pick up that pen, grumpy…

Jessica Clark

The joys of political writing are limited: the pay sucks, readers lash back, and sometimes everyone seems so—well—mean. Why bother? Mary Pipher, who wrote the bestselling Reviving Ophelia, tackles these questions in Writing to Change the World, forthcoming this month from Riverhead books. Contra the slash-and-burn pundits of cable news, Pipher draws from her background in psychology and anthropology to advocate for writing as a means of connection and transformation. While the book covers all manner of “change writing,” from books to speeches to blogs, she really brings the point home in the section on letter writing: "Being right is not enough,” she writes. “Facts and evidence are not enough. Eloquence is not enough. Building a relationship to the people we wish to persuade is what often does the trick." Pipher tempers her hopeful narrative with bracing bursts of darkness. "As a species, we are self-destructing, and we are taking the rest of the world with us, “ she writes, but “if, brokenhearted, we can still love the world, then we can become part of the medicine for the world." Most helpfully, she writes, "Many writers love humanity, but can't stand people…Don't allow a sour, obstreperous personality to slow you down. There is a place for you at the table." Pull up a chair.

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Jessica Clark is a writer, editor and researcher, with more than 15 years of experience spanning commercial, educational, independent and public media production. Currently she is the Research Director for American University’s Center for Social Media. She also writes a monthly column for PBS’ MediaShift on new directions in public media. She is the author, with Tracy Van Slyke, of Beyond the Echo Chamber: Reshaping Politics Through Networked Progressive Media (2010, New Press).
Democratic Rep. Summer Lee, who at the time was a candidate for the state House, at a demonstration in Pittsburgh for Antwon Rose, who was killed by police, in 2018. Lee recently defeated her 2024 primary challenger.
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