Meet the Teaching Artist: Writing the Magical, Cultural and Mythical with Pingmei Lan
by Writing Workshops Staff
A month ago
Meet Pingmei Lan, an experienced and inspiring teaching artist who will be leading a new course titled Beyond Realism: Writing the Magical, Cultural and Mythical.
With a diverse range of influences, including renowned authors like Carmen Maria Machado, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Aimee Bender, Pingmei Lan delves into the intersection of literature and magic, exploring origin stories, family mythologies, and the realm of the uncanny.
This workshop goes beyond traditional narratives, embracing alternative forms and non-traditional storytelling techniques. As students embark on this immersive journey, they will discover how to weave the magical seamlessly into their own projects, acquiring invaluable tools for crafting vivid narratives and managing revisions.
With collaborative workshop sessions, in-depth feedback, and personalized one-on-one conferences, Pingmei Lan empowers writers at all levels of experience to unlock new possibilities, merging realism and the uncanny to create cohesive and enchanting story worlds. By the end of the course, participants will have gained concrete tools for reading and writing speculative fiction, learned key techniques for incorporating magical elements into their work, and developed a polished draft or revision of their own stories or novel excerpts.
Hi, Pingmei. Please introduce yourself to our audience.
I started writing fairly late in life. Sometimes people say you've lived several lives (grew up in Beijing, immigrated to America, studied marketing and worked in various non-writing jobs) by now. I'd like to think they inform the way I write and teach, and help me develop a better understanding for students from different backgrounds and better support their projects and aspirations.
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?
I tend to teach into areas that fascinate and motivate me so much that I want to work hard to both learn about it myself and share that knowledge with my students. Beyond Realism is what I'd call any writing that is uncanny, that is not quite real life, but almost feel hyper realistic to the characters in that world. Their close attention to what's happening in this world pulls me in and makes me feel a part of it. In terms of craft, I want to pay attention to this closeness and apply it in my writing.
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 tend to be interactive, with a good dose of guided reading and writing exercises. Students would discuss both sample literature from the greats and each other's writing. Both would help them get deeper understanding on the craft elements and apply these lessons in their own writing.
What was your first literary crush?
Faulkner. I read THE SOUND AND THE FURY and was a goner. But maybe before that, when I was a kid, I used to listen to classical Chinese novels on the radio (broadcasted in serial) before I fall asleep. I'd fall for that voice that somehow painted pictures in my mind.
What are you currently reading?
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?
Sometimes I choose the material based on what I read in the news or things I heard from those around me. Sometimes a story would arrive as a mental image, a voice or a dialogue fragment that compels me to follow until the end.
Where do you find inspiration?
I enjoy talking to people, especially those I don't already know. It's usually not the stories they tell me but a gesture, a movement, an expression that betrays an emotion. Sometimes I'm on the verge of tears when a stranger tells me they enjoyed a soggy airport sandwich even though they just missed a flight and there's a storm raging somewhere near their destination. Or the slow methodical way an older neighbor packs up her bag at the end of a grocery run. She has a proper place for everything and there's not a wrinkle or a speck of dust on her long skirt.
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?
You could be writing when you go for a walk, talk to a neighbor or do the dishes. This taught me to pay attention and to take in the rich world ceaselessly unfolding around me.
What is your favorite book to recommend on the craft of writing? Why this book?
Lately I've been returning to Natalie Goldberg's WRITING DOWN THE BONES. It brings me back to this place where writing is more than something you do but a way to think, move and exist.
Learn More About Working with Pingmei:
You can learn more about Pingmei's upcoming Beyond Realism: Writing the Magical, Cultural and Mythical 6-Week Zoom Workshop and sign up now!
Don't miss this opportunity to explore the realms of imagination with Pingmei Lan as your guide, as you discover the art of merging realism and magic to create truly captivating narratives.
Instructor Pingmei Lan holds an MFA in creative writing. Her work has appeared in The Florida Review, Blackbird, Epiphany, Smokelong Quarterly, Tahoma Literary Review and others. She is a winner of the 2019 PEN/DAU Best Debut Short Stories prize, a finalist in the Atlanta Review's 2019 International Poetry Competition and a 2021 Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the 2022 Nancy Zafris Memorial Scholar at the Kenyon Review Writers' Workshop.