Published: Take It Apart by the Seams: Vera Tobin on Your Brain on Fiction (PopMatters)

I enjoyed doing this interview with Dr Vera Tobin about her recent non-fiction book, Elements of Surprise, which I had reviewed earlier. We discussed the cognitive, linguistic, and narrative aspects of the "well-made surprise" in fiction (books and movies). We also talked about fake news, "dumb-smart" stories, unreliable narrators, and a lot more. PS If you enjoy the posts I share here, please do share them on via social media. Every bit helps us writers get a bit of visibility and it's a quick little step that costs nothing except a few seconds of time. Thank you.

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Published: Letters Between Writers and Editors (

[A gentle request: If you enjoy the literary works I share, please do pass on to other reader/writer friends. Every bit helps us fledgling writers grow. And please stop by to share comments as I always reply. Thank you.] Letters between writers and editors are an interesting sub-genre. My all-time favorite is the book-length collection of letters between Sylvia Townsend Warner, a British writer, and William Maxwell, her American editor. Read an excerpt here. I recently wrote a piece for Scroll sharing three very different letters between writers and editors. In one, Henry David Thoreau is upset about a sentence being cut from an essay without his agreement. In another, Virginia Woolf writes to complain about an awful sexist book by a famous male writer. And, in the third, Hunter S Thompson swears black and blue at a writer for not turning in promised work.

Published: ‘Elements of Surprise’ and the Pleasures of Being Had (PopMatters)

This is the best non-fiction book I've read this year yet. The writer, Vera Tobin, teaches at Case Western University (Cleveland, Ohio) about the connections between cognition, language, and narrative. Here, she explores how the "well-made surprise" is created by writers and appreciated by readers in books and movies. Fascinating stuff. If you're a writer (of any genre), you should read this. If you're a reader who likes to get under the hood (believe me, it's more fun) with how writers do what they do, you should read this. Beyond fiction, these cognitive and linguistic techniques are also relevant in fields where rhetoric and narrative are critical — e.g. law, academia, etc. I have an interview coming up with her next week too.