Admit it: You always wanted to be a writer. As Barbara Kingsolver once noted, "The difference between happy people and unhappy ones is that happy people have a found a use for themselves, like a good tool." For many of us, writing is the optimal tool. Inspired by a course she taught, Mary Pipher's Writing to Change the World combines practical instruction and inspirational guidance. The author of the bestselling Reviving Ophelia doesn't treat writing as a neutral process; she offers specific advice about specific forms of advocacy writing, including op-ed pieces, letters, essays, speeches, and blogs.
In this very personal writing guide, Pipher talks about the importance of point of view in writing, and she has a definite point of view here, tilting to the left: the world is in a bad way, and writers can serve as a "rescue team for our tired, overcrowded planet" by "tell[ing] stories that connect readers to all the people on earth." Pipher offers some good examples of how to accomplish this, particularly in a thoughtful and clever essay that presents the U.S. as a patient in a therapeutic case study ("Diagnosis: Post-traumatic stress disorder, multiple addictions"). And she offers useful advice in her sections on defining success (measured not in terms of sales but in terms of "giv[ing] our time and talents to help others") and revising, which she compares to pruning and weeding. There are dozens of pithy and inspiring quotes from a variety of writers, among them Woody Allen, Joan Didion and Eudora Welty. Those, along with Pipher's chipper you-can-do-it tone, will encourage idealistic aspiring writers, who will surely find inspiration in her assertion that writing can heal the world. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Psychologist Pipher (Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls) offers a guide to literary activism, or, as she terms it, change-writing. How one feels about this phrase will determine one's reaction to her book as a whole. Pipher's tone is sentimental, bordering on the melodramatic, and she has never met a cliche or a Buddhist teaching she doesn't like. It is also not clear how the techniques of writing to change the world differ from those of plain old writing; very little of the advice here is specific to persuasive or political essays. However, Pipher does include useful sections on the composition of letters of protest and the dos and don'ts of public speaking, and she brings astute analogies from her career as a therapist to the problem of how to begin writing. For a small collection, Anne Lamott's classic Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life and Betsy Lerner's insightful and entertaining The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers are better choices, but Pipher's idealism-and the following she brings from her other best-selling work-may make this guide suitable for larger school and college libraries.-Leora Bersohn, doctoral student, Columbia Univ., New York Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
A cornucopia of platitudes about Writing and Life from a bestselling psychologist. Pipher (Letters to a Young Therapist, 2003, etc.) is an earnest and amiable companion in this text, which belongs on the self-help shelf. It's chockablock with the conventions of the genre, including shaded-and-boxed inspirational quotations throughout (the writers range from Mother Teresa to Mark Twain), just-plain-folks diction ("There is a place for you at the table") and a sort of personal-trainer perkiness that makes learning how to write seem somehow like losing weight or firming up your abdominals. The author's language veers at times into the precious and predictable ("Voice is like a snowflake-complicated, beautiful, and individual"), and the advice rarely advances beyond the patent (carry a little notebook with you, back up your computer files, revise a lot). Nearly every page features allusions to other writers (she advocates and practices this annoying technique) and cliches pervade all. Just about every bromide about writing ever concocted finds an honored place in Pipher's medicine chest. She urges writing from the heart, offers advice on how to organize and prepare to write (use file cabinets!), comments on such topics as employing metaphors (be sure they're fresh!) and conducting interviews (let your subject talk!), explains how to write more effective letters of persuasion (don't show off!), how to make better speeches (think about your audience!) and compose more powerful personal essays (share your epiphanies!). The author concludes with some thoughts on blogging and on composing poetry and music. "Songs," she notes, "are often inspired by intense feelings." And poetry? Well, think of afresh metaphor to describe it. How about snowflakes! "Poetry has the gossamer quality of a snowflake and the power of a sword."An unremarkable stroll along the road frequently traveled.
[Pipher] offers useful advice…[This] will encourage idealistic aspiring writers, who will surely find inspiration in her assertion that writing can change the world.”
“[Pipher] brings astute analogies from her career as a therapist to the problem of how to begin writing.”