Book Review: Craft in the Real World by Matthew Salesses

Publisher: Catapult Books
Format: Paperback
Release Date: January 19th, 2021

Rating: 5/5 Stars

If you are a writer, you need this. That is especially important if you run or even plan on running workshops. I picked this up after a fantastic webinar from Writing the Other. A book like this is important not just because it can help improve you as a writer, but because it really underscores the issues around what we consider craft, and the nature of the writing workshop.

It outlines how the ‘workshop’ model was set up and centred around a particular type of writer, namely cis het white men. It shows how others can feel alienated in workshop, and how critiques of their work can result in them producing something to fit in, rather than something from their own history, background, culture, erasing desperately needed voices within literature.

Something that is always important to writers is feedback, whatever level they are at in their writing career. And giving feedback is crucial, too, though writers can miss the mark when delivering feedback, making suggestions to turn the story into something they would write, rather than looking at it through the eyes of the writer being critiqued. The traditional workshop too often favours one POV over another, but this book looks at ways that can be addressed to make the workshop more diverse and accepting of others.

Salesses discusses the concepts and phrases any writer who has, in any way, studied the ‘craft’ will be familiar with, and he provides other ways of looking at these, different definitions that can be used, while reminding us not to be so rigid in our thinking. The focus is on encouraging writers to tell their stories, in their way, rather than inflicting these outdated styles on everyone.

This is a really excellent book that can help a writer in so many ways, not just with their own craft, but in the way they approach others, whether they’re in a workshop environment or reading for pleasure, encouraging readers to look outside their own perspective and work on their bias. This is a book any writer can benefit from, and especially crucial for those in teacher roles.

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