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Day 4: 2012 Writer Mama Every-Day-In-May Book Giveaway: Kate Hopper

[Participants, please note: Please comment on the book giveaway post that matches the day. However, you are welcome to comment late just to answer the questions, if you like.]

I met Kate Hopper the way I meet so many wonderful Literary Mamas, through Caroline Grant, who is Editor-in-Chief of Literary Mama. I also remember seeing Kate after I met her in person on Facebook and Twitter. So for all of you who are wondering if you need to be active on social media before your book comes out, the answer is yes. Thanks for setting such a great example, Kate. And thank you for helping me welcome her!

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 BrevityLiterary 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.

About Use Your Words

USE YOUR WORDS introduces the art of creative nonfiction to women who want to give written expression to their lives as mothers. Written by award-winning teacher and writer, Kate Hopper, this book will help women find the heart of their writing, learn to use motherhood as a lens through which to write the world, and turn their motherhood stories into art.

Each chapter of USE YOUR WORDS focuses on an element of craft and contains a lecture, a published essay, and writing exercises that will serve as jumping-off points for the readers’ own writing. Chapter topics include: the importance of using concrete details, an overview of creative nonfiction as a genre, character development, voice, humor, tense and writing the “hard stuff,” reflection and back-story, structure, revision, and publishing. The content of each lecture is aligned with the essay/poem in that chapter to help readers more easily grasp the elements of craft being discussed. Together the chapters provide a unique opportunity for mother writers to learn and grow as writers.

USE YOUR WORDS takes the approach that creative writing can be taught, and this underscores each chapter. When students learn to read like writers, to notice how a piece is put together, and to question the choices a writer makes, they begin to think like writers. When they learn to ground their writing in concrete, sensory details and begin to understand how to create believable characters and realistic dialogue, their own writing improves.

[Thought-bubble: If you don’t win Kate’s book and you didn’t win Kelly’s book, they would make great Mother’s Day gifts for yourself. And if you need to add another book for free shipping, I’ve got three that can help you with that. Just thinking out loud. Now back to our regularly scheduled giveaway.]

The Very Short Interview

When did you know for sure that you were a writer and that writing would be a major energy focus in your life?

Honestly, I didn’t call myself a “real writer” until after my daughter, Stella, was born prematurely in 2003. I had been writing for a few years and was just beginning my third year of the MFA program at the University of Minnesota when I developed severe preeclampsia and my daughter was born two months early. She spent a month in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and the following long winter months at home with me. I withdrew from graduate school, and spent my days walking my fragile and very fussy infant around the dining room table. And for the first time in my life, I was desperate for words. I craved stories that revealed something other than the rosy versions of motherhood so often perpetuated in our society. I wanted to know that the exhaustion and despair I felt some days did not make me a bad mother. But I didn’t find much out there. So when Stella was five months old, I went to the coffee shop near our house and pulled out paper and a pen. The images of her—writhing on white blankets, beamed from the NICU into the television set in my hospital room—came spilling out, and after an hour, words covered the page. For the first time since she was born, I felt grounded, and the world felt a little bigger. After that, when I had a free hour, I wrote for an hour.

Who has always been behind your writing career and who helped pull you up the ladder of success?

My husband, Donny, has been my biggest and most dedicated supporter. He has held me after painful rejections, has created the time and space in our lives for me to write, and has believed in my books, even when I doubted that they would ever find a home. I couldn’t have finished either of them without his support. (Thanks, babe!)

What is the most frequent comment you hear about your book (or books) from readers? Tell us a little story about the response to your work.

Use Your Words isn’t technically “out” yet, but I have begun to hear from readers, which is so amazing. Writing can be so lonely, and it’s easy to question whether what you’re writing will resonate with readers or not. That it *does* resonate is incredibly gratifying. A recent commenter on my blog wrote, “I squeeze in writing around the edges of my ‘real job’ and life with four sons because I have to – I get all tied up in knots when I can’t think things out across a page and more keenly so since children have entered my life. Your blog (and now your book) is a great source of support, advice and motivation when I wonder whether the writing about me and them and us is truly worthwhile. Thank you.” That my book has helped a mother writer believe more fully in her writing is the best compliment I could receive!

And Now, Your Turn

Now it’s your turn. You remember how this works right?

I ask you a question. You answer in the comments for your chance to win a book each day.

Please just respond once, even if you make a typo. ;)

Answer in the comments in 50-200 words (no less and no more to qualify to win one of today’s books). Please read the complete rules at least once!

