I went to hear Alice Hoffman speak last Monday night. The Jewish synagogue near Old Mill Road invites a prominent author to Fort Wayne once a year and the public is welcome. I fell in love with Alice Hoffman’s writing years ago when I read TURTLE MOON and PRACTICAL MAGIC—before the movie came out with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman—before I knew what the term magical realism even meant.
I’ve bought many of her books, including the latest, THE RULES OF MAGIC, but you won’t find any of them on my bookshelf because I pass them on to my daughters, who love her writing as much as I do. So, I didn’t have a book for her to sign, but that’s all right, because I’d rather come away with a feel of the author than an autograph. And Alice Hoffman was fascinating and charming. I’m so glad I went to see her.
For a sense of her many interests and wit, she has a beautiful webpage. It’s stunning, and her blog is as charming as she is. You can find them here: http://alicehoffman.com/ Her top blog entry was one of the things she shared with us in her talk. She grew up with a Russian grandmother who told her fairytales when she was a child to entertain her. She also told her that life is hard and you can trust potatoes. Other veggies can be tampered with, but a potato is what it is.
Because of her grandmother, the first books Alice Hoffman cherished and read were collections of fairytales, myths, and folklore. She said that’s why magic plays a part in so many of her stories. When asked how she creates her characters, she said that she creates a place, and once she gets that place fully realized, the characters come to populate it. Sort of like the movie Field of Dreams. She does all of her own research and that inspires her writing, too. She usually knows the end of each story she writes, but said that the ending, even though it usually doesn’t change, might not be the way she envisioned it. Her characters influence the story’s direction, so the same event might happen, but if she envisioned it as happy, it might flip to bittersweet. Or if she thought it would be sad, it might have hope.
She told us that most people think writers write because they have answers they want to share. She doesn’t believe that. She thinks most writers write to find answers to questions they’re asking themselves. How did this person end up here? What happened to shape him? She wrote the novel The Dovekeepers because she visited Masada in Israel and saw a small plaque that said only two women and five children survived the Roman siege there. She hadn’t known there were survivors, so that made her wonder who survived and how that happened.
I enjoyed hearing the process she uses to write. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy going to hear other writers. I’m always interested in how they became writers and how they approach finding ideas and filling blank pages. Even if his/her process wouldn’t work for me, their passion flames my own.
I hope something inspires you to put fingers to keys, and happy writing!
My webpage: https://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
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