arts & entertainment
Southern charm and psychosis underlie
Beth Hoffman’s debut bestseller
By Chris Penttila
Business was booming in early 2004 when Hoffman
was diagnosed with group A streptococcal infection
that resulted in septic shock. She spent 16 days quar-
antined in the intensive care unit. It was a long road
to recovery for Hoffman, who was recuperating at
home one day when she rediscovered the stories she
had written as a young girl. “I had been hauling
these things around with me,” she says. “It made me
sad that I had never gone after my dream.”
A SIMPLE QUES TION from a total stranger finally
put Beth Hoffman on the road to a writing career.
“He said, ‘Have you ever thought about writing a
book?’ ” she recalls. “And I said, ‘Well, yes, I have.’ ”
Five years later, Hoffman’s debut novel, Saving
CeeCee Honeycutt, is a New York Times bestseller. It’s
the story of a 12-year-old girl from a troubled Ohio
family who goes to Savannah, Georgia, to live with
her gregarious great-aunt Tootie after
her psychotic mother dies. “She’s never
been able to be a child,” Hoffman says.
But she went back to her interior design business. For fun, she started writing the company’s
newspaper ads, which featured the funny and
intriguing histories of antique furniture items. The ads were a local hit.
“All of the sudden she is allowed and
permitted to become a child, but of
course she doesn’t know how.”
Hoffman spent her own early
years on her grandparents’ large, rural
farm in northern Ohio. There weren’t
other kids around except for her older
brother, and “he really didn’t want to
play with me,” she laughs. So she created imaginary friends, drawing pictures of them and decorating houses
for them out of old shoeboxes. Hoffman took up
painting as she grew older, but the message was
clear: When it comes to a career, pick something
practical. “Being a farm girl, everything that was
said to me was ‘Make sure you have a job with a
future,’ ” she says.
RAUL VINCEN T ENRIQUEZ
Then came the life-changing phone
call from the stranger, who enjoyed
the ads and asked that simple ques-
tion. For Hoffman, it was a big turn-
ing point. “I thought, ‘OK, this is it.
I’m going to do it,’ ” she says. “I told
my business partner the next day,
‘Buy me out.’ ”
Hoffman went home to write
her novel, but she was a writer in
search of a subject. She thought
about her childhood, especially
visits to her vivacious and energetic great-aunt
Hoffman eventually started a successful Cincinnati interior design firm with a business partner.
Mildred. She also found herself thinking about the
young daughter of a former interior design client
with debilitating mental illness. She put two and
two together, and the characters took off from
there. Her love of older homes and interior design
made Savannah a natural setting for the story.
“I had no idea in the beginning that I would write
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt,” she says, “but that’s
Signed book giveaway
She spent four years working on the book.
Her advice to aspiring novelists? Edit, edit again
and then edit some more. “You never get a second
chance to make a first impression,” she says. “I
edited with a ruthless hand.”
Today Hoffman lives in a fully restored older
home in Newport, Kentucky. When she’s not writing, she rescues animals as a member of a local,
loosely knit group. “I have always loved animals,
and it breaks my heart that people abandon them,”
NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS
NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES.
Hoffman has no plans for a CeeCee Honeycutt
sequel. (“The magic of CeeCee is that she’s 12,” she
says.) Her second novel starts in Slade, Kentucky,
“I’m so blessed to write a novel
that’s become a New York Times best-
seller,” she says. “I feel like Cinderella
every day.” C
COSTCO HAS 50 SIGNED copies of Beth
Hoffman’s Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. For
a chance to win, send an e-mail with your
name and mailing address to giveaway@
costco.com, with “Beth Hoffman” in the
subject line. Or print your name, address
and daytime phone number on a postcard
or letter and send it to: Beth Hoffman,
The Costco Connection, P.O. Box 34088,
Seattle, WA 98124-1088.
I’M NOT ONE to judge a
book by its cover, but I
admit that a title may have
some sway over me. From
the moment I first heard
the words Saving CeeCee
Honeycutt, I knew I had to
read Beth Hoffman’s debut
novel. And believe me, am
I ever glad that I did.
From beginning to
end, I loved this book. I dare
anyone not to be charmed
by 12-year-old CeeCee.
When her mother is killed
in an accident, CeeCee is
sent to Savannah, Georgia,
to live with her great-aunt
CeeCee finds herself
living a life of privilege
surrounded by a bevy of
colorful and larger-than-life,
eccentric Southern women.
Not only are the charac-
ters the kind that stick with
a reader, but Savannah
seems to take on the status
of a character with scenery
that’s a far cry from CeeCee’s
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
is available in most ware-
houses and at Costco.com.
For more book picks, see
Purchase will not improve odds of winning. Sweepstakes is sponsored by
Penguin Group, 375 Fifth Ave., New York, N Y 10014. Open to legal residents
of the U.S. (except Puerto Rico) who are age 18 or older at the time of
entry. One entry per household. Entries must be received by December 1,
2010. Winners will be randomly selected and noti;ed by mail on or before
January 1, 2011. The value of the prize is $15. Void where prohibited.
Winners are responsible for all applicable federal, state and local taxes.
Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.
Employees of Costco or Penguin Group and their families are not eligible.
Chris Penttila is a freelance business
journalist based in Alexandria, Virginia.
NOVEMBER 2010 ;e Costco Connection 45
Pennie Clark Ianniciello Costco Book Buyer