The Austin Writing Workshop is led by a former professor of literature and philosophy at Texas State University. The group meets more-or-less weekly in Austin, Texas to improve members’ writing, drink wine, and eat gluten-free snacks. This podcast is a recording of the group’s meetings. This week we discuss a story by Laura van den Berg and one by the leader of the group.

Specific details and approximate time stamps are below:

0:00 Introduction to the Podcast

0:37 Group analysis of “Where Will All the Buildings Go?” by Laura van den Berg, including finding the story, Open Culture, the story as an example of a young literary writer, having the same credentials, MFAs, the story is not serious, Austin Community College, getting the workshop accredited, where the story was published, lambasting it, the writing being weak, Fight Club thematic structure, The Babysitter by Coover, pseudosurrealism, Edward Norton, sleeping in the basement, Tyler Durden, character description, plot summary, Synocdoche New York, pursuing dreams in your spare time, crazy people, losing one’s mind, criticizing the plot, designing parking structures, pee in the stairwells, schizophrenia, wearing a mask, criticizing a literary story, ending with an elephant, architecture and structure and buildings, a blank piece of paper, the clues, deconstruction, zombies, online literary magazines, FSG, living in North Brooklyn, Williamsburgh, MFA stories, theme being so subtle you can’t describe it in one sentence, finding your style, putting together craft, appeasing professors, the progress of a writer, Emerson College, Plowshares, Glimmer Train, Tao Lin, and Haruki Murakami.

24:05 Group analysis of a member story, including being derivative of van den Berg, novel vs. short story, tightness of the piece, thematically discussing free will, freedom, conflation zoo animals and human animals, hippo criminals, murdering hippos, psychopathic hippos, psychopath vs. sociopath, the trapped nature of humanity, all the constraints of culture and of the five senses, birds as a symbol of freedom, choice of details, ice cream cones, meaning of conflation, Albert Camus, suicide, Hills Like White Elephants, coming to a conclusion, the intelligent reader, justifying the criticism, pointing to the text as evidence, subconscious writing, the misery of confinement, choices we make, marriage and suicide, debate about the meaning of the word present, Fabbio, the proper evidence for the theme, lobsters, penguins, Jacques Derrida, no Internet in Saint Louis, stingray petting pools, piranha petting pools, combining reality and fiction, verisimilitude, veritas, authenticity, marriage and death, the average reader, Samira’s story, the greatest writer of all time in Pakistani history, the Pulitzer Prize, getting the details correct, the invention of the ice cream cones, and Chicago’s trains.

1:07:14 End of Podcast

Posted by Frank Marcopolos

Frank Marcopolos lives in Pittsburgh, PA, without a dog. He writes novels, short stories, grocery lists, and love letters to lasagna bakers. He also produces free audiobooks of public domain works on his YouTube channel. You can subscribe to that here: