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The Roundtable Podcast

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Literary creation can be a hazardous business. Not, of course, for writers like P. G. Wodehouse, who for decades sat down at his ancient typewriter and bashed out 2,000 - 3,000 words per day. But for James Joyce writing proved extremely difficult, especially after having completed Ulysses; he began Finnegan's Wake in 1923, but it was not published in book form until 1939.
 
Perhaps Joyce might have benefited from the advice given in the Roundtable Podcast, in which guest publishers, editors and authors offer feedback on an idea from an aspiring author for a new novel they might want to write. The author pitches the synopsis; and the guests, together with regular presenters Dave Robison and Brion Humphrey dissect it, providing suggestions on character, plot, theme, incident and structure.
 
The idea is a good one: writing should be a collaborative activity, in which authors are made to feel that they are not alone in their task. Everyone experiences similar trials and tribulations trying to put together a work of fiction (as well as a nonfictional work); and one of the best ways to overcome them is to use other writers, critics or creative talents as sounding-boards. The Round Table Podcast shows how writers can learn through collaboration and discussion; not only about their techniques, but about themselves and their relationship to their work.
 
At the same time the program comes with an in-built health warning; sometimes writers have to disregard every suggestion and pursue their own convictions, if they believe that what they are doing is the best way. However the process of collaboration nonetheless proves valuable, as a way of determining the writer's chosen path.
 
The only criticism I might level at this program is an occasional tendency towards self-indulgence; there are too many in-jokes between presenters and guests that are lost on the listeners. A little bit of judicious pruning; or, better still, cutting to the chase and getting down to the discussion of the aspiring author's pitch, might come in useful. Nonetheless I recommend anyone interested in writing, both for a living or for pleasure, to listen to the program.