The Life Enthusiast Chronicles with Jilanne

Last month Eden Baylee discussed how diversity makes life meaningful and how fortunate we all are to live together in this unique world. In my monthly series, The Life Enthusiast Chronicles, lovely individuals of the world share how life inspires and energizes them.

Today I’m happy to bring you babies the fantastic Jilanne Hoffmann from San Francisco. Reading Jilanne’s blog always makes me smile, because she’s a smart cookie with a rambunctious spirit. A children’s book author, she brings a sense of play to everything she writes.

I also love our blogging conversations, and I will never forget the time she left me a comment with a link to a video about Tao Porchon-Lynch, the world’s oldest Yoga teacher. I cried in my coffee that morning.

Jillanne is a natural Life Enthusiast, so it’s a real treat to have her here.

Connect with Jilanne on Twitter.

j hoffmannIt’s quite an honor to join the ranks of Britt’s life enthusiasts! Thanks, Britt!

At the beginning of my career, I used to let life carry me along, take the path of least resistance. I excelled at math and science and was raised by two pragmatists: a nurse and a phone company lineman.

“You can always find a job as an engineer,” they said.

So that’s what I did. Eight long years of staying the course—working, studying, and taking out student loans, left little room for soul-searching—until my final semester.

I took an elective called “Oral Interpretation of Literature,” the only class in my undergrad career involving neither math nor science, a class where I performed poems and short stories. My spirit soared in the wildness of it all—


Too late! I graduated and accepted a job at IBM.

As an engineer and then marketing rep for “Big Blue,” that wisp of creative impulse went into hibernation. I wore suits, pumps, and pantyhose. Gave presentations, measured sales figures.

Two years later, the wisp won and hibernation ended. I left IBM, sold my stock, broke up with a guy I’d been with for five years, and took off to see the world.

solo travel

First stop: Peru during the era of the Shining Path.

As a blonde, single woman traveling alone, I was harassed, tear-gassed during a demonstration in front of the Palace of Justice (note to self: see angry crowd yelling, go the other way), and mugged by two men in Barranco, Lima’s Bohemian neighborhood where artists and writers lived.

I fought the men and fled into a government compound guarded by soldiers. The Ministry of Defense.

bad choice

The soldiers demanded my passport because they thought I was in cahoots with terrorists. Saved from the slammer by a sympathetic secretary returning from lunch, she cut a deal with the guards and escorted me and my passport off the grounds.

Later that day, I fell out of a bus, my spine raking the washboard steps all the way to the ground.

That night, sore and scared, I stood outside my room, gazing across the hostel courtyard toward a mysterious woman standing in her doorway. She beckoned me over. I don’t know why, but I trusted her.

She told me a series of stories, some of them about brutal things she had experienced while traveling. She told me I would be faced with challenging situations, that it would take every ounce of courage and optimism I had to continue.

My guardian angel.


If it hadn’t been for her wisdom, I would have headed home, never having felt tropical breezes or eaten Poisson Cru in Tahiti, trekked the sounds or sailed in New Zealand, hiked Uluru in Alice Springs, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, mingled with dolphins in the Indian Ocean, been entranced by Gamelan music and the Kecak and Legong dances in Bali, studied Buddhism in Thailand, devoured the best curry of my life in Singapore, witnessed the unrest in Hong Kong before it returned to Chinese control, walked the Great Wall of China or chatted with students in Beijing a few short weeks before the Tiananmen Square protests.


My life would have been much less rich if I had abandoned the journey.

Of course, I faced other challenges. My backpack was stolen in Australia, but I chose not to replace many things. Traveling lighter felt good.

When I returned home, I hurtled down the writer’s path, a journey that continues to this day. I earned an MFA in creative writing for adults the year after my son was born. So, of course, I then fell in love with children’s literature.

Turns out, I now have two parallel paths—one writing for adults, the other for children. Can’t give up either, despite the rejection, because I LOVE BOTH!!

I’ve got an agent, determination, and enthusiasm—everything I need to succeed.

writing path

I wrote a portion of this post while sitting in a cabin at the Highlights Foundation compound, a phenomenal retreat and conference center for kidlit writers. I am so fortunate that my path is paved with words that make some wee sense of this thrilling-exquisite life.

