Meet the Teaching Artist: Autofiction & Writing with Baldwin and Morrison with Eraldo Souza dos Santos
by Writing Workshops Staff
5 months ago
We are thrilled to welcome Eraldo Souza dos Santos, a 2022 LARB Publishing Fellow, as a teaching artist in our upcoming creative writing sessions at WritingWorkshops.com.
Eraldo, a Brazilian writer presently residing between Paris and São Paulo, brings a rich background of life experiences and a deep understanding of complex narratives to his teaching. Eraldo is in the midst of crafting a groundbreaking novel set to publish in 2024, which explores the harsh realities of modern-day enslavement in Brazil through the lens of his mother's lived experiences. Drawing from extensive archival research and interviews, the novel takes readers on a journey through Minas Gerais and Bahia, delving into untold stories of Blackness and systemic injustice. The anticipation surrounding his book builds on a successful masterclass Eraldo offered at the prestigious UEA Creative Writing Course in March 2023, grounded in narratives from his forthcoming novel.
For writers eager to learn from Eraldo's profound understanding of storytelling and firsthand experience in crafting narratives grounded in deep personal and historical contexts, we have two classes on offer. The first, "Writing with James Baldwin and Toni Morrison 4-Week Zoom Class, seeks to immerse students in the works of these monumental figures, exploring their narrative techniques and styles to inspire your own writing journey.
The second offering is What Is Autofiction?, a 3-Week Zoom Class. Here, participants will engage with the concept of autofiction, a genre that blends autobiographical and fictional elements to craft deeply personal yet expansive narratives.
Both courses promise to offer insightful perspectives and tools to both budding and experienced writers looking to deepen their craft. Sign up to explore the depths of creative writing with a lens sharpened by rich experiences and honed through rigorous research and deep reflection.
Hi, Eraldo. Please introduce yourself to our audience.
I am many things: a writer of creative nonfiction, certainly, but also a philosopher interested in how language shapes our thinking and imagination. In this respect, I love to explore the history of concepts, expressions, metaphors, discourses, and ideas such as (dis)obedience and transgression.
What made you want to teach this specific class? Is it something you are focusing on in your own writing practice? Have you noticed a need to focus on this element of craft?
My current project is an (auto)biography of my illiterate mother and a meditation on the lived experience of Blackness and enslavement in modern Brazil. At the age of seven, my mother was sold into slavery by her white foster sister. It was 1968—eighty years after the abolition of slavery in Brazil and four years into the anti-communist coup d’état, during the month in which the military overruled the Constitution by decree. By weaving in extensive archival research and interviews, the book narrates our journey to Minas Gerais—where she was born—and Bahia—the Blackest state in Brazil, where she was enslaved on a farm for three years—to investigate why the family that enslaved her has never been brought to justice. It also narrates my grandmother’s journey to find her missing daughter.
As I conceived this project, I realized that engaging with the literary genre known as autofiction could be generative. I have found inspiration in this tradition to address the difficult problem of mediating between memory and forgetfulness, reality and imagination, fact and fiction.
Give us a breakdown of how the course is going to go. What can the students expect? What is your favorite part about this class you've dreamed up?
My classes involve both discussions of traditional and contemporary literary works as well as provocative writing prompts. I love raising questions that, although difficult, are geared toward helping us understand together what shape we can give to our literary projects (style, voice, structure, technique, etc.) and what kind of writers we want to be and to become. I always leave the classroom having learned something new from my fellow writers.
The most fascinating aspect about this workshop on autofiction in particular is that we ask ourselves all the time: Is this true or a fabrication? Can we talk about "lies" in literary works? What are the ethics of mixing fact and fiction?
What was your first literary crush?
As a teenager, my great literary crush was Honoré de Balzac, and his novels continue to be a great source of inspiration for me. I often revisit the last pages of "Old Goriot."
What are you currently reading?
In recent months, I've been reading multiple autobiographical accounts by activists involved in movements against the Vietnam War. The personal and political sense of urgency with which these texts were written has profoundly inspired my current literary projects.
How do you choose what you're working on? When do you know it is the next thing you want to write all the way to THE END?
I write down, in a notebook or on my cell phone, projects that I would like to be able to develop one day. At this point, the list is already very long, however... The reasons why I choose to develop and finish one project before another depends a lot on political events that inspire me to write, the invitations I receive to publish my pieces, and the conversations I have with friends, family members, and fellow writers.
Where do you find inspiration?
Reading, reading, and reading, a wide variety of texts, in different media, especially on subjects and authors I dislike. And walking, walking, and walking: it's only by walking, usually in the noisy streets of Paris and São Paulo, away from screens, that I can see connections between ideas hitherto separated in my head.
What is the best piece of writing wisdom you've received that you can pass along to our readers? How did it impact your work? Why has this advice stuck with you?
Definitely Toni Morrison's classic advice: "If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” Without exaggeration, this idea has guided all my current projects, perhaps because it illuminates the intimate relationship between being a writer and being a reader. Beyond an unbridled quest for originality, Morrison invites us to seek out an audience that may share our interest in a certain type of literature, a type of literature either neglected today or yet to come. Even if that audience turns out to be small, that's enough for me.
What is your favorite book to recommend on the craft of writing? Why this book?
I have recently read "How We Do It: Black Writers on Craft, Practice, and Skill," edited by Jericho Brown (August 2023), and I highly recommend the book for beginning and established writers alike, even if they are not Black. Every writer will find helpful advice and suggestions in its pages. I also always recommend that my students regularly read the LitHub series "The Craft of Writing." Each new piece makes me learn something different (and feel that I'm part of a global community that shares the same pleasures and difficulties when confronting the blank page and the publishing world).
Bonus question: What’s your teaching vibe?
My passion is to help other writers move from the stage of identifying an idea or motive to the stage of defining which techniques are the most appealing to make the project take a concrete literary form. My classes are a forum in which I invite everyone to read published and unpublished literary texts with a critical eye for the relationship between content and form.
Learn More About Working with Eraldo:
Join Eraldo in this journey to explore new dimensions in writing and enhance your craft!
A 2022 LARB Publishing Fellow, Instructor Eraldo Souza dos Santos is a Brazilian writer currently based between Paris and São Paulo. His first novel, to be published in 2024, is an autobiography of his illiterate mother and a meditation on the lived experience of Blackness and enslavement in modern Brazil. At the age of seven, his mother was sold into slavery by her white foster sister. It was 1968—eighty years after the abolition of slavery in Brazil and four years into the anti-communist coup d’état, during the month in which the military overruled the Constitution by decree. By weaving in extensive archival research and interviews, the novel narrates their journey to Minas Gerais—where she was born—and Bahia—the Blackest state in Brazil, where she was enslaved on a farm for three years—to investigate why the family that enslaved her has never been brought to justice. It also narrates his grandmother’s journey to search for her missing daughter. In March 2023, he offered a masterclass based on his novel at the prestigious UEA Creative Writing Course.