• Birth—March 16, 1952
• Where—New York, New York, USA
• Education—B.A., Adelphi Univ.; M.A., Stanford Univ.
• Currently—lives in Boston, Massachusetts
Born in the 1950s to college-educated parents who divorced when she was young, Alice Hoffman was raised by her single, working mother in a blue-collar Long Island neighborhood. Although she felt like an outsider growing up, she discovered that these feelings of not quite belonging positioned her uniquely to observe people from a distance. Later, she would hone this viewpoint in stories that captured the full intensity of the human experience.
After high school, Hoffman went to work for the Doubleday factory in Garden City. But the eight-hour, supervised workday was not for her, and she quit before lunch on her first day! She enrolled in night school at Adelphi University, graduating in 1971 with a degree in English. She went on to attend Stanford University's Creative Writing Center on a Mirrellees Fellowship. Her mentor at Stanford, the great teacher and novelist Albert Guerard, helped to get her first story published in the literary magazine Fiction. The story attracted the attention of legendary editor Ted Solotaroff, who asked if she had written any longer fiction. She hadn't — but immediately set to work. In 1977, when Hoffman was 25, her first novel, Property Of, was published to great fanfare.
Since that remarkable debut, Hoffman has carved herself a unique niche in American fiction. A favorite with teens as well as adults, she renders life's deepest mysteries immediately understandable in stories suffused with magic realism and a dreamy, fairy-tale sensibility. (In a 1994 article for the New York Times, interviewer Ruth Reichl described the magic in Hoffman's books as a casual, regular occurrence — "...so offhand that even the most skeptical reader can accept it.") Her characters' lives are transformed by uncontrollable forces — love and loss, sorrow and bliss, danger and death.
Hoffman's 1997 novel Here on Earth was selected as an Oprah Book Club pick, but even without Winfrey's powerful endorsement, her books have become huge bestsellers—including three that have been adapted for the movies: Practical Magic (1995), The River King (2000), and her YA fable Aquamarine (2001).
Hoffman is a breast cancer survivor; and like many people who consider themselves blessed with luck, she believes strongly in giving back. For this reason, she donated her advance from her 1999 short story collection Local Girls to help create the Hoffman Breast Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA
From a 2003 Barnes & Noble interview:
• Hoffman has written a number of children's books, including Fireflies: A Winter's Tale (1999), Horsefly (2000), and Moondog (2004).
• Aquamarine was written for Hoffman's best friend, Jo Ann, who dreamed of the freedom of mermaids as she battled brain cancer.
• Here on Earth is a modern version of Hoffman's favorite novel, Wuthering Heights.
• Hoffman has been honored with the Massachusetts Book Award for her teen novel Incantation.
• When asked what books most influenced her life or career, here's what she said:
Edward Eager's brilliant series of suburban magic: Half Magic, Magic by the Lake, Magic or Not, Knight's Castle, The Time Garden, Seven-Day Magic, The Well Wishers. Anything by Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson, J. D. Salinger, Grace Paley. My favorite book: Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. (Author bio and interview from Barnes & Noble.)
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