Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping (Paperback)

Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping Cover Image


"An insightful guide for readers, writers, and instructors from all walks of life," 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 (Kirkus Reviews).

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."

About the Author

Matthew Salesses is the 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. He has taught at Coe College, the Ashland MFA program, the Tin House and Kundiman summer workshops, and writing centers like Grub Street and Inprint, among others. He has edited fiction for Gulf Coast, Redivider, and The Good Men Project and has written about craft and creative writing workshops for venues like NPR's Code Switch, The Millions, Electric Literature, and Pleiades. He was adopted from Korea and currently lives in Iowa.

Praise For…

Write or Die Tribe Most Anticipated Book of the Year
A Rumpus Most Anticipated Book of Next Year

"A real eye opener . . . It unpacks the seemingly ‘universal’ lessons we learn about what makes fiction good to reveal how whiteness and maleness have shaped those values." ––Kumari Devarajan, Code Switch, NPR  

"Required reading for creative writing teachers, Matthew Salesses’s Craft in the Real World is an argument and a guide for upending the traditional workshop model and our conceptions of craft." ––Literary Hub, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year

"A critical addition to the pedagogical canon, laying out how the traditional workshop form and many ideas about 'craft' have been envisioned largely by and for white male writers. The book includes exercises and advice for revision and editing and guiding teachers through reimagining what it is to teach and encourage writers." ––The Millions, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year

"The MFA and its traditional workshop model have long been criticized and challenged, but rarely does it ever change—until now . . . This book forces people to ask, What have we been centering in the MFA world? What do we value—and who is 'we,' by the way?—in workshops and how does this affect diverse writers? How can we change the landscape of creative writing? This book is a start, and I hope it winds up in every writing teacher and MFA instructor’s hands as required reading." —Jaime Herndon, Book Riot

"A fresh view of teaching craft to writers of diverse backgrounds . . . An insightful guide for readers, writers, and instructors from all walks of life." —Kirkus Reviews 

"Craft in the Real World is an instant essential book. Every writer, every writing teacher, every critic, every reviewer, anyone interested in how language works needs to read this. Now." --Beth Nguyen, author of Stealing Buddha's Dinner

"Astounding in its research and the case it makes for craft, Craft in the Real World asks writers and teachers of writing to claim our place as conscious participants in and makers of culture." --Tiphanie Yanique, author of Land of Love and Drowning

"Brilliant. Essential. This book will--and should--change creative writing workshops forever." --Joy Castro, author of Hell or High Water

"This book is a gift to those writers who've felt the tilt of imbalanced power in a workshop, who've wondered whose rules they're following when they write and why, who've struggled to tell their stories within a narrow and restrictive tradition."  --Alexandra Kleeman, author of Intimations

"This is exactly the book we need right now--a vital corrective to the myth that craft is a neutral, objective category unaffected by historical or cultural context. Matthew Salesses explores how beliefs about 'good' writing are profoundly marked by race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, and national identity; and he offers concrete strategies for liberating our classrooms and writing practices from the straight-white-male default gaze. I will recommend Craft in the Real World to every writer and teacher I know." --Leni Zumas, author of Red Clocks

Product Details
ISBN: 9781948226806
ISBN-10: 1948226804
Publisher: Catapult
Publication Date: January 19th, 2021
Pages: 256