Review: Hope in the Mail

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.

Hope in the Mail is a book of reflection on the writing life by a young adult author who’s written 30 books in her career. As a writer myself, it’s inspiring to read how she got into the craft and her (long) process of becoming a published author.

There are reflections of her life growing up that she relates to her writing career, about learning patience and hard work, going through tragedy, and how some of her past got put into her work. She begins with talking about writing her first fiction novel and sending it out to publisher after publisher, and how for 10 years her hope was in the mail… awaiting a letter from one of them who wanted to publish her.

What I really enjoyed reading about the most were the seeds that inspired her characters or what drove her characters in their stories. It was definitely a comfort to see that it’s not just my characters that take on a life of their own in my mind, often overruling my plans for them. Apparently it’s something that a lot of fiction writers deal with. I’ve always enjoyed learning about how a story came to be – what inspired it, what changed during the process, what troubles came with it… all that fun stuff.

This book is full of Van Draanen’s sharp wit and humor in her reflections and though I’ve only ever read one of her books, now I want to read much more. Not only do I like her writing style and her book, Flipped, but now I am a Wendelin fan for life! I have already checked out a few of the Sammy Keyes books from a nearby library, as her reflections on writing that series fascinated me!

If you are a writer yourself or just a fan of Van Draanen’s books, this is one that you will not want to miss!

Rating: 5 stars

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