The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Beth Hoffman and
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

October 25, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

On January 12, 2010 Beth Hoffman’s debut novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, was published and — only twelve days later — the book became a New York Times bestseller. Now one wonders how quickly it will take the Trade Paperback edition, releasing tomorrow (October 26, 2010) to take its place on that list as well.

The book described as, “Exemplifying Southern storytelling at its best…” received the ultimate ★ Starred Review from LIBRARY JOURNAL and endless Raves and Reviews have followed. And they’re all for a simple story that is both wise and profound.

The original idea for the novel came from when Beth, at age nine, visited her Great Aunt in Danville, Kentucky as she told

“From the moment of my arrival it was culture shock of the best kind. There I was, a shy little farm girl suddenly in the midst of a world I could have never imagined. I was in awe of the massive old homes, the towering trees, and the lush flower gardens, and I was enthralled by the Southern dialect. 

My great aunt Mildred was an accomplished, highly educated woman, and she was a true Southern lady. I’ve never met anyone more gracious, and I suspect I never will. Everyone was welcome in her home, and she greeted people with a smile that was as warm as it was genuine.

Added to that experience is my fascination with the complexities of mother/daughter relationships, so all those things became seeds for my idea. And I adore eccentric personalities and the architecture of the American South. Each of those elements built the framework of my story.”

Please click the Author Video link to listen to why and visually enjoy how important the sense of place was in defining the story. But, of course, the character of CeeCee was most important and, while outlining the novel, the author suddenly heard Cecelia Honeycutt loud and clear. In fact Beth confirms that she also heard the wise cook/housekeeper:

“Yes, CeeCee told me her story, and I was amazed by how clearly I heard her voice. The same is true for Oletta. In fact, Oletta was so real to me that I wept when I typed THE END. I knew I would miss her terribly. And I do.”

From their personal tales the storyline evolved into the following back-of-the-Hardcover-book synopsis:

Back-of-the-book blurb: Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille-the tiara-toting, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town-a woman trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. But when disaster strikes, CeeCee is left to fend for herself. To the rescue comes her previously unknown great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell who whisks CeeCee away to Savannah’s perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity, a world that seems to be run entirely by women. From the exotic Miz Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapons, to Tootie’s all-knowing housekeeper, Oletta Jones, to Violene Hobbs, who entertains a local police officer in her canary-yellow peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.

Now read an Excerpt from Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.

As might be expected, there are reviews galore on this bestselling debut, with one blog writer even likening CeeCee to Cinderella. Hmm, if this charming — albeit occasional bittersweet — story feels like a fairy tale at all, then it’s reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. Interestingly enough, though CeeCee is a voracious reader, she never once mentions a favorite fairy tale. Perhaps it’s her age or the reality of her life that leads her to read and reread Nancy Drew books for, after all, didn’t Nancy always solve the mysteries(problems) in her world? Also books are CeeCee’s only friends until she’s whisked away and rides by the sign that proclaims: Welcome to Savannah.

The lush, detailed descriptions of her new home, the women who surround her, and the experiences that change her all flow effortlessly through this 12 year old’s voice. Whether heartbreaking or joyous, there is emotional enchantment present on every page as well as more than a few messages/lessons for all of us to learn. As Great Aunt Tootie relates the importance of “Finding your fire” and Miz Goodpepper reflects on the power of Karma, The Divining Wand asked the author which message saved CeeCee? And Beth said:

“I believe all the messages melded together–each one helping CeeCee to heal and be able to move forward. But the one message in particular that CeeCee took to heart was when Oletta said, “’People is wise ’cause they get out in the world and live. Wisdom comes from experience—from knowin’ each day is a gift and accepting it with gladness. You read a whole lot of books, and readin’ sure has made you smart, but ain’t no book in the world gonna make you wise.’”

Beth Hoffman was wise. Wise enough to walk away from her successful interior design business and move forward to her dream of writing a book that echoed what she had heard from her own grandmother and Great Aunt. That power of women’s friendship had impacted her more than she realized and, after four years of writing, she had her novel.

The author insists, “All I wanted to do was write a story with characters that I loved and believed in–characters who, individually and collectively, had something important to give a little girl who had a rough start in life.” In Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, Beth has accomplished that and much more. Refreshingly kind, and enchanting, “CeeCee” offers an open heart to women of all ages. If you have yet to read it, oh please do. And, if you have already read it, consider this edition as a special gift for anyone…..young adult to your grandmother. Because this bestseller is truly THAT good!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Beth Hoffman’s Saving CeeCee Honeycutt in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Guest Beth Hoffman on
Women and the Power of Friendship

October 19, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[New York Times bestselling author Beth Hoffman wrote her acclaimed debut novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt (releasing in Trade Paperback October 26, 2010), based, in part, on childhood experiences. In today’s guest post, she proudly admits that everything she needed to know about life she learned in her grandmother’s kitchen.]

Women and The Power of Friendship

The formative years of my childhood were lived on my grandparents’ farm. It was a rural area and there weren’t any kids to play with. I was raised among the easy, unhurried ways of older women. From my garden-loving grandma, to the elderly widow who lived up the road and created hand-made paper dolls, each one made a powerful impression upon me.

