Use Your Words: A Writing Guide For Mothers by Kate Hopper

May 7, 2012

The parenting books don’t detail things that can’t be explained. Like the emotions you go through with a premature delivery and hour after hour in the NICU and then hours pacing around the dining room table with a crying infant.

“…I passed the weeks in an exhausted daze, unable to get my mind around the ways my life had changed. And for the first time in my life, I felt desperate for words, for some way to express the changes I was undergoing as an isolated new mother.” ~Kate Hopper

“Through my blog and teaching I discovered exactly what I expected: women–mothers–crafting memoirs and essays dealing with issues of identity, loss and longing, neurosis and fear, ambivalence and joy.  I found stories about transformation and how the authors see themselves in relation to the world in which they live. Last time I checked, this was the stuff of which real literature was made.” ~Kate Hopper

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.

“Part writing workshop, part anthology, part mothers’ group between two covers, Use Your Words is a readable, powerful call to the page for every woman in the process of giving birth to herself as a writer.” -Katrina Kenison

I share that quote because Kenison gives words to my head and heart feelings about Kate Hopper’s Use Your Words. I expect a bent cover and tattered pages for this book’s future in my hands. And it is an extra special attachment for me because Kate Hopper has played a role in my journey ever since motherhood reminded me how very much I need to tell my stories through the written word. I first met Kate in person at the Minnesota blogging conference. I came home to write a blog post in which I called her my mentor, even though she didn’t know it. I had sat in her session at the conference and learned from her and felt a new fire for writing about my life, for telling my stories. She is someone who steered me in the direction of Just Write and inspired me to keep following my writing dreams. We touched base here and there online in the following couple of years and I made daydream plans in my head to become Kate’s very best friend attend Kate’s classes should we ever move back to the Twin Cities.

Then, I went into labor with Elsie at 31 weeks and spent a few days hospitalized while my contractions were being monitored and preparations were being made for the almost sure early arrival of our baby. It turned out that Elsie made it all the way to week 37, but in those fearful and unsure days, a friendly, kind and reassuring face appeared in my hospital room to encourage me. Kate Hopper! She told me her story, of giving birth to daughter Stella at 31 weeks and reassured me that should our baby come early, she’d be there for me.

I share that because it’s an example of why Kate is so good at what she does.  Her heart is the kind that spills forth creativity and wisdom born out of love. She isn’t afraid to write from a place of emotion, to tell her stories through the details. So in her book, she teaches us how to do the same in a way that will resonate with any human spirit–fighting, overcoming, hurting and making it and experiencing joy, through our children–the ways motherhood changes our lives and our very selves.

To celebrate the release of Use Your Words, Kate is doing something that I’m seriously excited about. She’s asking YOU to write an essay that’s inspired by one of the prompts in her book.  I will be reading each and every submission and choosing one winner who will then receive Use Your Words and move on to be considered by Kate herself for the grand prize. 

The grand prize includes an hour phone or skype consultation with Kate Hopper and a feature on Literary Mama, a popular online magazine for the writing mother.

(Please send your essay (600 words or less) to heather of the eo at gmail dot com

by one week from today – May 14, 2012)


The prompt from Use Your Words that I’ve chosen for you r essay will come as no surprise if you’ve been around The Extraordinary Ordinary and Just Write for very long…

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.


You don’t have to be a blogger or consider yourself a writer to participate. Gather up your courage and write the details of remarkable moments and watch yourself begin to unfold!


Use Your Words is the first book to focus on the craft of writing using motherhood as the lens, but it doesn’t just focus on how to fit writing into a busy life. Instead, Use Your Words focuses on the craft of creative nonfiction, and how a blogger can take her stories and experiences as a mother up to the next level and become part of the Motherhood Literati.” – Literary Mama Magazine

You can get your copy of Use Your Words at Amazon and from Powell’s Books

 (It would be lovely of you to pin this awesome book or share this post on Facebook.)

Kate’s blog is Motherhood and Words::: She tweets @mnkatehopper ::: Kate on Facebook


Addie Zierman May 7, 2012 at 7:01 am

Is there a deadline for this contest? Forgive me if I’m just totally blind to it!

Loved hearing about this book and about what Kate’s doing. Just stuck a copy in my Amazon cart!
Addie Zierman recently posted..To Feel God’s Presence

karla porter archer May 7, 2012 at 9:18 pm

May 14th

tracy@sellabitmum May 7, 2012 at 8:14 am

I’ve devoured this book in the past two weeks. Kate is amazing and is really helping me reach into my writer self.
tracy@sellabitmum recently posted..Who Will Be More Popular With The Boys?

tara pohlkotte May 7, 2012 at 8:42 am

love.this. there is so much i want to learn. excited to know of such a great resource.
tara pohlkotte recently posted..Birthing Warrioress

Kate Hopper May 7, 2012 at 8:56 am

Dear Heather,

I’m weeping at my desk, trying to write through my tears. Thank you for this amazing post, for your powerful stories, and for the way you reach out and touch the lives of so many mothers and writers. I am humbled and honored to call you a friend.

Kate Hopper recently posted..Comment on blog book tour and book giveaway by Kate Edenborg

Jennifer May 7, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Kate’s book sounded like just what I needed to regain momentum on my book project. After reading your post Heather, I immediately read more on Amazon and then downloaded it to my ipad. Cannot wait to curl up with it this afternoon once the kids go down for their naps {very soon!}. Thank you so much for featuring her book today. Looking forward to growing as a writer through her coaching {and yours too ~ I love Just Write}.
Jennifer recently posted..Could that be me someday?

Cheairs May 7, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Oh, Heather I will be ordering this book. It sounds….well amazing!! Thank you for sharing this with us!

karla porter archer May 7, 2012 at 9:22 pm

This book sounds amazing and I’m pretty sure I’ll have it in my hands by the weeks end. :)

Once again, I’ll be writing about not knowing what to write for this week’s “Just Write”… I seriously need some Kate Hopper in my life.

Gianna May 8, 2012 at 10:23 pm

I am so excited! so so soSOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO excited! I can’t wait to jump on this! What a perfect thing. One of my goals this year was to take a writing course, but I didn’t know where or with whom or if I wanted to attempt the Loft. But I think this Kate sounds amazing and exactly what I’m looking for in a writing sage (does that sound stupid?) Time to make some money so that I can afford a class!

Oh, have I mentioned how excited I am?
Gianna recently posted..Walking Isn’t Easy

Brook @ Redhead Reverie May 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm

I’m totally doing this…thanks so much for offering us this opportunity to share our stories. So excited :-)
Brook @ Redhead Reverie recently posted..Building a Village One Voice and One Brick at a Time

By Word of Mouth Musings May 11, 2012 at 6:54 am

Sounds as tho everyone should have a Kate!
By Word of Mouth Musings recently posted..Paying your kids.

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