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.