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Giveaway: Use your words – a writing guide for mothers

May 15, 2012

When I had a baby and toddler—a baby who wanted nothing more than to squirm back into my soundproof uterus and a toddler who wanted nothing more than to live on a chugging, clanging steam train—I wondered, regularly, if simply remembering to floss my own teeth really counted as a sign of “coping well.”

Before children, I managed an herb shop and wrote for several regional magazines. Now, I was a stay at home mom, managing naps, deciphering poops and compulsively scribbling thoughts and observations on random scraps of paper. Recently, I found this note, from 2007, “Just went into Col’s room where he was supposed to be napping but was dismantling his shelves instead. He held up a board and said “Don’t let Rosie in! This is chokeable!”

It’s possible that I was a teensy bit depressed.

And, not surprisingly, it was writing that pulled me out of the trenches (or at least gave me something to do during nap time). I began writing a bi-monthly column just before Rose turned one, called Adventures in Motherhood, for my local newspaper (which, four years later, I still write). Dan would often ask, worried, “honey? You’re with the kids all day and then you write about them too?” 

Giving my stories a voice frees me from being buried by them, helps me to unravel deeper meanings, and allows me to press pause on the fast-moving train that is our lives.

And today, I’m passing onto all you Mama writers, two opportunities to win a copy of Kate Hopper’s recently published book, use your words: a writing guide for mothers.

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

Use your words is a treasure for any mother who wants to write. Kate Hopper, who has taught writing classes for nearly a decade, guides her reader through topics such as Using humor as a tool, Writing the hard stuff, Keeping the momentum going, Publishing: from blogs to books. Each chapter contains practical tips, exercises and powerful writing examples from writers such as (my favorites) Beth Kephart, Catherine Newman and Anne Lamott.

Use your words meets you exactly where you are. If you’re just finding your voice and need help generating ideas and creating writerly habits; if you’ve published your work and want help refining and polishing; if you simply want to create some stories about life, now, that your kids can someday appreciate. There is something in this book for you.

To win a book:

1) Leave a comment on this post (okay, that was easy)


2) Write an essay (600 words or less) using this writing prompt:

Character Sketch

Think of your child (or one of your children if you have more than one). Try to convey his personality by using dialogue, gestures, and facial features. Ground your writing in detail. It may help to think in terms of objects—what your child eats, what he likes to play with, his hobbies. What does her face look like when she is absorbed in a task? What does she look like when she doesn’t realize that you’re watching?

Note: Some of my students who have twins have found that they cannot write about one without writing about the other. If you have multiples and feel this way, go ahead and write them together in a scene. Think in terms of differences and similarities. When are they most alike, most different?

E-mail me your essay by May 3oth and I will choose my favorite, which will be passed onto Kate Hopper, along with the other winners from the use your words book tour. Kate will select a winner, whose essay will be published on Literary Mama, and who will also receive (in addition to the book), a 1-hour writing consultation with Kate via skype or phone.

Go forth and write!

WINNER of the book is # 18, Rachel: “OH! how exciting! I will probably have to buy the book even if I don’t win it! Next assignment… essay! =)” Rachel, send me your address and I’ll forward it to the publisher!

I am taking essays until Wed, May 30th!


39 Comments leave one →
  1. stephinie permalink
    May 16, 2012 6:55 am

    This looks amazing!

  2. mamanongrata permalink
    May 16, 2012 7:00 am

    commenting … with the idea of writing an essay …

  3. teacherwhomoms permalink
    May 16, 2012 7:20 am

    I think this is what I need to get going!

  4. seranel permalink
    May 16, 2012 8:27 am

    Ooh, love this!

  5. katehopper permalink
    May 16, 2012 8:34 am

    Dear Rachel,
    Thank you so much for this lovely post. As always, your words completely inspire me. Thank you for being part of the tour. I can’t wait to read the winning essay!

  6. grace permalink
    May 16, 2012 8:49 am

    ok, thank you for the challenge…AARRGGHH now i Actually Have To Write today! this is a good thing! :) love the inspiration, and the book’s reviews!

  7. Carole permalink
    May 16, 2012 8:58 am

    Let the games begin! : )

  8. Melissa permalink
    May 16, 2012 9:16 am

    Oh my, I’m a bit intimidated by the essay, but I do like the prompt, so I think I’ll give it a shot. For now, I shall comment and go to bed :) The books sounds wonderful, though – exactly what I need!

  9. Heather permalink
    May 16, 2012 9:42 am

    Would love to win the book– may be just what I need to get back to writing!

  10. May 16, 2012 9:49 am

    Love the sound of this book…daunted by the essay. Phew…going to give a go though, with no pressure on myself. LOL.

