Review Detail

Hope in the Mail
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
HOPE IN THE MAIL is an autobiographical account of the author’s life as it relates to her writing. Wendelin Van Draanen has penned over thirty two books for the kids’ lit community, most notably THE SAMMY KEYES MYSTERIES, which is comprised of eighteen middle grade novels. She’s put in her time as a storyteller, establishing herself as an authority on the subject, and lucky for us, in her latest book, she’s willing to share all about her process. HOPE IN THE MAIL touches on some fundamentals in writing a good story, the business of selling a book, such as acquiring an editor and agent, the road to publication once sold, and the basic financial reality of being an author. Van Draanen shares where she got her inspiration for her novels and ends on some notes of encouragement for aspiring creatives. Frankly, it’s a must-read for anyone who has ever considered embarking on this adventure.

With that being said, while HOPE IN THE MAIL is full of valuable and practical wisdom, what makes it so special is how much Van Draanen shares about her personal life. She had quite an unusual upbringing, surrounded by colorful characters, and she constantly connects lessons she learned during that time to managing the difficulties of writing books professionally. Even in adulthood, Van Draanen wasn’t living the easy life, kicking back because of her books’ advances. What she did have, though, was passion. She literally could not stop herself from writing her books.

I love Van Draanen’s story so much. Not only was I deeply moved by her experiences, and in a certain way, found her Swiss Family Robinson lifestyle romantic— though I’m sure she may contest that notion— I also was inspired. Van Draanen reminds us that in almost all circumstances, it’s possible to write, to keep trying, and to get better. Success is possible no matter where you start if you’re willing to get in there and do the hard work— it’s evident Van Draanen never shied away from it.

Overall, HOPE IN THE MAIL is a beautiful reflection on Van Draanen’s work up to this point. Her optimism and point of view is intoxicatingly refreshing, and this book will appeal to fans of Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC: HOW TO LIVE A CREATIVE LIFE, AND LET GO OF YOUR FEAR.
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