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Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers Paperback – April 17, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Filled with poignant essays and writing exercises, this book is a perfect writing kickstart for any mother."
Everyday Family

"Moms! If you are up for the challenge of writing and you want to memorialize the moments of motherhood, this is the book for you. Let Kate Hopper be your guide through this journey."
—Portland Book Review

—HerStories Project

"In this excellent guide to creative nonfiction, Hopper draws on her life as a writing teacher and mother."
—Understorey Magazine

"This kind of sound, practical and sensible advice is Hopper’s forte. Along with her personable insights and enthusiastic coaching, Hopper also includes terrific excerpts from other writers to help illustrate her points, as well as highly effective writing prompts geared towards helping a writer get started and keep going. Like its arch title, Hopper’s book is funny, friendly and approachable. In the way of all good admonishments, the book encourages us to put down the excuses and pick up the pen. And like the best books on writing and craft, it gives us the tools and techniques to do just that."
—Literary Mama

"Kate Hopper wrote Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers to give other mothers/writers the courage to put their own stories on paper and find the most effective way to tell the stories that need to be told. The types of creative non-fiction on which she focuses in her book are memoir and personal essays, or, as she writes, “writing that uses the author’s life to say something about the world in which she lives. Hopper’s tone is very nurturing. She’s authoritative but not condescending. She walks readers through the step-by-step process of writing a memoir— using the same attention, care, and instruction she would use to help her own child with a difficult project. This book is perfect for the inexperienced memoir writer because Hopper uses baby steps to walk the reader through the process."
–Editor Magazine
"It doesn’t matter if you only want to write for yourself or for publication. If you have written before or never have. This book can teach you how to do it or how to do it better."
—Simple Wyrdings

"Hopper has packed her book full of excerpts both heart-warming and painful, by well-published authors who resist the temptation to sugarcoat the endless tortuous pleasure of being a mom. Writers who’ve established a literary career and then birthed or adopted children will find comfort in the excerpts and quotes from women who’ve contributed to Use Your Words. Mothers who find themselves drawn to writing about their family will find the book extremely useful. Final chapters examine how to publish, and how to balance a professional writing life that’s also rich with parenting, household and work duties."
—Literary Duck Blog

"Unlike some writing resources that can come off as somewhat condescending, Hopper's voice is approachable and kind, making this an easy read with clear lessons. The tone is perfectly balanced for those with a wide range of writing experience and ability. Established writers will be reminded to return to and strengthen the basics and those without any formal training will find lessons that are quick to grasp and, with practice, will improve the quality of their work. I found immediate inspiration from Use Your Words to work on my own projects and gratification when Hopper's approach helped me to see areas that I could further develop. Hopper's stated goal is to increase the legitimacy of narratives told by mothers. It seems clear that she wants you to succeed in telling your story and uses a gentle hand to push you to dig deep in order to do so."

"Many of us mama-bloggers have stumbled into our particular subject matter without giving much thought to what we are doing. Luckily for this second-rate Erma Bombeck, the lovely, smart, thoughtful writer Kate Hopper has just published Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers, which offers great guidance for writing about your family."

"Kate dares to remember her own motherhood. She dares you, gently, to own your own words, to realize that you are the only one who can tell your story. Using pieces of her own story as well as perfectly chosen excerpts from assorted mother-writers, Kate has crafted a rare book that calls you to action as a writer and mother and, yes, WITNESS of your own life, of the lives around you. The writing prompts are simple, powerful and compelling. I found myself engaged, completely, in the prose. I’d been stuck for months, my own writing stale and frustrating. A week with Kate’s book and I’d filled a notebook of my own. Her words loosened something in me, as a writer and a mama. I’m grateful for her, and grateful for her courage to document her own amazing path in life. So get inspired. Your story? Guess what: it matters. And Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers will get it out of you and on the page. No kidding. Pick it up. Start anywhere, if that’s less scary. Pick a prompt, and go."
—Breed 'em and Weep

"Kate Hopper puts her expertise as a writer with a MFA in creative writing, Literary Mama editor, blogger, Loft Literary Center instructor, and mother to good use in a guide meant to be underlined, highlighted, reread, bookmarked, carried around, shared, by countless mothers."
—Small Press Reviews

"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 it....do the prompts. Interact with the essays. Make notes. And go back and do it again."
—The Black Sheep Dances

"Kate Hopper is a seasoned mother, writer and teacher at the highly recommended and respected Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Her book, Use Your Words is a unique instruction manual for the mother-writer that wants to write about life and herself through the lens of motherhood. Maybe that’s through a blog or for magazines or a memoir, but whatever the case, I want you to know, this book will help you become the writer you dream of being. It will take you from the beginning to the end of your process with grace and humor. I don’t know about you, but I need direction, a coaxing of sorts, to stay focused on a project. That is exactly what Use Your Words will do for me, and for you."
—The Extraordinary Ordinary

