Matthew Salesses in Conversation about CRAFT IN THE REAL WORLD
by Writing Workshops Staff
A month ago
"A significant contribution to discussions of the art of fiction and a necessary challenge to received views about whose stories are told, how they are told and for whom they are intended," this manifesto and practical guide challenges current models of craft and the writing workshop by showing how they fail marginalized writers, and how cultural expectations inform storytelling. -Laila Lalami, The New York Times Book Review
Writer, literary translator, and book critic Jenny Bhatt is in conversation with bestselling author Matthew Salesses about his brilliant craft book, Craft in the Real World. You can watch the video replay here:
The traditional writing workshop was established with white male writers in mind; what we call craft is informed by their cultural values. In this bold and original examination of elements of writing—including plot, character, conflict, structure, and believability—and aspects of workshop—including the silenced writer and the imagined reader—Matthew Salesses asks questions to invigorate these familiar concepts. He upends Western notions of how a story must progress. How can we rethink craft, and the teaching of it, to better reach writers with diverse backgrounds? How can we invite diverse storytelling traditions into literary spaces?
Drawing from examples including One Thousand and One Nights, Curious George, Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, and the Asian American classic No-No Boy, Salesses asks us to reimagine craft and the workshop. In the pages of exercises included here, teachers will find suggestions for building syllabi, grading, and introducing new methods to the classroom; students will find revision and editing guidance, as well as a new lens for reading their work. Salesses shows that we need to interrogate the lack of diversity at the core of published fiction: how we teach and write it. After all, as he reminds us, “When we write fiction, we write the world.”
MATTHEW SALESSES is the bestselling author of three novels, Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear, The Hundred-Year Flood, and I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying, and a forthcoming essay collection. His essays can be found in Best American Essays 2020, NPR Code Switch, The New York Times Motherlode, The Guardian, and other venues. His short fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, American Short Fiction, PEN/Guernica, and Witness, among others. He was adopted from Korea and currently lives in Iowa.
JENNY BHATT is the author of the acclaimed story collection Each of Us Killers, named a best book of 2020 by The Millions, Lit Hub, & Electric Literature. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, NPR, Washington Post, BBC, Literary Hub, Longreads, The Millions,The National Book Review, and more. Jenny's debut literary translation, Ratno Dholi: The Best Stories of Dhumketu, was published by HarperCollins India in October 2020.