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Undoing the Silence
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Undoing the Silence offers guidance to help both citizens and professionals influence democratic process through letters, articles, reports and public testimony.Louise Dunlap, PhD, began her career as an activist writing instructor during the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s. She learned that listening and gaining a feel for audience are just as important to social transformation as the outspoken words of student leaders atop police cars. "Free speech is a first step, but real communication matches speech with listening and understanding. That is when thinking shifts and change happens."Dunlap felt compelled to go where the silences were deepest because her work aimed not just at teaching but also at healing both individual voices and an ailing collective voice. Her tales of those adventures and what she knows about the culture of silence -- how gender, race, education, class, and family work to quiet dissent -- are interwoven with practical methods for people to put their most challenging ideas into words.Louise Dunlap gives writing workshops around the country for universities and social justice, environmental, and peace organizations that help reluctant writers get past their internal censors to find their powerful voice. Her insight strengthens strategic thinking and her "You can do it!" approach makes social-action writing achievable for everyone.
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About the Author

Louise Dunlap, PhD, began her career as an activist writing instructor during the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s. She trains citizen groups as well as university scholars in the United States and internationally in writing for social change. She is currently a lecturer at Tufts Universiity Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning and member of the Cambridge Peace Commission.

Reviews

"Undoing the Silence offers six tools to help us write. They are: The Freewriting Tool, The Process Tool, The Thinking Tool, The Audience Tool, The Feed-Back Tool and The Word-Power Tool. As I read through the explanation of each tool and tried the exercises, I noticed that, by trial and error, I have used some of them when I tackle a writing project. However, my employment of such techniques has been pretty haphazard. This toolbox is a wonderful resource because it includes strategies to help us overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of effective writing. Dunlap encourages us to step back from the pressure to make our writing perfect on the first attempt and to let a piece sit while we do something else to recharge our minds. I have found that the freewriting tool is quite liberating and has already enriched my writing. Another very important perspective I have gained is an understanding of my tendency to write in the passive voice. One of the exercises helped me to convert my passive verbs into active ones. A statement such as "it is believed" becomes "I believe." It may be scary to put my own opinions and thoughts into words, but they immediately become more powerful when I do. There are many more wonderful suggestions and tips for strengthening writing in this book. I believe every writer can benefit from reading it and trying them out. With the help of Louise Dunlap, may we all use our voices more effectively to change our communities for the better!" - Nancy McKinney, Gustavus Myers Center "Undoing the Silence: Six Tools for Social Change Writing by Louise Dunlap is like The Artist's Way for social change activists. This book kicks off by examining why we often find it so difficult to put our thoughts, ideas, and motivations into words -- much less share them with the public -- even when we're passionately dedicated and feel strongly about the issues we're involved with. On top of our own personal fears of inadequacy that lead to self-silencing, we've got institutional silencing to deal with -- The social structures that discourage anyone from rocking the boat." - Siel, Green LA Girl: Urban Eco Living by the Beach Join an environmental group, and it won't be long before you're urged to write for your cause -- whether a letter to the editor, an op-ed, or a blog post. But if the mere thought of putting pen to paper (or fingers to laptop) about issues so vast as ocean pollution or global warming -- or even smaller, neighborhood issues like a plastic bag ban in your city -- makes you want to hide in the nearest recycling bin, here's a book that can help. Undoing the Silence: Six Tools for Social Change Writing by Louise Dunlap is like The Artist's Way for social change activists. This book kicks off by examining why we often find it so difficult to put our thoughts, ideas, and motivations into words -- much less share them with the public -- even when we're passionately dedicated and feel strongly about the issues we're involved with. On top of our own personal fears of inadequacy that lead to self-silencing, we've got institutional silencing to deal with -- The social structures that discourage anyone from rocking the boat. "No matter how well meant, politeness is a kind of organized silence," writes Louise Dunlap -- then dedicates the rest of her book to illustrating 6 steps you can take to overcome this silence: 1. Freewriting -- Getting the ideas out from under your inner critic by writing quickly, much like the morning pages in The Artist's Way. 2. Process -- Starting to organize those ideas into a first draft. 