"An excellent resource…[Kate Hopper] probes you to think further, while teaching you how to do it. I really enjoyed this book and will reach for it repeatedly to help me in my own memoirs."
—Planet Weidknecht, the blog of Lisa Weidknecht

"Kate Hopper is warm, encouraging and someone who knows her stuff… For mothers looking to publish or just make sense of a story gestating in their heads, Use Your Words is a good place to start.”
—Brain, Child

"Finally a book to teach parents how to write! In readable, interesting, practical prose, Use Your Words gives moms what they need to know to write about their children's most precious moments. A tremendous resource for bloggers, teachers, lay and professional writers."
—Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D., author of Toddler: Real-Life Stories of Those Fickle, Irrational, Urgent, Tiny People We Love

“Kate Hopper has been a valuable part of our teaching staff since 2006. Her students rave about her, calling her a ‘wonderful teacher.’ She always makes her students feel that their writing is valuable and that their work is important work. She is accessible and friendly and always enthusiastic and supportive of her students. She has contributed to the success of the Loft Literary Center! Her Loft students have said, ‘I loved Kate as an instructor! She was so encouraging and supportive of everyone's efforts, but also very knowledgeable about the craft of writing, as well as prose revision. I would take another class from her in a minute,’ and ‘I've taken many writing classes, and this class was the most supportive, helpful class I've ever had, while still giving extremely helpful critique.’ Kate has so much to share and so many helpful writing exercises.”
—Brian Malloy, Education Director, The Loft Literary Center

"Turning personal experience into readable prose is a daunting process for anyone, and carving out the time to do so isn’t easy with a house full of short people in need of constant attention. In Use Your Words, Kate Hopper offers a practical and accessible roadmap for any mother who’d like to get started. Part instructor, part motivator, part best friend, Kate guides mother-writers from idea through finished product, offering encouragement and hard-earned wisdom along the way. She intersperses poems, essays, and short memoirs by known writers such as Cecelie S. Berry, Judith Ortiz Cofer, and Chitra Divakaruni--and emerging writers from The Loft Literary Center in Minnesapolis--with passages about the craft of writing, and ends each chapter with helpful, short exercises for readers to try at home. Any mother who picks it up and follows the carefully-planned instructions will be able to call herself a mother-writer by the final page."
—Hope Edelman, best-selling author of MOTHERLESS DAUGHTERS

"The only reason I’ve ever wanted to visit Minnesota was for the chance to meet Kate Hopper and take one of her writing classes. Thankfully, Kate has translated her successful USE YOUR WORDS writing class onto paper and created a personal, practical guide for any mother writer. Grounding each lesson with terrific essays and poems by a wide variety of writers, Kate offers a solid education in creative writing plus a range of approachable assignments, designed to make readers put the book down and start writing.”
—Caroline Grant, Editor-in-Chief of Literary Mama and Co-editor of Mama, PhD: Women Write About Motherhood and Academic Life

“Kate Hopper knows: how to inspire the budding writer to find her voice and her truth; what it takes to keep that same writer going; and the words of advice and inspiration every writer needs to hear. In Hopper’s assured, experienced hands, women and mothers will glean not only the all-important elements of craft, they will feel emboldened and prepared to take the essential steps from idea to finished piece. This is a beautiful, polished guide to craft and story telling for writing about motherhood and beyond.”
—Vicki Forman, author of This Lovely Life: A Memoir of Premature Motherhood

"USE YOUR WORDS brings a unique voice to the world of writing guides: honest, forthright, funny. Reading it felt to me no different than sitting down to have a writing tete-a-tete with a literary friend and practicing writer. Because it is real, the voice welcomes beginners with trustworthy invitations to reach deep, and it also speaks to the practicing writer with new levels of insight about writing motherhood literature."
—Bonnie Rough, author of Carrier: Untangling the Danger in my DNA

“Part writing workshop, part anthology, part mothers’ group between two covers, Use Your Words is so much more than an instruction manual. It is also a readable, powerful call to the page for every woman in the process of giving birth to herself as a writer. If you have ever wondered whether motherhood is a viable literary subject, or whether you have a mothering story worth telling, Kate Hopper’s beautifully written book will answer that question once and for all – with compelling excerpts, exercises to inspire you, and clear, practical teachings on matters of voice, structure, and style.”
—Katrina Kenison, author of The Gift of an Ordinary Day and Mitten Strings for God

“Kate Hopper’s Use Your Words demonstrates how the universal experiences of motherhood can be transformative through storytelling, and offers practical, thoughtful, and insightful guidance to any writer interested

From the Back Cover

Writing Is an Act of Discovery

Motherhood inspired the powerful prose of Anne Lamott, Susan Cheever, Ayelet Waldman and Alice Walker, launching them, and many others, to the top of bestseller lists. Award-winning writer Kate Hopper has spent nearly a decade teaching women to write down the bones of motherhood. Now, in Use Your Words, her expert guidance will encourage you to write the stories you need to write, whether your goal is to blog, publish magazine articles, or pen the next blockbuster memoir.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Viva Editions; Original edition (April 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1936740125
  • ISBN-13: 978-1936740123
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #832,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Like most drawn to this book, I am the mother of small children. I appreciated how Hopper's book provided many, many exercises and starting points applicable to just about every situation. I was also inspired by the urge to keep going, to make time to write - which means so much more coming from a mom with small kids.

