Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

When I read a really great book on the joys of writing I realize I’m completely in the wrong line of work. Don’t get me wrong, I love working in the library and especially in the fields of resource sharing and creative outreach. I also don’t really want to be a writer. I mean, I want to be a writer, but not in a “I sit in my study writing novels and poems all day” kinda way. My true calling is teaching; I desperately want to teach creative writing. College or high school would be idea, but I also have a desire to teach creative writing in a therapeutic way with abuse survivors or do writing workshops in prisons or shelters. My desire to write, create, and connect with others is a direct result of adoring the written word. A love of writing stems from a love of reading and writers learn their craft from reading.
It is my absolute, fundamental belief that writing and reading are not two separate things; it is a conversation. The writer doesn’t write in a vacuum and the reader doesn’t passively soak up words. This is truly active engagement in a complexly layered conversation. When I read an author’s work I am interpreting every word, paragraph break, image, plot point, comma, etc… I’m taking on the author’s world but through my eyes. When I write I express the world I see around me, but influenced by all the brilliant reading. Suffice it to say I want to help people express themselves via creative writing and to learn more about the world (and themselves) through reading excellent books, stories, and poems.
Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer is the type of book that has me all fired up to start street preaching writing. The premise of the book seems simple on first glance; she takes particular elements of a written work — words, sentences, paragraphs, narration, character, dialogue, details, and gesture — and looks closely at an author’s employment of these elements. Reading with this method allowed me to fully see the razor-sharp precision of each of Flannery O’Connor’s word choices, I understood the gestures characters use in Kafka’s work that aids in making the unbelievable believable, and I really need to get my hands on some Anton Chekov short stories because they are apparently manna for writers.
More than a creative writing manual, Reading Like a Writer is a veritable bon bon tray of delicious book talk. I have now added Francine Prose to my list of writers I wish were my friend. Seriously, coffee and book talk with Francine Prose would be pretty freaking exciting. There is a list included in the book of all the works discussed making it easy to “join” in the conversation. I highly recommend this to writers and to readers in need of busting a reading slump by kindling that excitement for literature.
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4 comments

  1. You’ve sold me! Sounds like a great one to read and discuss with my oldest dd, who loves writing and thinks she’ll one day support herself that way. Must say, that is the CUTEST picture of Persey doing the roawr. 🙂

  2. I can’t wait to read this book and I couldn’t agree with you more about how writing and reading are completely linked. I love your idea about teaching writing as therapy too. You should do it!

  3. I really enjoy reading your blog. Reading Like a Writer sounds like a fabulous find and I have put it on my TBR list. I think you would be the perfect person to teach others writing as therapy. Your own writing is so personal, reflective, and extraordinary!

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