3. Thinking -- Improving, expanding, and refining your ideas and your argument. 4. Audience -- Refining and revising your writing by taking on a reader's perspective 5. Feedback -- Receiving and incorporating constructive feedback on your work from others. 6. Word-power -- Polishing your writing to make it tighter and prettier. While these tools may be generally familiar to many writers, Louise's emphasis on breaking down the psychological barriers to get your personal opinions and beliefs out will seem especially novel to those who've often been taught to make their own ideas subservient to the prevailing cultural status quo. Louise provides lots of writing exercises to familiarize you with these tools -- and peppers her book with encouraging anecdotes to show how your writing could lead to positive changes. ___ This review's part of the Green Books campaign, an initiative organized by Eco-Libris to get 100 bloggers reviewing 100 green books on Nov. 10 at 10 am (PST). All the reviewed books are printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper, with the goal to encourage publishers and readers to take the environment into consideration when printing or purchasing books. --Siel"Green LA Girl: Urban Eco Living by the Beach" (11/10/2009) Let me begin this personal reflection on Louise Dunlap's book, Undoing the Silence, by stating that I wish that I had had this book in my "toolbox" a long time ago. Although I have always been an adequate writer, I now realize that I have let my "inner judges" prevent me from freeing my own authentic voice in my writing. As I read this book and worked through the exercises, I felt as though the author was speaking directly to me. In one of the first writing exercises, called "Naming the Judges," Dunlap asks readers to think about early experiences that have formed our ability to write. Before I even put my pen on the paper, I was transported back to my eighth grade classroom. The teacher was passing back a writing assignment and stopped at my desk. As she handed me my paper, she said something like "You write well, but your story is not creative, like Lorna's." It was a crushing blow for me - I had always been an excellent student and Lorna was my friend. We both had high aspirations and eventually attended the same university. I knew intellectually, even at the time, that the teacher had given me negative feedback in a rather callous manner, but the emotional impact of that feedback has stayed with me ever since. My "lack of creativity" has haunted my efforts to write! One of my longstanding volunteer roles is as a literacy tutor trainer. My organization trains volunteers to be tutors for people who wish to improve their reading and writing skills or their conversational English. Before we introduce the techniques we use for helping beginning students with their writing, we always ask the volunteers to share their own experiences as writers. I often share my 8th grade story and many people offer similar ones. Only a very few people in our tutor training workshops consider themselves "good" writers. In my own experience, I have observed what Dunlap points out in the opening chapter of Undoing the Silence. Most adults in our society have a very difficult time writing to express their own thoughts and concerns. Even fewer are comfortable expressing views that advocate social or political change. I didn't fully realize until I read this book that the silencing of writers' voices is far deeper than our individual experiences of having our writing criticized by parents or teachers or editors. The author makes a strong case that we live in "a culture of silence." In some societies, ordinary people are denied freedom of speech, and that denial is used to maintain oppression. But even in our free society, large numbers of people are afraid to speak out. In many different ways, the culture has taught us that we don't have the proper standing to appear in print and that our written words are not good enough to be expressed in the public square. The power dynamic in our society makes most of us feel that we are less important, less smart and less powerful than those who somehow deserve to carry on the public dialogue. Dunlap shows that the "knot of silence," as she terms it, has many strands, all of which have taught us to be afraid to write what we really feel, think and believe. Louise Dunlap has worked with writers throughout her career and has a wealth of experience helping activists around the world to free their voices and to use their writing to help transform communities. She draws on this work to illustrate her approach to social change writing. The book includes the experiences of students in her classes and workshops who strengthened their writing - from early drafts through revisions to the finished product. In her first chapter, the author says, "Everywhere I found that speaking out vocally and taking action with the written word were closely related. Maybe one skill is stronger than another to begin with, but when you work on writing, the silence starts to unravel on other levels. A tenant named Mark confirmed this for me four years after a workshop where he had written (and published) his first letter to the editor. 'That's where it all started, ' he said in a group evaluation meeting. 