IMAGES IN MY HEAD
- Uncle John’s dairy farm
- Fireflies in Mason jars
- Riot police in helmets like beetles at Ohio State
- The red girders of Tokyo Tower
- Rice paddies outside of Taichun, Taiwan
- Gutters full of oranges, ammunition as good as any snowball
- A blue Town and Country station wagon with wood paneling
- Tulle fog so thick the schools would close
- Snails as big as your palm
- The bare foundation that was left of our new house when the Teton Dam broke, dead cattle along the fence line like netted fish
- White cups of Italian coffee and cannoli on Mulberry Street in New York City
- Lightning over the Grand Tetons
THE MEDIA BLURB
Sherri H. Hoffman is a working writer, social media nerd, and sports fanatic. She completed her MFA in Writing at Pacific University in January 2013 and is currently finishing her first novel. Some of her stories appear in PANK Magazine, Etchings, the Salmon Creek Journal, Duck & Herring Magazine, and various online publications. When not writing, she's been spotted hiking in the forests of the Pacific Northwest and fishing from a canoe.
WRITING THROUGH AN MFA
I've learned to reach back, touch the images and the places of my life that I thought I’d lost, write from the jumble of cities, mountains, cold rivers, scrub oak and fir, the colors of endless, arching skies. Once I started writing again, the first story I wrote was called “Road Dogs” (published in Etchings in 2008) and came literally out of the drive that I was making back and forth between Portland and Salt Lake City to visit my daughters, the geographic details and the long hours of conversation between best friends on the road. (I had married my best friend by then, my own road dog.)
When my local writing group pushed me out of the nest, I applied to MFA programs and was accepted at Pacific University. I’d been out of school for 20 years. Jack Driscoll led my first workshop, eased my nerves, and answered my awkward questions with compassion and without judgment. He grounded me so that I could go forward; I am forever grateful for him.
Tayari Jones was my first term faculty advisor. She taught me how to make smaller story arcs inside of story arcs. I learned about voice. I read amazing books.
David Long was my second advisor. During workshop, he put one of my sentences on the board and moved the words and phrases around until it became a thing of beauty. My words. More beautiful. His teaching inspired a new freedom in my writing.
Third term was the essay term, and when I heard Pam Houston read her essay, "Corn Maze," I knew I wanted to work with her. I was not disappointed. What began for me as an essay about remembered objects and place became a deeply intimate and personal work about the twin babies I’d given up for adoption when I was 19. I sent each draft to Pam with trepidation, only to receive from her clear comments on the writing, suggestions for form and clarity, and deep compassion. She inspired me to complete this particular essay even as my courage wavered. In an early draft, she wrote:
We think we are the worst people, who have done the worst possible, but, as narrator Pam says in Contents May Have Shifted, "We all live down in holes, but if you go over and tap on the wall of your hole, you find out we are all connected."During thesis term, I wanted to stabilize the novel I’d been working on, expand my characters and the larger story. It was a tall order. I waited with anticipation for each response from Claire Davis: “Yo, Sherri.” (I hear her voice now in all her side and end-notes) Under Claire’s generous direction and guidance, I wrote new chapters, grounded time and place, provided characters with depth and substance, tightened story. Wrote and wrote and wrote. Every review, email, and phone call left me encouraged and excited to do the next thing and to “do it better.”
My experience at Pacific was deeply enhanced by each of my workshop faculty as well: Jack Driscoll, Pete Fromm, Laura Hendrie, Katherine Dunn, Valerie Laken. Each craft talk across genres: fiction, poetry, non-fiction. And my fellow-students, gifted and talented writers, my friends and family, and my dearest loved ones.
I remain grateful.