Craft in the Real World: advice on writing and workshop from Matthew Salesses

Write for the audience whose expectations you want to meet — not an imagined audience you’ve been taught is the standard.

That’s among the the top-level themes of Craft in the Real World, the 2021 book by celebrated fiction author and novelist Matthew Salesses. It challenges many norms of the American-style writer workshop that was largely first established at Iowa University, where the first Masters in Fine Arts writing program emerged. The book is rich with general criticism, tactical advice for modernizing writer workshops (many of which I’ve incorporated into my own) and even fresh looks at foundational elements of writing (ie. what exactly is plot?).

I introduced many of Matthew’s points on making a more effective writers workshop to my own workshop. I also appreciated his general contribution to our collective goals for great writing. I recommend the book to anyone in workshop or interested in writing process. Below I share my notes for me to return to in the future.

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