I was thrilled to have the opportunity to hear Alice Hoffman speak at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh last night. Pittsburgh was the first stop on her book tour for her new novel, Faithful. I have been an Alice Hoffman fan for many years, having first found a copy of White Horses at the used bookstore where I worked an after-school job when I was in high school. Although the subject matter was actually rather disturbing, I fell in love with Ms. Hoffman’s writing and had to find more of her work. To this day, Practical Magic is still one of my favourite books (and, in my opinion, still better than the movie) – it is one of the books that always makes the cut whenever I move, which is fairly often. Much as I love books (naturally), they are heavy and I tend to accumulate a lot of them, so they are always one of the things that get culled when I move. Books that always manage to survive include Dracula, The Three Musketeers, all of Jane Austen’s novels and Practical Magic.
Ms. Hoffman spoke about how she started writing, about her creative process, about why she thinks stories are important and about being a survivor. I was amused by how she said that sometimes her characters just show up and they have names already, and that sometimes they run away with the story, which are experiences I also have frequently as a writer. She also revealed that she believes readers are only a step away from being writers, as we write the stories we want to read ourselves. That was certainly my experience in writing The Blood Waltz, which came about after reading Dracula and not being able to find another vampire novel that I liked, so I wrote it myself. A couple of times during Ms. Hoffman’s lecture, I found myself tearing up a little, as she spoke about love and survival. She also read a small excerpt from Faithful and revealed that she is at work on a prequel to Practical Magic – hooray!
On the way home, I remembered that I had written to Ms. Hoffman many years ago to tell her how much I loved her work and to ask her advice on getting published, and that she had responded. When I got home, I looked for the little card she sent me. It was in a metal Whitman’s Sampler box with Mucha artwork on the lid, amongst special birthday cards I have received over the years, postcards my brother had sent me from the Holy Land and programmes from my parents’ funerals. The artwork on one side of the card is at the top of this post and, on the other side, is the message below:
Thank you, Ms. Hoffman. I wish you many, many more years of working your magic!