Thanks for participating in the Writer Mama Every-Day-In-May Book Giveaway! I hope to see you here every day this month. Bring your friends!

Q: How do you find the time to write? When are your best writing times and is it easy or challenging for you to get words on the page each day?

Ready, set, comment!

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  • Liz May 3, 2012, 9:53 pm

    I’m a morning person so I prefer to get up early and write before anyone else in the house is awake. I wake up brimming with ideas even though most of the time when I actually start writing the topic changes and write things I didn’t expect. And then I can feel serene and pleased with myself as I go about the rest of my day knowing that I already have my writing done. 

  • Lindsay Tallman May 3, 2012, 10:28 pm

    I write during my son’s naptime and when my other 2 children are at school.  Summer gets a little more complicated so I tend to scale back to 3 days a week instead of 5.  It’s amazing what you can get done in an hour or two of uninterrupted writing.  I don’t answer the phone, do laundry or anything else.  For me, the most challenging part is just getting started.  Once I start writing, I find it hard to stop.  I’m learning to turn that part of my brain on and off like a switch, but I do keep a mother’s notebook with me at all times in case a brilliant idea comes to me in the carpool line or the grocery store.  It’s the everyday moments that seem to fuel my creativity. 

  • Amy Simon May 4, 2012, 5:34 am

    I’m a home schooling mom of three, one of which is a toddler, so I write during the beginning of his naptime, while my other two are having their quiet reading time. Sometimes it’s hard to find motivation during that little time slot, since it’s after lunch and tempting to become y own nap time, but we’re making it work, I think!

  • Carol J. Alexander May 3, 2012, 10:48 pm


    No one finds time. It’s a gift, there each morning when we
    wake, to be used at our discretion. If you run out, you will find no more; just
    like you won’t find any more conditioner in the bottom of the empty bottle when
    washing your hair; no matter how hard you pound it on the side of the tub. The prudent
    homemaker has an unopened bottle waiting. The prudent writer has slots of time
    set aside to use for her craft. The trick is to avoid distractions—family,
    domestic duties, the Internet. For that reason, my best time is while the rest
    of the tribe sleeps. Do I struggle to get words down each day? No. I generally
    write something. But sometimes, the distractions keep me from getting down as
    much as I’d like.

  • Meryl K Evans May 3, 2012, 10:52 pm

    Writing is my job. I write daily working on whatever client work needs to be done. When I have a little extra time, then I post a blog. Best time to write is in the morning. I just get it done. Sure, sometimes I feel like I can’t create and for times like that, I focus on research and editing.

  • Sara May 3, 2012, 10:59 pm

    Right now, I don’t find the time regularly. My kids are little. I’ve thought a lot about whether this is an excuse, because certainly there are people with little kids who do it. I’ve decided it’s not an excuse but a choice I”m making right now to spend more time with them. Some recent changes are giving me a little room to fiddle with my work schedule and as part of that I’m trying to work regular writing into my week, if not into every day. 
    I prefer to write in the morning, before I get into my day. I’m less distracted, less worn down and exhausted, and if work or other tasks turn out to be bigger than expected, I get the writing in before it gets squeezed out. 

  • Christa Hines May 4, 2012, 6:15 am

    I’m a miserable morning person, but I try to get up at 5 a.m. at least a few days a week to get started on my writing day before I have to get my kids up for school. I’ve noticed when I have that extra hour, I feel more put together the rest of the day and more focused. I don’t feel like I’m scrambling so much the rest of the day to scrape in moments of time to put pen to paper. Since my youngest son is only in preschool for a couple of hours a few times a week, I find it very difficult to capture my rhythm and frustrating when I finally get back into the groove and realize I only have a few more minutes before I have to jump back in the car again. That’s where my timer comes in. Once I set it, I can relax into my writing. It’s like a signal that turns off the world and helps me disconnect from the millions of other distractions that can easily derail my writing progress. Kate’s book looks like a great resource! I’ll definitely be adding it to my collection!

