Mining Tension in Fiction, featuring Gish Jen

Mar 13, 2023

Gish Jen

Building tension in stories is part of writing good fiction writing, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do—and it also requires writers to be conscious of the tensions they’re trying to mine. In this week’s show, tension is at the forefront, as Brooke and Grant explore with storytelling master Gish Jen how she thinks about tension, what life experiences she brings to her fiction as a member of the Chinese diaspora and daughter of immigrants, and so much more. We’re talking about short stories and celebrating Jen’s latest collection, Thank You, Mr. Nixon, and thinking more broadly about the way tension raises the stakes when it comes to good story.


Gish Jen is the author of one previous book of stories, five novels, and two works of nonfiction. Her honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and the Fulbright Foundation, as well as the Lannan Literary Award for Fiction and the Mildred and Harold Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories five times, including The Best American Short Stories of the Century; she has also delivered the William E. Massey, Sr., Lectures in American Studies at Harvard University. She and her husband split their time between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

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