Creating a Personal Reading List as a Guide to Better Writing

Posted on Monday October 02, 2023
Jedidiah Mugarura
Jedidiah Mugarura

It goes without saying that the more you write, the better you’ll write. But simply writing more isn’t the only component to becoming a better writer; you also need to read through critical lenses, question authorial choices, and make decisions on point of view, structure, character development and rhythm—all necessary elements to finding your voice as a writer.

Jedidiah Mugarura, Creative Writing through Reading instructor, found his voice as a writer through his environment. “I am a storyteller born and raised in Kampala, Uganda. I come from a community of people, the Banyankore, who are very expressive through dance, song, and oral traditions. I began translating these expressions into written form in high school with some poetry and eventually in my college and graduate years, through drama and prose.”

A graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing program at the University of Guelph, Mugarura’s poems have appeared in Contemporary Verse 2, Brittle Paper and Humber Literary Review, and his short story ‘Special Boy’ is forthcoming in Transition.

Structured as a workshop, Mugarura guides students in developing their own writing. “I look forward to listening to the students' stories and what inspires them. I am preparing a questionnaire to assist the students in tracing their literary influences and thereby creating personal reading (and listening) lists.”

The course allows students to share their writing and give and receive feedback in a supportive roundtable setting. “At the end of each class, three to five students will be selected to read their work aloud to the workshop to build confidence and listen to their own writing as they read,” says Mugarura.

An important part of writing is rewriting, and one major strength of workshopping is that it exposes students to new ideas and techniques that they can carry forward to improve future drafts.

“Workshopping offers a writer viewpoint from different cultural backgrounds,” adds Mugarura. “These viewpoints might not all be adopted by the writer in revisions, but they help the writer think about the choices they made while they wrote their first draft and those they are making as they revise.”

The end of the course doesn’t signify the end of growing as a writer. Mugarura says students leave the course with their own personal reading list that will guide them in their future of writing, way beyond the class. "That is a list they will keep updating as they transform as artists,” concludes Mugarura.

Creative Writing through Reading is part of the six-course Creative Writing Certificate.