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You Only Live Once

Four locals explore new avenues in life

Tine Hoffmeister 
Blazing new paths on her motorcycle

How did you decide to buy a bike? 
I’ve always wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle. It started in my 20s, but life got busy —  kids, spouse, jobs. Then, when I turned 60 last year, I went for a ride with someone on the back of their motorcycle, and I decided I had to do it. 

Tell us about your bike.
It’s a Honda Rebel 500. It’s a fun bike. We get out every week for a ride, and otherwise, it stays in my garage, and I always greet it — ‘Sorry we aren’t riding today, but I’ll make sure we ride this week.’ I get a grin on my face whether I look at it or ride it. 

Why can’t you ride daily? What else do you do?
I work as the executive director of a nonprofit called AlabamaGermany Partnership. I also love road trips, kayaking, being outdoors and hiking. I like new experiences, and I’ve always liked to test the limits. 

Any challenging experiences on your new toy?
I am still new on the bike, only riding since mid-December. So whenever there’s a sharp curve or big hill, I still take a deep breath! 

What’s an unexpected benefit to riding a motorcycle?
It’s been good in many ways. You look much further into the traffic and not just in front of you. All five senses are on high alert when you’re on a bike. And actually, you become a better car driver because you learn how to focus and react more effectively.

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Stanley Erdreich Jr.
Returning to his roots as a songwriter

Tell us about your love for music.
Growing up in Alabama and being close to Nashville and Muscle Shoals, I became indoctrinated with country; it became a favorite. There’s a book published by Jeff Tweedy called How to Write One Song, and, in that book, he says poetry and songwriting are related. That gave me the idea of converting my poems to songs. 

So you’re also a poet?
The poetry I wrote was back in college and shortly afterward—a long time ago. When I closed my office downtown and retired [from 60 years in banking, real estate and venture capital], I brought home a bunch of files, [and] I found the file of poetry I’d created. During the pandemic, I thought it would be a good project to get our grandchildren involved. I sent them 30 or 40 poems and asked them to do an illustration; everyone in our family is artistic. We published the book on Amazon to have copies for friends and family. The book is called Swallow Path. 

How did you break into the industry and get to produce songs in Nashville?
Luckily, I have a distant cousin in New York whose father taught at Juilliard; now, the cousin creates music for TV commercials. He’s also friends with a guy who moved to Nashville to produce music. I’ve written eight or 10 songs, and the producer has selected three so far to produce. Those three songs are on all the streaming services — Spotify, Amazon, Apple. You can also visit my website, stanleyerdreichjr.com. 

What would you tell someone who is yearning for a change later in life? 
After you retire, try to find something to do to make good use of your time. It doesn’t have to be poetry or songwriting; you can do many things with the time you have left in life, and that keeps you alive. 

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Carrie Hill Smith
The sky’s the limit for this new pilot 

How'd you get the idea to get a pilot’s license? 
My husband, Wade, surprised me the Christmas before Covid with a discovery flight with the Birmingham Flight Center. I’d talked about learning to fly before we got married, then forgot about it because it takes time and money. So needless to say, this gift was spectacular! After that first discovery flight, the bug bit me, and I was hooked. Wade encouraged and supported me throughout the process, and, a year and a half later, I can officially say I’m a pilot.

What do you love about flying?
When I fly solo it can be scary — but then I picture my instructor in the seat next to me, and it calms me. My husband never really had the desire to fly before, but now he loves it and is working toward his pilot’s license; he is already a great co-pilot! I love the adventure of being able to fly pretty much anywhere. We have flown to New Orleans, Hot Springs, St. Louis, Charleston and many more fun places.

Tell us about a scary time as a pilot.
I was thankful to have my carbon monoxide detector with me for a flight. I had just taken off from Alexander City (Alabama) when the door popped open and an alarm went off, so I landed. I came to find out there was a leak in the exhaust! The plane was actually grounded, but the instructors did not have the detector. They definitely got one after the incident! 

What would you tell someone who wants to try something new?
You have one life, and you want to learn as much as you can. Don’t let fear hold you back. When you don’t know about something, that’s where the fear comes from. When you understand something, the fear disappears. 

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Howard Pearlstein
From creative director to creative writer

What sparked the idea to write children's books? 
My book career began in 2018. I was an advertising creative director, and I was listening to a podcast on my way home from work when the guest said something like, ‘We spend our best years giving our creativity away to other people.’ This struck a chord with me. Advertising is literally just that – giving your creativity away. I figured if I could make ads, which are small stories, I could write stories for children. I actually had no idea how to do it, so I Googled, “How to write a picture book.” That’s how my career began.
 
What has been most challenging about publishing books? 
Publishing is a difficult business with a tremendous amount of rejection. The chance of getting published is about 1% to 2%, so almost every manuscript I send out gets rejected with a form letter or no response at all. If I had known this beforehand, I may have never started. So, I'm actually happy I knew so little before getting started and simply jumped in, fully committed to getting published and believing that it would happen. 

What is the collaborative process with illustrators like?
My oldest daughter, Amanda, is actually a co-author on two books, Tribeca and The Liebrary. Collaborating with her is amazing because she adds so much to every story. As far as with illustrators, it's been different with each of my four publishers. It is always exciting to see how illustrators bring the stories to life. 

What advice would you give to someone fearful of starting something new?
I love the saying that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now. The same holds true for following your passions. Sure, it might have been great if you started earlier. But now you have a new wealth of life experiences to help make your dream a reality. Our minds will always come up with excuses for not doing something. I recommend people ignore their minds and follow their hearts.

"Don’t let fear hold you back. When you don’t know about something, that’s where the fear comes from. When you understand something, the fear disappears."

-Carrie Hill Smith

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