Matthew Salesses makes a passionate plea for changing the way MFA programs teach writing.
On this week’s episode, Matthew Salesses discusses Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping (Catapult, Jan. 19), “A fresh view of teaching craft to writers of diverse backgrounds” (Kirkus).
Salesses is the bestselling author of The Hundred-Year Flood and Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear, and an Assistant Professor of English at Coe College, where he teaches fiction writing and Asian American literature and studies. As an MFA and Ph.D. student, he participated in more than a dozen writers workshops; as a professor, he’s led four times as many.
The traditional writers workshop, in which the author stays silent while their classmates critique their work, relies on the myth of “good craft” as neutral, apolitical, objective. On the contrary, Salesses writes in Craft in the Real World, “Craft is the history of which kind of stories have typically held power—and for whom—so it also is the history of which stories have typically been omitted.”
Salesses and host Megan Labrise discuss the history of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, how craft is influenced by culture, Salesses’ personal experiences in writing workshops, whose responsibility it is to imagine a more inclusive workshop, and alternative workshop models for better serving writers from marginalized identities.
Then editors Vicky Smith, Laura Simeon, Eric Liebetrau, and Laurie Muchnick join with their reading recommendations for the week.
Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins)
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo (Dutton)
Walking With Ghosts by Gabriel Byrne (Grove)
Outlawed by Anna North (Bloomsbury)
Also mentioned in this episode:
San Francisco’s Chinatown by Dick Evans and Kathy Chin Leong (Heyday)
Blessings in Disguise by Alec Guinness (Knopf)
The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman (Viking)
We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry (Pantheon)
Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.