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What Our Speech Disrupts is part of the stockpile of writing exercise books I amassed in graduate school. While I have completed writing exercises since getting my degree, I will forever be grateful for those years of focused study. At times, my writing workshop classes almost seemed like play because to me that’s how a writing exercise should feel. Not that play always equates to be easy. We should all take time out to challenge ourselves in various ways as writers to better hone our craft.

What Our Speech Disrupts

Katharine Haake’s book What Our Speech Disrupts contains a wealth of multi-layered writing exercises. They can really help a writer get at the heart of what matters to them as communicators of the written word. Granted, the book is an acquired taste. The subtitle Feminism and Creative Writing Studies should clue the reader in that the writer’s approach is influenced by feminist pedagogy. As such, she weaves the narrative of what it is like to be a writer in with the exercises she provides. Narration becomes the tool that the author uses to share knowledge.

Some of my classmates quickly grew frustrated with the book and it’s often indirect style, but such a style does indeed reveal a lot about how we do and do not go about producing writing. The structure of the book also sheds light on the ways we construct knowledge. There is no one correct path to do so.

Cover Image of What our Speech Disrupts by Katharine Haake

Challenge is Good

All in all it is a beautifully written and challenging book of writing exercises. The exercises take lots of time to complete, so this book is not for those who are not big fans of freewriting. I first encountered the book in a graduate class on the teaching of creative writing, and I have come back to it many times over the years for teaching ideas as well as to hone my writing stills. At times, it will seem like an exercise has gone on forever, but that is when you will discover an entirely new vein of thought if you stick with it.

Haake’s introductory statement of what the books is not reveals a lot about her feminist approach to teaching creative writing:

  • It is not a seamless argument.
  • It does not speak in a single voice.
  • Its separate parts, together, are not graceful.
  • It is not a set of answers.

My writing that resulted from her exercises helped me form a better picture of the type of writer and teacher that I wanted to be. So much writing instruction that students receive in school presents the writing process as a linear process when it is anything but. It’s easy to see why the meandering nature of this book would rub some people the wrong way. The book is the perfect case in point that the building of knowledge is indeed a messy process that takes a lot of work.

Writing Exercise Inspiration

I have since adapted two of the exercises for use with high school creative writing students. In smaller doses, the same principles could be applied to standard Language Arts classes. One is a sharing activity I call a Memoir Box based on Haake’s Reflections on the Writing Life: Part One. The other exercise I’ve adapted is her Sentence Sounds exercise.

All serious writers can benefit from this book, and it will definitely worth their time. My only true gripe is that the formatting of some of the exercises can be hard to read. Due to completing the exercises within, I have a wealth of potential material I can draw from to further shape and revise if I decide to do so.



Have you read any titles similar to What Our Speech Disrupts? What writing exercise books would you recommend?


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