In my classes, we read great fiction obsessively, and then attempt to see how a writer managed to affect us. We try to understand which elements—diction, syntax, point of view and so forth—made us feel that way. After we spend several weeks reading this way, wondering how the author made us shiver like that, we try our own hand. I ask students to begin with ‘green lines,’ to isolate writing so good it makes one writer envious of another. Which parts do they wish they had written themselves? Students start to understand how their own writing works, where it ripples with energy… What they really want is to have some kind of firsthand, visceral relationship with a book—to see what it’s like to take a work apart and put it back together—using great stories as structural models, just the way the kids I grew up with in Detroit fell in love with cars by spending weekends trying to make derelict Ford Mustangs run again. When the engine finally starts, when you figure out how to make it fire, it’s an incredibly powerful learning experience.
Dean Bakopoulos

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