  • Mercedes May 3, 2012, 11:20 pm

    It’s definitely a challenge for me.  I have three kidlets; the oldest has special needs and the youngest is a baby, so I there’s no such thing as a chunk of writing time.  I keep my computer on all day, and when I have a few minutes, I run and write a couple of lines.  I think about my story all day, so it’s easy to pick up where I left off. If it’s fragmented or doesn’t read right, well, that’s what editing is for!  I also know this is a temporary situation, and one day I’ll long for time when my babies were young. 🙂

  • Beth Fornauf May 3, 2012, 11:24 pm

    Nighttime is my writing time. I wait until after I put my 10
    month old to bed, around 8 o’clock, make a cup of tea, and get to work. Writing
    during her daytime naps proved to be too stressful, as she is an erratic and
    infrequent napper. I now use that time to straighten up, answer emails and do
    administrative tasks. I stick to strict schedule of writing, which dictates my minimum
    words per day – that takes the pressure off, since I know exactly how much I
    need to accomplish. Some days it’s hard to get the minimum on the page, but it’s
    a non-negotiable. Knowing I can go to bed as soon as I finish is also great

  • Amy Becker May 4, 2012, 6:29 am

    Finding time to write is difficult for me, but I try to squeeze some time in during the early evening. Once dinner is done, I have the whole evening ahead of me, so I can let go of any other obligations and focus on writing.  I would love to be one of those morning people that can get up early and write, but my mornings are already so busy that I just can’t seem to find the time.

  • Kristeen Moore May 3, 2012, 11:34 pm

    Once I sit and write, I don’t usually have any problem letting the words flow (granted they aren’t perfect at first, but that’s what editing is for!).  The best way for me to accomplish my job is to break writing into several time slots per day. I write before my son gets up, and write some more for four hours while he is at school in the morning. If he takes a nap in the afternoon, I squeeze in more time. Then finally, I try to get some more work done after he goes to bed. Usually I try to tie up loose ends at night, otherwise I find myself too wired to sleep. 🙂

  • Peggy Sarjeant May 4, 2012, 12:25 am

    Thankfully, I’m a morning person and so I pretty much automatically wake up between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m. I have two giant dogs and so I’m out into the dawn (or the dark, depending on the time of year) right away. My walk through the still quiet neighborhood gets my writing blood flowing and after a cup of tea with the morning newspaper, I’m ready to sit down at my desk. My ‘kids’ are young adults but for now, they still live in my house so by noon, all kinds of distractions arise. If I don’t get after it first thing in the morning, my time is gone for the day.

  • Carrie May 4, 2012, 12:46 am

    I find it best to write at night but not too late at night. I like to have all my tasks done and over with and save the best for last. It’s very calming for me to write before bed.
    Some days I struggle to get words in the paper and some days I struggle to get words on the paper that convey what I want in the way I want. in general I can at least get words down!

  • Sarah Joyce Bryant May 4, 2012, 1:37 am

    I have been struggling lately with finding time to write; however, I tend to work better late at night. It is very challenging for me to get words on the page, and I think that comes from self-editing while writing rather than just getting words onto the page. Another thing I’ve noticed about my writing process is once I get started I usually don’t stop for several hours. But, this has actually kept me from writing daily because I will tell myself I don’t have several hours to write and so I don’t write at all. I am aware of this, but now it’s time to break the “I need this much time to write” habit (i.e. excuse). 

  • Carol J. Alexander May 4, 2012, 2:44 am

     Sometimes, Sara, we need to make a choice. Never will choosing mothering our children be a wrong choice. Reading your post encourages me.

  • Carol J. Alexander May 4, 2012, 9:46 am

     Blessings to you, Mercedes. I’ve done a lot of writing in my head because I just could not get to the computer, or even a pencil, to record my thoughts. And believe me, with three grown up, I cherish every minute I have with the three that are left.

  • Robe0255 May 4, 2012, 2:53 am

    I need to find the time by making the time. Almost like making an appointment on my calendar — blocking it off from interruption. I’m an evening writer … but tiredness tends to interfere : )

  • Heather L. Lee May 4, 2012, 3:07 am

    I have only recently re-committed to my writing and have been writing every week-day and some weekends since March 6th. This is a huge accomplishment for me after years of starting and stopping and feeling I do not have the time with three young girls. I rarely manage to write more than 30 minutes per day and the timing is spread round the clock, but I do it and it sustains me. I spend perhaps an equivalent amount of time right now brainstorming ideas and scribbling them down, sometimes grabbing the notebook by my bed and scrawling my thoughts in the glow of the hall nightlite so I can get back to sleep and turn off my mind.  The beauty for me now is that until I write, I feel something is missing.  It is like a desperate thirst and I know that it is drawing me toward a deeper pool of writing for longer stretches, even as I anticipate the coming distraction that is summer with young children.

