by Kiana Shaley
Who doesn’t love a good book on craft? When we think of our favorites, the usual sweethearts come to mind: A Poetry Handbook, Bird by Bird, Stephen King’s On Writing (known even amongst non-writers if only for its drug content), The Artist’s Way, you’ve seen the lists. These books have several things in common: they’re perennial bestsellers and all written by authors identifying, living, and working in the dominant culture. Even the lesser-known, yet widely recommended ones are: Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, The Science of Storytelling, The Writing Life. This fact doesn’t make the wisdom they dispense any less valuable, but it does beg two questions:
1) Where all my other craft books at?, and 2) If lived experience and craft feed off of each other, then the most prevalent way is the colonial way which has what effect on the work and voice of historically-underrepresented writers?
The socioeconomic psychology of the latter question is the harder answer, but both can be explored with books; that is, books on craft written by BIPOC, Disabled, LGBTQIA+, and Neurodivergent authors because yes, if lived experience and craft feed off of each other, then
what we need are narrative structures of liberation to release what has been kept behind acid-washed wrought-iron gates.
Here are these narratives / structures. This list is by no means comprehensive, so share all recs.
How Dare We! Write by Sherry Quan Lee (Editor)
Totally slept on this and just started reading!
Of Color: Poets’ Ways of Making An Anthology of Essays on Transformative Poetics by Amanda Galvan-Huynh & Luisa A. Gloria (Editors)
A Stranger’s Journey: Race, Identity, and Narrative Craft in Writing by David Mura
Breaking the Alabaster Jar: Conversations with Li-Young Lee by Li-Young Lee
In Search of Duende by Federico Garcia Lorca
Re/Orienting Writing Studies: Queer Methods, Queer Projects by William P. Banks, Matthew B. Cox, & Caroline Dadas
Signifying Bodies: Disabilities in Contemporary Life Writing by G. Thomas Couser
Synthesizing Gravity by Kay Ryan
Though Ryan doesn’t pointedly discuss her identity as it is interwoven with craft, her view of poetry and the poet’s work offers in it of itself a Buddhist resistance to the strains of capitalism and ego.
Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks
This one’s a bit of a cheat as it’s not on writing perse, but one could argue that creative writing is educational writing in its own right, and to know that is to free that. Also, everyone should read this book and all things bell hooks, so there ya’ go.
Teaching Queer: Radical Possibilities for Writing and Knowing by Stacey Waite
The Art of Daring by Carl Phillips
The Cracks Between What We Are and What We Are Supposed to Be by Harryette Mullen
The Mirror Diary by Garrett Hongo
The Way of the Writer by Charles Johnson
Writing Beyond Recognition: Queer Re-Storying for Social Change by Claire Robson
“A Poetics of Continuous Presence and Erasure” by Craig Santos Perez
“Addressing Structural Racism in Creative Writing Programs” by Kazim Ali
“On My Way to the Novel, I Fell in Love with the Short Story” by Junot Diaz
A FANTASTIC essay that will make you want to write a short story, like, now. Also, Junot Diaz.
The Force of What’s Possible: Accessibility and the Avant-Garde, “from Unincorporated Poetic Territories” by Craig Santos Perez
originally posted on https://www.kianashaley.com/blog-content/books-on-craft