Monday, May 14, 2012

Use Your Words by Kate Hopper (non-fiction)

Okay, first off, let me rave. I love love love this book! And I was astonished at how much is packed into
its pages.  First, I write when I can fit it in, usually for this blog. It's difficult with kids to find the time. When you do get a free moment, your brain is fried. So it's refreshing when author Kate Hopper gets that, and addresses it immediately. But she goes further than the simple tried and true advice to "write all the time". She acknowledges time is hard to come by, and gives ideas.

But it's more than that. She includes motherhood as a genuine topic to cover. She states, "When you say you're writing about "motherhood" some people assume that the story --if indeed there is any story at all--will consist of only sleepless nights, diaper changes, nursing debacles, and tantruming toddlers. They assume if they opened your book they would be sucked into the minutiae of daily life with children." Isn't that exactly right? To say you're a mother who writes makes most people dismiss your work as less than serious.

Yet, instead of trying to prove that isn't the case, she urges readers to hone their craft by writing about everything in their life, and not just through the lens of mothering. Moms are complicated: "women--mothers--crafting memoirs and essays dealing with issues of identity, loss and longing, neurosis and fear, ambivalence and joy....last time I checked, this was the stuff of which real literature was made".

To that end, she gives legitmate writing advice (concrete terms, sensory images, selective word choices). Then she shows prompts to make you practice writing about an event to make it feel real, not just a vague memory. This in itself is terrific practice. But beyond those, she includes numerous essays by writers who happen to be moms. These reveal the very truths about what Hopper urges: honesty, tangible descriptions, and the freedom to discuss what may not appear to follow the June Cleaver image of motherhood.

I can see using this over and over. It is not paced to be read in one sitting. It's more of a workbook that will only help if you sit down and try the prompts. Interact with the essays. Make notes. And go back and do it again.

Lastly, it's a great introduction to the works of some wonderful female authors I had never heard I have a larger list of books to search out: Jill Christman, Beth Kephart, and Alexis Wolfe are a few.  I'm planning on using this book over the summer to try and reign in my schedule to waste less time and write more. I can actually imagine a writing group structured around this book...

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