  • Sue LeBreton May 4, 2012, 3:29 am

    As a new writer I am struggling to find a daily routine but
    already it seems as if the morning will be my most productive time.  I feel most creative once the kids are out
    the door and I have walked the dogs. That connection with nature invigorates me
    and I can sit and write without feeling guilty that I am not attending to the
    needs of the “fur kids.”

  • ML May 4, 2012, 5:27 am

    I set mornings aside at least 4 days and many times 7 days a week. An early riser the hours between 6 AM and 10 AM are my best hours. On days I’m home alone until noon I take advantage of the extra quiet. This is the easiest time for me to write and plan my next step. I close the door, put in my ear plugs and set my coffee beside me. I love it! 

  • Jennifer May 4, 2012, 6:21 am

    Mostly, I find it when a writing job, client, or class gives
    me a deadline. Then, suddenly, I feel it a worthy enough endeavor to find all
    sorts of time throughout the day to write. I hate that I need this outside
    validation and it often leads me to doing less-than-rewarding writing. So, I’ve
    found that the best thing for me is to have just enough work where it puts me
    in motion and I feel legit calling myself a writer, but where it still leaves
    me enough time to pursue writing endeavors that aren’t as certain to be either
    published or legitimized with a check.

  • Lisa May 4, 2012, 6:29 am

    Morning is my best time to write and because I am a morning person getting words on the page each day are not hard, but only in the morning. I’m finally giving myself permission to write and get the words down, even if it isn’t great. Then I have something to go back and work on and rewrite. I like to get the writing done in the morning otherwise it is on my mind all day, like oh I should be writing and then I find it hard to concentrate on other projects or commitments.

  • Cara Holman May 4, 2012, 7:16 am

    I believe that the writing process encompasses far
    more than simply physically putting words down on a page. The “behind the
    scenes” work involves brainstorming, observing, free associating, plenty of
    reading, and perhaps the most important ingredient of all, which is simply
    living life to the fullest. I like to think about and sort my ideas at the gym while
    walking around the track or on the treadmill, or at home when I’m folding the
    laundry or doing the dishes. I write whenever I have a free 10 minutes, and
    carry index cards with me everywhere to capture ideas, so I don’t forget them.
    It’s always a joy to write, no matter when!

  • Lorraine Wilde May 4, 2012, 9:03 am

    I struggle to find time to write because I still overcommit. Being creative needs space and when I think of scheduling the time on the calendar I think, “what if I feel like doing something else when the time comes?” But positioning writing among the top priorities of the day makes it a little easier. Even when I’m rushing to fit the writing into little windows in the day, I always feel great afterward about how much I accomplished in so little time.

  • Nathalie Hardy May 4, 2012, 4:04 pm

    What? This question implies writers write?! I write in the margins of my days. I write on index cards and in mini-moleskine and in my journal nearly every day. Someday I will get all those notes into the computer but for now … I have them. As far as when I’m on assignment or deadline, I write – again – in the margins and until it’s done at night. I write in my car, on the treadmill and between random mothering and housekeeping chores. It is challenging for me to get words done on projects that aren’t due right away. 

  • Laural Ringler May 4, 2012, 10:06 am

    I would like to write in the mornings, but I’ve tried it and because I have to leave the house at 7am for work, I find getting up earlier makes it really hard to make it through the day. That leaves a little evening time and weekends. I don’t have a scheduled time right now. But when there’s a deadline, I make it happen. Hmmm…can I make my own deadlines and produce for me rather than an editor?

  • Renee May 4, 2012, 10:11 am

    I am fortunate that I have enough work as a writer-for-hire
    that I have to find the time to write if I want to get a paycheck. Deadlines
    work very well for me and keep me on track — I can honestly say that my best
    work comes from the pressure of a last-minute deadline! When it comes to
    writing fiction, deadlines also work well for me, but right now they come in
    the form of grant application and contest deadlines. “Book in a Month” by
    Victoria Lynn Schmidt helped me write my first rough draft of a novel, and the
    funny thing is that I won it in a writing competition! My most productive time
    of day is from about 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. because I’m not too tired. Once I
    actually sit down in front of my computer, the writing usually flows pretty
    quickly and easily.

  • Mandy Hartley May 4, 2012, 11:18 am

    I find time to write in the mornings. As a Mom this is the only time that I can be certain (at least reasonably certain – you never know entirely with babies) that I will have the time to myself. Happily I’m a morning kind of person so this works for me. Sometimes it’s easy to get words on the page, but most of the time (unfortunately) it’s not so easy. I think I’m my biggest obstacle, or more specifically the Critic that lives in my head. 

