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Chandra's Blog



Some people have it way worse

This week writing has taken a backseat to hospital time, which I hate. First off, there's this smell, like overcooked vegetables that marinated in plastic bags of dog urine. And then there's the way that just sitting there can be so draining. Plus I'm from the suburbs and think parking somewhere is my god-given right, not a paid privilege.

Saturday night my mom fell and shattered her femur--an injury common to linebackers, people with osteoporosis and recent knee replacements. Two out of three ain't bad. Having been left in hospitals often as a child, she likes 24/7 family coverage, which makes a good case for large families, except that we all went on to have kids, passing our offspring like batons at the hospital parking garage and corralling them on whirlwind field trips around the city where the child/caregiver ratio is like an underfunded public school. I keep quoting to my siblings the analogy of marathon vs. sprint--I think we're going to make it.

But I was already hospital weary: Last Thursday my son had his check-up with the craniofacial team at Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia. This is a marathon in its own right, eight specialists in as many hours, people we have known since Hayden was a baby and transferred there at birth unable to breathe or eat on his own. I used to dread these--I wonder if other people who have gone home without their babies share my same anxiety that they technically belong to the hospital, and at any moment the hospital might take them back? When Hayden was younger, these loomed large, as each team evaluation presented the possibility that another syndrome would be diagnosed, the proverbial other shoe coming crashing down. So far, so good.

But each year since he was about five, I have seen them as reassurances, confirmations that the hurdles are mostly behind us, and our son is blissfully normal. This year Hayden opted in on a study on the effects of craniofacial abnormalities in children. ("Fifteen bucks? For answering six pages of questions? Seriously?!")

I had completed my own version, but surreptitiously peeked over his shoulder as he was doing his. What mother doesn't relish a glimpse into the mind of her eight-year-old boy?





I feel self-conscious and don't want to read aloud in school because of my face, mouth, teeth, speech.


I feel like bad things happen to me because of my face, mouth, teeth, speech.


I am teased because of my face, mouth, teeth, speech. 


I want to die because of my face, mouth, teeth, speech. 

Hayden looks up at me, eyes wide, and whispers earnestly, "Mom? I think some people have it way worse than me." 

Looking around the waiting room in the pediatric plastic surgery unit, walking to get our lunch in the atrium, passing the NICU where he spent his early months, the PICU where he writhed after his second surgery, the closet where they took us when they told us he might not make it to the end of the week, Hayden still holds my hand.

We meet with the last specialist, who gives us his blessing to continue life as usual, and we schedule our appointment for the next month. Walking to catch the train home, Hayden quietly picks up trash on the city sidewalks with a disgusted harrumph, carries it for blocks until we find a garbage can. Then he is asleep, leaning against me on the train as I steal a few minutes, editing my neglected manuscript. Outside the SEPTA windows, the city falls away to green. We will soon jump in the pool to rinse the hospital smell off us, and I think again as I listen to him snore and kiss his wild curls, even as we gear up for my mom in a straight leg, non-weight-bearing cast for three months, some people have it way worse. We are indeed blessed.

Hayden, bottom of the puppypile of love in a field of green


a good day

I've been living in three worlds these days--an uncomfortable feeling. 

There's the real one, where I'm a mom shepherding my kids through the transition to summer (we brought forty-two books home from the library yesterday!) and their chores and their fun, and I'm a wife, a gardener, and when I can grab it, a reluctant runner.

Then there's the CHOSEN life, preparing for the promotion and release of this novel. Meetings with my publicists in New York, articles and essays swirling around, jotted down. 

Then there's my current writing life, my new novel, where I've been in the most painful part of the homestretch for the past few weeks. Wanting to wrap it up and get it to my agent by deadline, worrying that it's not done, not right, not quite good enough. I worry that I have made characters too real, too flawed to be followed. Ironic, since the working title is FOLLOWING. 

Plus I tried to do the caveman diet for a week. Dumb. Cheese helps me write, I swear.

Last night, my brother suggested we try this running route that I have been dreading, six and a half miles that ends with a brutal quarter mile uphill. He's an English teacher, a good writer, and though he keeps a better pace, he's kind enough to slow it down for me, my favorite running companion.

He let me talk, the whole time, about my book. About the ending. Huffing and puffing along, I wheezed about my ideas and worries, twists and reveals, Easter eggs and closure. (Thanks, B!) We tweaked, and debated, compared to other works.  Sucking wind up the final hill, I suddenly had it. The ending!

I came home and took the kids swimming, jotting down watery notes while I timed them holding their breaths, cheered their underwater summersaults. I wrote until my eyeballs were dry at midnight. I sat down this morning and dashed the rest off, a sprint to the finish. And I finished it. 

In my CHOSEN life, I learned that NY Times' Lisa Belkin wants to run my essay on Why I Choose Homeschooling--a favorite, heartfelt piece of mine. (I'll post link when it comes available.) Thanks, Jocelyn! 

And in my real life, my boys weeded the shade garden without argument, my daughter beamed when I picked her up from music class, and I found four Calvin and Hobbes books my son doesn't have to take with us to his all day annual craniofacial team appointment at CHOP on Thursday. 

A good day--off to the pool.


Ann Hood

Wow. I remember last summer when this was still just a manuscript, and my agent was setting up phone calls with different publishing houses, and I was just silly over the thought that people, real people, in real publishing houses, were reading my book. But the excitement of having real writers reading my book, and then giving me such nice reviews, that's huge. 

It's like a wave from new friends on the other side of the fence as I'm walking up to a lovely outdoor summer party. Come on over, they're saying. 

Thanks, I'm on my way.

“This riveting debut novel from Chandra Hoffman will keep you on edge until its final glorious pages. Enlightening, terrifying, and big hearted, CHOSEN is a terrific book!” –Ann Hood, bestselling author of THE RED THREAD


My first review! Thank you Therese.

“Chandra Hoffman’s Chosen is a finely tuned page-turner. With unwavering clarity and genuine empathy born of experience, Hoffman turns the spotlight on her so-real characters, exposing the raw edges of their love and longing and fears. There is no perfect happiness here; instead, there is the unexpected grace of discovering that getting what we want is so often less ideal than wanting what we get. This is an outstanding debut.”
— Therese Fowler, author of Reunion and Souvenir

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