Thursday, September 30, 2010

guest blog: author Chandra Hoffman

I’m pleased to introduce a guest blogger today. Chandra Hoffman received her MFA from Antioch University in 2007. Her current book, CHOSEN, features a young caseworker increasingly entangled in the lives of the adoptive and birth parents she represents, and who faces life-altering choices when an extortion attempt goes horribly wrong.

The following was previously posted on Chandra’s website. You can find more of her essays here:


Would You Like to Take a Look at My Dinosaur Book?

There is a story in my family's folklore about my oldest brother's first day of school—the lone time my mild-mannered, kid-loving father wanted to smash some six-year-old skull. My brother was a slightly geeky type, a skinny-necked proficient reader from the age of two who stepped on to the playground that September morning with an encyclopedia about dinosaurs he had memorized tucked under his arm. My father watched anxiously as my brother approached clusters of children and asked, with a hopeful lilt to his voice, if they would like to take a look at his dinosaur book?

The story goes that the kids were not mean, just preoccupied with monkey bars and chucking sand, but my brother's requests went ignored. This stirred a zealous rage in my father, even as he talks about it now, the angst of a parent as their child ventures out into the world to lukewarm reception. In his words, "I wanted to grab those kids by their little chicken necks and pin them up against the bricks and hiss that they'd look at his damn dinosaur book, and they'd better like it, understand?"

I experienced something similar when my younger sister was on the outside of a bitchy, sixth-grade classroom clique-fest--a crazed hunger to prowl the town by moonlight and sniff out these mean-spirited girls, eviscerate them slowly with all a mother bear's fury.

In our family, we call these Mattress Moments, based on the horse race in Siena called the Palio, where riders and horses are protected from their treacherous turns in dashes around the town's plaza by the residents' mattresses. That is how I show love--protecting my darlings from life's sharp corners and painful falls, taking it all in my super-absorbent springs.

And now this fall another of my children heads out into the world, only this time it's my paper and ink baby, my newborn novel. I'm experiencing spasms of that same anxious protectiveness. But for what? This is not my oldest son who is small and speaks differently or my middle boy who hides his insecurities behind fists and teeth or my baby girl with her withering Ice Queen stare. This is a book, a story, and although the characters are dear to me, they are their own imaginary entities. My protagonists won't scour the two-star reviews at Amazon to find out exactly what makes them unsympathetic, unlovable or clich├ęd.

Am I afraid for myself, then, the ego of the artist? I don't think so. I have a pretty healthy self-esteem, a confidence in my ability as a storyteller and I am proud of this novel. But nobody likes to be misunderstood.

Pre-publication, I have received beautiful jacket blurbs from respected writers, fabulous Kirkus and Booklist reviews, but one day this past July I tripped out of the starting gate with a mediocre one from Publisher’s Weekly. You can see this review here, and unfortunately, on every major bookseller's summary for CHOSEN.

I reeled for a week, memorized the monologue on the critic from Ratatouille, until I remembered my oldest son and a playground incident that happened this spring. Hayden is a very small eight-year-old, so short we have to cuff the hems of his little brother's size six pants. He was born with a medical condition, a craniofacial defect, which may or may not have anything to do with his height. One lunch hour on the playground, Hayden was called a 'midget'. I took it hard. Driving home, I told him not to worry, that we could talk to the specialists at our annual appointment in June, assured him that the window was still open for us to consider supplements of Human Growth Hormone and--

"Mom?" he interrupted me. "I like the size I am. I fit perfectly inside the hockey net when I'm in goal. It's not my problem if someone wants to make themselves feel better by calling names."

Of course he is right. When a critic calls my beloved characters 'weakly realized’, or my debut novel an ‘inexpert exercise’, it is not my problem. Not every book is for everyone—I’ll confess that my boys and I have tried three times to get swept up in the Harry Potter hype without success.

Never mind the naysayers. I’ll just steer my babies over towards the swings, where the kids seem a little friendlier, more open-minded, and see if there’s someone over there who might want to take a look at my dinosaur book.

To learn more about Chandra Hoffman, visit her website. Visit amazon to learn more about and purchase the book.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

coming soon: guest blogs on writing

This Thursday, author Chandra Hoffman will be sharing her experience with what it’s like to put one’s book into the world – and deal with criticism. It’s a repost from her own blog, but a tale worth sharing. I hope you’ll come back and see what Chandra has to say. In the meantime, have a look at her website:

I’m always open to guest blogs from authors who can share a personal tale about writing, publishing, rejection, success, and everything that falls in between. From craft to marketing, there’s a lot to be said for experience and it’s our experiences we share that make the literary community such a rich place. If you have a brief blog post you’d like to share here, I invite you to email me so we can set something up.

Also, a quick reminder that the Rochester Writers Conference is this weekend! There are a dozen sessions to choose from with topics ranging from character development to book promotions, so have a look at the conference website and see if something interests you. I have an intro and an advanced session on social media and web marketing for writers. The day is hosted at Oakland University in Rochester MI. Visit for more info and to register.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rochester Writers’ Conference

I’m pleased to share the details of the upcoming Rochester Writers’ Conference. I’ll be presenting two sessions this year: “Building an Online Presence 101” and “Continuing Your Online Presence.”

Here’s the official info:

Registration is now open for the 3rd Annual Rochester Writers’ Conference at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan for Saturday, October 2, 2010.

