Book Reviews

Three Quick Reviews: Writing Guides for Women

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Check Goodreads or Indiebound, and you’ll find a virtual bookcase of writing guides: books on verse, dialogue, and plot; books for academics, Christians, and preschoolers. Precious few, however, have been created for women. Of course, women don’t always need or want gender-specific writing advice, but for some of life’s changes and challenges—motherhood, for instance—tailored guidance can provide just the right incentive and inspiration.

In the first in our blog series, Three Quick Reviews, we suggest three women-centric books on the craft of writing.

Use-Your-WordsUse Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers
Kate Hopper
Viva Editions; 2012

In this excellent guide to creative nonfiction (CNF), Hopper draws on her life as a writing teacher and mother as well as on her memoir, Ready for Air: A Journey Through Premature Motherhood. She covers essential elements of CNF such as finding a voice, choosing a tense, reflecting on personal experience, and getting published. Hopper also advises on aspects particular to mother-writing: dealing with pain and fear, revealing details of family, and finding humor in the everyday. Many examples of published CNF illustrate how these elements work. Enticing exercises invite new writers to get started and experienced writers to hone their craft.

penonfirePen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Finding the Writer Within
Barbara DeMarco-Barrett
Harcourt; 2004

DeMarco-Barrett begins with that gigantic, looming hurdle to a successful writing life: time. We’re busy. We have families and jobs and a messy kitchen and an urgent deadline. When could we possibly write? Now, she says. Write in those few minutes before the kids wake up or that single minute while the kettle boils. You don’t need a quiet morning and a cozy office, just a notebook and determination. In short, engaging chapters, DeMarco-Barrett provides advice on getting organized, avoiding distractions, mining your life for ideas, and polishing your drafts—even if that draft is written on the back of your kid’s homework.

writingpastdarkWriting Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction, and other Dilemmas in the Writer’s Life
Bonnie Friedman
Harper Collins, 1993

While not explicitly for women, Writing Past Dark, deals with emotional obstacles to the writer’s life felt, perhaps, more keenly by women. Friedman says she wrote the book because “I wanted a companion I could reach for” during the lonely writing process. Historically, women have been lonely, isolated writers indeed. But even now, the new mother who ekes out time for a blog, the single mom who gets up early to write poetry, the MFA mom in the midst of the “ten-year nap” who watches childless colleagues publish books and win awards—these women surely feel the envy, fear, distraction, and paralyzing writer’s block Friedman describes so beautifully.

Do you have a favourite writing guide? Can you recommend a guide for women or mothers? Do you have an idea for our next Three Quick Reviews? Add a comment to this post or email your idea to [email protected]

New from Demeter Press: birth of the uncool

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Demeter Press, based in Toronto, has published books on motherhood since 2006. Their catalogue includes fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and many ground-breaking scholarly works. Due to recent loss of grant funding, however, Demeter is at risk of closing. They need support — through books sales — to continue their engaging and important work.

birth of the uncool, published by Demeter in 2014, is a stunning collection of poetry by Canadian writer Madeline Walker. Based on Walker’s lifelong quest to be “elegant, distant, hip, and stylish,” the book explores her embrace of uncool in her fiftieth year. The following is from her chapter on motherhood (reprinted with permission).

Genealogy

birthuncoolI know the gene bequeathed
is not my fault.
I ask forgiveness anyway.

Scientists announced
they’d almost isolated the little fucker in their
slick white labs. If only I could
have swiped out that gene,
surreptitiously, from the soup
that made you, spliced in
something else — and extra love gene
perhaps.

But then, what loss? What might
we have missed? Your smoky
intensity, blue depths, brooding
passions? Your courage to climb out of the
tar pit? The wisdom that comes of suffering?

Demeter’s books are 50% off until July 15. See their catalogue or Facebook page for more information.