Cover Photo: This photograph shows a giraffe looking at the camera with its tongue sticking out. It's a close-up picture, so we only see the bright blue sky and a giraffe head with its long neck peeking into the right corner of the frame.
Photograph by Wolfgang Hasselmann/Unsplash

Writing In Between the Real and Unreal

Sanjena Sathian thinks the most interesting writing material comes from locating mystery in our own lives. Try out this writing exercise to write into that mystery.


For me, this dance between autobiography and fiction, between the known and the imagined, and between the material and the mysterious, is what literature is all about. Finding ways to free up the parts of our brain that hold each of those is a crucial part of writing. Good luck!

Sanjena Sathian is the author of GOLD DIGGERS (Penguin Press), which was named a Top 10 Best Book of 2021 by the Washington Post and longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize.

Her short fiction appears in The Atlantic, Conjunctions, Boulevard, Salt Hill, Joyland, and the Master's Review. She’s written nonfiction for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, TIME, and more.

She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and an alumna of the Clarion Writers' Workshop.