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Hope in the Mail: Reflections on Writing and Life

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Part writing guide and part memoir, this inspiring book from the author of Flipped and The Running Dream is like Bird by Bird for YA readers and writers. 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 Part writing guide and part memoir, this inspiring book from the author of Flipped and The Running Dream is like Bird by Bird for YA readers and writers. 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.


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Part writing guide and part memoir, this inspiring book from the author of Flipped and The Running Dream is like Bird by Bird for YA readers and writers. 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 Part writing guide and part memoir, this inspiring book from the author of Flipped and The Running Dream is like Bird by Bird for YA readers and writers. 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.

30 review for Hope in the Mail: Reflections on Writing and Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kasey Short

    I received an ARC of this book and it is just fantastic. It gave very practical advice about writing and everything that goes into publishing. It was also interesting to read and allowed the reader into her process of writing. It is nonfiction and totally different than her fiction books but just as fun to read. I was engaged from beginning to end and marked lots of great writing advice that I can use myself and share with students.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sandi

    I loved this book! I've read two of Van Draanen's books. . . "Flipped" and "Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief" (book 1 of her long series). Enjoyed them both immensely. She has an adorable wit and a way of painting life and its challenges with such genuineness and charm. Even though I do not aspire to be a writer, I found this book so entertaining and readable. Van Draanen helps us understand what it takes to write a book by taking us through her own experiences as a writer. It's a neat look into I loved this book! I've read two of Van Draanen's books. . . "Flipped" and "Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief" (book 1 of her long series). Enjoyed them both immensely. She has an adorable wit and a way of painting life and its challenges with such genuineness and charm. Even though I do not aspire to be a writer, I found this book so entertaining and readable. Van Draanen helps us understand what it takes to write a book by taking us through her own experiences as a writer. It's a neat look into the world of writing and publishing. I definitely will be reading more of her books and have one right now waiting for me on my Kindle!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Caradith Craven

    This is the book Wendelin Van Draanen's reading fans have been waiting for her to write. After twenty-plus years of being a published author and thirty-four books penned by her, she gives her reading audience a behind-the-scenes look at her writing process, personal anecdotes, and life lessons learned. The sharp wit, humor, vivid imagery, poignant personal stories, and writing suggestions are all here in this classic story of a beloved award-winning children's and YA author. Even if you've This is the book Wendelin Van Draanen's reading fans have been waiting for her to write. After twenty-plus years of being a published author and thirty-four books penned by her, she gives her reading audience a behind-the-scenes look at her writing process, personal anecdotes, and life lessons learned. The sharp wit, humor, vivid imagery, poignant personal stories, and writing suggestions are all here in this classic story of a beloved award-winning children's and YA author. Even if you've never read one of her books, this is the one to pick up and enjoy when it hits bookshelves in January. It will leave you laughing out loud, tearing up, and falling in love with this one-of-a-kind writer and her powerful stories that reflect her life, writing journey, and strong belief in living a life to enrich a life. You will want to reserve some time to read this motivational self-portrait of a woman who has impacted thousands of lives with her unforgettable, inspirational stories. Her characters open hearts and minds to looking beneath the surface to discover empathy and understanding for other human beings. Once you enter the world of Wendelin Van Draanen and her characters--both real and fictional--you will never want to leave. Hope in the Mail is filled with hope, wisdom, life lessons, and pure joy.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Teri Bayus

    I received an ARC of this fantastic guide to writing life book. As a writing teacher, and the director of the Central Coast Writers Conference, Ive read many books Im writing, but none as heartfelt, practical, and poignant as this one. Wendelin shares her secrets to a successful writing career and life. A must read for an aspiring writer! I received an ARC of this fantastic “guide to writing life” book. As a writing teacher, and the director of the Central Coast Writers Conference, I’ve read many books I’m writing, but none as heartfelt, practical, and poignant as this one. Wendelin shares her secrets to a successful writing career and life. A must read for an aspiring writer!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anne Janzer

    For someone who has spent a career writing excellent young adult and childrens fiction, Van Drannen has done a terrific job of writing a nonfiction guide to writing and the authors life. The personal stories in Hope In the Mail bring to life the solid writing advice. The section on writing has practical gems on topics from writing characters and villains to setting, plotting, endings, and themes. The section on being a writer tells the story of how she came to love revision. And the section on For someone who has spent a career writing excellent young adult and children’s fiction, Van Drannen has done a terrific job of writing a nonfiction guide to writing and the author’s life. The personal stories in Hope In the Mail bring to life the solid writing advice. The section on writing has practical gems on topics from writing characters and villains to setting, plotting, endings, and themes. The section on being a writer tells the story of how she came to love revision. And the section on “going with the pig” alone makes this book a winner. You don’t have to be a YA writer (or even a young adult) to benefit from the hard-won wisdom and encouragement in this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Genie in a Novel

    👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏 Hope in the Mail is a book of reflection on the writing life by a young adult author whos written 30 books in her career. As a writer myself, its 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 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 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!

