The two discuss the cabin setting for the second poem and beyond and Dennis responds to Pete’s thoughts on the pen and its significance
At about 34:20, Dennis speaks ab
Episode 201 with Erica J Berry, Thoughtful and Thorough Writer Who Seamlessly Combines Multiple Disciplines and Genres in Her Enthralling Wolfish: Wolf, Self, and the Stories We Tell About Fear
Notes and Links to Erica Berry’s Work
For Episode 201, Pete welcomes Erica Berry, and the two discuss, among other topics, her early reading and writing and generational traumas and anxieties that have colored her life and many of our lives, her move from poetry into nonfiction and an eventual embrace of many different types of writing and lenses, the “ecology of fear,” travel and confronting fears, and making storylines about seemingly disparate topics-land rights, myth, wolves, fear-into a coherent and superb book.
Erica Berry’s nonfiction debut, Wolfish: Wolf, Self, and the Stories We Tell About Fear, was published in February 2023 by Flatiron/Macmillan (US+Canada), and Canongate (UK+Commonwealth) in March 2023.
Her essays and journalism appear in Outside, Catapult, Wired,. Winner of the Steinberg Essay Prize, she has received grants and fellowships from the Ucross Foundation, Minnesota State Arts Board, the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources, and Tin House.
She teaches workshops for teenagers and adults through the Attic Institute, Literary Arts, the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, the New York Times Student Journeys, and Oxford Academia. She was the 2019-2020 National Writers’ Series Writer-in-Residence and Teaching Fellow at Front Street Writers in Traverse City, Michigan.
She graduated from Bowdoin College in 2014, and received her MFA from the University of Minnesota as a College of Liberal Arts Fellow in 2018. She now lives in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, where she is a Writer-in-the-Schools and an Associate Fellow at the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters.
Buy Wolfish: Wolf, Self, and the Stories We Tell About Fear
Review of Wolfish for The Atlantic: “The Book That Teaches Us to Live With Our Fears”
"Why Do We Fear Wolves?" from LitHub, 2017
At about 2:15, Erica reps The Chills at Will swag!
At about 2:55: Erica quotes Rebecca Solnit in describing her early reading and writing and the relationships to anxiety and ease and pleasure
At about 4:20, Erica focuses in on some favorite readings and writers from growing up, including Cornelia Funke, in addition to the importance and shortcomings of journaling in her life
At about 8:55, Erica talks about her early connections to farms in her family, as well as poetry and nonfiction and her views of them as she got into high school and college
At about 13:05, Pete asks Erica about traumas and fears and how generational traumas have affected her family, her, and her writing
At about 17:15, Pete shouts out his son’s soccer debut in asking Erica about confronting fears; Erica quotes a telling example from Rachel Cusk’s work
At about 19:45, Erica responds to Pete’s questions about the connections between travel and exploration as imperatives for writers
At about 23:00, Pete shouts out Jean Guerrero’s top-notch Crux in asking Erica about her multidimensional writing style; Erica speaks about the background and rationale for her “interdisciplinary omnivorousness”
At about 26:00, Erica replies to Pete’s questions about what helped her to solidify seemingly-disparate topics into Wolfish; she discusses how early iterations of the book didn’t feature fear so prominently
At about 29:30, Pete sets the scene for the book’s opening, the start featuring the discovery of a wolf corpse, as well as further exploration by Erica of “crying wolf” and the many permutations of Little Red Riding Hood
At about 31:20, Erica speaks of ways in investigating the wolf’s effect on society’s consciousness through various expressions across the world involving the wolf
At about 33:00, Erica reads from Page 6 of her book, an excerpt involving false perceptions about worldwide wolf attacks on humans
At about 35:45, Erica discusses myths and stories and cultures that don’t always match up with percep
EPISODE 200 with Adam Vitcavage, Raconteur, Skilled Writer of Literary and Music Criticism, and Charismatic Advocate for Debut Authors Through his Podcast Debutiful: Discover Debut Authors
Notes and Links to Adam Vitcavage’s Work
For Episode 200, Pete welcomes Adam Vitcavage, and the two discuss, among other topics, Adam’s early reading and writing and the spark provided by writers like Jesmyn Ward, his early writing in the world of music criticism and literary criticism, the background on his penchant for working with debut authors, a lot of sports analogies, dream guests he’s worked with and still hopes to work with, The Babysitters Club, and shared experiences in the world of literary podcasting.
Adam Vitcavage is the founder of Debutiful, a website and podcast where readers can discover debut authors. The podcast was named one of the Best Book Podcasts by Book Riot, Town and Country, and Los Angeles Review of Books in 2022. His criticism and interviews have also been featured in Electric Literature, Paste Magazine, Literary Hub, Phoenix New Times, among others. He currently lives in Denver.
Listen to Debutiful
“A Mix of Paean and Elegy: The Millions Interviews Jamel Brinkley” by Adam
For Electric Literature: "Is Iceland the Most Literary Country in the World?"
