Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Francine Prose

The “Self”-Education of Writers . . .


I must begin this post by making it clear that many fine writers have completed what’s considered a full education—appropriate degrees and banners flying high.

Yet, many other fine writers have tasted the fare of society’s brand of learning and decided, sometimes seemingly “against their will”, to set their own sails on their own ship of pedagogy.

I, for instance, tried college three times—thrice found it wanting—am still a devoted learner

Many are the writers whose education—beyond that which is learned from living fully and authentically—comes from reading other writers—their creative fiction, not books about how to write.

From the previous post, How To Read Like A Writer—here’s a quote of me quoting Maria Popova who’s quoting Francine Prose from her book, Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them:

Concerning writers reading to learn how to write—”…the connection has to do with whatever mysterious promptings make you want to write. It’s like watching someone dance and then secretly, in your own room, trying out a few steps.”

“You will do yourself a disservice if you confine your reading to the rising star whose six-figure, two-book contract might seem to indicate where your own work should be heading.”

“The only time my passion for reading steered me in the wrong direction was when I let it persuade me to go to graduate school….I left graduate school and became a writer.”

And, concerning authors who stopped their schooling, FlavorWire has an article called, 10 Famous Authors Who Dropped Out of School.

Harper Lee who dropped out during her junior year of university.

Augusten Burroughs, dropped out at age 13.

Charles Dickens, forced out of school at 12 to work long hours for little pay, returned to school, yet many feel his early working days color his writing.

Jack Kerouac dropped out during his freshman year from football injuries.

William Faulkner dropped out at 15 and again at 22.

Mark Twain was forced out of school at 12 due to his father’s death and the need to work for the family.

George Bernard Shaw, dropped out at 14 and once wrote, “Schools and schoolmasters, as we have them today, are not popular as places of education and teachers, but rather prisons and turnkeys in which children are kept to prevent them disturbing and chaperoning their parents.”

H.G. Wells, out at 11 due do his father’s injury.

Jack London, out at 13.

Can you share others in the Comments?

Did you also drop out of school?
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Why Writers Must Read In Order To Become Authors


writers interview A writer is someone who puts words down.

An author is not necessarily a writer who’s gotten published

I know, lots of folks think authors are published writers but words do have meanings and “author” comes from ‘a person who invents or causes something’ which comes from Old French autor, from Latin auctor, from augere ‘increase, originate, promote’.

So, there’s this person sitting there, all alone, putting words on paper or screen—a writer—and a strange thing begins to happen—the words begin to organize themselves into a meaningful story—the writer becomes an author—a process which usually happens many times during the intense effort to ‘increase, originate, promote’—often morphing from writer to author to writer to author

Also, this process of a writer being able to become an author is not “taught” in creative writing courses—just ask a few honest creative writing instructors

So how does a writer learn to transform themselves into an author?

Reading other authors, to trigger the writer>author process in themselves, then sitting and writing until they become an author enough times to complete a story.

Please read our previous post How To Read Like A Writer to learn about writer, author, creative writing instructor Francine Prose’s book—one great Read!

Some of you may be wanting to shout at me that there are authors out there who have courses that a bunch of other people are shouting about, saying “This is the way to learn to become an author!”

Please read Francine’s book. She gets very personal, telling you how every technique she’s taught has been overturned by examples from successful authors

There are many books I’ve read—some consciously forgotten—that have helped me become an author.

The ones that have helped me the most are by C. J. Cherryh and I’ve yet to read all of her 60+, award-winning books—more like a few books re-read 4 or 5 times over the years

So, even though an author interview won’t help you learn how to be an author, it could introduce you to an author whose works, carefully read, can help you teach yourself to consistently transform writing-time into author-ness.

So let me get out of the way and direct you to the previous post A Rave for My Favorite Author ~ C. J. Cherryh so you can listen her being interviewed on video :-)
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Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
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How To Read Like A Writer


reading like a writer Writers read other creative writers to learn how to write.

So, who taught the first writer??  <<  Extra Bonus Points for good answers to that question in the Comments :-)

Maria Popova, “an interestingness hunter-gatherer and curious mind at large”, has appeared twice before in this blog, in the posts Learning from The Best ~ But, How Do You Find Them? and What Motivates Authors To Write ?

She’s the editor of Brain Pickings and recently offered insight into Francine Prose‘s book, Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them.

By the way, Brain Pickings is described as “…your LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces across art, design, science, technology, philosophy, history, politics, psychology, sociology, ecology, anthropology, you-name-itology. Pieces that enrich your mental pool of resources and empower you to combine them into original concepts that are stronger, smarter, richer, deeper and more impactful.”

I’m subscribed to it and fully expect it to help me in my writing :-)

Now, back to Reading Like A Writer and a few snippets of quotes from Francine in Maria’s article, How To Read Like A Writer:

Concerning writers reading to learn how to write—“…the connection has to do with whatever mysterious promptings make you want to write. It’s like watching someone dance and then secretly, in your own room, trying out a few steps.”

“You will do yourself a disservice if you confine your reading to the rising star whose six-figure, two-book contract might seem to indicate where your own work should be heading.”

“The only time my passion for reading steered me in the wrong direction was when I let it persuade me to go to graduate school….I left graduate school and became a writer.”

Wikipedia has an article on Reading Like A Writer that includes synopses of the chapters and a very long list of authors that Ms. Prose uses in her book
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Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
* Google Author Page

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