Craft in the Real World

Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping

In Craft in the Real World, Matthew Salesses sets out to upend the traditional fiction writing workshop—which was established by, about, and for white male writers. Salesses revises that model to consider that all writers—and, indeed, all readers—are rooted within specific cultures with their own cultural and historical norms and expectations. There’s exceptional advice for writing in here, especially for those writing from and for a non-white, non-male, or non-heteronormative audience. But I was also drawn to the guidance Salesses provides for creating safe, productive, and powerful spaces for people to give and receive feedback—guidance I find applicable to all kinds of workshops—and to the many truths the book implies about how to read fiction. Says Salesses, “You clarify your aesthetics by talking and writing about how you believe fiction should work and what you believe fiction should do,” (124). That’s a clarification as useful for readers as for writers, I think.