  • Jaymie Dieterle May 4, 2012, 11:45 am

    I don’t write every day, but I often write because I have to – I have to get thoughts or ideas on a page so I can look over them and get some perspective on them. I write to take notes on ideas when my mind is prone to wander, and the act of putting pen to paper fuels more writing. I also write late at night when I can’t sleep. Getting things on paper helps get it out of my head and deal with it and let it go.

  • mlreadsandwrites May 4, 2012, 7:31 pm

    Each morning (okay, most) before my feet hit the ground I have a rough draft of what my day should go like.  Then the real world shows up.   I devote part of the early morning hours to reading, newspapers,  blogs (reading and writing) while catching the early morning  news shows.  Staying abreast of what and who’s out there is my recharge.   I have a writing studio/office and have the luxury of walking in,  sitting down and going directly to work.  And then… the real world shows up.  

  • Beth S. May 4, 2012, 1:05 pm

    I usually have no trouble writing whatsoever because I only write when I feel compelled to write.  I used to journal only; but recently, I have taken up writing the story of a scary, tender, and deeply personal experience.  I write in the morning, when I am fresh.  On weekdays, this means getting up before my son does.  Once he is up, it is seeing him off on the school bus, and seeing myself off to my day job.  My absolute favorite time to write is when I am immersed in a passage… and my mind continues to play with the word puzzles of that passage even when I’m not writing.  Sometimes, my subconscious rewrites the passage while I sleep.  : )   
     (P.S.  I can’t resist adding that I had originally intended to go to Kate Hopper’s talk at Micawber’s tonight, and didn’t make it; so I would be absolutely thrilled to win her book!! )

  • Barbara McDowell Whitt May 4, 2012, 1:12 pm

    Since I am retired, I can write at any time of the day. I feel very fortunate, like many of you writer mama ladies, to have a very supportive husband who will come and look over my shoulder and say, “What is she doing now? as I am once again hovering over my computer.  I very much appreciate the ease with which we can write now that we no longer need to use pens and ink, typewriters and paper to record our written expressions.  

  • Mar Junge May 4, 2012, 1:52 pm

    When you’re a professional writer with deadlines to meet and editors to satisfy, “finding time to write” is not an option. You get up every day and you do the writing or editing that needs to be done before you do anything else. Most days I’m writing and editing from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. After a dinner break I sometimes work another two hours until 10 p.m. Then I “vedge” in front of the TV with my husband. And that’s just the PR writing. Should I want to write fiction, I do that after midnight, when inspiration results in renewed energy. This writer’s life may sound exhausting, but I love what I do and consider myself fortunate to get paid well to do what I love. I’ve never had writer’s block or found it challenging to get words on the page. They just flow. It comes from lots of practice. As Hemingway said, “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”

  • Mary Drew May 4, 2012, 2:06 pm

    My time to write is early morning or when I can take a weekend and go away from all the distractions that pull at me when I’m home. Ideally I get up at 5 and write for an hour before I need to be ready for work. If I don’t get called to work (I’m a substitute teacher) that hour can stretch into more. Those are the best days. 

  • Deb May 4, 2012, 2:21 pm

    I am fortunate to have the time to write that I never had before. Along with many others, I lost my job, and finally realized that starting my own business was the only way to job security. Now I write and complete other tasks for clients in the mornings, but my creative writing emerges late in the evenings. It is easy to get words on the page each day, but challenging to get the right words on that page!

  • Sarah Koepp Lindsey May 4, 2012, 3:34 pm

    As a mom of three young children (with #4 coming in July), finding time to write is not an easy feat. But I make it a priority. I love writing, it’s important to me, and the fulfillment I receive from writing makes the juggling act worth it. That said, I do the majority of my writing at night when my munchkins are sleeping. I also squeeze it into the margins of my day. Getting words on the page every day is not always easy, but is very rewarding.

  • christinakatz May 5, 2012, 11:06 am

     Congrats, Sara. You are the winner!

  • Katehopper May 7, 2012, 7:25 am

    Thank you all so much for sharing your writing schedules (and struggles finding and keeping to schedules)! My writing schedule shifts as my daughters grow. Like so many of you, my writing time is (greatly) affected by what other work I have on my plate, what family obligations are planned, and what kind of deadlines are looming. Right now, I have very little creative writing time. I’m working very slowly on a novel, but I can only dedicate one or two mornings a month to it. But it’s enough to sustain me, and when my schedule opens up, I know I’ll be ready to dive into it. Best of luck to all of you with your writing!