Allison's Book Bag

Current Read #28: Writing to Change the World by Mary Pipher

Posted on: May 4, 2015

MusingMondaysWhat are you reading right now?
What do you think of it?
Why did you chose it?

I grew up with writing being one of my favorite things to do. When I also start feeling a need to make more of a difference, I often turn to a book I discovered in my late thirties. Writing to Change the World by Mary Pipher contains both general advice on the writing process, as well as specific advice on how to use writing to make connections and transform society.

Divided into three sections, the first explores “What We Alone Can Say”. In it, Pipher both encourages readers to find their own voice, as well as explains how she found hers. Pipher writes that she grew up in a “big, complicated family”. Some were poor; some were not. Some were professionals; others were not. Some were religious; a few were atheists. From this opinionated group, Pipher got quite an education on point of view. She also heard lots of stories and was constantly asking the question, “Why?”  The first book to change Piphers’s life, read at age twelve, was The Diary of Anne Frank. When Pipher read it, she lost her innocence. Pipher’s unique past has given her something to say that no one else can say. Therefore, it also gives her a place at the writing table, just like all of us who write. What is your history? And what voice has it given you?

The second section explores “The Writing Process” and is probably my least favorite. One of my problems with this section is that much of the advice here can also be found in general writing guides, of which I have read plenty. Pipher talks about the blank page, finding time to write and writing groups, using clear and descriptive writing, how to organize and research, and even about revising and being grammatically correct.  Another problem I have is that the order in which Pipher presents her writing advice sometimes feels haphazard or unorganized. Criticisms aside, there are parts of section two that I liked. For example, Pipher offered advice on how writers can deal with darker issues, approach a topic from different perspectives, and frame writing to better connect with an audience. These are all concerns I have faced when tackling social problems.

The third section explores “Calls to Action” and is the most practical. Pipher talks about the place for letters, speeches, essays, blogs, music, and poems. (If you’re a fiction writer only, you’re either out of luck or might find yourself encouraged to experiment with new forms.) Sometimes Pipher offered recommendations based on personal experiences and her own writings; sometimes she shared advice and publications from others. Over all, her choices seemed to make an informative mix. Perhaps because of their local flavor, I most appreciated the letters written to persuade a Midwest county board to accept or reject the establishment of a motocross track next to a natural reserve.

Pipher has written only a few books. All of them explore pertinent social issues with research and reflection. Those that aren’t already part of my personal library will eventually find their way there. 🙂


4 Responses to "Current Read #28: Writing to Change the World by Mary Pipher"

I’ve really enjoyed other books by Mary Pipher–I think my favorite is The Middle Of Everywhere, and of course Reviving Ophelia. I wasn’t aware of this one but it sounds like something that I’d really like. Thanks for the recommendation!

You’re welcome! Yes, I enjoyed The Middle of Everywhere too, especially because it focuses on the region where I currently live. 🙂

Sounds like a fascinating book with much to ponder….thanks for sharing. Here is my BLUE MONDAYS MUSINGS POST

Mary Pipher is definitely an author to check out if one wants to think. She’s also written about youth, seniors, and immigrants.

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I am focusing this year on other commitments. Once a month, I’ll post reviews of Advanced Reader Copies. Titles will include: Freddy Frogcaster and the Flash Flood by Janice Dean, One Two by Igor Eliseev, Incredible Magic of Being by Kathyrn Erskine, Dragon Grammar Book by Diane Robinson, and Wide as the Wind by Edward Stanton.



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