Project Bookshelf: Erica Hoffmeister

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I am a hoarder; I am the opposite of Marie Kondo. I like my tangible objects. I like old things. Clutter soothes me. My things bring me joy—every single one. When I run my fingers across my trinkets, books, odds, and ends, I immediately transport to the time and place I bought it, found it, and experienced something for the first time, found a space for it in my life, on a shelf. They are like all of my memories, outside of my body, organized neatly in little corners of my life.

This project is actually hilariously timed. As you can see, my several shelves have bowed under the weight of the more, and more, and more books that somehow keep piling themselves up onto the cute little bookshelves my husband built for me…until the bottom one finally recently collapsed.

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My collecting was fine as a single person, but as a wife and mother, I’ve had to parse my collections down. My books, however, I have the hardest time minimizing. How could I betray The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry that a regular at a bar I worked at gifted me over a decade ago that I’ve never cracked open? How could I abandon the used copy of The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde that I absolutely despised reading in grad school and suffered through with a disappointing B+? What if my daughters prefer one edition of Peter Pan over another, and I only have one version?

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You might not believe me when I explain these are meticulously organized: the top shelf is my antique-y collectible books.  My second shelf is mostly grad school texts: I keep these because as a teacher I think I need to, though I’m not sure I’ll ever teach Faust. The third and fourth shelves are fun-reads, novels, and my Young Adult books—my favorite genre to read. The bottom shelf was mostly soft covers, easy-reads, and books I plan on passing onto my daughters, or some books that are already theirs, like the (very-heavy) Harry Potter illustrated editions they get for Christmas each year. I loan books too often, and there are many gaps—I have a list, in a box, with all my bookmarks, of books I need to re-buy. Really, I need a book room (ahem—a library/office).

I used to have more personal effects like trinkets, pictures, etc. but alas, compromise. That said, I think the bookshelf itself is a testament to my personality: misshaped, scattered, a hodgepodge of various genres, styles, and authors, all bowing from the weight of too many memories that I refuse to let go of.

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Erica Hoffmeister is an intern at Sundress Publications.

Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Erica Hoffmeister

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I know it’s cliché to say: I’ve loved books more than anything for as long as I can remember… but, it’s true. Before my tiny little body could even form concrete memories, I began to build my life around reading and writing.

I learned to read early. I was two and a half years old when I began checking out books from the library to read on my own, to earn that coveted end-of-summer prize. I was so young, so small for my age, the librarian didn’t believe I could read yet. My mom tells me that I took a stack of a dozen picture books and read them cover to cover to prove to her I knew every word. It was a sense of determination to learn—to know—and it was clear that reading was the key to everything.

My paternal grandmother was an avid reader and walking dictionary; she’d have me practice using words in sentences and do crosswords out of the Sunday paper with her (always with a pen, never a pencil). At bedtime, she’d read me Agatha Christie, and I’d sway into dreamland as a too-young child, images of bloody-cat prints and mysteries filling my head. In contrast to that particular librarian, my grandmother never treated me too small, not smart enough.

What I soon noticed was that the stories and characters in the books I read never did, either. On the other side of the coin, my maternal grandmother was a writer: she was never published, she never even graduated high school. But, when I was seven or eight, I’d work in the corner beside her at her desk with my very own word processor—one of those fancy, early 1990s digital ones where you could type a whole line at a time before the keys would stamp ink onto the paper. She wrote romance westerns and she’d read them to me, ask me what I thought, have me proofread the drafts. I’d sit for hours, a stack of 500 manuscript pages on my tiny legs, read things that weren’t age-appropriate, but that’s what made it special. By then, I knew I was going to be a writer, too.

I didn’t know it would take me until age 30 to start publishing. I didn’t know that through all those wish-careers (Journalist for the UN, Travel Writer, Children’s Author, Big-Time Literary Agent in NYC… mostly my grandmothers’ ideas), something in me wouldn’t be able to keep this learning and knowing to myself.

And so, a long winding road led me to now teach writing. Only until recently did I truly realize publishing and editorial work was a crucial part of the puzzle in academia, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to intern here at Sundress. Here I am, feeling like the first day of summer, 1988, writing all seventeen letters of my name across my brand new library card with a shaking toddler hand, mostly faking confidence, excited to learn how to do something brand new again.


Erica Hoffmeister holds an MA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing, Poetry from Chapman University, and teaches college writing across the Denver metro area. She is the author of two poetry collections: Lived in Bars (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), and the prize-winning chapbook, Roots Grew Wild (Kingdoms in the Wild Press, 2019). She’s obsessed with pop culture, cross country road trips, and her two daughters, Scout and Lux.