21 December 2012

graduation announcement

Sherri is pleased to announce her graduation from Pacific University with a Master of Fine Arts in Writing.

Celebrate accordingly.

22 October 2012

new craft essay: add real stuff

My craft essay, "Add Real Stuff to Your Fiction," is included in the first Forest Avenue Press' Seven Questions Series collection edited by Laura Stanfill, Brave On the Page: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life. The book is a collection of interviews and flash essays by and about Northwest authors, why and how they write.

"Writing can be a lonely thing to love," writes Stanfill. "And yet we all commit the same brave act—confronting the blank page every day. No matter what the cost, no matter what the outcome, we set our other obligations aside to write."

I am one of those writers. Once I told my mentors Stevan Allred and Joanna Rose (from the Pinewood Table), "I quit every day. And then, every day, I start again."

I am honored to be included in Brave on the Page alongside the other 41 Northwest writers, some of them my dear friends. It is, as Stanfill says, "something to celebrate."

 - sherri

17 October 2012


I have gone into the earth
mud to its bones

below the winter rains
heart slow
skin cold
to sleep.

I have gone into the sky

ligament and feather
pulse pushing
body-shaped space
in the wind

Into the wake of rivers

rusty green
weeping snowmelt
milfoil filling the
gap of fish.

No use.

I come here every year


old remorse
as the rains 


~ sherri

"Once upon a time
when women were birds
there was the simple understanding
that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk
was to heal the world through joy."

~Terry Tempest Williams

26 June 2012

begin the last

Summer residency at Pacific University concluded with Ellen Bass speaking about sentiment versus sentimentality, all the pomp and circumstance of formal graduation for many of my friends, and the mother of all wiffle ball games in the wet grass between the dorms. I am still exhausted two days later.

If there is a single word to describe these residencies for me it is confluence. The coming together of writers and poets from all reaches, Oregon to Hong Kong, Idaho to India. The coming together of ideas and stories, poetry of deep emotion or vital hilarity, each of us brimming with passion and the love of craft.

This was the last full residency for me. The next one will be my thesis presentation and the culmination of my degree. It doesn't feel like nearly two years. Nor does the next stretch of six months seem like an adequate amount of time to finish this phase of learning.

I remember telling one of my dear professors, Dr. Merlin Cheney at Weber State University, how it felt like the more I learned the less I knew. It is the same now. As if the world has opened up to me, and I stand as the tiniest being on the brink of something immense.

So begins the work for the final stretch.


 ~ sherri

22 April 2012


Some writers play inspiring music while they write in their private studios. Some need a visually stimulating work space. Since my days are usually crammed with a regular day job, kids and family, and I have no private space of my own, I can write anywhere—living room, kitchen table, coffee shop, library, dentist's office lobby, front seat of my car. My words come from somewhere else.

That being said, my favorite preference is to be accompanied by the game of the day: basketball, football, soccer, rugby, horse racing, lacrosse. Sometimes just ESPN Sports Center. Even with the sound muted, I like the action on the screen and a quick score check.

Lately, it's baseball.

Yesterday I watched a perfect game. Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox pitched the 21st perfect game in the history of the MLB, a game that happened to be against the Seattle Mariners. The final out came on a dropped third strike. I doubt Humber could breathe while his veteran catcher, A.J. Pierzynski, scrambled for the ball, firing it to first to secure the final out.

Humber dropped to his knees. He stood in time to be mobbed back down to the ground by his ecstatic team. The Seattle fans gave Humber a rousing standing ovation.

It was a perfect game, but its beauty was the imperfection. In the 9th, Humber backed himself into a 3-0 count against Michael Saunders, his nerves showing a bit before he was able to drop into the zone, fanning Saunders with a slider. Then John Jaso sailed a high fly into right that Alex Rios snagged. Ending with the final bobbled strike.

Humber dropped to his knees.

Those breath-holding moments show us what's at stake. Reveal our shortcomings. Make us human.

It's what brings a stadium to an ovation for the visiting pitcher. Stings our eyes with tears for someone else's victory.

Drops us to our knees.

Write about that.

~ sherri

"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."
- Jackie Robinson, #42 Brooklyn Dodgers

13 March 2012

an intriguing interview

Read the interview:

» Ask the Author: Sherri H. Hoffman

This is a nice follow-up to the publication of my story, Blue, by PANK Magazine. Plus it was a fun interview. Seriously. Talking about sea turtles, blowing things up, Lassie, hangovers, and the perpetually cool senior at my high school, Brad Darrington.

My thanks to the editors and staff at PANK for such a fabulous publishing experience. What a great mag.

~ sherri

21 February 2012

reading in bed

"Read Rock Springs by Richard Ford," my advisor tells me. "These stories are some of the very best." I read them late at night in bed, read until my eyes burn and the words swim on the page. It takes me a week because I read every story twice.

Ford does something in his stories that I can describe with a childhood memory. I am with my sister in the back of my father's blue Dart. We are in a downtown area surrounded by tall buildings. I have no idea which city or how old I am. The car is the same one in which my sister and I and one of our cousins got busted for sliding down the windshield on our little fannies, from roof to hood. It is also the car in which we accidentally broke a bunch of root beer bottles in the rear footwell, and then my sister fell into the glass and cut open her knee so that she needed stitches, although that memory is vague and could be wrong.

It is also not the memory for Richard Ford's stories. Here it is.