Fiction and Non-fiction workshops, lectures, and panel discussions will be available, as well as business concepts every writer needs to know. Choose four out of a dozen presentations to tailor-fit your needs. Includes lunch, refreshments, and keynote address. The event offers the new or published writer a fun and educational day and plenty of time to network and meet the speakers. Everything is included for $99.

For details about the Speakers, Presentations, Keynote Address and to Sign-up, please visit the web site:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Winter Wheat: MAR Festival seeks sessions

I have to pass along this notice I received from Winter Wheat: The Mid-American Review Festival of Writing. The editors/organizers are actively seeking session/panel proposals for the 2010 festival.

The festival runs this November 11-13 and will take place on the campus of Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. The weekend will feature a bevy of awesome readers, including Gaylord Brewer, Andrew Ervin, Lola Haskins, Rebecca Meacham, and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Carl Dennis. There will also be a bookfair to attend (or bring your journal or press to), as well as an AWP-style conference with sessions, lectures, and panels presented by MAR staff members, Bowling Green faculty, and Winter Wheat guests.

To find out more information on Winter Wheat, to sign up for a table at the bookfair, or to propose a panel/session, contact Festival Coordinator Bess Winter at, or visit the link here.

This is a free event, so share the word and I hope to see you there!

(p.s. I’m presenting a session, so if you’re headed to the festival let me know.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

join me for fall writing workshops at MCC

I’m pleased to offer four 3-hour workshops this fall at Macomb Community College. In addition to this, I’m again leading an 8-week Intro to Creative Writing class, which will cover fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction. I hope you’ll share the links with others and consider signing up for a workshop that interests you! Email me for more info.

(p.s. Good news for those interested in on-line workshops – MCC and I are planning on offering super affordable on-line workshops for the Winter term!)

Fall 2010: Creative Writing Workshops at MCC

Writing for Online Magazines and Journals
3 hours: Sat Sept 18th 10am-1pm
Course # 80412
$39 registration through MCC

Writing the Non-Fiction Book Proposal
3 hours: Sat Oct 9th 10am-1pm
Course # 80417
$39 registration through MCC

Social Media for Writers
3 hours: Sat Oct 16th 10am-1pm
Course # 80333
$39 registration through MCC

Website and Blog Design for Writers
3 hours: Sat Oct 23rd 10am-1pm
Course #80334
$39 registration through MCC

Introduction to Creative Writing
8 weeks; 6:30-9pm
Mondays: Sept 20 – Nov 8
Course # 80329
$139 registration through MCC

Macomb Community College
South Campus
14500 E. 12 Mile Road
Warren MI 48088
View Campus Map

Register by phone: 586-498-4000
Or, download the print registration form and complete fall schedule here.

PDF of writing courses offered by MCC this fall: here.

Questions? Email me at

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

10 tips for MFA students – Writer’s Digest

Whether you’re already in a creative writing program or knee-deep in research plans for the next academic year, I hope you’ll pick up the September issue of Writer’s Digest. I had the pleasure of penning the MFA Insider column with my article, “10 Tips for Maximizing Your MFA Experience” (page 20-21).

Within the article, a handful of directors, faculty, students, and alumni share some of their top ideas for ways students can fully engage in and benefit from a two or three year program. Interviewees include Daniel Mueller (Iowa), Millicent Accardi (USC), Claudia Manley (Columbia), Jeanne Gassman (Vermont), Derek Alger (Columbia), Melissa Hart (Goddard), Valerie Wetlaufer (Florida State), Eileen Pollack (Michigan), and Judith Barrington (Alaska).

Have a look and let me know what you think!

Friday, September 3, 2010

two articles in Sept issue of The Writer

Have you seen the September issue of The Writer magazine? I’m thrilled to have not one, but two articles(!) in this issue I hope will be useful to the write-minded.

On page 10, I have a small piece on “Tips for starting your own literary journal,” in which I interview innovative go-getters like Aaron Burch (Hobart), Molly Gaudry (Willows Wept Review), and Jessie Carty (founding editor of Shape of a Box). If you’re considering a start-up of your own, check out what these pros have to say about their experiences.

As my article on page 40 will demonstrate, good things come in small packages. “Micro presses off more opportunities” includes wisdom from editors and authors experienced with small, boutique presses: Kevin Morgan Watson (editor/publisher: Press 53), Christian Peet (founding editor: Tarpaulin Sky), Cat Spydell (publisher: Mischievous Muse Press), Katerina Stoykova-Klemer (publisher: Accents Publishing), and author Kathy Alma Peterson (Propaganda Press and BlazeVox Books). Have a read through this piece. It’s amazing to see the great things “smaller” presses are accomplishing and sharing with their authors.

And, now that my social media (and summer) vacation has wrapped up, it’s time to get back to work. There’s so much to share and update, I’m glad to be back on schedule. Speaking of which, I’m planning on posting to the blog twice a week this fall, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’ll continue to share literary news and events, interviews with authors and editors, and random calls for submission I find too-good-not-to-share. So, stay tuned.

Finally, it was high time I update my website, being long overdue thanks to a massive to-do list. I’m pleased to say I have done so and you can now find a crazy list of events and workshops for the fall, updates about new releases and articles, and all other things writerly at Have a look and let me know what you think.

Have a great weekend!