As you probably suspected, Alice Hoffman was gracious, inspiring and fascinating to listen to. It was an ideal April Thursday--my morning spent clearing flower beds and picking up garbage in the east field, my afternoon at a public library listening to Alice Hoffman & returning with children to continue trash pick up while they played in the yard, and my evening spent perfecting my side kicks at karate school before watching the Trifecta of Thursday Night TV (Earl, 30 Rock, Office).
But back to Alice Hoffman. She loves reading, adores language, and responded heartily to readers. I've seen some authors who act "above" their readers when asked about a character or a scene, but AH wasn't pretentious or literary or snooty. She reacted with surprise, delight and gratitude to every question about her work. She read the beginning of Green Angel (lovely) and talked about writing (I took notes--some good ideas). And she demonstrated real modesty when she cut herself off after 50 minutes to sign books and talk personally to people. (I've also attended readings where the authors are so happy to listen to themselves speak that they go waaaaay past their scheduled time.)
The only difficult part I had with the AH experience was her story of how she became a writer. Hers is truly a story of luck that just doesn't happen anymore. She went to college because she didn't know what else to do and wrote a short story that her professor got published in a magazine. The short story caught the attention of the editor who called her and asked if she had a novel. Yes, she said, and wrote one and sent it to him 6 months later. Then the editor found her an agent who found her a publisher and the rest is history. To those of us who write, we're all like, Well lucky-ducky for you, Cinderella, but that's not how it works in Actual World. I held my questions about working with writing partners because it seemed obvious that she doesn't--her editor takes over for her when she feels she's done with a piece and that's that. The Ultimate Fantasy Writing Life. And sadly, to the crowd of high school kids there, many aspiring writers themselves, she sent the message that "if you are good enough, you'll get discovered." She didn't explain that she is an anomaly that happened over 30 years ago. Today the world is full of talented writers who never get the attention of any editor or agent. She perpetuated the myth talent and discovery that makes new writers so hopeful--and so easily dejected--and that myth makes me nuts.
But other than that, Alice Hoffman was a great experience. I felt self-conscious walking in--I'd spent the day doing yardwork and my jeans were a little dirty and have a hole in one knee. I wore my favorite green sneakers and a fleece jacket hoping to "dress" up my look a little. I was surrounded by "Ladies Who Lunch" and the high school crowd--so I fell in the middle of the spectrum. I admire "Ladies Who Lunch," those coiffed, made up, jewelry-wearing women who have great sweaters and matching slacks that coordinate with their loafers and heels. The excitement of hearing AH quelled my discomfort, and it wasn't until mid-way through the talk that I realized the odd outfit the woman to my right was wearing. Her hair was done and she had the whole Kit-and-Kaboodle of make-up applied to her face. She wore large earrings, a fancy necklace and I'd caught a glimpse of her perfectly polished black boots. But her pants? Were black mesh work out pants with a white stripe up each side. Totally clashing with the rest of her "look." Why did she wear those pants? Did she go to the gym and forget to change out of them? Did she recently have surgery and require elastic-waisted pants? It was so mysterious...
That said, I'm going to read more Alice Hoffman books in the future and apply her good advice about making lists of terrific words.