Kristan Hoffman - Writing Dreams Into Reality
Wed Apr 2 2014

On the alphabet of madness, my particular worldview, and adding sentences

I don’t talk much about my “process.” Probably for the same reasons that I feel compelled to put “process” in quotes. It’s just such a fickle, fluid thing. Some days I do X; some days I do Y. If I’m lucky, I can just go back and forth between those two. But more often, I’m forced to try Z, or G, or B, or M. There’s a whole alphabet of tricks and techniques. Of methods and madness.

But I really enjoyed Natalia’s post about writing the other day, so I’m going to participate in this blog-hop about my “process” too. Who knows. Maybe if I talk about it enough, someday I’ll lose the quotes.

What are you working on?

Right now, mostly a story about a girl escaping to Spain.

Sometimes I play in pages about a girl and her parents visiting the Galapagos. And very occasionally, I dip my toe into a story about a girl and her famous football-playing father.

But yeah, mostly the Spain thing.

It’s about mourning the loss of a toxic friendship, holding onto an identity that everyone except you questions, and dancing your heart out in a noisy, electric nightclub in Barcelona.

I like it.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Hm. I guess the primary difference is that my work is written by me, while the rest of its peers are not.

And of course what that means is, my work is infused by my specific thoughts, questions, and feelings. My stories embody the particular discussions and debates that I have with myself about the world. Most of all, they reflect what I see — or hope to see — in the world around me.

I especially like to focus on uncommon settings, diverse characters, and strong emotional relationships.

Why do you write what you do?

Because it is what interests and compels me most.

Because I don’t see enough of it on the shelves yet.

And because I have always liked to connect with people and explore the world through stories.

How does your writing process work?

Ah, and now we come to that pesky alphabet I was talking about…

Most days, I sit at my desk, open my Word document, and try to add sentences. Other days, I sit on my couch, with my journal and a pen, and try to add sentences.

Sometimes I go for a walk with my dog and think about a scene that’s giving me trouble. Sometimes I talk through ideas with my writing buddies, who often help me find an even better path than the one I was considering. Sometimes I read for hours — to fill up my well of inspiration, and to study good storytelling. Sometimes I watch TV or spend time with loved ones — to recharge my batteries, and to remember that there’s a world outside my own brain that I need to be in dialogue with.

I am by no means an expert in How To Write. I am just a person who tries, and fails, and tries again, and hopefully fails better.

Bottom line: Add sentences.

(Until it’s time to revise. Then delete!)

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Wed Mar 26 2014

Unexpected encounters with grief

1.

We’re standing in the front atrium of our high school, forty or so girls in rows of ten. We’re all in matching warm-up clothes, and there’s a boom box up front, blaring hip-hop music. We’re rehearsing for our halftime dance number.

Suddenly our coach comes hurrying down the hall. She pulls the team captain aside and speaks quietly into the girl’s ear. The girl crumples. Without a word of explanation, she walks away, supported by the arms of our coach. Practice pauses while the other team leaders figure out what to do.

Later we learn that the captain’s father has been in poor health for a long time. She’s only a few months away from graduation, but they don’t think he’ll make it. Eighteen years old and facing life without her dad.

2.

September 11th starts as television broadcasts from a faraway city. Then it becomes rumors whispered in the hallway between classes. Buildings falling, dust clouds flooding the streets, a plane crashing into a field.

I’m in third period calculus when a front office aide interrupts the lecture and hands a note to our teacher. He reads it, then asks the pretty blonde girl two rows in front of me to gather her things and go with the aide. Terror and tears gather in her eyes as she leaves the room.

Later we learn that her brother worked in the Twin Towers. That’s all we ever hear.

3.

It’s the summer after my freshman year of college, and I’m getting ready to go to my parents’ office. The bathroom radio plays Top 40 hits while I brush my teeth, wash my face, and get dressed. Through the closed door, the phone rings, but I know my dad will get it.

He knocks a few minutes later. I open the door and find him braced against the frame, his head buried into the crook of his arm. My brows furrow, but even then I’m not alarmed. Just confused.