What is your fortunate path? Listen to your angel, the one that speaks to your heart and gives you courage to face the tough stuff.

Find “the thing” that makes you sing. Best wishes on your journey!

42 thoughts on “The Life Enthusiast Chronicles with Jilanne

  1. Love her and your post – thanks so much for sharing 🙂 I am so journeying along my path, adventuring and creating my own story right here right now. Happy Day – Enjoy!

  2. Wow – what an amazing story! That’s great that you were able to get out there and experience so much and it’s inspiring to hear of all that can come from refusing to give up. I love the photo of the world in the clouds and loved hearing more about you. Thank you Britt for hosting another inspiring Life Enthusiast!

    1. Thanks for reading, Sheila! Just returned from a mini adventure in the U.S., including a weather delay due to storms in the Chicago area. I truly believe that the only way to fail is to stop trying!

  3. I follow Jilanne’s blog so it was wonderful to learn these things about her. (And to finally see a pic!) That traveling experience would have soured me on the hobby (and I love traveling), so how impressive she didn’t let it destroy her urge to explore. And I know all about pursuing one life path but feeling another one itching to come out. Wonderful post, Jilanne, and thank you, Britt for hosting her.

    1. Carrie, Yes, you are walking the duel path, aren’t you? I’m thinking that the era of focusing on a single path or career is long gone. I say, embrace the duality, triality, quadality, quintality… 😀

      Let the adventures continue!

  4. Reblogged this on Jilanne Hoffmann and commented:
    Just returned from a Highlights workshop, a week in the Sierras with family, the Los Angeles Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators annual conference, a week and a half in Maine with my husband’s family, and a long weekend with my family. It’s been a month since I’ve been home longer than the amount of time it takes to do laundry and repack my suitcase. For various reasons, I’m mentally exhausted, so before I post anything exciting (or unexciting as the case may be), I’ll leave you all with a reblog of Britt Skrabanek’s August Life Enthusiast post, highlighting yours truly in 750 words (or fewer). If you’re not familiar with Madame Britt, she majors in enthusiasm (when not writing or doing yoga). Looking forward to catching up with you all over the next couple of weeks. it may take me a few days to get back into the rhythm of “normal” life. Cheers!

  5. Oh it is so delectable to read the story of one of my favourite blogging people – I always knew she must have quite an extraordinary story to tell to be such a strong, feisty, passionate, warm, intelligent, funny and wise individual. Thanks for hosting her – and go on, Jilanne, blush. You know you’re worth it. And not a L’Oreal product in sight!

    1. Oh my, LF, I’m blushing down to my rosy toes. Will need large doses of coverup, a layer of pancake, topped off with a dusting of powder to hide the pink. Even then, I’m sure others will ask if I’ve been caught out in the sun without my SPF protection. You’re a peach! 😀

  6. So many experiences, but that’s what makes an interesting life. I enjoyed your post and envy (some) of the adventures you’ve been on. Britt. Thanks so much for picking just the right people at just the right time.

  7. What an amazing story. It’s wonderful to look back to see how all these things in life have brought us to the point where we are now. You’re right Britt, Jilanne is a natural Life Enthusiast! 😀

    1. Hi Dianne, It’s fun to connect the dots after the fact, seeing how one decision or experience brings on others. Can’t wait to see what the next 40 years brings! Thanks for reading and commenting! Jilanne

    1. Hi Andrea, I do feel very fortunate to have had such crazy-wonderful adventures. My husband and I traveled for a year shortly after we were married. We spent time in Key West, Europe, and Southern Africa before moving to California where the adventure continues with our son. Can’t wait to see what the future has in store for us! I hope that your future is adventure-filled, too! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  8. Yay! Two of my favorite-est bloggers, Jilanne and Britt, together at last!

    I adore stories about people abandoning the safe predictable path to follow their dreams. I also adore stories about travel fiascoes. And your story, Jilanne, is a near-perfect combination of the two.

    1. Ha! There you are, oh elusive one! Yes, a dream of a fiasco. Or is it a fiasco of a dream? In any case, there are so many more where this came from. How about the term: fiasco-scuro?