  7. 5 out of 5

    FelicityRose

    A great read for anyone who loves writing / reading. This book goes into detail about how her story's went from ideas to published books, And the struggles she had along the way. I loved reading about where all the ideas for her different books came from, along with the facts and great writing advice mixed in. Recommend to all who love books.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    Made me a more appreciative reader.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    If you are a writer or a creator in any capacity, read this book. Van Draanen's talent for weaving a good story will buoy your spirits as you stick stamps all over your hope to stick it in the mail. Each chapter is a tale in and of itself. Funny. Witty. Honest. Poignant. Delightful. Together, they tell you how a school teacher, mom, wife, and occupant of a tiny box house with cats dying under the floorboards became a full-time writer and sought-out speaker. Spoiler: It didn't happen overnight. If you are a writer or a creator in any capacity, read this book. Van Draanen's talent for weaving a good story will buoy your spirits as you stick stamps all over your hope to stick it in the mail. Each chapter is a tale in and of itself. Funny. Witty. Honest. Poignant. Delightful. Together, they tell you how a school teacher, mom, wife, and occupant of a tiny box house with cats dying under the floorboards became a full-time writer and sought-out speaker. Spoiler: It didn't happen overnight. And it didn't involve luck, a fairy godmother, or "being discovered." If you want real talk about what it takes to get your book published and make money from your writing -- and to set your expectations much more realistically about how much money we're talking about -- go read this book. Or, if you want to read an uplifting story about a creative person persevering and following her dreams, go read this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    K Grant

    Fantastic. Truly hope filled. Honestly helpful and completely inspiring.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    4.5 stars. This was fun, quirky, and down-to-earth. Van Draanen's writing is engaging and easy to understand and the advice she gives is consistent with what I've read from other industry sources. I also really enjoyed getting a peek behind the curtain with regard to her process with her own books. Highly recommend.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Maya Ponce

    Ive loved Wendelin Van Draanens work for years now, ever since I read the first Sammy Keyes. This book doesnt disappoint. Its filled with short anecdotes that fill you with hope. It could also be titled, Hope in a Book. Thank you Wendelin! ❤ I’ve loved Wendelin Van Draanen’s work for years now, ever since I read the first Sammy Keyes. This book doesn’t disappoint. It’s filled with short anecdotes that fill you with hope. It could also be titled, Hope in a Book. Thank you Wendelin! ❤️

  13. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Readers and writers should both note this remarkable book. Ive read all Wendelin Van Draanen has published, and revisit often for her gift of revealing the complex, subtle thinking of others. She sees detail, and gifts me with seeing it. I am a reader, not a writer. But this book makes me a better reader, which is a delight. The range herepersonal stories, seeds from which novels grew, writing wisdom, book industry insightis extraordinary. Despite all that it covers, it does so with clarity, Readers and writers should both note this remarkable book. I’ve read all Wendelin Van Draanen has published, and revisit often for her gift of revealing the complex, subtle thinking of others. She sees detail, and gifts me with seeing it. I am a reader, not a writer. But this book makes me a better reader, which is a delight. The range here—personal stories, seeds from which novels grew, writing wisdom, book industry insight—is extraordinary. Despite all that it covers, it does so with clarity, brevity, and depth. Depth not by detail, but by long reflection, and focus on what is essential. Imagine enjoying the night sky… and having a friend arrive with a telescope, aiming it effortlessly to reveal new views of things you thought you knew. That’s how Hope in the Mail feels to me. Stunning new images in my mental gallery. Wisdom expertly distilled, with humor. “It’s all gold” here, and alchemy has never seemed so achievable. Who knew it could be so much fun to write fiction as you wished real life to be? And so startling to spend time with fictional characters who become real, and influence you?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Caradith Craven

    This is the book Wendelin Van Draanen's reading fans have been waiting for her to write. After twenty-plus years of being a published author and thirty-four books penned by her, she gives her reading audience a behind-the-scenes look at her writing process, personal anecdotes, and life lessons learned. The sharp wit, humor, vivid imagery, poignant personal stories, and writing suggestions are all here in this classic story of a beloved award-winning children's and YA author. Even if you've never This is the book Wendelin Van Draanen's reading fans have been waiting for her to write. After twenty-plus years of being a published author and thirty-four books penned by her, she gives her reading audience a behind-the-scenes look at her writing process, personal anecdotes, and life lessons learned. The sharp wit, humor, vivid imagery, poignant personal stories, and writing suggestions are all here in this classic story of a beloved award-winning children's and YA author. Even if you've never read one of her books, this is the one to pick up and enjoy when it hits bookshelves in January. It will leave you laughing out loud, tearing up, and falling in love with this one-of-a-kind writer and her powerful stories that reflect her life, writing journey, and strong belief in living a life to enrich a life. You will want to reserve some time to read this motivational self-portrait of a woman who has impacted thousands of lives with her unforgettable, inspirational stories. Her characters open hearts and minds to looking beneath the surface to discover empathy and understanding for other human beings. Once you enter the world of Wendelin Van Draanen and her characters--both real and fictional--you will never want to leave. Hope in the Mail is filled with hope, wisdom, life lessons, and pure joy.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mason Roulston

  16. 4 out of 5

    Liz

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lulú Segura

  18. 5 out of 5

    Meagan

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kate

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sonya

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Postl

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sally

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chris Kepley

  26. 5 out of 5

    Gwen

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lea

  29. 5 out of 5

    Loren

  30. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

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