The Master’s Tools: The Art of Teaching Writing

Headshots and names of George Saunders, Rivka Galchen, and Matthew Salesses with multicolor ripped paper on bottom edge


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This event is part of the 2021 PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature. Visit to learn more and get tickets for other events.

What exactly is the “craft” of writing, and how do we teach it? In an event that is part conversation, part workshop, George Saunders and Matthew Salesses call into question the politics of teaching people how to tell stories. Saunders’s A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, “another generous, funny, and stunningly perceptive book from one of the most original and entertaining writers alive” (Vanity Fair), transports the reader to his Syracuse University creative writing class on Russian short fiction, explaining how and why the quirks we so often perceive as flaws are actually the reasons a story succeeds. Salesses’s Craft in the Real World, “a significant contribution to discussions of the art of fiction and a necessary challenge to received views about whose stories are told, how they are told and for whom they are intended” (The New York Times) poses a vital critique to the tradition of the writing workshop as a space where certain modes of storytelling are routinely normalized and valued above others.

Put your own pen to paper with their favorite exercises in an informal, curiosity-driven mini workshop leading into a discussion of the theories behind Salesses’s and Saunders’s new books, the cultural expectations behind the word “craft,” and the need to reimagine conventional models for teaching writing. Moderated by award-winning writer and journalist Rivka Galchen, whose newest novel, Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch, comes out this June.

This digital event will start at 7pm ET / 4pm PT. If you have any questions, please visit our FAQs.

Presented in collaboration with Skylight Books.

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George Saunders headshot George Saunders is the author of 11 books, including Lincoln in the Bardo, which won the 2017 Man Booker Prize for best work of fiction in English. His most recent book is A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, an exploration of four great Russian writers, the short story form, and the writing process. He teaches at Syracuse University.

Matthew Salesses headshot Matthew Salesses is the author of the bestsellers The Hundred-Year Flood and Craft in the Real World, as well as Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear (a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction), among other books. He was adopted from Korea.

Rivka Galchen headshotRivka Galchen, a fiction writer and essayist, is a recipient of a William Saroyan International Prize for Writing and has been a finalist for the Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction, among other distinctions. She writes regularly for The New Yorker, whose editors selected her for their list of “20 Under 40” American fiction writers in 2010. She has received an M.D. from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Born in Toronto and raised in Norman, OK, Galchen now splits her time between Montreal and New York City.

About Skylight Books

Skylight Books is a general bookstore serving the historic Los Angeles neighborhoods of Hollywood, Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Echo Park, and Downtown. Located in the shadow of Griffith Park and its iconic Observatory, our Los Feliz neighborhood is host to many independently-owned shops, restaurants, and movie theaters. Our curated selection features the best of literary fiction, graphic novels, children’s books, California history and culture, political and social sciences, essays and nonfiction, and books on art, photography, film, and music. We also feature hand-picked magazines and zines, along with a selection of stationery and gifts. Our events program is nationally recognized and features major touring authors, local favorites, and debuts.

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