  11. Melissa permalink
    May 16, 2012 10:09 am

    yikes, i’m going to pass on the essay but i would love to read that book. as always, i appreciate your honesty and generosity! speaking of the latter, your seeds are sitting on the kitchen counter (avi and i argued about where to plant them yesterday and then i used the envelope for my scratchy budgeting–until leeor intervened and showed me the ways of the excel spreadsheet), safe in the envelope.

  12. May 16, 2012 10:36 am

    This just might be my favorite giveaway!

  13. MIlla permalink
    May 16, 2012 11:40 am

    I don’t have kiddos, but have friends who could really use this as a mama/baby present and so I hope you don’t mind my entering. Sounds like an amazing book. Writing is a sanity life-raft in every life stage. I can’t wait to use it to describe my experience of motherhood. Some day ;) Happy Spring Dear!

  14. May 16, 2012 12:29 pm

    love the idea of this book. probably NEED this book as much as i need sanity, a break.

    the essay makes me nervous. nervous is good though, right?

  15. May 16, 2012 1:06 pm

    A challenge! Love it. I hope I’ll be able to squeeze the essay in.

    And this? “Giving my stories a voice frees me from being buried by them, helps me to unravel deeper meanings, and allows me to press pause on the fast-moving train that is our lives.” Exactly.

  16. May 16, 2012 1:09 pm

    oooh. i am THERE. thanks for the push! xo

  17. May 16, 2012 1:55 pm

    What else IS there to write about?

  18. Rachel permalink
    May 16, 2012 2:03 pm

    OH! how exciting! I will probably have to buy the book even if I don’t win it! Next assignment… essay! =)

  19. May 16, 2012 2:15 pm

    Hmmm. Food for thought with that essay.

  20. May 16, 2012 11:42 pm

    Hmm… Can you clarify please? Comment and/or write an essay? Is it comment to be in the running to win the book, essay to be submitted to Kate for possibly future glory? I’m interested in the book but not at all sure I have the braincells free to produce the essay in the next two weeks.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      May 17, 2012 7:08 am

      You can win one of two ways, either just leave a comment to win, or for an extra chance (plus a chance to be published on Literary Mama), also write an essay.

  21. May 17, 2012 2:20 am

    Commenting. But wait…shouldn’t the WORST essay win the book? I mean, theoretically a “winner” wouldn’t need the book, right? So, folks, pressure’s off. All you really need to do to get the book is write an awful essay. I have time for that.

    Awesome giveaway, by the way : )

  22. May 17, 2012 8:10 am

    Just listened to your guest spot on Behind the Blog with Erin Goodman and felt instantly connected. You spoke my language. And now, I am so happy to find an inspiring writing prompt to play around with. Thank you :)

  23. May 17, 2012 1:44 pm

    ooh fun! i want to do a writing assignment, how odd. :) for now i will at least leave this comment in case i flake on the essay. (anything is possible for a mama after all.)

    • May 21, 2012 2:32 pm

      reporting in that i did not flake, but now i need to lose 400 of those words. super fun writing prompt! will send along once i’ve trimmed it down a bit.

      • Rachel Turiel permalink*
        May 24, 2012 11:36 am

        That is the work of a writer. Look forward to reading it.

  24. May 18, 2012 6:37 am

    wow. sign me up! and we’ll see about that essay….

  25. Carrie permalink
    May 18, 2012 7:09 am

    I saw a mention of your book in today’s Shelf Awareness. I’m a working mom of a 2-year-old and am also a writer who has fallen desperately out of practice! :-( I’ll have to take a look at your book–maybe it will give me the kick in the pants that I need to start writing regularly again.

  26. May 18, 2012 11:50 am

    That old women-can’t-write-because-they-give-all-their-creative-energy-to-mothering trope (that trope is dead now, yes pretty please?) amuses me to no end, because I did not begin to discover my voice as a poet until I was first pregnant.

    Thank you for this giveaway. Curious to take on the challenge of the writing exercise, too!

  27. altaredspaces permalink
    May 18, 2012 1:28 pm

    Oops! I think I put my “give-away” comment on the wrong page. I’m still messing around with that WordPress thing. Got diverted.

  28. theparentvortex permalink
    May 18, 2012 11:46 pm

    This book looks great! Going to let the writing prompt stew for a bit and see what bubbles up. :) Thanks for the giveaway!

  29. May 21, 2012 8:45 pm

    here now… essay… to be completed even if i don’t make the deadline. What a lovely journal entry for my daughter to read one day. Of course, she will probably point out all my spelling errors. :-)

  30. May 22, 2012 11:25 am

    I would have so much to say about my son. I hope I can squeeze in time to do it.

  31. September 23, 2012 3:01 pm

    Am catching up on your blog, which I love, but life was busy for a bit. This book looks awesome! (And, I share your enduring love of Catherine Newman!)


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