Use Your Words focuses on the craft of creative nonfiction and teaches the skills beginning mother writers as well as more advanced writers need to hone their ability and turn their motherhood stories into art. This book is a writing workshop full of exercises, essays and poems by a wide variety of mother writers. I am participating in this blog book tour and you can follow the tour by visiting author Kate Hopper’s official blog Motherhood and Words.
With Kate Hopper’s expert guidance, the reader is encouraged to write the stories she needs to write, whether the goal is to blog, publish magazine articles, or pen the next blockbuster memoir.
Writing Exercise – A Moment in Time
I did one of the exercises in Chapter one, called A Moment in Time. In this fifteen minute exercise, I tried to incorporate as many sensory, concrete details that I could remember. It’s amazing how just the practice of a simple exercise can help to bring the writing to life (in my humble opinion). Details are key. Here is a bit of what I wrote for this exercise:
I lay on our bed with the board book Good Night Moon in my hands. James, about two years old, was lying next to me. He wore a green Blues Clues shirt that stretched a little too tight across his toddler belly. The comforter on the bed had pastel colored squares and was soft and comfortable underneath us. He had his pacifier and was making that faint cluck cluck sound that a two-year-old pacifier user makes. He was wide-eyed and otherwise quiet just listening to my voice. “Good night brush, good night mush,” I said. I remember thinking to myself that old cliché – cherish this moment. He’s going to grow up too fast.
Our Children As Characters
The following is an excerpt from Use Your Words printed with permission. It is a wonderful example of the author’s expert instruction that you can expect throughout the book.
You want your readers to feel a connection to the characters in your writing, and in order to make that happen, you need to write them in enough detail so readers really know them. Sometimes when I mention that I’m working on character development with my students, someone will say, “I thought you were teaching nonfiction.” There is an assumption that because the people in a work of creative nonfiction really exist, there is no need to concern ourselves with character development. But nonfiction writers need to write believable and three-dimensional characters precisely because these characters are real people; writing them accurately is a way to honor them. We also need to think about character development when we are writing about ourselves. How does the reader know us? How do we reveal who we really are? One of the wonderful things about writing about our children is that we, as writers, get to decide how the reader first “sees” them. What do you want readers to notice first about your child? How do you get readers invested in your children as characters? Keep these questions in mind as you write about your children.
About Kate Hopper
Kate Hopper teaches writing online and at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. Kate holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Minnesota and has been the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, and a Sustainable Arts Grant. Her writing has appeared in a number of journals, including Brevity, Literary Mama, and The New York Times online. She is an editor at Literary Mama. For more information about Kate’s writing and classes, visit www.katehopper.com.
Literary Mama Writing Contest
Today you get a chance to write a story of your own. Respond to the writing prompt Sensory Details as a Way to Begin (shown below) in 600 words or less and email your submission to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions will be forwarded to Kate Hopper. Submission deadline is June 1st.
If your submission wins you receive a free copy of “Use Your Words” and consideration for the grand prize. At the end of the tour, Kate will choose the best piece for publication on Literary Mama the first week of June. Kate also plans to award the winning writer a free hour-long phone consultation. Stop by literarymama.com and check it out!
Sensory Details as a Way to Begin
Think about the time when your child (or one of your children) was born, when she first arrived home, or even before she was born. If you adopted your child, maybe you want to focus on the first time you saw her photo. Is there a certain smell, sound, taste, texture, or picture that comes to mind? Start with that. Write it down. What other concrete details do you remember? Let your mind wander. Jump from image to image. Try to use as many sensory, concrete details as you can. Don’t pick up your pen—just keep moving it across the paper—and don’t worry about grammar or spelling.
If those early days and months feel too far removed, choose another period in your child’s life that seemed particularly vivid to you, and begin writing details from that time.
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Use Your Words A Writing Guide for Mothers Book Giveaway Not ready to write your story? That’s ok. One Moms Own Words reader will win a copy of Use Your Words!
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