From the backseat of my father's car, I look across the street. Perhaps we are stopped at a light. Perhaps parked on the curb, waiting for someone. I cannot recall if either of my parents are there, only my sister. She is 16 months younger than me, which makes her subject to both my adoration and torment, although most of the family stories from our early childhood are about her trickery, how she could provoke me into trouble in order to get whatever she wanted—a cookie, Raggedy Ann doll, attention. What can I say? I had a short temper, and she was smart enough to use it to her advantage.

Across the street, a man stands on the corner, holding a cane. I have no recollection of whether he is old or young, tall or short, fine or poor. Only of the cane in one hand and, on his head, a hat such as other men are wearing on the streets of the city. I have enough time to peer at him, the man and his cane across the street from the wide, sticky-vinyl backseat of our blue Dart. There are no seat belts inside to secure us. We could have been hanging out the window, my sister and I, gawking at any passerby.

The moment of importance, however, is just that—a moment. Some pigeons break upward from the sidewalk near the man with the cane. An abrupt clatter of wings, the man turns his head, and I, watching him, turn with him, seeing what he sees.

That is the moment. In that instant, I am transported across the street to stand inside his shoes as if I am there with him, taking in his startled breath, grasping onto the cane with my hand, birds thrashing up from my feet.

As quickly as I understand the shift, it reverts back, and I am just a gangly-legged, tantrum-prone girl, skin sticking to the blue vinyl bench seat in the back of my father's blue Dart along with my pesky sister.

Did I make it up? Imagine it? Is it merely a child's fantasy? Does it matter?

That shift of perspective—the ability to look at someone and experience "being" them—is an exercise in empathy. It's what makes rich characters of depth live and breathe on the page. As a child, it may have been just a game. As a writer, it is a craft-worthy goal.

Ford's stories make that shift for me. Throughout his stories, I am drawn into the characters, breathe their air, feel the Wyoming night, Montana sun, or the Bitterroot river water on my face. Ache with their despair, confusion, and love. I case the parking lot of a Ramada Inn, understand how a man becomes a desperate criminal, drive a runaway through the night to Great Falls, hear my father crying—or dream it. Shoot a white snow goose.

Feel the curve of a cane in my hand. Witness the rise of birds.

That's a good story, isn't it?

~ sherri

The Darkling Thrush
By Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
    When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
    The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
    Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
    Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
    The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
    The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
    Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
    Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
    The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
    Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
    In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
    Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
    Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
    Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
    His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
    And I was unaware.

16 January 2012

new fiction: Blue

You can read my story, Blue, in the latest issue of PANK Magazine.

It's interesting timing for this particular story to come out as I return today from my winter MFA residency. I wrote it last June during the summer residency at Pacific University in response to the craft talks by the fiction faculty: Kellie Wells on turning metaphor into reality; Jack Driscoll on loving your characters; Mary Helen Stefaniak on the power of "once"; David Long on meaningful sentences; and others. I did fall short—couldn't figure out how to employ Jess Walter's suggestion of the 2nd person narrative switch. Maybe next time.

Some additional backstory on the writing process is that the main character, Mayfair, comes from a piece I wrote years ago in a Writers@Work workshop with Phyllis Barber. Even though that particular story didn't came together at the time, Mayfair has remained with me.

The bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building occurred during a time when my personal life was in complete collapse. I recall picking up the newspaper in a hospital kitchen and being so struck by the enormity of loss and moved by the survivors' stories, including stories of some of the children who survived. That has also remained with me.

In her craft talk at the most recent MFA residency, Pam Houston said people always wanted to know if her stories were true. I have to think that's kind of a trick question for a writer. Everything I write is grounded in truth in some way. The truth could be a porcupine on the freeway that I nearly hit driving drunk and too fast on I-80 from Park City in the middle of the night after the W@W conference. Or the news story that made me weep when I could not access my feelings about ending up in yet another treatment center. Or the startling beauty of a robin's song, defiant in the darkness before a summer sunrise.

Or maybe they're all just stories.


Everything on the earth bristled, the bramble
pricked and the green thread
nibbled away, the petal fell, falling
until the only flower was the falling itself.
Water is another matter,
has no direction but its own bright grace,
runs through all imaginable colors,
takes limpid lessons
from stone,
and in those functionings plays out
the unrealized ambitions of the foam.

- by Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

02 January 2012

new fiction: Chick

My new story posted today on The Intentional Ducati #3: Chick.

The Intentional Ducati began as an awareness of the odd coincidence of recurrent elements during the Pinewood Table writing groups, the first being a Ducati motorcycle that appeared one night in two different stories.

Pinewood Table instructors Stevan Allred and Joanna Rose issued a challenge to write to some specific elements, and The Intentional Ducati was born.

This year's elements include:
i. A reference to Moby Dick.

ii. A paragraph made entirely of nouns.

iii. In consecutive order, sentences of 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 word(s). For example: "This will not be easy. Not easy at all. Difficult, in fact. Damned hard. Aaargh!"

iv. A 'Support Our Troops' magnetic ribbon, or a variation thereof.

v. A piece of taxidermy.

vi. A character who crosses a literal bridge.

vii. The same word used as both a noun and a verb in one sentence. For example: "She tore at the dress with her hands, almost ripping it away from the fence, but the rip hit a seam and wouldn't rip anymore."

To celebrate the launch of The Intentional Ducati #3, the Pinewood Table is hosting a reading at the Blackbird Wine Shop and Atomic Cheese, 7pm on Weds, January 4. See you there!