If you can’t do, then teach … or so they say

I’m thrilled to have been invited to do some teaching gigs this year. I’ll be drawing upon my 30 years of journalism experience, plus my efforts in writing my book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher,” to teach various aspects of nonfiction writing soon.

Here’s what’s on tap for now (I never know what may be added, so stay tuned):

March 2, 5:30-6:30 p.m.: I’ll be speaking at the Scribblers Writing Club on conducting personal interviews. We meet at Sogna Della Terra bakery and coffee shop, 901 Washington St, Columbus, Indiana. I’ve hung out with this group a couple of times and have enjoyed getting to know the variety of writers involved. One of them is about to do an oral history and since I have vast experience doing personal interviews, I was asked to chat a bit about that at the next meeting.

April 25: I’ll be giving a presentation titled “RESEARCHING NONFICTION: From personal interviews to document discovery” at the Spring Writers Conference, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at thew Yes Cinema, 328 Jackson St., Columbus, Indiana. My segment will run from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Cost is $25. Info: Debi Stanton, 812-371-4128 or debih7606@frontier.com. Debi heads up the Bartholomew County Writers Group, another group I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in with a couple of times. She asked me if I would present at the conference and gave me the freedom to choose my topic. Thanks, Debi!

July 18, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.: I’ll be teaching a class on AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop, 234 Brook St. Unit 2, Waukesha, Wisconsin 53188. Phone: 262.446.0284. This one will take some of the elements of my previous two talks and add some spice for a more lengthy workshop. I was invited by owner Kathy Giorgio, whom I met at the Edgerton (Wis.) Sterling North Book and Film Festival last fall. Here is what we’ve got on Kathy’s website regarding my visit:


Have you come across an event that piqued your interest so much that you had to find out more? Special guest lecturer Paul Hoffman discusses the many methods that can be used to uncover clues to the story behind the story during his workshop. In addition, he will give you some ideas on turning your research into nonfiction without losing the integrity of the original story. He’ll discuss not only text, but also about the different visual possibilities to illustrate your work. Writers of all abilities will benefit.

The AllWriters’ 2015 Celebrity Saturday Schedule can be found here.

Tosa paper prints story on my screenplay efforts

My efforts to turn “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher” into a screenplay has been acknowledge by Wauwatosa Now and reporter Rory Linnane.

I met with Rory over Christmas break at Brookfield Square mall in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Her story has just been posted on the Wauwatosa Now website. Click here to see the story.

Thanks, Rory!

Get a free book from a talented author!

Are you interested in a Christmas book giveaway?

My friend and fellow author, Michael John Sullivan, is conducting one such animal.

All you have to do is leave a comment below the story at his website to be eligible.My book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher” is one of the books you could win.

Mike says: “There are books available from these talented writers — Selena Robins, Maddie Ryan, Paul Hoffman, Barbara Robinson, Kathy Boyd Fellure, Kyrian Lyndon, Laurie Kozlowski, Susan Ricci, Jenn Nixon, and Michael John Sullivan. There are books available from many genres, too. Have some fun reading up on these talented writers.”

Even if you don’t win a free book, you may find some good ideas for Christmas presents … I’m just sayin’ …

Hey! I’m teaching a class in Waukesha next July!

I am honored to have been asked to teach a workshop at AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop next summer.

I met Kathie Giorgio, director and founder of AllWriters, at the Edgerton (Wisconsin) Sterling North Book and Film Festival this past fall. She asked if I’d be interested in talking on gathering information about nonfiction books and turning those books into fiction works. I was honored to get the invitation and am looking forward to teaching the one-day class on July 18.

My class is part of AllWriters’ Celebrity Saturday, “which brings in a better-known, better-published author to work with you for one intensive day,” according to the AllWriters’ website. Celebrity Saturdays run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and cost $85, which includes a lunch catered by Cafe De Art in Waukesha. Yum!

I’ll be discussing how I gathered information for my nonfiction book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher,” how I am taking that book and altering the information contained therein to turn the story into a screenplay “based on real events” and whatever else pops into my mind by July.

The AllWriters’ 2015 Celebrity Saturday Schedule can be found here.

I just figured out how to autograph an e-book!

And you thought your favorite author couldn’t put a personalized message on the e-book you bought! Don’t feel bad; I didn’t either.

But, I just signed up my book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher,” to do just that. Go here to get it done. Read below or click here to find out more about Authorgraph.

Authorgraph makes it possible for authors to sign e-books for their readers. Really!

Getting an Authorgraph is easy:

  • Search or browse for your favorite authors or books
  • Click “Request Authorgraph” (you can include a short message to the author)
  • Receive an email when the author has signed your Authorgraph
  • View your Authorgraph in your favorite reading apps and devices

This is pretty cool.


Holiday special! Prices slashed!

Want to get a personally autographed copy of “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher” directly from the author, but you can’t manage the $20? 

