Tag Archives: Beth Hoffman

In the Age of Sustainability, Less is More

Ann Patchett surprised (and thrilled) many when she announced that she planned to open up an independent bookstore in Nashville, Tennessee. In an interview with NPR’s Diane Rehm, Patchett explains her reason for the new venture:

[Nashville has] used bookstores, but the closest Barnes and Noble is 20 miles outside of town. And, …I can’t live in a city that doesn’t have a bookstore. . . . The bookstores that closed in Nashville…were both over 30,000 square feet…it’s kind of this model for what’s gone on in our country in so many different ways. We just super-sized. We got bigger and bigger and bigger. . . . We can’t sustain a 30,000 foot bookstore, but we really can sustain a 3,000 square foot store. *

This post isn’t meant to dig on Amazon or Barnes and Noble; there is value in those stores as well. But, independent bookstores provide a different kind of environment that I treasure, a smaller more intimate venue, where readers and writers come together.

It was at Next Chapter Book Shop, an independent store in my area, where I saw two of my favorite authors, Beth Hoffman and Rebecca Rasmussen. I’d read both their books before I attended their readings. And, I’d already seen Rebecca at an independent store in Illinois the week before I saw her at Next Chapter (I worried a bit that Rebecca might think I was stalking her when I showed up at yet another of her readings). But, I wouldn’t have missed either author’s event.

Rebecca read from one of my favorite chapters in her novel and illustrated the main reason I love these kinds of events at smaller stores: I heard the author herself read the words of The Bird Sisters out loud, sans mic, just a few feet in front of me, which added another dimension to – and a deeper experience of – her novel. It was the same when I heard Beth Hoffman read the first chapter of hers, Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt. Plus, meeting both Beth and Rebecca at smaller reading events allowed me to talk with them a little longer afterward.

It’s possible I could have had the same experience at a national chain. But, in a recent newsletter from Next Chapter Book Shop, the owner, Lanora Haradon Hurley, lists more reasons to support your independent store (a list that originated from Indiebound.org). Here are just a few:

When you buy local…

…You nurture community. We know you, and you know us. Studies have shown that local businesses donate to community causes at more than twice the rate of chains.

…You create more choice. We pick the items we sell based on what we know you like and want. Local businesses carry a wider array of unique products because we buy for our own individual market.

…You make us a destination. The more interesting and unique we are as a community, the more we will attract new neighbors, visitors, and guests. This benefits everyone!

These reasons, along with the old adage that less is more, make it clear why, even if we have an account with Amazon or shop at Barnes and Noble, we should still stop in at the independent bookstores in our neighborhoods. In doing so, we invest in our own communities and support those authors who take the time to stop at these stores during book tours, even when the audiences may be small in numbers.

What’s the name of your favorite independent bookstore? And, is that where you met your favorite author?


In the Milwaukee Metropolitan area, we’re lucky to have more than one independent. Visit them all:

Also, check out this short but compelling video from Lanora (found on Next Chapter’s website) about buying local.

* The above quote was taken from an article in The Nashville Scene, which quotes the NPR interview as well.

A Baker’s Dozen of Links for Writers

It’s the season of sweets, gift giving, and toasting to a new year.

So, from me to you…

…A Baker’s Dozen of links to articles, interviews, and posts from this last year that have inspired me to write, reaffirmed my commitment to write, or changed my perspective when I write.

1-5. Stocking Stuffer posts by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi (at The Bookshelf Muse) on:

Each post offers five simple tips that will help you tighten up your writing and/or strengthen your story.

6. Lynn Capehart’s article in The Writer on inclusionary writing. I won’t ever look at character descriptions the same again.

7. Lydia Sharp’s post on the Difference between inciting incident and catalyst. This post, along with a great first chapter critique I won over at Becky Levine’s blog, helped me reshape the first chapter of my novel and set my story on track again.

