Prolific Benicia Writer Sheri Hoffmann Finds Joy In The Mundane
Benicia writer Sheri Hoffman with husband James Hoffmann
As a creative non-fiction writer Sheri Hoffmann finds joy in the mundane, gems in the ridiculous, and connection through vulnerability. While most of us run from these foibles, Sheri scoops them up. “Most of my stuff falls in the category of hot-mess-human,” she smiles. Through humorous self-reflection, Sheri’s relatable prose lightens us up—as a kind of tonic for the human spirit that has earned her many fans.
Recently, Sheri’s essay The Art of Departure, about the process of letting go while her son left home for college, was published in the anthology She’s Got This (available at Bookshop Benicia). She’s currently working on a book about protecting our time and energy to make space for our true gifts. Sheri will offer a workshop on this topic with Benicia Literary Arts in June, and in the meantime here’s more about her message and her journey as a writer:
BM: When did you first begin to see yourself as a writer?
SH: In 2010 while writing for Benicia Patch, covering the BHS band program that my son was in, and shining a light on all the hard work that goes into a music program. I covered the behind-the-scenes moments, things no one really sees. The life of a high school musician is an inspiring world.
BM: What kind of a writer are you?
SH: My genre is “creative nonfiction” which covers personal narratives, mentoring, humorous essays—memoir-type pieces.
BM: How would you describe your style?
SH: Irreverent, edgy, satire, deeply observational, push-the-envelope, rethinking commonly held beliefs, compassionate, self-deprecating, darkly humorous. When I write about my own ridiculous missteps, others can let their guard down and we are able to have an authentic connection. My entire purpose is to write about me, so that you can see you.
BM: What is your writing routine like?
SH: I write almost every waking hour. I often pull over on the side of the road to download thoughts. I dictate into my iPhone, constantly adding content. My muses are people and situations. I can generate entire chapters just watching people stand in line at a bank, or simply watching a spider. I see lessons and metaphors in everything.
BM: What inspires you?
SH: Young people, women, the ability to confess mistakes, friendship, acts of kindness, moments of despair, setbacks, rising from failure, civil political discussions, cringy, uncomfortable moments.
BM: What are your greatest challenges as a writer?
SH: Realizing that I don’t have 150 years to live. I have so many projects yet to write. Sometimes this makes me panic.
BM: What words of wisdom would you like to share with other aspiring writers?
SH: First, capture your thoughts in a readily accessible reservoir (journal, phone, a basket to dump your paper scraps, etc.) Keep collecting. These will tell you what story is there. Second, every morning the world needs new content, so if your work was rejected yesterday, submit it somewhere else today. Thirdly, run your ideas or phrases by a trusted person, and know they will offer a pivotal perspective, a view you never saw before. And lastly, protect your writing time like an eagle fiercely protects its nest.
BM: What are your current writing projects?
SH: I have 150,000-plus words on the topic of boundaries, called From Constant Yes to Contented Yes. The topic came up after 20 years of volunteerism, where I saw people lifted by it or destroyed by it. I had to come up with a system so I could survive the upcoming decades of being asked to give, serve, volunteer. I have since presented my topic at many workshops. There is a thirst for boundaries. I teach people how to rein in their “constant yes” so they have more time to say yes to their true purpose, skills and talent. By helping people with boundaries, it allows them time to have authentic connections with people and causes that are close to them.
Sheri’s writings and upcoming events
Benicia Literary Arts Workshop: “Time to Honor Writing” June 1, 2019 (at 390 Military East)
Book on sale at Bookshop Benicia