Magical Realism- what the heck is that?

Many of you writers, and some readers, will have heard the term “magical realism.” It has recently appeared with some frequency on the wish lists of agents and editors alike. It wasn’t but a few years ago when I thought, “What the heck is that?” I recently read a post by Bruce Holland Rogers that talked about how magical realism was a debased term (he explains it much better than I do here, so visit this post for a more in-depth discussion). However, I might defend writers by saying that without correctly defining the genre and providing examples, publishing professionals do themselves a disservice when writers make claims that don’t add up to real magical realism. So what is it, then? Well, now that you’ve backed me into a corner with that simple question, I might try to make the definition as simple as possible. Magical realism is the acceptance of magic in the real world. Actually, Katharina Hagena says it great in her Huffington Post article on the topic: “In a novel of magical realism, you’ll find elements of the fantastic which break or creep into an otherwise realistic world.” So what does that really mean? Are the Chronicles of Narnia magical realism? Not really. Magical realism takes into account the real world. The Earth we live upon. Not a fantasy one. How about Twilight? Well, you could say the novels expose something extraordinary in the real world, but the real world doesn’t really (or mostly) accept vampires exists, and that’s where we get down to the nitty gritty definition. Maybe the best way to explain is to present works considered magical realism. Think about Stuart Little. Here’s a talking mouse that gets adopted by a family. Nobody in the story seems to think this particularly strange. How about Scorpio Races? Sure it takes place in the past (Stiefvater is purposely vague on the exact year), but no one, not even an out-of-town American visitor, seems to think it unbelievable that these meat-eating horses emerge from the sea once a year and people race them. How about Harry Potter? Oooh, this might bear more discussion, because most Muggles don’t necessarily accept magic takes place. But the argument could be made for it being part of this category. In Bruce Holland Rogers’ post, he emphasizes that the value of magical realism is seeing the world through a different set of eyes. Maybe we could take that a little further... read more

What’s Write About Art and Science

“We use math, science and code to create these amazing worlds. We use storytelling and art to bring them to life. It’s this interweaving of art and science that elevates the world to a place of wonder, a place with soul, a place we can believe in, a place where the things you imagine can become real—and a world where a girl suddenly realizes not only is she a scientist, but also an artist.” – Danielle Feinberg         I attended an SCBWI conference in Alabama in October, met another children’s writer within an hour drive from myself, and we met up for coffee. We wanted to know more about each other and we began sharing the projects we were working on, our successes, our struggles and eventually came to the question of when our writing started.         I reflected on how I taught high school chemistry, science summer camps, and a couple of introductory laboratory classes at a local university. I spoke of how when I taught that I had quarterly chemistry projects that implemented writing, creativity, and art. I loved these projects because the creativity allowed students to have fun and show off their unique ways.         My new writer friend pointed out how the writing/creativity was noticeable even when I was teaching science. To think back it was my chemistry tutoring job in college that led to another tutoring job in writing. Both are in my blood.         I remember one of my high school teachers had a science reading list. We could choose two books from the list to read throughout the year. I remember one that I read was The Hot Zone by Richard Preston (technically nonfiction thriller). Ebola fascinated and scared me to death. I wanted a science inspiring list when I taught as well and was trying to build a current list at one point, but never got around to implementing it.         The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands would have been perfect for that list. Alchemy. Magic and science. “This is how my Dad engages with the world: he sees magic in everyday life and uses science to explain it.” – Maria Redin says in her article, ‘The World of Art and Science (’ I too often see the magic in nature. Maria Redin brings up how she and all of us are often lead to believe it’s one or the other, function or beauty. I remember thinking... read more