8-11. Author interviews I’ve had the honor to conduct, in which authors share the story behind the story, offer insights into the challenges of historical fiction and research, or talk about the passion behind their characters:

I’m looking forward to several more author interviews this year from Cathryn Grant (whose debut novel, The Demise of the Soccer Moms, will be published as an e-book in January), from Danielle Evans (Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, a wonderful collection of short stories), and from Rebecca Rasmussen (The Bird Sisters, due to be released April 12, 2011).

12. Kristen Lamb’s post on the Writer Reality Check. “Takes guts to be a writer,” Kristen says, and she lists some realistic expectations for those of us who want to make writing more than just a fun little hobby.

13. A call to action from Writer Unboxed for all Writers to Pay It Forward. “Paying it forward is something we can all do because no matter where we are in our writing careers, there’s always someone just one step behind, hungry to learn.” Much of the time, I’m the one a few steps behind. I could not grow without the encouragement, support, and wisdom from writers who are further along than me, and I can’t fully embrace those lessons until I pass them on to someone else.

There you are! Happy New Year, my friends!

May your days be full of writing and your muse be close at hand.


This just in….

I’m breaking from routine. For those of you who know me well, breaking from routine can send me into a tizzy — there’d better be a darn good reason to deviate.

Today, I have two great reasons:

1. Beth Hoffman, author of the New York Times Bestseller Saving CeeCee Honeycutt (a beautiful novel that was released in paperback October 26th) has highlighted me on her website. I hope you’ll take a peek at my guest post. I’m thrilled to be a writer mentioned in her Brava & Bravo category. I’m also thrilled I’ll get a chance to meet Beth in person this week as she stops in Wisconsin during her book tour.

Also, this week I’ll post an interview with debut author, Jody Hedlund. Her novel, The Preacher’s Bride, was released in early October and is another book I didn’t want to put down. She’s an author to watch. Stop by on Wednesday, read about her novel and her writing process, and drop your name in the comment section (if you do, you’ll be entered into a contest to win an autographed copy of her novel).

See there? That little shake-up was well worth it.

Putting a Story to Rest for a While

Recently, I wrote a post on the roller coaster ride of novel writing — about the highs from the little successes and the lows of constant uncertainty.

I battled my self doubts about the novel I’m trying to write (a story about a woman named Millie) by focusing on better character development, reassessing plot points, and scratching out a new outline for chapter one. Still, each writing session ended with a persistent twist in my gut, an uncomfortable feeling that suggested, No. This is not the story you should be writing. Not today.

I ignored my gut, thinking “today” meant not this particular 24 hour period. Really, I was afraid I’d mark myself as a quitter if I put this manuscript down.

All I have to do is finish the draft, I told myself. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be done.

Continue reading

And, to the Winners….

Last Friday, I posted an interview with New York Times Bestselling Author, Beth Hoffman. As promised, I have chosen two people from the list of comments who will receive a copy of her amazing novel.

To Lydia: an autographed copy of the book from Beth Hoffman to you.

To Joy of Dawn: a set of audio CD’s, so you can press play, relax, and fall into CeeCee’s story.

You both should receive an email from me by the end of the day.

And, to Beth Hoffman, many thanks for your willingness to share about your work and experience and for your generosity in giving away a book and CD’s.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Welcome Author, Beth Hoffman

As a reader, I am drawn to stories with characters so rich that reading about them is like reading a letter from a good friend. I hang on to every word, every image, and I fall easily into their emotions — good and bad.

Beth Hoffman’s debut novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, is exactly that kind of story for me.

Ms. Hoffman weaves a beautiful tale of CeeCee, a young girl who grapples with her mother’s mental illness, agonizes over her father’s abandonment, and then discovers unconditional love, friendship, and healing — in the arms of Oletta, in the mysterious charm of Miz Goodpepper, and in the saving graces of her Great Aunt Tootie.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt reminds us, no matter what our trials, we are carried along by a spiritual force which manifests itself in those around us.

I invited Beth Hoffman here, to answer a few questions about her novel and her writing. She graciously agreed. And, she offered to give away an autographed copy of her novel and a set of audio CD’s. So, after you read Beth’s interview, please leave a comment. If you’re shy, just leave your name.

