Reading by Example
by Meagan Jones
The “Writer’s Workshop” blog posts are meant to be a collage of writer’s tips, tricks, and strategies, including the first steps to publishing, writing prompts, strategies for writer’s block, and a general jumble of ideas to help you in your quest to create and publish.
As a writer, you read. You read a lot. Don’t try to get out of it (yes, you)! It’s impossible. You’ll read good things, bad things, crazy things, and generally, (if you study English or Creative Writing), a mish-mash of words spewed forth by some person long since gone from this world (looking at you, Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Virginia Woolf).
And if you want to be a good writer, you’ll read even more. Because that’s how you learn your basics. Of writing, that is.
I’ve met quite a few people before that assume that they can be a good writer without reading. Maybe some incredibly talented person could do this, but in reality, this is not the case, since half of our understanding of language comes from reading different types of things. So in the spirit of Richard Southard’s Musical Friday posts, here’s some of my recommendations for things to read:
The Best American Short Stories 2016, edited by Junot Díaz. All the stories in it are superb, and I especially recommend “Williamsburg Bridge” by John Edgar Wideman, originally published in Harper’s Magazine, for a really nice use of tone. Oh, and if you’re a fan of all things fiction, check out all the other years as well (as a new one comes out each year)!
Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Kaveh Akbar, published by our own Alice James Books! Admittedly, I have just begun to read this, but I love the style so far! It is definitely going to be a book I curl up with as the air gets colder, sipping my mug of hot chocolate! Coincidentally (shameless plug incoming – or has this always been a shameless plug?) Kaveh Akbar is coming to read at the University of Maine at Farmington on November 30, 2017!
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I read this my freshman year in high school, and it had quite an impact on me, especially considering the political atmosphere at the time it was released (the ripe year of 2007).
Unknown Caller by Debra Spark. Blending beautifully between different points of view, this novel will lead you on a journey through the characters’ lives with never with a dull moment.
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. A wonderfully written piece set in Sierra Leone, this memoir follows the author as, you guessed it, a boy soldier. Not pulling back any punches, this book calls attention to the realities of a child caught in war.
In general, if you read mostly poetry, or mostly fiction, I would recommend to switch up your genres. You can learn a lot by looking at other types of writing – for example, reading poetry helped me to figure out how to write fiction more fluidly – and most of the time, your brain will learn writing tricks automatically! But hey – you don’t want to read any more of this blog post. Go check out some books!