  9. Your words always inspire me but the phrase “My life would have been much less rich if I had abandoned the journey” really resonated today. What a great journey you’ve had (and amazing experienced – great and tough during your travels!) and it’s so true, we have to pursue our own journey, and have the courage to do so.

    p.s. Thanks Britt for highlighting another great soul.

    1. Oh, Letizia, you’re a great soul! I’m dying to know what stories you have to tell. And I’m also curious about your comment. Wondering what journey you’ve been tempted to abandon but decided to stay the course… Only if you want to share, of course. 🙂

      1. I wasn’t thinking of anything in particular but I’ve found that I am always so mug happier when I follow my heart and say yes to life. for example, after I finished my studies in Europe I made the decision to move to the States. The next week I was on the plane! I figured if it didn’t work out and I couldn’t find a job, I would just move back to Europe. It wasn’t very rational and everything was spur of the moment but sometimes you have to go with your gut!

      2. That took courage, Letizia! Picking up your life and trusting that you would find work. That if it didn’t work out, you would be OK. You’ve got spirit and pluck as one of my grandparents would have said. 😀

  10. I follow Jilanne’s blog, and it is so nice to have a more in-depth look at the woman who made the writer. 🙂 Thanks so much for hosting her, Britt, and please, Jilanne, no more falling out of buses!

  11. Inspirational stuff Jilanne, and thank you Britt for the introduction. I’ve never had that urge to adventure but love reading about those that have, and how it makes them stronger and, in your case, creative.

  12. Jilanne you have had some amazing journey’s I have travelled and seen many things and I know it moulded me into the person I am today. Enjoyed reading your story. I have a passion to write and illustrate children’s books and a passion to learn to write a YA novel. I cannot choose, so am studying both. Love hearing there are others who do this. It gives me hope. Ps ashamed that you had your stuff stolen in my country of Australia I hope you enjoyed your Aussie experience apart from that? Good luck on your writing journey sounds like you are on your way.

    1. Hi Kath,
      Yes! I loved Australia!! I traveled from Sydney north to Cairns by train. Then back down to Sydney and west to the Blue Mountains. Then back to Sydney and south to Melbourne. Then back up and west to Adelaide. North to Alice Springs. Back down to Adelaid and west to Perth. Then up via a 4WD vehicle to Monkey Mia/the pinnacles and back down to Perth before heading to Bali. It was an amazing trip that lasted a little over two months. Loved it!! I landed in Brisbane during the World’s Fair without any accommodations and ended up in a pretty seedy backpackers’ flophouse. I went to the fair during the day, and while I was gone, my backpack disappeared. But others helped me out. A hostel manager in Cairns gave me a temporary pack and a change of clothes. Very nice.

      If you haven’t joined SCBWI, you should do so. Or perhaps a similar group in OZ. They really can give you a leg up on what’s going on in the industry. Focus on craft first and always. I’ve got an agent, now, so things are moving forward. Keep in touch, and let me know if you’re ever in San Francisco! Good luck!

      1. Thanks Jilanne That sounded like a huge trip in OZ. Thanks for the tips with the picture book, yes I have a bit further to go before I finish but I am enjoying the process.

    1. Hi Sue, Erik! He’s a wonderkind and all-round great kid, isn’t he?! I love reading his reviews. So does my son, for that matter. Yes, the journey has been amazing, and it’s only getting better! Please DO sneak a peak now and then. One of these days, I hope to have some exciting news! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  13. yeaaaaah Jilanne, you’re a rock star! (another of the long beautiful list Britt finds so esay to write)
    no more, no less! you’ve followed the right angel, because they’re always there to lead us.
    One more Life Enthusiast story I loved from the bottom of my soul!

    1. Yowzer! I love your enthusiasm, LPPdJ! I’m working on becoming a rock star, but I don’t play the ukulele well enough, yet. Hope you’re following your beckoning right angel down a road less traveled. Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Cheers!

      1. (you don’t need a ukulele to be a rock star 😛

        My angel has been pretty awesome on me too and I’ve gone on less and more travelled roads, got robbed too, learned, hiked here and there, gone back, fell in love, enjoyed it all. Loved the adventures at every corner of course!

        and got on the Enthusiasts list too! 😉

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