Later, at my uncle’s funeral, I will think about that moment over and over. I will hear my dad’s voice, calm but thick, as he tells me that his brother is dead. I will think about how we are never really ready for something like that. Never expecting to lose someone that we love.

But I will also remember the strength that my dad showed in the moments after. He grieved, but he did not let grief shut him down. He cried, but he did not drown. He was changed, but not diminished.

I don’t know if I can be that strong that quickly. But I’m glad to have a model for it in my life.

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Wed Mar 19 2014

Confession

Untitled

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Mon Jan 27 2014

IF ONLY by Geri Halliwell

Please note: My “Reading Reflections” are not reviews. They are simply my thoughts in response to certain passages.

If OnlyIn the 6th grade, I heard “Wannabe” on the car radio and asked my mom to turn it up. The lyrics were inane, and yet they also spoke to me on some strange level. I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want. So tell me what you want, what you really really want. I really really really wanna zig-a-zig-ah! By the end of middle school, my best friend Aisha and I were firmly entrenched in Girl Power. We knew every Spice Girls song by heart (even the B-sides) and we sang them (divvying up the parts) while walking home from school, working at my parents’ office, and playing Nintendo.

Over the years, the Spice Girls changed and matured in many ways — as did I. But in reading Geri Halliwell’s book, I was reminded of how much I’m still that girl striving to reach her dreams. And maybe I always will be.

I drew a lot of comfort from these wannabe musters in dance studios and theater foyers because I knew that I wasn’t alone. If my dream was fruitless and foolish, then a lot of other people had the same problem. We couldn’t all be wrong. (118)

Sometimes it seems like everyone I know wants to be a writer. And sometimes that scares me — like how am I supposed to stand out among this crowd?

But then I remember:

1) Publishing is not a zero-sum game. There’s plenty of pie for everyone.

2) These people are my people. They get me. We’re all dreaming the same dreams, and with each other’s help, we can achieve them.

3) I live in a bubble of my own making. All I need to do is step outside of it — talk to people who have no idea what “pantsing” is or how advances work — and I’ll realize that most people want nothing to do with writing books. Bless them.

(Now if only more people were interested in reading books…)

Not all of my grand plans ended in complete disaster. Each time I seemed to make just enough forward momentum to feel that I was still heading in the right direction. It wasn’t so much a case of one step forward and two steps back. More of treading water and hoping the current would take me where I wanted to go. (125)

I think this is just what progress feels like. An endless road — until suddenly you arrive.

(At least, that’s what I’m hoping/assuming!)

The way I figured it, people fell into three major categories. Those who have little ambition, achieve nothing and complain about what a rough deal they get. Those who are comfortable with their lives and feel no need to rise… And finally, there are people like me — restless dreamers. (160)

Okay, there are probably more than just those 3 categories, but I definitely know people in the first and third groups. And personally, I think the world needs more people in the second.

“You do know what your girl power is, don’t you?”

“It’s tapping into your inner resources to help you achieve your goals. If a girl has brains and femininity and most importantly inner strength and determination then, my dears, she has a very deadly weapon.” (179)

I think this is what the new wave of feminism is about. We’re not telling girls, you have to be this or that. We’re telling girls, you don’t have to be anything. You can be this. Or that. Or this and that. Whatever you want. Whatever makes you you.

And most importantly, we’re not defining a girl’s value through her looks. Or her career. No one thing should define a woman. (Or anyone.) It’s a total package kind of equation.

I’d like to be able to tell them that it all comes down to talent, but that’s not true. And I’d like to be able to say that perseverance inevitably pays off, but that’s not true either.

Nor is it about luck, or lottery tickets. You could be the most talented, most dedicated, luckiest wannabe in the world and still not succeed. In reality, it’s all of these things mixed into a cocktail that is never made the same way twice. (384)

And that, my friends, is the truth. There is no secret recipe. There are only the various ingredients, and your willingness to try combining them time and time again.

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Wed Jan 22 2014

Save yourself

save yourself for creating

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