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187: Exceptionally Experimental, Eclectic and Expressive Exercises with Phong Nguyen



What if you removed a letter from your keyboard? How might that impact your work? Maybe you could remove a tilda key (the squiggle beside the number 1) or a function key or even an obscure, rarely used letter like x or z. But what if you removed the letter e? How might that impact your work? 


For starters, I wouldn’t have been able to write the opening 5 sentences with any degree of success. I used a whopping 30 e’s in 236 characters over 57 words… a massive 13% of all letters, which, if equally distributed, each letter in the Latin alphabet would account for just under 4% of text. According to Reader’s Digest, e is the most used letter in the English language. 


Now imagine using no e’s in a 60,000 word written work.


Impossible?


Not for Phong Nguyen. 


Phong Nguyen is the author of five books, including three novels: Bronze Drum, Roundabout, and The Adventures of Joe Harper. He is the Miller Family Endowed Chair in Literature and Writing at the University of Missouri, where he teaches fiction writing.


In this episode you’ll hear Phong’s playful approach to his work that harnesses ‘beginner mind’. You’ll learn more about Phong’s 4th book, ROUNDABOUT: An Improvisational Fiction that has a clever narrative, fascinating process and incredible constraints… there are no letter e’s found within the 60,000 word book! (More accurately, there’s a single e, which you’ll hear about in the episode.) This book project is all about constraints, as well as yes-anding; applying the foundations of improvisational theatre to writing. 


We talk subconscious, we talk speed and we talk space in the act of creative making. You’ll also learn about his next book project that’s almost complete. Phong is delightful and I trust you’ll enjoy listening to this conversation as much as I enjoyed having it.


Let's listen in...




About Our Guest:


Phong Nguyen is the author of five books, including three novels: Bronze Drum, Roundabout, and The Adventures of Joe Harper. He is the Miller Family Endowed Chair in Literature and Writing at the University of Missouri, where he teaches fiction writing.












Music: First Bicycle by John Bartmann, Licensed Under CC0 1.0 Universal


Talk Paper Scissors Theme Music: Retro Quirky Upbeat Funk by Lewis Sound Production via Audio Jungle


Boat Origami Photo: Boat Origami Photo by Alex on Unsplash

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