Read to Write
Have you ever heard the saying, ‘Good writers imitate, great writers steal’? This doesn’t mean actual theft, of course, it means that great writers study great stories to internalize plot, character and language that works. They filter these great stories through their own perceptions, judgements and world view, and expand their hearts, minds and writing skills in the process.
Maybe a climactic moment in a Julie Otsuka story could lend itself, in a twisted and different way, to your own plot. Or, after spending a few days reading England’s Tessa Hadley, your senses become heightened — you notice the particular slant of light through your kitchen window or the persistent tinkling of a neighbor’s wind chimes on a blustery evening. Or during a week reading Colum McCann, you might find yourself thinking or writing in lilting fragments.
Often, this kind of literary colonization isn’t intentional or conscious, but it can be. And it’s the reason so many great writers recommend a steady diet of reading.
Read to Write seeks to reverse engineer the plot and language to understand the way words and worlds work on us as readers and writers.
Each week in class, we will read and discuss selected passages from a work of published fiction, analyzing structure and language for what they can teach us about how language shapes ideas. Read in this way, literary works becomes laboratories for experimentation and play.
We will follow our reading and discussion with writing to a series of prompts culled from the texts, share our writing, and discuss our own language and structure choices.
Students do not have to read the whole books. We’ll be working with selected passages from:
About the instructor:
Sally Allen holds
The founder and editor of Books, Ink at HamletHub, Sally has also been published in