Probably because of Hopper's own experience with her daughter's premature birth (and subsequent complications - staph infection, etc), most of these stories speak most directly to moms who have a specific, child-related crisis - and some of the sad stories in here can fill up your boots and weigh you down with sadness. I am extremely blessed not to have suffered a similar crisis. Overall, it seems like this book would be most helpful for women who are struggling to put words to their crises, but there are more "everyday" voices in there, too.

Others were fascinating windows into other's lives so very different from my own (Cecelie Berry's, "Was He Black or White?"), and Hopper did a good job, I think, of showcasing different and interesting techniques for telling a story - fragments used to great effect in Anne Greenwood Brown's "Insights," and Beth Kephart's timing in revealing a key fact about her son in "The Line is White, and It Is Narrow." I also found the draft and revised paragraphs from one of her student's pieces particularly productive - it helps to see how the craft of writing can make a story out of the everyday.

While I tried to keep my focus on the craft of the stories, Hopper's biases are glaring from some of her essay choices, and her "humor" piece (Catherine Newman's "Pretty Baby") was grating and went a long way towards talking me out of the universal efficacy of humor in writing.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you're looking for some serious writing guidelines and instruction in creative writing, this is the book for you. This book is a writing guide meant for moms who want to learn how to capture those childhood memories. Mom Bloggers who write about their children will find helpful techniques for making their stories more engaging to their readers.

I liked the idea of the book, but not so much the actual text. I kind of felt like I was back in school, being graded on whether I followed formats to capture my children's memories "correctly". However, as the book has received as many other rave reviews, maybe I was just expecting something different than what it is meant to be.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free in return for posting my honest review via the Amazon Vine program.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Kate Hopper's guide to writing is well written and succinct. A thin book, it is nevertheless packed with references to other works as well as examples that illustrate her ideas well; therefore it's one of those books that leads to a lot of other books -- dangerous!

Chapters focus on such concepts as voice, character development, structure, editing and publishing, all with an emphasis on writing on issues of motherhood. Each chapter is short but packed with textual illustrations and tips, and each concludes with a writing exercise. The appendices include a bibliography, exercises and writing prompts, and the book concludes with an index.

I found this book interesting, easy to read and comprehend, and accessible. Enjoyable and useful. If you are a writer, particularly if you're interested in writing about parenting, this would be an invaluable book for you.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In this very helpful and very gentle book, Kate Hopper stresses how valuable it is for mothers to write. She emphasizes the need to remember and to share those precious moments of motherhood. She also stresses how helpful it is to write in order to understand and cope with the difficult moments. Using beautiful examples of others' work, Ms Hopper demonstrates her points perfectly and sensitively.

The very basics are here for any writer, whether that writer is a mother or not. It is a helpful refresher for experienced writers and a lesson book for one starting out. It is an inspiration to both.

Interspersed with creative and effective exercises to get those writing juices flowing, writing happens. This book is a great motivator for any would-be writer.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really like this book, not just for the clue-ins about how to write from a mother's perspective but the stories that Kate Hopper has culled are real gems. And they aren't all my world view but that's what makes it enlightening and makes the world a little bigger- the two mommies thing or mom's that raise their boys to boldly, loudly wear hot pink- well, alright, I did let Matthias grow his hair so long that sale's clerks were wondering how you two women are doing today- but anyway... writing is a skill and mothers have a plethora of angst, love and tales to tell. Kate Hopper gives you pointers.

There are a lot of mother blogs, a lot. This book gives those moms the help to write poignantly, humorously, straight from the heart.

Kate Hopper has included some excellent pieces by mother's who have gone through huge ordeals with their children; trips to the emergency room when Jill Christman's daughter Ella developed an instant and severe allergy to formula. Or Beth Kepharts's piece about her son, Jeremy, and the dream he has to play soccer though for reasons that become apparent he will never be a great athlete and it breaks her heart while rooting for him anyway.

Hopper follows these wonderful stories with insight as to why they grip us, what we might have missed in the details, those things that will make our writing better. Each chapter focuses on different aspects- character, voice, structure, humor, fear.

Ending each chapter, Hopper gives some very helpful writing assignments for you, the reader, to increase your skill at mother stories. You can read my mother's pain at pinkpeppers dot com and type in "Taite surgery" in the search box. It is good to be able to write the pain and the heartbreak, it is good to find the bits of humor in the sadness.

Flannery O'Connor said, "I write to discover what I know." Hopper helps you get there.
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