Seeing the World Through a Magical Lens with Magical Realism by Alex Temblador
by Writing Workshops Staff
A year ago
Growing up, I was a magical world-loving, women warrior-praising, good versus evil-craving, fantasy fan. I always had a fantasy book in my hand, and if that fantasy story was part of a multi-book series, I was all in.
When I entered my MFA in Creative Writing program in 2011, I was still reading fantasy, but as my interest in literary fiction heightened, I was a little sad to let the magic of my fantasy stories go. Fantasy allowed me to stay connected to that child-like part of myself, the one that sees magic in the mundane parts of life. While I loved literary fiction and the new types of stories I was reading, I craved stories that saw the world as I did: with magic.
As fate would have it, I’d find those types of stories.
My MFA thesis (which would later become my award-winning novel, Secrets of the Casa Rosada) was a book about a Mexican-American family, focusing on a 16-year-old girl whose grandmother was a curandera, a Latinx folk healer. As I wrote the story, I sought books and short stories written by and about Latinx authors, hoping their work would inspire my own writing. In my search, I discovered Ana Castillo, Isabel Allende, Rudolfo Anaya, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Julia Alvarez – all Latinx authors who told stories the way I saw the world, with a bit of magic.
These authors wrote magical realism, a type of literary fiction that combines magic and reality. As Lois Parkinson Zamora said: “Magical realism is characterized by visualizing capacity, that is, its capacity to create magical meanings by envisioning ordinary things in extraordinary ways.” In effect, magical realism stories show a perspective of reality through magical means.
In my exploration of magical realism, I found that Latinx writers were at the forefront of the magical realism genre. Their books and stories, such as those by the famous Gabriel Garcia Marquez, put magical realism on the international literary scene and highlighted how the Latinx perspective is one in which the people see the world through a magical lens, a result of colonialism and the mixing of cultures over centuries. No wonder I, Latinx myself, had a magical perspective of the world.
As I dove deeper and deeper into magical realism – by expanding my reading list to magical realism authors from around the world – I knew in my heart that my thesis (and first novel), Secrets of the Casa Rosada, had to be magical realism. And so it was.
Long before my first book was published (and well after it, too), I continued to write and read magical realism short stories and novels, until the love for the genre eventually led me to share it with others: through a magical realism writing class. Last year, I crafted a seminar on magical realism for Writing Workshops Dallas. The class was such a hit that I turned the three-hour seminar into a 4-week online Magical Realism Workshop.
The first time I taught the 4-week Magical Realism Workshop, I was blown away by the work produced by the students. I helped them gain a better understanding of what magical realism was and how it differed from fantasy. I watched them engage in discussions about magical realism short stories and how magical realism can be used as a tool to discuss social issues and trauma. And I cheered them on with each exercise they completed, each short story and chapter they wrote.
With such astounding feedback from my students, I’ve decided to offer the 4-week online Magical Realism Workshop again, starting May 25th.
I’ve long moved on from fantasy and firmly consider myself a magical realism author, one who wants more writers to fall in love with the magical realism genre. The world needs more writers writing realistic fiction with a magical perspective, and I look forward to my class providing a space from which to develop this craft.
To sign up for the 4-Week Magical Realism Workshop, click here.
Instructor Alex Temblador is the award-winning author of Secrets of the Casa Rosada and an internationally-published freelance writer. She received an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma and has since been a freelance writer for the last five years. Her Starred Kirkus novel has won such accolades as the NACCS 2019 Tejas Foco Young Adult Award, MG/YA Discovery Prize Winner of Writers League of Texas Book Awards, and Kirkus' Best of YA Books of 2018. Alex has two upcoming anthology publications, her creative work has been published in PALABRITAS and Cigale Literary Magazine, and her articles have appeared in outlets like Architectural Digest, Lonely Planet, The Daily Beast, Travel + Leisure, Bustle, Texas Highways Magazine, D Magazine, Fodors, among many others. In addition to being the moderator and brains behind Dallas' newest author panel series, LitTalk, Alex travels the world for her writing career and offers writing presentations and workshops at high schools, universities, and conferences in the U.S.