In March of 2013, I found myself, thankfully, in Boston, Massachusetts for AWP. I say “thankfully” because Chicago was getting hit with a snow storm the day I was supposed to leave, and I was fairly certain my flight would be cancelled. But I got out in time – and then the storm caught up with me in Boston, bringing along its frigid winds that made wandering about the city a bit of a challenge.
For folks who aren’t familiar, AWP (The Association of Writers and Writing Programs) holds an annual conference and book fair, moving cities each year. The conference is an overwhelming experience of too many people, too many sessions, and a giant book fair of publishers and literary journal and college writing programs. As an introvert, it’s an exhausting experience. As a writer and reader, though, it’s a place to encounter some of our favorite writers – and discover a love for some new ones.
At this point, I’ve gone to six or seven of these conference – my first to New York, a couple closer to home (Chicago and Minneapolis), and over to the west coast (Seattle and Portland). Boston was somewhere in the middle of my list, but it’s the one that sticks out most readily to me – because I got to meet Alice Hoffman.
After listening to her keynote talk, I headed out into the throngs to wait for a chance to speak a few words with her while she signed my very worn copy of her book Practical Magic – whose covers were being held on thanks to wrapping the entire novel in contact paper. While she signed this (and a couple new copies I was using for gifts), I managed to croak out that I reread this book every single year.
“Are you one of the ones that started when you were twelve?” she asked me.
“Thirteen.” As a young writer, I loved the poetic language and magical story. My dream was to write my own story like this someday, to set it next to Hoffmans on my own bookshelf.
Cut to 2018 – me walking through Barnes & Noble, wandering the shelves. I catch something out of the corner of my eye, stop, take a step backward, and turn – The Rules of Magic, a prequel to Practical Magic. Needless to say, I bought a copy, took it home, and then stayed up until three in the morning reading it. I may have also geeked out a bit when I tweeted about the experience, and Hoffman responded to me – and then teased that Maria Owens probably has a story to tell.
Maria did indeed have her own story to tell – Magic Lessons, which came out in 2020. And this was followed closely by a fourth installment – The Book of Magic.
One of my goals (read: pleasures) planned for this winter break is to read the entire series start to finish – beginning with that well-worn first copy. I can’t wait to dive back into this world I’ve loved for so long – and see where this new installment takes us.