The Chills at Will Podcast podcast

Episode 161 with Matthew Salesses, the Brilliant and Versatile Writer and Educator, and Author of Among Others, The Sense of Wonder, and the Paradigm-Shifting Craft in the Real World

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Episode 161 Notes and Links to Matthew Salesses’ Work


    On Episode 161 of The Chills at Will Podcast, Pete welcomes Matthew Salesses, and the two discuss, among other things, his early relationships with writing and language, his latest book (out January 17!), The Sense of Wonder, its connection to real-life events and Korean dramas, its background and themes and implications, and his processes in writing the book and his 2021 smash, Craft in the Real World and its ideas that shift the paradigms of teaching writing in workshops and reevaluating ideas of “relatability,” bias, and audience.

   Matthew Salesses is the author of The Sense of Wonder, national bestseller Craft in the Real World, the 2021 finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear, and two other novels. Adopted from Korea, he has written about adoption, race, and Asian American masculinity in The Best American Essays 2020, NPR's Code Switch, the New York Times blog Motherlode, and The Guardian, among other media outlets. BuzzFeed has named him one of 32 Essential Asian American Writers. He lives in New York City, where he is an Assistant Professor of Writing at Columbia University.


Buy Craft in the Real World


Matthew Salesses' Website


The Washington Post Review of The Sense of Wonder-by Ron Charles


New York Times Discussion of Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping by Laila Lalami


At about 7:20, Matt shouts out his launch party on publication day (January 17) for The Sense of Wonder, an event at with “BFF” Kirstin Chen at Books are Magic in Brooklyn at 7pm EST: in-person and on YouTube Live


At about 8:40, Matt describes his relationship with language and books as a kid and ideas of agency and reading fantasy 


At about 11:00, Matt describes the scant examples of representation that was available


At about 12:45, Matt describes what he read at school


At about 13:40, Matt traces early moments in his writing career, as well as the omnipresence of books in his house


At about 14:55, Matt responds to Pete’s question about who/what his students are reading, and he highlights the resonance of Katie Kiramura’s writing


At about 16:20, Matt gives background on the beginnings of The Sense of Wonder, including connections to Jeremy Lin 


At about 19:20, Pete and Matt lay out the book’s main characters, and Matt explains the cool name for the star basketball player, 


At about 20:45, Pete cites the book’s epigraph and how the book opens


At about 21:45, Matt explains how Robert Sung and Won Lee, two of the book’s main characters, are similar and dissimilar 


At about 23:40, Matt and Pete discuss the connections between Powerball! and Robert Sung and their distinct and shared trajectories, including how a woman loved by both, Brit Young, is a dynamic character 


At about 26:00, Pete outlines the hysteria that surrounds Won’s standout play and Matthew details Won’s coach’s behavior 


At about 28:30, Matthew expands upon how a “scarcity model” plays out in the book with Sung and Won, and how it manifested in Matthew’s own life


At about 30:50, Matthew describes the significance of a scene that Pete compliments as “icky,” including


At about 33:00, Carrie Kang is described and her and Won’s backstories are laid out as Pete brings up connections to agency as seen in both of Matt’s recent books


At about 35:15, Matt describes the “living funeral” done in the book, and how this storyline with Carrie’s sister K having Stage IV Cancer mirrors the story of Matt’s own wife 


At about 37:50, Pete dates himself with a ridiculous movie reference and Matthew talks about the sections in which Carrie lays out basics of K Dramas; his answer touches upon ideas of “audience”


At about 40:30, Pete asks Matthew to define “wonder,” especially as used in the book


At about 41:50, the two discuss the second half of the book, including Matthew’s skillful usage of timing and connections to K Drama storylines


At about 44:35, Pete compliments the ending, including the clever and intriguing last sentence of the book


At about 45:00, Pete highlights a profound quote about wonder from K at her “living funeral”


At about 46:25, Matthew responds to Pete’s questions about Craft in the Real World and ideas of “unlearning” after Pete’s notes the book’s immediate appeal to all readers, including its special place among educators


At about 47:35, Pete asks Matthew about the significant example he uses in the book about “query” versus “ask” with dialogue


At about 49:30, Pete notes the book’s two-half structure and notes the emphasis on craft as necessarily cultural; Matt speaks to ideas of writing as apolitical or “outside


At about 51:40, Matt and Pete discuss ideas of “know[ing] your audience” and its connection to craft


At about 53:10, Matt describes short-sighted criticisms from Western readers/writers


At about 54:35, Matt and Pete discuss the importance of Gish Jen pointing out a survey/experiment that fleshes out differences in types of literature types, and how Western critics often limit and unfairly criticize Asian and American-writing; Matt also refers to ideas of “hybridity” as stated by Lisa Lowe


At about 56:55, Pete asks about how Matthew runs his workshops and responds to Pete’s question about ways in which to keep workshops balanced and 


At about 59:00, Matthew shares positive feedback that comes from readers of his book, and Pete shares a quote from the book that sums up its greatness


   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 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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   The intro song for The Chills at Will Podcast is “Wind Down” (Instrumental Version), and the other song played on this episode was “Hoops” (Instrumental)” by Matt Weidauer, and both songs are used through

   Please tune in for Episode 162 with Erin Keane, whose RUNAWAY: Notes on the Myths that Made Me, her debut full-length nonfiction book, is a memoir in essays about her parents/pop culture/gender. Erin is also Editor in Chief at Salon Magazine and the author of three collections of poetry.


    The episode will air on January 24.


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