Beth Hoffman is a living example that writers should never give up their dream. She worked long hours at her job but a set of circumstances made her see just how short life is, and how important it is to go after our dreams. She pursued her dream of writing and now has the incredibly popular Saving CeeCee Honeycutt: A Novel to show for it. I’ll say it again, writers, never give up your dream.
I enjoyed this interview with Beth, especially the part where she is digging in the dirt while forming the ideas for her next book in her head. A great example that sometimes we need to step away from that keyboard in order to really get our creative juices flowing.
Enjoy this interview.
It’s interesting how life goes sometimes. You lived in a rural area as a kid, didn’t have anyone to play with, and as a result created imaginary friends. A writer was born! What was the first thing you ever wrote?
The first thing I ever wrote that had any substance was a short story about a young tree frog that befriended a grumpy old garden toad. I was in 3rd grade and don’t remember the entire thing, but I do recall that they liked eating ice cream and counting stars in the sky.
You’re a talented artist and decorator, also. Funny how one area of creativity often spills over into the next. Did you still think about writing while you were working long hours in your business life?
Oh, yes, I did. I would think up storylines and visualize scenes when I drove to and from clients’ homes. There was no time to sit down and actually write, so my ideas and characters were always in my head. Oftentimes I’d take a cast of characters and think about them for months. It sounds silly, I’m sure, but they became my companions and entertained me when I was driving. They could say and do things that I didn’t dare, and they made me laugh.
There’s one paragraph on your website that I have now printed off and put up at my computer. It is: ”If there’s a moral to my story, it’s this: take a chance, embrace your dreams, forgive, let go, move on. And if life gives you a big smackdown, there’s a reason—and it just might lead toward your own little piece of the rainbow.”
Have you always had this healthy attitude toward life? Do you feel that putting off your dream of writing made you go after it that much harder in the end?
My attitude about life wasn’t always as positive as it is now. But after I nearly died of septicemia, everything changed. And I do mean everything. I became more centered, more awake to the full spectrum of my life experiences, and, I also began to embrace the simple joy that came from letting go of the things I had no control over. Learning to just “be” has been one of the finest life lessons I’ve encountered—it’s enormously freeing. Something that would have bothered me in the past to the point of distraction now just skims over me like a scratchy sweater that I can choose take off. Knowing I have a choice in how I allow things to affect me makes a huge difference in the quality of my life. I’m fond of the quote by Wayne Dyer, “How people treat you is their karma, how you react to it becomes yours.”
With regards to how I eventually went after my dream of writing, you’re absolutely right. I went after it with passion and a great sense of purpose. It was a big gamble and the gutsiest thing I’d ever done. To be president and co-owner of a design studio and then literally walk away to begin a totally new venture was a life-altering decision, yet, in my heart, I knew it was the right one. I couldn’t put off writing any longer. It was my fire and I had to let it burn.
The success of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt: A Novel has been really amazing. Why do you think this book resonates with readers so deeply?
We are living in turbulent and fast-moving times. There’s so much uncertainty and upheaval right now that I think many people yearn to get pulled into a story that not only offers relief from heightened stress, but also speaks of a slower paced era. And then there are the themes of friendship, kindness, healing, and forgiveness in CeeCee’s story that are universal and timeless. I think, too, that the humor in the book has played a role in its success.
Share some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?
I’ve just returned from an extensive 3-month author tour, so I’ve haven’t yet immersed myself into writing. I do have some ideas, and a few new characters have arrived in my imagination, but I’m uncertain about the full storyline. I’m one of those writers who will spend a great deal of time thinking before sitting down at the keyboard. I was working in my garden the other day when a neighbor walked by and jokingly said, “Hey, what wrong with you—you’ve got a New York Times bestseller, so why are you out here digging in the dirt? You should be writing your next book.” I laughed because that’s exactly what I was doing; my hands were busy in the soil, but my mind was creating a scene.
What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?
That’s a really tough question. So many books come to mind. Roxanna Slade by Reynolds Price, The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy, and The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan are favorites. And I read a short story collection named Southern Fried Women by Pamela King Cable that I really loved.
Oh, there are so many. But to name a few off the top of my head I’d say Truman Capote, Flannery O’Connor, and Laurie Lee.
Book you’re currently reading?
I just finished A Gracious Plenty by Sheri Reynolds and loved it.
In your opinion, what’s the measure of a successful writer?
For me, the truest measure of success I’ve felt was having my work validated by those who have read it and loved it—the professionals in the publishing industry, and then, of course, my readers. Though I’ve tasted the sweetness of my own, soul-level success whenever I finished writing a compelling scene or a particularly lively sequence of dialogue, nothing equals having my work enjoyed by those who have read it. All the emails I’ve received are precious to me, and I’ve saved each one.
Advice for other writers?
I believe that captivating storytelling is a gift—good writing is an art. Learning how to successfully combine those two elements is the key to success. Reading is one of the best things a writer can do to stay awake to the multitude of energies surrounding the written word. When we read, we saturate our minds with all sorts of new imagery, dialogue, and storylines that keep our imaginations fertile and sharp. Also, I believe we should challenge ourselves to write something every day. Even if its only one sentence that’s so perfect it makes our hearts ache, we’ve accomplished something enormous. Also, I believe it’s vital that we writers always listen carefully when we’re developing the voice of our books. Voice is so important. And lastly, there’s the big granddaddy of everything – edit, edit, edit!
Where can we learn more about you?