At about 4:30, Adam responds to Pete’s questions about his early relationship with the written word
At about 6:15, Adam gives background on his studies of literature, and how he began to compile bylines
At about 7:45, Adam talks about covering bands in his early writing career
At about 8:30, Adam talks about formational and transformational reading, like Salinger, Roth, and Salvage the Bones and how changed he was after reading it, and Jesmyn Ward as his “favorite living writer”
At about 11:30, Pete and Adam fanboy about Brandon Taylor
At about 12:20, Pete and Adam talk podcast shop, editing and what they leave in and take out
At about 14:55, Adam talks about how his writing/criticism is informed by his podcast, and vice versa
At about 16:40, Pete asks Adam to describe his podcast and about its seeds
At about 21:55, Adam provides interesting feedback received from learners
At about 23:55, Pete wonders why Adam chose to home in on debuts, and Adam responds
At about 24:30, Pete makes the analogy involving one’s first book/sports championship and asks Adam about “hunger”
At about 26:10, Adam discusses what it’s like to read for pleasure/business/the podcast and then poses the same question to Pete
At about 29:45, Pete asks Adam which genre is his favorite and how he would handle one last episode; he shouts out Jesmyn Ward
At about 31:00, The two discuss dream guests
At about 31:50, The two discuss interview guests of Adam’s, including George Saunders and his telltale book blurbs, and a vast array of non-literary guests
At about 35:20, Adam shouts out his two favorite NBA players of all-time
At about 37:00, Some love for Alanis Morrisette!
At about 38:25, Pete asks Adam about any plans for his own writing and any future projects/formatting
At about 41:40, Adam gives out social media and contact info
You can now subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, and leave me a five-star review. You can also ask for the podcast by name using Alexa, and find the pod on Stitcher, Spotify, and on Amazon Music. Follow me on IG, where I’m @chillsatwillpodcast, or on Twitter, where I’m @chillsatwillpo1. You can watch this and other episodes on YouTube-watch and subscribe to The Chills at Will Podcast Channel. Please subscribe to both my YouTube Channel and my podcast while you’re checking out this episode.
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Episode 199 with Jared Beloff, Reflective Thinker, Painter of Beautiful Imagery and Debut Standout Author of the Climate Change-Themed Poetry Collection, Who Will Cradle Your Head
Notes and Links to Jared Beloff’s Work
For Episode 198, Pete welcomes Jared Beloff, and the two discuss, among other topics, an early reading challenge that supercharged his voraciousness, contemporary and not-so contemporary writers who left an imprint on him with their visceral work and distinctive worldbuilding, his quick rise to published and acclaimed poet, and pertinent themes in his collection, including nostalgia, indifference, a fading and changing ecosystem, and the myriad effects of climate change.
Jared Beloff is the author of the Who Will Cradle Your Head (ELJ Editions, 2023).
He earned degrees at Rutgers University (BA in English) Johns Hopkins University (MA in English Literature, specializing in the novel and Romantic/18th Century Literature).
Jared has been an adjunct professor at Queensborough Community College, an English teacher and a teacher mentor in NYC public schools for 16 years.
Jared is currently a peer reviewer for The Whale Road Review. His poetry can be found in Contrary Magazine, Barren Magazine, KGB Bar Lit, The Shore, Rise Up Review, Bending Genres and elsewhere. His work has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Queens, NY.
Buy Who Will Cradle Your Head
From Identity Theory: “Cracking Open Clams: A Conversation Between Jared Beloff and Candice Kelsey”
At about 2:35, Jared talks about a reading challenge that put his reading intake into high-gear
At about 4:25, Jared updates on his reading this summer/including The Sealey Challenge
At about 5:25, Jared reflects on the psychological/philosophical roots of his reading, especially his early reading
At about 7:35, Jared lists some formational and transformational works and writers, like Angels in América and English Patient, as well as Pablo Neruda, Bishop, and Forche’s work
At about 10:00, Jared reflects on how his own work reflects that which he has read and enjoyed throughout his life
At about 11:30, Jared responds to Pete’s questions about how he has been inspired and moved
by fiction and poetry written about climate change; he cites Allegra Hyde’s impressive work, as well as work by Hila Ratzabi, Craig Santos-Perez, and Claire Wahmanholm;
At about 14:40, Jared shouts out Diane Seuss, who blurbed his collection, and how her work informs his, as well as how Obit and its metaphors “blew [him] away”
At about 15:20, Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky is highlighted as a stimulus for Jared’s writing
At about 16:25, Pete highlights Mai Der Vang’s Yellow Rain, and Nguyen and Anthony Cody are shouted out by Jared as influential in his work
At about 17:35, Jared talks about seeds for his collection, especially the “Swamp Thing” poems by Jack Bedell and the ways Todd Dillard uses “wonder”
At about 23:05, Pete highlights the collection’s first poem, one “After” Aimee Nezhukumatathil; Jared discusses the methodology of these “After” poems, the ideas of a “muse,” and how he often writes after what/who he teaches
At about 27:50, Jared discusses the background and content of “Animal Crackers”
At about 30:45, Pete compliments Jared on his work regarding his children, and Jared talks about thinking through poems and “allowing wonder to stay” despite “grief-laden” poems
At about 34:30, Jared explains how he used climate change as a proxy a(or vice versa?) for other types of grief both personal and societal
At about 35:40, Pete highlights profound lines and asks about Sasquatch’s importance throughout the collection
At about 39:50, Pete and Jared talk structure in Jared’s collection, including the diamond/pyramid structure and its uniqueness and power
At about 41:30, Jared shouts out Diana Khoi Nguyen’s work and using some structural stimuli
At about 45:05, Pete cites meaningful lines revolving around nostalgia and ideas of en
Great Literary Podcast
I love The Chills at Will podcast not only because it has introduced me to numerous authors, but it has also given me a deeper insight into the life and works of authors that I already admired. Pete’s knowledge and research shines through every interview.
This is a wonderfully engaging podcast. Pete researches the writers’ careers and reads their book’s closely. As a result his questions are specific to each writer, which invariably makes the conversations compelling. If you’re looking to learn more about a writer and the work they do, this is the show to listen to.
Really amazing show, great host, diverse guest list. Great listen!