Ann Hoffner was born in Rochester, Pennsylvania. When it was time for her to enter kindergarten, her parents contemplated buying part of a girls’ school in Princeton, New Jersey. Instead they settled in South Orange, on a commuter train line to New York City. From here sprang her interests in forests–her mother took her on hikes in nearby South Mountain Reservation; playing the flute–she went to Manhattan for music lessons and contemplated becoming a professional musician; sailing and the ocean–she was hooked from her first time in sailing in Maine; and writing, the thread that ties her diverse life together. As a child she wrote poems. During her undergraduate career at Harvard University she was among fifteen students selected for a creative writing class. Her accepted work was a personal essay about gambling in Nevada during a stint travelling alone around the country, but the message of the teacher, and of the writing program at Brooklyn College where she later received her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, was that fiction constituted the true art of the written word.
Ann spent years swimming in short story slush piles, sometimes making it to the top but never quite getting published. She found an agent for Rachel Martin, a historical novel inspired by her love of sea adventures, but it was not a good time for new authors to break in.
Then in an economic downturn in the early 1990s she and her architect husband Tom Bailey took off on a 34-foot sailboat to circumnavigate the world in three years. They made it as far as the Caribbean and came back to earn money to buy a bigger boat, eventually going off again, this time without a schedule.
Early in the second cruise Ann wrote an article that was picked up by a free magazine about sailing in Maine. Getting published in sailing magazines is a dream held by many cruising sailors, but most don’t seem to want to “give” their work away. Within a week a second article about getting caught by a huge eddy while trying to cross the Gulf Stream was accepted by Blue Water Sailing. Soon Cruising World, SAIL, and Ocean Navigator were publishing her pieces about people she met, destinations she sailed to, and odd weather and ocean phenomena she encountered at sea that she used her science background from school and college to understand and explore for armchair sailors. Ten years later, when Ann and Tom left Oddly Enough on land at the Tip of Borneo to try living in the US again, she had well over one hundred published articles.
After being so successful in the sailing magazine niche, Ann worried that she wouldn’t find anything worthwhile to write about on land. That fear broke when she entered Costco and noticed how lettuce, peaches, nuts, blueberries, just about every produce type was now packed into rigid plastic boxes. She researched the boxes and wrote about their impact in Lettuce in a Box: The PET Revolution. And though presently living on land, Ann has recently returned to writing articles for the sailing magazines about environmental issues.
In January 2017 after years of research Ann published The Natural Burial Cemetery Guide. The book will help those interested in the growing trend toward green burial choose the option for themselves and their loved ones. Green burial is a way of disposing of a dead body without formaldehyde-based embalming or environmentally unfriendly concrete burial vaults, and in a shroud or biodegradable casket. It also means using minimal heavy equipment for burial and landscaping in a cemetery where the gravesite is part of a reclaimed or existing forest or meadow that is maintained with minimum intervention and is marked with an engraved fieldstone or no marking at all. The guide is available in a complete version and in four regional editions, Northeast, South, Midwest and West. Please visit greenburialnaturally.org to learn more about the book, and facebook/greenburialnaturally for daily updates on green burial.
Professional organizations Ann belongs to:
Society of Environmental Journalists
Investigative Reporters and Editors
Boating Writers International
American Society of Journalists and Authors