'Before I wrote that letter, I had no confidence in myself.' (Mark was a working father of four so this was a big thing for him to acknowledge.) 'After that, I just learned how to do things: I went onto the steering committee, I started speaking before City Council, and now I am on the Board where I live. I feel like a leader because now I can say what I mean.' " Undoing the Silence offers six tools to help us write. They are: The Freewriting Tool, The Process Tool, The Thinking Tool, The Audience Tool, The Feed-Back Tool and The Word-Power Tool. As I read through the explanation of each tool and tried the exercises, I noticed that, by trial and error, I have used some of them when I tackle a writing project. However, my employment of such techniques has been pretty haphazard. This toolbox is a wonderful resource because it includes strategies to help us overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of effective writing. Dunlap encourages us to step back from the pressure to make our writing perfect on the first attempt and to let a piece sit while we do something else to recharge our minds. I have found that the freewriting tool is quite liberating and has already enriched my writing. Another very important perspective I have gained is an understanding of my tendency to write in the passive voice. One of the exercises helped me to convert my passive verbs into active ones. A statement such as "it is believed" becomes "I believe." It may be scary to put my own opinions and thoughts into words, but they immediately become more powerful when I do. There are many more wonderful suggestions and tips for strengthening writing in this book. I believe every writer can benefit from reading it and trying them out. With the help of Louise Dunlap, may we all use our voices more effectively to change our communities for the better! --Nancy McKinney "Gustavus Myers Center " -Undoing the Silence offers six tools to help us write. They are: The Freewriting Tool, The Process Tool, The Thinking Tool, The Audience Tool, The Feed-Back Tool and The Word-Power Tool. As I read through the explanation of each tool and tried the exercises, I noticed that, by trial and error, I have used some of them when I tackle a writing project. However, my employment of such techniques has been pretty haphazard. This toolbox is a wonderful resource because it includes strategies to help us overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of effective writing. Dunlap encourages us to step back from the pressure to make our writing perfect on the first attempt and to let a piece sit while we do something else to recharge our minds. I have found that the freewriting tool is quite liberating and has already enriched my writing. Another very important perspective I have gained is an understanding of my tendency to write in the passive voice. One of the exercises helped me to convert my passive verbs into active ones. A statement such as -it is believed- becomes -I believe-. It may be scary to put my own opinions and thoughts into words, but they immediately become more powerful when I do. There are many more wonderful suggestions and tips for strengthening writing in this book. I believe every writer can benefit from reading it and trying them out. With the help of Louise Dunlap, may we all use our voices more effectively to change our communities for the better!- - Nancy McKinney, Gustavus Myers Center -Undoing the Silence: Six Tools for Social Change Writing by Louise Dunlap is like The Artist's Way for social change activists. This book kicks off by examining why we often find it so difficult to put our thoughts, ideas, and motivations into words -- much less share them with the public -- even when we're passionately dedicated and feel strongly about the issues we're involved with. On top of our own personal fears of inadequacy that lead to self-silencing, we've got institutional silencing to deal with -- The social structures that discourage anyone from rocking the boat.- - Siel, Green LA Girl: Urban Eco Living by the Beach Louise Dunlap's new book, -Undoing the Silence, Six Tools for Social Change Writing,- (New Village Press) has arrived at a perfect time. First, because it celebrates her full life of teaching and struggle, and second because the movement that it serves is finally getting off its knees. The system, with war and injustice at its core, has managed to stave off a major downturn thru ever- loosening credit. This strategy has finally broken under its own weight. We are now in need of a whole new cadre of thinkers who can describe the problem and point toward solutions. We need -writers for social change.- Dunlap's book will help turn them out. --Bill Shortell -PORTSIDE - Louise Dunlap's new book, "Undoing the Silence, Six Tools for Social Change Writing," (New Village Press) has arrived at a perfect time. First, because it celebrates her full life of teaching and struggle, and second because the movement that it serves is finally getting off its knees. The system, with war and injustice at its core, has managed to stave off a major downturn thru ever- loosening credit. This strategy has finally broken under its own weight. We are now in need of a whole new cadre of thinkers who can describe the problem and point toward solutions. We need "writers for social change." Dunlap's book will help turn them out. --Bill Shortell "PORTSIDE "

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