Well, you’re in luck!

For a limited time, I’ve cut the price to $15. That’s right, just $15!

And that even includes 705BuddyPostcardpostage and handling.

Here’s all you have to do:

  1. Send me $15 per book (yes, you are allowed to buy more than one!)
  2. Send me your name and address.
  3. Tell me to whom to address my signature.
  4. Send payment via PayPal at phof63@sbcglobal.net OR send a check made payable to Paul Hoffman to  me at P.O. Box 2611, Columbus, IN 47201.
  5. If you see me in person, I probably have a book nearby. Just ask. And as long as I have my cell phone and Square reader with me, I’ll be able to accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express.

It is also possible to get the book in e-book format or through Amazon or Barnes & Noble or at your local bookstore. If they don’t have it in stock, just ask them to order it.

Don’t delay. Order today! Supplies aren’t limited yet, but they could be if I get a nice holiday rush.

Oh, and tell every single one of your friends about this fantastic offer, as well as 3 or 4 other people. It’s good for the planet probably.

One step closer to starting a screenplay

I finished reading Syd Field’s book, “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting,” yesterday.Syd Screenplay book004

This was the first big step for me in writing a screenplay based on my book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher.”

The book explains how to go about writing a Hollywood-type script. All the nuts and bolts. Hopefully, I learned enough to put it into practice.

I plan to do a bit more research, as well as some planning of how the main characters will interact, how they will change throughout the script before I chart out the basics on 4×5 index cards.

There is a long way to go before I actually open up the scriptwriting software and start in earnest. But I’m on my way, and that’s more than I could say a few months ago.

Of The Poison Lady, the Beatles and rascally raccoons

I had the pleasure and honor to be a featured presenter at the 9th Annual Sterling North Book & Film Festival in Edgerton, Wisconsin, on Sept. 27.

Not only was it great to be able to present Buddy Schumacher’s story to the public during two presentations I made that day, but the weekend also presented an opportunity for me to talk with fellow authors and film makers.

I wanted to tell you a little about some of my fellow authors, some of whom presented at the festival and some of whom attended and sold books.

Before we arrived in Edgerton, festival organizers sent all of us contact information for our fellow presenters. Deborah Blum was the first author from the event that I friended on

Deborah Blum

Deborah Blum

Facebook. A Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist, author and professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin, Deb’s most recent book is “The Poisoner’s Handbook.” I didn’t find out until I got to Edgerton the night before the event that this New York Times paperback best-seller had become a PBS documentary that I had seen about six months previous.

I do have to mention what the New York Times said about “The Poinsoner’s Handbook:” “The Poisoner’s Handbook is an inventive history that, like arsenic mixed into blackberry pie, goes down with ease.”

Since her book centers on some of the same research I had looked into in my book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher,” and centered on some of the same time period as my book, I was very interested in talking to her.

My wife and I were able to spend some time with her both Friday night at the authors reception as well as during the festival on Saturday. She sat in on one of my presentations, and we traded books.

I think I also unintentionally gave her a new nickname. After we were all introduced at the authors reception, we were invited to give a few remarks. Deb spoke, discussing these day’s most popular poison, among other things. She said that one of the best antidotes was alcohol … the kind you drink.

When I stood up to speak a little bit, I said “I don’t know what it says about me that the first author from this event that I friended on Facebook was The Poison Lady, I am sitting at the same table as The Poison Lady and I sat my wife between me and The Poison Lady.” I also mentioned that my wife was in more danger since she had not had anything to drink, but I felt safe having had a few glasses of Champagne.

I actually went on to say something seriously germane to a book and film event, and my wife said I did a great job. One of my points was that authors should write what they are passionate about, but as readers, we should keep our minds open to various genres and “read outside of the box” once in a while.

Jim Berkenstadt

Jim Berkenstadt

One of the next authors to speak was Jim Berkenstadt, a lawyer by trade who managed to get jobs with both the The Beatles and the Chicago Cubs and wrote a book called “The Beatle Who Vanished” about Jimmy Nicol, a drummer who subbed for Ringo Starr when the Beatles went on a world tour early in their career. Being fan of both sports and music, I enjoyed swapping stories with Jim. He also called Deb Blum “The Poison Lady” during his spiel.

Doug Welch is another sports enthusiast/author I met at the Sterling North festival. He wrote “The Ashippun Trap: A Novel of Baseball and the Milwaukee Braves’ Final Season.” Doug is involved with the Rock River League, a baseball organization from which I used to take phone calls when I worked in

Doug Welch

Doug Welch

the Milwaukee Sentinel sports department in the late 1980s. The commissioner at the time, Elmer Marks, would call in with the results from the games that night. I still have an affinity for the Hustisford Astros to this day, even though I never saw the team play. Doug is also involved with the Milton College reunion committee. The college ceased to exist many years ago, but anyone who ever watched a Seattle Seahawks football game back in the 1980s will have most likely heard the announcer at one point in the game mention that Seahawks quarterback Dave Krieg was “from tiny
Milton College in Milton, Wisconsin.”

