Hope in the Mail: Reflections on Writing and Life
Wendelin Van Draanen didn't grow up wanting to be a writer, but thirty books later, she's convinced that writing saved her life. Or, at least, saved her from a life of bitterness and despair. Writing helped her sort out what she thought and felt and wanted. And digging deep into fictional characters helped her understand the real people in her life better as well.
Wendelin shares what she's learned--about writing, life, and what it takes to live the writing life. This book is packed with practical advice on the craft: about how to create characters and plot a story that's exciting to read. But maybe even more helpful is the insight she provides into the persistence, and perseverance, it takes to live a productive, creative life. And she answers the age-old question Where do you get your ideas? by revealing how events in her own life became the seeds of her best-loved novels.
Hope in the Mail is a wildly inspirational read for anyone with a story to share.
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.