Online | Fiction | Seminar

3-Week Online Fiction Seminar: Magical Realism & Cultural Context

This seminar will challenge the idea of magical realism as something imagined within reality with Marquez’s assertion that, “...the truth is that there's not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality…..Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination," and invite students of all levels to consider various cultural perspectives on what is real, which include magic or spiritual phenomena as inseparable from reality. Magical realism is a genre within fiction in which magical or fantastical elements are rooted in a real world and seen as normal. While magical realism was formed as a written genre by Latin American writers, writers from other cultures have also contributed to the evolution of the genre. The format of this workshop will be part lecture and part generative, over three classes. In the lecture, we will examine short works by Rajko Đjuríc the first week, Edwidge Danticat the second week, and Joy Harjo the third week as examples of the magic and the mundane coexisting, particularly within the context of trauma. We will also examine the cultural elements of the story that inform these specific realities.

The second half of each class meeting will be focused on generating material through writing prompts that guide students to writing their own magical realism, incorporating their sense of heritage, place, and cosmology into their work. To stay within the intention of creating from a fluid, liminal space, we will not be using a traditional workshop model. Instead, there will be time for students to read their work aloud if they wish, and either receive feedback from the class about their experience listening or share without feedback. The goal of this workshop is to free up ideas around what is real and what is magical, allowing students to access all forms of their and their characters’ lived experiences, and create a holistic narrative.

Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.


- Students will gain an understanding of the historical and cultural context of magical realism as a genre

- Students will become familiar of the structure and requirements of the genre, and learn how to write magical realism within that framework

- Students will generate new material using prompts tailored for magical realism with special attention to the individual's cultural and environmental context

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


It will be helpful for students to read the material before each class, and writing will be done during the class time with an option to continue outside of class, so the workload is very light. Perfect for the busy writing student.


Week 1: A brief history of magical realism, and an exploration of Rajko Đjuríc and spiritual, cultural, and traumatic elements in Romani literature.

Week 2: An exploration of Edwidge Danticat; the relationship between flight stories, enslavement, and subjugation; and the use of folk stories in magical realism.

Week 3: An exploration of Joy Harjo, colonization resistance cultural resilience in magical realism, and genre-blurring. 

Jessica Reidy

Jessica Reidy (she/they) has appeared in Narrative Magazine as Story of the Week, Prairie Schooner, The Kenyon Review online, RomArchive, and others. They are the winner of the Penelope Nivens Award, the Glenna Luschei Prize, and have been nominated for a Pushcart and Best of the Net. They are co-host of Romanistan podcast, a celebration of Roma culture. Under Jezmina Von Thiele, they are a fortune teller, reading tarot, palms, and tea leaves in their mixed Roma/Sinti family’s tradition. They are a queer witch, and can be found at and


“In this exquisite essay, the narrator is wounded by the double-­punch of past trauma compounded by a lover’s new inflictions: the failure to understand rape trauma, the acts that make old pain show up nearly­-new in the body, the incomprehensible violence. Employing an enchanting cadence, stunning figurative language, narrative tension so taut I forgot to breathe, and a bedrock layer of the history of violence inflicted upon Romani family members, the author infuses the page with the dread of intergenerational trauma that makes space for new wounds.”

Elissa Washuta on "Madness is Remembering," selected for first place for the Penelope Nivens Award

"Jessica Reidy's work does not pull punches. It is raw, radical, and cares deeply for the world it will be received in."

Misha Rai writer and contributing editor, KENYON REVIEW

"Jess saw the heart of my story and guided me toward making it clearer and brighter. Their edits were invaluable in strengthening the themes and characterization in my book, and I’m so glad I got to work with them."

Anna-Marie McLemore author of Stonewall Honor Book WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS and the DARK AND DEEPEST RED

"Jessica is an engaging, thoughtful, and altogether AMAZING instructor. I had the joy of collaborating with them on a fantastic journal writing workshop that pulled in aspects of a shared culture, spirituality, and a one-two punch of the written word and visual art. Our goal was to provide students clever ways to unpack their life journeys, while also giving them another tool for mapping out their own individual creative processes. They are holistic, patient, kind, and an absolute delight to work with."

Felicia DeRosa writer, educator, and visual artist

"This class [Magical Realism and Cultural Context] is itself a magical portal. Jess Reidy uses a wide variety of writers that might be new to students to open up our awareness. In this way, the class mirrors its content, widening perception the same way the best magical writing does. With the specificity of the class structure, participants will come away with the structure of a workable rough draft for a new magical realism story. This is big magic in a small package."

Liv Mammone writer and former student