With almost four million mommy blogs in America today, in addition to the countless memoirs published each year via more traditional means, it seems clear that mamas have a lot to say. Whether it’s a personal exercise meant to document one’s days, a search for support in challenging situations, or a desire to join the numerous public conversations around motherhood, something draws women to their computers and compels them to put words together. Kate Hopper, in her book Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers (2012, Viva Editions), offers many helpful strategies to assist moms in honing their creative nonfiction skills, regardless of their end goals.
This book is a crash course in writing with an emphasis on issues specific to mothers who write. There are sections on character development, finding your voice, structure, using humor, and tackling difficult topics. Each chapter begins with an explanation of the matter in hand, then suggestions on how you can incorporate the tactic into your own writing, and contains short illustrative examples by other writers, and writing exercises and prompts to help you implement these new techniques.
Woven throughout Use Your Words are discussions on many hurdles faced by mother writers, such as avoiding sentimentality, making choices, about how much personal information to divulge, and being honest and respectful when revealing things about those closest to us. Hopper closes by exploring the various publication options (blogs, magazines, books, etc.) and offers encouragement to squeeze writing time into already packed family schedules. A list of suggested reading and additional writing prompts makes this an incredibly useful reference.
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.