So Claire, why did you decide to write a memoir?

I don’t know. I mean, I’ve been working on this project forever. I’ve always felt like it was really important and meaningful despite a number of obstacles. But now, on the eve of its publication, I can’t help but think of all the other things I could have done with my time.  Why didn’t I use all that grit and perseverance on something…bigger?


Like what?

I could’ve gone to medical school.  That’s just like one thing that comes to mind.  Or, you know, written a novel. Or been a better mother.  Or become an international newspaper correspondent.  Or maybe all of those things—I could have become a medical doctor who wrote a novel on the side while also being a much better parent and also doing some dispatches from war zone.


Let’s move on, you’re annoying me.  So what is it like to write secret things about people you love and a community that you still visit?

It’s awesome, I highly recommend it.  I’m very popular these days. I was just recently in Iowa, and it felt like a nice warm hug.  Well, if the nice warm hug was given to you by somebody who is whispering passive aggressive comments about how you used them to further your own ambition.  That kind of hug.


This is from your family?

No, no.  My family is fine.  They’ve been very kind to me.  My mom is slightly annoyed that there’s been an uptick in people approaching her at the grocery store to over-share with her, but I think that’s fine. I feel bad about that but now there’s all these apps—like Instacart and Postmates—so maybe she can just not leave the house. I’m going to email her that idea now.


What’s the most frequent question people ask you after they read the book?

Well, it’s sort of a tie between, “do you really think you can fly?” and “do you really believe you moved a pencil with your mind?”


What is your favorite part of the book?

The scene where I go to the circus to see the advertised “unicorn” and in fact it was a goat with a prosthetic horn.  To me, you don’t even need to really read the book—that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Or at least the first 70 percent.


How are you feeling about this personal story making its way into the world?

I’m extremely anxious.  And I think I’ve also been fairly annoying.  Like, whatever the author version of bridezilla is, that’s what I’ve become.  I hope I can make it through this without alienating everyone I love.  And by the way, when I tell people I’m anxious because I have a book out about growing up in a meditation community, you can be sure that everyone suggests I meditate.  Instead, I’ve been drinking.  And meditating.


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CLAIRE HOFFMAN is the author of the memoir Greetings from Utopia Park (Harper). She works as a magazine writer living in Los Angeles, writing for national magazines, covering culture, religion, celebrity, business and whatever else seems interesting. She was formerly a staff reporter for the Los Angeles Times and a freelance reporter for the New York Times.

She has a masters degree in religion from the University of Chicago, and a masters degree in journalism from Columbia University. She serves on the board of her family foundation, the Goldhirsh Foundation, as well as the Columbia Journalism School. Claire is a native Iowan and has been meditating since she was three years old.

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