At the end of Mother’s Day – in honor of the women in Beth Hoffman’s novel who become CeeCee’s surrogate mothers – I will choose two names. Each winner will receive either the book or the set of CD’s, the best part being that Beth Hoffman, herself, will send them — a New York Times bestseller novel, straight from the hands of the novelist to yours. That’s good karma, people.


Beth Hoffman

BH: Thank you for your kindness and support, Christi. I’m delighted that you invited me to be featured on your blog.

CC: Which inspired you first to write this story, plot or character? And, if it was character, was it CeeCee or Aunt Tootie who whispered the tale into your ear?

BH: I’ve always been drawn to character-driven fiction, and from the get-go I knew I wanted to write a story about strong women of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds. Aunt Tootie’s kindness and wisdom are qualities that I greatly admired in my great aunt Mildred, and I knew Aunt Tootie would be a key figure in my novel. But it was CeeCee who arrived in my imagination first. I had begun a rough outline for the book I thought I would write, and then late one night CeeCee appeared. She was so fully alive and her voice was so clear that it rocked me back in the chair, and, her story was far better than the one I was outlining! So, I deleted my notes and listened to what CeeCee had to say. It was one of the most fascinating events of my writing life. I’ve heard that it’s called writers alchemy—a magical moment when a character comes to life and the story unfolds in surprising ways.

CC: You live in Kentucky, but you wrote a story mainly set in Georgia. How often did you travel to the setting of your novel, and how did you use those trips to help create such a strong sense of place?

BH: I’ve always adored the South, and my first visit to Savannah left me completely enthralled. Savannah embodies so much of what I’ve admired throughout my life: outstanding historical architecture, a rich multicultural history steeped deep within the very fabric of the city, and the lovely hospitality for which Savannahians are so well known. I’m a bit of sponge in the sense that if I like something, I soak it up until it becomes a part of me. And that’s what happened with Savannah. I’ve walked every street in the historic downtown area, talked with residents and shop owners, and I live fully in that wonderful city whenever I visit—which is quite frequently. I usually rent an apartment in the downtown area so I can immerse myself in daily living as if I were a long-time resident. The sense of place in CeeCee’s story was actually quite easy for me to create because Savannah has become a part of me.

CC: Under “For Writers” on your blog, you say, “Captivating storytelling is a gift – good writing is an art.” Clearly, you are a talented storyteller. How did you nurture that gift into the art of great writing?

BH: What a lovely thing to say, thank you. My father was a wonderful storyteller, and I think much of his gift of spinning a good yarn was passed down to me. But there’s an enormous difference between telling a captivating story and writing one. As with any art, practice is crucial. The more we practice, the more we hone our craft. And the more we hone our craft, the more we stay awake and aware to the world of words. The other thing that’s crucial is cultivating the imagination. From a very early age I had a whole cast of imaginary friends that I kept in a shoebox beneath my bed. We went on all sorts of adventures together, and to me, they were real. When I eventually outgrew playing with them, I began to write stories about their lives, which segued into short story writing when I was a teenager, and finally, to writing my first full-length novel. Even now, as an adult, I still have the vivid imagination of my childhood, and I rely upon it with my writing.

CC: What are you reading these days?

BH: I just began Page from a Tennessee Journal by Francine Thomas Howard, and thus far I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

CC: Do you have any final thoughts for writers on the rise?

BH: I would say practice and editing are two of the most important things an aspiring writer should keep in mind. And when a writer honestly feels her/his work is complete, then there’s the Holy Grail of all—reading the manuscript out loud. It’s amazing how, when reading a work aloud, every single bump will reveal itself. Though it was time consuming, I read every single word of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt to my cats, and that prompted me to do one final edit that really paid off.

Beth Hoffman’s debut novel has appeared on several bestseller lists, including the New York Times, and was selected by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance as one of the 2010 Winter/Spring OKRA Picks for great Southern fiction. Read more about Beth Hoffman here and find her on Twitter under @wordrunner.

Don’t forget to leave a comment, so you can be included in the drawing for a copy of her book or a set of audio CD’s!