Another author I met has invited me to give a seminar at her writers workshop in

Kathie Giorgio

Kathie Giorgio

Waukesha, Wisconsin, next year. Kathie Giorgio, whose first novel, “The Home for Wayward Clocks,” was nominated for a Paterson Fiction Prize, asked me to talk “about nonfiction, or how to cross nonfiction over into fiction, or something like that which reflects the genre of your book.” So, I’ll be doing something like that on July 18, 2015, at the AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop.

Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden, a husband/wife mystery writing team, shared a table with me in the Edgerton High School gym, where we sold and signed our books.One of their books, “The Body in Bodega Bay,” is based in the same city that Hitchcock’s “Birds” was based. They are both professor emeriti of English at the University of Wisconsin and very nice people.

I was able to meet a couple of the film guys that were invited to the festival, too.Since I’m in the process of writing a screenplay based on my book, I was eager to get some insight into the film industry.

Mark Winter actually lives in Wauwatosa about three blocks from where Buddy Schumacher lived at the time of his disappearance in 1925. He stopped me in the hallway at the high school to tell me he was very interested in what happened to Buddy since he lived so close. Mark entered film school at the age of 46 and has now produced, directed, written or done cinematography for several films.

Alex Falk, another film guy, is the arch-enemy of CGI (computer-generated imagery). He does makeup and prop fabrication for sci fi movies. I was only able to chit chat for a short time about his craft while gnashing on some scrambled eggs and an English muffin.

I was thrilled to meet Arielle North Olson, daughter of the man for whom the event was named. Arielle, an internationally known children’s author in her own right, sat in on one of my presentations and seemed to enjoy it, or at least that’s what she told me.

One author who was at the festival but whom I didn’t get a change to meet was David

David Wiesner

David Wiesner

Wiesner, the 2014 recipient of the Sterling North Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature. David is a fantastic picture book creator, who has had three of his books win Caldecott Medals. He’s only the second person to win this award three times. The Philadelphia-area resident is a fantastic illustrator who tells children stories through facial expressions and body language.Kids need to learn those communication skills, too.

Among the authors who did not give presentations, I met two ladies who have done quite a bit of writing., In fact, one of them, Sherry Derr-Wille of Janesville, Wisconsin, has had 73 books published in the past 10 years. Wow! She describes some as “nice” and some as “naughty.”

Pamela Quinlan has a children’s series called The Spring Pond series, which tell stories about animals. The central character, Herman the Turtle, actually belonged to Quinlan’s son.

I wish I could have talked to all the authors.Everyone has such interesting stories about where they get their inspiration, how they got to be authors, what inspires them, and where they go from here.

Before I conclude, I do need to mention a little about Sterling North’s Rascal raccoon character that was made into a Disney movie with Bill Mumy, best known as Will Robinson in the “Lost in Space” TV series playing Sterling North. Rascal became an animated series in Japan, and the character became so popular that Rascal stories popped up, and children became so enamored of the animal that they begged their parents to get them a pet raccoon. As it turns out, baby raccoons make good pets, but adults do not. A lot of these imported raccoons were let go when they stopped being cute and cuddly and kid friendly, creating a nuisance in Japan. Read more here.

Sterling North Book & Film Festival Photos


This is my biography as it appeared in the preview section.


The Edgerton Reporter produced a terrific, 24-page preview section of the 9th annual Sterling North Book and Film Festival on Sept. 27, 2014. I was honored to be chosen as one of the 17 presenting authors. This is the welcome message from Edgerton schools on Page 2. I was surprised and humbled that they chose to include me in this.


I clean up fairly nice when I want to. This is the night of the authors’ reception, the day before the festival. My wife, Kimberly (background), always looks nice.


They had T-shirts for sale for just $10, and I forgot to buy one!


I presented a PowerPoint presentation on my book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher,” twice. I was honored to have among the attendees, Sterling North’s daughter, Arielle North Olson, an author in her own right, and Deborah Blum, a columnist for the New York Times, a professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the author of books, including “The Poisoner’s Handbook.” That book was made into a PBS documentary.


There must have been close to 50 authors (I should have gotten an exact count) selling books in the Edgerton High School gymnasium on Saturday.

K me speak

Here I am speaking at the authors’ reception on Friday night. My wife said I did a great job. If you disagree, argue with her.

K Me Sterling home

Here I am in front of Sterling North’s boyhood home in Edgerton. He is most well known for his children’s book, “Rascal,” about the adventures he had with a pet raccoon when he was 11 and living in this house.


The organizers do a bang-up job raising funds throughout the year so they can afford to pay all these great authors (and filmmakers) to the event. They had a contest to see how many people could figure out where “Rascal” was photographed around Edgerton.