Cover Photo: In this gif, a black background sparkles with pale purple stars. Hands extend from the bottom of the image and present a pink card with embossed with pouring cups.
Art by Eliza Harris for Catapult

Help! How Should I Embark on an Unfamiliar Genre Journey?

In the second installment of our Tarot + Craft column, Sarah Elaine Smith gives advice to a writer who is considering exploring a new genre

real accomplishment. Or more succinctly: I'm afraid to do this, even if it's just for myself. What is a good way to embark on an unfamiliar genre journey that has been something youve previously thought wasnt right for you?




Photograph courtesy of the author

How appropriate that the Emperor is the mood of this question; you have been handed down someone else’s set of rules, rules which are essentially in place “because I said so.” But you’re stepping out of someone else’s authority and into your own. Under your own authority, you get to keep the helpful lessons and throw out the silly ones. Maybe the day isn’t here just yet, but soon you’ll be a mentor yourself.


The Chariot

Photograph courtesy of the author

And now that you’ve made your lists . . . What’s bad about good writing? (It imposes an external valuation, requires a stable default/center? Too many poems about bees and the sea and Marcona almonds? Dulls out minor distinction in a flood of imagery and dependent clauses?) And what’s good about bad writing? (Fast, rude, and portable? Better at offending those who ought to be offended? Self-defense? Bathroom graffiti? Words for the people on TV to say?) Repeat and continue until you feel better about everything.


Sarah Elaine Smith was born and raised in Greene County, Pennsylvania. She has studied at the Michener Center for Writers, UT-Austin (MFA, poetry); the Iowa Writers' Workshop (MFA, fiction); and Carnegie Mellon University. Her work has received support from the MacDowell Colony and the Rona Jaffe Wallace Foundation.

Smith is the author of the novel Marilou Is Everywhere (Riverhead Books, 2019), as well as the poetry collection I Live in a Hut, 2011. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she teaches Here Be Monsters, an online novel-writing and creativity workshop.