Reading Like a Writer

by Elizabeth Lutyens, Editor in Chief

Kevin Mann reads his poem for our spring 2013 issue at Malaprop's in May.

Kevin Mann reads his poem for our spring 2013 issue at Malaprop's in May.

“Reading like a writer” is a goal of aspiring writers across the spectrum; the phrase appears prominently in the curricula of MFA programs as well as undergraduate and high school creative writing courses. Just as a boy (usually it is a boy) takes apart his bicycle to see how it’s made—a wonderfully demystifying process—students of writing learn to dismantle books by great authors, craft element by craft element.

Francine Prose’s approach is also the title of her excellent Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want To Write Them. She describes, therein, her own experience:

“In the ongoing process of becoming a writer, I read and reread the authors I most loved. I read for pleasure, first, but also more analytically, conscious of style, of diction, of how sentences were formed and information was being conveyed, how the writer was structuring a plot, creating characters, employing detail and dialogue…I read closely, word by word, sentence by sentence, pondering each deceptively minor decision that the writer had made.”

We editors of The Great Smokies Review aim to read the Prose (felicitous surname!) way. This, plus the editing itself, is our chief duty. Because the faculty of the Great Smokies Writing Program select the student writing for each publication, our critical judgment deals only with what small improvements we might make to what’s already presented to us for publication.

Until now. We are happy to introduce a new feature of The Great Smokies Review, which we are calling “Editor’s Choice.” Each issue, an editor will select the piece of student writing that s/he admires most—and why. Managing Editor Marie Hefley is the first to tackle this assignment. Her essay, “Skewed View,” lays out her reason for choosing our highlight piece for this issue. Click on Editor’s Choice in the Table of Contents bar, and read Marie’s essay to discover the author and title she selected.

If you are a reader who reads like a writer, and if you like writing about what you read, consider being a guest editor for our next issue (spring, 2014). We hope to involve the wider Great Smokies community—students and faculty, present and past—as we make Editor’s Choice a regular feature. Be in touch if you’re interested—or don’t be surprised if we get in touch with you!

For more about Elizabeth, go to