CRAFT IN THE REAL WORLD

RETHINKING FICTION WRITING AND WORKSHOPPING

An insightful guide for readers, writers, and instructors from all walks of life.

A fresh view of teaching craft to writers of diverse backgrounds.

Korean-born novelist and essayist Salesses, who teaches Asian American literature as well as creative writing, offers a thoughtful analysis of the teaching of craft in colleges and writing programs. “Craft,” he observes, “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.” He argues persuasively that the widespread practice of silencing the writer while workshop members critique a piece of writing normalizes White, middle-class, Western values. As an MFA student, he recalls, “I still remember being banned from speaking while mostly white writers discussed my race.” This pedagogy conveys to a writer who does not share the reader’s race, ethnicity, class, or gender that their story is not worth telling. Those who are silenced learn “that in order to speak they must speak with an acceptable voice” and that their story “must be framed so that the majority can read via their own lens.” Salesses offers a detailed overview of the main points covered in writing workshops—including tone, plot, conflict, character arc, setting, pacing, and structure—which generally use realist fiction by White male writers as models. These stories “present the world as a matter of free will. The problems are caused by the self and can be solved by the development of the self. And somehow both external and internal conflict is like this.” Salesses counters that view with an illuminating chapter on East Asian and Asian American fiction, where he points to 10 ways that Chinese fiction is different from Western tradition, and he offers an innovative syllabus and exercises. “It is effectively a kind of colonization,” he writes astutely, “to assume that we all write for the same audience or that we should do so if we want our fiction to sell.”

An insightful guide for readers, writers, and instructors from all walks of life.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-948226-80-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Catapult

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

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The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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CALYPSO

Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

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In which the veteran humorist enters middle age with fine snark but some trepidation as well.

Mortality is weighing on Sedaris (Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002, 2017, etc.), much of it his own, professional narcissist that he is. Watching an elderly man have a bowel accident on a plane, he dreaded the day when he would be the target of teenagers’ jokes “as they raise their phones to take my picture from behind.” A skin tumor troubled him, but so did the doctor who told him he couldn’t keep it once it was removed. “But it’s my tumor,” he insisted. “I made it.” (Eventually, he found a semitrained doctor to remove and give him the lipoma, which he proceeded to feed to a turtle.) The deaths of others are much on the author’s mind as well: He contemplates the suicide of his sister Tiffany, his alcoholic mother’s death, and his cantankerous father’s erratic behavior. His contemplation of his mother’s drinking—and his family’s denial of it—makes for some of the most poignant writing in the book: The sound of her putting ice in a rocks glass increasingly sounded “like a trigger being cocked.” Despite the gloom, however, frivolity still abides in the Sedaris clan. His summer home on the Carolina coast, which he dubbed the Sea Section, overspills with irreverent bantering between him and his siblings as his long-suffering partner, Hugh, looks on. Sedaris hasn’t lost his capacity for bemused observations of the people he encounters. For example, cashiers who say “have a blessed day” make him feel “like you’ve been sprayed against your will with God cologne.” But bad news has sharpened the author’s humor, and this book is defined by a persistent, engaging bafflement over how seriously or unseriously to take life when it’s increasingly filled with Trump and funerals.

Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-39238-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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