I was exposed to the simple yet remarkable words of wisdom that came from interacting with women who had lived through decades that encompassed everything from the unspeakable hardships of the Great Depression to the unexpected joy of learning to drive a car at the age of 72. Those daily observations and interactions gave me a foundation that has held me up ever since. Never have I heard more profound truths than those that were spoken in my grandmother’s big old kitchen during the hot, humid days of canning season.

Then came the day that I entered first grade. From the moment I took my seat in that tiny classroom, I felt uncomfortable and awkward. Who were these squealing little people in lace-topped socks and crisp gingham dresses, and what on earth did I have in common with them? I was so accustomed to interacting with older women that the giggling language of girls my own age left me tongue-tied. It took me a long while to adjust to my classmates, and even after I did, I was always glad to return to my grandmother’s kitchen where, as far as I could tell, things just made a whole lot more sense.

When I left my career in interior design and set out to write a novel, it never occurred to me that I would draw so heavily on the simple but rich experiences I had with my grandmother and her friends. When a little girl named CeeCee arrived in my imagination and her story began to unfold, I knew the gals in my grandmother’s kitchen were precisely the kind of women that CeeCee needed during her summer of healing.

An email was forwarded to me not long ago, and as I read it, I kept nodding in agreement. I have no idea who wrote it, but it sums up so much of what I feel about friendship, and I’d like to share it.

Time passes.
Life happens.
Distance separates.
Love waxes and wanes.
Hearts break.
Careers end.
Parents die.
Colleagues forget favors.
Marriages collapse.

But …

Girlfriends are there no matter how many miles are between them. A girlfriend is never farther away than needing her can reach.

When you walk that lonesome valley and you have to walk it for yourself, your girlfriends will be standing on the rim, cheering for you, praying for you, and waiting with open arms at the valley’s end. Sometimes, they’ll even break the rules and walk beside you. Or, they’ll come in and carry you out.

The world wouldn’t be the same without them, and neither would I.

When we began this adventure called womanhood, we had no idea of the incredible happiness and sorrows that lay ahead. Nor did we know how much we would need each other.

Every day, we need each other still.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Melissa Senate’s The Love Goddess’ Cooking School in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Melissa Senate and The Love Goddess’ Cooking School. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, October 20, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

The Revealing of Beth Hoffman

October 13, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

When Beth Hoffman debuted in early January of this year with Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, it’s wondered how many knew the book would become a New York Times bestseller? But indeed it did and for those who missed it in Hardcover, the more affordable, easy-to-carry Trade Paperback edition releases on October 26, 2010.

Here’s a one sentence description of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt:

Steel Magnolias meets The Help in this Southern debut novel sparkling with humor, heart, and feminine wisdom.

Followed by endless, glowing Reviews, including:

“Exemplifying Southern storytelling at its best…”
★ Starred Review — LIBRARY JOURNAL

“This is one of those books that has that “it” factor…Saving CeeCee Honeycutt has all the components necessary to hit the bestseller list right out of the gate, become a book club favorite and the first novel everybody will be talking about in 2010. It’s simply the best book with which to start a new year.”—BOOKREPORTER

“A debut of uncommon grace that beautifully illuminates the power of female friendships, it will have you laughing out loud…and leave a satisfying lump in your throat.”—BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB

To celebrate its paperback release, The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt for Monday, October 25, 2010. However, in the meantime, let’s meet this bestselling debut author through her “official” bio:

Beth Hoffman was the president and owner of a major interior design studio in Cincinnati, Ohio, before turning to writing full time. She lives with her husband and two cats in a quaint historic district in Newport, Kentucky. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is her first novel.

And now it’s time to get to know Beth, upclose and personal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Holding the dream with open and grateful hands.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: My old standby is “Carpe Diem”

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: To live in a world where people and animals were never abused or abandoned.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: That humanity is going in the wrong direction.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Where I am, at home writing.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Joy Adamson.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: My girlfriend, Marlane.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: I don’t think I have any.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: Tap dancing.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Rescuing animals from abuse and abandonment, and writing a novel that became a New York Times bestseller.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I’m somewhat reclusive

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I think I’m kind and generous.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Not spending more time with my parents before they passed away.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I’d be me. It took so long to find myself that I don’t want to let “me” go.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: It’s a toss-up—quick to smile or my ponytail.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Stuart Little.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Darth Vader

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I’m not into sports at all so I couldn’t begin to answer.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: People who are cruel and dishonest.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Reading or working in the garden

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: What I’m doing—writing novels.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Integrity, kindness, sense of humor.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Spaghetti.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: 1. The many songs of nature, particularly those of red-winged blackbirds and chickadees.
2. “Nowhere to Run” by Martha and the Vandellas
3. “Canned Goods” by Greg Brown
4. “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong
5. “And I am Telling You” by Jennifer Holiday

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote, A Gracious Plenty by Sheri Reynolds, Roxanna Slade by Reynolds Price, Illusions by Richard Bach, and The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy

What’s next for this talented and successful author? To keep updated, follow Beth Hoffman on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Richard Hine’s Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Richard Hine and Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to see if you’re a winner.