Episode 13: Read Like a Writer

On October 5th, we pre-recorded Write on SC with Rex, Kasie, and Mary Sturgill because Kasie was going to be at The Pat Conroy Literary Center’s 2nd Annual Lowcountry Book Club Convention on Saturday. Here are the show notes:


Dr. Kasie Whitener, Clemson Road Creative, fiction writer

Rex Hurst, fiction writer and English instructor

Mary Sturgill, non-fiction storyteller

Theme for the day

Read like a Writer


  • Who we are and why we’re here
  • The topic for the week: read like a writer
  • Book discussion — currently reading and its analysis through the lens of the topic
  • Craft book discussion — Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life
man wearing sunglasses reading book on body of water
Photo by Toa Heftiba Şinca on Pexels.com

Link to the podcast

Segment 1

Kasie is presenting Read like a Writer to the Lowcountry Book Club Convention October 6th so we picked up that topic to create a full multi-media experience on the subject. When we google the topic, we get quite a few hits.

There’s a podcast calledRead Like a Writer and I want to mention it and provide the link here so people can access it. From what I can discern, it’s mostly promotional episodes for the three publishers who support it, not exactly “craft” or a “how-to.

A guide for teachers offer six things to pay attention to when reading like a writer: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency and conventions.

For two weeks now we’ve done genre discussions — Science Fiction and then Mystery and genre as a whole. I’d like to start our Read like a Writer discussion with genre and how writers use genre reading to advance their own skill set.

Genre sets expectations through conventions. Though the teacher article above refers to conventions as grammar and punctuation, I’d think of them as the rules that govern a specific kind of work. So, on the mechanics side — an author chooses not to use the quotation marks to set off dialogue, why? On the expectations side — an author is compelled to include the scene where magic or science or technology defeats, albeit temporarily, the hero.

How do writers read genre pieces to learn the conventions? How do they accept and then break some conventions? How do they judge other writers for doing the same thing?

Titles: genres have their own conventions around titles. What are some of the rules we see followed in naming a book?

Segment 2

This article gets physical with its Read like a Writer advice: 1) mark locations of significant passages — in grad school I was taught to write in my books, now I use post-its in my own books and the Comment function on my Kindle; 2) ask three questions – What was powerful? Why was it powerful? How did it achieve that power?

This article gets more practical about its advice: 1) read one book at a time, 2) read when you’re awake, 3) Make notes, 4) ask questions, 5) re-read old favorites.

So let’s talk about re-reading. Rex does it. I don’t. What are the advantages and disadvantages of re-reading your favorites?

There’s a craft book on this by Francine Prose, and this blog quotes from that. It also has a half-dozen other links on adjacent topics which is helpful. Prose echoes Elizabeth Gilbert’s assessment that graduate school killed the reader in her. Did it kill the reader in either of you?

Is there a line to cross between finding joy in reading, abandoning oneself to the wonder of story and skill, and finding work in reading — becoming focused on learning with each book you pick up?

Segment 3

I’m reading Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life and he’s basically walking me through his entire life and the books that shaped him in one way or another. So I thought we could do that one category at the time.

Most influential book in elementary school.

Most influential book in middle school.

In high school.

In college.

Book that made you want to be a writer.

Book that convinced you you couldbe a writer.

Book you first imitated when you started writing.

Author you would read anything he or she ever wrote.

Author about whom your opinion changed and why it did.

Book that brought you a valuable friend.

Book that marks a difficult time in your life.

Book that marks a good/great/joyful time in your life.

Segment 4

What are you reading now?

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